Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.
Walking Your Octopus: A Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephalopod, by Brian Kesinger. Illustrated.
Los Angeles, CA, Baby Tattoo Books, July 2013, hardcover $29.95 (unpaged [64 pages]).
This impishly hilarious book by a veteran Walt Disney artist and writer presents straightfaced advice to the well-bred Victorian lady who would have a pet octopus. They are not for the average person, the author warns. The cephalopod, be it an octopus, a squid, a cuttlefish, or a nautilus, is an intelligent and high-maintenance animal which needs considerable space and exercise. Yet they learn tricks easily, and will reward the attentive mistress with loyalty and hours of entertainment.
Walking Your Octopus is a collection of full-color double-page spreads; the text on the left and the picture on the right, showing Miss Victoria Psismall and her pet land octopus Otto illustrating the text. There are Victorian-setting drawings for choosing the right cephalopod, getting your octopus a toy that it will like, proper hygiene for your octopus, teaching your octopus tricks, and many more – over thirty of them. My favorite is: “Though certain octopuses have been bred to live on land, it is important for them to have a tether to their heritage. Octopus females can lay upward to 200,000 eggs, so it is suggested that one find a stationery shop that will sell birthday cards in bulk.”
The book is in an unusual format, 13.8 inches long by 6.9 inches high, presenting long rather than high illustrations. The artwork appears simple, but is full of detail; for example, in a montage of possible octopus toys, there is a Cthulhu jack-in-the-box. The book features the art style that one might expect considering that the publicity says that Brian Kesinger has worked on Disney animated features for over sixteen years, contributing to Tarzan, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and more. He has also had paintings in gallery exhibits around the world.
It is clear that Miss Psismall and her octopus love each other. Nevertheless, reading Walking Your Octopus will make you glad that land-going octopuses are only fictional. Ask an aquarium employee about the intelligence of octopuses, which are constantly trying to escape, sometimes successfully, despite the fact that they cannot live outside salt water.
Buy where fine art and imaginative illustrated humor books are popular.
War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction, by Richard Toronto. Illustrated.
Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., April 2013, trade paperback $45.00 (vi + 256 pages), Kindle $16.19.
Now It Can Be Told!?
When I was a teenager in the 1950s, I read a lot of science fiction – novels and short-story collections by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and many others. When I was in college in 1960, I discovered the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and s-f fandom. Many of the LASFS members had been s-f fans since the 1930s, and they told me about the history of s-f literature; personal information about the writers, the s-f magazines, and so on. Most of this was related casually, yet there was one subject that still stirred high emotions: editor Raymond A. Palmer and the major s-f magazine Amazing Stories from 1945 through 1949. Palmer (or RAP and Rap as he was known) claimed that his most lurid s-f yarns were not fiction but were based on fact! There really were dwarfs in underground caverns beaming evil rays at surface-dwelling humans that caused disease and wars. Most s-f fans felt that this was just a cynical ploy to increase his magazine’s circulation, which it did; but at the cost of giving all s-f fans a reputation among the general public as credulous simpletons who believed in flying saucers and that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were real people. Most s-f fans wrote thundering denunciations of RAP in their fanzines. The LASFS had sent a letter signed by all the club’s members to the publishers of Amazing Stories threatening to boycott the magazine if RAP was not replaced as editor. He finally was (actually, he resigned in 1949 when the publisher moved Amazing Stories’ editorial offices from Chicago to NYC), and went on to start his own minor magazines during the 1950s that were insignificant and largely ignored.
RAP and the s-f controversy of the late 1940s were never important beyond s-f circles, and are generally forgotten today – which makes it strange that two books about them have been published almost simultaneously: War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction, by Richard Toronto in April, and The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, by Fred Nadis in June.
Both cover the subject in rich detail, and know it thoroughly. Both have interviewed Palmer’s closest associates still alive, and have gotten descriptions of RAP ranging from a charlatan and deliberate liar, to a misguided but true believer in what he was promoting. Both quote from and analyze RAP’s statements in his own autobiography, Martian Diary (in The Secret World, by Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver; Amherst, WI, Amherst Press, 1975). Toronto’s approach is slightly more scholarly, and his citations include his correspondence with the principals from the 1970s, showing his lifelong interest in the subject. Nadis’ book is more popularized; it is described in its blurb as “The rollicking true story of the legendary writer and editor who ruled over America’s fantasy and supernatural pulp journals in the mid-twentieth century, and shaped today’s UFO and sci-fi cultures: Ray Palmer.” Nadis apparently did not become interested in the subject until after RAP’s death, but he also interviewed RAP’s colleagues and his son, and studied RAP’s writings in s-f fan correspondence and fanzines of the 1930s in the collections of the Universities of California at Santa Barbara and Riverside, and numerous other universities and colleges that have extensive specialized holdings. Both books have pages of notes, bibliographies, and indexes.
