Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt is a member of the faculty at Vermont College's Master of Fine Arts program and occasionally teaches creative writing at Texas A&M University.

She writes childrens books as well as books suited for teenagers.

The Underneath, her debut novel, is a National Book Award finalist, an ALA Newbery Medal winner, and an ALA Newbery Honor Book.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, by Robert Leleux.

The title of this funny, bittersweet, and ultimately heartwarming book tells it all. Leleux looks at beauty from the outside in and inside out, not only physical beauty, but inner beauty as well. In the process, he exposes both beauty and ugliness in all their various forms. He begins his story with the departure of his father, who leaves him with his very southern and gentrified mother. How the two of them manage to survive without the resources to which they've become accustomed is a tale filled with tension, loss, self-discovery and laughter. Robert Leleux is beautiful. No doubt about it. I loved this book.

Eternal, by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I'm not usually one to read gothic horror. But I am so glad that I read this book, told in alternating voices: a teenaged vampiress and her fallen guardian angel. Romance, sorrow, longing ... lots of longing ... all lead up to a story of redemption in the darkest place imaginable, the soul. The writing here is compelling, scary, sexy, making for a read that cannot be put down. Yes. I may become a reader of gothic horror after all, thanks to this book and this author.

The Chosen One, by Carol Lynch Williams

Scarier than gothic horror is the religious cult in which Williams places her hero, a fourteen year old girl who is betrothed to be her elderly uncle's seventh bride. The writing here is so exquisite that it begs to be read out loud, just to savor the sheer beauty of the language. And the story itself is so riveting and heartbreaking that it begs to be shared and shared and shared. This is one of those books that makes you a different person for having read it. Beautiful.

Dessert First, by Hallie Durand

Once in a while a book needs to be read just for the good time that is had by reading it. This is one of those books. I love this story for the middle grades that provides a character who grows and at the same time provides delight in the overall experience of meeting her. I predict that Dessert is going to find her place next to Amber Brown, Fudge, and Julia Gillian. This is one for the taste buds. Read it out loud to your nearest elementary child.

Church of the Dog, by Kaya McLaren

Finding home is the premise behind this book. But finding heart might be truer. Kaya McLaren's first novel is testimony to the power of love, both new and old. There is magic here in the character of Mara and her ability to mend fences and hearts too. McLaren's second book is due out this spring, On the Divinity of Second Chances. I can hardly wait.
Visit Kathi Appelt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue