little brown & company


Top left photo courtesy Lee Towndrow/Little, Brown and Company

On his first day in the seventh grade, Sherman Alexie opened up his school-assigned math book and found his mother’s maiden name written in it. “I was looking at a 30-year-old math book,” he says — and that was the moment he knew that he needed to leave his home.

Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in the state of Washington. His mother was one of the few people who could still speak the native language, but she didn’t teach it to him. In his new memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, he describes growing up surrounded by poverty, alcoholism and violence.

Check out his conversation with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross here.

– Petra

anonymous asked:

Hi Amy, I'm a high school student who wants to major in art history. I know that a large part of history in general is asking questions, however I'm unsure about how to ask better questions, would you give some suggestions and examples of higher level questions to ask about an art work? P.S. you blog is amazing and thank you for all the resources!

Wow, what a great question! Some of my college students don’t ask how they can ask better questions, so I was so excited when I saw that you are a high school student thinking ahead. Thank you! 

I assume you are taking art history at your high school. This is good - your class has already given you the framework you need to move from basic questioning to more in depth questioning. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? You would think that with art history, the Five Ws + How? would be simple enough to answer. This is not always the case, however, and sometimes the simple questions of Who? or How? or Where? can take an art historian years to answer. A good example of this is attribution: who made a work of art? It sounds like an easy question, but as someone who has shed blood, sweat, and tears on attribution, I can tell you it isn’t. The same is true of iconography (’what’?). On the surface, subject matter shouldn’t be hard to identify or propose, but it can be.  All this to say that if you are worried that asking some of these questions is too basic, you shouldn’t be - you will undoubtedly keep asking them as an art history major, and the answers will not always be easy (or even possible) to find.

Asking (sometimes deceptively) basic questions is all well and good, but how can you ask more in-depth questions about works that are already the subject of lengthy discourse, like the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel? This is, essentially, the writer’s question. To arrive at a probing question, you may want to: 

Practice slow looking. Slow looking is exactly what it sounds like - sitting in front of a work of art and taking time to really look at it. This will be hard to do during a class session, but you can do this after class (or beforehand, if you know the period or artist being covered). As part of the slow looking exercise, write down your initial response to the work, and note throughout your time looking how your initial response has evolved and why.

Question a work of art’s formal elements. Think about color, line, texture, light, shadow, space, perspective, volume… Why do you think the artist made the decisions s/he did? Here is a list of formal analysis questions to get you started. If you email me,  amy [at] caravaggista [dot] com, I can send you the “Questions Sheet” I give to my students.

Ask yourself what ascribes meaning to a work. In a similar vein, you can consider why a work of art is being discussed in class (in other words, why it has been deemed important). Is it the subject matter? The composition? The work’s cultural or historical context? The fame of the artist? The expense of materials used? All of the above, and more? Why or why not?

Look at a work of art using a particular methodology. Art historians use lots of different methods to analyze works of art. If you haven’t yet learned about art theory or methods, consider picking up a copy of Michael Hatt and Charlotte Klonk’s Art History: A critical introduction to its methods (Manchester University Press, 2006). The authors examine the origins of art history as a discipline and explain each major method in practice, from formalism to semiotics (and more!). Examining a work of art using a particular framework can yield surprising and inspiring results!

Read about a work of art you are having a hard time formulating questions for. Specifically, read art historical articles about the work and consider the author’s argument. Do you agree with their analysis? Why or why not? Is there an aspect of the work or its context that you think should be more fully addressed (or considered, in the first place)? What evidence does the author use to support their analysis? 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to ask better questions, but I hope it helps get you started!  There are no bad questions; all questions help deepen your understanding and analysis. 

I’m going to include a break here. After the break, you’ll find recommended reading and resources.

Recommended Reading

Many of these resources are geared toward how to write about art, but I recommend them because the first step in writing is asking questions, and these authors’ discussions could be informative!

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing about Art. Boston; Toronto: Little, Brown, and Company, 1985.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking Penguin, 1977. 

Hatt, Michael and Charlotte Klonk. Art History: A critical introduction to its methods. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. 

