Ben Winters’ unsettling new novel, Underground Airlines, takes place in an an alternative United States where the Civil War never occurred and slavery still exists in four states. The book centers around Victor, a former enslaved person who took a job as a Federal bounty hunter in exchange for his freedom. Tasked with tracking down a recently escaped slave known only as Jackdaw, Victor travels to Indianapolis in order to insinuate himself into the the local chapter of the Underground Airlines. the abolitionist movement. Yet as he untangles Jackdaw’s flight to freedom, Victor realizes that none of the people around him—from Jackdaw to Victor’s enigmatic boss—are what they seem. NPR dubbed Underground Airlines “indisputably a winner” and Ann Patchett praised it in Time, noting that it “kept me up at night and changed the way I saw the world once I was finished.” Ben Winters spoke to Brendan Dowling via e-mail on August 16th.
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Nicole Dennis-Benn’s searing debut novel Here Comes the Sun explores the relationships among three Jamaican woman: Margot, who works at the front desk of a Montego Bay resort; her mother, Delores, a charismatic vendor at a tourist market stall; and Thandi, her fifteen-year old half sister, a brilliant high school student who both women work overtime to […]
“The True Story of My Heart”– Kate DiCamillo Talks friendship, summer reading, and “Raymie Nightingale”
Kate DiCamillo has been a favorite of young adult readers since the publication of her first novel, Because of Winn Dixie. That book was named a Newbery Honor book in 2001, while her later books The Tale of Desperaux and Flora and Ulysses both won the Newbery Award. Her most recent work, Raymie Nightingale, is sure to be similarly embraced by fans and critics alike. Focused on a trio of ten year-old girls who–for very different reasons–have all entered the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, Raymie Nightingale follows the girls’ exploits through baton-twirling classes, an animal shelter break-in, and a reconnaissance mission at a nursing home. At its heart is the title character, who leaps off the page with her resilience and ingenuity. Brendan Dowling spoke to Kate DiCamillo via email on May 9th, 2016.
Nicola Yoon’s debut novel Everything, Everything tells the coming-of-age story of Maddy, a witty eighteen year-old diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Confined to her house since an infant, she leads a solitary existence, interacting only with her mother and home nurse. All of this changes with the arrival of Olly, her charming next-door neighbor who’s as equally adept at parkour as he is at crafting a swoon-worthy e-mail. Their unusual courtship is charted through their droll email and IM exchanges, where they crack wise about everything from suicidal Bundt cakes to the state fish of Hawaii. School Library Journal listed Everything, Everything as one of its Best Books 2015 and The New York Times praised it as “offbeat, pragmatic and sweetly romantic.” Brendan Dowling interviewed Nicola Yoon on March 1st.
Duncan Tonatiuh’s evocative and charming picture books have been staples of the bestseller list since his debut book, Dear Primo: Letters to My Cousin, in 2010. Since then he’s written and illustrated Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, Diego Rivera: His World And Ours, and Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. His most recent book, Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, details the life of José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada, the Mexican artist whose calaveras (skeletons performing everyday tasks) have become a ubiquitous presence in Day of the Dead celebrations. The book was named a 2016 Sibert Award Winner, Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Honor Book, and a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015. Duncan Tonatiuh talked with Brendan Dowling via telephone on January 26th, 2015. The following is an edited version of their conversation.
Abby Geni’s debut novel, The Lightkeepers, is a terrifically suspenseful novel detailing the year in the life of Miranda, a photographer on a secluded biological research station on the Farallon Islands, thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco. A few months into her stay, one of the biologists is found dead, the result of an apparent accident. The Lightkeepers delivers a tightly plotted mystery while also offering keen insight into the relationship humans have with the natural world, and also contains perhaps the most terrifying scene involving mice ever written. Entertainment Weekly hailed the book as “not to be missed,” and Geni was cited by Barnes and Noble as one of its Discover 2016 Great New Writers. Geni spoke with Brendan Dowling via e-mail on January 14, 2015.
