Day 1: A wonderful novel about independence and first love

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Young People’s Literature Finalist:

Silhouette of a SparrowSilhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
Published by Milkweed Editions
Category Sponsor: Sit Investment Associates

Growing up in the 1920s, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson envies the birds outside her window. Her mother does not approve of Garnet climbing trees to peer into nests or any other such un-ladylike behavior. She has Garnet’s life all planned out: after finishing high school, she’ll marry and tend to the home. But when Garnet is sent away for the summer to stay with relatives in the lakeside resort town of Excelsior, Minnesota, she finds a chance to spread her wings. A newly built amusement park and roaring dance hall beckon, and her explorations land her where she least expects—in a growing relationship with a beautiful and daring flapper, Isabella.

 Excerpt from Silhouette of a Sparrow:

It was the seventeenth of June, 1926, and the Thursday morning streetcar was four minutes late.

On the streetcar platform, tiny birds hopped and pecked around the feet of the waiting crowd. My eyes locked onto one bird, and as I took in the curve of its breast and the fringe of its tail feathers, my fingers worked with sewing scissors, snipping the image out of black paper. Faithfully, the chickadee recreated itself in my hands. A perfect silhouette.

The bird hopped too close to Mother’s tapping foot, and with a startled ruffled of wings it hurried away. I tucked its paper twin into my pocket along with the scissors.

Molly Beth Griffin photo credit Kevin Obsatz

Molly Beth Griffin is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and a writing teacher at the Loft Literary Center. Molly Beth lives in Minneapolis with her partner and young son. Visit her online.

 

Reviews:

“Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this novel involve the depiction and presentation of social concepts, such as traditional versus “new-fashioned” womanhood; the role of money, status and societal acceptance; family relations, structure, obligations, and secrets; and how love comes to be and is perceived. A truly engaging question is posed by Garnet: where are the boundaries between one’s true self, one’s obligations, nature, and society? Griffin handles this issue delicately by making suggestions, rather than tenets, exciting readers to think.” – Lambda Literary

“Garnet’s feminist and environmental concerns are relevant for a young contemporary audience without feeling anachronistic to the narrative.” – The Star Tribune

“Tight and purposeful . . . a positive breath of fresh air.” – Kirkus Reviews

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Silhouette of a Sparrow?  What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Young People's Literature

Day 2: A brain tumor diagnosis and the myth of Persephone come together in this poet’s mind

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Poetry Finalist:

Odessa by Patricia KirkpatrickOdessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick
Published by Milkweed Editions
Category Sponsor: Wellington Management, Inc.

A grim prognosis, brain cancer, leaves the speaker in Kirkpatrick’s Odessa fighting for her life. The tumor presses against her amygdalae, the “emotional core of the self,” and central to the process of memory. In poems emotionally charged but void of sentimentality, Kirkpatrick creates from loss a dreamlike reality. Odessa, “roof of the underworld,” a refuge at once real and imagined, resembles simultaneously the Midwestern prairie and a mythical god-inhabited city. In lines bearing shades of Classical heroism, Kirkpatrick delivers a personal narrative of stunning dimension.

Excerpt from “Near Odessa”

Near the end of summer.

Wheatfield with lark. With swift,

longspur, and sparrow. I see the birds

opening tails and wings

above grasses

and hidden nests.

Soybeans with bells, yellowing, green

tassels of corn, geese

again and again…

… Near Odessa

I come to a place where the end is beginning.

Where the light is absolute, it rises.

Patricia Kirkpatrick PhotoPatricia Kirkpatrick is the author of Century’s Road, as well as several chapbooks of poetry. Her work has appeared widely in journals including Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Threepenny Review, and Antioch Review, and in several anthologies, among them She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy. Kirkpatrick is a community editor and teacher with the Saint Paul Almanac, and she lives in Saint Paul.

For Odessa, Kirkpatrick was awarded the first annual Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, which champions emerging Midwestern poets.

Reviews:

“The verses in Odessa examine with unflinching, plainspoken lyricism those moments when one’s life trajectory is abruptly derailed and its course irrevocably altered.” — KnightArts

“The book offers no explicit answer to the questions it raises about the self. Perhaps what makes us is not answers, but the search and swirl around our “invisible / core” provoked by such questions.

