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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Middle Grade Novels, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 100
26. Three Opportunities

stephenfraserONE SPOT available for Weekend Writers Retreat with Stephen Frazer, agent from Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.

March 22nd – 24th at DOOLAN’S SHORE CLUB ON HIGHWAY 71 IN SPRING LAKE, NJ. http://www.doolansshoreclub.com/

Friday: Arrive afternoon – Leave Sunday at lunch.

One Hour Full Manuscript Critique for each writer with Stephen Frazer (Yes, you heard right. This is a fabulous opportunity to get your whole manuscript read, get to ask the nagging questions in the back of your mind and receive a lot of feedback).

One Hour Group Critiques

Time to talk with Stephen about the state of the publishing industry, your career, and the best road to take.

Pitch critiques on Sunday morning.

Includes single room both nights, dinner with Stephen on Friday and Saturday night, Saturday lunch with Stephen and continental breakfast Saturday and Sunday.
Cost $495 

Contact me ASAP! Spot could go fast. I will send you the address on where to send you money. Kathy.temean(at)gmail.com

 Author Illustrator Timothy Young is having a book Launch Party for his new book I HATE PICTURE BOOKS at Books of Wonder on March 2nd in NYC.  He invites you to stop by.


Monday, February 11th - 6:30pm – 8:30pm

They always say acting helps you with writing your actors, so I thought you might be interested in joining New Jersey SCBWI Member Kelly Calabrese’s ‘Acting Bootcamp’. It is for the beginning actor that needs a little guidance from an instructor who has been around the scene for a while.  This one night class will cover the basics of getting started the RIGHT way in order to help you gain more success in booking real acting work. The class is focused on the Business aspects of show business. Click Date at top for more info.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Events, Middle Grade Novels, need to know, opportunity, revisions, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Stephen Fraser, Weekend Writer's Retreat, Whole Novel Critique

0 Comments on Three Opportunities as of 2/3/2013 12:26:00 AM
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27. The Storm in the Barn for MMGM

I'm writing and posting this before the Caldecott and Newbery awards are announced, so I can't talk about them, darn it all. Guess that's what Twitter is for...

Instead, I want to talk about another kind of award-winner. And it's something I rarely read: a graphic novel.

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan (Candlewick Press, 2009, for ages 10 and up; Winner of the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction)

Source: paperback purchased last summer from local bookstore (which, sadly, is now closed)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father’s failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of "dust dementia" would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot’s abandoned barn — a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it’s hard to trust what you see with your own eyes — and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes. 

Why I liked it: Well, it's certainly not just because Matt Phelan autographed it last summer when he visited the bookstore, and drew me a little picture of Jack in his cap! I normally shy away from graphic novels, but this one is compelling. It's a fascinating combination of historical fiction and fantasy. That sinister figure in the barn turns out to be something otherworldly. Phelan's imagination soars in this beautifully-illustrated book.

Do you like graphic novels?  Which ones have you (or your kids) read?

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  Check her blog for the links, or see my sidebar.

17 Comments on The Storm in the Barn for MMGM, last added: 2/22/2013
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28. Four Agents Seeking Children’s Authors at D4EO Literary Agency

Bob Diforio launched D4EO Literary Agency in 1989 after a long career at New American Library. Today D4EO is a full-service, six-agent literary agency representing authors of a very broad range of commercial fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, and adults. Books represented by the agency have topped the The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and agency authors have received awards that include the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and the Nero Award.

With over 1,000 published books under contract, the agency has launched the writing careers of more than two hundred authors.

Samantha Deighton173Samantha Dighton joined D4EO in September 2012. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hobart and William Smith Colleges with degrees in Writing & Rhetoric and Dance Theory & Performance Studies.

Prior to joining D4EO, she worked at The Sagalyn Agency and as a reader for Curtis Brown.  She is based in Washington, D.C.

Sam is looking for character-driven stories with strong voice. She likes characters who are relatable yet flawed, vibrant settings that take on a life of their own, and a story that lasts well beyond the final page, generally falling within the categories below:

-Literary Fiction -Historical Fiction -Mystery/suspense -Magical Realism -Psychological thrillers -Young Adult (Realistic) -Narrative nonfiction

Please no science fiction, paranormal/urban fantasy, or bodice-ripping romances (though romantic subplots are always welcome!)

Email Submissions only.

-Send to samantha@d4eo.com .

mandy hubbardMandy Hubbard joined D4EO Literary Agency in February 2010 as a Young Adult and Middle Grade specialist, and has since expanded to include genre romance. Before agenting, she worked with Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency and is also a multi-published YA author. Her books include PRADA & PREJUDICE (Razorbill), YOU WISH (Razorbill), DRIVEN (Harlequin), BUT I LOVE HIM (Flux) RIPPLE (Razorbill), and others forthcoming.

