Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series stands out for the author’s ability to make each new book at least as good as the one before. I find it interesting that the Barnes & Noble review categorizes this book as Young Adult Fiction. The author of the review recognizes that the series is tricky to label, that it “occupies that slippery and subjective space between “young adult” literature and the traditionally grown-up mystery genre.” Hey! That’s the slippery space where this blog lives!
In my own library, it took a while for Bradley’s mysteries to catch on. Just recently word-of-mouth took off, so I will be purchasing titles in the series as they are published. I tend to purchase the first then wait and see with series, mostly because of limited shelf space (a typical Manhattan issue). Over the summer I plan to make the leap into an ebook collection, and look forward to seeing how that changes the collection development decision-making process for fiction in particular. I disagree with those who advocate for buying on demand. As a school librarian it is important for me to put the exciting new titles in front of readers — via displays, booktalks, and hand-selling. In an ebook world, who knows? On top of finding the right vendor, deciding which devices to accommodate, setting up a new system, writing instructions for using the new system, teaching it to students (and faculty), deciding which books to buy in print and which in electronic format (and eventually rewriting the collection development policy), there are changes in marketing strategies to devise. How will I show off new ebooks, and how will I recommend a new title to its perfect reader when that title is not physically in front of me?
It’s a lot to take on, but very exciting. A few weeks ago I was on a panel at the Computers in Libraries conference, and while most of my time was spent talking about reference & research collections, I did conclude by saying that school librarians need to offer ebooks for recreational reading or our teen patrons will quickly learn to go elsewhere, whether to Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble, it hardly matters. If we wait too long, we lose them. They won’t think of the school library when they think of ebooks for their readers, or their smartphones or iPads. I am already too late for 5-10% of my students, who have a habit in place. Hopefully they will happily download books from us too. But it’s not too late for the rest.
All that to say that I am beginning a new feature here on the AB4T blog — from now on I will indicate whether a title is available in ebook and/or audiobook format. For the time being, that information will appear in the tags.
Adult/High School–Readers will be thrilled with Bradley’s beautifully crafted latest “Flavia de Luce” novel that is both suspenseful and laugh-out loud funny. Though this book can stand alone, it is a treat to learn more about Flavia and the eccentric cast of characters that appeared in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009) and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (2010, both Delacorte). Flavia and her trusty bike, Gladys, travel the countryside in search of answers to the long-ago “disappearance” of a village child, the bludgeoning of a traveling gypsy, the murder of a local thug, the identity of a ring of sinister thieves, and the mystery of a suppressed religious sect. Her courage and determination in the face of great danger are extraordinary. She is also dealing with her father’s economic woes and the “sad splendor of the de Luce ancestral home,” along with the fact that her sisters’ wicked treatment of Flavia have ramped up a notch. Also woven through the story is Flavia’s longing for her mother and her loneliness: “whenever I’m with other people, part of me shrinks a little.” Teens will cheer for Flavia’s bravery, her brilliant knowledge of chemistry, and her compassion. A tender ending will stay with readers long after the last page is turned. Bravo for Flavia and bravo for Bradley.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA