Around the Horn: The “Me, Me, Me!” Edition

Weird confluence of things in a 24-hour period, with five books colliding. Let’s recap:

* In the mail yesterday, the first hot-off-the-presses copy of Mighty Casey!

I love this book, it’s beautifully published, and I’m so happy that it brought Matthew Cordell into my world. That said, it’s always oddly deflating to receive the finished book. It’s over, done, finished. After all that build-up, years in the making. It’s like that Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song from the tailend of the Brill Building era: “Is That All There Is?” If you don’t know this 1968 tune, here’s how it opens, as spoken and sung by Peggy Lee:

I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire.
I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up
in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement. I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames. And when it was all over I said to myself, “Is that all there is to a fire?”

* In the mail today, the first-pass galleys to Bystander (Fall, ’09), my “bully book” set in a middle school. To me, this is more exciting, because we’re in the thick of it. Here’s my first chance to see this book set in type. I’ll see the typeface, the way they handled chapter openings, the leading, margin width, the feel and heft of the whole thing. I’ll find out how it pages out, the length. And I’ll read it through again, pen in hand, for the 50th time (approximation). This pass represents my last chance to make corrections before it goes to bound galleys, otherwise known as “uncorrected” review copies. Even so, there will be more opportunities to overthink the whole thing.

* I got word last night from Shannon Penney that Along Came Spider was reviewed by Booklist (see below). For some reason, this book has been deadly quiet, met with a collective yawn. Not reviewed at all in PW, SLJ, Horn Book, any of the traditional venues. So I’m grateful to John Peters at Booklist for reading it, and for the review:

The lifelong friendship between two fifth graders—one with a mild spectrum disorder—hits the rocks but emerges intact in this perceptive tale from the author of Six Innings (2008). Feeling conflicted but wanting to fit in better with his classmates at Spiro T. Agnew Elementary, Robert (nicknamed Spider) uncomfortably tries to put some distance between himself and his buddy Trey, whose obsessions, lack of sensitivity to social cues, and general clumsiness have resulted in a reputation for being “out there.” Acting on Spider’s suggestion that he make other friends, Trey beats the odds and finds two: the school’s young librarian and a genial new classmate named Ava. Spider also makes another friend, and by the end discovers that there’s still room in his life for Trey. By regularly switching points of view, Preller gives readers a chance to see the situation from each boy’s angle and to consider the central insight that differences aren’t always as important as they seem.

* I posted yesterday about Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Secret Skeleton. Scholastic is in the process of making the cover. And since I’m working with a new editor on this one, I need to check in and make sure I’ll get another chance to make corrections in galleys. Because — get this — it’s not perfect.

* Amidst all this background noise, I’m supposed to be writing a new book. I’m in the early stages of Joker (a working title I’m not loving), which mostly means jotting down notes, reading things, daydreaming, hoping to sort out in my mind some kind of shape and scope of this thing before jumping in with both feet. I want it to be funny, and that’s so much easier to describe than actually pull off. I don’t have the voice yet. Now I just kind of write and think, “This so blows.” I guess you could say we’re in the Self-Loathing Stage. Always fun.

Okay, here’s the immortal Peggy Lee:

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  1. Karen says:

    This is a lot of “you”, but it all seems to be good stuff (except the self-loathing!). I’m thrilled that Booklist got a review of Along Came Spider. I loved that book from the moment I read it! I am really looking forward to reading it to my students in January!!

  2. jimmy says:

    Karen, thank you for reading this blog; I’m grateful for all of your comments. At first when this became, I had that sense of talking in an empty room — but I kept talking anyway. You were one of the first to care, along with Nan and Liz and Doret, and that’s why you will soon be receiving a FREE Amana 1100 Watts Microwave Over, delivered directly to your home! Or, um, not. Anyway, I am grateful for your support of Spider.


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