Her leading clients include Lee Bross, author of  TANGLED WEBS (Disney-Hyperion, 2014), Emily Murdoch, author of IF YOU FIND ME (St. Martin’s, 2013)Imogen Howson, author of  LINKED (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013), and Jessica Martinez, author of VIRTUOSITY (Simon Pulse, 2011).

email: mandy@d4eo.com [No Queries at this address] twitter website

Seeking: A broad range of middle grade and young adult.
  • Email submissions only
  • Put “Query: Book Title” in the subject line of the email
  • Paste the first five pages of your novel below your query
  • No attachments
  • Email Queries to: Mandy.Hubbard.queries@gmail.com

Current Wishlist: You are welcome to query anything that falls within the MG/YA realm, as well as select genre romance but in particular, Mandy is looking for:

  • Contemporary genre (Read: adult) romance, the steamier the better
  • Regency Romance
  • “New Adult” romance (characters in their early 20s!)
  • YA Horror and/or thriller, preferably with a body count
  • A YA novel in verse
  • MG with a fun girly angle and series potential
  • YA Romance, whether historical or contemporary
  • Historical YA novels based within real tragedies, a la BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY by Ruta Septys, REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnely, etc.
  • YA with a hook, a la HEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter or THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher

Do NOT query anything meant for adult audiences (unless it would be published in the romance section), or non-fiction of any kind.

Paste the first 10 pages in the body of the email, below your query -Please include “Query: Title” in the subject line.

breeIMG_0385Bree Ogden joined D4EO in November 2011, after having been an associate literary agent at Martin Literary Management for nearly 2 years representing children’s, YA, and graphic novels.

Bree graduated with her BA in Philosophy from Southern Virginia University where she served as editor-in-chief of the University’s newsmagazine. She was awarded Most Valuable Player and Editor of the Year, as well as SVU’s Pioneer Award, an honor the University awards to two students each year. She then received her MA in Journalism with an emphasis in editing and expository writing at Northeastern University where she worked on both the New England Press Association Bulletin, and also served as the features editor of the premier campus music magazine, Tastemakers Magazine.

Bree has spent many years working as a freelance journalist and currently co-operates the macabre children’s magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree where she serves as Editorial Director. Bree is an instructor and columnist for the Web site LitReactor.com where she teaches Intro to Graphic Novel Writing. Bree is also the newest judge for the Ghastly Awards–Honoring Excellence in Horror Comics.

Email: bree@d4eo.com  Twitter  Blog Bree’s LitReactor Content  Bree’s Comic Book Reviews

• Email submissions only
• Paste the first five pages of your novel below your query
• No attachments

*NOTE: I am actively seeking children’s/YA nonfiction. NO memoir unless you have a gigantic platform (i.e., The Pregnancy Project). I would love something in the vein of The Letter Q, Dare to Dream!: 25 Extraordinary Lives, The Forbidden Schoolhouse, or a Starvation Heights type historical fiction.

  • Highly artistic picture books (high brow art, think Varmints)
  • Middle grade
  • Young Adult
  • Adult
  • Graphic Novels
  • Nonfiction
  • Humor
  • Pop Culture
  • Art books

Genre-specific (Both in Adult and YA):

Transgressive fiction ~Genre horror ~Genre noir ~Genre romance

Bree’s wish list: (don’t limit your queries to these!)

• Dark (not angst-ridden)
• Realistic
• Psychological horror (with no paranormal elements)
• Hard sci fi. Meaning no fantasy, or magical realism at all
• A Dexter-ish type YA black comedy (COMEDY being the operative word)
• A Roaring Twenties historical for YA
• A manuscript written in the era of Mad Men with panache and style
• A unique and theme-driven art book • Any book dealing with Anne Boleyn or Marie Antoinette (historical fiction, not nonfiction)
• Historical fiction (love crime-driven historical fiction, i.e. Black Dahlia)

kristin miller vincentKristin Miller-Vincent was promoted to associate agent in February of 2011, after interning with Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency. She graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in English Lit, Women’s Studies and Secondary Education. She publishes magazine and website articles and young adult novels under a pen name, teaches writing and works editorially with clients and other writers.

email: kristin@d4eo.com  (no queries here, please) twitter

middle grade, young adult and picture book (author/illustrators only, please)

Picture Books: Unique, groundbreaking, inventive art; playful, character-driven stories; humor. Nonfiction on topics and people that are interesting and unique, but not very well known as yet, told in a lively way that young child would enjoy. Manuscripts that are less than 750 words. NO morals, NO lessons, NO instructive stories. When querying, please paste the entire story below your query and include a link to an online resource that showcases examples of your art. Please don’t attach art to the query.

Middle Grade: Authentic voice is most important. On the one hand, I love fun, adventure, mystery and big, big characters on a unique journey. On the other,  timeless middle grade with siblings learning about themselves, each other and the world with lovely, literary prose. Something classic, the next The Penderwicks or Anne of Green Gables. Multicultural stories across the spectrum.

