Yesterday was a big day for me, because Six Innings was reviewed in the Sunday New York Times Book Review by Lisa Von Drasek. By the way, isn’t that a great name? Lisa Von Drasek. I immediately think of vampires and fog-enshrouded castles, the howling of wolves, the whispering of black capes in musty hallways. “Von Drasek? Surely not the daughter of . . . Count Von Drasek?”
The money quote: “It was “Six Innings” that made a baseball lover out of me.”
Thank you, Lisa. I’ll never joke about your name again!
You can read the full review by clicking here. It’s a very well-written piece — featuring two other baseball titles, Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park and The Big Field by Mike Lupica. I’m really happy about it. I’m not a guy who typically visits Cloud Nine, I tend to downplay things, but I’ll admit to treating myself to a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream last night. Good times, good times.
As my first hardcover novel, Six Innings was destined to get reviewed by the standard industry magazines such as Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist. I was excited by that prospect, and vaguely terrified. I asked my editor, the fabulous Liz Szabla, to not tell me about any of the reviews: I didn’t want to know (but of course I did, but I didn’t, and yet I did! Ack!).
You see, I had spent a large part of the previous eight years writing the “Jigsaw Jones” mystery series (along with a long list of side projects — anything to pay the mortgage). But despite writing thirty-plus chapter books in the series, those books were never reviewed. Not once, not anywhere. Absolutely, positively, critically ignored. As a series, the books were unworthy, the ugly stepsisters of the publishing world. Yes, I got a lot of fan mail. But in the world of children’s literature, and to a large extent within the halls of my own publisher, those books almost didn’t exist beyond the category of “product.”
And yet I put everything I had in them.
So now I’m faced with a strange, new experience. Today I find myself in the New York Times Book Review. Wow. In many respects, that’s the mountaintop. Finally, I wrote something that people are reading closely — people other than, I should say, the boys and girls for whom the books are intended.
Series writers are somehow slotted into a sub-category, like a sub-species, Boo Radley in a darkened room. And yet as everybody knows, series literature (if we may use the L-word) is widely read. That’s what the industry demands, it’s what editors want, it’s what kids read. I’m talking about popular series like “The Secrets of Droon” by Tony Abbott, “The Baby-Sitters Club” by Ann M. Martin, or “Animorphs” by Katherine Applegate (to name just a few). Each of those authors I’ve listed went on to later write, ta-da, Real Books that received critical attention and acclaim. As if, wow, maybe they suddenly learned how to write! But I’d bet that they are just as proud, if not prouder, of the paperback series they wrote than all the great reviews they later earned for their “more important” hardcover books. It’s too bad. I wish our reviewers gave more recognition to series publishing, the good and the bad.
Okay, I’ll step off the soapbox. Besides, I’ve got to run out to make a xerox of that Times review. My mom needs a copy (whether she knows it or not)!