Unshelved comic strip for 1/31/2009

Book Expo America 2009

Our thanks to this week's sponsor, Book Expo America 2009 which takes place May 28-31 in of New York City. It's our favorite library conference. Gene and I will be there, and we hope you will be too.

Books & Good Stuff @ ALA Midwinter

Before my flight to Denver for ALA Midwinter, I had the preflight jitters. Not surprising – I almost always have the preflight jitters. A few hard learned breathing techniques are usually enough to help me relax, but on Friday's flight, Lamaze failed me and every bump made the hair on my neck stand up. David Wellington's horror books are always intense, but as I tore through Monster Island on the plane, my frequent adrenal rushes made me feel like I was trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.

At the convention, I expected the mood to be somber because of the economy, but the librarians I talked to were remarkably upbeat. I heard about a few hiring freezes and budget shortfalls, but most said budget cuts won't affect their library systems until the next fiscal year.

I'm already nervous and trying to save money, so the upbeat atmosphere felt a little like the Twilight Zone. My first thought was impossible to research on the exhibit floor– that people whose libraries are in crisis mode couldn't afford to send them, and as a result the convention was full of happy librarians. I started asking people why they were so happy. Amy Pilston from the Elizabethtown College High Library told me, "My meetings haven't started yet!" Others said there were lots of ARCs available, and librarians seemed to be carrying around more than usual (if that's possible). It helped that wheeled luggage was either allowed or largely ignored on the convention floor. And I swear to you that the food at the convention center restaurants was good. Really.

And now 48 hours later I'm on my return flight home. And I'm not nervous at all. Exhaustion is part of the reason, but more than that, I'm excited about books I found and heard about at the convention. It's all about the books! And a few multimedia items, but that doesn't sound as striking. Here are a few things I'm looking forward to reading later this year:

I found four books I'll with my 6-year-old daughter. She's a budding graphic novel fiend (I can't imagine where she got that).

  • Chicken & Cat Clean Up (Scholastic, March 2009) Robot Dreams was a wordless masterpiece. Author / artist Sara Varon is on par with Regis Faller (Polo) and Andy Runton (Owly).
  • My Grandparents Are Secret Agents (IDW) explains why grandma and grandpa need so many gadgets, travel frequently, and need naps.
  • Adventures in Cartooning: How to turn doodles into comics (First Second, 2009) is a simple how-to for kids wrapped into an adventure story. I find it inspiring and hope my daughter will, too.
  • Pitch Black (Cinco Puntos Press, 2008). After meeting Youme Landowne at ALA, I need to reread this graphic novel. Her collaboration with Anthony Horton, a homeless man who has been living under New York for 20 years, has striking, dark art that has stayed with me since I first read it last year.

My daughter will probably enjoy Westin Woods' upcoming documentary on children's writer/artist Mo Willems, too -- I can't wait to see him at work.

But I'll be reading these on my own.

  • The Cheater (Macmillan, Spring 2009) In Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's novel, a serial killer stalks husbands who have affairs on their wives and kills gruesomely. If Talia Ross recommends a tale of murder and mayhem, read it!
  • Monster by A. Lee Martinez (Hachette, May 2009) sounds like Hellboy meets Dirty Jobs. I'm in.
  • Michael Rockliff at Workman won me over last year when he booktalked My Father's Paradise to me, and I vowed I would read the next thing he recommended. He told me about A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (Algonquin, March 2009), a novel set in Wisconsin in the early 1900s where the main character sends off for a mail order bride but gets more than the simple, reliable woman he expects.

Back in high school I discovered L. Ron Hubbard's science fiction novels, so I'm excited to see Galaxy Press bringing his early pulp short stories back into print. They've just produced a how-to reader's theater kit for the story "The Last Drop" featuring CDs of ambient sounds, sound effects, and a script with all of the cues. I'll be taking this to my writers' group meeting next week in hopes of an impromptu performance if the wings don't fall off and send my plane down in flames…

Time to go do a little more escapist reading.

-Gene Ambaum
who will soon be off on another plane trip

This Unshelved strip

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