If January’s new books are any indication, this will be the year for reading locally: Several Austin authors have recently birthed books for young readers. From poetic dreamscapes to (perhaps) the first woman president, here’s a look at these new titles and several related author appearances.
Katherine Catmull’s 2012 debut, “Summer and Bird,” brought an old-fashioned, fairy-tale sensibility to the story of two sisters’ adventures in the woods. Fairy folk take on a larger, sometimes menacing role in her gorgeously written “The Radiant Road” (Penguin, $17.99), which follows young Clare Macleod as she and her widowed father return to the cottage in Ireland in which Clare was born.
When Clare’s mother was alive, she would speak of the magic that surrounded them — stories of the Strange, and skittering fanciful sights that could only be explained by fairy-making. But Clare’s years in America quickly taught her to be wary and dismissive of talking openly about what only she could see.
As soon as she sets foot in her former home, though, the memories rush in — of her early life but most importantly, of mysticism so strong that it can’t be ignored. She also remembers Finn, “the winter to her autumn,” her soul-mate in the Strange who finds her shortly after her arrival. Together, the two enjoy the idyllic pleasures that surround them — and prepare for the danger that threatens to destroy them both.
Catmull adeptly sketches the natural beauties of Clare and Finn’s worlds as well as the nerve-jangling terror evoked by the one-eyed man against whom they must ultimately battle: “He was smiling, but not a nice smile; it was the smile of a cat who sees a bird with a broken wing. Or it was a smile painted on like a mask, like a clown’s face, and if you peeled it off, the sight would be hideous and unbearable.”
“Radiant” is indeed just that; hear more from Catmull at 7 p.m. Wednesday at BookPeople. (Ages 12 and up)
Varian Johnson’s best-seller “The Great Greene Heist” introduced us to a crew of “Oceans 11”-style middle-school operatives, helmed by Jackson Greene. Jackson and his friends are back in “To Catch a Cheat” (Scholastic/Arthur R. Levine, $16.99), which finds the Gang Greene falsely accused of flooding their school’s gym — complete with a faked security video. The deft plotting and pop-culture references that underpinned the original “Heist” return in a middle-grade novel that celebrates the smarts and wit of its (nicely diverse) characters.
Johnson will read from and sign “Cheat” at 2 p.m. Saturday at BookPeople. (Ages 10-15)
Hillary Rodham Clinton has been in the public eye for decades, from her time as first lady of Arkansas and the United States to her shift into politics in her own right as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate. Cynthia Levinson offers young readers insight into Clinton’s life through the prism of a quote from Methodist leader John Wesley that provides the subtitle of her middle-grade biography, “Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can” (HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $6.99).
Levinson — whose nonfiction “We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March” was named one of the best books of 2012 by industry journal Publisher’s Weekly — pieces together Clinton’s life from her childhood in Park Ridge, Ill., to her declaration last year as a candidate for president. This portrait doesn’t shy away from the challenges Clinton has faced, but Levinson carefully handles these episodes — including the Monica Lewinsky scandal — in age-appropriate fashion for her middle-grade audience. (Ages 8-12)
The lovable porcine protagonist from Emma Virjan’s “What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig” is trying to get some sleep. Virjan’s newest picture book is “What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush” (HarperCollins, $9.99), which finds Pig desperately seeking snooze time. The farm animals aren’t too keen on keeping quiet, though, so Pig’s contending with a “quack, a honk / a bark, a coo / a ribbit, a meow / a neigh, and a moo,” among other barnyard sounds. Virjan will read from and sign “Hush” at 1 p.m. Jan. 30 at BookPeople. (Ages 4-8)