Young Adult: Talented writing, first and foremost. I’d like to see writing that shows care for one’s craft. I’m very open to good experimental writing, too. More specifically:

  • Sweeping historical fiction, especially with a heavy romance and/or mystery element. I’d love something decadent and lush, set perhaps during Tsarist Russia or the Golden Ages of Vienna or Budapest. British settings work, too. No stilted dialogue, please.
  • Contemporary with feminist and social issues themes, characters, concerns. Heavy focus on great voice and crafting. Literary contemporary.
  • Horror, but I’d prefer it to be psychological rather than gory, subtle rather than in-your-face.

email submissions only to Kristin.D4EO@gmail.com

  • put “Query, genre, title” in the subject line of your email
  • paste the first 10 pages below your query in the body of the email
  • no attachments

Hope this helps on your search for an agent.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, Editor & Agent Info, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, Publishers and Agencies, submissions, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Bree Ogden, D4EO Literary Agency, Kristin Miller-Vincent, Mandy Hubbard, Samantha Dighton

8 Comments on Four Agents Seeking Children’s Authors at D4EO Literary Agency, last added: 1/24/2013
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29. A Thunderous Whisper

Yes, it's another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants see my sidebar or Shannon's links.

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Knopf, October 2012, for ages 10 and up)

Source: hardcover won from Medeia Sharif's blog (and if you haven't checked out her blog, you should! She's the author of Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. and she reads more than anyone I know.)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world.

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.

Why I liked it: This is historical fiction as it was meant to be. Gripping. Moving. Beautifully written. The Spanish Civil War and the plight of the Basques come alive through Ani. Before reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about Guernica, other than the fact that Pablo Picasso created a famous painting about it. And if you're looking for multi-cultural books, you can't go wrong with this one. (Parental note: This might be a bit scary for younger readers, with the descriptions of dead bodies after the bombing.)

Christina Diaz Gonzalez (from her website)
You can find the Author's website here.

Christina is the author of The Red Umbrella, which I reviewed for my very first MMGM (you can see that in this post from November 29, 2010 -- sheesh, have I really been doing this for more than two years?!). I had hoped to include an interview with Christina, but she's been too busy to answer my questions. And I'm happy for her that she has so many book signings to go to!

Be sure to come back on Friday December 14, when I'll be listing all the books I've read this year. That will be my last post before January, as I'll be taking a blogging break to work on the rough of my third MG novel.

What historical fiction has you excited this month?

2 Comments on A Thunderous Whisper, last added: 12/10/2012
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30. What I've Read So Far -- And a January challenge

Drum roll, please! Here is a list of all the books I've read in 2012 (divided up by months and not counting picture books. And please note that most of these were arcs, unless otherwise noted):

1. Cinder - Marissa Meyer
2. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
3. A Diamond in the Dust - Kathryn Fitzmaurice
4. Chomp - Carl Hiaasen
5. Because of Winn Dixie - Kate DiCamillo
6. Looking for Alaska - John Green
7. Gil Marsh - A.C.E. Bauer
8. Never Fall Down - Patricia McCormick
9. Jake & Lily - Jerry Spinelli

10. What the Dog Said - Randi Reisfield
11. So Close to You - Rachel Carter
12. Breathing Lessons - Anne Tyler (paperback purchased from indie bookstore)
13. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
14. Curveball: How I Lost My Grip - Jordan Sonnenblick

15. Breath of Eyre - Eve Marie Mont
16. critique partner's MG novel
17. Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator - Josh Berk
18. Embrace - Jessica Shirvington
19. Insurgent - Veronica Roth
20. Kaspar the Titanic Cat - Michael Morpurgo
21. Small Damages - Beth Kephart
22. The Year of the Book - Andrea Chang
23. Remarkable - Lizzie K. Foley

24. The Wicked and the Just - J. Anderson Coats
25. Summer of the Gypsy Moths - Sara Pennypacker
26. Drowned Cities - Paolo Bacigalupi
27. Starters - Lissa Price
28. The False Prince - Jennifer Nielson
29. Chains - Laurie Halse Anderson
30. My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick

31. Devine Intervention - Martha Brockenbrough
32. The Patron Saint of Beans (now called If You Find Me) - Emily Murdoch
33. Keeping the Castle - Patrice Kindl
34. Don't Turn Around - Michelle Gagnon
35. Gilt - Katherine Longshore
36. Lucid - Adrienne Stolz and Ron Bass
37. The Mapmaker & the Ghost - Sarvenaz Tash
38. A World Away - Nancy Grossman
39. Keeping Safe the Stars - Sheila O'Connor
40. Gold Medal Summer - Donna Freitas
41. The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy - Nikki Loftin
42. This is Not a Drill - Beck McDowell
43. Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson

44. Jump Into the Sky - Shelley Pearsall
45. Noah's Compass - Anne Tyler (paperback purchased from indie bookstore)
46. What Came From the Stars - Gary D. Schmidt
47. Forge - Laurie Halse Anderson
48. Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers
49. Son - Lois Lowry
50. Ungifted - Gordon Korman
51. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
52. Capture the Flag - Kate Messner
53. Edge of Nowhere - Elizabeth George

54. Nerve - Jeanne Ryan
55. Burning Blue - Paul Griffin
56. The Great Unexpected - Sharon Creech
57. Malcolm at Midnight - W. H. Beck
58. Ten - Gretchen McNeil
59. Lindsey Lost - Suzanne Phillips
60. The Diviners - Libba Bray
61. Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

62. What's Left of Me - Kat Zhang
63. critique partner's YA novel
64. Third Grade Angels - Jerry Spinelli
65. Beholding Bee - Kimberly Newton Fusco
66. Space Station Seventh Grade - Jerry Spinelli
67. The Spindlers - Lauren Oliver
68. Every Day - David Levithan

