Tag Archives: rj palacio

BEA 2014 Wrap-Up

I spent three glorious days in NY last week for Book Expo America 2014 (BEA).

This year, I focused on learning about new books (mostly fiction) at a number of panels held over the course of Thursday and Friday, as well as on obtaining copies of a select few galleys. I discovered some unknown authors by wandering the floor and checking out galley stacks and author signings. I also attended some fun off-campus events, such as the HarperCollins 2014 Fall Preview and Blogger Party, the Bloggers Recommend happy hour, and the annual audiobook narrator-blogger lunch (which I LOVE going to – more on that later this week).

Here are some of my impressions of BEA 2014, as well as some photos:

1. There are a LOT of exciting books coming out in the next few months. I picked up galleys from a lot of big-name authors that I have enjoyed in the past – Sue Miller, Jane Smiley, Ann Hood – and also heard some very passionate editors rave about upcoming books from new authors. These new authors are edgy and have written about difficult topics, which I found encouraging. It shows that fiction is alive and innovating. 

2. Celebrity memoirs are as big as ever. There were huge lines for author signings by such stars as Neil Patrick Harris (who wasn’t even signing a book!), Angelica Huston, and Billy Idol, not to mention the ticketed author events that also featured celebrities. (I didn’t wait in these lines.) I also attended a panel discussion with Jonathan Tropper, who adapted his novel This Is Where I Leave You for the big screen, along with the movie’s director Shawn Levy and stars Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. It was a huge event, with hundreds of people turning out. Tropper spent a lot of time talking about the fascinating process of adapting a novel into a screenplay.

3. But the really long lines were for YA authors. The longest line I saw during BEA was for a signing by Lois Lowry. RJ Palacio also had a huge line for a signed tote bag. There were many other lines for authors I’ve never heard of, and I presume that most of them were YA.

4. E-readers might be big, but galleys moved quickly. I saw stacks of books one minute that were gone 15 minutes later.

5. Big news for audiobooks: a new format that features MP3 files and that allows a whole book to be saved onto a single disc. This will make audiobook production cheaper and faster, which should benefit the publishing industry and listeners alike.

6. Readers – whether they are bloggers, librarians, educators, or industry insiders – are as passionate as ever. Everyone seemed very excited to be at BEA, and were enthusiastic about the authors they interacted with and the books they collected.

And now the pics!

Signed copies:

photo 1Unsigned fiction(mostly):

photo 2

 

Books from the HarperCollins 2014 Fall preview and blogger party:

photo 3Books I picked up for friends and other odds and ends:

photo 4And books for my kids:

photo 5

Here are some authors who signed my books:

Jane Smiley:

photo 1 (5)

 

Ann Hood:

photo 2 copy

Sue Miller:

photo 5 copy

BJ Novak:

photo 3 (1)

Jeff Kinney:

photo 1 copy

RJ Palacio:

photo 4 copy

I am already excited for next year!

WONDER by R. J. Palacio

What can I say about R. J. Palacio’s Wonder that hasn’t already been written about this beloved book? Not much, but I will try.


Wonder was this month’s pick for our Mother-Daughter Book Club. I chose it because my daughter absolutely loved it, and the buzz around it has been tremendous (which usually makes me shy away from a book, but I resisted this time). I didn’t expect that *I* would enjoy reading it as much as I did, since I don’t read much YA or middle grade fiction other than for this book club.

Wonder is the story of fifth-grader August Pullman, who has a terribly disfigured face due to a rare craniofacial genetic abnormality. He describes himself in the beginning of the book by saying, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” August is a smart kid who has been homeschooled by his protective parents. They decide that it is time to send him to school, despite their fears about how he will be treated by his classmates. When the book opens, August is meeting some pre-selected kids from his class whom the principal thinks will be nice to him and help ease the transition to school.

August is a funny, sensitive kid who just wants to be accepted – or even ignored – by the people around him, instead of causing them to shrink away in horror. He is acutely, painfully aware of the effect he has on people. Otherwise, he’s just a normal kid facing the usual ups and downs of growing up. That is partly what makes Wonder so powerful – August could be any of us inside; he’s just different on the surface. In addition to August’s, the book is told from the perspective of some other characters – August’s sister Olivia, her boyfriend Justin and friend Miranda, and two of August’s friends, Summer and Jack. I liked hearing their points of view, which not only rounded out August as a character by getting outside of his head, but also reinforced the book’s theme that everyone has problems and insecurities, and that being kind to those around you can help ease their burdens, whatever they are.

There are a lot of really sad points in the book, particularly when August’s dog dies, when he overhears very hurtful comments made by his best friend, and when he is bullied by older kids while on a school retreat. But Wonder is ultimately an uplifting story. Whether or not the acceptance of his classmates that August enjoys at the end of the book is realistic, it makes for a great message about how to treat other people.

There’s a lot of loneliness in Wonder – not just August’s, but among the other main characters too. I found the most poignant moments to be when they connected, when they really understood each other. So maybe the message of the book isn’t just to be kind, but to empathetic, to put yourself in others’ shoes and try to understand what it’s like to be them. What a great message for kids (of any age).

I liked the writing a lot. I am not sure that the dialogue (internal and spoken) was accurate for fifth graders – it seemed a bit advanced to me – but I’ve read reviews that said that it didn’t seem sophisticated enough, so there you are.

So I am adding my voice to the chorus of fans of this touching book. Highly recommended.