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<<October 2016>>
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1. Press Release Fun: Important Ivy & Bean Announcement (and a 6-inch protective layer of lard)


Naturally you know what tomorrow is.

You don’t?  Doggone calendars.  You’d think they’d have the wherewithal to remember that October 21st is Ivy & Bean Day.  And now here’s the interesting part.  You heard it here first, folks, but Ivy & Bean are going to have . . .  AN ELEVENTH BOOK!!

Don’t believe me?  Hear it from Ms. Annie Barrows herself:

barrowsWhen I finished Ivy and Bean Take the Case, the tenth book in the series, I figured it was time to take a break from my girls. Why? Because ten books are a lot. Ten books are bigger than my head. Ten books are really heavy. Ten books are enough. Besides, I was writing a novel for grownups. I was busy.

When my novel came out and I toured for it, I couldn’t help noticing that grownup audiences are incredibly well-behaved.  No one falls out of her chair. No one pulls his neighbor’s hair. No one cries. No one has to go to the bathroom right now. No one asks me how old I am. But also: no one asks me what my favorite color is. No one wants to hear interesting facts about being eaten by squids. No one laughs so hard she has to go to the bathroom right now.

I missed kids.

One day when I was sick of the thing I was supposed to be working on, I wrote a scene about Ivy and Bean and one of those weird dolls that’s supposed to look like a real baby. I laughed and put it away.  A little while later, I wrote another scene, about quicksand this time. I laughed some more.  Eventually, it occurred to me that

(a)    I was having fun

(b)   I missed little kids

(c)    A lot of readers wanted another Ivy and Bean book

(d)   Why didn’t I just go ahead and write one?

So I did.

Sophie Blackall had her own two cents to add.

blackallThe number one question I get asked in school visits is, ‘WHEN will there be a new Ivy and Bean???’ For years, I have left behind a trail of frustrated second graders, shaking their collective fists. Finally I’ll be able to hold my head high and say, ‘Soon, my friends. SOON.’ You have no idea what a relief this will be. Plus I get to work with Annie and Victoria again. Which is so much fun it isn’t really work at all.

In the meantime, Ivy and Bean haven’t just been lying around eating candy. They are hard at work advocating for vaccination against measles and will be appearing in a hilarious (and informative) comic book, in association with The American Academy of Pediatrics and The Measles and Rubella Initiative. 375,000 copies of the books, Ivy and Bean vs. The Measles will be distributed to doctors’ offices across the country this Fall in English and Spanish language editions!

This is, insofar as I can tell, big news.  I have never, ever seen a publisher with the guts to take on immunization.  I mean, check out these posters:



So there you have it folks.  A new Ivy & Bean on the horizon and a very worthy cause.  Not too shabby for a Friday, eh?


4 Comments on Press Release Fun: Important Ivy & Bean Announcement (and a 6-inch protective layer of lard), last added: 10/21/2016
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2. Dad and Son Write!

 And here's what I was emailed last night. A father-and-son novel, written across continents. I said I'd give it a plug, as one of them, the son, lives right here Down Under, and they have an online launch tonight, 6.00 p.m Adelaide time. If you have time, why not wander over and find out what they have to say?

 Here's where it's happening, and you can sign in just before 6.00 p.m Adelaide time.

 Aliens, Vampires and Werewolves…Oh, my!

Blood of Invidia” isn’t full of those cute, candy eating “ET” aliens, or your sparkly “Tween Vampires”. It’s time for you to run (and your little dog too)!
This Science Fiction novel begins 10,000 years ago, a majestic race waged war across our galaxy. They were the Invidians and they conquered worlds, driven to build their empire and fulfill their destiny. But they were mortal, so they sought the secret to eternal life. They found it.
And then the Invidians disappeared.
In our near future, powerful and deadly aliens battle in the streets of New York, captured on social media. The question of “Are we alone?” is answered.
Shortly after, three friends find themselves entangled with a mysterious stranger, discovering that humanity isn’t so high on the food chain, and might just be a breadcrumb on the path paved with the “Blood of Invidia”.

Tom Tinney is an award winning “Biker-Nerd” Science Fiction author. He’s published one novel and has contributed to numerous short story and flash fiction anthologies. His short story “Pest Removal” was nominated for a nationally recognized award. He has a number of projects in the works, some available on his website. He resides in WI with his wife and dogs. Ride safe, ride often.

Morgen Batten is a first time author with a penchant for writing descriptive and intense scenes. He is an avid reader, and gamer, with a love for all that is Fantasy and Science Fiction. He resides in Adelaide Australia.
“Blood of Invidia” will be released the third week in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon worldwide: https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Invidia-Maestru-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01L9DRW2U
More information about the project is available at: http://www.tomtinney.com/blood-of-invidia/
A short Book Video can be seen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/3eciBjbG-3c

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3. Book Clubs

What about a book makes it a good candidate for book clubs?


