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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: historical fiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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So, I sat down to prep for reviewing a book that I have coming from the library when I realized I'd never reviewed its predecessor... um, wait. How did that happen? As I recall, this book's release date was at a super busy time for both of us here,... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: PROPHECY, by Ellen Oh as of 4/11/2014 9:47:00 AM
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2. Caminar by Skila Brown, 193 pp, RL 4

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - CAMINAR -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} There is something about verse novels that seems to make them an ideal medium for telling difficult, tragic, horrible stories. The abuse that the military government in Guatemala imposed on its

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3. Guest Blogger: Michaela MacColl, Author of Always Emily (Giveaway)

Always Emily_FC

Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they’re not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle—before someone else gets killed.

What’s Up with That Title? by Michaela MacColl

This week my new book Always Emily comes out. It’s the next novel in my series of literary mysteries – this one is about the Bronte sisters.  Charlotte Bronte (who would write Jane Eyre) is 18 and her sister Emily (of Wuthering Heights fame) is 17. The sisters get involved in a mystery on their very own moors – a mystery that threatens their peace of mind, their brother and father and even their lives.

If my story is about two sisters, what’s up with that title? Always Emily? I’ve had lots of  people ask me (especially my husband who gets this book mixed up with my last one about Emily Dickinson).  The truth is this book was originally written in alternating chapters, first Charlotte then Emily. These sisters, despite having an identical upbringing, were completely different from one another.

Charlotte was the eldest sister and she assumed responsibility for the family. She’s the one with the plan – to keep the family solvent, to find employment and to get the sisters published.  Emily, on the other hand, had zero ambitions other than to wander the moors and write her wild, uninhibited poetry and stories. Naturally Charlotte wrote about the repressed and moral Jane Eyre, while Emily penned a gothic melodrama of illicit love and revenge.

Jane Eyrewuthering heights


Ultimately I found the alternating narration way too confining. It didn’t seem fair to the reader to leave Charlotte locked in a trunk about to suffocate and then shift to Emily doing the most mundane of chores.  So I switched to a third person, but let each sister own their own chapters.  It worked so much better but I had to answer that pressing question, who is the main character?


I’m the eldest in my family and I’m the one who likes to plan – so my preference was Charlotte of course. But Emily was so much more fun! And if there’s to be a romance (and in these literary mysteries there is always a hint of some love in the air) Emily seems the more likely candidate. So Emily won out by a hair – Charlotte has adventures, but Emily is the main player.

Charlotte quite reasonably resents her sister’s lack of responsibilities. And how aggravating that Emily is the sister that attracts the masculine attention that Charlotte craved. More than once Charlotte mutters, “Emily, it’s always Emily.”

My editor and I liked this as a title because it sounds so romantic – but really it’s the lament of the plainer, older, duller sister. It’s always Emily!

Thanks for reading. I’d love to have you visit at www.michaelamaccoll.com , or follow me on Twitter at @MichaelaMacColl or check out Author Michaela MacColl on Facebook.


Read an excerpt at http://www.scribd.com/doc/198642656/Always-Emily

CCSS-Aligned Discussion/Teacher’s Guide at http://www.chroniclebooks.com/landing-pages/pdfs/AlwaysEmily_DiscussionGuide_FINAL.pdf

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4. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (2014)

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. Alan Bradley. 2014. Random House. 310 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't loved each and every Flavia de Luce book equally. I definitely enjoy Flavia as a character and narrator even though I can't always relate to her all the time. In this sixth mystery, Flavia's focus is NOT on a current murder mystery. Far from it, even though a murder occurs practically in front of her (at the train station), she can't really be bothered. Why? Well, her mother is coming home...at last. For Flavia, the one de Luce child who CANNOT remember her mother at all, this is just confusing and bittersweet. Is she glad her mother's body has been found? That the body is being returned so it can be properly buried? In a way, perhaps. But. The homecoming is just as bitter as it is sweet. It upsets the family so much, brings so many emotions out in the open where they cannot be ignored. The situation is forcing Flavia outside her comfort zone. If the novel does NOT focus on the current dead body, what does it focus on?! Well, it focuses on the past; it focuses on the years leading up to World War II. It provides context for her mother's life...and death. For Flavia solving this mystery of who her mother was, who she really was, her worth and value, means EVERYTHING. There were quite a few uncomfortable scenes in this one for me. I found the scenes where Flavia is trying to scientifically bring her mother back from the dead (after ten years) to be a bit creepy--she's trying to acquire the right chemicals to resurrect the dead.

Just like the previous book, this one closes with change on the way for Flavia.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Cybils Finalist Review: ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein

Full disclosure: the author of Cybils finalist Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein, is a blogging/writing friend of ours. Yes, that did make me excited to read this companion book to Code Name Verity (reviewed here by Tanita and here by me), which I... Read the rest of this post

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6. New Literary Agent Alert: Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

Reminder: New literary agents

(with this spotlight featuring Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.



About Taylor: “I am a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received a master’s degree from Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining Waxman Leavell

in 2013, I worked at the Gersh Agency.”

(Query letter pet peeves — Agents Tell All.)

She is seeking: “I am drawn to novels with a compelling voice and grounded, relatable characters that pull me into their world from the start. My favorite books have strong emotional elements that stay with me long after I finish reading. My current interests include young adult fiction, historical fiction, and historical romance. I do not represent screenplays.”

How to submit: taylorsubmit [at] waxmanleavell.com. “To submit a project, please send a query letter only via email. Do not send attachments, though for fiction you may include 5-10 pages of your manuscript in the body of your e-mail. Please do not query more than one agent at our agency simultaneously.”

(What to write in the BIO section of your query letter.)



The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:Meet agent Kristina Holmes. She seeks writers of nonfiction & memoir.
  • 10 Reasons Why Picture Books Are Not Just For Kids.
  • 5 Things Writers Need to Do Besides Write. 
  • It Isn’t a Bad Thing to Inform Readers (a Little) Through Your Fiction.
  • Why You Should Reach Out to Successful Authors For Advice.
  • Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
  • Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter
  • or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.


    Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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    7. The Tweedles Go Electric – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    Title: The Tweedles Go Electric Written by Monica Kulling Illustrated by Marie Lafrance Published by Groundwood Books, February 2014 Ages: 5-8 Themes: electric cars, early 20th century, historical fiction, inventions Opening sentences: The Tweedles don’t own a car. People think they’re behind the … Continue reading

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    8. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill: Megan Frazer Blakemore

    Book: The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill
    Author: Megan Frazer Blakemore
    Pages: 320
    Age Range: 8-12

    The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill is a historical mystery novel set in a small Vermont town in 1953. Hazel Kaplansky lives with her parents in a home adjacent to the graveyard that they manage. She's prickly and smart, and doesn't fit in very well, despite having grown up in Maple Hill. At a time when everyone is nervous about Russian spies and possible nuclear attacks, Hazel is suspicious of the new gravedigger, a man with the too-banal-to-be-true name of Mr. Jones. Hazel soon enlists lonely new kid Samuel Butler in her investigation. But she soon learns that Samuel has secrets, too, which everyone seems to know about except Hazel. Hazel and Samuel's developing friendship is set against a backdrop that includes a McCarthy investigation of the men in the local factory, and corresponding swirl of local rumor and innuendo.

    I think that Blakemore does a nice job integrating the historical time period with Hazel's story. She introduces lots of details, but keeps all of them tied closely to Hazel's perspective. For instance, she captures Hazel's mortification when she sneezes during an air raid drill. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill covers everything from the scars that remain from the depression and influenza epidemic to how people treated unwed mothers during and after World War II to the fear and gossip triggered by McCarthyism. And she slips in little tidbits, too, like the fact that Alaska isn't a state yet. 

    There is a bit of an old-fashioned feel to The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill, as you would expect from a book so decisively set in the 50s. Bike riding, microfiche searches at the library, only mothers expected to show up at school events, etc. I think that the presence of a graveyard, together with active spying, will still keep kids interested, but there's always that risk with historical fiction that it will appeal more to adults than it does to the kids. There's a pretty clear sub-text in some of the scenes, where the adults, particularly Hazel's parents, talk over her head. I suppose that kids who understand this will have the chance to feel superior. Certainly I would expect young readers to be surprised at how different the world was 60 years ago. 

    Anyway, I quite liked Hazel, despite (or perhaps because of) that fact that she isn't completely likable at all. She makes mistakes, she runs away with her assumptions, and she is flat out wrong about most things. But she's smart and loves books and doesn't really try to fit in - she is utterly herself. When a popular girl invites Hazel, unexpectedly, to a birthday party, she attends only so that she can conduct her investigation. She attempts to turn a mausoleum into a fallout shelter. She does remind me a bit of Harriet the Spy, writing things down in a little notebook, though the lives of the two girls are quite different. 

    Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Hazel:

    "What was in that box?

    Hazel sat up in the tree chewing her lip. Something was not on the up-and-up. Last year she had read every single one of the Nancy Drew mysteries, and just like Nancy always did, she had a hunch, but you didn't need to be a young sleuth like Hazel and Nancy to know that when a person locked something up, he was hiding something. And just like that, Hazel had her first real mystery." (Chapter 2)


    "It should come as no surprise that Hazel loved the library. She loved everything about it, even the smell, like paper, and paste, and sometimes, when Richard Begos was there, a little bit like pipe smoke." (Chapter 6)

    Despite the presence of some mean-spirited, gossipmongers in the town, there are several wonderful adult role models for Hazel, including a service station owner and a librarian. I also liked the fact that the conflict that Hazel has with a couple of mean girls is not resolved to any great degree. This comes across as realistic, and Hazel never feels like she needs their approval anyway. 

    A hint of a mystery is left open at the end of The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. It's not a cliffhanger, just something to keep the reader guessing. Kids who enjoy mysteries or realistic historical fiction (like Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now) will definitely want to check this one out. I enjoyed it as an adult, and I think that I would have loved it when I was ten (having been something of a geek like Hazel). Although this is Hazel's story, the engaging cover should help it to appeal to boys, too. Recommended! 

    Publisher: Bloomsbury (@BWKids)
    Publication Date: May 6, 2014
    Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

    FTC Required Disclosure:

    This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

    © 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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    9. Historical Fiction: Adding Detail

    We know writers of historical fiction pay attention to period detail, but how do they weave that detail into the story? What scaffolds can we provide to support the kids' writing as they work to weave together history and story? What kind of work could they do in their writer's notebooks?

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    10. Cybils Finalist Review: OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys

    One of this year's Cybils finalist titles in YA Fiction was Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, who wrote the much-acclaimed Between Shades of Gray. Sepetys seems, so far, to specialize in historical fiction, which is a genre I've come to appreciate... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Cybils Finalist Review: OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys as of 3/31/2014 8:13:00 PM
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    11. Review of the Day: Curiosity by Gary Blackwood

    Curiosity Review of the Day: Curiosity by Gary BlackwoodCuriosity
    By Gary Blackwood
    Dial (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)
    ISBN: 978-0-8037-3924-6
    Ages 9-12
    On shelves April 10th

    Blackwood’s back, baby! And not a minute too soon. Back in 1998, the author released The Shakespeare Stealer which would soon thereafter become his best-known work. A clever blending of historical fiction and adventure, the book allowed teachers the chance to hone Shakespeare down to a kid-friendly level. Since its publication Mr. Blackwood has kept busy, writing speculative fiction and, most recently, works of nonfiction for kids. Then there was a bit of a lull in his writing and the foolish amongst us (myself included) forgot about him. There will be no forgetting Mr. Blackwood anytime now though. Not after you read his latest work Curiosity. Throwing in everything from P.T. Barnum and phrenology to hunchbacks, Edgar Allan Poe, automatons, chess prodigies, murder, terrible fires, and legless men, Blackwood produces a tour de force to be reckoned with. In the press materials for this book, Penguin calls it “Gary Blackwood’s triumphant return to middle grade fiction.” They’re not wrong. The man’s about to acquire a whole new generation of fans and enthusiasts.

    Fear for the children of novels that describe their childhoods as pampered or coddled. No good can come of that. Born weak with a slight deformity of the spine, Rufus lives a lovely life with his father, a well-respected Methodist minister in early 19th century Philadelphia. That’s all before his father writes a kind of predecessor to The Origin of the Species and through a series of misadventures is thrown into debtor’s prison. Fortunately (perhaps) Rufus is a bit of a chess prodigy and his talents get him a job with a man by the name of Johann Nepomuk Maelzel. Maelzel owns an automaton called The Turk that is supposed to be able to play chess against anyone and win. With Rufus safely ensconced inside, The Turk is poised to become a massive moneymaker. But forces are at work to reveal The Turk’s secrets and if that information gets out, Rufus’s life might not be worth that of the pawns he plays.