69. Empty - K.M. Walton
70. If I Lie - Corrine Jackson
71. True Colors - Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
72. Popular - Alissa Grosso (paperback I purchased at PAYA)
73. Pretty Crooked -- Elisa Ludwig (hardcover I purchased at PAYA)
74. Dying to Know You - Aidan Chambers
75. Seven Tales of Trinket -- Shelley Moore Thomas (hardcover purchased from indie bookstore)
76. Glass Heart -- Amy Garvey
77. Unspoken -- Sarah Rees Brennan
78. Liar & Spy -- Rebecca Stead

79. The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons - Barbara Mariconda
80. Lovely, Dark and Deep -- Amy McNamara (hardcover from S&S)
81. Breathe - Sarah Crossan
82. A Dog Called Homeless -- Sarah Lean
83. Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities -- Mike Jung (hardcover purchased from indie bookstore)
84. Touching the Surface - Kim Sabatini (hardcover from S&S)
85. Ask the Passengers - A.S. King
86. The Secret Underground - Natalie Bahm (paperback purchased to help Baby Jayden)
87. The Brides of Rollrock Island

88. Double Vision - F.T. Bradley
89. The Tide-Changers -- Sandy Green (paperback purchased from Amazon)
90. Through to You - Emily Hainsworth
91. The Flight - C.F. Runyan (old paperback I've read before)
92. Circle of Secrets - Kimberley Griffiths Little (hardcover won from Deb Marshall)
93. A Tale of Time City - Diana Wynne Jones (paperback purchased from indie bookstore)
94. A Thunderous Whisper - Christina Diaz Gonzalez (hardcover won from Medeia Sharif)
95. Recipe for Trouble - Sheryl Berk & Carrie Berk (paperback won from Jennifer Rumberger)
96. Hokey Pokey - Jerry Spinelli

97. Hattie Ever After - Kirby Larson
98. When We Wake - Karen Healy
99. Dead End in Norvelt - Jack Gantos
100. A String in the Harp - Nancy Bond (paperback lent by a friend)
101. Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

So I've read more than 100 books and December isn't over yet. If you have questions about any of these books, feel free to ask!  Which one's my favorite?  Oh gosh, I couldn't possibly pick ONE favorite. For YA, I'd have to say The Fault in Our Stars, but Small Damages and Devine Intervention both hold a special place in my heart. For MG, I love Wonder, but also What Came From the Stars, and Malcolm at Midnight. Of course, I also loved The One and Only Ivan (but I read it last year!). One of those books had better win a Newbery.

For the next few weeks I'll be taking a blogging break to spend time with my family and to work on my third novel. In January,  I hope to be querying my second novel, but I'm also joining Katia Raina's 31-Minute a Day Challenge.  If you've never checked out Katia's blog, you should hop right over there. She's a lovely young writer I met at the New Jersey SCBWI conference last year, and her first novel is coming from namelos in 2013! Join the challenge! All it takes is a commitment to work on your project (whatever it is) for 31 minutes a day, every day, throughout the month of January. And there's a prize for a random winner at the end! Sign up on Katia's blog.
See you in a few weeks. Enjoy your holidays!

24 Comments on What I've Read So Far -- And a January challenge, last added: 12/23/2012
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31. Books I Liked and Loved in 2012

2012allbooks3I was going through the books that I read in 2012 and thought perhaps someone out there was looking for a book to buy as a gift or line up to read in 2013.  I received a bookstore gift card for Christmas and bought The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because Natalie Zaman said it was great and Executive Editorial Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  I was not disappointed, except for the fact that I had to wait until the end of the year to read book two, The Days of Blood and Starlight.

So, I spent the rest of the money on buying Delirium and Divergent, because they both started with D and I couldn’t remember which of the two was recommended.  I bet the reason I couldn’t remember was because both were recommended, because there I was again wanting more and the next books were not as of yet written – Pandemonium and Insurgent.

Debut author Veronica Roth burst onto the literary scene with Divergent, the first book in her dystopian thriller series filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

I love the way Lauren Oliver writes.  The way she forms her sentences.  How she describes things. Marry that talent with a great story and you really have something memorable.  I didn’t know who she was until I picked up delirium and now I am a big fan.  Can’t wait to read the third book, Requiem and her first book, Before I Fall, which is sitting on my piano calling to me.

Many times the first book of a series is the best, but I think pandemonium was even better than the first. When I reached the final paragraph of the book, I closed it and said, “Perfect.”

You will notice that each of these books does not capitalize the first letter of their title.  Can anyone tell me whether you do the same when you are writing about the book.  You will find it both ways in this post, because I do not know which is correct.  Any help out there?

If you decide to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I loved, I would pick up both books and read them one right after the other, since I had a hard time remembering the names of the characters and who was who after leaving a year between books. I should have gotten up and read a few chapters of the first one before I started reading, but I was too lazy to get up and familiarize myself the first book again.  Not because there was anything wrong with the writing, but I had read so many other books during that in between time that I was mixing all the characters up.

The same thing happened with Divergent and Insurgent.  The author is so intimate with their books and characters that they probably never think about all those books in-between. This did not happen with Delirium and Pandemonium.