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4. Guest Post: Traci Sorell on Signing with a Literary Agent

Kansas State U. Powwow with son Carlos & cousin Matthew Lester (senior)
By Traci Sorell
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I had no idea how beneficial an agent could be when I attended my first SCBWI conference in October 2013.

I quickly realized how much about the industry I did not know.

I began to network with other children's writers, especially fellow Native Americans, and when it came time to look for an agent, I utilized that network extensively.

I questioned fellow writers with representation, especially those from Native/people of color backgrounds, about their experience. I asked how agents had presented themselves at conferences or other events. I read agent online interviews and social media posts.

I wanted my agent to be a steadfast partner with a strong work ethic. It is a long-term relationship, so both people have to be dedicated to maintaining it. I required someone who was excited about my work and associated with a well-respected agency.

Traci's Reading Chair
Ideally, I wanted someone who had editorial experience that reflects what I write—fiction, nonfiction, and Native/POC subjects. To be honest, this makes for a small submission list, so I did expand beyond that.

When I communicated with agents via email and telephone, I tracked whether what they shared reflected my list.

My gut got an extreme workout when I received two offers of representation on the same day. I cannot stress enough the importance of developing and checking in with trusted mentors.

Ultimately, I accepted Emily Mitchell's offer of representation with Wernick & Pratt Agency. She met every single item on my list. Her clients contacted me quickly and gave their honest feedback about her representation.

Emily had vetted me with my editor at Charlesbridge, her former employer. We had both done our homework.

To me, it is kismet that Emily presented at that first conference I attended—and in my home state of Oklahoma too! That day, she shared her desired client attributes—voice, authority, pragmatism and flexibility. I'd like to think I resemble her list, too.

Cynsational Notes

Follow @TraciSorell 
Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies. She has been an active member of SCBWI since August 2013.

In April 2016, Charlesbridge acquired her first nonfiction picture book, We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, from the slush pile.

The story features a panorama of modern-day Cherokee cultural practices and experiences, presented through the four seasons. It conveys a universal spirit of gratitude common in many cultures.

Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.

She is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

She also has a Master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. Previously, she taught at the University of North Dakota School of Law and the University of New Mexico.

She also worked as an attorney assisting tribal courts nationwide, advocated for national Native American health care, and directed a national nonprofit serving American Indian and Alaska Native elders. She now lives in the Kansas City area.

See also Story to Contract: Traci Sorell’s Incredible Journey by Suzanne Slade from Picture Book Builders. Peek: "Be grateful. Every day. If you approach your creativity and the process of writing from a place of gratitude, it opens you up. You will be more aware of story ideas, available to hear critiques that improve your craft, and connected to others around you in the kidlit world. Gratitude opens up receptivity."

Emily Mitchell began her career at Sheldon Fogelman Agency, handling submissions, subsidiary rights, and coffee. She spent eleven years at Charlesbridge Publishing as senior editor, contracts manager, and director of corporate strategy. After a brief post-MBA stint in the non-publishing world, Emily returned to children's books at Wernick & Pratt.

Her clients include Geisel Honor winner April Pulley Sayre, author/photographer of Best In Snow (Beach Lane, 2016); Caron Levis, author of Ida, Always (Atheneum, 2016); and Frank W. Dormer, author/illustrator of The Sword in the Stove (Atheneum, 2016) and Click! (Viking, 2016).

Emily holds a bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University, a master's in secondary English education from Syracuse University, and an MBA from Babson College. She lives outside Boston.

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5. The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan, 88pp, RL4

Patricia MacLachlan is a big name in kid's books. Author of the Newbery winner, Sarah Plain and Tall, a classroom staple, as well as many other novels and picture books, I have reviewed only two of her books. The title of her newest book, The Poet's Dog, hooked me immediately. As did the length of the book. As a librarian at a school where the majority of students are English Language learners who are not reading at grade level, short books like this give them a sense of accomplishment needed to persevere with longer books. As an adult reader, I found The Poet's Dog to be alternately charming and frustrating, not sure what to make of this book. In the end, I decided to read it as a fairy tale and that helped quiet the the questioning voices in my head, allowing me to enjoy MacLachlan's book as I know young readers will.