Audio:

Listen to the poet read from Odessa.

In the press:

Kirkpatrick wins Milkweed Edition’s 1st poetry prize, Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 12, 2012

An interview in six questions with Patricia Kirkpatrick at Milkweed

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Odessa? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Poetry

Day 3: Mystery and Music in The Devil and the Diva

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Genre Fiction Finalist:

The Devil and the Diva by David Housewright and Renee Valois The Devil and the Diva by David Housewright and Renee Valois
Published by: Down and Out Books
Category Sponsor: Marvin Windows & Doors

When pop diva Sheila Lews dies under puzzling circumstances, singer Clarisse Dufresne is approached by agents of a shadowy international crime syndicate with a proposition—to help forge recordings that were supposedly made by Lews before she died. Clarisse refuses to participate in the fraud and is rescued by a mysterious man who conceals both his face and his intentions behind a black mask. But the savior soon becomes Clarisse’s tormentor when she learns that she is not his guest as he professes, but his prisoner.

Excerpt from The Devil and the Diva:

The first time Clarisse saw the man in the black mask she thought he was putting her on, some kind of Phantom of the Opera wannabee lurking in the shadows in the back of the club. She wasn’t particularly frightened: she had seen plenty of things from the stage that were scarier than a man dressed head to toe in black, with not an inch of skin showing. Still, this is new, she thought, shielding her eyes from the blazing lights as she regarded him.

A heavy not on the piano reminded her of where she was. She turned to Rick, her on-again, off-again accompanist. Clarisse had missed her cue and Rick’s raised eyebrow asked, “What happened?”

Clarisse smiled back. “What a night,” she said.

David HousewrightDavid Housewright is an Edgar Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem. He has written 12 books including Practice to Deceive (1998 Minnesota Book Award winner) and Jelly’s Gold (2010 Minnesota Book Award winner). His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and publications.

Renee ValoisRenée Valois is an award-winning writer whose fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines such as Fallout and Studio One. Her reviews and articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines ranging from the St. Paul Pioneer Press to the History Channel Magazine and ICON (the magazine of the American Society of Interior Designers). She has also written numerous television and radio commercials, video scripts and ads for clients such as McDonald’s, Harley Davidson, Mall of America, Levi’s and Aveda.

Reviews:

“This story is rich, it’s lush, it’s romantic, it’s smart, it’s funny. It’s a mix of genres, a Beauty and the Beast tale. Mystery. Crime fiction. Intrigue. Gothic romance. Inside the pages we visit Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, the North Shore, all in winter. Winter! A masked man. Dark wool capes that flow over deep snow. A house like a castle. A woman in a white gown holding a candelabra.” —Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one books

“It’s wonderful. I loved Clarisse – smart, witty and human. Maurice (the man in the black mask) was quite the romantic figure, yet still human, too, with those little foibles that make a girl want to smash him in his obsidian nose and then kiss him and make it better… The story was outrageous, and I totally bought into it. I was sorry when it ended.”—Deborah Woodworth, author of Dancing Dead

“This was very compelling page-turner with a fantastic lead character.”— MN Book Awards judge

Video

David Housewright on used book sales:

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read The Devil and the Diva? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with:
Posted in Genre Fiction

Day 4: An ambitious, impressionistic study of life on American Indian reservations

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 General Nonfiction Finalist:

Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Category Sponsor: Minnesota AFL-CIO

Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist’s storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present.

Excerpt from Rez Life:

When Ojibwe first came to Red Lake in the 1600s—encouraged by the fur trade to expand and control new trapping grounds, and engaged in wars to the east, north, and west—the lake was a paradise. There were certain requirements that a place needed to meet in order to be suitable for settlement, and Red Lake met them all. It had abundant wild rice beds, diverse forests (a mixture of pine and hardwood excellent for building), easily navigable water, and a recurring and stable source of protein: the walleye.

David Treuer photo by Jean-Luc BertiniDavid Treuer is Ojibwe from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota where he grew up. He is the author of three novels—Little, The Hiawatha, and The Translation of Dr. Appeles—and Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual, a book of essays. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Leech Lake Reservation. Visit him online.