So now you won’t have that problem when you read the first book, you will be able to run out and get the second one to read.  They are wonderful books.

Then came Matched - About Cassia who has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when her best friend, Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, she knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees another boys Ky’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I gobbled it up and will not have to wait to read the next two books - Crossed, which is waiting for me and Reached, which come out last month. Love the covers of these books, too.

Since I enjoyed so many dystopian books, I picked up Legend.

Once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths–until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

This book is full of action, suspense, and romance. I loved this book and can’t wait to get my hands on the next book, Prodigy, which comes out at the end of January.

Continuing on my search for more books along these lines of fantasy and dystopian novels, I found The Girl of Fire and Thorns and another debut author who nailed her first book.

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

He’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young, like most of the chosen do.

A 2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist

One thing that I really liked about this story was how Rae Carson managed to write a story about a princess that was fat without calling her fat and how the situation she puts the princess in caused her to lose weight without the princess being put down and struggling to lose the weight to be accepted.  You just see her end up being slim and how it pays off for her.  Her weight was not the main story.  I just thought she wove that layer into the story with such finesse.

Then Glenn Beck came out with a book titled, Agenda 21, which is written by Harriet Parke.  I thought she did a good job writing the story of after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21.  When America is simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom. There are only the Authorities.

Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed. Until the day they come for her mother.

I enjoyed the book, but it left me feeling like the full story was not told. After all other dystopian type novels I read this year, I felt like I had read half of a story, like it was just going to take off.  Perhaps there is going to be a sequel, but there should have been more story to this one.  Still worth reading and certainly it was a huge opportunity for Harriet Parke to have Glenn Beck put his name on the book - her first novel.  After the end of the story Glenn writes about the real Agenda 21 and how it came about and what it is all about.

After having heard about Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reason Why for years, I decided to read it.  I knew it was about teenage suicide, which was the reason I hadn’t picked it up sooner. It is an excellent book, well written, creatively written, and though it was sad in parts, it was also a page turner and did not leave you on a downer.  I kicked myself for not reading it sooner.

I did the same thing with Jerry’s Spinelli’s MilkweedI had read all of Jerry’s books, except for Milkweed, because it was about the Holocaust.  I guess by now you can tell I don’t like to be depressed by a book.  When I finally read Milkweed and closed the book, I said, “What was I thinking?  It was written by Jerry Spinelli.  You should have known it would be good.  In the middle of something so horrific, he wove in humor and showed how even in the worst of times, people try to live, love, and find happiness.”  If you haven’t read these books because you thought they would depress you, run, don’t walk to add them to your list of books to read.

I am a big Laurie Halse Anderson fan.  I have read all her books and this year re-read Twisted.  I love this book.  Everyone talks about Speak (which I agree is good), but in my opinion this one is better.  The protagonist is a teenage boy and she really has that voice nailed down.  The first time I read it, I kept closing the book and looking at the name Laurie and wondering if possibly I was mistaken  that Laurie was a woman and really was a man.  Though I am still upset about reading Chains without knowing that is was part of a series.  I ran out to get Forged without knowing that it was a series of three.  If you haven’t read these books, please wait until 2014, because that is when the third book comes out and you won’t be tormented by having to wait to read the whole thing.

Now how did I end up buying four of Libba Bray’s books?  Libba was speaking at an SCBWI event.  I hadn’t read any of her books, but she is a very interesting speaker, so I decided I would buy a couple of her books and get them signed.  I didn’t have time to really to browse the books, so I picked up  Rebel Angel (I liked the cover) Going Bovine and got her to sign both.  They sat in my pile of books to read, until this year.  When I read the flap of Going Bovine, I decided I wasn’t up to reading about a dying boy, so I read Rebel Angels first and really enjoyed the book.  There were some references to backstory in the book, so I did some further investigating and found out that I had picked up the second book, , of a three book series.  But you know, that book really was able to stand alone.  I totally enjoyed the book, so I had to go out and buy the first, A Great and Terrible Beauty and the third A Sweet Far Thing, which I will get to in 2013.

Libba is a good writer and I did read Going Bovine and enjoyed it, but it is very different and I worried about his parents at the end, even though we see him go off to a better place.  It did not leave me feeling bad, so that was a good thing.

The this past June, editor Leila Sales was part of the faculty and picked up her two books at the bookfair – Mostly Good Girls and Past Perfect.  And because she is an editor and I am a writer, I was looking for things I could say she should have done better.  Mostly Good Girls was Leila’s first book and it had a sexy legs cover, so I started with that expecting to get a book where the girls were edgy.  First let me emphasize I did enjoy the book, but I didn’t get edgy and I found some spots where I could be nit-picky and say she could have done more here or there.

But when I started reading Past Perfect, I was sucked right in and wanted to keep reading until I was done.  The setting was perfect -  set in Williamsburg, so I guess the title is a perfect fit.  I was thinking it was going to have something to do with language (too much writing on this end).  Reminded me of the time I taught art in high school.  I told the kids the first day that we would get into graphics and I had a half of dozen kids drop the class.  I later found out that the thought I was going to do math in the art class – graphics – graphs – see the connection?