The Poet's Dog begins with a haiku-like verse, "Dogs speak words/ But only poets/ And children/ Hear." This is the magical premise that sustains the story of Nickel and Flora, siblings lost in a snowstorm who are rescued by Teddy, the dog of the title. Teddy guides the two back to a cabin in the woods belonging to Sylvan, the poet. Slowly, over days, Teddy tells the children about Sylvan, who rescued him from the pound, and the children tell Teddy about the car stuck in the snowbank and their mother leaving to get help. Teddy tells the children about the poetry class held in the cabin and his love of the The Ox-Cart Man, a Caldecott winning picture book written by Pulitzer prize winning poet, Donald Hall, which he hears as a poem. Sylvan becomes ill and Ellie, a student of his, gets him to the doctor and, along with Teddy, becomes heir to his estate when he dies. Teddy refuses to leave the cabin, which is how he is able to rescue the children and keep them safe, but off the grid, until the storm clears. 

Like siblings in a fairy tale, Nickel and Flora deal marvelously with the challenges they encounter. They make a fire and tend to it, get wood from the shed and cook with the provisions left in the pantry. Taking the role of cook, Flora explains, "It's not because I'm a girl that I cook. I like it. It's in the herbs. Like science. When I grow up and have twenty-seven cats and dogs and become a horse trainer, I will have a large collection of herbs." Nickel writes in a notebook, sharing his view of life snowed in at the cabin. Teddy says his writing is, "funny, sly, and sometimes poignant. Sylvan taught me the word poignant." Sylvan thinks that poignancy "may be the most important thing in poetry." 

And, The Poet's Dog is definitely poignant. Teddy, who, it is revealed, is an Irish Wolfhound, is clearly a reliable caretaker for Nickel and Flora and readers will never worry about their eventual rescue. But, readers will begin to worry about Teddy and what will become of him. Just before Sylvan dies, he tells Teddy that he hopes he will "find a jewel or two." This proves to be a prophetic little mystery that is solved by the (happy) end of the story. So what did I find frustrating about The Poet's Dog? I think I made the mistake of not reading it as a fairy tale from the start, which left me worried and frustrated when I realized that Nickel and Flora's parents must be wild with worry upon realizing they have left the car stuck in the snow bank and that there would be no way they wouldn't be found sooner. I went into this book not realizing that I needed a willing suspension of disbelief, despite the poem at the start! I know that I will return to this book and read it again, maybe even out loud to students. It is magical in the best way, because it's about the magic of words and writing and that, even with a willing suspension of disbelief, is poignant.

One note that I feel bears repeating: I often reading other reviews of books before writing my own, to see what others are thinking and to find a perspective other than my own. I often read the reviews at Kirkus, an industry magazine. In the last year or so, every review (of children's books) makes note of the color of the characters in the book. The review of The Poet's Dog alerted me to the fact that, on the jacket art, the siblings appear to be brown skinned children with black hair while the text describes Nickel as "having blond hair, implying whiteness." Miscue on the part of the artist, Kenard Pak or calculated choice on the part of the art director and editor?

Source: Review Copy

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6. Turtle in Paradise

Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random House. 177 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten.

Premise/plot: Turtle, our heroine, is sent to live with her aunt and her cousins in Key West, Florida. The novel is set during 1935. And the Great Depression is one of the reasons why she's sent. Her mother is a housekeeper, and her new employer does not like children...at all. She needs the job so she sends her daughter away to live with her sister. Turtle's arrival is a surprise! She arrives before the letter does. Turtle brings with her one cat, Smokey. Her cousins are Bean, Kermit, and Buddy. The friends she hangs around with? The Diaper Gang.

My thoughts: What did I love most about this one? Practically everything. I loved Turtle's voice. I loved getting to know her. I loved getting inside her head. I also loved the setting and atmosphere of this one. One definitely gets a sense of time and place and culture. I also loved the characterization and the relationships. Seeing Turtle get to know her grandmother was priceless. Not because the grandma was sweet and lovely. But because she was just as fierce as Turtle herself.

I reread this one because I was excited about Full of Beans. I thought that Full of Beans was a sequel. It isn't. It's a prequel. It's set in 1934. It stars Bean and his family and friends. It's a great book. But I still wish I knew what happened next to Turtle. I don't doubt that Turtle will survive and find a way to thrive--that's who she is--but I do wish to spend more time with all of them.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Carnegie Medal Nominations 2017

First, to anyone at YA Shot in Uxbridge today, have a great day! Second, if anyone here's going to be at the UKYA Blogging Awards at Uxbridge tonight, yay! I'll see you there.  On with the post!

photo from CILIP website

It seems to to come round quicker and quicker every year, Yesterday, the nominations for the CILIP Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway medals were released. Due to my being at uni now, I sadly don't have the brilliant booklet my school librarian produced which had all the blurbs of the books recommended, so this post is based upon a)the bits I've heard from social media over the year and b)when I googled the things with interesting titles. But here- a list of the books that I am glad to see on the list, and would totally bump up a reading pile if I ha
d time to do any reading for pleasure right now.

