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Facing Fears and Writing Through Them

I first became a fan of Micol Ostow back in 2009 with her YA novel SO PUNK ROCK (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother). It was a funny, quirky, irreverent little book that also dealt authentically with spiritual identity, and it was illustrated by Micol’s brother David Ostow. I loved it. And then in that way that often happens in the world of publishing, our paths began to cross here and there: mutual author friends; a mutual Soho Press editor; bumping into each other at various panels at a writing conference.

Amity Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781606841563
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Carolrhoda Lab (R) - August 26th, 2014

One of my favorite Micol Ostow series to put in readers’ hands is actually not her YA work, but her series for emerging chapter book readers, LOUISE TRAPEZE. The titular Louise is one spunky girl, but not without her doubts and layers. It’s definitely a departure from Micol’s other work and so I asked her if I could interview her about what it’s like to write the darker as well as the more frothy. Here’s what she had to say:

Joy: Here at Brazos we (and our customers) are huge fans of your LOUISE series and recommend it to our younger readers. It's such fun but also very girl positive. So how did this wonderful series come into existence? Do you have a plan about how you will continue to develop Louise in each subsequent book?

Micol: As you know, traditionally I've been a young adult writer, and I never had any designs about writing for a younger market. But one day a friend of mine suggested I try it. I laughed her off, but my daughter was two years old then, and I was just beginning to feel like I had some perspective on younger readers' and their point of view. So, shortly after that conversation, a character -- Louise Trapeze -- popped into my head. Immediately, I tried to imagine what Louise's story -- or her "problem" -- would be. And of course, the worst thing I could imagine for a trapeze artist would be a fear of heights. (It happens to be that I'm terrified of heights, too, so I could relate). So from there, the basic concept of book one was born. And again, going back to my own experiences with my daughter, I was very taken by the fact that overall, my daughter was (and still is) extremely determined and brave, much more than I ever was as a child. It's a great quality but it also works against her because she has a hard time accepting her own occasional fears. So that informed a lot of Louise's character, and her journey in book one -- realizing that being brave is not about not having fears, but rather, it's about how you go about facing them.

As of now, we have four books planned, and in each, Louise aspires to do something that she perceives as "grown up," while balancing her own concurrent fears about falling short or failing. For instance in book two, she really wants an important job of her own. But when she gets one, she makes an error in judgement and finds herself scrambling to course-correct. In book three, she misunderstands a conversation she overhears among the grown-ups, and sets out to "save the circus," despite the fact that the adults around her keep telling her not to worry. And in book four, Louise yearns to lose her first tooth -- until it seems like that just may be happening. So, we try to develop her character by putting her into typical seven year old experiences where she learns to bridge the gap between her own wishes and expectations, and her capabilities. If we were to continue the series, my own wish list includes a Halloween special. I imagine Louise could cause a lot of trouble around that theme!

Joy: You are a prolific writer with a fine skill for telling darker suspense and horror. Can you talk a bit about how you balance writing the more frothy LOUISE books with, say, something like AMITY, your YA retelling of The Amityville Horror?

Micol: Thank you so much! In a time where so many artists are encouraged to "brand" themselves, I feel very lucky that the publishing community has really embraced my split personality. Like I say, I'm not sure that I would have been inspired to write something as young as Louise if it weren't for raising young girls of my own. But in terms of the balance, I find it comes very naturally. The darker YA and the frothy chapter books are both a challenge in their own way, and it's often a relief to go back and forth. It keeps me from burning out on one or the other. I think it would be too difficult to be forced to write cheerful, upbeat stories all the time -- but equally impossible to be constantly mired in dark, intense long-form novels. This way I get to work through all of my many moods. How amazing is that?! I think they just organically balance each other out. Hopefully that means my split personality has a certain equalibrium, too. :)

Joy: You came to writing full time from a number of years in editing. How does that experience inform your writing?

Micol: I would like to think that I am basically devoid of ego. Not only do I come from an editorial background, but my earliest writing was ghostwriting into ongoing series, where it was imperative that I conform to a series style and hit deadlines unfailingly. It is a very different process than that romantic notion of plinking away at ones' art ever so thoughtfully, coffee mug in hand, gazed fixed serenely out a window. So I tend to write more quickly than some, and after all those years of being expected to emulate a specific style, I think I'm very open to editorial feedback. (That said, my editors might disagree!) I don't get very defensive when I read editorial letters, and I am always willing to consider a note or comment. I don't think I get very precious about my "darlings." When I was in graduate school for writing my advisors were always very pleasantly surprised by my openness to their editorial feedback. (Or so they said!)

The flip side, though, is that after so many years in the business I can get into my own head and get very caught up in the packaging and marketing aspect of publishing. It's useful when it comes to discussion publishing schedules, and deadlines, but it can be distracting and counterproductive to the process of simply writing. Obviously if there were a magic bullet for publishing a bestseller we'd all be bestselling authors. Better to spend one's time writing for the joy of it and telling the story you are meant to tell.

Joy: Besides your own books, what are some children's titles that you'd recommend, both for younger readers as well as for teens? What are you reading to/with your own kids these days?

Micol: My five year old is a precocious reader, and we're constantly fighting over books (I buy things for "research," and then find them in her bed). Lately we are obsessed with PRINCESS IN BLACK and THE OODLETHUNKS  -- anything with strong female characters, humor, and a distinct voice. We also like THE OWL DIARIES, and she's getting into nonfiction as well. We will read anything by Peter Brown, basically. Also: unicorns and superheroes.

I've been on a bit of an adult mystery kick lately, but on the YA front am eager to read Adele Griffin's forthcoming BE TRUE TO ME, and Marianna Baer's THE INCONCEIVABLE LIFE OF QUINN. Too many books, too little time!

Joy: So why writing? That is, why are you a writer? Why is this your art?

Micol: I don't have a great answer for that! Only that I never really felt I had a choice. I began making up stories as early as I can remember, and writing them down as soon as I was able to. I loved working as an editor and didn't plan to become a full-time writer, but eventually, the deadlines became too difficult to juggle. I think it's true for most writers, and it's certainly true for me, that we write because we can't NOT write. I'm incredibly grateful to have been able to make a career of it.

Joy: What else should we know about Micol Ostow?

Micol: Micol Ostow has a caffeine addiction that is borderline problematic. Micol Ostow is unduly obsessed with dogs, and specifically French Bulldogs. Micol Ostow can nap anytime, anywhere, and is always happy to do so. Micol Ostow is afraid of heights, as mentioned, as well as loud noises, and phone calls from unrecognizable numbers. Micol Ostow is distinctly uncomfortable writing about herself in the third person, but is pleased to learn of your interest in her rather un-interesting life.


Louise Trapeze Is Totally 100% Fearless Cover Image
By Micol Ostow, Brigette Barrager (Illustrator)
$5.99
ISBN: 9780553497427
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers - May 31st, 2016

Revisiting a Classic

One of the topics we talk about a great deal in the kidlit world is representation. As with adult readers, but even more so, children and young adults want to enter new worlds through fiction, experience the lives of people who are different from themselves. This is one of the glories and values of reading and it builds understanding and empathy and a vicarious set of crucial experiences. But young readers also yearn to see themselves reflected on the page--to experience, at least just a little--characters who look like them or act like them or believe or live like them.

All-of-a-Kind Family (All-of-a-Kind Family Classics) Cover Image
$6.99
ISBN: 9780440400592
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yearling - December 1st, 1984

More All-Of-A-Kind Family Cover Image
$12.95
ISBN: 9781939601155
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lizzie Skurnick Books - June 10th, 2014

All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown Cover Image
$12.95
ISBN: 9781939601254
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lizzie Skurnick Books - September 30th, 2014

Ben's 2016 Holiday Recommendations

Television: A Biography Cover Image
$34.95
ISBN: 9780500519165
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Thames & Hudson - October 25th, 2016

And the Winners Are...

We’ve told you about our 2016 #BrazosBest picks. We’ve all run down our individual top ten lists. But now, one final list to end of the year: the books that affected us the most, whether new releases or classics. We asked each member of our staff one simple question: What book did you read in 2016 that you’ll remember the best, that sums up the year?

2016 has been, um, complicated, for many reasons, but these books helped us get through the ups and downs.

2666: A Novel Cover Image
By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by)
$26.00
ISBN: 9780312429218
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador - September 1st, 2009

An immersive and inscrutable masterpiece that is hands down one of the single best reading experiences of my life.
Keaton


Staff Pick Badge
Bluets Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781933517407
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Wave Books - October 1st, 2009

I came to Nelson late, but just in time. In a year that often felt dumb, despairing, and claustrophobic, Nelson reminded me that “humanity” is a word that should encompass and celebrate our differences, and that anti-intellectualism is bullshit: there’s no shame in being the smartest person in the room.
Ben


The Days of Abandonment Cover Image
By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translated by)
$15.00
ISBN: 9781933372006
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - September 1st, 2005

Why has it taken me so long to read Ferrante?? I've been meaning to start the Neapolitan novels for months now but, intimidated by the volume, I chose to start with THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT. What a ferocious, explosive novel! An instant classic for "nasty women" everywhere.
Augusta


A Field Guide to Getting Lost Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143037248
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - June 27th, 2006

A book that assures you it’s okay to not know exactly where you’re headed—just enjoy the mystery of it all and learn to trust your instincts.
—Kevin


The Natural Way of Things Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781609453626
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - June 28th, 2016

There are novels that take you to places you don’t want to forget as well as books that never leave you and this book will continue to stay with you for some time.
Ulrika


News of the World: A Novel Cover Image
$22.99
ISBN: 9780062409201
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow - October 4th, 2016

A great Texas novel, with perfectly drawn characters. Exciting, emotional, and authentic. You won't soon forget this NEWS OF THE WORLD.
Jeremy


The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780316229265
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - August 16th, 2016

This sharp-toothed follow-up to THE FIFTH SEASON gives us the same finely-polished mirror for our own broken society, set against the backdrop of a world in its death-throes, a civilization eating itself from the inside out. Jemisin’s dedication reads "To those who have no choice but to prepare their children for the battlefield"—a perfect beginning to the best book to read in this year's social and political climate.
Lydia


Stag's Leap: Poems Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780375712258
Availability: Backordered
Published: Knopf - September 4th, 2012

When I asked Sharon Olds herself about this book during an interview for our website, she said, "Sadness and anger are just as important as joy and happiness." I don't think she meant important in that sadness and anger are emotions we should seek, the way we (many) pursue the others, but that they are just as valid, should we encounter them.
Annalia


Teacup Cover Image
By Rebecca Young, Matt Ottley (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780735227774
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Books - October 4th, 2016

The picture book TEACUP by Rebecca Young is not only beautiful but it also sums up 2016 for me both personally and as a citizen of the world because like the boy in the book, I feel we are all adrift, our teacups of home in our hands, weathering brutal storms, hoping to land safely, our internal compasses set for hope.
Joy


Books for Young Scientists and Historians

Looking for a book for those who love to figure out how things work and why things happen? Then check out these titles!

Ada Twist, Scientist Cover Image
By Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9781419721373
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harry N. Abrams - September 6th, 2016

The newest edition to a fabulous picture book series that began with IGGY PECK ARCHITECT and followed up with ROSIE REVERE ENGINEER, ADA TWIST is about a girl who adores science and the delight of discovery. This marvelous illustrated and written book features a girl who is endlessly curious about the ‘whys’ of the world. ADA TWIST reminds us to follow our passions and dreams!
Ages 5-8


A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 Cover Image
By Matthew Olshan, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780374329549
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - October 11th, 2016

What happens when John Jeffries, an Englishman, and Jean-PIerre Blanchard, a Frenchman, set out to be the first to man a hot-air balloon flight from one country to another by crossing the English channel? Well, at first, just grand success. But then things go a bit wrong. And as the balloon begins to sink, the two gentlemen come up with hilarious and then clever solutions to save the day. This one will make you laugh… a lot. And it’s based on a true story!
Ages 4-8


Shakespeare Retold Cover Image
By E. Nesbit, Antonio Javier Caparo (Illustrator)
$19.99
ISBN: 9780062404534
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - October 18th, 2016

Gorgeously illustrated, this collection of retellings of seven Shakespearean plays is a wonderful way to introduce younger readers to Shakespeare’s language and stories. Lots of good historical material is included: biography, timeline, and bibliography plus more. This is a simply beautiful addition to any home library.
Ages 8-12


The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition Cover Image
By Chris Barton, Cathy Gendron (Illustrator)
$19.99
ISBN: 9781467721516
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Millbrook Press (Tm) - September 1st, 2015

This gorgeous picture book by award-winning Austin author Chris Barton (who is also featured in this newsletter with his choices for Texas author holiday book gift giving), is a delightful and informative history of how the most famous ballet became a Christmas season classic. A must-read for Nutcracker fans.
Ages 7-10


Joy Picks Books for Kids of All Ages


Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781909263376
Availability: Backordered
Published: Flying Eye Books - September 6th, 2016

Appetites: A Cookbook Cover Image
$40.00
ISBN: 9780062409959
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - October 25th, 2016

The Cat King of Havana Cover Image
By Tom Crosshill, Mia Nolting (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062422835
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - September 6th, 2016

So Good Looking

We have a joke here at Brazos: some books are for readin’, and some books are for lookin’. The holiday season is a great time to browse some lookin’ books for people—the gorgeous books that people will keep on their coffee tables for friends and family to flip through at parties. Sometimes these books dovetail perfectly with somebody’s interests; other times, they’re just too beautiful to ignore. Here are some of our favorite lookin’ books of 2016, with some other gift items that’ll also spruce up your living room.

John Derian Picture Book Cover Image
$75.00
ISBN: 9781579656478
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Artisan - October 4th, 2016

John Derian is an artist who works from notions of home and domesticity, cultivating oldness and making it new. In this book, you get hundreds of pages of lovely, full-color images: horses, owls, strange faces, and household objects. This is our numero uno coffee table book of 2016, and your friends will love it!


Motown: The Sound of Young America Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780500518298
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Thames & Hudson - September 13th, 2016

There is no overstating the importance of Berry Gordy’s Motown Records on pop music or American culture in general. This book is a celebration of that legacy, replete with numerous publicity materials and candid photos of some of the most important and influential musical artists of all time.


Three Centuries of American Prints Cover Image
$60.00
ISBN: 9780500239520
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Thames & Hudson - August 2nd, 2016

From colonial times to the latest in graphic art/design, this is the most comprehensive collection of reproducible art you will find. Beautiful, historic images in one gorgeous volume, this book is catnip for graphic designers. It’s an expensive book, but for the amount of time somebody will spend poring over it, a little money goes a long way.


The Vincent van Gogh Atlas Cover Image
$22.50
ISBN: 9780300222845
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - November 15th, 2016

All great artists grow and change over the years, and Van Gogh was no different. From rural Netherlands to the hustle and bustle of Paris and London, this affordable coffee table book covers his whole journey with engaging text and beautiful images. For the art geek in your life!


The Voynich Manuscript Cover Image
By Raymond Clemens (Editor), Deborah E. Harkness (Introduction by)
$50.00
ISBN: 9780300217230
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - November 1st, 2016

A mysterious book? Surreal images? Strange text? THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT has been around for centuries, and nobody knows what it is. But a mystery is a compelling thing, and this book is a great “nerdy” home accessory, perfect to take out at parties and ask, “What the hell is this thing?”


Marimekko Large Cloth-covered Journal Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9781452138794
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Chronicle Books - September 22nd, 2015

A great, unexpected notebook: whimsical, and a great size!


What Books are Texas Kidlit Authors Chris Barton, Jennifer Ziegler, and Crystal Allen Giving This Holiday Season?

We’re ridiculously excited for our newest installment of our feature on the books Texas kidlit authors are giving for holiday gifts this year! Because who better to recommend books than authors? And we have a huge, diverse and amazing community of writers for young people in Texas, many of them right here in Houston-- so many wonderful voices and stories and points of view. I hope you continue enjoy reading their choices as much as I did!

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9781620141489
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lee & Low Books - October 15th, 2016

This remarkable real-life tale -- as entertaining as it is touching -- will fascinate kids. Doc Key’s own story of post-slavery accomplishment is amazing enough. But when he teaches a once-hapless horse to spell -- and then some -- this picture book becomes truly enchanting.


Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land Cover Image
By John Coy, Wing Young Huie (Photographer)
$19.99
ISBN: 9781467780544
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Carolrhoda Books (R) - March 1st, 2016

Inspiring and lovely and recognizable to so many children, parents, and grandparents, this celebration of the experiences and contributions of immigrants brings together Coy’s brief, poetic text and Huie’s striking photographs.


Two Naomis Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062414250
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer + Bray - September 13th, 2016

Told in the alternating points of view of the 10-year-old title characters -- whose divorced parents have begun dating and start bringing their families together -- this contemporary middle-grade novel sparkles with smart humor and endearingly awkward drama.


And here are the titles Crystal Allen will be gifting this year.

She’s a new grandmother and new great aunt and so she’s focused on books for and about our littlest readers! Again, all these titles are on our shelves or coming soon.


School's First Day of School Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781596439641
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - June 28th, 2016

With the school as the main character, this book was such a delight to read.  Whoever thought of how a school would feel on the first day of school?


Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas Cover Image
By Gwendolyn Hooks, Colin Bootman (Illustrator)
$18.95
ISBN: 9781620141564
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lee & Low Books - May 15th, 2016

I love this book about Vivien Thomas, a medical pioneer who, without a medical degree, developed a way to save babies with heart defects.


This Is Our Baby, Born Today Cover Image
By Varsha Bajaj, Eliza Wheeler (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780399166846
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - August 2nd, 2016

This story follows the birth of a baby elephant with vibrant colors, beautiful illustrations and fun, repetitive text. **(Brazos Children’s Specialist Joy Preble wants to remind everyone that Varsha is also a local, acclaimed Houston author and friend of the store)**


Audiobooks Are Now Available!

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