Every year I try to read a few if the Newbery books – the new ones and some that are sitting in my pile of books too read.  This year I read Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool which was the 2011 Medal Winner, Turtle in Paradise, which won the 2011 Honor award, and The Graveyard Book, which won the Newbery Medal for 2009.

Newbery Medal Winner: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos book is still waiting for me (I ran out of time).  You can not go wrong when you pick up a Newbery winning book, so if you are a writer, or a well published author, you should read these books.

At the end of 2011 I picked up Okay for Now, because Editor Daniel Nayeri had talked about it in one of his workshops and said how good it was.  He was right.  I would say it is a perfect middle grade novel. I thought it should have gotten a Newbery for it.  Gary D. Schmidt won a Newbery Honor for Wednesday Wars, so I went out and bought that book.  I really enjoyed that book, too and I like the way some of the characters were tied into Okay for Now.  If you are writing Middle grade book, especially for boys, I would read both of these books.

You might wonder why I read Cirque Du Freak. A few years ago editor Connie Hsu at Little, Brown BFYR mentioned the series, so I picked up the first one and read it.  There are 12 to this series that Darren Shan wrote.  They are excellent, scary, and well written.  J.K. Rowling’s said: “Fast-paced and compelling, full of satisfying macabre touches.” There is a movie, too.

This book is the second of the series.  You might ask, why did you wait to read more when you say they are excellent?  Well, we are back to my little quirk of not wanting to feel bad after reading a book.  I loved the first book, but the premise of the story is to save his friend’s life the boy must go with the Vampire and be his apprentice, but in order to do that he has to become part vampire.  The Vampire fakes the boy’s death and you see the parents morning his death.  I am still bothered by that and worry about his parents.  This year I did some research and it looks like he makes it back to his parents in the end, so I decided I was going to read the rest of the series.  I would say, if you are thinking of getting these book for a young middle grade child, it might be too scary for them, but the story telling is exciting.

Kate DiCamillo was the keynote speaker at the 2012 NJSCBWI Conference, so I bought Because of Winn-Dixie and Tale of the Despereaux, which own the Newbery Award on 2004 Because of Winn-Dixie was given a Newbery Honor Award in 2001.  So like I said you can’t go wrong reading these books.  Both are short, so it isn’t going to take you long to read.  I actually wasn’t ready to read Tale of Despereaux, but it was sitting on my table and I picked it up and opened it in the middle of the book and read a few sentences.  Little did I know I would want to keep reading.  It is the only book where I read the second half and then the first half.

Play, Louise, Play was sent to me by author Muriel Harris Weinstein when I started working on her website.  I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book.  It is non-fiction and I didn’t expect such lovely writing, plus she had an extremely interesting story to tell – Good writing – good story = good book.  It won THE 2012 PATERSON PRIZE FOR  BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE for Grades 4 -6.  It also was one of 11 books that won the Texas Blue Bonnet Award, which means an automatic purchase of over 20,000 books.

Ame Dyckman and Leeza Hernandez both had picture book come out this year and both are friends.  I have seen both of them and their careers grow and I am so happy for them.

Ame sent me her manuscript before she was going to send it out and as soon as I read it, I knew she and (it) was getting published.  Steve Meltzer (Dial) met her and read her manuscript.  He went up to Scott Treimel  and told him he should think about representing Ame and that is exactly what he did.  The rest is history.  Boy+ Bot is Ame’s first book published, but she already a number of additional picture books in the cue with publishers. I don’t remember when the second one hits, but if you read this blog regularly, you will know.

Leeza Hernandez started out as an illustrator and was inspired to write her own picture book after coming up with an adorable illustration of a dog.  Penguin saw the dog and immediately contracted the book.  Here book Dog Gone came out in June.  Both of these books are adorable – great artwork and great story. Leeza has a ton of things going on more picture books that she is illustrating for big name people and more books written and illustrated by her.  Both of these people are  writers to watch.  They are going to be big names in the industry.  Leeza was featured on Illustrator Saturday Click Here to see.

As most of you know I do Jerry and Eileen Spinelli’s websites, so I read all their books.  Of course that is not a problem, because the two of them write wonderful books.  It seems like Eileen is good for five or six book every year.  She always ends up with a fantastic illustrator, so all her books are special.  I do have a favorite and I bring it out and many times to show other writers, friends and children.  That book is When You are Happy.  That book is so beautiful – so much soul.  The perfect book for a parent or grandparent to give their child.  Every time I read it, I remember how much my parents loved me and that they sent this book to me to remind me of their love.  I see this book as a treasure that children will want to hold on to and remember that same feeling when they are adults.

Cold Snap is a gorgeous book.  The snow sparkles on the cover and pages.  It really has the WOW factor and would be a great present for someone this time of year.

Together at Christmas combines Eileen’s perfect rhyme and caring soul with beautiful illustrations from a wonderful new illustrator from China.  Bin Lee captures the true spirit of Christmas with his illustrations.  Take a look when you are in the book store.

Eileen you can catch a glimpse of the funny side of Eileen in Miss Fox’s Class Gets It Wrong. Ann Kennedy created the illustration for the perfect fit to this book.