  • Crush by Eve Ainsworth. I've heard people say how well written Ainsworth's characters are in both this and 7 Days, so  even with the heavy subject, it should be good.
  • Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman. Othello in space with a girl as the lead? I've had this on my pile at home for ages, but the concept of this is great and so is Blackman.
  • Twenty Questions for Gloria by Martyn Bedford. I like thrillers when I read them, I just haven't really read that many. I should though. 
  • What's A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne. I'm sorry, I haven't read any in this feminist trilogy/series (not sure which...) but so many people say good things about it.
  • Why I Went Back by James Clammer. Myth and magic and mystery? And maybe a better version of Skellig? 
  • Monsters by Emerald Fennell. The atmosphere of  an Enid Blyton story (which I loved when I was little) plus murder? Yep.
  • The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. From the blurb, the story of a refugee in a detention centre, and a girl with a notebook of family history, it looks beautiful. 
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Alternate history and fantasy and a badass main character. Looking forwards to it.
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. So many people have told me to read Oseman's work. Some day, hopefully.
  • Unboxed by Non Pratt. Loved Remix and Trouble, hoping for more good things. 
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Again, loved Between Shades of Grey, and hoping for another book of similar quality. 
  • Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens. Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic for Tea were just fun reads-mystery, friendship, and a Chinese main character. I should catch up on this series.

And also, the things I have read and think totally deserve to be here!
  • All Of The Above by Juno Dawson. About finding your identity, and with some pretty good poetry.
  • George by Alex Gino. A middle-grade story about a transgirl, which just left me feeling happy.
  • London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning. I read this book about my favourite city in on sitting and it's full of great characters and adventure. 
That's not to say the other books are undeserving! There's 114 of them, as well as 93 nominated for the Kate Greenaway award, and I applaud the judges who will read ALL of them. But even more applause goes to all the creators who made the books. Congratulations on the nomination, and good luck!

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8. This Is Sadie Shortlisted

A photo posted by Sara O'Leary (@123olearyo) on

This Is Sadie is shortlisted for the Quebec Writers Federation Prize for Children’s/YA Literature.

Here's the complete list:
  • Bonnie Farmer; Marie Lafrance, ill.‚ Oscar Lives Next Door(Owlkids Books)
  • Sara O’Leary; Julie Morstad, ill.‚ This Is Sadie (Tundra Books)
  • Mélanie Watt‚ Bug in a Vacuum (Tundra)

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9. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Suspense or Manipulation? by Claudia Mills from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek: "Vary chapter endings so that some can offer, e.g., satisfying closure on a scene, or a humorous or serious reflection."

Synopsizing Your Way to Success by Vaughn Roycroft from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "What I mean is, the words came pouring out, in a way they hadn’t in weeks. Much more so than they would be if I’d plunged in cold, or if I’d started a scene chart."

Smarter Not to Rhyme My Picture Book? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "That’ll give you the read-aloud quality you’re probably aiming for, but without the challenges inherent in trying to tell a story while maneuvering the rules of rhyme."

Finding Your Way Into a Story by April Bradley from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Character is a writer’s lodestone, and we enter our stories in various ways through them: what they want, what they’re doing, how they look, what they think, how they feel."

What's Your Character's Hook? Does Your Hero or Heroine Have A Special Skill or Talent? by Angela Ackerman from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "What you choose for your character doesn’t have to be mainstream–in fact, sometimes unusual talents add originality (like knowing how to hot wire a car…especially if the character happens to be a high school principal!)"

Interview: Mark Gottlieb, Literary Agent at Trident Media, by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "So it really depends but I try my best to leave creative decision matters ultimately up to the author and/or editor in order to avoid stepping on any toes." See also Top Children's Literary Agents, 2016-2017 (YA, MG, PB). Note: based on reported, not total, sales.

On Writing the American Familia by Meg Medina from The Horn Book. Peek: "That’s an experience familiar to fifty-four million people — seventeen percent of our population — who identify as Latino in the U.S. today. So it’s fair to say that I’m writing about the American family."

Got a ‘reluctant reader’? Try poetry, says author Kwame Alexander by Julie Hakim Azzam from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Peek: "Sports, he said, 'is a great metaphor for life,' and a lure to talk about other things such as family and friendships." See also Teen Read Week by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children.

Revise or Give Up? by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "If there are weaknesses to your manuscript that you or someone else has identified, or if it’s in a very crowded category (zombies, for example) and you just don’t know if you can make a dent, I would really dig in to the area that needs work."

How Your Hero's Past Pain Will Determine His Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "In real life, who we are now is a direct result of our own past, and so in fiction, we need to look at who our story’s cast were before they stepped onto the doorstep of our novel."