Dave Reidy’s debut novel, The Voiceover Artist, came out to rave reviews earlier this fall. Booklist praised it as “moving and honest” and no less than Scott Turow hailed it as “tender and beguiling.” The Voiceover Artist tells the story of Simon, a shy young man who suffered such a profound stutter growing up that he chose not to speak for eighteen years. As an adult, he moves to Chicago to break into the world of voiceover artists, the sonorous voices that kept him company throughout his isolated childhood. Independent for the first time, he struggles to find a community, volunteering at St. Asella’s, a fading parish in downtown Chicago. Reidy charts Simon’s coming of age through the complicated relationships with the women in his life: Catherine, a recently divorced interior decorator he meets at church; his tart-tongued agent Elaine; and his ex-girlfriend Brittany. Public Libraries Online spoke to Reidy on December 2nd.
Troy Cummings is the author of The Eency Weency Spider Freaks Out, More Bears!, and the Notebook of Doom series. He recently spoke at the Children and Young People’s Division (CYPD) of the Indiana Library Federation Conference () and proved capable of making a bunch of librarians laugh just like he does his younger fans. Public Libraries caught up with the author after the conference to learn more about his books, career, and what it takes to host a successful author visit.
Award winning author Cece Bell has been writing and illustrating children’s picture books for several years. This year, her book for older children, El Deafo, earned her a Newberry Honor. A graphic novel memoir, El Deafo tells her story of becoming almost completely deaf at a young age due to illness. Depicting the resulting challenges—and delights—are a cast of bunny characters that tell a very human story.
I Was That Little Girl Who Went to the Library Every Single Saturday: A Conversation with Sharon Draper
This past fall, author Sharon Draper’s novel, Out of My Mind, was Loudoun County Public Library’s pick for their 1 Book, 1 Community book. As part of the program, Draper visited the area and did an author chat at a local middle school.
In Kathleen Hale’s exceptional debut novel, No One Else Can Have You, sixteen year-old Kippy Bushman sets out to solve the gruesome murder of her best friend, Ruth Fried. As Kippy investigates those closest to Ruth, she realizes everyone in her seemingly cheerful hometown harbors dark secrets, from Kippy’s peppy guidance counselor father to Ruth’s […]
Ben Winters’ The Last Policeman poses the daunting question, how do you maintain law and order in a world poised on the edge of disaster? Set in the near future, an asteroid is set to strike earth in six months, leveling most of the planet’s population. In Concord, New Hampshire, Detective Henry Palace finds himself thrust into his dream job with only a few remaining months to enjoy it. With the world around him falling apart, Palace lands a seemingly open-and-shut case: the suicide of a local actuary. As Palace digs deeper, he uncovers the dark secrets of citizens pushed to the edge and the unsettling truth of the true killer. Winters continues the exploits of Palace with Countdown City, where a quest for a missing husband leads Palace to the University of New Hampshire (now turned into a quasi-commune), among other places. In both books, Winters spins a deftly plotted mystery while vividly depicting a world on the brink of extinction. World of Trouble, the final book in the Last Policeman Trilogy, will be published this July. Winters spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone January 31, 2014.
Jon Cohen’s The Man in the Window was first published in 1992, but is now enjoying a second life thanks to Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Rediscoveries. Disfigured from a fire at his father’s hardware store, Louis Malone has spent the past sixteen years observing his neighborhood from the confines of his parents’ house. When he […]
In Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth, a novelist living in an isolated island off the coast of British Columbia, finds a package washed up on the beach during a morning walk. Inside is a Hello Kitty Lunch box containing, among other objects, the diary of Nao, a suicidal American teenager living in Japan. Ruth believes the package washed up as a result of the 2011 Japanese earthquake, and is soon consumed by discovering Nao’s fate. Alternating between Ruth’s life on the island and excerpts from Nao’s diary, the reader learns how Nao ended up in Tokyo, as well as the stories of Nao’s great-grandmother, a 104 year-old Zen Buddhist nun, and Nao’s great-uncle Haruki #1, a World War II kamikaze pilot. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and praised as a “a tantalizing narration that brandishes mysteries to be solved and ideas to be explored” by The Washington Post, A Tale for the Time Being was one of 2013’s most acclaimed novels. Ozeki spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on January 2nd and 6th.
For over twenty years, Mary Schmich’s perceptive columns have been a staple of the Chicago Tribune. In 2012, she was awarded the Pulitzer for Commentary, yet she had achieved a broader audience even earlier. In 1997, her column “Wear Suncreen” (originally misattributed as a Kurt Vonnegaut commencement address) rose to prominence and was even eventually […]