Dianne Ochiltree sent me her picture book, Molly by Golly: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter. I featured Kathleen Kemly the illustrator this year on Illustrator Saturday and showed you a lot of the artwork before the book came out.  It is really a great picture book that perfectly combines story with art.  Click here to view Kathleen Kemly Illustrator Saturday post.

Then I featured author/illustrator Roger Roth on Illustrator Saturday and he was kind enough to send me two books that I admired – The Roller Coaster and a book that his wife wrote and he illustrated titled, Star of the Week.  They adopted an Asian baby girl (she is no longer a baby), but they wrote this book for her and you can just feel the love they have for her oozing from the pages. BEAUTIFUL!  Click here to see Roger’s feature.  Most of the artwork is there for your pleasure.

Another talented featured author/illustrator, Carlyn Beccia sent me one of her picture books, probably because she knew I loved her artwork, so when I found a copy of Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo?  I snatch it up. The artwork in this book  is awesome.  I’m a big fan. Click here to see Carlyn’s Illustrator Saturday post.

Then Kathi Ember sent me a copy of one of her picture books, Mother’s Day Surprize, after she was featured on Illustrator Saturday.  It is about a snake named Violet who watches the other animals make Mother’s Day gift for their mom’s and tires to think of something nice that she can make for her mother.  I love Kathie’s illustrations.  You can see her work by clicking here.

Ame Dyckman sent me I Want My Hat Back written and illustrated by Jon Klassen when I was getting my knee replaced.  I hadn’t read any of his books, but it is another perfect picture book.  Thanks Ame for introducing him to me.

On Black Friday, Amazon had a great deal on a Kindle Fire, so I bought myself a Christmas present.  My first purchase for the Kindle was Stephen King’s book ON WRITING.  Who would think a “how to” book could be so interesting and such a good read.  I love the way he talks about problems and solutions with his own books and ties in the events in his life that influenced his books and how he give you such straight talk about how to approach writing a novel. I am so glad I listened to the writers around me telling me to buy the book.  Love it!  Stephen King’s On Writing Book is the first “How to” book that I have read from cover to cover.

Everyone one says you have to read to be a good writer.  Stephen reads about 80 a year and  he says that is low.

I won Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K. L. Going at the June NJSCBWI conference and like her advice in this book.  She is an author and used to be a literary agent.  I use it mostly as reference and pull it out and read sections, when I need some guidance.

If you have any suggestions on what I should add to this year’s book list, please let me know.  Right now I have the following:

Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver

Everyday – David Levithan

Crossed – Allyson Condie

Reached – Allyson Condie

Prodigy – Marie Lu

Crown of Embers – Rae Carson

Requiem – Lauren Oliver

Dead End at  Norvelt – Gantos

A Sweet and Far Thing – Libba Bray

Cirque Du Freak – Book 3

Killing Kennedy Bill O’Reilly

Can you help me fill my list?

Talk tomorrow,


101-Websites-225x300IT IS TIME TO NOMINATE WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING www.kathytemean.wordpress.com for the WRITER’S DIGEST’S 101 BEST WEBSITES FOR WRITERS!

If you have enjoyed the articles and information you received everyday this year, please help by dominating my blog. Submit an email to writersdigest@fwmedia.com to nominate my blog www.kathytemean.wordpress.com

I would greatly appreciate your help.


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Book, Middle Grade Novels, picture books, Publishing Industry, Young Adult Novel Tagged: favorite books, Lauren Oliver, Newbery winning books, On Writing, Recommendations

10 Comments on Books I Liked and Loved in 2012, last added: 12/20/2012
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32. Opportunity! Jerry Spinelli’s Northeast Hokey Pokey Book Tour

I know so many people love Jerry and Eileen Spinelli, especially if they have met them. Below is Jerry’s schedule for his HOKEY POKEY Book Tour. You will notice Jerry and Eileen are going to be together in PA and then Jerry goes off to DC, PA, MA, and NY. If you live in any of those areas, you might even want to let the teachers you know of the opportunity. They are always e-mailing me to see if I can get Jerry to visit their school. They might like the chance to ask him in person.


Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Book Stores, Book Tour, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity Tagged: Book Tour, Eileen Spinelli, Hokey Pokey, Jake & Lily, Jerry Spinelli

4 Comments on Opportunity! Jerry Spinelli’s Northeast Hokey Pokey Book Tour, last added: 1/2/2013
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33. SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant

WIP bannerThe SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grants are designed to assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the completion of a specific project, and are made possible by a generous grant from Amazon.com. Grants for first place ($2000) and runner up ($500) are awarded in each one of seven different categories:

  • General Work-In-Progress grant
  • Grant for a contemporary novel for young people
  • Nonfiction research grant including Anna Cross Giblin Award
  • Grant for work by an unpublished author
  • Grant for work from a multi-cultural/minority perspective
  • Barbara Karlin Grant for unpublished picture book writers.
  • Don Freeman Grant for unpublished picture book illustrators.

In any given year, an applicant may apply for ONE Work in Progress Grant. The Grant for an Unpublished Author may not be applied for — it will be chosen by the judges from all the entries in the other Work-In-Progress categories. If you check “unpublished” on the application form, and your status as such is verified, you will be automatically entered for this additional grant. Please note: All grants must now be submitted electronically.  Please read the new guidelines carefully before applying. Submissions: The Work-in-Progress grants are going electronic! Only PDFs will be accepted!

