One-Minute Book Reviews

March 24, 2012

‘Nate the Great’ Turns 40 / A 9-Year-Old Sleuth With Enduring Appeal

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:50 am
Tags: , , , , ,

A confident young “detective” loves solving cases and eating pancakes

Nate the Great. By Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Pictures by Marc Simont. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 64 pp., $4.99, paperback. Ages 5–8.

By Janice Harayda

For 40 years, the 9-year-old detective who calls himself “Nate the Great” has been striding confidently forth to solve crimes dressed in a Sherlock Holmesian deerstalker’s cap and a trench coat worthy of Inspector Clouseau. And there’s no mystery about why he remains one of the most popular heroes of the beginning-reader genre.

Sharmat was among the first authors to show that books with a limited vocabulary don’t have to be as dull as the Dick-and-Jane primers that set their tone for years. Nate has personality. He is cool, methodical and self-assured without being rude. And he’s funny. Sharmat writes in the deadpan tone of hard-boiled detective novels and invests her hero with the mannerisms of their sleuths. “My name is Nate the Great,” Nate announces in the first sentence of Nate the Great. “I am a detective. I work alone.”

That “I work alone” is typical of how Sharmat invokes the solitary American private eye with wit and accuracy. Nate solves “cases” instead of crimes: Who taped the red paper heart to Sludge’s doghouse? Who is raiding his friend Oliver’s garbage? What happened to the birthday gift that fell off the cat-loving Rosamond’s sled?

Nate helps his friend Annie find a missing picture of her dog, Fang, in Nate the Great. He works not by deduction (forming a theory and testing it) like Holmes but mostly by intuition and induction (gathering evidence until he has a theory). When he learns that Annie’s house has no secret passageways he can explore, he seeks clues by other means — searching her room, digging in her yard, and talking with her brother. He stops briefly to fill up on pancakes because “I must keep up my strength.”

The plot of Nate the Great has enough action to work either for independent reading by children or for reading aloud by adults. And Marc Simont’s witty line drawings suggest the range of emotions that accompany his hero’s bravado. His Nate is alternately as tight-lipped as Sam Spade and as expressive as any 9-year-old, an unusual and well-balanced combination that helps to give the series its enduring appeal.

Some might argue that Nate the Great reflects traditional sex roles in words and pictures that show a boy helping a girl who couldn’t find a picture on her own. But those roles reflect both the era in which the novel arrived and the crime fiction that inspired it. By the standards of the hard-boiled novels of its day, the story is actually progressive. Nate and Annie are friends apart from the case that brought them together. How many  fictional gumshoes, even today, spend most of their time in the company of a female friend in whom they have no romantic interest?

Best line/picture: No. 1: “I work alone.” No. 2: “I would like Annie if I liked girls.”

Worst line/picture: None. But in the well-used 1972 library edition I read, one page describes a clown, house and tree as “red” and a monster as “orange” when the colors appear indistinguishable, possibly because of fading.

Recommended for: First and second graders who are beginning to read and for reading aloud to younger children.

Published: 1972 (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, first edition), 1977 (Yearling/Dell reprint).

Want to wish Nate a happy 40th birthday? Write to Marjorie Weinman Sharmat c/o Author Mail, Delacorte Press, Dell Publishing, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.

Furthermore: Nate has inspired a musical and more.

You can follow Jan on Twitter by clicking on the “Follow” button in the right sidebar.

© 2012 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

March 23, 2012

‘Nate the Great,’ Boy Detective — Tomorrow

Nate the Great wears a Sherlock Holmesian deerstalker’s cap and a trench coat worthy of Inspector Clouseau. And for decades the 9-year-old sleuth has been the hero of the first mysteries that many children read on their own, Marjorie Weinman Sharmat’s popular series of easy-readers for ages 5 through 8 that bears his name. Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews: clues to his success in a review of the book that launched his adventures.