Thoughts on Stereotypes by Allie Jane Bruce from Reading While White. Peek: "The fact that (most) people don’t believe that any one of these stereotypes applies to the entire population of Black women doesn’t mean that they’re not stereotypes."

Things Boys Have Asked Me by Joe Jiménez from Latinix in Kidlit. Peek: "Sometimes we might even forget they are there. Other times, we let these questions stick to us, like splinters, buried in our hands and feet."

Managing Crowds of Characters from Elizabeth Spann Craig. Peek: "...my tricks this time didn’t seem to work that well, at least for this particular regular reader. As well, I didn’t use as many of my reminder tags/dialogue clues."

Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Stopping an Event from Happening by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "(Inner Motivation): safety and security."

Writing a Series: How Much Do We Need to Plan Ahead? from Jami Gold. Peek: "...for those who write by the seat of their pants or for those who like experimenting with ideas even as plotters, the story of their current book might be a mystery, much less the stories of future releases."

Do Your Settings Contain Emotional Value? by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...even though time has passed, an echo of that old hurt and rejection will affect him while in this restaurant."

Windows & Mirrors: Promoting Diverse Books for the Holidays & Beyond by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Last fall children’s booksellers in the Northern California Children’s Booksellers Alliance and the New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council challenged each other to see which region could sell the most diverse books in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This year that challenge is back."

Character Rules by Yamile S. Méndez from Project Middle Grade Mayhem. Peek: "I've compiled a list of ways in which I can explore my characters' traits to understand their desires, goals, and motivations from which all my stories enfold."

Cynsational Giveaways
This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Wow! I'm honored that my picture book Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins)(discussion guide) is highlighted on the Native American Children's Literature Recommended Reading List and Discussion Guide from the First Nations Development Institute in Celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Peek: "First Nations partnered with Debbie Reese, Ph.D. (Nambé Pueblo)... The idea is to encourage a 'national read' and discussion about these important Native narratives." See also Ten Ways You Can Make a Difference. #NativeReads

What else? In the wake of the recent presidential debates, I've been thinking about gender-power dynamics with regard to joint public speaking events.

Male authors frequently interrupt or punctuate female authors' answers with their own opinions. The one male author on a panel will likely say more than his three female co-panelists put together, never mind their efforts to graciously participate or the fact that they don't interrupt him. Moderators too often serve only to reinforce these predispositions.

This is so common that women children's-YA writers frequently joke about the symbolism of the microphone. It's humor that comes from pain, plus truth, plus a determination to prosper anyway. It's a coping device that shouldn't be necessary.

At this moment in the national dialogue, let's clean our own house and do better in the future.

Are you on Instagram? Find me @cynthialeitichsmith. See also Instagram for Authors by Stephanie Scott from Adventures in YA Publishing.

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10. Bedlam Theater's Sense & Sensibility

One of the main points about writing a pop culture blog is that most of what you write about is available for your readers to consume.  In fact, much of what I write is from a perspective that assumes that my readers have already read the book, seen the movie, watched the TV show, and are now willing to talk about them with someone who is equally informed.  Which is part of the reason why I don't

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11. Full of Beans

Full of Beans. Jennifer L. Holm. 2016. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Look here, Mac. I'm gonna give it to you straight: grown-ups lie. Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don't tell the truth. But they're the lying liars.

Premise/plot: Full of Beans is the prequel to Jennifer L. Holm's Turtle in Paradise. Both books are set in Key West, Florida. Full of Beans is set in 1934, and Turtle in Paradise is set in 1935. Bean, a character first introduced in Turtle in Paradise, narrates the book. And WHAT A CHARACTER Holm has given us!!! I wish Bean starred in a dozen books! That is how much I love and adore him.

So what is it about? It's the Great Depression and Bean and his family--the whole community, the whole nation--is in need. Bean does what he can to help his family out while his Dad is off crossing the country looking for any job he can get. But it isn't until the end of the book that Bean's inspiration pays off. Until then, he too is prone to trying anything and everything to bring home what nickels and dimes he can.

Bean has two brothers: Kermit and Buddy. He has a very hard-working mother and a MEANIE of a grandmother.

The book opens with Bean trying to determine if the government's visitor to Key West is good news or bad news....

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure the plot is wow-worthy on its own. But. Because it's BEAN I was engaged start to finish. The characters make this novel well worth reading. Even if you don't love, love, love historical fiction.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Thinking About My Writer’s Notebook in a Digital Age

Without a notebook, my great ideas are going unrecorded and, ultimately, forgotten.

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13. Middle Grade vs. Young Adult

There are several key differences between these two types of novels.


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14. Another Day As Emily

Another Day as Emily. Eileen Spinelli. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mrs. Harden nearly died today.

Premise/plot: Suzy, the heroine, becomes jealous of her younger brother, Parker, when he saves Mrs. Harden's life by calling 911 and becoming the town's "little hero." The situation continues perhaps because Suzy's mom can't resist supporting, encouraging, enabling the hero-complex--cape and all. Suzy's friend, Alison, is good for her, for the most part. But Alison doesn't love to read, and, doesn't really enjoy going to the library for tween-time. Suzy, likewise, doesn't really want to be an actor and audition for a play--but she does anyway. So--perhaps unrealistically--the library's tween program meets weekly (or even several times a week?) and has a theme of the 1800s. This library program has homework too. And not even reading club type homework--reading and discussing the same book. Suzy's project is Emily Dickinson. And in light of failure--as she sees it, she did not get a part in the play--she decides to become a recluse for the summer. She only wants to be called Emily; she only wants to dress in white; she will no longer do technology. This phase is worrying to her parents and friends. Will Suzy ever want to be Suzy again?

My thoughts: Out of all the elements in this one, I think I like her friendship with Gilbert best. Though that isn't quite fair. I also like Mrs. Harden very much. This verse novel is a quick read. Suzy's emotions are up, down, and all over the place. She just doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin most of the time. That part is certainly easy to relate to, I think, for readers of the right age. I don't necessarily "like" verse novels. But at least verse novels are quick reads.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. A Weeks Reflections and Student Work

Thanks for stopping by the blog.  Last week I promised to share student work and my reflections after a week of Getting Kids Excited About Writing. As I listened to teachers, talk about… Continue reading

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16. Road Trip Reading #3

This weekend is a four day weekend for schools in our state so we are going to visit my oldest son in college! I will have to be driving, though, so I won't get a lot of reading done in the car.  Hopefully I will have time to read while I am away.  I am in the middle of reading Scary Out There and am loving it!  I am also reading Shuffle Repeat because it just came in with our latest order at school.  Fingers crossed that I come back having finished both!

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17. Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies

Sometimes I will do a cold reading to a class of kids when I want to get a group opinion on a picture book. Occasionally, I will love a picture book that I read in the silence of my own home and it falls flat when I read it out loud to a group of kids. And vice versa. More than once I have not been moved by a picture book only to have the audience go crazy for it. I read Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by the marvelous Benji Davies (author and illustrator of Grandad's Island), out loud without even cracking the spine first, to two classes of kindergarteners and it was a hit - for all of us. Also an Octopus turned out to be a special treat for me because it is a book about story telling and how to tell a story, something dear to my heart. This is especially so since I became the librarian in a school where more than two-thirds of the student body are English language learners, less than two-thirds are reading at grade level and very few have the stamina to read a whole book (that is not a graphic novel). I am constantly talking to my students about story structure, the problem and solving the problem and Also an Octopus perfectly packs this lesson into a brilliantly and brightly illustrated picture book that is so fun to read.

 I was especially excited to learn that debut author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, a former children's bookseller and event coordinator at a well loved, independent San Francisco bookstore, was inspired to write Also an Octopus after repeated readings (out loud, for work) of Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back. When she asked herself, "Why is this book so good?" the answer she realized that it is the "perfect basic story, stripped down to the bare parts: Bear, quite simply, wants his hat back." This led Tokuda-Hall to begin writing a story about an octopus who wants to travel to far away galaxies but first, she realized, "Every story starts the same way . . . with nothing."

Moving on from nothing, every story needs a character. How about an octopus who plays the ukulele? But, Tokua-Hall tells readers, "in order for it to be a story, and not just an octopus, that octopus needs to want something." Thus, the problem is identified and the main character can spend the rest of the story solving the problem! As you can see from Davies's wonderfully bright illustrations that pop with purples, yellows and oranges, there are many ways to solve this problem. Tokuda-Hall, who said she felt like she "won the illustrator lottery" when she was paired with Davies, felt that Davies not only shared her vision for this story but "made it so much better and cooler" with the strong sense of story that his illustrations embody. I couldn't agree more! The words and pictures are perfectly paired in Also an Octopus, with Davies's artwork bringing the crazy world embodied in the text to life.

Whether you are looking for a spectacularly illustrated picture book that is a delight to read out loud (or to yourself) or a tool to teach story structure and story telling to kids (or adults), Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing is a MUST.

Source: Review Copy

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18. Feeling Neglected?

I am busy preparing for the Quaker Craft Fair tomorrow. (Oct. 22nd, 2016 from 10 am to 3 pm).  So I have not posted this week.

This does not mean that I stopped reading.  I continue to revisit cozy mysteries from my past with Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series. 

I read Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.  I owe you a review.  Til then, click through to see what Goodreads folks have to say about this historical middle grade fiction.  My opinion?  Good read.

