Every few months, or at least twice a year, I fall in love with a new book. This year’s first heart-pounder is a young adult title called October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, written by the amazing Lesléa Newman and published by my personal dream publisher Candlewick Press. I’ve been a big fan of Lesléa’s work for years, and our sister company Two Lives was proud to publish her book Felicia’s Favorite Story, so I am always interested in seeing her newest work.
So I picked up October Mourning and a short while later I put it down, having read it from front to back THREE times in a row. I was stunned, moved and made breathless by Lesléa’s poems. I was also startled to learn that Lesléa had been invited to be a keynote speaker at the University of Wyoming’s Gay Awareness Week that year, and arrived in Laramie while Matthew lay dying in the hospital. Finding this out lent a real poignancy to my reading of the book. Many people have been powerfully moved by the short tragic life and death of Matthew Shepard, myself included, but Lesléa has turned her deeply personal response into this masterful work: a cycle of sixty-eight poems from various points of view, and written in various poetic forms, that will speak to readers of all ages.
Reading Lesléa’s book prompted my own creative response; I asked her if I could make a book trailer for October Mourning. We love to watch book trailers and had discussed perhaps trying to make them for our clients, but other things kept taking precedence. Lesléa agreed to let me try and I am honored to have this be the first book trailer project for We Love Children’s Books. The final trailer, below, is very close to what I imagined in my head:
I hope everyone falls in love with this book the way I did. I certainly hope that librarians and high school teachers will. It’s full of elements that would make for a rich classroom discussion: the poems themselves, the poetic forms, the tragedy, the hate crime, the courtroom events, personal response to historical events…and on and on. Lesléa has provided a teacher’s guide on her website.