    Making the past seem relevant and accessible is hard enough when you’re writing a book for adults. Imagine the additional difficulty children’s authors find themselves in. Your word count is limited else you lose your audience. That means you need to engage in some serious (not to mention judicious and meticulous) wordplay. Blackwood’s a pro, though. His 1835 world is capable of capturing you with its life and vitality without boring you in the process. At one point Rufus describes seeing Richmond, VA for the first time and you are THERE, man. From the Flying Gigs to the mockingbirds to the James River itself. I was also relieved to find that Blackwood does make mention of the African-Americans living in Richmond and Philly at the time this novel takes place. Many are the works of historical fiction by white people about white people that conveniently forget this little fact.

    Add onto that the difficulty that comes with making the past interesting and accurate and relevant all at once. I read more historical fiction for kids than a human being should, and while it’s all often very well meaning, interesting? Not usually an option. I’m certain folks will look at how Blackwood piles on the crazy elements here (see: previous statement about the book containing everything from phrenology to P.T. Barnum) and will assume that this is just a cheap play for thrills. Not so. It’s the man’s writing that actually holds your focus. I mean, look at that first line: “Out of all the books in the world, I wonder what made you choose this one.” Heck, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Check out these little gems:

    “If my cosseted childhood hadn’t taught me how to relate to other people, neither had it taught em to fear them.”

    “I was like some perverse species of prisoner who felt free only when he was locked inside a tiny cell.”

    “Maelzel was not the sort of creator imagined by the Deists, who fashions a sort of clockwork universe and winds it up, then sits back and watches it go and never interferes. He was more like my father’s idea of the creator: constantly tinkering with his creations, looking for ways to make them run more smoothly and perform more cleverly – the kind who makes it possible for new species to develop.”

    As for the writing of the story itself, Blackwood keeps the reader guessing and then fills the tale with loads of historical details. The historical accuracy is such that Blackwood even allows himself little throwaway references, confident that confused kids will look them up themselves. For example, at one point Rufus compares himself to “Varney the Vampire climbing into his coffin.” This would be a penny dreadful that circulated roundabout this time (is there any more terrifying name than “Varney” after all?). In another instance a blazing fire is met with two “rival hose” companies battling one another “for the right to hook up to the nearest fireplug.” There is a feeling that for a book to be literary it has to be dull. Blackwood dispels the notion, and one has to stand amazed when they realize that somehow he managed to make a story about a kid trapped in a small dark space for hours at a time riveting.

    Another one of the more remarkable accomplishments of the book is that it honestly makes you want to learn more about the game of chess. A good author can get a kid interested in any subject, of course. I think back on The Cardturner by Louis Sachar, which dared to talk up the game of Bridge. And honestly, chess isn’t a hard sell. The #1 nonfiction request I get from my fellow children’s librarians (and the request I simply cannot fulfill fast enough) is for more chess books for kids. At least in the big cities, chess is a way of life for some children. One hopes that we’ll be able to extend their interest beyond the immediate game itself and onto a book where a kid like themselves has all the markings of true genius.

    It isn’t perfect, of course. In terms of characterization, of all the people in this book Rufus is perhaps the least interesting. You willingly follow him, of course. Just because he doesn’t sparkle on the page like some of the other characters doesn’t mean you don’t respond to the little guy. One such example might be when his first crush doesn’t go as planned. But he’s a touchstone for the other characters around him. Then there’s the other problem of Rufus being continually rescued by the same person in the same manner (I won’t go into the details) more than once. It makes for a weird repeated beat. The shock of the first incident is actually watered down by the non-surprise of the second. Rufus becomes oddly passive in his own life, rarely doing anything to change the course of his fate (he falls unconscious and wakes up rescued more than once,) a fact that may contribute to the fact that he’s so unmemorable on the page.

    But that aside, it’s hard not to be entranced by what Blackwood has come up with here. Automatons sort of came to the public’s attention when Brian Selznick wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Blackwood takes it all a step further merging man and machine, questioning what we owe to one another and, to a certain extent, where the power really lies. Rufus finds his sense of self and bravery by becoming invisible. At the same time, he’s so innocent to the ways of the world that becoming visible comes with the danger of having your heart broken in a multitude of different ways. In an era where kids spend untold gobs of time in front of the screens of computers, finding themselves through a newer technology, Blackwood’s story has never been timelier. Smart and interesting, fun and strange, this is one piece of little known history worthy of your attention. Check and mate.

    On shelves April 10th.

    Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

    Like This? Then Try:

    First Line: “Out of all the books in the world, I wonder what made you choose this one.”

    Notes on the Cover: And now let us praise fabulous cover artists. Particularly those creating covers that make more sense after you’ve finished the book. The glimpse of Rufus’s eye in the “O” of the title didn’t do much more than vaguely remind me of the spine of the The Invention of Hugo Cabret at first (an apt comparison in more than one way). After closer examination, however, I realized that it was Rufus in the cabinet below. The unnerving view of The Turk and the shadowy Mr. Hyde-ish man in the far back all combine to give this book a look of both historical fervor and intrigue. And look how that single red (red?) pawn is lit. It’s probably not actually a red pawn but a white one, but something about the image looks reddish. Blood red, if you will. Boy, that’s a good jacket.

    Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus


    • Care to read Edgar Allan Poe’s actual article for The Messenger about The Turk?  Do so here.
    • A fun BBC piece on the implication of The Turk then, now, and for our children.  It appears to have been written by one “Adam Gopnik”.  We’ll just assume it’s a different Adam than the one behind A Tale Dark & Grimm.

    Videos: Want to see the real Turk in action?  This video makes for fascinating watching.

    share save 171 16 Review of the Day: Curiosity by Gary Blackwood

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    12. Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

    Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms Fumiyo Kouno, translated from the Japanese by Naoko Amemiya and Andy Nakatani

    This isn't currently in print, but many libraries still have it and it's seriously worth tracking down a copy. It's two stories, in one book. "Town of Evening Calm" deals with Minami, a young woman who, 10 years prior, survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She's still haunted by that day, and has intense guilt about the fact she survived when so many didn't. (Including many members of her immediate family.) "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is in two parts and takes place in 1987, the second part in 2004, and on one hand is a story of changing friendships and aging parents, but on the other is a look at how the bombing still lingers in Japanese society and thought. They're connected, but I won't tell you how.

    This is an Outstanding Book for the College Bound, on the History and Cultures list. I didn't read it when we were working on the list, because I was on different subcommittees, but hearing the History and Cultures people talk about it, it was on my list of ones to pick up immediately.

    The author's note at the end explains why Kouno wrote the story. She's from Hiroshima, where they avoid the subject. When she moved to Tokyo she discovered that the rest of Japan (excepting Nagasaki) don't talk about it because they don't understand it. They don't the scars those cities still bear, and how they're different than the ones the rest of Japan has.

    The result is beautifully drawn book. "Town of Evening Calm" is rather heartbreaking, but "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is often very funny. It's a fascinating look into a time and place and effects events still have decades down to the line.

    Book Provided by... my local library

    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.

    0 Comments on Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms as of 3/27/2014 11:55:00 AM
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    13. Me & Mr. Bell: A Novel, by Philip Roy | Book Review

    This book will appeal to middle grade readers who like stories about inventions, airplanes, famous people, overcoming difficulties, and life in earlier times.

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    14. Death Comes To the Village

    Death Comes to the Village. Catherine Lloyd. 2013. Kensington. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

    Death Comes To The Village was a very enjoyable--quite pleasant--mystery set in Regency England. Major Robert Kurland, our hero, is an invalid soldier. He's recovering from his injuries, but, no one can begin to predict if he'll make a complete recovery. The mystery opens with his frustration at its highest. He is unable to sleep because the curtains have not been closed. He--for better or worse--decides to try to take care of it himself. Of course, he isn't able to walk properly. And it's amazing he even makes it all the way to the window before collapsing in a heap on the floor. But before he falls oh-so-dramatically, he witnesses something through the window. A man carrying a large-bulky-heavy-something. Is he a burglar or a murderer? Is there a reasonable explanation? He's not sure. He feels something happened, and he tells the rector's daughter, our heroine, Lucy Harrington. He shares with her his notion that a crime may have happened--not mentioning murder--and he wants her to keep her ears open. Did anyone else hear anything? see anything? Were any homes robbed? Anyone gone missing? Any strange behavior? Soon these two have teamed up and are working hard to solve a mystery...

    There HAVE been thefts in the area. Many homes are missing small objects, it appears there is plenty of reason to suspect a burglar...

    But two maids have also vanished...and Miss Lucy Harrington fears the worst...

    © 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    15. Classroom Connections: WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE by Rebecca Behrens

    age range: middle grade
    setting: the White House

    Please tell us about your book.

    WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE is about what happens when Audrey, a somewhat lonely thirteen-year-old First Daughter, finds Alice Roosevelt’s long-lost diary hidden under the floorboards of a White House closet. After reading about Alice’s wild antics—carrying around a pet snake to parties, going for joyrides in her red runabout, traveling to Cuba, and throwing a huge White House debut—Audrey is inspired to find her own ways to “eat up the world.” But trying to live like Alice threatens to get Audrey into more trouble than she can handle—and may even affect her mother’s political career.

    WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE features fictional diary entries from Alice’s point of view, along with an author’s note, bibliography, and many ancillary resources available on the publisher’s website (such as an Educator’s Discussion Guide, Women’s History Month lesson plan, and ALICE FOR REAL, an annotated version of the diary entries).

    What inspired you to write this story?

    Growing up, I was fascinated by children living in the White House. I’m still interested today in what private life is like for presidential families. Particularly when President Obama was elected in 2008, I wondered how the lives of his daughters would change as they headed to Washington. I imagined that there would be a lot of wonderful and exciting opportunities for them in the coming years—and probably some hardships, too. The idea of a “First Daughter” feeling a little isolated and constrained stuck with me and soon developed into Audrey’s character.

    I also had long wanted to write fiction about Alice Roosevelt’s wild life. Interest in Theodore Roosevelt runs in my family—my great-grandfather was present at the famous speech TR gave in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after TR had been shot in an assassination attempt. My father is a history buff and told me many stories about the Roosevelt family, and I found Alice particularly fascinating.

    Then one day I was walking near 62nd and Madison in New York, and suddenly I had the initial spark to combine those two story ideas into one. Interestingly enough, while researching I found out that Alice’s aunt had lived at that very intersection, and that was a place where Alice had spent time as a young person. Weird!

    Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

    Much of my research was done the old-fashioned way: heading to the public library and checking out lots and lots of books on Alice Roosevelt and White House life. I also used many online resources, including official White House websites, the White House Historical Association, National Parks Service sites, and unofficial pages that detail White House history.

    I also was fortunate enough to be selected to attend a private White House Social garden tour. With about twenty other attendees, I got to tour the grounds and meet with White House employees. It was so helpful to get to see this particular setting in person, and to experience things like the security process for visitors.

    While I was writing the first draft, a good friend happened to work in the West Wing. It was great to be able to send someone there an email asking, “What would happen if someone ordered a pizza to Pennsylvania Avenue?” Some of my friend’s responses made me interested in aspects of White House life I wouldn’t have thought of myself, such as food security at the White House.

    What are some special challenges associated with writing historical fiction?

    For me, it was challenging to balance the occasionally competing demands of factual accuracy and good fiction. Especially because I had so much information about Alice’s real life, I felt a bit of a responsibility to respect the facts while writing her diary entries. Sometimes, though, it felt more true for my Alice’s story to stray from what really happened, either because it fit the character I’d created or because it tied the two girls’ stories together more neatly.

    Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to write the best piece of fiction possible, so I would have to side with that. Within reason, of course—I worked hard to make my Alice character as believable and true to her time period as possible.

    I also think it can be tricky to get period writing for contemporary readers right. I hope Alice’s voice is believable as that of a seventeen-year-old in the early 1900s. I’m sure I’ve included a few anachronistic words here and there, even though I did rely heavily on the online etymology dictionary and other resources to see when terms came into use! But I also wanted her words to flow nicely and stay accessible for young readers today.

    What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

    Presidential politics
    Theodore Roosevelt, Alice Roosevelt, and family
    Women in politics
    Civil Rights and the 14th Amendment
    Marriage equality
    White House history and White House life
    Women’s History Month
    Researching fact versus fiction
    Labor politics (Coal Strike of 1902)

    Be sure to visit Rebecca Behrens at her website.

