West Virginia Book Festival

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For the past three years, Debbie Null, librarian at Sherman High School in Seth, has taken advantage of Kanawha County Public Library’s annBooks in stack white background2 LoResual offer of free books for nonprofit organizations.

Each year, immediately after the library’s annual used book sale (scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, this year), representatives from nonprofit organizations are permitted to comb through the leftover books and use them in any manner that benefits the group’s mission.

Null initially heard about the program from her friend Scott Blake. At the time, she was the librarian for Van Junior/Senior High School, and Blake knew that she needed books for her library. That year she scored about 10 boxes of books. When she moved to Sherman High two years ago, she continued participating in the program to rebuild that library’s collection.

She mostly gets nonfiction because “fiction sells out pretty quickly,” she said. And that works in her favor because “the common core standards have changed, and the new standards place greater emphasis on nonfiction,” she said.

Her trips to Charleston have resulted in a stronger, more up-to-date collection at Sherman, and that helps her students do better work. “Access to better, more current information makes their research more valid,” she said.

Null plans her expedition by evaluating her collection and assessing its weak areas. Then she makes sure to obtain a diagram of the book sale layout so she knows what areas to hit first. For the best results, “you need to do a little research before you get there,” she said.

She gets help in the form of a few teachers and community members. “They know our needs,” she said. And she brings her own truck to transport their finds back home to Seth.

She highly recommends the program to other nonprofit organizations who need books. “In today’s society, literacy is more important than ever. It is critical that people have access to books. The KCPL program has allowed numerous nonprofits – schools, community centers, literacy volunteers, service organizations and even jails –  to build collections that address their patrons’ needs,” Null said.

Nonprofit organizations may participate by calling Sandy Frercks at 304-343-4646, ext. 242. She’ll e-mail you a form, which must be returned no later than Sept. 6. You’ll need to provide a copy of your organization’s 501(c)3 or other proof of your nonprofit status and your own labor to pack and load the books into your vehicle. Additional instructions will be provided once you register.

Kanawha County Public Library cannot guarantee quantity, type or variety of the leftover books. Please note that Collector’s Corner materials are not included in this offer.

Clear your schedule — Free Comic Book Day

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Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. I’m just sayin’.

If you wanted to grab the kid (or not) and head to a local comic book shop, it should be a nice day to reminisce with old friends and make some new ones, both in our actual universe and others. You can check for participating shops by ZIP code at the Free Comic Book Day website. I see stores in South Charleston, Huntington, Beckley, Morgantown, Fairmont, the Parkersburg area and near Wheeling and Martinsburg.

Pretty much everything you need to know about the event at Lost Legion Games & Comics/The Rifleman in South Charleston is in this gazz story. That includes appearances by local writer and filmmaker Danny Boyd (author of the Chillers graphic novel) and Jason Pell (creator of the Zombie Highway comic).

Of course, serious readers of this blog respect art in all its forms, so I don’t have to go into any justifications of comic books or graphic novels as either art or literature.  However, if you want a deeper look at how this art form grew out of the early 20th-century and how the Forces of Darkness moved to suppress it, let me draw your attention to a book from a few years back, “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America” by David Hajdu.

But you don’t need that book to enjoy Free Comic Book Day.

You also don’t really need to know all the ways comic book reading is good for kids. Reading for fun improves fluency, which comes in handy Monday morning when kids are reading for school. Reading fiction to the point of being absorbed in characters and the story has recently been shown to be beneficial in other ways that have to do with compassion and experience. When teaching and testing young people on reading comprehension, teachers sometimes break stories into sections or panels, so students can identify events and how they relate.

Of course, I don’t tell the kids this, but if there are any reluctant readers in your family, kids who just haven’t yet found a book they love to read, the comic book versions of movie, TV and game characters can ease them into reading for fun.

It’s great that all that happens, but that’s not what I’m thinking about when I’m catching up with my beloved Spidey, or evaluating an issue of Young Justice or Superman Family Adventures for our very young nieces and nephews. I’m enjoying the art, the action, the characters, the humor. I’m mulling over ethical quandries and scientific possibilities. I’m looking backward and forward, inside and out. And having a good time doing it.

Happy Free Comic Book Day.

Book memories, old and new, at the used book sale

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Early on in the children’s book section of the used book sale at the West Virginia Book Festival on Saturday.

I made a pass through the children’s section of the Kanawha County Public Library’s used book sale Saturday morning because you never know what you’ll find.

I found a worn but serviceable hardback copy of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson, the funniest Christmas book ever (and deep and moving). Already have an adequate paperback. Put it back.

