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1. Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

MadmanPineyWoods Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul CurtisThe Madman of Piney Woods
By Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-63376-5
$16.99
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 30th

No author hits it out of the park every time. No matter how talented or clever a writer might be, if their heart isn’t in a project it shows. In the case of Christopher Paul Curtis, when he loves what he’s writing the sheets of paper on which he types practically set on fire. When he doesn’t? It’s like reading mold. There’s life there, but no energy. Now in the case of his Newbery Honor book Elijah of Buxton, Curtis was doing gangbuster work. His blend of history and humor is unparalleled and you need only look to Elijah to see Curtis at his best. With that in mind I approached the companion novel to Elijah titled The Madman of Piney Woods with some trepidation. A good companion book will add to the magic of the original. A poor one, detract. I needn’t have worried. While I wouldn’t quite put Madman on the same level as Elijah, what Curtis does here, with his theme of fear and what it can do to a human soul, is as profound and thought provoking as anything he’s written in the past. There is ample fodder here for young brains. The fact that it’s a hoot to read as well is just the icing on the cake.

Two boys. Two lives. It’s 1901, forty years after the events in Elijah of Buxton and Benji Alston has only one dream: To be the world’s greatest reporter. He even gets an apprenticeship on a real paper, though he finds there’s more to writing stories than he initially thought. Meanwhile Alvin Stockard, nicknamed Red, is determined to be a scientist. That is, when he’s not dodging the blows of his bitter Irish granny, Mother O’Toole. When the two boys meet they have a lot in common, in spite of the fact that Benji’s black and Red’s Irish. They’ve also had separate encounters with the legendary Madman of Piney Woods. Is the man an ex-slave or a convict or part lion? The truth is more complicated than that, and when the Madman is in trouble these two boys come to his aid and learn what it truly means to face fear.

Let’s be plainspoken about what this book really is. Curtis has mastered the art of the Tom Sawyerish novel. Sometimes it feels like books containing mischievous boys have fallen out of favor. Thank goodness for Christopher Paul Curtis then. What we have here is a good old-fashioned 1901 buddy comedy. Two boys getting into and out of scrapes. Wreaking havoc. Revenging themselves on their enemies / siblings (or at least Benji does). It’s downright Mark Twainish (if that’s a term). Much of the charm comes from the fact that Curtis knows from funny. Benji’s a wry-hearted bigheaded, egotistical, lovable imp. He can be canny and completely wrong-headed within the space of just a few sentences. Red, in contrast, is book smart with a more regulation-sized ego but as gullible as they come. Put Red and Benji together and it’s little wonder they’re friends. They compliment one another’s faults. With Elijah of Buxton I felt no need to know more about Elijah and Cooter’s adventures. With Madman I wouldn’t mind following Benji and Red’s exploits for a little bit longer.

One of the characteristics of Curtis’s writing that sets him apart from the historical fiction pack is his humor. Making the past funny is a trick. Pranks help. An egotistical character getting their comeuppance helps too. In fact, at one point Curtis perfectly defines the miracle of funny writing. Benji is pondering words and wordplay and the magic of certain letter combinations. Says he, “How is it possible that one person can use only words to make another person laugh?” How indeed. The remarkable thing isn’t that Curtis is funny, though. Rather, it’s the fact that he knows how to balance tone so well. The book will garner honest belly laughs on one page, then manage to wrench real emotion out of you the next. The best funny authors are adept at this switch. The worst leave you feeling queasy. And Curtis never, not ever, gives a reader a queasy feeling.

Normally I have a problem with books where characters act out-of-step with the times without any outside influence. For example, I once read a Civil War middle grade novel that shall remain nameless where a girl, without anyone in her life offering her any guidance, independently came up with the idea that “corsets restrict the mind”. Ugh. Anachronisms make me itch. With that in mind, I watched Red very carefully in this book. Here you have a boy effectively raised by a racist grandmother who is almost wholly without so much as a racist thought in his little ginger noggin. How do we account for this? Thankfully, Red’s father gives us an “out”, as it were. A good man who struggles with the amount of influence his mother-in-law may or may not have over her redheaded grandchild, Mr. Stockard is the just force in his son’s life that guides his good nature.

The preferred writing style of Christopher Paul Curtis that can be found in most of his novels is also found here. It initially appears deceptively simple. There will be a series of seemingly unrelated stories with familiar characters. Little interstitial moments will resonate with larger themes, but the book won’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Then, in the third act, BLAMMO! Curtis will hit you with everything he’s got. Murder, desperation, the works. He’s done it so often you can set your watch by it, but it still works, man. Now to be fair, when Curtis wrote Elijah of Buxton he sort of peaked. It’s hard to compete with the desperation that filled Elijah’s encounter with an enslaved family near the end. In Madman Curtis doesn’t even attempt to top it. In fact, he comes to his book’s climax from another angle entirely. There is some desperation (and not a little blood) but even so this is a more thoughtful third act. If Elijah asked the reader to feel, Madman asks the reader to think. Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn’t sock you in the gut quite as hard.

For me, it all comes down to the quotable sentences. And fortunately, in this book the writing is just chock full of wonderful lines. Things like, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and the same can be said of many an argument.” Or later, when talking about Red’s nickname, “It would be hard for even as good a debater as Spencer or the Holmely boy to disprove that a cardinal and a beet hadn’t been married and given birth to this boy. Then baptized him in a tub of red ink.” And I may have to conjure up this line in terms of discipline and kids: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, but you can sure make him stand there looking at the water for a long time.” Finally, on funerals: “Maybe it’s just me, but I always found it a little hard to celebrate when one of the folks in the room is dead.”

He also creates little moments that stay with you. Kissing a reflection only to have your lips stick to it. A girl’s teeth so rotted that her father has to turn his head when she kisses him to avoid the stench (kisses are treacherous things in Curtis novels). In this book I’ll probably long remember the boy who purposefully gets into fights to give himself a reason for the injuries wrought by his drunken father. And there’s even a moment near the end when the Madman’s identity is clarified that is a great example of Curtis playing with his audience. Before he gives anything away he makes it clear that the Madman could be one of two beloved characters from Elijah of Buxton. It’s agony waiting for him to clarify who exactly is who.

Character is king in the world of Mr. Curtis. A writer who manages to construct fully three-dimensional people out of mere words is one to watch. In this book, Curtis has the difficult task of making complete and whole a character through the eyes of two different-year-old boys. And when you consider that they’re working from the starting point of thinking that the guy’s insane, it’s going to be a tough slog to convince the reader otherwise. That said, once you get into the head of the “Madman” you get a profound sense not of his insanity but of his gentleness. His very existence reminded me of similar loners in literature like Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson or The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton, but unlike the men in those books this guy had a heart and a mind and a very distinctive past. And fears. Terrible, awful fears.

It’s that fear that gives Madman its true purpose. Red’s grandmother, Mother O’Toole, shares with the Madman a horrific past. They’re very different horrors (one based in sheer mind-blowing violence and the other in death, betrayal, and disgust) but the effects are the same. Out of these moments both people are suffering a kind of PTSD. This makes them two sides of the same coin. Equally wracked by horrible memories, they chose to handle those memories in different ways. The Madman gives up society but retains his soul. Mother O’Toole, in contrast, retains her sanity but gives up her soul. Yet by the end of the book the supposed Madman has returned to society and reconnected with his friends while the Irishwoman is last seen with her hair down (a classic madwoman trope as old as Shakespeare himself) scrubbing dishes until she bleeds to rid them of any trace of the race she hates so much. They have effectively switched places.

Much of what The Madman of Piney Woods does is ask what fear does to people. The Madman speaks eloquently of all too human monsters and what they can do to a man. Meanwhile Grandmother has suffered as well but it’s made her bitter and angry. When Red asks, “Doesn’t it seem only logical that if a person has been through all of the grief she has, they’d have nothing but compassion for anyone else who’s been through the same?” His father responds that “given enough time, fear is the great killer of the human spirit.” In her case it has taken her spirit and “has so horribly scarred it, condensing and strengthening and dishing out the same hatred that it has experienced.” But for some the opposite is true, hence the Madman. Two humans who have seen the worst of humanity. Two different reactions. And as with Elijah, where Curtis tackled slavery not through a slave but through a slave’s freeborn child, we hear about these things through kids who are “close enough to hear the echoes of the screams in [the adults’] nightmarish memories.” Certainly it rubs off onto the younger characters in different ways. In one chapter Benji wonders why the original settlers of Buxton, all ex-slaves, can’t just relax. Fear has shaped them so distinctly that he figures a town of “nervous old people” has raised him. Adversity can either build or destroy character, Curtis says. This book is the story of precisely that.

Don’t be surprised if, after finishing this book, you find yourself reaching for your copy of Elijah of Buxton so as to remember some of these characters when they were young. Reaching deep, Curtis puts soul into the pages of its companion novel. In my more dreamy-eyed moments I fantasize about Curtis continuing the stories of Buxton every 40 years until he gets to the present day. It could be his equivalent of Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House chronicles. Imagine if we shot forward another 40 years to 1941 and encountered a grown Benji and Red with their own families and fears. I doubt Curtis is planning on going that route, but whether or not this is the end of Buxton’s tales or just the beginning, The Madman of Piney Woods will leave child readers questioning what true trauma can do to a soul, and what they would do if it happened to them. Heady stuff. Funny stuff. Smart stuff. Good stuff. Better get your hands on this stuff.