Well I have to open up the Meeting House at 7 am.  So good night!

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19. Press Release Fun: Institute of Children’s Literature Quarterly Contest

Generally speaking, I tend to go whole weeks without a press release to my name.  Then I get a whole slew of them submitted in a single week.  So far I’ve one on Tuesday, one today, and probably one tomorrow or Saturday.  It’s a full life.  If the one on Tuesday was for librarians, the one today is for the up-and-coming children’s authors out there.  A little contest that’s part writing challenge, part money in your pocket.


Institute of Children’s Literature Announces Quarterly Contest

Awarding $1,300 in cash prizes and accepting entries through October 31, 2016.

This could be one way of finding a little extra cash for gifts come holiday time. All you have to do is pull out your shamrocks, jack-o-lanterns, or maybe a couple of heart shaped candies, and start writing. Then enter the Institute of Children’s Literature holiday-themed writing contest!

“For me, the most fun is announcing the winners of the $1,300 in cash prizes,” says ICL Director Katie Davis. “And I get to have that fun every quarter, since we have these contests four times a year.” The Institute awards five cash prizes divided into varying levels including $650 for the first place winner, $350 for second place, and $100 for third, fourth and fifth place.

The holiday-themed contest is for any holiday, so we’ve gotten some really fun submissions, says judge Nancy Coffelt, an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. “Every submission is judged on clarity, liveliness, potential in the market, since one of the things we do to help writers is get their work sold.” Nancy is the award-winning author of numerous picture books, including Big, Bigger Biggest, and Dogs in Space.

As part of the $19 reading fee, contestants are invited to join a free online lesson taught by the judge, and hosted by Katie Davis. (Non-entrants may join for a small fee of $7.) This contest’s lesson will be held on December 1, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.ET. That’s when the five winning entrants will be announced and then critiqued, so attendees can see how even a winning submission can be improved upon. Invaluable writing tips and tricks are shared. One attendee, Cynthia, said, “It was exciting to enter my first contest and to learn what is gleaned from the winner’s techniques. Great tips and suggestions!” The webinars also offer participants a sneak peak at the next contest and have a random drawing of a free critique, worth $99.

For more information or to sign up please visit:



About the Institute



Since 1969 the Institute has taught over 470,000 students with a one-on-one customized method of instruction. Our faculty is made up of published authors and committed educators. Our school offers college level courses (and college credits) where students can learn to write. Our graduates include a poet laureate and a Newbery medalists and often our students get published before they even finish their course. And all of this is attainable right from the comfort of your home.



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20. What I Nominated for Cybils

Audio Book: Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
Easy Reader: Moo Bird by David Milgrim
Early Chapter Book: Posy the Puppy (Dr. KittyCat #1) by Jane Clarke
Middle Grade Speculative Fiction: The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels
Board Book: Cityblock by Christopher Franceschelli
Picture Book (Fiction): Miracle Man by John Hendrix
Elementary/MG Graphic Novel: Alamo All-Stars by Nathan Hale
Young Adult: March: Book Three by John Lewis
Middle Grade Fiction: Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction: Breakthrough by Jim Murphy; Fashion Rebels by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia (one of these got moved from a different category)
Juvenile Nonfiction: Let Your Voice Be Heart by Anita Silvey
Elementary Nonfiction: Nadia the Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still by Karlin Gray
Poetry: Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer
Young Adult: Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchick
Young Adult Speculative Fiction: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

2016 Nominations by category:

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. To Stay Alive

To Stay Alive. Skila Brown. 2016. Candlewick. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is finished.

Premise/plot: I've got two sets of 'two words' that will either compel you to pick this one up or to avoid it. For better or worse. First: DONNER PARTY. Second: VERSE NOVEL.

Mary Ann Graves is the narrator of this historical verse novel. She was nineteen at the start of the journey in the spring of 1846. This one is divided into seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter. Almost all of the poems involve the traveling west and surviving aspect of the pioneer spirit. The landscape and environment do feature in quite a bit. Especially the SNOW.

What this book is not is Little House On the Prairie. This isn't even THE LONG WINTER. People do have tendencies to group books together. That is why I think it is important that DONNER PARTY leap out at you first before you hear of wagon trains, prairies, pioneers, homesteaders, or going west.

My thoughts: There is a bareness to the poems that oddly enough works for me. The narrator does not wear her heart on her sleeve. She's not overly dramatic and sensitive. She doesn't speak of her dreams and feelings and there is absolutely no gushing. (She's no Ann-with-an-e Shirley.)