Raymond A. Palmer (1910-1977) was easy to document because he became an active, enthusiastic s-f fan when he was 16 years old in 1926, and began corresponding with other young fans. RAP published some of the most widely-read s-f fanzines in the early 1930s, and his editorials, promotions of s-f, and thoughts are on record. During the 1930s he was a leading s-f fan, and was dubbed “the Son of Science Fiction”. When he became the editor of Amazing Stories for its new Ziff-Davis publishers in 1938, he was hailed as Fan Turns Professional – S-F Fan Makes Good. However, by the mid-1940s Palmer had told the fans that one of his main duties as editor was to increase the circulation of Amazing Stories, and that the “educated s-f fan community” was only a small percentage of the pulp adventure magazine’s readership.
In 1943, Amazing Stories got a long letter from a Richard S. Shaver, who claimed that he had found the alphabet of the lost civilization of Atlantis. Palmer’s assistant threw it in the wastebasket; Palmer fished it out and printed it. In correspondence, Palmer said that Shaver’s revelations were too dry for the magazine, and urged Shaver to rewrite them as adventure fiction. Shaver’s first story, heavily revised by Palmer, was “I Remember Lemuria” in the March 1945 issue. To quote Nadis, “After ‘I Remember Lemuria,’ more than twenty Shaver stories followed in the next four years. Shaver’s pay increased from one cent a word to one and a half cents, and then to two cents a word. But it is clear that many of his submissions underwent serious revisions. In June 1944, a half year after the Mantong alphabet letter had been published, and while the Ziff-Davis crew was still working over Shaver’s raw submissions, he wrote to Rap, ‘Naturally I am overjoyed that you can use my stories and am sorry that they must be rewritten – but believe me I know why – for I have been through much and it is work for me to write.’” (p. 89)
It was later learned that “Shaver had spent up to eight years in a catatonic state in the state hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan” (Nadis, p. 82) As the Shaver stories progressed, RAP became more editorially emphatic that, while they might be fictionalized and dramatized, they were based upon prehistoric truth. The s-f fan community became more strident in demanding Palmer’s head. Fans who visited Amazing’s Chicago editorial offices while Shaver happened to be there reported that he seemed to be a sincere but harmless lunatic, while their kindest description of Palmer was that he was a flimflammer and hoaxer in the tradition of P.T. Barnum and 19th century medicine show barkers.
In June 1947, the first claim of a flying saucer sighting was made by Kenneth Arnold, a civilian pilot with no association with science fiction. Further claims of U.S. government cover-ups soon built up a public conspiracy theory that was much more widespread than what was called “the Shaver Mystery” in Amazing Stories ever was. In early July 1947 Palmer wrote to Arnold suggesting that they collaborate on an article or articles. In Spring 1948 Palmer started his own magazine, Fate, devoted to examining “unexplained mysteries”. When Ziff-Davis consolidated all its magazines in NYC in 1949, it was no hardship for Palmer to leave Amazing Stories and concentrate on his other interests, which focused increasingly on the occult such as the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky, Theosophy, and Hollow-Earthism. Since these bore no connection to science fiction, the wrath of the s-f community died away. In 1960 Julius Schwartz, a leading s-f fan of the 1930s and now an editor at DC Comics, named the secret identity of a new superhero, The Atom, Ray Palmer. RAP was not amused, partially because The Atom’s superpower was to shrink to miniature size, and the real Ray Palmer, because of a childhood almost-fatal accident, was a hunchbacked 4’8” dwarf.
Both books continue the biographies of RAP and Richard Shaver to their deaths. The two became close friends, and when the Palmers bought a large farm in rural Wisconsin, Palmer persuaded Shaver and his wife to come from Pennsylvania and become their neighbors. Shaver took to listening to rocks and painting surrealistic canvases of his visions. The art world didn’t care about his beliefs but liked his artistry. Shaver became despondent over being appreciated for what he felt was the wrong reasons. He allowed Palmer to publish his paintings as the covers on Palmer’s new magazines, edited from Palmer’s farmhouse. Shaver died in November 1975, and Palmer in August 1977.
I always felt that the story of Ray Palmer and the Shaver Mystery deserved a larger and more permanent documentation than the gossip of now-elderly s-f fans; and here it is. Buy where there is any interest in the history of s-f literature, of popular fiction during the 1940s, or of the beginnings of flying saucer cultdom.
The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, by Fred Nadis. Illustrated.
NYC, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, June 2013, hardcover $28.95 (xiii + 289 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $11.99.
The rollicking true story of the legendary writer and editor who ruled over America’s fantasy and supernatural pulp journals in the mid-twentieth century, and shaped today’s UFO and sci-fi cultures: Ray Palmer.
