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Books in Brief: Literally by Lucy Keating, The Hawk of the Castle by Danna Smith

Literally by Lucy Keating; HarperTeen, 256 pages ($17.99) Ages 13 and up.
Uber-organized, blond, smart Annabelle has the perfect life, living in a picture-perfect Craftsman bungalow in Venice, Calif., with her terrific parents, her rock-band member older brother and the family’s nasty little dog Napoleon.

That is, her life is perfect, until an author named Lucy Keating visits her English class at school and Annabelle realizes she is a character Keating created, and that her parents’ break-up and the love triangle she finds herself in the middle of - between Elliot, a boy she’s known forever, and the perfectly adorable new boy Will at school - are all part of Keating’s formulaic plot for an entertaining teen romance. Can Annabelle break free and write her own happy ending?

The author of “Dreamology” deftly handles what could be a very annoying premise and the result is a witty, smart teen romance that echoes the Will Ferrell-Maggie Gyllenhaal movie “Stranger Than Fiction” while offering aspiring writers points to ponder about story arcs, plot twists and character development.


The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry by Danna Smith; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; Candlewick Press, $16.99.
Acclaimed artist Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator of Kate DiCamillo’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”) takes us back to medieval times with his glorious, detailed paintings in this informative picture book about falconry, as told by the young daughter of the falconer at a castle. Danna Smith in a lyrical sing-song finds the poetry in this ancient sport (“This is our hawk: a sight to behold, a master of flight, graceful and bold.”) and the careful preparations required as the girl and her father prepare to take the hawk out for a training flight.

More information about the hawk’s perch, the glove, the hawk’s hood, the bells attached to the bird’s leg, the hunt itself is included in italics in helpful information boxes on each page. Smith, herself the daughter of a falconer, includes a fascinating author’s note at the end with information from 1486 suggesting that a person’s rank in society dictated which bird could be used: eagles and vultures for an emperor, peregrines for princes, goshawks for yeomen, kestrels for servants and children.

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