Grown-ups shuffled along, heads and lower backs bent to the task of sifting for fiction and non-fiction treasure. Kids wiggled in between, forming an inner line along each table, like the front row along a parade route. One girl weaved fearlessly in and out of the formation.  She examined and gathered items from the picture book table and carried them neatly to a distant box her mom was filling. They looked like they were stocking up for the winter. Other families did the same. They piled books into their strollers and carts and other load-bearing vehicles. One boy nabbed every volume in the Dragonball  series that he saw. Another pulled two books out of a lineup of early chapter books, slipped them deftly into his father’s shopping bag without distracting Dad from his own browsing, and went back to the precise spot where he had left off as if it were bookmarked. A preschooler pulled a book out of a pile and sung out triumphantly, “Toy Story!” Adults laughed, but didn’t look up.

At the big kids book table, an older woman carefully turned over every Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book one by one. I saw “White Fang” and “Gulliver’s Travels,” and I’m pretty sure the exact edition of the Classics Illustrated “Black Beauty” that I read in third or fourth grade. I opened  Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic:

The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a plowed field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master’s house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a grove of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank.

While I was young I lived upon my mother’s milk, as I could not eat grass. In the daytime I ran by her side, and at night I lay down close by her. When it was hot we used to stand by the pond in the shade of the trees, and when it was cold we had a nice warm shed near the grove.

Yep. Still a classic.

I really don’t need any more books. The crowd was thick and intent at this hour. It was time for me to get to a 10 a.m. program, so I backed off my browse. As the children’s books disappeared behind me, I heard a gruff man’s voice exult, “Stone Soup!”

Abra Sabuda!

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We haven’t seen much of pop-up book wizard Robert Sabuda here on the blog in the run-up to the West Virginia Book Festival. Honestly, it is pretty difficult to describe the magic of opening one of his books and getting Peter Pan’s cloud-level view of London, or seeing a deck of cards appear to flick through the air. Here, watch this video:

Robert Sabuda’s Beauty and the Beast

That should give you some idea of the experience. Then you can come see for yourself. Sabuda appears at the Book Festival at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Truth, justice and fresh picture book bios

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Comic books are notorious for wrestling with themes of justice. Yet a sad vein of injustice seems to run through the lives of many comic book creators.

One is Bill Finger, the subject of Marc Tyler Nobleman’s newest picture book biography “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.” Nobleman will appear at the West Virginia Book Festival at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Charleston Civic Center.

Finger was responsible for much of Batman’s look, his character development and decades of stories. But because of an early contract with artist Bob Kane, Finger’s name is left off every book, film and TV show featuring the Caped Crusader.

While the writer never got official credit, fans and fellow comic book creators started to take notice and spread the word about Finger’s role in Batman starting in the 1960s.  Nobleman’s book builds on their work and rescues parts of Bill Finger’s story that might otherwise have been lost.

Part of what made Batman such an innovative character when he was introduced in Detective Comics back in the spring of 1939 is that he is a flesh-and-bone hero. He is not bulletproof. He can’t fly. He’s not an alien or a god or made invulnerable by radiation. He is a brave, clever, but flawed vigilante made by the world around him.

Nobleman concisely depicts the world that made Batman’s creators from page 1:

After Milton Finger graduated from high school, he invented his first secret identity. In 1933 Jews were sometimes not hired just because they were Jews. Milton was commonly a Jewish name, so Milton chose a new one: Bill.

Vivid panels of illustrations by Ty Templeton complete the story.

This book follows Nobleman’s 2008 “Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman,” another story of comic book creators and their difficulties. This time, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a couple of teenagers from Depression-era Cleveland, sold the rights to their creation for $130, and then struggled for much of their lives trying to correct the mistake.

Illustrations again, this time by Ross MacDonald, enrich the experience. The art not only shows the style of dress and cars and pulp mags of the day; the style of painting actually evokes illustrations of the time.

These picture books are accessible to elementary-school readers and listeners, but they are sophisticated works of art and serious research capable of pleasing older readers as well. Both include detailed epilogues and bibliographies for further reading.

A page from “Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman” by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ross MacDonald, imitates both the art and life of the Depression-era America that give rise to the Man of Steel.

 

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Craig Johnson

A&E Network’s new contemporary crime series set in Big Sky Country, “Longmire,” stars Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff and Lou Diamond Phillips and is based upon the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson.

Johnson will speak on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 11:30 a.m. at the West Virginia Book Festival. The title of his talk is “How Many People Can You Kill in a Town of 25?”

Johnson has received high praise for his novels “The Cold Dish,” “Death Without Company,” “Kindness Goes Unpunished,” “Another Man’s Moccasins,” “Hell Is Empty” and “The Dark Horse,” which was named one of Publisher’s Weekly’s best books of the year (2009). “Another Man’s Moccasins” received the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best novel of 2008 as well as the Mountains and Plains award for fiction book of the year. His latest Longmire novel, “As the Crow Flies,” was released in May.

A board member of the Mystery Writers of America, he lives in Ucross, Wyo., population 25.