Huntsman, Penny. Thinking About Art: A thematic guide to art history. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.

Pop, Andrei. How to Do Things with Pictures: A Guide to Writing in Art History. Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University, 2008. 

Taylor, Joshua C. Learning to Look: A Handbook for the Visual Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957. 

Was  the publication of “A Series Of Unfortunate Events” nothing but a marketing scam?

The success of the series remains a mystery to this day: why would any publisher in their right mind publish and promote a book that prides itself on being terrible, let alone thirteen? There was simply no market for it. Although its sales could retroactively be explained as a collective enthralling of morbid fascination, it must have been hard for Daniel Handler to get his foot in the door. Someone, somewhere, apparently thought that an abysmal product which revels in its own filthiness was a good idea. So where was the profit? Who was originally supposed to benefit from Daniel Handler’s ill-conceived and ungodly experiment?

Other writers, that’s who.

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Lafcadio Hearn (27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904)

Known also by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲). An international writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the United States, Hearn is also known for his writings about the city of New Orleans based on his ten-year stay in that city.

Gardens have been created in memory of Lafcadio Hearn in the town of Tramore, County Waterford, Ireland. The Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens reflect the life and extensive wanderings Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo) and tell the wonderful and unique story of his life. In their style and planting they contain elements of the gardening traditions of the countries and cultures traversed by Hearn. The journey begins in a Victorian Garden to commemorate Hearn’s happy childhood summers in Tramore with his grand aunt Sarah Brenane. There is an American Garden, a Greek Garden and a traditional Japanese Tea Garden, in addition to a Stream Garden, ponds, a waterfall and an extensive woodland area. The main elements of design, in particular the use of rocks and water and the plant selection, are influenced by the tradition of a Japanese Strolling Garden. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: 1. Cover detail from Shadowings by Lafcadio Hearn. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1900.  2. Front matter (Koizumi Yakumo) and  3. Frontispiece “The Ocklawaha River From a painting in water-colors by W. J. Harris.” from The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn. Large-Paper Edition. In Sixteen Volumes. Volume I. Leaves from the Diary of an Impressionist; Creole Sketches and Some Chinese Ghosts By Lafcadio Hearn. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922. “The Large-Paper Edition is limited to seven hundred and fifty copies printed at the Riverside Press, Cambridge, U.S.A. Number 221.”  4. Frontispiece “Bamboos in Hearn’s Garden, Tokyo From a photograph by Burton Holmes.” from The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn. Large-Paper Edition. In Sixteen Volumes. Volume XIII. Life and Letters. Edited by Elizabeth Bisland. In Three Volumes. Volume I. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922.  5. Frontispiece “Hearn’s Desk on the Veranda of the Tokyo House From a photograph by Burton Holmes.” and 6. “Lafcadio Hearn in 1900 From a photograph.” from The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn. Large-Paper Edition. In Sixteen Volumes. Volume XV. Life and Letters. Edited by Elizabeth Bisland. In Three Volumes. Volume III and Japanese Letters.  Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922.  


Title: ParaNorman - Meet the Ghosts

Series: Passport to Reading - ISBN: 978-0-316-20982-3

Characters: Norman Babcock, Neil Downe, Grandma Babcock, Sandra Babcock, Perry Babcock, Alvin, Hippy Ghost, Bub the ghost dog, Mrs. Hardman ghost, Soldier Ghost, Mr. Prenderghast    

Creators: Adapted by Lucy Rosen, Based on the animated feature screenplay by Chris Butler, Front cover art by Pete Oswald

Year: 2012 Laika Inc

Publisher(s): Little Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group

Story: Adaption of the early part of the movie.

Good/Bad: The art is directly lifted from the movie, other than the awesome new art for the cover by Pete Oswald. I was really hoping there would be at least new story elements in the book, if not an outright new story, but no luck there. But I love Laika and I love ParaNorman, so ParaNorman stuff is awesome. 


Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886)

Dickinson is almost universally considered to be one of the most significant of all American poets. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Poem ‘In a Library’ and spine detail from Poems by Emily Dickinson. Edited by two of her friends Mabel Loomis Todd and T. W. Higginson. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1910.


Once upon a time, the Internet was viewed by its creators as the ultimate tool for democratic empowerment–a decentralized platform providing a forum where thoughts and ideas could logically discussed. Well, things didn’t quite turn out as those visionaries had hoped. In his new book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, Jonathan Taplin explores how these three companies in particular have used the Internet to make enormous profits, erode individual privacy, and propagate social inequality. Or, to quote The Guardian

“…[A] timely and useful book because it provides an antidote to the self-serving narrative energetically cultivated by the digital monopolies. They have had an easy ride for too long and democracies will, sooner or later, have to rein them in. The first step down that road is to stop viewing them through rose-tinted spectacles and see them for what they really are: enormously powerful corporations that move fast and break things, while minimising their tax bills and shirking the responsibilities that come with their media power.”

And I know I have to build a ladder out of the bones of my fallen family in order to climb to safety.

“117. All My Relations I am related, by blood and marriage, to men who hit women, and to men and women who hit children, and to men and women in jail and in prison and on parole for stealing and robbing and raping and shooting and stabbing and punching and kicking and forging and abetting and neglecting and manslaughtering and murdering and dealing and buying and muling and abandoning and vandalizing and breaking and entering and jacking and driving without insurance and driving under the influence and driving without a license and vehicular homiciding and shoplifting and deserting and violating and failing to pay on time and failing to pay at all and failing to yield and failing to stop and failing and failing and failing and failing. So many felonies and misdemeanors. Therefore, I have been at parties, weddings, births, barbecues, tailgaters, games, proms, funerals, baptisms, and graduations with convicts and ex-convicts whom I love and whom I hate and whom I have met only once and hope to never see again. I have been victimized by some of these criminals. I have been the subject and object of their misdemeanors and felonies. Scholars talk about the endless cycle of poverty and racism and classism and crime. But I don’t see it as a cycle, as a circle. I see it as a locked room filled with the people who share my DNA. This room has recently been set afire and there’s only one escape hatch, ten feet off the ground. And I know I have to build a ladder out of the bones of my fallen family in order to climb to safety.

~ Sherman Alexie, "You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir” (Little, Brown and Company, 2017)

Another Day. Jeffery Farnol. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1929. First edition. Original dust jacket.

“And Olive, hastening through the gathering dusk, took with her a vision of blue eyes, fiercely scornful, widening in sudden horror, smitten with agonized dismay—and Olive smiled … and in that moment was seized in cruel arms while hands, skilled in brutality, choked her to awful silence, and she was whirled up and borne away to a wild, and wind-swept desolation…”

               The Black Sheep Book Review: Huntress by Malinda Lo  

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, a division of the Hachette Book Group 

Year Pubished: 2011 

Number of Pages: 369 

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy 

Target Audience: Teens ages 13 - 18

        For two years the lands have been shrouded gray - the weather grows colder, the crops aren’t surviving, and people are dying in droves. An unexpected invitation from the Fairy Queen arrives at The Academy which thrusts Taisin, a young sage in training, and Kaede, a stubborn Councilman’s daughter, on a journey north to put an end to the desolation plaguing their home. However, Taisin receives a recurring vision of Kaede that alarms her, stirring up intense feelings that an aspiring sage isn’t allowed to have. What ensues is a tale of magic, love, and sacrifice as Taisin and Kaede fight to save their homeland.

        Warriors! Fairies! Sages! Oh, my!

         As a reader and overall nerd, I’m absolutely in love with fantasy novels. Fantasy is my favorite genre of literature, and I can’t get enough of reading about mystical creatures, faraway lands, and magic. So once I opened Huntress I was right back in my element, and I nearly devoured it. Cosmetically speaking it had the makings of a memorable fantasy novel: an enticing cover (I mean come on, this cover is gorgeous!), a map of the world (which I soon became immersed in), and over 300 pages of adventure.   

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I have been told that “Lost Love” is blocked in some other countries on youtube, so I have uploaded the routine to vimeo upon request.