On shelves September 30th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

First Sentence: “The old soldiers say you never hear the bullet that kills you.”

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Notes on the Cover:  As many of us are aware, in the past historical novels starring African-American boys have often consisted of silhouettes or dull brown sepia-toned tomes.  Christopher Paul Curtis’s books tend to be the exception to the rule, and this is clearly the most lively of his covers so far.  Two boys running in period clothing through the titular “piney woods”?  That kind of thing is rare as a peacock these days.  It’s still a little brown, but maybe I can sell it on the authors name and the fact that the books look like they’re running to/from trouble.  All in all, I like it.

Professional Reviews:

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4 Comments on Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, last added: 7/26/2014
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2. Between Two Worlds, by Katherine Kirkpatrick | Book Review

Travel back in time to the year 1900, and place yourself in the shoes of sixteen-year-old Billy Bah, who lives in the unrelenting wintry land of northern Itta, Greenland.

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3. Discovery


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4. My Laura Ingalls Wilder Adventure

little house

 

Perhaps you didn’t know exactly how nerdy I am, but once I tell you what I am doing you will know for sure. I leave Tuesday for a Laura Ingalls Wilder adventure. I am flying to Wisconsin, where I will meet an Ingalls relative and a Wilder relative. We, along with three other Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie (television show) fans, will be spending the following eight days visiting some Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and attending a 40th Anniversary Little House on the Prairie Cast Reunion taking place in Walnut Grove, Minnesota over the weekend.

Told you. Total nerd.

This will be the only time I do something like this. My girls aren’t into my whole obsession, so I knew if I planned this it would have to be just me and my friends. I’m not bringing much technology, so I won’t be blogging or posting pictures online until we get back. I’ll be sharing my adventures when we return at my Laura Ingalls Wilder blog: http://lauralittlehouseontheprairie.blogspot.com/


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5. Merry Monarch's Wife (1991)

The Merry Monarch's Wife. (A Queens of England Novel). Jean Plaidy. 1991/2008. Crown. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

MY LIFE WILL END WHERE IT BEGAN, FOR IN THE YEAR 1692 I left England where I had gone some thirty years before as a bride to the most romantic prince in Europe. I smile now to consider how ill-equipped I was for such a position, and when I look back I say to myself, “If I had done this…,” “If I had not done that…how much happier my life would have been.” But then, although I was not very young—I was twenty-four, which is a mature age for a princess to embark on marriage—I was quite innocent of the world and had hardly ever strayed from the walls of the convent where I had received my education, or the precincts of the royal palace. 
 
I enjoyed reading Jean Plaidy's The Merry Monarch's Wife. Catherine of Braganza was the queen of Charles II. For those familiar with the reign of Charles II, you can imagine what a life she led for better or worse. The book seeks to capture her personal perspective of her husband, of her marriage, of her adopted country. (She's coming from Portugal to England.)

Plaidy's depiction has Catherine truly in love with the King, and oh-so-aware of his shortcomings. In her reckoning, Charles II could not help himself at all, he was completely incapable of fidelity. Readers catch glimpses here and there of Charles' many, many mistresses. But not as much as you might imagine. That is, the focus is on HER and not truly on him and his activities. She is aware of his favorites at any given time, and at times she's sought out in conversation by mistresses in and out of favor.

There is definitely a lot of POLITICS in Merry Monarch's Wife. Readers learn about various plots and threats and conspiracies. Readers meet men and women who are ambitious and manipulative and power-hungry.

I was familiar, in a way, with some of the details of his reign. But not of what life was like for her before and after. Before her arrival in England and after Charles II's death. This book tells a fairly complete story.

Quotes:
We do not know what the future holds, but I believe that one day you are going to be Queen of England, and when you are, you will do your duty to God and your country.” “Oh yes,” I said fervently, “I will.” I had a mission now. Not only was I going to marry Prince Charles, but I was going to save his soul.
He always called himself an ugly fellow, and when one considered his features that could be true, but his charm was overwhelming. There could never have been a more attractive man. I know that I loved him and one is apt to be unaware of the faults of the object of one’s devotion, but I can vouch for it that I was not alone in my opinion. He used to talk of the ringing of bells, the flowers strewn in his path, the women who threw kisses at him, the shouts of loyalty. “Odds fish!” he said. It was a favorite oath of his. “They gave me such a welcome home that I thought it must have been my own fault that I had stayed away so long.”
He laughed. “You remind me of my mother. You and she will be good friends when you meet, I’ll swear. As for this Catholic ceremony…you see, my dear, you are Queen of this country and you must be married according to the religious observances of the place. But you say you will not be happy…and I cannot allow you to be unhappy. I will tell you how we will resolve this matter. There shall be a ceremony here in this bedchamber. It shall be as you wish, and the other one will take place as arranged on the same day. It means you will have to marry me twice. Could you bear that?” I felt my lips tremble. I was going to weep because I was so touched, so happy. “You are all that I hoped for…and all that I dreamed,” I said emotionally. He looked at me in mock dismay. “Do not have too good an opinion of me, I beg you. I fear you will find me a somewhat sinful fellow.” “Oh no. You are the kindest and best man in the world.” He leaned toward me and kissed my cheek. He was sober suddenly. He said: “You shame me.” Then he was merry again. His gravity seemed always to be fleeting, as though his gaiety was waiting impatiently to break in on it.
Charles is fond of you. He likes you very much…but he will never be faithful to you. It is not in him to be faithful…not to any woman. My father was like him. I saw how my mother lived. So I understand. Accept this weakness in him and he will be grateful to you, he will be kind.
We would drink tea, for I had brought this custom with me from Portugal. For a short time people had thought the beverage very strange, but they were soon aware of the pleasure of taking that soothing drink, and my ladies quickly became as ardent tea drinkers as I myself. Indeed the custom was spreading all over the country.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Reread #28 To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog. Connie Willis. 1998. Bantam. 493 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have every intention of rereading all four Oxford time travel books by Connie Willis this year. Earlier in the year, I reread the first book, Doomsday Book. To Say Nothing of the Dog, the second book, is a book I originally read and reviewed in July 2009. While the first book offers drama, drama, more drama, with just a touch of humor now and then, the second book is a romantic comedy. I happen to love both books though they are very different from one another.

Ned Henry is the hero of To Say Nothing of the Dog. He is on a mission, not a mission of his own choosing perhaps, but a big mission all the same. He is one of many time travelers working for Lady Schrapnell on her latest project: restoring Coventry Cathedral. The novel opens with a very overworked Ned Henry beginning to show severe signs of time-lag. What he needs is rest, permission to rest. That isn't likely to happen if Lady Schrapnell learns his whereabouts. For better or worse, Ned Henry is sent to the past--to Victorian times--to recuperate. He's been given another mission too. This time by someone much nicer and calmer than Lady Schrapnell. The problem? Ned Henry wasn't capable of listening and understanding. Now he's in the past without a real clue of WHY he's there and what he's supposed to accomplish.

Verity Kindle is the heroine of To Say Nothing of the Dog. She is on a mission of her own. While Ned Henry was given the assignment of finding out the whereabouts of the bishop's bird stump, Verity's assignment is to read Tocelyn's diary. The diary is available to read in the future. But the most relevant pages to the Coventry Cathedral project were damaged. So she's been sent to the oh-so-important summer of 1888 to read the newly written diary entries. She's having about as much success as Ned Henry. In other words, not much luck at all! These two work together as best they can. Verity manages to travel back and forth a few times to the future. Their mission--as they see it has changed a bit. They worry that they've damaged the future and that something horrible may happen as a result. Like Tocelyn, they know, was supposed to marry a "Mr. C". They know this for a fact from future diary entries. Yet here they are and she's engaged to someone else! Their "new mission" is to find the identity of "Mr. C." and make sure they meet when they're supposed to meet....

I loved this one. I have always loved this one. It is a delightful time travel novel. I love the humor! I do! It's so very, very funny! And I love the details and the dialogue. This one is just a joy cover to cover!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Echo Company

Great news!

The Echo Company books by Ellen Emerson White are available to buy!

White wrote these books back in the early 1990s, under the name Zach Emerson.



The Echo Company books are set during the Vietnam War, told from the point of view of a young soldier, Michael Jennings. A follow up book, The Road Home, is about a young nurse Michael meets and is about both Rebecca's time in Vietnam and her homecoming. I wrote a pretty in-depth look at these four books, as well as a couple others that refer to the characters in these books, in my 2007 post, Ellen Emerson White: Vietnam.

At the moment they are only available as ebooks from Amazon.

The titles, in order:

Welcome to Vietnam (Echo Company Book 1)

Hill 568 (Echo Company Book 2)

'Tis the Season (Echo Company Book 3)

Stand Down (Echo Company Book 4)

The Road Home (Echo Company)

As I said back in 2007, "It's real. It's death and dying and blood. And Ellen Emerson White doesn't shy away from any of it. And what she has done is take you into the experience; just as Michael (and the reader) has the lull of "ok, this isn't so bad after all, I can make it" BAM. No. It's not OK. It is that bad. This is one of the few war novels I have read that respects the soldiers and their experiences; that doesn't play politics about the issue of war. And is brutally honest about the soldier's experiences."

