Dog-Eared and Dispatched
We’ve made it to February, literary citizens—which for us at Late Night Library means the launch of a new website and preparations for our upcoming trip to AWP. In this week’s rundown of the wild world of book culture, we present the 2014 literary award winners, spotlighting author Kate DiCamillo and illustrator/author Brian Floca. In addition to this, we take a look at the first wearable book and how “sensory fiction” is setting the stage of a whole new reading experience.
2014 is starting off quite well for Kate DiCamillo: after being named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress on January 2, DiCamillo caps off the month with her second Newbery Medal for her newest novel, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick). DiCamillo has a knack for award-winning it seems, with her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick), earning her the 2001 Newbery Honor and her 2003 novel, The Tale of Despereaux (Candlewick), snagging her her first Newbery Medal. Despite this trend, DiCamillo told Publishers Weekly she was “stunned” when the Newbery committee called to tell her the news: “There was not a single coherent word uttered to them,” she stated. “And after I hung up, I started to think that I may have imagined the whole thing.” Click here to watch the book trailer for Flora & Ulysses. [Publishers Weekly, Vimeo]
The 2014 Caldecott Medal went to Brian Floca for his illustrative work in Locomotive (Jackson/Atheneum/S&S), of which he is also the author. Like DiCamillo, Floca is no stranger to accolades, with three of his books—Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, Lightship, and Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan)—designated as Robert F. Sibert Honor Books. When describing his artistic vision for Locomotive, Floca stated, “Those engines themselves are such fascinating pieces of machinery. They’re really complicated on one level, but they’re also very understandable machines. I was hoping the book would visually convey how they work so that readers could go through the book and piece it together,” thereby gaining a “sense of moving through a landscape and the landscape changing.” [Publishers Weekly]
PW has highlighted the nominee selection for this award season, with the complete list of winners available via the American Library Association. GalleyCat has also provided links to a collection of free samples from this year’s Newbery Award and Newbery honor winners. [Publishers Weekly, The American Library Association, GalleyCat]
Getting lost in the emotional landscape of a book is a common experience for readers of all ages—but what if this connection was enhanced to the extent that you were actually experiencing the feelings of a character? Such a question was apparently weighing heavily on the mind of Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, and Julie Legault, MIT Media Lab researchers who have invented the first wearable book. This book is designed to allow readers to physically experience the sensations that the characters within a story are undergoing. Referred to as “sensory fiction,” this enhanced reading experience takes place via sensors imbedded in both the book and the vest individuals wear while reading. Currently, these sensors include LED lights, air pressure bags, vibration patterns, and a heating device. The book used for the researchers’ prototype is only fitting: The Girl Who Was Plugged in, a Hugo award-winning novella by James Tiptree Jr. According to Heibeck, Hope, and Legault, “Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state trigger discrete feedback in the wearable [vest], whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localised temperature fluctuations.” In their report, the three MIT students said their experiment is about “new ways of experiencing and creating stories”: “Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images. By using a combination of networked sensors and actuators, the sensory fiction author is provided with new means of conveying plot, mood, and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination. These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.” However, as science fiction author Adam Roberts makes clear, this type of sensory experience may not be viewed by everyone as an enhancement to reading: “Books affect our minds; that’s the sort of machines books are. The urge to make the books directly effect our bodies as well is a sort of category error. A massage, or a fairground ride, or the sort of rock concert where there are so many speakers you feel every chord vibrating through your chest: they’re all fine. But they aren’t offering the sorts of pleasures that are uniquely bookish,” he stated, going on to claim that “emotions that start in the head and move into the body are far more effective than faux-emotional responses mimicked by flashing lights and pressure pads.” Click here to watch the demo video and decide for yourself. [GalleyCat, The Guardian, Vimeo]