A Quick Trip to Connecticut (and Other News)

It’s always a pleasure to visit Connecticut, where they actually have these things called seasons. Growing up in Texas, I never understood why we decorated our classrooms with construction paper yellow and red leaves every fall. Then I realized . . . oh, you mean trees actually do that in some places? This time around, I missed most of the best fall color by a few weeks, but there was still enough to make me happy.

Thanks to Maddie from Barnes & Noble, who picked me up in Hartford on Monday morning and was my escort for the day. We drove to Wendell Cross School in Westbury, a part of the state I’d never visited. It was brisk morning, but the weather was great – blue skies and plenty of sun. We arrived at the school and found it decorated in lightning bolts. Wendell Cross had won Barnes & Noble’s national teacher appreciation week contest and the kids were very excited. They’d never had an author visit before. I met with third through fifth grade. I had lunch with very enthusiastic group of fourth and fifth graders. I met several future writers, a lot of Percy fans, and fielded questions for a solid forty-five minutes. They were definitely into it! I also got more hugs and handshakes than I’ve ever gotten at a school visit. Several kids told me they would never wash their hands again after shaking with me, but I urged them to reconsider this. The school gave me a booklet with essays from all the kids who attended the lunch, and it’s a sweet keepsake.

Monday evening we had a public event at the local Barnes & Noble and the store was packed. Thanks to everyone who came out and waited so patiently during the long signing line. As promised, I did a reading from THE LAST OLYMPIAN and the response was very enthusiastic.

While on the road, I finished a debut novel called Graceling by Kristin Cashore. It’s set in a world of seven kingdoms, where certain children are born with Graces – super abilities. The main character Katsa has the Grace of killing (or so she believes) and so is put to work as an assassin for her uncle the king. Her world is turned upside-down when she meets a young man Po, also a Graceling, who seems to be her match in more ways than one. Adventure and romance ensue. The adventure moved along at a good clip and was enough to keep boy readers (like me) quite happy. The romance was very well done and should appeal to Twilight fans. For my money, in fact, Katsa is a much more interesting main character, because she is anything but a damsel in distress. I wouldn’t put more than even money on Edward in a fight with Katsa. She reminded me a bit of Katniss in the Hunger Games – a strange bit of synchronicity that two kindred spirit characters should have such similar names. Graceling is listed for readers 14 and up, and that sounds about right to me. There are some adult situations, though they are handled very deftly. At any rate, it was a ripping good fantasy and I tore through it in a single day. Highly recommended.

In other news, a cool publicity update for 39 Clues was just posted in School Library Journal. If you’re interested in the latest news about the second book by Gordon Korman, check this out.

Rick Riordan