Meet Ray Palmer. A hustler, a trickster, and a visionary. The hunchbacked Palmer, who stood at just over four feet tall, was nevertheless an indomitable force, the ruler of his own bizarre sector of the universe. Armed with only his typewriter, Palmer changed the world as we know it – jumpstarting the flying saucer craze; frightening hundreds of thousands of Americans with “true” stories of evil denizens of inner earth; and reporting on cover-ups involving extraterrestrials, the paranormal, and secret government agencies.??As editor for the ground-breaking sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories and creator of publications such as Other Worlds, Imagination, Fate, Mystic, Search, Flying Saucers, Hidden World, and Space Age, Palmer pushed the limits and broke new ground in science fiction publishing in the 1940s and 1950s—and was reviled for it by purists who called him “the man who killed science fiction.”??In the first-ever biography devoted to the figure who molded modern geek culture, pulp scholar Fred Nadis paints a vivid portrait of Palmer—a brilliant, charming, and wildly willful iconoclast who helped ignite the UFO craze, convinced Americans of hidden worlds and government cover ups, and championed the occult and paranormal.??Palmer overcame serious physical handicaps to become the most significant editor during the “golden age” of pulp magazines; he rebelled in his own inimitable way against the bland suburban vision of the American Dream; he concocted new literary genres; and he molded our current conspiracy culture decades before The X-Files claimed that the truth was out there.
War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction Paperback
McFarland, April 25, 2013
Shaverology: A Shaver Mystery Home Companion Paperback
Shavetron Press, August 29, 2013
August 28th is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, a watershed moment in the struggle for civil rights and Random House Children’s Books has been celebrating with a fabulous Civil Rights Movement blog tour. Today, it is my great honor to be part of that tour and I have a fabulous guest post here at AmoXcalli, by Matthew Olshan, author of THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE (illustrated by Sophie Blackall). Random House Children’s Books has put together an I Have a Dream enhanced website featuring the new picture book by Kadir Nelson, I HAVE A DREAM. The book is stunning, the paintings really pay tribute to the man, the movement and the speech. The book also contains a CD with the full speech.
Please join AmoXcalli, Random House Children’s Books and all the others on the tour in celebrating the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s historical speech.
The Promise of Freedom, Then and Now by Matthew Olshan
The word “freedom” blazes an incandescent trail through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” but what does he mean by it? What, exactly, is the freedom he dreams of, the kind that will ring from the mountaintops, that will cause the American people to join hands and sing ecstatically, “Free at last!”
Freedom from what? Freedom to do what?
Freedom from injustice, certainly. Freedom to pursue the American Dream.
For Dr. King, the American Dream is rooted in what he calls its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
He says this knowing all too well the irony in those sacred words from the Declaration of Independence. The men who wrote them didn’t really believe that men were created equal. Many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. And slaves weren’t created equal. You couldn’t own someone who was your equal; therefore, slaves weren’t men. At least, not fully. A slave was some fraction of a man. Call it three-fifths.
But those imperfect, 18th Century men were dreamers, too. They invented a country that promised more than it could deliver. They drew up a constitution with the goal of forming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, mind you, but a more perfect union. They understood that we live in the world; that the world is full of injustice, greed, and cruelty; that people generally want to do the right thing, but aren’t always strong enough to do it.
Ours has been a history of forgetting our promises, then remembering, and lurching, sometimes violently, towards the light.
Even some of our greatest triumphs have fallen short. Take the Emancipation Proclamation. Church bells rang out across the land on January 1st, 1863. Freed slaves and abolitionists alike were overjoyed. Surely there were ecstatic cries of “Free at last!”
But the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all the slaves. President Lincoln couldn’t risk losing the border states. The slaves in Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky may have heard distant ringing that day; alas, the bells weren’t ringing for them.
The century that followed the Emancipation Proclamation saw many gains for people of color, but also great backsliding. In states like Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama, equality wasn’t simply an impossibility; in huge swaths of the country, it was no longer even a dream.
Dr. King’s speech, smoldering with anger and yet brimming with hope, was meant to remind Americans of their creed, that promise of equality dating back to the Declaration of Independence.
Our union is certainly more perfect now. The scourge of slavery is long past. The worst abuses of Jim Crow are over.
But their legacy remains.
We’ll always need voices like Dr. King’s — righteous, melodious, idealistic, and stern — to remind us of the nation we were; the nation we are; and the nation we hope to be.
History shows us how easy it is to forget.
Matthew Olshan is the author of several novels for young readers, including Finn and The Flown Sky. The Mighty Lalouche, a collaboration with the award-winning illustrator Sophie Blackall, is his first venture into the world of picture books. Their next collaboration, Henry and Henri, which will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, is the story of the first international flight: a balloon ride across the English Channel in 1785, taken by an Englishman and a Frenchman who absolutely hated each other.??Matthew also writes serious literary fiction for adults. Look for Marshlands, a novel of military occupation and empire, due out from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in February, 2014
It’s my seventh year with the Cybils and I’m still madly in love. No seven-year itch here. So why am I so in love?
