Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Author Alan Gratz Coming to Paideia

The 2007-2008 school year is the first that the library has brought in authors at the junior high and high school levels. The first was Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars, in September, sponsored by Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. Our second visiting author will be here next Thursday (January 31) and is Alan Gratz, former middle school teacher and Avondale Estates resident, now a full-time author living in Western North Carolina.

Alan's first novel is Samurai Shortstop, "the story of a boy in 1890s Tokyo who combines baseball and bushido, the samurai way of the warrior, to prove that his father's samurai traditions have a place in the new Japan." I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, an excellent work of historical fiction for teens that will appeal to baseball and samurai fans, devotees of Japanese history, and all readers who want an engrossing story of culture change, right and wrong, and fathers and sons. As Alan discusses in an author's afterword, who would have thought 19th century Japan played baseball??

The most recent novel is Something Rotten, which recasts Shakespeare's Hamlet as a contemporary murder mystery with an environmental twist. Wise-cracking teenager Horatio Wilkes noses around a rich family's skeletons and odiferous empire to discover who killed Hamilton Prince's father in Denmark, Tennessee. I was born in Athens, Tennessee while my dad was a forester for the Bowater Paper company (and I went to graduate school in Knoxville), so in addition to enjoying the story and placing the twists of character & plot, I could easily conjure up the setting and trademark smell that identifies the "something rotten in Denmark."

Alan is putting in a full day of teaching and talking -- in 3 of the junior high homebases, one high school lit class, and with members of the Literary Magazine and Forum staffs. His books are available to buy at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur (an awesome bookstore, mostly for kids but with something for everyone!).


More about Alan Gratz:
at The Edge of the Forest (newsletter interview, January 2007)
at Interactive Reader (blog interview, November 2007)
and . . . a Wikipedia page!

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