Thursday, May 26, 2016

The revelation of the dedication

My next book (due March 2017) is a comedy called The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra.
hand lettering (and art—wait'll you see it) 

I had the privilege of revealing my dedication to the dedicatee during an experience that had special meaning of its own.

I have two children. The younger is currently finishing second grade. At the elementary school he attends, kindergarten through second grade run a simple program called "Secret Reader" where every few weeks, a parent of one of the students in a class shows up unannounced to read to the kids. My wife and I participated for three years when our daughter went there, then began anew with our son.

Last week was our last time. Considering that made us emotional, imagine high school graduation (or even middle school graduation).

Usually I read picture books I love, but last week, I read a few I wrote. (Not that I don't love my own, but you know what I mean.) Only they aren't books yet—they're still manuscripts.

Except for one—the layout for the aforementioned chupacabra story. And after I read the story, I got to tell my son (with my wife and daughter present, not to mention his whole class) that the book is dedicated to him. That's a first. He smiled but (perhaps true to his age) didn't share his feeling about it with me. My wife claims he was proud.

This brings to mind a story from 2008, when my daughter was four and both my son and my book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman were less than a year old. A friend came over and saw the Boys of Steel dedication to my Girls of Steel (wife and daughter, natch). He asked why my son wasn't included.

My daughter chimed in: "Because he wasn't born yet when we made that book."


Though in the sense that our children inspire us to work hard, she was absolutely right.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Works well at the beginning" - "Kirkus" on "Brave Like My Brother"

Review of Brave Like My Brother from Kirkus Reviews (4/15/16):

Clarifications regarding the nonfiction:

  • "blow-by-blow account": Early in the story, I establish that soldiers could not reveal precisely where they were or what they were doing strategically, and Joe does not. (In fact, for most of the story, as he notes, he does not know what he's doing.)
  • "no evidence of censorship": I address military censorship throughout the story. This includes implying that there are gaps in the letter sequence because of it (as other reviewers have commented on). Also, as the war went on, censors sometimes relaxed their restrictions (or missed things).
  • "defies credibility that Joe would easily recognize said tank": I never said it was easy! More to the point, I did not elaborate on how Joe knows, but that does not mean there weren't clues. (As in any letter, especially one written by a young soldier at war, some details are left out.) Given how meticulous military protocol is, it seems well within reason to assume the uninflated tank was labeled or marked in some way.
  • "his minute recall is similarly unlikely": Joe is writing letters within days or even hours of the events occurring, so details would be fresh in mind.

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Keeps the suspense tight" - "Horn Book" on "Brave Like My Brother"

Review of Brave Like My Brother from Horn Book (May-June 2016):


  • "fascinating" (though this is referring to a fact/key plot point, not the book overall)
  • "clear, breezy letters make this accessible to young independent readers"
  • "history lovers will find a lot of new information here"
  • "keeps the suspense tight"

Thank you!

Monday, May 23, 2016

"Entertainment Weekly" RIP covers

Between the 1989 launch of Entertainment Weekly and its 2019 switch to a monthly, the magazine ran only 19 "in memoriam" covers. Stats: 

  • 15 men, 4 women
  • 9 singers, 7 actors, 3 comedians
  • 15 white people, 4 Black
  • 11 black and white images, 8 color
  • year with most covers (four): 2016

The covers:

 Kurt Cobain, 1994

 Chris Farley, 1997

Frank Sinatra, 1998

George Harrison, 2001

Katharine Hepburn, 2003

Marlon Brando, 2004

Johnny Carson, 2005

Heath Ledger, 2008

Paul Newman, 2008

Michael Jackson, 2009 **

Patrick Swayze, 2009

Whitney Houston, 2012

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 2014

Robin Williams, 2014

David Bowie, 2016

Prince, 2016

George Michael, 2016

  Carrie Fisher, 2016

Aretha Franklin, 2018

** EW produced four covers for Michael Jackson's death; the other three:

I did not count covers about deceased notables that were not tributes published the week after their deaths:

Standalone tribute magazines (surely an incomplete list as these are harder to track):

Jerry Garcia 1995

Leonard Nimoy, 2015

Stan Lee 2018

Luke Perry 2019

Chadwick Boseman 2020

Am I missing any?

2/9/22 addendum: It was announced today that Entertainment Weekly is ceasing print publication; the last issue will be April 2022. I have been a subscriber since its second year, 1990. Looks like I have to add the magazine itself to this RIP post...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jim Steranko tweets

Only four known people interviewed Bill Finger: Jerry Bails in 1965, Tom Fagan in 1965, Jim Steranko circa 1969 or 1970 (for his History of Comics), and Robert Porfirio in 1972. (Bill was also quoted in a 1965 New Yorker piece.)

Bails spread word of what he learned in his interview via a two-page piece he distributed via mail to his personal network. Fagan also wrote an article that was not formally published, but others did see it. Fewer (perhaps almost nobody) knew of Porfirio's interview till much later. Given that some of Steranko's interview was incorporated in a book, it reached the widest audience of the bunch.

During my research for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, I was fortunate to communicate with three of the four men, all of whom were helpful. The other one is the only one still alive—Jim Steranko.

So you can imagine how honored I was to see this:

  • Bails died in 2006—mere months after I interviewed him (and, sadly, six years before the book would come out). Without Jerry Bails, we might not know about Bill Finger.
  • Fagan died in 2008. The article he wrote based on his interview with Bill ("Bill Finger—Man Behind a Legend") was "lost" but resurfaced in 2009.
  • Porfirio died in 2014. His 28-minute interview was recorded on audio and was also "lost," rediscovered in 2008. It is transcribed in Tom Andrae's Creators of the Superheroes.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pawcatuck Middle School, CT

On 5/11/16, I spoke and ran writing workshops at this lovely school, where a four-color, five-alarm welcome awaited me.

A highlight: a student came up to tell me she's begun an autobiography she plans to continue writing throughout her life. Clever and ambitious—plus will work wonders for accuracy, since she'll be documenting moments soon—instead of the usual many years—after they happened. It's like Boyhood on paper.

Thank you, Betty Pacelle, for hosting me with such kindness, and thank you to the Westerly Sun for covering my writing workshops.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I was born in a small town, and I spoke in a small town

On 5/5-6/16, I was in Indiana for the first time, speaking at five schools (one in Amo, one in Monrovia, and three in New Palestine) and a library (Monrovia) that invited me at the last minute and drew a nice crowd.

The welcomes were warm, the books were signed, and the wish to return was immediate.

As I drove around I wondered if I was passing the childhood homes of John Mellencamp (who was born in a small town) or David Letterman. (I checked later; I was not.)

But I did have a brush with celebrity. Unless, of course, this is a different Adam West…

I, too, was born in a small town, out Connecticut way.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dunning Elementary, Framingham, MA

On 4/26/16, I made my first trip in several years to the state where I colleged, Massachusetts. Huge props to teacher Michael Pearson for taking on the task of organizing an author visit, something he'd not done before.

The kids were a lot of fun in both the assemblies and the writing workshops. Thank you also to Mike's colleagues, who supported him in bringing in an author that some had not heard of. Under any circumstance it takes conviction to champion an author visit but especially a) when you have never heard the author present and b) when your school doesn't regularly host authors.

Hope for more funning at Dunning before long.

Sunday, May 1, 2016