And about The Road Home, "By exploring the Vietnam War thru the POV of a female, and of a nurse, there is the horrors of war combined with the healing of medicine; the mixed emotions of saving the lives of soldiers, only to have the soldiers go out, risk their lives again, or to kill. And the details, of triage, of deciding who lives and dies, who gets morphine and who doesn't, who dies alone or dies with lies of "it's going to be OK. Rebecca goes from naive and hopeful to scared, afraid, bitter."

Trust me: you will love this series. And since it is historical fiction, you won't have to worry about anything seeming "dated."

If you haven't read any Ellen Emerson White before? Go, read.

And if you have read Ellen Emerson White, what's your favorite book?

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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8. TURNING PAGES: SOPHIE, IN SHADOW, by Eileen Kernaghan

This book is heartily recommended to anyone re-reading A PASSAGE TO INDIA this summer (hi, Lissa!), and to anyone whose childhood summers included Kipling's KIM, which is worth a re-read this summer as well. This book is for anyone who fears that... Read the rest of this post

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9. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy Elizabeth Kiem

Marina may be a teen in the Soviet Union, but her mother is the country’s premier prima ballerina, so her family lives in privilege. Marina herself trains for the Bolshoi. Like her mother, she sometimes sees visions. These visions cause problems when, on the eve of Breshnev’s death, her mother sees something she shouldn’t--one of the USSR’s dark secrets about testing biological weapons* that gets her taken away.

Suddenly, it’s not safe anymore. Marina and her father must leave quickly, and end in Brighton Beach where her scientist father struggles to find a job and a way to rescue his wife. All Marina wants to do is dance, and her father is convinced this will help him make contact with the KGB so they can negotiate. Meanwhile, he gets tangled in with the Russian Mob as Marina tries to lead a normal life in a new country while fearing for her father’s safety and sanity.

I really liked this one and Marina’s father’s mental descent. You could see why he thought the things he thought, while still seeing how wrong they were. I liked how the romance was handled. Marina likes Ben, whose parents also escaped the USSR, but he has a girlfriend, Lindsay. Marina and Lindsay are also friends, and while it’s complicated, and slightly heartbreaking, it’s not overly dramatic and the way the characters handled it made me really like and respect them. Lindsay often didn’t know what she was talking about, especially when it came to the KGB and the Mob, but she was a really good friend and a great character.

I do think it needs an end note. Teens today don’t understand Soviet communism and the Cold War. (And trying to explain the terror of the Cold War to kids who’ve grown up in a world of terrorism and suicide bombers is really heart-breakingly hard.) Heck, when this came out a librarian only a few years younger than me was confused about what was so scary about that time. I also wanted to know if the testing episode that Marina’s mother knew about was real. It’s real in the book and seems more than plausible to me. A quick google doesn’t turn anything up, but was it based on other incidents?

I’m also not sure the paranormal psychic-vision thing was necessary. It was the lynch-pin as to why Marina’s mother was taken, and Marina’s visions added some moody foreshadowing, but there might have been another way for Marina’s mother to find out about the testing and made the book straight historical fiction, which would have made it stronger. 99% of the book is realistic historical fiction, and it’s tricky, because it’s a time period that many adults (read: parents and other gatekeepers) remember living through, but many readers (read: teens) don’t know much about, and the 1% that is paranormal makes the rest of the story easier to dismiss as “pure fiction.”

Overall though, I did really like it. It’s hard to go wrong with something that involves the KGB, the FBI, the Russian mob, and ballet. And, as someone who has very vivid memories of the end of the Cold War, I am loving all the YA fiction we’re seeing now about it. (Plus, not a book, and not for teens, but let’s just think for a minute how awesome The Americans is.)


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10. #595 – Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinois

cover.

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence

by Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinois, illustrator

Carolrhoda Books           2/01/2014

978-0-7613-6589-1

Age 7 to 9            32 pages

.

“All men are born free and equal.” Everybody knows about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But the founders weren’t the only ones who believed that everyone had a right to freedom. Mumbet, a Massachusetts slave believed it too. She longed o be free, but how? Would anyone help her in her fight for freedom? Could she win against her owner, the richest man in town? Mumbet was determined to try. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence tells her story for the first time in a picture book biography, and her brave actions set a milestone on the road toward ending slavery in the United States.”

Opening

“Mumbet didn’t have a last name because she was a slave. She didn’t even have an official first name. Folks called her Bett or Betty. Children called her Mom Bett or Mumbet. Others weren’t so kind.”

The Story

The year is 1776 and the United States begins its fight for freedom from the rule of the British by declaring on paper their Declaration of Independence. Mumbet is a slave owned by the richest man in town—the one who is usually the most powerful in town. Colonel John Ashley lived in Massachusetts and owed many businesses. He might have been kind, but his wife was definitely a cruel woman when it came to her husband’s slaves. Mumbet worked for Mrs. Ashley, usually in her kitchen. Mumbet hated that another human owned her, as wouldn’t you or I. She knew servants and hired hands could leave a cruel employer, but Mumbet had no recourse—she’s is property.

As the founding fathers gathered to write the Declaration of Independence, which started the seven-year war against the British, Mumbet served refreshments and tried to listen. The men were against British taxes and feared losing all their rights under British rule. As Mumbet listened, she heard one man say,

“He [the King of England] would make us slaves.”

And,

“Mankind in a state of Nature are equal, free, and independent . . .

God and Nature have made us free.”

After seven years of war against England, and freedom won, the town held a meeting to introduce The Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. It declared,

“All men are born free and equal.”

Mumbet wondered if that meant her. She approached Theodore Sedgwick, a young lawyer who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and asked him to represent her in a fight for her personal freedom under the new Massachusetts law. He accepted. Mr. Sedgwick reminded the judge and jury that no law existed in Massachusetts making slaves legal and the new constitution now made them illegal. Would the judge and jury agree with Mr. Sedgwick and grant Mumbet her freedom—and the freedom of all slaves in Massachusetts in the process?

Review

Mumbet’s story, a true story, is an unusual biography in that I don’t recall hearing about this woman in any history class, not even American History. Mumbet had strength unseen except on rare occasions. To take your master to court to demand your freedom was a crazy idea. Even white women were still considered their husband’s chattel, why would a slave be above that. How was Mumbet going to convince a jury—not of her peers—and a judge—most likely friends with the richest man in town—that she deserved her freedoms for the same reason as the men deserved theirs from Britain? The new Massachusetts Constitution was not that old and here is this slave trying to gain her freedom, yet she is property. This must have caused some laughter, smirking, and hate. I find this story truly moving. Her new name became Elizabeth Freeman, a most deserved last name.

Mumbet’s clear and succinctly written story tells of an amazing, intelligent, and courageous woman who dared stand up for her rights when no one ever considered her to have rights. She entered a paternal courtroom, a jury not of her peers, and a town overflowing with curious citizens not all of which could have been happy Mumbet wanted freedom. It was probably more hostile, considering ever man probably stood to lose his slaves if Mumbet were successful. That makes Mumbet one of the strongest woman to have ever lived in the United States.

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The illustrations are profoundly beautiful with deep rich colors. Even the end pages have an elegance to them. Alix Delinois represented that time in America accurately, with facial expressions that must have matched the frustration felt by most citizens, as the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Ashley’s cruelty is shockingly visible, immediately making you feel empathy for Mumbet and her daughter. For people sincerely wanting freedom and respect from the British, some were capable of much harm to others.

Thankfully, someone thought to write down Mumbet’s story giving the author great accounts of Mumbet’s life and challenges before, during, and after that day in court. After the story are two pages of author notes. They tell of the help the author received from Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Theodore Sedgwick’s daughter. Catharine wrote Mumbet’s story as it happened, leaving accurate historical documents from which this story was written. These notes are fascinating.Teachers would do well to keep Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence as an adjunct history lesson. It is a story not told in most history classes. Gretchen Woelfle’s impeccable research and storytelling skills gives us a story of slavery not well known in the very country in which it happened—until now. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence should fascinate kids and adults alike.

MUMBET’S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Text copyright © 2014 by Gretchen Woelfle. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Alix Delinois. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.

Buy a copy of Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence at AmazonB&NiTunesBook DepositoryCarolrhoda Books—at your local bookstore.

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Learn more about Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence HERE.

Meet the author, Gretchen Woelfle, at her website:  http://www.gretchenwoelfle.com/

Meet the illustrator, Alix Delinois, at his website:   http://alixdelinois.com/home.html

Find more books a the Carolrhoda Books blog:   http://carolrhoda.blogspot.com/

Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.     https://www.lernerbooks.com/

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Also by Gretchen Woelfle

Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren  

Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren

All the World's a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills

 

 

 

 

 

Also by Alix Delinois

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Muhammad Ali: The People's Champion 

Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion

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mumbet


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: 1776, Alix Delinois, American Revolutionary War, Carolrhoda Books, children's book reviews, Declaration of Independence, freedom, Gretchen Woelfle, Lerner Publishing Group, Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, slavery

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11. #594 – Return to Canterbury by Melissa Ann Goodwin

return to canterbury.

Return to Canterbury

by Melissa Ann Goodwin

Melissa Ann Goodwin, publisher     12/20/2013

978-1-49234887-2

Age 8 to 12          270 pages

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“Things have settled down for thirteen-year-old Jamie Reynolds since last Christmas. That’s when he time-traveled to 1932 and wound up in the town of Canterbury, Vermont. There he met Kelly and Christopher Pennysworth, who quickly became his best friends. Back in his own time again, he misses them every day. But as the July 4th, 2008 holiday approaches, the biggest black cloud still hovering over Jamie’s life is the mystery of what happened to his dad, who has been missing or almost a year.

“Little does Jamie know that he will soon reunite with Kelly and Christopher for an adventure even bigger than their last. Together they’ll uncover a secret plot that threatens to destroy Canterbury. But will they be able to stop it before it’s too late? And will Jamie finally solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance? Return to Canterbury with us and find out!”

 Opening

“Dear Jamie, writing you another letter, even though I know you’ll never get to read it. But there’s ever so much going on in Canterbury these days and it seems strange not to be able to tell you about it. I miss you awfully, and writing to you almost makes me feel like we’ve talked. Almost.”

The Story

Jamie returns to Canterbury after seeing a picture of himself at the time capsule during the 4th of July celebrations—in 1935. He is standing with Kelly and Christopher, who he befriended in the first story entitled The Christmas Village. Jamie also sees a photograph that looks just like his dad, also from 1935. He knows he will be time-traveling again, this time to bring back his dad. What he doesn’t know just yet is that he will help foil a plan to put Canterbury underwater to form a hydroelectric power plant. To make that happen, a big shot from New York has to buy up the local farmland from farmers who will not sell. But this new “villain” has a plan that will make that problem go away.  Jamie, Kelly, and Christopher set out to foil all of the plans, safekeeping Canterbury for future generations.

Review

I have not read The Christmas Village, though now I would like to read it. The sequel to that story, Return to Canterbury, can stand on its own. The author does a good job getting the reader up to speed without the reader feeling they are reading old material. It is 2008 and Jamie has meet the 88-year-old Kelly. Just last year, twelve-year-old Jamie meet ten-year-old Kelly.  Now she is 88, which is a strange situation for Jamie. Kelly knows what will happen when Jamie returns to Canterbury but cannot tell him for fear of changing the past, thus changing the present and future. This leads to one of a few holes in the story that did bother me, but did not destroy the great fun I had reading the story. It caused a momentary, “Wait. That can’t be right,” and a halt in reading.

Jamie is now in present-day Canterbury. When he goes back to 1935 Canterbury and the prospect of Mr. Boggs—the guy from New York with plans to flood Canterbury for a hydroelectric power plant—Jamie should realize, from the current Canterbury, that the 1935 plan fails, yet the three kids put themselves in great harm to stop the plan. True, if Jamie had not helped, maybe the future would have changed, but it is odd that he doesn’t at least realize all will turn out okay based on present day Canterbury, where he had just left. I suppose this and the other two holes are the ultimate definition of suspending one’s beliefs.

Since I am on the subject, the one hole involves the first book, The Christmas Village. In that one, it is 2007 and Jamie travels to Canterbury 1932 after staring at his grandmother’s Christmas Village. In the sequel, Return to Canterbury, Jamie tells of his father after the two return from 1935. For one, his dad learned woodworking, making his mother the Christmas Village, the same one Jamie used in 2007 to transport to 1932, but not built until 2010. The Christmas Village could not have existed in 2007. The editor should have picked up on this and request a change.

The other involves Jamie and his dad’s returning from 1935 to the present 2008. They touch something that Jamie writes in 2008 while with Kelly’s granddaughter Kendall. The message could not have been anywhere in 1935, yet there it is. How? Suspending one’s beliefs and ignoring the inconsistencies that occasionally appear was necessary for me, yet the story of Jamie’s Return to Canterbury is very good. The writing is excellent. No typos or misspells to stall one’s reading. Editing is also good, except for the inconsistencies not caught. The story is a fun read. The three kids solving the crime and capturing the bad guys is much fun.

I like the 1930’s Canterbury, where everyone knows everyone and people gather to help each other as much as to celebrate. Jamie learns a few secrets, which turn out to be wonderful gems. I read this in two sittings, anxious to nab the diabolical Mr. Boggs and to find out what Jamie and his dad put in the time capsule—which would be opened a mere two years after they both return home to 2008.

Return to Canterbury felt like a gift. The story is a good old-fashioned tale about a good old-fashioned village of gentle (not genteel) people, loving and helping each other, though not legally or biologically related. Return to Canterbury gives one hope for the future—not about time travel but about the goodness of people.  It is also a story that will have some reminiscing and others longing for days as nice as in Canterbury. Return to Canterbury is an intriguing story solved by three industrious kids who each bring something different to the story.

Kids will enjoy Return to Canterbury. It is perfect middle grade fare. Jamie, Kelly, and Christopher are a solid team. Though each is great on his own, it is not enough without the other two. Teamwork, friendship, family, community, family-by-choice, time-travel, and a simpler life are all important in Return to Canterbury. I highly recommend this story. I bet The Christmas Village,which started the series, is just as worthy of your time

** I apologize. I try each week to shorten these reviews, but some books I have much I want to say, mainly to convince you the book is worth your time to read. Deciding what to leave out is beyond difficult. It has become nearly impossible.

RETURN TO CANTERBURY. Text copyright © 2013 by Melissa Ann Goodwin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Melissa Ann Goodwin, Andover, MA.

Buy Return to Canterbury at AmazonB&NBook DepositorySmashbooks—author’s website—your local bookstore.

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Learn more about Return to Canterbury HERE.

Meet the author, Melissa Ann Goodwin, at her website:  http://authormelissaanngoodwin.blogspot.com/

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Also by Melissa Ann Goodwin

The Christmas Village

The Christmas Village

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THE CHRISTMAS VILLAGE won the 2013 BLOGGER BOOK FAIR READER’S CHOICE AWARD for children’s action/adventure.

 

 

 

return to canterbury


Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: 1930's Canterbury Vermont, arson, children's book reviews, family of choice, friendship, hydroelectric power stations, Melissa Ann Goodwin, middle grade novel, time capsules, time travel

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12. Straight From the Source: Katherine Longshore on Writing Historical Fiction

Katherine Longshore is a former travel agent, coffeehouse barista and preschool teacher who has finally found her calling writing novels for teens.  She is the author of GILT, TARNISH and BRAZEN, a series of novels set in the court of Henry VIII, published by Viking and the “Downtonesque” MANOR OF SECRETS published by Scholastic.  After five years exploring castles and country manors in England, she now lives in California with three British citizens and one expatriate dog.  Visit her online at www.katherinelongshore.com.

What typically comes first for you: A character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

I typically begin with character. That said, characters come to me because of the historical era, so it becomes a question of the chicken or the egg. For me, however, the story doesn’t begin without the character, so that’s where I start.

My first book, GILT, came about because I thought, “Catherine Howard was a teenager when she married Henry VIII. She’d be a great character for a YA book!” But my narrator, Kitty Tylney, was born out of a news item about a rape at Richmond High School in California—one observed, but not reported, by as many as twenty other people. And I decided I wanted to write about a character who observed atrocities and wrongdoings, and for whatever reason, didn’t do anything until it was too late.

Anne Boleyn in TARNISH came to me on a long drive one Thanksgiving weekend—I’d been pondering writing about her, but didn’t find the courage until I thought about how she might have felt, as a teenager, being transplanted from her adoptive home of France (where she’d lived for seven years) to the very foreign world of the Henrician court.

The only book where I did the opposite was BRAZEN. I began with the historical figure—Mary Howard—a woman who became quietly independent in later years, avoiding court machinations whenever possible. But I didn’t know who she was—that is, who my fictional character needed to be—until I’d written the first draft. This was definitely a case of the story—and the writing of the novel—informing the character rather than the other way around.

How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?

I like to tell people that I researched Henry VIII, his wives, and the Tudor era for ten years before I started GILT. This is absolutely true, but invites a misconception. I didn’t do the research with the idea of writing a novel in mind, I did the research because I was fascinated and wanted to know more. Ultimately, I wanted to understand the characters, so delving into their psychology through fiction seemed a natural transition.

Once I have made the decision to write a book, however, I usually research for about a month before I begin to write. I reread histories and find new ones to look for new insights. I take notes on index cards, even though I don’t always refer back to them. I’m a visual and tactile learner, so the act of writing something down cements it more firmly in my mind.

I continue to do research throughout every draft, finding specific details like Where was Henry VIII’s court on July 25, 1535? Or What kind of dress would a kitchen maid wear in 1911? Some of the answers can be found online (the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII is an invaluable resource!) and others have to be gleaned from more books. While finishing the third draft of BRAZEN, I read Alison Weir’s wonderful book about Anne Boleyn’s last days, The Lady in the Tower, which helped me write a key chapter using the vivid details Weir is so adept at providing.

What is your favorite thing about research?

The sense of discovery, and being able to pass that on to readers. One of the things I love about reading history and historical fiction is feeling immersed in this world that no longer exists. So discovering bright details that can make the world come alive is utterly inspiring. Which tapestry Henry VIII had hanging in the great hall of Hampton Court. What the upstairs rooms in a country manor smelled like to a downstairs maid. The name of Anne Boleyn’s lap dog, the view from Greenwich Palace…Details give us the greatest impression of the reality of history—that people actually lived and died and loved like we do.