Johnson joins best-selling urban fantasy novelist Charlaine Harris, best-selling author of books for teens Tamora Pierce, and children’s author Marc Tyler Nobleman, among others, in the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and lectures. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart, the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, and Books-A-Million. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

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Marc Tyler Nobleman

Before Metropolis, Smallville and Krypton, Superman came from Cleveland, and Batman’s biggest secret is not Bruce Wayne. Both superheroes were created by youthful dreamers whose stories are told in picture books by Marc Tyler Nobleman.

Nobleman will speak about his work and sign books at the West Virginia Book Festival on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.

The author of more than 70 books for young people of all ages, Nobleman’s titles include “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman” and “Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.” On his blog Noblemania, he reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of his books, from uplifting research moments to unconventional promotional efforts.

Nobleman joins best-selling urban fantasy novelist Charlaine Harris, best-selling author of books for teens Tamora Pierce, and Senator Robert Byrd historian David Corbin, among others, in the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and lectures. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart, the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, and Books-A-Million. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

Free Comic Book Day is Saturday

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Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, which is exactly what it sounds like. Comic book stores all across the country (and in other countries) give away selected comic books (including those pictured here), partly to celebrate the history of an American art form and partly to encourage people to buy other comic books.

Several stores in West Virginia are taking part, according to the event’s official website. They include Lost Legion Games and Comics locations in South Charleston, Princeton, Parkersburg and Beckley; Four Horsemen Comics and Gaming and Gary’s Comics and More, both in Morgantown; Comic World of Huntington; Counter Culture Concepts in Elkins; and Comics Paradise Plus in Fairmont. There’s a participating store locator on the website, if you’re wondering about any other places close to you.

Also noteworthy: On The Awl website, Brent Cox writes about the rising prices of comic books — and notes that his first comic book purchase was probably “Brave and the Bold No. 121, a team-up of Batman and the Metal Men, purchased with a quarter given to me by my mom in a Charleston, West Virginia 7-11 in 1975.”

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Last year was the first time we — well, I — had heard much about the Letters About Literature program (largely because the program’s director, Catherine Gourley, was part of last fall’s West Virginia Book Festival). The program, presented by the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book and the affiliated state programs. According to the program’s website:

Young readers write to an author describing how that author’s work somehow changed the reader’s view of the world or himself/herself. Readers respond to the book they’ve read by exploring the personal relationship between themselves, the author and the book’s characters or themes.

The winners of West Virginia’s program from 2011 are here; the winners from 2010 are here. According to the West Virginia Library Commission’s website, there’s an event scheduled for May 10, where the winners for this year should be recognized.

At least one entry from West Virginia, though, has definitely made an impression on the national program. A letter from Rachel Doss, a language arts teacher at Crum Middle School in Wayne County, adorns the front of the Letters About Literature website. She writes:

“I cannot express how much the Letters About Literature program has impacted not only my classes, but also our entire school. Last year marked the first year my students participated in any writing contest. Being our first attempt, we did not expect to hear that we had received any awards.  But . . . parents began calling the school . . . informing us of award letters their children had received.

Excitement buzzed in the air. Once we discovered that more than nine letters had been recognized for notable mention, the school was bursting with pride! You could see the absolute joy and shock on the students’ faces . . .

The WV state award ceremony recognized each student for their incredible talents and dedication. Whether a student received notable mention or a top honor, they were all treated as dignified winners.

After already feeling as though they had won Olympic Gold, they listened to a genuine author who demonstrated that reading and writing can take them to more places than our students had ever imagined. Their ability to meet and speak with the author sparked a fire deep within them.

After all students in our state had been recognized, the WV state center called the Crum MS students to the stage and recognized our school for the amount of awards received. For myself, it was a moment of sheer pride as I watched our students, who haven’t experienced very much success in the past, beaming with joy.  It brought tears to my eyes to see what a little acknowledgement can do for a writer.

The remainder of the year, they wrote like authors proud of each piece they created.

Sincerely,

Rachel Doss, 7-8 Language Arts Teacher

Get out of my head, Archer Mayor

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Every so often, I (like many readers) go through my books and get rid of ones that I’ve read and won’t read again, or ones that I’ve decided that I won’t ever read. Last weekend, I did just that, and a couple of dozen books got pulled off the shelf and headed toward the door.

One of the books I went back and forth on was “Open Season,” the first book in a Vermont mystery/police procedural series by Archer Mayor. There are 20 books, featuring protagonist Joe Gunther. I think I became intrigued by the series a few years ago because someone compared it to K.C. Constantine’s Rocksburg series (which I love).

But I’ve had “Open Season” for a few years and haven’t cracked it, and so this past weekend, I put it in the library donation pile.

And then on Wednesday, I’m checking the Book Festival’s Twitter account (@WVBookFestival), and I see that we’ve been followed.

By Archer Mayor. Author of “Open Season.”

It’s hard to do a full-body double-take when you’re sitting down, but I think I pulled it off.

Anyway, I know a sign when I see one. “Open Season” has been pulled out of the pile, and I’ll be reading it. Soon. (And if you’d care to join me, Mayor says on his website that “Open Season” is being offered as a free e-book for a limited time.)