When I say the poems avoid gushing, I don't mean they are void of description and detail.
The men think they're/ following a trail, a road/ well marked by wheels/ and feet, like a street,/ pointing you/ in the direction you need/ to go. But I know./ We follow a trail of broken things/ tossed from wagons--family heirlooms/ so heavy with memories/ the oxen couldn't pull--/ quilts, spinning wheels, dishes (too much/ dust to see the pattern), wooden bits,/ once part of something rich,/ portraits of great-grandmothers/ who'll spend eternity in the desert,/ watching beasts pull treasures/ while dirty people trail behind.
Some poems are long, descriptive. Others are very short and bare.
this land/ has eaten/ my feet/ chewed them/ ripped them/ cut them/ they bleed/ into land/ that drinks/ them up/ but it is never full
I am so glad I did not read anything about the Donner party as a child when I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls!!!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. My Ah-ha Writing Class

I’ve made my share of confessions here on this blog. I wrote about my struggle to keep a notebook here and here. There’s more. Now that school is in full swing, making time… Continue reading

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23. Box by Min Flyte, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Box by Min Flyte with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw is about one of my favorite things - boxes. Building cardboard box forts as a kid and for my kids, as well as smaller cardboard box houses for dolls and toys, is  and long has been one of my favorite things to do. With Box, Flyte and Beardshaw have created a marvelous story and exploration that little listeners will love. Best of all, and crucial for a book in which boxes are the star, there are TONS of flaps to lift and boxes to peek inside!

Unfortunately, I could not find any illustrations to show you just how fantastically the flaps compliment the illustrations and story so I'll just have to describe them. Thomas, Alice, Sam and Nancy each have a box. What is inside each box? A drum, a blanket, a tricycle and more boxes! Five flaps lift to reveal a toy mouse sleeping in a cozy little box. After the boxes are emptied, of course they need to be played with every bit as much as the things that were inside! Imaginations take off and castles, pirate ships and puppet theaters are created - all with flaps to lift. But wait, there's more! If you put all the boxes together you get a special flap that unfolds, like an accordion, to reveal a rocket ship! But wait - there's even more! A four page gatefold reveals one more creation, followed by tired out inventors and creators asleep - in a box, of course!

Source: Review Copy

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24. Poetry Friday with a review of Animal School: What Class are You?

I have been reviewing books since the early 2000's and over the years I have noticed changes taking place in the children's book world. These changes include the rise of ebooks, the growth of the graphic novel world, and the advancement of what I call nonfiction poetry. These days poets are using their writings to both entertain and educate their readers, teaching them about history, science, geography and other subjects through their poems.

Today's poetry book is just such a nonfiction poetry title. It helps young readers to get to know the animal family that we humans belong to.

Animal School: What Class Are You?Animal School: What Class are You?
Michelle Lord
Illustrated by Michael Garland
Nonfiction Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Holiday House, 2014, 978-0-8234-3045-1
We humans belong to a group of animals called vertebrates. All the animals in this group have spines, and they are divided up into what are called “classes.” The classes that belong in the vertebrates group are mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Some fly and some swim, some have fur, while others have skin, scales, or feathers. The number of vertebrate species that live on earth is enormous, and they are very diverse, but they are all nevertheless connected because they have a string of bones running down their back.
   In this splendid poetry picture book, the author uses poems to introduce us to the classes of animals that belong to the vertebrate family. She begins with the reptiles, telling us what makes reptiles special. We learn, for example, that turtles rely on the sun to warm them up, and when they need to “chill out” they find some cool mud to dig into. Reptiles are interesting because they can either lay eggs or give birth to live young. Many reptiles, like cobras, leave their babies to fend for themselves, but some adopt a different strategy. Alligator mothers are very protective of their young, and when their babies are very small the large and fearsome looking mamas carry them around in their mouths.
   We next move on to fish. These animals are able to get oxygen from the water that they swim in. They have smooth skin that is sometimes “cloaked / in flaky scales,” and are cold-blooded animals, like reptiles.
   The next class the author explores in the one we humans belong to; the mammals. Unlike reptiles, fish, and amphibians, mammals are warm-blooded and they always give birth to live young. Most of them get about on legs and they have “stick-out ears,” which none of the other vertebrates have.
   The author then goes on to tell us about birds, creatures with “hollow bones” and “Feathers that take them / through the sky.” Amphibians follow. Though these animals come in many shapes and sizes, they are have to be born in water, and most need to be in or around water their entire lives.
   This book helps children to better understand the family of animals that they belong to. They will see how the animals in the classes are different and yet also the same, and how they have adapted to occupy the niches that they live in. On the pages readers will see pictures of tadpoles and frogs, a rabbit, a sea horse, an iguana, a congregation of alligators and more. They will see the marvelous variety that can be found in our invertebrate family.

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25. Libraries

Information about how libraries acquire and categorize their books.


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