 Reviews:

“A gritty, raw, and thoroughly authentic look at reservation life—as experienced from the inside out. Here is modern America glimpsed through a different membrane, narrated in a fresh new voice. In this searching, at times heartbreaking, but often triumphant mélange of history, journalism, and memoir, Treuer loudly proclaims that all reports of the American Indian’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.” — Hampton Sides, best-selling author of Blood and Thunder

“An invaluable study and vivid account of problematic life on our reservations by a writer — a very good writer! — raised ‘on the rez’ who knows what he’s talking about only too well and also knows how to tell a story, lots of stories, that document and effectively banish a number of misconceptions still held by white society. Highly recommended.” — Peter Matthiessen

“Treuer effortlessly mixes journalism, memoir and history to paint a realistic picture of reservation life today.  This enjoyable book covers the good, the bad, and the surprising.  An important book for everyone who walks this land.” — MN Book Awards Judge

Audio:

Listen as David Treuer talks with MPR’s Kerri Miller on Midmorning, February 20, 2012.

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Rez Life? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in General Nonfiction

Day 5: Don’t forget to wake the dragons before school!

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Children’s Literature Finalist:

Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek AndersonWaking Dragons by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Inc
Category Sponsor: Books For Africa

Wake up with a pair of sleepy dragons and the knight who must get them ready for school!

Dragons wake up,

Dragons rise,

Dragons open

Dragon eyes.

From tumbling out of their humongous blankets to devouring a breakfast of catapulted waffles, these characters and their loveable antics fill the pages with luminous color and dragon-size fun. A joyful collaboration between two bestselling talents, author Jane Yolen and illustrator Derek Anderson, this book will make any young reader fly out of bed.

Derek AndersonDerek Anderson is the bestselling artist and co-creator of the Little Quack series. He is also the talent behind Gladys Goes Out to Lunch and Over the River: A Turkey’s Tale. He and his wife Cheryl reside in Minneapolis.

Jane Yolen is an award-winning author who has written more than 200 books for children, including the bestseller How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner Owl Moon. Yolen lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

spread from "Waking Dragons"

Reviews:

“With cinematic framing, sculptural shapes, a strong sense of physical comedy, and a fittingly medieval palette of saturated jewel tones, Anderson (the Little Quack series) portrays his horned dragons as hulking slugabeds who morph into surprisingly nimble winged beasts. The young knight scampers around their massive bodies like a practiced mountain climber, willing to risk getting stomped for the reward of having the ultimate lift to Knight School.” – Publishers Weekly

“Anderson’s familiar golden-washed cartoon paintings embellish the humor. Details like a fire extinguisher labeled “In case of dragon breath,” as well as the dragons’ flying goggles, mean this story’s popularity will spread like fire.” – School Library Journal

“What makes Waking Dragons so delightful are the paintings on each page. The paintings bring the words to life in a way that pops off the pages. The pictures are imaginative and playful. The colors are gorgeous… Artist Derek Anderson created illustrations worthy of a picture frame.”—OMB (Oh My Books), by Shari Schmidt

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Waking Dragons? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Children's Literature

Day 6: “Nothing Special” is actually something quite special

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Young People’s Literature Finalist:

Nothing Special by Geoff HerbachNothing Special by Geoff Herbach
Published by Sourcebooks Fire/Sourcebooks, Inc.
Category Sponsor: Sit Investment Associates

The second installment in Geoff Herbach’s Stupid Fast Series, Nothing Special continues the story of star athlete Felton Reinstein over the summer as he travels to Florida to find his brother. Told completely in letters written by Felton to his girlfriend, Aleah, Felton’s travels help him to slowly realize that the things he does and the things that are happening to him are not without consequence.

Excerpt from Nothing Special:

August 15, 12:45 p.m.

Airplane to Chicago

Holy Balzac. I’m a tremendous dork. When the plane took off, I totally whooped. Like, “Wooo-hoo! Yeah!” Everybody turned and looked at me.

Planes are very, very fast. Exciting.

Embarrassing.

I wish I could act like I look. I’m a big-looking man, Aleah—I know that from seeing pictures of me—but I feel like a dumb little kid a lot (and act like one). It was awesome taking off. Am I a dumb little kid?