    The post Classroom Connections: WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE by Rebecca Behrens appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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    16. Straight From the Source: Margarita Engle on Writing Historical Fiction

    Please join me in welcoming Margaria Engle to the blog today.

    Margarita is a poet and novelist whose work has been published in many countries. Her books include THE SURRENDER TREE, a Newbery Honor book and winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Américas Award, and the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award; THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA, winner of the Pura Belpré Award and the Américas Award; and HURRICANE DANCERS, winner of the Pura Belpré Award. Her most recent book, SILVER PEOPLE: VOICES FROM PANAMA CANAL, releases March 25.final Silver People cover-1

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

    I love to read anything I can find about Cuba, so when I encounter a historical figure who astonishes me, I get excited.  This is especially true for first person accounts.  For instance, while I was doing research for THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA and THE SURRENDER TREE, I encountered diaries that would later lead to THE FIREFLY LETTERS and THE LIGHTNING DREAMER.

    How do you conduct your research? 

    I love interlibrary loan!  I love diaries!  I love variety, so I read all the current nonfiction books and articles about a subject, then look at their bibliographies to find earlier works.  When I keep moving farther and farther back in time, sometimes I’m lucky enough to find first-person accounts.

    You do have a specific system for collecting data? 

    I’m an omnivore.  I read everything.  When something interests me, I fill index cards with notes.  It’s extremely low-tech.

    What kinds of sources do you use?

    New books, antique books, diaries, scholarly journals, bibliographies, helpful librarians, just about anything I can find.

    How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?

    A year of afternoons spent reading and re-reading about a subject (while writing my current project—using last year’s research—during the mornings.)  It’s difficult sometimes, because it means time traveling back and forth between the current project, future project, and my real life.

    At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue once you begin writing?

    I don’t consider the research finished until I remember a lot about the subject without having to constantly look up details.  Of course, once the book is finished, I instantly forget everything, because my brain’s storage capacity is tiny, and by then it’s already starting to get filled up with information about the next project.

    What is your favorite thing about research?

    I love learning!  I’m in love with those aha moments when I wonder why I’ve never heard of this person, or this event, that seems so significant and inspiring.

    What’s your least favorite thing about research?

    The fear of making factual errors or incorrect assumptions, especially regarding earlier time periods, when there were few first-person accounts, and especially regarding indigenous cultures that left no written record.

    What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

    The daydreaming!  I love to imagine.

    What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

    Unfortunately, chain bookstores rarely stock my books.  They seem to be thought of as limited to the school and library “market.”  I don’t know if it’s because they’re historical, multicultural, or verse novels—possibly all three. I sometimes feel like a second-class citizen in the publishing world.

    What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

    While researching HURRICANE DANCERS, I was invited to become a subject of the Cuban DNA Project.  I learned that my maternal ancestry is indigenous.  I am a descendant of the people I was researching!  This was especially thrilling because like all Cubans and Cuban-Americans, I had been brought up believing that Cuban Indians are extinct.  In other words:  the history books were wrong.

    Has your research ever affected the overall trust of your book? How so?

    I once had an awkward experience at a conference.  I was sent into a roomful of teachers who were discussing THE FIREFLY LETTERS.  Most were polite, but one challenged me, saying she didn’t like the ending, because it was too hopeful.  She didn’t see hope as a realistic facet of slavery.  To quote her, she said my ending was, “happy ever after.”  In my defense, I explained that I only choose stories where I’ve found a hopeful ending.  Other stories might fascinate me as a reader, but as a writer, I don’t choose to offer hopeless endings to young people.

    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?

    Sometimes I create fictional characters in real situations.  Sometimes I combine fictional characters with historical figures.  This is the approach I took in my newest verse novel, SILVER PEOPLE: VOICES FROM PANAMA CANAL.  It’s such an incredibly enormous subject, involving hundreds of thousands of laborers from more than a hundred nations.  I had to narrow it down to a few characters.  When I tried to include too many, it fell apart, so I chose to focus on the ones I could picture most clearly, the ones whose voices reached me.

    Why is historical fiction important?

    Historical fiction can help us understand the enormous world, by learning about specific people, cultures, and events.  My hope is that young people will feel encouraged and inspired when they read about real people who made hopeful choices in times that must have seemed hopeless.


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

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    17. New Imprint At Capstone

    Back in February I reported about how Capstone was expanding their new Young Readers trade imprint. This week they announced they were launching Switch Press their new YA Imprint, so now there is something for most all of  you out there to consider, even historical fiction, graphic novels.  Scroll down to read.

    capstone2Capstone Publishing Group, which has been aggressively expanding beyond the school and library markets with the launch six months ago of its Capstone Young Readers trade imprint, is adding picture books to the list this spring. Thirteen picture books in print format will be released initially under the CYR imprint; after the first list, the imprint will release four to six picture books each year.

    Capstone Publishing Group has previously published picture books for the educational and trade markets under its Picture Window imprint and will continue to do so; this is the first time the company is publishing picture books under the CYR imprint. Thus far, board books, chapter books, and hobbies and crafts books have been published under the CYR imprint, which is overseen by senior product manager John Rahm and editorial directors Michael Dahl and Nick Healy.

    In May Capstone will launch a Web site to promote its new CYR line, www.capstoneyoungreaders.com. CYR titles will be available in digital formats as well as in print. While only select Capstone Publishing titles for the educational market are available in digital formats, all of Capstone’s trade titles will be available in both print and e-book formats.

    Capstone Young Readers Launches YA Imprint: Offers Wide Range of Nonfiction and Fiction Titles

    Capstone Young Readers, a leading publisher of children’s books and digital products and services, announced the launch of Switch Press, a new imprint dedicated to titles that appeal to the wide range of interests of the young adult audience today. Switch Press will include a broad selection of contemporary nonfiction and fiction book titles such as graphic novels, cookbooks, craft/how-to, narrative non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry, fantasy and other speculative fiction.

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: authors and illustrators, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, Places to sumit, poetry, publishers, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Capstone Young Readers Trade Imprint, Fiction and Non-fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Switch Press YA Imprint

    3 Comments on New Imprint At Capstone, last added: 3/14/2014
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    18. Giveaway: The Book Thief Blu-ray and DVD, PLUS The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    THE BOOK THIEF Based on the beloved best-selling book comes an “extremely moving” (Leonard Maltin, Indiewire) story of a girl who transforms the lives of those around her during World War II, Germany. When her mother can no longer care for her, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a German couple (OSCAR® Winner Geoffrey Rush* and OSCAR® Nominee Emily Watson**). Although she arrives

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    19. Review of the Day: Written in Stone by Rosanne Parry

    WrittenInStone 198x300 Review of the Day: Written in Stone by Rosanne ParryWritten in Stone
    By Rosanne Parry
    Random House
    ISBN: 978-0-375-86971-6
    Ages 9-12
    On shelves now

    Finding books of historical fiction for kids about Native Americans is an oddly limited proposition. Basically, it boils down to Pilgrims, the Trail of Tears, the occasional 1900s storyline (thank God for Louise Erdrich), and . . . yeah, that’s about it. Contemporary fiction? Unheard of at best, offensive at worst. Authors, it seems, like to relegate their American Indians to the distant past where we can feel bad about them through the conscience assuaging veil of history. Maybe that’s part of what I like so much about Rosanne Parry’s Written in Stone. Set in the 1920s, Parry picks a moment in time with cultural significance not for the white readers with their limited historical knowledge but for the people most influenced by changes both at home and at sea. Smart and subtle by turns, Parry tackles a tricky subject and comes away swinging.

    A girl with a dream is just that. A dreamer. And though Pearl has always longed to hunt whales like her father before her, harpooning is not in her future. When her father, a member of the Makah people of the Pacific Northwest, is killed on a routine hunt, Pearl’s future is in serious doubt. Not particularly endowed with any useful skills (though she’d love to learn to weave, if anyone was around to teach her), Pearl uncovers on her own a series of forgotten petroglyphs and the plot of a nefarious “art dealer”. Now her newfound love of the written word is going to give her the power to do something she never thought possible: preserve her tribe’s culture.

    It’s sort of nice to read a book and feel like a kid in terms of the plot twists. Take, for example, the character of the “collector” who arrives and then immediately appears to be something else entirely. I probably should have been able to figure out his real occupation (or at least interests) long before the book revealed them to me, and yet here I was, toddling through, not a care in the world. I never saw it coming, and that means that at least 75% of the kids reading this book will also be in for a surprise.

    I consider the ending of the book a bit of a plot twist as well, actually. We’re so used to our heroes and heroines at the ends of books pulling off these massive escapades and solutions to their problems that when I read Pearl’s very practical and real world answer to the dilemma posed by the smooth talking art dealer I was a bit taken aback. What, no media frenzied conclusion? No huge explosions or public shaming of the villain or anything similarly crass and confused? It took a little getting used to but once I’d accepted the quiet, realistic ending I realized it was better (and more appropriate to the general tone of the book) than anything a more ludicrous premise would have allowed.

    If anything didn’t quite work for me, I guess it was the whole “Written in Stone” part. I understood why Pearl had to see the petroglyphs so as to aid her own personal growth and understanding of herself as a writer. That I got. It was more a problem that I had a great deal of difficulty picturing them in my own mind. I had to do a little online research of my own to get a sense of what they looked like, and even that proved insufficient since Parry’s petroglyphs are her own creation and not quite like anything else out there. It’s not an illustrated novel, but a few choice pen and inks of the images in their simplest forms would not have been out of place.

    Now let us give thanks to authors (and their publishers) that know the value of a good chunk of backmatter. 19 pages worth of the stuff, no less (and on a 196-page title, that ain’t small potatoes). Because she is a white author writing about a distinct tribal group and their past, Parry treads carefully. Her extensive Author’s Note consists of her own personal connections to the Quinaults, her care to not replicate anything that is not for public consumption, the history of whaling amongst the Makah people, thoughts on the potlatch, petroglyphs, a history of epidemics and economic change to the region (I was unaware that it was returning WWI soldiers with influenza that were responsible for a vast number of deaths to the tribal communities of the Pacific Northwest at that time), the history of art collectors and natural resource management, an extensive bibliography that is split between resources for young readers, exhibits of Pacific Northwest art and artifacts, and resources for older readers, a Glossary of Quinault terms (with a long explanation of how it was recorded over the years), and a thank you to the many people who helped contribute to this book. PHEW! They hardly make ‘em like THIS these days.

    I also love the care with which Parry approached her subject matter. There isn’t any of this swagger or ownership at work that you might find in other authors’ works. Her respect shines through. In a section labeled “Culture and Respect” Parry writes, “Historical fiction can never be taken lightly, and stories involving Native Americans are particularly delicate, as the author, whether Native or not, must walk the line between illuminating the life of the characters as fully as possible and withholding cultural information not intended for the public or specific stories that are the property of an individual, family, or tribe.” In this way the author explains that she purposefully left out the rituals that surround a whale hunt. She only alludes to stories of the Pitch Woman and the Timber Giant, never giving away their details. She even makes note the changes in names and spellings in the 1920s versus today.

    I don’t know that you’re going to find another book out there quite like Written in Stone. Heck, I haven’t even touched on Pearl’s personality or her personal connections to her father and aunt. I haven’t talked about my favorite part of the book where Pearl’s grandfather haggles with a white trading partner and gets his wife to sing a lullaby that he claims is an ancient Indian curse. I haven’t done any of that, and yet I don’t think that there’s much more to say. The book is a smart historical work of fiction that requires use of the child reader’s brain more than anything else. It’s a glimpse of history I’ve not seen in a work of middle grade fiction before and I’d betcha bottom dollar I might never see it replicated again. Hats off then to Ms. Parry for the time, and effort, and consideration, and care she poured into this work. Hats off too to her editor for allowing her to do so. The book’s a keeper, no question. It’s just a question of finding it, is all.

    On shelves now.

    Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

    Like This? Then Try:

    Notes on the Cover: This marks the second Richard Tuschman book jacket I’ve reviewed this year.  The first was A Girl Called Problem, one of my favorites of 2013.  The man has good taste in books.

    Other Reviews:

    Professional Reviews:


    Videos: Um . . . okay, I sort of love this fan made faux movie trailer for the book. It’s sort of awesome.  Check it out.

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    4 Comments on Review of the Day: Written in Stone by Rosanne Parry, last added: 12/7/2013
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    20. Straight From the Source: Sonia Gensler on Writing Historical Fiction

    I’m excited to share a new series about authors who write historical fiction. Please join me in welcoming Sonia Gensler today.