March 22, 2012

Why We Need Bookstores / Quote of the Day From Scott Turow

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:41 am
Tags: , , ,

Why do we need brick-and-mortar bookstores? Scott Turow, the novelist and president of the Authors Guild, gives an often neglected reason in this quote:

“Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online. In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.” 

December 26, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Book Clubs – Quote of the Day / Francine Prose

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:02 pm
Tags: , , ,

“ … book clubs have had both a positive and negative effect. On the one hand, they do get people reading and talking about reading. But on the other hand, when you’re reading for a book club, the whole time you’re thinking, I have to have an opinion and I’m going to have to defend it to these people. The whole notion of being swept away by a book pretty much goes out the window.”

Francine Prose in an interview conducted by Jessica Murphy for The Atlantic online, July 18, 2006, reprinted in the “About the Book” section of the paperback edition of Prose’s Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (HarperPerennial, 2007).

August 31, 2011

More Publishing Buzzwords Decoded With Wit on Twitter

Filed under: Humor,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:09 am
Tags: , ,

“Haunting.” “Powerful.” “Wake-up call.” Why do we keep seeing words like these recycled over and over in book reviews and on dust jackets? Whether it’s because book sections are shrinking or some writers don’t recognize a cliché, such overused terms often amount to spin or doubletalk.

Not long ago editor Marian Lizzi wrote that in publishing circles the phrase “labor of love” often means “the advance orders are disappointing.” Inspired by her comment, I asked industry veterans to decode other euphemisms and to attach the hashtag #pubcode on Twitter. I collected 40 of their answers, and others poured in afterward. And if many responses were tongue-in-cheek, they also pointed to a truth. Novelist Mat Johnson was right, for example, when he said that “nominated for the Pulitzer” means only that a publisher paid the $50 entry fee, though the prize sponsor discourages such uses of the word.

Here are more explanations of terms that editors, publishers and critics use when describing books.

“affecting” = “I felt something. Could’ve been the book. Could’ve been my lunch.” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“a book for the ages” = “no need to read it now” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and publisher of Redburn Press

“brilliant debut collection” = “yet another friggin’ MFA thesis” @ajsomerset A.J. Somerset, novelist (Combat Camera) and photographer

“dazzling” = “We hope you’ll find the prose so gorgeous that you won’t really notice that nothing happens” @autsentwit “Miss Bennet,” editor

“dedicated fan base” = “Mom and spouse” @mat_johnson Mat Johnson, novelist (Pym)

“endearing” = “heavy on the treacle” @lolacalifornia Edie Meidav, novelist (Lola, California)

“game-changer” = “the Betamax of print” @glossaria, librarian

“ground breaking romantic comedy” = “heroine hit by a car at the end. By a man.” @PhillipaAshley Phillipa Ashley, novelist (Wish You Were Here and Fever Cure)

“haunting” = “Sat unfinished on my nightstand for months while I read other stuff.” @saraeckel Sara Eckel, a freelance writer for the New York Times and other publications

“heartwarming” = “major character is a dog, an old guy, or both” @kathapollitt Katha Pollitt, poet and columnist for the Nation

“historical” novel = “American = dust, prairies & drab clothing; Italian = poison & plots; English = sex, beautiful clothes & beheadings.” @JVNLA Jennifer Weltz, literary agent at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency .

“Hemingwayesque” = “Hemingwayesque = short sentences. Faulkneresque = long sentences. Fitzgeraldesque = regret, longing, rich people.” @arthurphillips Arthur Phillips, novelist (The Tragedy of Arthur)

“it grabs you by the throat and won’t let go” = “it’s gonna hurt” @hangingnoodles Jag Bhalla, author of I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears 

“national besteller” = “made list in Buffalo & Fresno. International bestseller = made list in Irkutsk” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“nominated for the Pulitzer” = “publisher paid $50 application fee.” @mat_johnson Mat Johnson, novelist (Pym)

“powerful” = “all plot, with attitude” @MarkKohut MarkKohut, writer and president of Redburn Press

“reminiscent of Ellison and Baldwin” = “black guy” @mat_johnson Mat Johnson, novelist, Pym

“quirky” = “about half the length you’d expect and/or no capital letters” @tamarapaulin Tamara Paulin, writer and former CBC Radio One co-host

“Shakespearean” = “everyone dies, uh, like HamletMark Kohut, writer and publisher of Redburn Press

“She divides her time between New York City and The Ozarks” = “She lives in Manhattan, submits fellowship apps from Arkansas.” @saraeckel Sara Eckel, a freelance writer for the New York Times and other publications. Also: “got the second home in the divorce” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

“a stirring commentary on the human condition” = “a book about feelings written by a man. @saraeckel Sara Eckel, a freelance writer for the New York Times and other publications

“sweeping family saga” = “your mother might like this” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and publisher of Redburn Press

“a wake-up call for America” = “a bad-tempered diatribe by a member of the previous administration” @garykrist Gary Krist, journalist and author of the forthcoming City of Scoundrels. Also: “a delusional rant by a conspiracy theorist” @DianeFarr Diane Farr, novelist (Fair Game and Duel of Hearts)

“uneven” = “feel free to skip and skim” @patebooks Nancy Pate, former book editor of the Orlando Sentinel and co-author of the Caroline Cousins mystery series patebooks.wordpress.com/.

Jan Harayda is a novelist and award-winning journalist. You can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda. One-Minute Book Reviews was named one of New Jersey’s best blogs in the April 2011 issue of New Jersey Monthly.


August 21, 2011

40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded

Filed under: Humor,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Ever wonder what editors, publishers and critics mean when they describe books as “lyrical,” “provocative” or “ripped from the headlines”? Let industry veterans explain it to you. I asked experts on Twitter to decode common publishing terms and attach the hashtag #pubcode. Here are some of their answers:

“absorbing”: “makes a great coaster” @DonLinn Don Linn, publishing consultant

“accessible”: “not too many big words” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“acclaimed”: “poorly selling” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

breakout book”: “Hail Mary pass” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

brilliantly defies categorization”: “even the author has no clue what he’s turned in” @james_meader James Meader, publicity director of Picador USA

“captures the times we live in”: “captures the times we were living in two years ago” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“classroom-friendly”: “kids won’t read it unless they have to” @LindaWonder, Linda White, book promoter at Wonder Communications

“continues in the proud tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien”: “this book has a dwarf in it” @jasonpinter Jason Pinter, author of the Zeke Bartholomew series for young readers

“definitive”: “could have used an editor” @kalenski, “Book Babe Extraordinaire”

“an eBook original”: “still no proofreading and bad formatting” @mikecane Mike Cane, writer and digital book advocate

“edgy”: “contains no adult voices of reason” @wmpreston William Preston, English teacher

“epic”: “very long” @sheilaoflanagan Sheila O’Flanagan, novelist (Stand by Me)

“erotic”: “porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“ethnic literature”: “stuff written by nonwhite people” @elprofe316 Rich Villar, executive director of Acentos

“frothy romp”: “funny book by lady” “Funny = funny book by a man” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“gripping”: “I turned the pages fast but didn’t read them” @sarahw Sarah Weinman, news editor of Publishers Marketplace

“gritty street tale”: “Black author from the hood. Run.” @DuchessCadbury, graduate student in literature

“I’ve been a fan of Author X for a long time”: “I slept with them regrettably, in MFA school.” @Weegee Kevin Smokler, vice-president of marketing for Byliner.