Every year towards the fading of summer, a Yahoo Group email starts flooding my inbox. This group includes us category organizers and the dynamic, brilliant women that do all the technical wonder and behind the scenes stuff that makes the Cybils work – things like databases, website stuff, forms, spreadsheets and logos. The discussions are lively and fill my day. We talk about what we learned from previous years, go over our notes from then, discuss ways to make the Cybils better and occasionally veer off to talk about our personal lives, triumphs and joys, stumbles and falls. We’ve become a tightly-knit and comfortable sweater of a group; friends that support and cheer each other on in our endeavors all while keeping strong to the business at hand – that of the Cybils.
These women I have the honor of being in a group with are amazing. They care so passionately about children, about books, about libraries, about literacy. Some are teachers or librarians – my heroes. They battle shrinking budgets and find ways to engage, inspire and promote the love of reading to the communities they service and it consumes their time in and out of work, yet they find a way to carve out time for the Cybils. They are passionate about this award too, you see and believe in it wholeheartedly. They do this every year and by the conversations I see that start the Award season, they do it with love and uncensored devotion.
And so I am in love. I am in love with this award, the process of making it better and no matter the cost to my personal or work time. I too, am devoted to it and to the amazing superheroes that make it happen year after year. I’m in love with the bravery of the intrepid souls that dare to sign on for our judging panels knowing full well they will be reading stacks and stacks of books with no reward, other than virtual chocolate. I am in love with the humor, the passion and the prodigious knowledge of the written form.
Seven-year itch? Not even close. I’m in it for the long haul.
Please consider applying to be one of our judges. It will be the best decision you’ve ever made and one the most rewarding things you do. If you apply to be on the Young Adult Nonfiction panel, I promise to give you lots of virtual chocolate and email you to talk about what you’re reading. I’m taking e-books this year too, so come with Kindle or other e-reader in hand.
Youngest soloist at the Dance Theatre of Harlem to make publishing debut in Fall 2014
New York, NY, July 24, 2013—Random House Children’s Books has acquired 18-year-old ballet star Michaela DePrince’s debut memoir, it was announced today by Nancy Hinkel, Vice President and Publishing Director of Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Executive Editor Erin Clarke will edit the book, which does not yet have a title.
DePrince was born in Sierra Leone and orphaned by a brutal civil war at the age of three. It was there that she found a picture of a ballerina that ultimately changed the course of her life. In her memoir, Michaela will share her experiences growing up as an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone and her journey to becoming a professional ballet dancer in New York City. It will include a photo insert highlighting moments from her incredible story.
“When I was four and a half years old, and with my adoptive family, I sat down with my mom and shared with her the story of my experiences in Sierra Leone. I didn’t know then that this memoir would be the end result of that sharing,” says DePrince. “This writing experience has enabled me to relive my past, appreciate my present, and continue to set goals for my future. I couldn’t be happier that through my memoir I will be able to reach out to young people all over the world and encourage them to make their dreams come true.”
DePrince will co-write with her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince. Alfred A. Knopf will also publish a Step into Reading chapter book edition for younger readers titled Ballerina Dreams: The Story of Michaela DePrince.
“We are so pleased to have the opportunity to share Michaela’s extraordinarily inspiring story, and reach both teens and young readers.” says Hinkel.
Clarke negotiated the book deal for Alfred A. Knopf with Adriana Dominguez of Full Circle Literary, representing Michaela and Elaine DePrince.
On July 28th, DePrince will begin dancing with the Dutch National Ballet, considered to be one of the top classical ballet companies in the world.
Michaela DePrince was one of the stars in the ballet documentary, First Position, which was nominated for a 2013 NAACP Image Award. She was also an AT&T guest artist on Dancing with the Stars, and has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, the BBC World News, and other news programs in the United States and internationally. In 2012, she received the Trailblazer Award from the American Skin Association. In addition to dancing in guest principal roles in South Africa and the Netherlands, Michaela has been invited by the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to give motivational talks to youth, and by the United Nations to represent children affected by war. In late 2012, Michaela received an invitation to join the Dutch National Ballet, considered to be one of the top classical ballet companies in the world. In 2013, Michaela participated in Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit along with Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey, and Tina Brown.
Random House Children’s Books is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats from board books to activity books to picture books, novels, ebooks, and apps, the imprints of Random House Children’s Books bring together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series. The company’s website, Kids @ Random (RandomhHousekKids.com) offers an array of activities, games, and resources for children, teens, parents, and educators. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.