    Sonia is the author of The Revenant, winner of the Oklahoma Book Award and a Parents’ Choice Silver Award. The Dark Between, her latest “lively Victorian mystey” (Kirkus), received praise for its “blending of the empirical and the ethereal” (School Library Journal) and “engaging, page-turning plot” (Examiner.com). Sonia grew up in a small Tennessee town and spent her early adulthood collecting impractical degrees from various Midwestern universities. A former high school English teacher, she now writes full time in Oklahoma. Learn more at www.soniagensler.com.

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

    I usually start with a place. In the case of The Revenant, it was a building in northeastern Oklahoma—gorgeously Victorian with turrets and a clock tower—which I was surprised to learn had once housed a Cherokee girls’ boarding school. The Dark Between started with a city, Cambridge, and in particular a women’s college, Newnham, which lies a short distance away from the city center in a quiet wooded neighborhood. When a place intrigues me, I start to wonder what sort of people might have inhabited it, and what kind of joys and troubles they might have experienced.

    What kinds of sources do you use?

    I am very visually oriented, so I often start with Google image searches for people and places that relate to my story. Those images often lead me to historical documents, websites, and scholarly essays. I use Amazon as a database for books on my subject, and then do my best to check books out from our local university library (exploiting my law professor husband’s library privileges). I often end up buying books, as well—I can’t seem to help myself. Visits to historical societies and archives are also a must, but only after I’ve done some preliminary research and have a certain comfort level with the place and/or time period.

    sonia's notebook for interviewWhat is your favorite thing about research?

    Research is one of my favorite parts of story telling, but my very favorite thing about research is the travel! I simply have to see the landscapes of my stories first hand, which in the case of The Revenant meant many, many trips to Tahlequah, OK, (fortunately I have good friends there who welcome me into their homes) and four separate trips to Cambridge, England for The Dark Between. (Hey, it’s a write off, right?)

    What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

    First of all, I love to time travel. But even more I appreciate the opportunity to show female characters as strong, intellectual, and independent in time periods when these attributes weren’t exactly valued as “ladylike.”

    What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

    I suppose it’s more of a “pitfall,” but there’s often a temptation to show off all the fascinating little historical details one has learned by inserting them into the narrative. It’s hard to do this organically, and if it doesn’t serve story or character, it shouldn’t be there. Kate Atkinson, author of the fabulous Life After Life says it better:

    As a reader I dislike historical novels where I am continually stumbling over an excess of facts although I readily understand the compulsion to include all the fascinating stuff that you’ve spent so much time reading about, but there are few things more uncomfortable for the reader than to be constantly stumbling over the pathologically recondite research of an author.

    What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

    I became obsessed with 19th century female mediums before I even had the plot established for The Revenant. When reading The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, I learned that women often were attracted to mediumship because it offered a way to have power, prestige, and even wealth in a way that wouldn’t compromise their reputations as ladies, particularly to those who recognized Spiritualism as a religion. I was fascinated by how female mediums manipulated their clients, capitalizing on their own beauty, maternal qualities, spiritual authority, and/or exoticness. Like I mentioned in a previous answer, I love writing about active, intellectual females doing their thing in a time when women were supposed to remain passive in the domestic sphere.


    Courage and Hope
    Congratulations to Jessica Lawson, Allison Jackson, Katie Newington, Lorna Wheaton, Faith Hough, Nicole McInnes, Vijaya Bodach, Irene Latham, Marissa Burt, and Valerie Geary, who’ve all won copies of May B. Your book will be coming soon!

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

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    21. On My Kindle


    The summer of 1984 was a golden time in America. From California, where gymnast Mary Lou Retton was winning Olympic gold, to Cape Cod, where explorer Barry Clifford was discovering pirate gold, the nation seemed obsessed with the precious metal. But for 15-year old Al, that obsession hits a little too close to home when he finds a code-filled notebook belonging to his missing father that may contain the ancient formula for turning lead to gold. Convinced that his father’s sudden disappearance is connected to his secret experiments in alchemy, Al sets out to find the truth. He enlists the help of Cammie, a beautiful girl staying for the summer while her marine biologist father tracks a wayward manatee, and together they begin unraveling the mystery. But the closer they get to an answer, the closer they grow to each other, and as the end of summer draws nearer, Al wonders if they can break the code without breaking his heart.

    bone field

    In this sequel to Belle of the Glades, the holiday season brings mystery and adventure for Belle and her Indian friend, Summer. At the Bone Field, they find clues of a Bigfoot, but Belle’s uncle dismisses the signs. Belle and Summer set out to befriend the mysterious stranger with food gifts, but he has reason to stay hidden. Is he a real Bigfoot? How does Belle solve the mystery?


    Eleanor Parkhurst is determined to get in the way of Nathaniel Naverly seducing her sweet cousin Rose. Nate has a history of treating girls badly and Ellie suspects his intentions are far from honorable. Getting Nate to switch his attention to her seemed like a good plan, but Ellie didn’t foresee that she might have to protect her own heart from his schemes as well. The game is proving a challenge. Midnight meetings, fighting or kissing, it’s all part of the fun of flirting. Set in an English boarding school, Ellie and her American new best friend, Flora, discover that boys are more complicated than classes, and you have to play the game well or you might just get played!

    She is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted–all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage.

    For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits?

    However, the wizard Merlyn–her teacher and friend–knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.

    down under

    When a reluctant grandson in Oregon is pressured into writing to his grandma in Australia, wonderful things happen. Both have a need for love and reassurance as they deal with their everyday problems. Back and forth the letters go: Josh shares his daily problems, and Grandma Rose shares past memories that astonish her grandson and his friend Kelly.

    The Xbox gathers dust, as the two friends find themselves bike riding and bird watching – and actually reading. Googling the weird and wonderful Aussie critters that come to Rose’s garden becomes a fun hobby. Soon, Andy and Gradma Rose shrink the Pacific Ocean into a puddle they can easily ford.

    ** Glossary of Australian and words included.


    Young Billy loves the game of baseball. He can’t wait to play and hang around with his team mates. But Billy’s team mates don’t take to him right away and Billy struggles hitting.

    2 Comments on On My Kindle, last added: 2/28/2014
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    22. Reread #9 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 2008. Random House. 274 pages. [Source: Library]

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those rare, rare books where you could almost open it up to ANY page and find something to smile about. And that, of course, is something to be treasured and applauded because it makes for a completely satisfying read from start to finish. This novel is told completely through letters. Readers get to know characters in their own words, for better or worse. Readers can try to read between the lines and make connections perhaps. They might attempt to play "Miss Marple" like one of the minor characters and spy out what is really going on...