Geoff Herbach Geoff Herbach is the author of the award-winning Stupid Fast YA series. His books have been given the 2011 Cybils Award for best YA novel, selected for the Junior Library Guild, listed in the year’s best by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and many state library associations. In the past, he wrote the literary novel, The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, produced radio comedy shows and toured rock clubs telling weird stories. Geoff teaches creative writing at Minnesota State, Mankato. He lives in a log cabin with a tall wife.

Reviews:

“Felton’s voice is fresh and believable as a teen on the edge of manhood. Boys especially will discover kindred spirits in Felton and Andrew. Kudos to Herbach for this deep, moving, LOL funny, and completely original story.” — School Library Journal

“In the tradition of great young adult protagonists, like Holden Caulfield and Eric ‘Moby’ Calhoune come Fenton Reinstein, soon to be sixteen… Surprises abound in this future youth classic.”— VOYA

Nothing Special is the sequel to Stupid Fast (Sourcebooks, 2011/Voya June 2011) in which Geoff Herbach continues the story of Felton Reinstein’s rise to athletic infamy. The story is told by Felton as a letter to his girlfriend—an apology, really—while he tries to make it down to Florida before he has to return for the first football game of his senior season. Felton walks Aleah through his quest to discover where his fourteen-year-old brother has disappeared to, because he is certain it is not orchestra camp on Lake Michigan. Struggling with his talented, suicidal father’s legacy, Felton and Andrew find different ways to make their own happiness in life. Herbach succeeds in portraying the stress and confusion facing Felton as he tries to decide what to do with his talent and with his life.”— Kirkus Reviews

Video:

Watch the trailer for the first book in the series, Stupid Fast.

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Nothing Special?  What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Young People's Literature

Day 7: A bittersweet coming of age tale wrapped in a mystery

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Novel & Short Story Finalist:

The Round House by Louise Erdrich The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Published by Harper/HarperCollins Publishers
Category Sponsor: Education Minnesota

In the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe sets out to get some answers of his own. The quest takes him first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning. Louise Erdrich’s novel embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.

 Excerpt from The Round House:

I was reading and drinking a glass of cool water in the kitchen when my father came out of his nap and entered, disoriented and yawning. For all its importance Cohen’s Handbook was not a heavy book and when he appeared I drew it quickly onto my lap, under the table. My father licked his dry lips and cast about, searching for the smell of food perhaps, the sound of pots or the clinking of glasses, or footsteps. What he said then surprised me, although on the face of it his words seem slight.

Where is your mother?

His voice was hoarse and dry. I slid the book on to another chair, rose, and handed him my glass of water. He gulped it down. He didn’t say those words again, but the two of us stared at each other in a way that struck me somehow as adult, as though he knew that by reading his law-book I had inserted myself into his world. His look persisted until I dropped my eyes. I had actually just turned thirteen. Two weeks ago, I’d been twelve.

Louise ErdrichFour-time Minnesota Book Award winner, Louise Erdrich is the author of thirteen novels—including The Round House which won the 2012 National Book Award for fiction—as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. Most recently, The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Louise Erdrich lives in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore

Audio:

Listen to Louise Erdrich chat with MPR’s Carrie Miller on The Daily Circuit.

Video:

Watch as Erdrich talks about The Round House and the writing life with host Terry Tazioli on “Well Read,” the books-and-authors program on Seattle public access channel TVW:

Reviews:

“Erdrich has given us a multitude of narrative voices and stories. Never before has she given us a novel with a single narrative voice so smart, rich and full of surprises as she has in The Round House …and, I would argue, her best so far.” — All Things Considered

“An artfully balanced mystery, thriller and coming-of-age story…this novel will have you reading at warp speed to see what happens next.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The Round House represents something of a departure for Erdrich, whose past novels of Indian life have usually relied on a rotating cast of narrators, a kind of storytelling chorus. Here, though, Joe is the only narrator, and the urgency of his account gives the action the momentum and tight focus of a crime novel, which, in a sense, it is. But for Erdrich, The Round House is also a return to form. Joe’s voice…recalls that of Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, one of the narrators of Erdrich’s masterly novel The Plague of Doves. That’s appropriate because Joe is the judge’s son…If The Round House is less sweeping and symphonic than The Plague of Doves, it is just as riveting. By boring deeply into one person’s darkest episode, Erdrich hits the bedrock truth about a whole community.” — Maria Russo, The New York Times Book Review

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read The Round House? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Novel & Short Story
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers