Blue Willow Content Team's blog

Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis on the Magic of Middle Grade

You may not know it, but you know Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis. Meloy is the lead vocalist and guitarist for popular indie rock outfit The Decemberists, while Ellis is a Caldecott Honor-winning author and illustrator. (She also supplies illustrations for the band.) They live outside of Portland, Oregon, on a farmstead, with their two young sons and a proliferation of fruit trees.

Book Bites: The Wolf, The Vanderbeekers, and the Last Ballad Are Calling My Name

Another week, another batch of delicious reads. If you take a look at our Events Calendar, you’ll see that we’re entering our very-very-impossibly-very busy time. With so many events on the horizon, we’re even more excited to share some of these reviews with you, because the recommendation also comes with an opportunity to meet the author!

We can’t wait for you to read Wiley Cash’s The Last Ballad. Not only is Wiley a staff favorite, but he also considers this latest novel to be his most ambitious. Meet Wiley in the shop on Wednesday, October 25th, and prep for the event by reading the fantastic Q&A he did with us on our blog. Liara Tamani’s lovely debut, Calling My Name, hits shelves on 10/24. Likened to the work of Sandra Cisneros, this lyrical coming-of-age story should be at the top of your TBR. Meet Liara and hear more about her first novel at her launch party here in the shop on Saturday, October 28th! Don’t forget to read her insightful Q&A on our blog before the event.

Also, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse—it is hysterical.

Wiley Cash Is Right on Time

You may have noticed a certain word picking up steam in the book world over the last year: Timely. To some extent, new books are always timely. They, like all art, reflect the culture of the day. But as society collectively sits up and confronts difficult issues, we've enjoyed an unprecedented run of feminist booksdiverse books, and books of social and cultural importance. One of the best? The Last Ballad, by staff-favorite author Wiley Cash.

You may already know Wiley from a pair of best-sellers that have long held a special place on the Blue Willow shelves. If you haven't read his work, we think it's high time you start. But don't take it from us—we caught up with Wiley for a Q&A to celebrate the publication of The Last Ballad, and he told us why he considers this book his most ambitious yet. Read on, then stop by the store to pick up your copy. You'll have just enough time to read it before Wiley visits us on the 25th.

Meet Liara Tamani, An Exciting New Voice in YA Lit

Get used to hearing the name Liara Tamani. The Houston author is poised to grab her share of literary headlines when her debut novel, Calling My Name, is released later this month. It's a beautiful, thoughtful story about a young girl discovering her identity, and Tamani's prose ebbs and flows with the grace and subtlety of poetry. The book is already earning critical raves, netting comparisons to the work of Naomi Shihab Nye, Sandra Cisneros, and Sharon Creech, among others. 

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Liara for a Q&A. Read on to learn her thoughts on inspiration, diversity in teen lit, and how it felt to see her book's cover for the first time.

Book Bites: Bad Moods, Good Nights, and National Book Award Winners in the Ninth Hour

October, October! The favorite month of spooky souls, Anne of Green Gables, and, of course, readers. This month, some of the publishing industry's greatest titles are released—just in time for us to curl up under a fuzzy blanket, nab the nearest cat, and devour them.

This week, we’re excited to highlight a few upcoming titles that have our staff raving. Those of you who love Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon) will be thrilled to know that one of her unpublished manuscripts is soon to be released, brought to life with the illustrations of Loren Long. On the adult side of things, Alice McDermott is racing back to your bedside table with The Ninth Hour, a tale of “practical Catholicism” that had our Alice “spellbound by the warmth and humanity of McDermott’s treatment of her characters.” Look, if Alice likes it, it’s really good.

Cheers to fall, friends, and happy reading!

The One and Only Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Award in 2013 for her beautiful book The One and Only Ivan, a runaway bestseller and staff favorite here at the shop. Even if you missed Ivan (we know a way you can fix that), chances are you've read her work. Along with her husband, Katherine created the Animorphs and Making Out series in the 1990s. She's also responsible for a variety of picture books, chapter books for young readers, and novels for middle grade and teen readers. 

Her latest story is Wishtree, and it comes out later this month. Wishtree is sure to be another favorite—it's a beautiful tale of nature and friendship from an unexpected point of view. To celebrate its publication, we caught up with Katherine for a quick Q&A. Read about her writing process and inspiration below, then circle September 27th on your calendar—that's when we're hosting Katherine in the shop for a discussion and book signing. 

Get Inspired With Jennifer Mathieu

Jennifer Mathieu is a dear, dear friend of the shop, and her new book, Moxie, is one of the best YA novels in a very strong year. (Not to brag, but we're totally in the acknowledgements page.) Moxie is the story of Viv Carter, a strong, intelligent young woman who is slowly emboldened to find—and use—her voice. It's fierce, it's feminist, and it won over Cathy, our events coordinator, who says it "perfectly captures small town Texas and girl empowerment." How cool is Moxie? Amy Poehler's production company optioned it long before it was even published. It's that cool.

We're thrilled to be hosting the official Moxie launch party at the end of the month. Before you join us for music, food, and conversation, read our Q&A with Jennifer below and check out her previous books. We can't wait to see you at the party.

Book Bites: A Dreadful Tale of Dinner, Fires, and Moxie... Like a Pig

Friends, we won't lie—Hurricane Harvey uprooted our everyday lives, and our entire staff has had a hard time getting back into reading after the storm. But all it takes is one great story to reintroduce yourself to the magic of books. We recommend eight such stories below, with at least one for every age group. Read on, read on.

A Peek Inside the Villain-Loving Mind of Soman Chainani

Soman Chainani is the man behind the New York Times-bestselling series The School for Good & Evil. The six-piece fairytale saga has already been translated into 25 languages, and the fourth installment isn't even out yet. Better still, the first book will soon hit the silver screen, courtesy of Universal Pictures. Lest you think that the movie will be worse than the book (they usually are), worry not—Soman is co-writing the screenplay and has an MFA in film. SGE is in good hands.

We were delighted at the opportunity to ask Soman a few questions about his work. Read his answers below, then pre-order your copy of Quests for Glory on our website. (Or wait until it comes out on September 19, and pick it up in person.) Most importantly, mark your calendars for September 26—that's when Soman is visiting the store. He'll chat, answer questions, and sign copies of his new book. You don't want to miss it.

Alexandra Bracken On Magic, Prosper Redding, and Mountain Dew

Alex Bracken grew up in Arizona going to Star Wars conventions and discovering the "inherent magic in books." Now, she writes magical books – about Star Wars, among other things! Her latest effort, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, is a genuine delight. It's funny, it's spooky, and it's sure to take its place on the shelf alongside the works of Roald Dahl, Tamora Pierce, or Cornelia Funke. We're already looking forward to the sequel.

We were lucky enough to chat with Alex last month – read her Q&A below, then stop by the store for your copy of Prosper or order one online. And be sure to join us for a chance to meet Alex and have your book signed on September 19!

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