What’s your least favorite thing about research?

Dates and numbers. I was always pretty good at math, and I don’t mind it—in fact, it keeps my mind sharp. But I don’t have an affinity for numbers. I don’t remember them, and sometimes I transpose them (782 can become 287 very easily—in fact, I can look at one number and say the other out loud. Made people very nervous when I ran a cash register!) I’ve been reading about Henry VIII for fifteen years and writing about him for five of those, and I can’t tell you his birth date or year without looking it up. But I can tell you who his mother’s father’s brother’s daughter was (Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury). To me, the real meat of history happens between the people—in the gossip and their personalities and interactions. The numbers and battles never interested me, which is why I think is disliked history as a teen—that’s how our knowledge was tested.

Because life isn’t always clear cut, the motives behind our actions don’t always make sense. But stories need to follow a logical path. What sorts of decisions have you had to make about “muddy” historical figures or events in order for your book to work?

One of the reasons I love writing historical fiction is to make sense of some of the “muddy” historical characters I’ve come across. You would think Anne Boleyn would be straightforward—after all, there have been biographies, novels, plays, poems, operas, songs and movies made about her. But we still don’t know when she was born. It’s generally believed she was born in 1501, but I had to accept a later date (which some historians support) in order for her to be a teenager during the time period I chose to write about.

Mary Howard’s biography is even muddier. We know she married Henry Fitzroy (Henry VIII’s illegitimate son) at the age of fourteen. But no one knows for sure where she was for the next three years. Was she at court, serving Queen Anne Boleyn? Was she at her father’s (the Duke of Norfolk) home of Kenninghall? Or was she somewhere else entirely? Was she ever allowed even to see her husband? No one knows. There is no record. I decided to keep her at court because of a single mention of her being close to Anne Boleyn—and therefore occasionally coming into contact with Henry Fitzroy. Through this decision, I was able to explore the question, “How do you fall in love with someone you rarely get to see?” It became one of the central questions of the book. So for BRAZEN, history in some ways made the story easier to discover. The very muddiness freed me up to write a story that wasn’t hampered by all those dates I find so frustrating.

Unfortunately, history is also incredibly inflexible. I found it heartbreaking to have to write some events into my books. Deaths, arguments, poor decisions. I have used some choice words to rail at history over the past five years, but I always succumb eventually.

 

 

The post Straight From the Source: Katherine Longshore on Writing Historical Fiction appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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13. #590 – Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death by T. A. Anderson

FrontCoverSizeB.

Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death

by T. A. Anderson

published by T. A. Anderson       2/4/2014

978-1-49229785-7

Age 9 to 13             460 pages

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“When twelve-year-old Colt Humboldt’s dad drags the two of them from perfectly good Dallas to ancient Edinburgh for a “fresh start,” Colt knows e’s in for a long, boring summer. Fat chance. That very first night, the peculiar Alesone and her little brother Peer crawl out of Colt’s closet, begging for his help to save their family from a horrible fate. Unfortunately, the instructions for doing so are contained in a fickle book that lies to make it up as it goes. Worse, those instructions give this ragged trio one week to journey across Scotland in a impossible adventure to capture three treasures—treasures fiercely protected by a hidden, treacherous world determined to see Colt fail . . . preferably by death. But if Colt and his new friends can survive a horror novel come-to-life, a madman and his minions, a disagreeable folklore legend, and the shocking discovery of just why Alesone and Peter are so odd . . . Well, the next wo treasures won’t come so easily.

Opening

“The flight attendant standing along the curb resembled a ripe blueberry volcano about to blow its top, thought 12-year-old Colt Humboldt from the backseat of the taxi. Her head-to-toe blue uniform appeared dangerously close to its design limits, with a blue cap squeezed over short blonde curls and three very prominent chins squeezing out of her collar.”

Review

Not long after Colt’s mother died in a tragic automobile accident—which Colt survived—his dad accepts a position at the Edinburgh Zoo. Colt is not happy about moving from Dallas to Scotland. He chooses The Keepers room for his bedroom, not knowing the room’s history. This begins the history kids will learn about while reading the book. There are many pieces of knowledge inside the story, the biggest being the black plague that wiped out many in Europe.

What Colt thinks are ghosts awakens him the first night. These “ghosts” are actually two kids from the 1645. Alesone and her five-year-old brother Peter are running from the soldiers who want them back into the close in which the government has trapped all the inhabitants, thinking it will stop the black plague. The two kids are after a cure for their parents. To get the cure and passage back to their own time period, they must complete three missions, which get progressively harder and more dangerous. Colt agrees to help them. He is smitten on Alesone and bored without his friends.

Peter, Alesone & Colt

Peter, Alesone & Colt

Throughout the story, Colt must explain items that are commonplace in the twenty-first century but unheard of in the 1600’s. Many appear to be magic to the two kids. Peter has a habit of smashing things he does not understand, like alarm clocks and television sets. Five-year-old Peter experiences his first sugar high after a breakfast of Frosted Flakes™. He loves the cereal so much he sneaks a box home with him. Sugar highs are not common in the 1600’s as they are now. Peter also likes Colt’s Dallas Cowboys helmet, which took an arrow, saving the boy’s life on one journey.

Peter is an interesting character. He never utters a word, is very resilient, and handy in some of the sticky situations the three kids get into. Pretty good for s five-year-old out of his element. Peter also supplies much of the humor. I did think it odd that Alesone, a bright girl, is oblivious to the changes from her world to Colt’s. It takes her quite a while to accept that she is not in her 1645 world, as she continues to search for a pastor from 1645 and runs from/is afraid of the present day police who have no interest in Alesone or Peter.

Kids who like adventures with fantasy and humor mixed in will love Colt Humboldt. I read the 445 pages in two sittings, staying up late at night. If I were a kid, I would have taken a flashlight to bed just to keep reading the book. I love the characters. They are easy to care about and actually fun to root on as they continue searching for the three items needed to send Alesone and Peter back home. Nothing is what it seems on these journeys. Some of the secondary characters suddenly pop up, instantly twisting the story. Colt Humboldt is not difficult to understand or keep track of these twists and turns, but one does need to pay attention.

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Much of the humor comes from Alesone and Peter being out of place in Colt’s world. He has no idea why they are so surprised by much of what they encounter, not knowing for a long time where the two kids have come from. All he knows is their parents will die if they do not collect the three treasures the Brown Man requires. The Brown Man of the Muirs (folklore) is but one of the folklore and creatures of Scotland legends included in the story. The true villain will be quite a surprise. Though the big villain in Alesone’s world, Mr. Vermyne, is rather easy given his name. He is a rat all right. Vermyne is one of those twists that will surprise you, yet make sense.

Mr. Anderson’s writing is excellent. Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death is the first of a series of adventures involving Colt. I am anxious to read the next volume. I love the way Anderson told Colt’s first story, though he could have made this into three books. A nearly 500-page book, with multitudes of folklore creatures, can look rather daunting to some middle graders. The pacing is great and the adventures are believable, though the last mission is a tough fight. Kids are in for a wonderful ride. A publisher would be very smart to get Anderson under contract. Colt Humboldt, with some high-powered marketing, and focused publicity should take flight right onto the bestseller list where it belongs. It is that good. Colt Humboldt is also T. A. Anderson’s debut.

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COLT HUMBOLDT AND THE CLOSE OF DEATH. Text copyright © 2014 by T. A. Anderson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, T. A. Anderson.

Buy Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death at AmazonB&NBook DepositorySmashwordsKoboAuthor’s websiteyour local bookstore.

.READ THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS HERE. (Click on book.)

Learn more about Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death HERE.

Meet the author, T. A. Anderson, at his website:  http://taandersonauthor.wordpress.com/

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If you only read one adventure/fantasy this year, make it Colt Humboldt and the Close of Death. Just my opinion and there are still several months left to find something better. We won’t.

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Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Debut Author, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: black plague, children's book reviews, Colt Humboldt, debut work, folklores, Mary King's Close, middle grade novel, Scotland, Scotland legends, T. A. Anderson

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14. Holding on to Hope for our "Unmarketable" Manuscripts


I proposed out current topic, which JoAnn kicked off on Friday, after reading Marion Dane Bauer's blog post, The Creative Mind. In the post, Marion writes of her experience creating a young adult short story collection that wasn't very marketable, in part, because "the book was awkward to place anywhere in the juvenile market." Unfortunately, I've written not only one, but possibly two, such books. At least Marion's reputation and sales history allowed her book to make it into print. My manuscripts, in contrast, are sitting in the proverbial "drawer," and may never see the light of day. This is especially frustrating because of the hours and hours of work I put into them. Both are set in 18th-century Milan--one a biography and the other a historical novel--and required extensive research. The more research I did, the more fascinated I became with my characters and their story. I'd hoped others would find them just as fascinating. The novel has done well in several writing competitions, and even took first place in the YA category of one. Yet the editors and agents who've read it so far tell me it's well-written but not marketable enough. There's that dreaded word again. I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of editors and agents, but my hope is beginning to fade.