“lapidary prose”: “I did not know what half of these words meant” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“literary”: “plotless” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“long-awaited”: “late” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

“luminous” or “lyrical”: “not much happens” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“magisterial”: “long” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“meticulously researched”: “overloaded with footnotes” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“memoir”: “nonfiction until proven otherwise” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“the next Elmore Leonard”: “This book has criminals or Detroit or maybe Florida in it” @bryonq Bryon Quertermous, fiction writer

novella”: “short story with large font” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“a real tear-jerker”: “writing so bad it makes you cry” @DrewSGoodman Drew Goodman, writer and social media analyst

“ripped from the headlines”: “no original plot line” @jdeval Jacqueline Deval, author (Publicize Your Book!) and book publicist

“rollicking”: “chaotic” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“sensual”: “soft porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“stunning”: “major character dies” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“provocative”: “about race/religion” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“promising debut”: “many flaws, but not unforgivably bad” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“unflinching”: “has a lot of bad words” @isabelkaplan Isabel Kaplan, novelist (Hancock Park)

“visionary”: “can’t be proved wrong yet” @IsabelAnders Isabel Anders, author (Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples)

voice of a generation”: “instantly dated” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“weighty”: “I had to lug this dense historical monster all over town and I still can’t bring myself to finish it” @emilynussbaum Emily Nussbaum, writer for New York magazine and other publicatons

“wildly imaginative”: “wrote book high on mescaline” @simonm223 Simon McNeil, novelist

“a writer to watch”: “as opposed to one you are actually going to want to read” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

You’ll find more publishing buzzwords decoded in the sequel to this post at http://bit.ly/pubcode2.

You can follow Jan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

June 28, 2011

Does Reading to Your Child Every Day Lead to Success in School? Quote of the Day / ‘Freakonomics’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:42 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Parents tend to take it on faith that reading to children every day has benefits. Why shouldn’t they? The “Read to your child every day” mantra has advocates that include the American Library Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional organizations.

But such authorities may have oversold the benefits of sitting down with a preschooler and a copy of Where the Wild Things Are, especially if parents hope that the habit will lead to success in school. Some of the evidence appears in Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s bestselling Freakonomics, an exploration of many assumptions that Americans take for granted.

Levitt and Dubner note that in the late 1990s, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which aimed to measure the academic progress of 20,000 American children from kindergarten through fifth grade. That project found that, at least insofar as test scores are concerned, reading to your child every day has no benefit. Children with many books in their home do perform well on school tests, the survey found. “But,” the authors write, “regularly reading to a child doesn’t affect test scores.”

February 24, 2010

Finalists for the Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books — Tomorrow Starting at 10 a.m. ET

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

How badly can you write and still get a book published in America? Find out tomorrow when the shortlist for the Fourth Annual Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books is announced on One-Minute Book Reviews starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. These literary booby prizes do not honor the year’s worst books but badly written sentences, paragraphs or passages, which will be posted with the shortlist. The awards recognize defects such as clichés, bad grammar, psychobabble, redundancy, pomposity, dumbing-down or overall inanity.

The Delete Key Awards grand-prize winner and runners up will be announced on March 15, and until then, you may vote for or against candidates leaving comments on their nomination on this site. You can also read about the awards at @janiceharayda on Twitter.

December 4, 2009

The Most Unpromising First Sentence of a 2009 Book — Quote of the Day / Sophie Kinsella

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:33 am
Tags: , , , ,

The most unpromising first sentence of a book I’ve read this year …
“Of all the crap, crap, crappy nights I’ve ever had in the whole of my crap life.”
— The first sentence of Sophie Kinsella’s novel Remember Me? (Dell, 2009)

November 30, 2009

Jonathan Littell Wins 2009 Bad Sex in Fiction Award — Read All the Shortlisted Passages Here

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:17 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Is it a coincidence that the winner of annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award is typically named in England at about the time Americans are thinking of turkeys? If so, the judges aren’t saying, but the Literary Review in the U.K. announced today that Jonathan Littell has taken top honors this year for a passage from The Kindly Ones, which defeated work by Philip Roth, Paul Theroux, Amos Oz and others. You can read Littell’s winner and all the shortlisted passages here.

« Previous PageNext Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 377 other followers

%d bloggers like this: