Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Cover of the Week: Blessed Be - by Louise Tripp

As Wednesdays go, this one - smack in the caboose of October - felt a little like a virtual iron maiden. So much to do, so little time and me stretched very thin. After stomping around Clark & Belmont seeking Halloween costumes and then going to work for four hours, writing a blog entry was just not in the cards so to speak. Thus, I am presenting the Book Cover of the Week today - Thursday. And since we're in the month of October - the month of Halloween/Sam'hain - this seemed appropriate. My lovely, somewhat smudged and cracked (the spine, anyway) copy of Origins of Modern Witchcraft by Ann Moura

A recent conversation with an acquaintance about Wicca, Paganism and the like got me thinking about it. His viewpoint comes from a very sheltered existence, and his most recent brush with any information about these religions was during his newfound Buffy The Vampire Slayer phase. As with anything someone wants to learn about, I recommend books...lots and lots of books. But if you don't read much (*gasp*) then there are some informative videos out there, too.

Challenge: Recreate a book cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week. Or got an idea for a Book Cover of the Week?

Louise Tripp grew up in Edenton, North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Cover of the Week: I Speak For The Trees – by Louise Tripp

 Maybe you recycle, ride your bike everywhere instead of driving and carry a thermos for water or coffee rather than create more container waste. That's cool. But you're still not as “green” as Dr. Seuss. Because long before everyone started becoming more planet-conscious, Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote a nifty little kids' book called The Lorax

The book has been a huge controversy in its time as well as a starting point for activism. With its bright, whimsical cover and playful rhyme, it taught young readers about a forest of “Truffula” trees and the creatures that relied on them – one of which is the Lorax. When the selfish Once-ler comes along, chopping down trees for various “needs” it is the Lorax who warns him. This all happened “back in the days when the grass was still green/and the pond was still wet/and the clouds were still clean” - but The Lorax is told in a flashback. A boy, wondering about why the Lorax was there and why it was taken away, goes to the Once-ler for answers and the Once-ler, from his hiding place, tells the sad story. All the trees are gone; the resources have all been depleted and the Once-ler is all alone. The factories and shops where he sold the things he made with the trees all closed when the last tree was chopped down. Everything the Lorax warned him about has happened.

Yes, it's a tragedy – but Dr. Seuss would never spin so bleak a tale without a shred of hope. The Once-ler gives the curious boy a seed to plant a Truffula tree, so that perhaps the forest can someday be restored. And perhaps someday, the Lorax will come back.

Challenge: Recreate a book cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week. Or got an idea for a Book Cover of the Week?

Louise Tripp grew up in Edenton, North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Cover of the Week: Waxing Nostalgic – by Louise Tripp

I often wonder what it would be like to still have all the books I had as a kid. All those Judy Blumes, the occasional Beverly Cleary and nearly every book, shelved in order (of course), of The Baby-Sitter's Club and Sweet Valley High series. On impulse one summer during my adolescence, though, I gave them to my parents to sell at our yard sale – because I was too old for them. Funny how that works out. Now in my thirties, I long for those days when all I had to do was read and wish I'd kept their reminders. It's a sunny, cool-but-not-cold day and it's making me nostalgic for that. Which is why I am making this week's Book Cover of the Week a parade of pastels and '80's-style, puffy fonts and dreamy images; these are a few of my favorite covers from books I once owned and loved, but gave away. I just hope someone is caring for them well today and maybe they'd introduced them to the next generation of young readers - their children or nieces, nephews, cousins, friends' kids, etc.

Ramona Quimby was a smart, well-meaning but sometimes mischievous eight year old - but you probably know that. Pretty much everyone I know is familiar with the red-head and her pre-teen sister, Beezus. Beverly Cleary, now well into her 90's, has written the beloved children's stories for most of her life. She started out as an English major, went on to get a degree in Library Science and  then, inspired by the children she worked with in the library, she crafted her charming characters into the kinds of stories she hoped they would want to read. She's still writing today, has been named as an influence for many contemporary authors of young adult and children's books and has a school in Portland, Oregon named after her.  

For some reason, I remember Sweet Valley Twins' book #12: Keeping Secrets as the one with the cover that made me thirsty. Those pops over ice looked really good. Seriously, these books had the best covers. Now I look at it and think, Wow, Jessica almost looks like Billie Piper here

When I first discovered The Baby-Sitters' Club I am fairly certain that what lured me in were the girls' outfits on the cover. Claudia always looked the best. 

I always really loved the books of Richard Peck and Paula Danziger, too. Danziger had this great, almost Sci-Fi book about a girl whose family moves them to the brand new moon colony. One particularly memorable scene has the girl and her male friend on Earth, before she has to leave, coming up with disgusting ice cream flavors - I believe "phlegm" is one. Ew. These are the things that stick in my brain like Velcro.

And Richard Peck's Blossom Culp stories had an NBC TV-movie made about it. Later, he also had his book Don't Look And It Won't Hurt made into a movie called Gas, Food, Lodging starring Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk. Anyway, I loved Blossom Culp - she was a geeky know-it-all with a pre-adolescent "thing" for her friend, Alexander, a boy who could see ghosts. 

On a side note, while trying to come up with a topic and cover for this week's entry, I Googled around and stumbled on two sites with an interesting array of book covers. One is just a listing of bizarre books no one could believe existed (plus a gallery of books made from wood which are actually lovely); the other is a fan's look at old pulp novels. Both are fun and so I thought I'd include the links here.

And finally, now I want to read two non-fiction books that seem all about the pleasure of wallowing in the books of our youth: Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick and Everything I Wanted To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume by Jennifer O'Connell. I learned about the two books via my GoodReads page and think they sound right up my alley, so to speak. I am almost jealous I didn't think to write them myself. 

Happy Wednesday!

Challenge: Recreate a book cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week. Or  got an idea for a Book Cover of the Week?

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Favorites: And The Paper Girl's Gonna Blow Away - by Louise Tripp

"This would be the first time in my life that so many things would never happen again."  - Paper Towns

I am glad it's time for Friday Favorites, because I just finished an amazing young adult novel that's everything I want my own novels to be. It's funny, wise, adventure-packed and filled with fleshed-out, likable and very realistically human characters. Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, John Green's Paper Towns was an accidental find. I stumbled upon it, thought it sounded interesting and discovered treasure as if I'd followed a map (or clues, like the book's protagonist). While the characters are fast-talking teens with smart mouths, their observations on life, friendship and the future (among other things) are devastatingly shrewd. 

In a (really roomy) nutshell, Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin Jacobsen - a bit of a geek with his future planned out like a map ahead of him - and his obsession with a charismatic girl named Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is the kind of girl that rumors fly around about - things like: she was a temporary circus member or she got in backstage at a concert just by sheer cunning. Quentin and Margo were childhood friends because their parents knew each other and the two shared a traumatic childhood experience (I will refrain from spoilers). Years later, they have different cliques and lives and don't talk as much. However, Quentin - known to his friends as Q - admires her from a distance and, we can infer from early conversations with friends, talks and speculates about her often. One night, near the end of senior year, Margo climbs into Q's window and talks him into driving her around for a night of antics that include getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and breaking into amusement parks. The next day, she disappears. Running away is something Margo is known for, but this time she's eighteen and her parents decide not to look for her again. Q can't seem to help but get wrapped up in the mystery of her disappearance, though, especially when he starts finding clues to her whereabouts that seem directed at him.

That's the general plot of the book. But there are so many moments scattered throughout - of hilarity, of suspense, of wisdom - that make this YA novel defy age or genre. When a road trip ensues, you can feel the freedom of the parent-free excursion. And when Q and his friends are just talking and waxing thoughtful about Margo and her reasons for leaving, the dialogue is so true, so intense and so beautiful that you almost forget you're not reading Wallace Stegner or Raymond Carver. Toss in the references to poets (Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot to name a couple) and poetry and, well, you had me at page one. 

At the book's close, I felt like crying or dancing like a mad man in the rain - either one would have been appropriate.

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Cover of the Week: Banned Books Week - by Louise Tripp

As I am writing this post, we are smack in the middle of Banned Books Week, which began September 26th and ends October 3rd. For this week's Book Cover of the Week, I thought it might be nice to revisit some of the many covers of the controversial, the challenged and the outright banned books of the last decade. 

Like many fantasy novels for children and adolescents, The Golden Compass was challenged for being anti-religious. Magic in books has long been frowned upon by the religious community, especially when the books in question are aimed at youngsters. The Harry Potter series and A Wrinkle In Time, for instance, have received many challenges over the years. 

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was banned for various reasons, among them: graphic sex and violence, profanity and depictions of torture and war. 

Lauren Myracle's teen book Ttyl joined the list of challenged books when parents in a Texas school district complained about the book being available in the school library, citing "references to sex, drugs, pornography, and an inappropriate teacher-student relationship" among their reasons. 

And last but not least in today's line-up of Banned Book covers, a cute picture book about a couple of male penguins who partner up to hatch an egg:  And Tango Makes Three. You can probably guess why this was banned, right? 

Challenge: Recreate a book cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week. Or  got an idea for a Book Cover of the Week?

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

Friday, September 17, 2010

Books On Board: Those We Take On Our Journeys - by Ammie Brod

Whenever I tell people I’m leaving town for some sort of extended period of time, they always ask me if I’ve packed yet.  I spent a month in Europe this summer, playing insane contemporary classical music at a festival just outside of Frankfurt, and I started getting that question weeks before my departure date.  I wanted to say, “Well, yes!  Actually, this is the only shirt I’ll be wearing for the next month!  Thanks for asking.”

I pack the night before, always.  The only thing I really put a lot of thought into, really, is this: what books am I bringing?  Weeks beforehand—right about when everybody’s asking about clothes, actually—there’s already a small stack of books on my desk waiting to be considered.  There are so many factors: How long is it?  How small is the type?  What kind of mood would I have to be in to read this book, and what kind of mood do I think I’m likely to be in during my travels?  Is it engaging yet simple enough to read during a single flight, or would I want to break it up and read it over the course of multiple days?  How much does it weigh?

I’m cautious in part because I’ve made mistakes in the past.  I once read Adrienne Rich’s book of essays, Blood, Bread and Poetry, on a single transatlantic flight; I arrived in Warsaw disoriented and full of feminist verve, but I don’t remember a single detail from my reading.  On the flipside, in a move completely unlike me I read all of The Devil Wears Prada on a trip from Chicago to Phoenix and had a stress-and-irritability headache for days.  The lesson was that some books should be read in good time instead of in a single jetlagged chunk, and that some books are just sort of dumb.  Live and learn.

But the main reason I’m so careful with my travel books is that I want my reading to enhance my travels, to augment them, not to distract from or diminish them.  I want them to help me cut through the haze of unreality and chaos that comes with being somewhere unfamiliar and allow me to connect with my surroundings. This doesn’t mean I read about where I am; it’s more subtle than that, and figuring out just the right book in advance gets tricky.  It comes down, I think, to a sense of perspective.

The initial forty-eight hours of my trip to Europe this past July ended up being the most hellish travel experience I’ve ever had, bar none.  In the course of those two days—and this is a very, very brief summary—I lost my wallet, my luggage (albeit briefly), and then missed a flight through no fault of my own and had a total breakdown at the ticket desk before being forced to pay a horrendous rebooking fee.  This resulted in my arrival ten hours late, at which point I camped out with my suitcase and instrument on the front porch of what I could only hope was my apartment building and contemplated the fact that I was going to have to sleep outside unless somebody showed up to let me in.  All of this while jetlagged.  Oy.

Through all of this, on the plane and in the airport and on the porch by the fitful light of the hookah bar next door, I read nearly all of Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a look at the collision between the American medical community and the family of Lia Lee, a Hmong child with severe epilepsy living in Merced, California.  When I wrote that last sentence, it felt clinical: here is what this story is about.  But the book itself is so lovely and insightful and multifaceted that it can’t be so neatly summed up.  It’s a look at cross-cultural communication, how language (both in its linguistic sense and as a cultural, religious, and ethical concept) divides and sometimes conquers us.  It’s the story of Lia and the tragedy that befell her, in part because of these slippages; it’s also the story of the Hmong culture, which has withstood horrendous mistreatment for much of its existence and still persists, refusing to bow and assimilate into any other.  It is all of these things, but in a very large way it’s more than simply the story of what happened, or why.  It asks us, point blank, what we can learn from our mistakes.  It’s beautiful.

It would have been a heartbreaking and mesmerizing book at any time but for me, sitting in an airport in England in a haze of temporal dislocation and emotional turmoil, it resonated in such a powerful way that I was nearly reduced to tears over and over again.  Who cared if I missed my flight? There are cultures which we have torn apart in unjust wars; there are children whose lives have been forfeit because of ignorance.  And even though I know those things, always, in those moments it struck me right on the breastbone with fresh force.  

I made it to Germany, and then I made it home.  On the way back I had run out of reading material and went back to revisit The Spirit Catches You.  Sitting quietly, relaxed and under ten times less pressure than I’d felt on the way over, I still absolutely loved it.  I’d made the right choice.

Ammie Brod spent most of her childhood trying to come up with a profession that would allow her to do nothing but read all day, but when that failed to pan out she became a classical musician and florist instead. Her fifteen minutes of fame, now passed, involved a google image search for the phrase "naked girls and me." You can read more of her writing at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Cover of the Week - by Louise Tripp

Sometimes a book cover just speaks for itself. Or rather, sometimes a book cover - or perhaps the book's title alone - just leaves me speechless. 

I just know there must be some kind of S&M theme underlying the stories in this book. I'm almost curious enough to locate a copy and find out. 

Challenge: Recreate a book cover in photographs and I'll post it here next week. Or  got an idea for a Book Cover of the Week?

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at