I'm looking forward to reading how my fellow TeachingAuthors deal with the issue of marketability. Our writing isn't only a creative pursuit--writing (and teaching) is what we do to pay the bills. At the moment, I can't afford to take a chance on creating another unmarketable book project, so I'm focusing on teaching and freelance writing. As much as I love teaching, I'm sad not to be working on a book project right now. I actually started a new middle-grade novel "just for fun" a few months ago, but I've put it on hold. Whenever I think about working on it, my inner critic says, "What will you do if this one turns out to be unmarketable too?" Some days the answer is "quit writing altogether."

Sorry, readers, writing this post is depressing even me! So I searched for some encouragement online. I Googled "unmarketable manuscript" and found the phrase in Sophy Burnham's For Writers Only: Inspiring Thoughts on the Exquisite Pain and Heady Joy of the Writing Life from Its Great Practitioners (Tarcher Books), a book I happen to own but haven't read in years. I pulled For Writers Only off my bookshelf and read Burnham's own rejection story. Burnham, who is a bestselling nonfiction author, spent four or five years working on a novel. When she finally finished it and sent it to her agent, he responded, "This is unmarketable. . . . Burn it. Every writer does one or two of these. You're a talented writer. Go write something I can sell."

Ouch.

Understandably, Burnham was crushed. She almost did destroy the manuscript. But then she remembered something her mother told her when she was ten or twelve years old:

"If you ever become a writer," she said, "remember never to throw away anything you've written."
(Funny, I often tell the young writers in my writing camps to never throw away anything they write, either!)

Burnham followed her mother's advice and packed the manuscript up in a box. Years later, Burnham was working with a new agent who asked if she had any other manuscripts. She brought out the boxed-up novel. The agent read it and thought it was "wonderful." Within a month, the agent had found a publisher for Revelations, Burnham's first published novel.

Burnham went on to say:
"In fairness to that first agent, the novel probably was unmarketable when he read it . . . in that climate, at that period of time. . . . But times and tastes change. What is the moral? Perhaps that you never know when you'll succeed, that all you can do is to follow your path with enthusiasm, and don't let rejection get you down."
Even before reading Burnham's story, I'd thought about the cyclical nature of the young adult fiction market and how what doesn't sell today may eventually be the next big thing. I haven't given up hope for my novel or the biography. Like JoAnn, I'm pondering other approaches that may make these manuscripts more appealing. In the mean time, I'm not throwing anything away. J



Out and About:
I'm teaching several one-day writing workshops for adults this summer at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. If you live in the area, I invite you to read more about these classes, and the children's writing camps I teach, on my website.

Also, don't forget to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy of Joan Bransfield Graham's latest picture book, The Poem That Will Not End: Fun with Poetic Forms and Voices!

Happy writing!
Carmela    

0 Comments on Holding on to Hope for our "Unmarketable" Manuscripts as of 6/16/2014 6:41:00 PM
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15. The Bambino and Me - an audiobook review

Hyman, Zachary. 2014. The Bambino and Me. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra.  Read by Jason Alexander.
(Advance Listener Copy)

Huge baseball fan, Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), reads this fictional memoir of 10-yr-old Yankee fan,George Henry Alexander, in The Bambino and Me. The story simply begs to be read by Jason Alexander who certainly needs no accent coaching to create this believable boy from the Bronx in the summer of 1927.

Babe Ruth has been sold to the Yankees and George is his biggest fan.  When he gets a ticket to a Yankees/Red Sox game for his birthday, he couldn't be more excited! But then comes the error - his Uncle Alvin has given him a Red Sox jersey to wear to the game! His mother insists that he wear it. Enemy colors! What could be worse?

The audio version is filled with the wonderful sounds of baseball and summer - jazz music, the chatter of kids on the street, the crack of a bat, the roar of a crowd. If this audio book were a baseball game, it would be a perfect one.

Recommended for ages 6-9, and unabashed lovers of America's Pastime.

This is "hands-down" the best audio book that I've listened to since Three Times Lucky.
"And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."
From Field of Dreams, 1989. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson, based upon the book Shoeless Joe (1982) by W. P. Kinsella



Note:
 Although it looks wonderful, I can't offer comment on the printed version of The Bambino and Me. I picked up the CD at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, and asked if I could have the accompanying book. I was told that I could only have the CD, which I tossed in my bag where it sat unnoticed and unremembered until this week when I had a lull between audio book reviewing assignments. I'm so glad I remembered it!



0 Comments on The Bambino and Me - an audiobook review as of 6/13/2014 5:57:00 PM
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16. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1943)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943/2006. HarperCollins. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]

Oh how I loved Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Readers get the chance to get to know Francie, the heroine, her brother, Neeley, her mother, Katie, her father, Johnny, her aunts, Sissy and Evy, and her grandmother, Mary Rommely. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is set circa 1910-1918 in Brooklyn, New York; it is very much a coming-of-age novel focusing on Francie, yet expanding to include several generations of her family. The book has a good number of flashbacks letting readers get to know all the members of the family before getting good and settled in Francie's life. It is a book that embraces ALL of life: the big things, the little things: no matter how ugly or beautiful. Truth does not equal beauty as Francie learns. I loved Francie's passion for living. I loved her observations.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is rich in detail AND rich in characterization. It is not a fast-paced action, adventure novel. It is a character-driven, family-focused historical novel. It doesn't try to make people better than they are. It is realistic and honest. The characters are very human, very fallible. One of the themes is in fact being true and honest. Francie has a confrontation with an English teacher. The teacher is trying to shame Francie into writing only about the beautiful, precious things of life. Sunsets. Stars. Flowers. She has been writing about her life, about her father, about her childhood. Her teacher tells her to go home and burn these writings and say "this is ugliness, this is ugliness, this is ugliness." Francie finally submits enough to be able to end the conversation and leave the room, but she's holding strong to who she is and where she comes from.