    The heroine of the novel is a young author named Juliet Ashton. During the war, she wrote a regular column under the name of Izzy Bickerstaff. Now that the war is over (finally!!!), her columns have been published together in book form. She's happy. Of course she's happy. Why wouldn't she be happy. The war is over. Her book is being received positively. Sure, she feels the need to move on, to write a book under her own name, to write a very different book. And true, she's a bit in doubt as to what that next book will be and if that book will live up to the success of the first one, but...

    So most of her letters are to her publisher, Sidney, or to her best friend, Sophie. But. One letter she receives changes her life. And it wasn't an obvious change-of-life letter. It was a friendly, down-to-earth letter from a complete stranger. He'd read "her" book. No, not the book she'd written. But a book that had been in her library, a book with her name and address in it. It was a book by Charles Lamb. This used book found and read during the war, really, really effected him. He connected with Charles Lamb, and he thought she might have book recommendations and such.

    So. Juliet discovers almost by accident several things. First, that Guernsey was occupied during the war. (If she'd known during the war, it had slipped her mind because it didn't really impact her--not because she was selfish, but just because when your own world is a big tumbling-down uncertain mess, you don't really think of the island of Guernsey in the big-scheme-of-things.) Second, that a group had come together through desperation and lust (for a pig dinner!!!) to form the "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". Though for the record, the Potato Peel Pie part came later! Of course, she HAS to know more, and she wants all the details. She NEEDS more. She wants to hear more from men and women in this "literary society." She wants their stories--about books and reading, about the Nazi occupation, about the war, about their hardships (hunger, separation from children, etc), about their joys and sorrows. Of course, all this will take time and trust...

    And that is what makes this one so great, in my opinion. I loved the getting-to-know experience. I loved the relationship building. I loved seeing friendships form. I especially, especially loved the bond that formed between Juliet and Kit (a war orphan). There were so many giddy-making moments in this book!

    I would definitely recommend this one! It is so wonderful, so charming, so perfect!!!!  

    I first reviewed this one in August 2009.  

    Favorite quotes:
    I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.
    That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.
    Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.
    Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.
    I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers-- booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one-- the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it-- along with first dibs on the new books.
    Isola doesn't approve of small talk and believes in breaking the ice by stomping on it.

    It was amazing to me then, and still is, that so many people who wander into bookshops don't really know what they're after--they only want to look around and hope to see a book that will strike their fancy. And then, being bright enough not to trust the publisher's blurb, they will ask the book clerk the three questions: (1) What is it about? (2) Have you read it? (3) Was it any good?
    Will Thisbee gave me The Beginner's Cook-Book for Girl Guides. It was just the thing; the writer assumes you know nothing about cookery and writes useful hints - "When adding eggs, break the shells first.”
    “What on earth did you say to Isola? She stopped in on her way to pick up Pride and Prejudice and to berate me for never telling her about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Why hadn't she known there were better love stories around? Stories not riddled with ill-adjusted men, anguish, death and graveyards!”
    The first rule of snooping is to come at it sideways--when you began writing me dizzy letters about Alexander, I didn't ask if you were in love with him, I asked what his favorite animal was. And your answer told me everything I needed to know about him--how many men would admit that they loved ducks?

    © 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

    0 Comments on Reread #9 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as of 2/28/2014 11:14:00 AM
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    23. Fallen Beauty Blog Tour

    Fallen Beauty Erika Robuck

    In the late 1920's/ early 1930's, two women live in upstate New York. Laura has an unsuitable love affair, one that leaves her with a child, the scandal of her small town. The other is Edna St. Vincent Millay, the renowned poet. Told in both voices, their lives start to intersect.

    While it was the Millay angle that intrigued me, it was Laura's story that drew me in and made the novel for me. It has shades of The Scarlet Letter, as Laura refuses to name Grace's father, and is shunned my most of the town. Her sister is married to an up-and-coming politician, and while they remain very close (Marie being her only friend) there is tension between Everett's career ambitions and Laura's scandal. Laura's a hard character--she loves her daughter, but cannot forgive herself for what happened to bring her daughter into this world, and cannot forgive the town for shunning her even though she judges herself just as harshly, if not more so, than they do.

    Millay's a harder character to judge. Robuck is constrained by the realities of who she was. She did her research and did a good job of capturing her voice, but has a harder time explaining her actions. Laura isn't always a likeable character, but she's an understandable one. Millay flies into rages and orders all those around her to do her bidding. She orders ex-lovers to return to her side, and plays their affections off one another. Her free-love and open lifestyle had a definite mean and vindictive streak. But because Millay is not Robuck's character, there is little explanation for her actions that can be given beside "temperamental poet." The language is definitely more beautiful in Millay's sections (it is, afterall, in the voice of a poet) but it was Laura's story and Laura's journey that really drew me into the story and kept me turning the pages.

    This is not Robuck's first novel based on authors--she also has Call Me Zelda and Hemingway's Girl.

    Book Provided by... the publisher, as part of the Fallen Beauty blog tour.

    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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    24. The Night Gardener - a review

    A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

    Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

    Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

    Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

    At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
    But strangest of all was the tree.
    The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
    Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

    Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

    Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


    My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

    Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

    The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

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    25. Some Present Day Nonfiction About Historical Fiction

    I have had a modest interest in historical fiction as a reader that goes back a long time. I've thought about writing historical fiction, going so far as to write about a historical figure, but not in his period. So I was interested in a two-part article by Bobbi Miller at Children's Literature Network.

    A Conversation: Why is Historical Fiction Important? is very conversation-like with quotes from a large number of people on what historical fiction is. One of my favorites is from Avi: "Ultimately, what is most important is the story, and the characters.” Facts, according to Avi, do not make a story. “Believable people do…Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction makes truth less a stranger.”

     Conversation Continued: Why is Historical Fiction Important? is more analytical. "Other popular genres have distinct rules that govern basic premises...In contrast, historical fiction defies easy explanation and definition. For some, historical fiction is first and foremost fiction, and therefore anything goes. Others condemn the blending of invention with well-known and accepted facts and consider the genre contradictory at the very least..." is just one example.

    Both pieces are followed by a resources with links and recommended readings.

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