It is a beautifully written novel. It is very quotable.
The one tree in Francie’s yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts.
An eleven-year-old girl sitting on this fire escape could imagine that she was living in a tree. That’s what Francie imagined every Saturday afternoon in summer.
THE LIBRARY WAS A LITTLE OLD SHABBY PLACE. FRANCIE THOUGHT it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She pushed open the door and went in. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass.
Francie thought that all the books in the world were in that library and she had a plan about reading all the books in the world. She was reading a book a day in alphabetical order and not skipping the dry ones.
“Mother, I am young. Mother, I am just eighteen. I am strong. I will work hard, Mother. But I do not want this child to grow up just to work hard. What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?” “The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.”
“I will read,” promised Katie. “What is a good book?” “There are two great books. Shakespeare is a great book. I have heard tell that all the wonder of life is in that book; all that man has learned of beauty, all that he may know of wisdom and living are on those pages. It is said that these stories are plays to be acted out on the stage. I have never spoken to anyone who has seen this great thing. But I heard the lord of our land back in Austria say that some of the pages sing themselves like songs.”
“And what is the other great book?” “It is the Bible that the Protestant people read.” “We have our own Bible, the Catholic one.” Mary looked around the room furtively. “It is not fitting for a good Catholic to say so but I believe that the Protestant Bible contains more of the loveliness of the greatest story on this earth and beyond it. A much-loved Protestant friend once read some of her Bible to me and I found it as I have said.
“That is the book, then, and the book of Shakespeare. And every day you must read a page of each to your child—even though you yourself do not understand what is written down and cannot sound the words properly. You must do this that the child will grow up knowing of what is great—knowing that these tenements of Williamsburg are not the whole world.”
Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”
Well, everybody’s something. We all got a tag of some kind.
She found to her agony, that the doctor was still there, poised needle and all. He was staring at her arm in distaste. Francie looked too. She saw a small white area on a dirty dark-brown arm. She heard the doctor talking to the nurse. “Filth, filth, filth, from morning to night. I know they’re poor but they could wash. Water is free and soap is cheap. Just look at that arm, nurse.” The nurse looked and clucked in horror. Francie stood there with the hot flamepoints of shame burning her face.
After the doctor’s outburst, Francie stood hanging her head. She was a dirty girl. That’s what the doctor meant. He was talking more quietly now asking the nurse how that kind of people could survive; that it would be a better world if they were all sterilized and couldn’t breed anymore. Did that mean he wanted her to die? Would he do something to make her die because her hands and arms were dirty from the mud pies?
“My brother is next. His arm is just as dirty as mine so don’t be surprised. And you don’t have to tell him. You told me.” They stared at this bit of humanity who had become so strangely articulate. Francie’s voice went ragged with a sob. “You don’t have to tell him. Besides it won’t do no good. He’s a boy and he don’t care if he is dirty.”
She put her arm around her and held her close to her own life warmth. “Francie, baby, you’re trembling like a leaf.” Francie had never heard that expression and it made her thoughtful. She looked at the little tree growing out of the concrete at the side of the house. There were still a few dried leaves clinging to it. One of them rustled dryly in the wind. Trembling like a leaf. She stored the phrase away in her mind.
“Forgiveness,” said Mary Rommely, “is a gift of high value. Yet its cost is nothing.”
OH, MAGIC HOUR WHEN A CHILD FIRST KNOWS IT CAN READ PRINTED WORDS!
For quite a while, Francie had been spelling out letters, sounding them and then putting the sounds together to mean a word. But one day, she looked at a page and the word “mouse” had instantaneous meaning. She looked at the word, and the picture of a gray mouse scampered through her mind. She looked further and when she saw “horse,” she heard him pawing the ground and saw the sun glint on his glossy coat. The word “running” hit her suddenly and she breathed hard as though running herself. The barrier between the individual sound of each letter and the whole meaning of the word was removed and the printed word meant a thing at one quick glance. She read a few pages rapidly and almost became ill with excitement. She wanted to shout it out. She could read! She could read! From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.
She liked numbers and sums. She devised a game in which each number was a family member and the “answer” made a family grouping with a story to it. Naught was a babe in arms. He gave no trouble. Whenever he appeared you just “carried” him. The figure 1 was a pretty baby girl just learning to walk, and easy to handle; 2 was a baby boy who could walk and talk a little. He went into family life (into sums, etc.) with very little trouble. And 3 was an older boy in kindergarten, who had to be watched a little. Then there was 4, a girl of Francie’s age. She was almost as easy to “mind” as 2. The mother was 5, gentle and kind. In large sums, she came along and made everything easy the way a mother should. The father, 6, was harder than the others but very just. But 7 was mean. He was a crotchety old grandfather and not at all accountable for how he came out. The grandmother, 8, was hard too, but easier to understand than 7. Hardest of all was 9. He was company and what a hard time fitting him into family life! When Francie added a sum, she would fix a little story to go with the result. If the answer was 924, it meant that the little boy and girl were being minded by company while the rest of the family went out. When a number such as 1024 appeared, it meant that all the little children were playing together in the yard. The number 62 meant that papa was taking the little boy for a walk; 50 meant that mama had the baby out in the buggy for an airing and 78 meant grandfather and grandmother sitting home by the fire of a winter’s evening. Each single combination of numbers was a new set-up for the family and no two stories were ever the same.
Francie was ten years old when she first found an outlet in writing. What she wrote was of little consequence. What was important was that the attempt to write stories kept her straight on the dividing line between truth and fiction.
“TODAY, I AM A WOMAN,” WROTE FRANCIE IN HER DIARY IN THE summer when she was thirteen. She looked at the sentence and absently scratched a mosquito bite on her bare leg. She looked down on her long thin and as yet formless legs. She crossed out the sentence and started over. “Soon, I shall become a woman.” She looked down on her chest which was as flat as a washboard and ripped the page out of the book. She started fresh on a new page.
“But poverty, starvation and drunkenness are ugly subjects to choose. We all admit these things exist. But one doesn’t write about them.” “What does one write about?” Unconsciously, Francie picked up the teacher’s phraseology. “One delves into the imagination and finds beauty there. The writer, like the artist, must strive for beauty always.” “What is beauty?” asked the child. “I can think of no better definition than Keats’: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’”
Francie took her courage into her two hands and said, “Those stories are the truth.”
“Nonsense!” exploded Miss Garnder. Then, softening her tone, she continued: “By truth, we mean things like the stars always being there and the sun always rising and the true nobility of man and mother-love and love for one’s country,” she ended anti-climactically. “I see,” said Francie. As Miss Garnder continued talking, Francie answered her bitterly in her mind. “Drunkenness is neither truth nor beauty. It’s a vice. Drunkards belong in jail, not in stories. And poverty. There is no excuse for that. There’s work enough for all who want it. People are poor because they’re too lazy to work. There’s nothing beautiful about laziness. (Imagine Mama lazy!) “Hunger is not beautiful. It is also unnecessary. We have well-organized charities. No one need go hungry.” Francie ground her teeth. Her mother hated the word “charity” above any word in the language and she had brought up her children to hate it too. “Now, I’m not a snob,” stated Miss Garnder. “I do not come from a wealthy family. My father was a minister with a very small salary.” (But it was a salary, Miss Garnder.)
“And the only help my mother had was a succession of untrained maids, mostly girls from the country.” (I see. You were poor, Miss Garnder, poor with a maid.) “Many times we were without a maid and my mother had to do all the housework herself.” (And my mother, Miss Garnder, has to do all her own housework, and yes, ten times more cleaning than that.) “I wanted to go to the state university but we couldn’t afford it. My father had to send me to a small denominational college.” (But admit you had no trouble going to college.) “And believe me, you’re poor when you go to such a college. I know what hunger is, too. Time and time again my father’s salary was held up and there was no money for food. Once we had to live on tea and toast for three days.” (So you know what it is to be hungry, too.) “But I’d be a dull person if I wrote about nothing but being poor and hungry, wouldn’t I?” Francie didn’t answer. “Wouldn’t I?” repeated Miss Garnder emphatically. “Yes ma’am.”
“I’ve taken all this time with you because I honestly believe that you have promise. Now that we’ve talked things out, I’m sure you’ll stop writing those sordid little stories.” Sordid. Francie turned the word over. It was not in her vocabulary. “What does that mean—sordid?”
Sordid: Filthy. Filthy? She thought of her father wearing a fresh dicky and collar every day of his life and shining his worn shoes as often as twice a day. Dirty. Papa had his own mug at the barber shop. Base. Francie passed that up not knowing exactly what it meant. Gross. Never! Papa was a dancer. He was slender and quick. His body wasn’t gross. Also mean and low. She remembered a hundred and one little tendernesses and acts of thoughtfulness on the part of her father. She remembered how everyone had loved him so. Her face got hot. She couldn’t see the next words because the page turned red under her eyes. She turned on Miss Garnder, her face twisted with fury. “Don’t you ever dare use that word about us!” “Us?” asked Miss Garnder blankly. “We were talking about your compositions. Why, Frances!” Her voice was shocked. “I’m surprised! A well-behaved girl like you. What would your mother say if she knew you had been impertinent to your teacher?” Francie was frightened. Impertinence to a teacher was almost a reformatory offense in Brooklyn. “Please excuse me. Please excuse me,” she repeated abjectly. “I didn’t mean it.” “I understand,” said Miss Garnder gently. She put her arm around Francie and led her to the door. “Our little talk has made an impression on you, I see. Sordid is an ugly word and I’m glad you resented my using it. It shows that you understand. Probably you don’t like me any more, but please believe that I spoke for your own good.
 Yes, the world was changing rapidly and this time she knew it was the world and not herself.
“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere—be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”
The last time of anything has the poignancy of death itself. This that I see now, she thought, to see no more this way. Oh, the last time how clearly you see everything; as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn’t held it tighter when you had it every day. What had Granma Mary Rommely said? “To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. GOING OVER is the Gold Medal Winner of the Parents' Choice Awards, Historical Fiction

And I am flummoxed.

And INCREDIBLY grateful.

Oh my goodness.

Teresa DiFalco, Parents Choice Awards: How can I thank you?

The astonishing citation is here.

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18. Books 5 And 6. "Boxers" And "Saints" By Gene Luen Yang

My last two Book Challenge books.

First off, this is a two volume set. Be sure to read Boxers first.

Boxers and Saints are Gene Luen Yang's terrific historical graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion. They're treated as one work because the books treat the same material from different points of view. I knew nothing about the Boxer Rebellion before 3:00 this afternoon. By 8:00 this evening, I had a working knowledge!

So in 1900 a secret organization in China called the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists led an uprising of  peasants against western foreign influence, including the spread of Christianity. They were known as "Boxers" to the west because they practiced exercises they believed would give them powers. Presumably westerners thought they looked as if they were boxing. The Boxers fought against and killed "western devils" and "secondary devils"--those Chinese who either worked for westerners or accepted Christianity, the western devil's faith.

Boxers deals with the experience of a young villager named Little Bao who becomes the leader of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists. Saints deals with the experience of Four-Girl, a young villager who becomes a Christian. One of the particular pleasures in these books is that Four-Girl, the protagonist in Saints, is a minor character in Boxers. Little Bao, the star of Boxers, is a minor character in Saints.

Though, really, neither of them could be called minor.

Earlier today I had trouble with the long descriptions in Haters. The thing with a good graphic novel, and these are good graphic novels, is that the graphic images carry the descriptions and even some of the action. The author doesn't have to stop everything to tell readers how someone is dressed or what their surroundings look like. You can just suck in basic story, character, information.

Reading a good graphic novel is such a rush because you can take in so much so fast.

I am out of books, but it's 9:00 PM on Sunday, anyway. I'm ending this year's 48 Hour Book Challenge on a definite high.

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19. Keeping Corner

Keeping Corner Kashmira Sheth

Remember The Edge of the Forest? I still have a few reviews that ran in that wonderful magazine that I'm reprinting here...



Leela was engaged at the age of two and married at the age of nine. Next year, when she turns thirteen, she will celebrate her anu and move into her husband’s house. Leela’s excited for her anu but when her husband is suddenly killed, everything changes.

Following Brahmin custom, Leela is forced to shave her hair, smash her bangles, and wear muddy brown saris. She will be unable to remarry and must keep corner—stay in the house—for a full year. Leela’s family is devastated by her loss and their grief permeates the household, making it impossible for Leela to imagine any sort of future.

But India is changing. Gandhi is leading the people to stand up to the English. Leela wonders how a small, old man in a dhoti can change the white men who sit so straight on their horses, but Gandhi is. Confined to the house, Leela is still caught in a struggle between the old and new as India stands on the brink of liberation—both from the English and from tradition.

Based on the true story of her great-aunt, Sheth paints a lush, vibrant picture of Indian home life. Leela’s story moves with the weather and seasons as she marks off her time before being allowed outside. Moving and honest, Leela’s tale of drawing inspiration from Gandhi to find agency in her own life is sure to strike readers and linger long after the last page.

ARC Provided by... a coworker, who picked it up at ALA (maybe? this ran back in 2007-- I don't quite remember)

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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20. Flowers

Illustration by Ellen Beier
From a CLICK magazine story, "Flowers on the Rooftop," about a family settling into a sod house on the prairie long ago ...

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21. #570 – When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . in the U. S. Navy!: Noah Tours an Aircraft Carrier by Wigu Publishing

Before we start today’s review, I wanted to let parents and kids know about a summer program they might enjoy and earn some bucks! Wigu Publishing is sponsoring a summer initiative called the WIGU Summer Superstars.

summerstars

Kids can earn money by reading and writing all summer long. Read 20 minutes a day and you could win a $20 Amazon gift certificate or $100 cash. Those who prefer to write can win a $25 or $100 Amazon gift card and their school library can win $1000 donation from wigu Publishing. For more information Go HERE and start your summer off right!

wigu navy.

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…in the U.S. Navy!: Noah Tours an Aircraft Carrier!

Wigu Publishing

Wigu Publishing      2014

978-939973-02-3

Age 7+         58 pages

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“Noah is excited for the chance to tour a real aircraft carrier with his Grandpa Ed, a proud Navy veteran. He is not excited that his little sister, Marina, is tagging alone. Still, Noah tries to be patient. Readers chuckle and follow along as the siblings learn that each deck, each crewmember, and each piece of equipment adds another chapter to the history of the U.S. Navy and its mission to protect our country. Noah and Marina’s curiosity helps introduce readers to the complex and exciting work of an aircraft carrier and how each crewmember plays a vital role in its functioning.”

Opening

“Noah was excited. A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier had come into port. Everyone was invited to visit. Noah’s Grandpa Ed promised to take him!”

Review

WIGO_USNAVY_page32_image7Noah and his Grandpa Ed—plus a tag-a-long younger sister, Marina—visit a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier while it is in port. Quickly into the story are pictures of the Navy Seals, helicopters landing, and planes taking WIGO_USNAVY_page32_image71off from a carrier, and a huge gold anchor. The diagramed USS Gerald Ford should interest model ship-builders. Throughout . . . in the Navy, various photographs visualize life on an aircraft carrier; what it is, who is on one, and why it exists. The general theme is protection of the U.S.

If you talk about ships, kids often think about pirates. Noah is no different. He learns pirates do still roam the oceans, marauding ships for their WIGO_USNAVY_page32_image62goods. Marina is pleased to learn there were girl pirates then and possibly now.

The three tour most of the important decks, including the bridge, flight deck, bunks, and the cafeteria where it smelled of French fries and, yes Marina, ketchup was available. Marina deliversWIGO_USNAVY_page32_image84 the majority of humor, though Grandpa Ed has a few good lines, most of which adults will catch faster than kids will. By the end of the book, both kids have decided the U.S. Navy is for them. Noah plans to be a pilot, while Marina decides to be a captain, taking the title right then. Both Noah and Captain Marina have a great time visiting the aircraft carrier. There is a thread left hanging:  was Grandpa Ed ever in the brig?

WIGO_USNAVY_page32_image85Boys will especially enjoy . . . in the Navy, though girls should check it out as well. . . . in the Navy includes illustrations of every current type of aircraft carrier used by the U.S. Navy. This Wigu edition makes a nice adjunct text for teachers planning lessons about the military.

As with the other When I Grow Up editions, in the Navy is loaded with useful information kids will enjoy. Whether as a reference or looking for a career, kids will find in the Navy useful. It is one more edition in the ever-growing series of When I Grow Up series that can help kids think about their future . . . until they change their mind. But that’s okay. Wigu publishing is planning tons more books for this series, so kids can keep changing their minds until they can say, “This is what I what to be when I grow up!”

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WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO BE . . . IN THE NAVY!:  NOAH TOURS AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Wigu Publishing. Reproduced by permission of Wigu Publishing, Laguna Beach, CA.

Buy . . . in the Navy and other editions at Amazon—B&N—Wigu Publishingyour local bookstore.

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Learn more about the When I Grow Up series HERE.

Find other When I Grow Up editions at the Wigu Publisher’s website:  http://whenigrowupbooks.com/

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Current WIGU Editions

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . in the U.S. Army

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . in the U.S. Armyreviewed HERE

 

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . a Teacher!

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . a Teacher!

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . a Firefighter!

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . a Firefighter!

Reviews:

US Army

Teacher

Firefighter

 

 

Upcoming Editions

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . a Good Person!

When I Grow Up, I Want to be . . . a Good Person!

 

 

 

 

 

. . . be a Rock Star!

. . . be  Veterinarian

. . . to be Green!

. . . be a World Travel!

. . . be a Race Car Driver!

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wigu in the us navy

summer-superstars-banner-top-1024x253


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, NonFiction, Picture Book, Series Tagged: aircraft carriers, carrier ideas for kids, Old Ironsides, US Navy, USS Constitution, voations, Wigu Publishing

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22. A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at BLUE BIRDS

While doing school visits in April I thought it would be helpful for kids to see all the hidden work that goes into writing books. Here are the pictures I shared with them — a peek at the “work behind the work” for BLUE BIRDS:

20140428_144722This is my research notebook along with a few of my books and a scattering of bookmark notes. Plus a hand-drawn map of the way I pictured Fort Raleigh.

20140428_144845Here’s the 1587 manifest (those we know as the Lost Colony), some maps, and a timeline of what happened July and August 1587 on the island of Roanoke.

20140428_144949Here’s some feedback from early readers.

20140428_144924Here are some first draft observations I made (adapted from Cheryl Klein’s SECOND SIGHT).

20140428_144808These are “quilts” I’d create after each draft — a way for me to see if the dual point of view narrative was working or not.

edit lettersMy three editorial letters. One thing I love to do is pass around my letters to students. There are usually two responses: they laugh (Whoa! These are intense!) or  they want to know if the letters hurt my feelings (Whoa! These are intense!).

My response? Editors (and teachers) are like the friend who tells us we have spinach stuck in our teeth. It may feel a little embarrassing at first to see our flaws pointed out, but this is the stuff that makes us look infinitely better. It’s amazing to me how much hard work editors (and teachers) commit to writers (and students) while remaining largely behind-the-scenes. Editors and teachers, you are invaluable!

20140428_143607A page from the manuscript itself. Along with those detailed editorial letters, my editor also mails a printed copy of the manuscript with notes throughout.

20140428_142923The manuscript pile on my office floor. (I’ll reuse these for printing future rough drafts).

So there you have it, a glimpse into the inner workings of BLUE BIRDS. Any questions for me?

The post A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at BLUE BIRDS appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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23. Tendrils of Life (2012)

Tendrils of Life: A Story of Love, Loss, and Survival in the Turmoil of the Korean War. Owen Choi. 2012. Princeton Falcon Press. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Tendrils of Life is historical fiction set in Korea. Most of the story, though not all of the story, occurs during the early years of the Korean War, 1950-1953. Flashbacks. Tendrils of Life has plenty of flashbacks. These take readers back even further, several decades further in some cases. These flashbacks do place the "main story" into context. I will say that there were times I was confused, but, by the end, I saw how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and I understood, for the most part, WHY the flashbacks were so important to the overall story. It is a complex story. I won't lie. For those unfamiliar with the Korean War--like me--this one may prove challenging: not impossible, just challenging. I believe it seeks to provide some answers, some insight, into the war itself: the history and politics. Trying to explain a war is not ever easy, and, I appreciate the complexity of this one.

The characters. I felt all the characters had strengths and weaknesses. I felt they were human which is the best compliment I can give any author. Tendrils of Life is at best bittersweet, if I'm being honest, more bitter than sweet. It felt bleak, very bleak, but its an honest bleakness and not mere manipulation.

Tendrils of Life was a bit outside my comfort zone, but, I am so glad I read it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. The Words of Sue Monk Kidd That Are Making Me Brave

Writing outside my own culture has been a challenge, a venue of growth, and an exposure of my writerly insecurities. I’ve drawn encouragement from others who have done the same:

On writing Hetty, her enslaved character, in the first person:

“I didn’t do it lightly. I tried to write her in third person, but it didn’t work. I am intimately drawn to my characters, to see the world through their eyes and to allow the reader to do that.”

About creating a forbidden friendship between two girls, one slave, one free:

“I had to take a deep breath and get the courage to go there. [As a child] I witnessed terrible injustices and racial divides. I didn’t know what to do with that except to write a story that fosters connections across those divides and boundaries.”

Kidd says “the ‘common heart’ philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, an idea that the whole of humanity is connected with intrinsic unity, has inspired her writing career: ‘I try to go there when I am far away from my experience through that mysterious process of empathy.’”

— From the article “Taking Flight,” The Albuquerque Journal, Sunday February 2, 2014

 

The post The Words of Sue Monk Kidd That Are Making Me Brave appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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25. Seven Stories Up, by Laurel Snyder | Book Review

In Seven Stories Up, Laurel Snyder combines humor and friendship to spin a rich story of adventure, sprinkled with Snyder’s signature magic and mystery.

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