 Eligibility: The Grants are available all current SCBWI members.  Your membership must be current through the date the award is given (September 2013). The grants are not available for projects on which there are already contracts. Grant Amounts: Seven Grants of $2,000 will be awarded annually, one in each category. Seven Runner-Up Grants of $500 will also be awarded, one in each category. Authors of other projects cited by the judges as noteworthy will receive a Letter of Merit. In any given year, the SCBWI Grant Committee reserves the right to withhold the grant for that year.
Deadline: Completed application and accompanying materials must be received between February 15th and March 15th. The recipients of the grants will be announced in September.
Application materials and full guidelines:

If you are a member of the SCBWI, you should take advantage of these contest.  There is plenty of time to get something put together.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Competition, Contest, earn money, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, picture books, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Amazon Grant, Grant Money for Writers, SCBWI

1 Comments on SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant, last added: 1/21/2013
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34. Dead End in Norvelt

Every winter I eagerly await the ALA Youth Media Awards. Recently it occurred to me that I'd never read Dead End in Norvelt, last year's Newbery winner. So I set aside a few days for that -- and then read it in one day.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September 2011)

Source: advance reading copy from publisher (yes, I still have old arcs!)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews blood at every little shock he gets.

But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder.

Why I like it: This is hilarious, weird, and wise. It's historical fiction, but also a fast-paced murder mystery. And since it takes place in 1962, when I was a child, I got a kick out of reading about bomb shelters, drive-in movies, and typewriters (anyone remember typewriters?). But it's the characters who draw you in and offer immense entertainment here, especially old Miss Volker, with her obituaries, and old Mr. Spizz with his tricycle. The most fun, of course, is watching Jack get into predicaments and wondering how he'll get out of them. Even reluctant readers would enjoy this.

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. See her blog for the links, or check out my sidebar.

Have you read Dead End in Norvelt? And what do you hope wins this year's Newbery award?

24 Comments on Dead End in Norvelt, last added: 1/29/2013
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35. Need A Critique Group?

Elena Caravela’s July “Out of This World” illustration reminded me that it doesn’t matter what color your hair is or where you are from to want to participate in a critique group.

It seems that a large amount of people are looking to find a critique group.  Since the New Jersey SCBWI website will be taken over on the National SCBWI main website, everyone is waiting for new info to be put up.  Over the last month I have told people they would have to wait.  It occured to me, I could post the information and help writer’s and illustrators look for groups.

Please make sure you include all the information from the form below.  Leave your information in the comments and I will pick it up and post a list on Thursday.  You do not have to be from New Jersey to list the information for forming a group.  You don’t have to want to form a meet-in-person group.  The Internet has given us lots of options.  You don’t have to be a writer, you can be an illustrator who would like to form a group with other illustrators.

Give some thought as to how you would like to run your group.  Try to keep it real.  Having ten people in your group who submit something everyday for critique to the group, may be too much for most people to fit into their busy lives.

Here is the form I came up with.  Please feel free to add any other information you think is neccessary for your group:

Critique Group Genre:

Critique Group Type – in person or online:

When?  Where?  How often?

Critique Group level: Beginner, Mid-level, Advanced, Well Published

Critique Group Person Limit:

Critique Group Goal:

Your Name:

Contact Info:

Here are two people who sent me something, before I made up the form.  Perhaps there are some people who might like to contact them. 

New Group Forming in the New Jersey Ramsey, Mahwah, Allendale, Upper Saddle River, and Vicinity

Description: Critique Picture Books

Open to new members: Yes, new members are welcome

When: Thursday 7:30 PM (every two weeks)

Where: Ramsey Free Public Library

Contact: Debbie at dgordon01@optonline.net


New YA or Middle Grade Group Forming in NYC

Aspiring YA writer is looking for other YA or middle-grade writers to form a critique group in NYC. Ideally, the group will meet at least once a month. Potential members should be open to reading others’ work, and ONLY give constructive feedback. Any other kind of feedback is unncessary. Interested writers should email ycwrite@gmail.com.

Please Note: Remember when applying for a group listed, you need to expand on your background to make sure you are a right fit for the group.

Thank you Elena for supplying the illustration for this post.  Elena Caravela has a new book  Portrait of a Girl and Her Art, which supports young visual artists, particularly young female artists through peer experience, multiple examples and guided inspiration.  You can see more of her work at: www.elenacaravela.net www.elenacaravela.wordpress.com www.portraitofagirlandherart.wordpress.com

Talk tomorrow,


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36. Critique Group List

One of the most important things you can do to develop as a writer is to get into the right critique group. Below are the writers who were interested in starting a critique group.

I hope it helps some of you out there. If anyone missed sending there info in, I will add it to this post. I will keep it going if people want me to do that.

Here’s the list:

Critique Group Genre: Picture Books (Prose and/or Poetry)

Critique Group Type: – in person or online: In person if near Basking Ridge, NJ; otherwise online

When: Where: How often: If meeting in person, I prefer daytime, in Morris/ Somerset area. Place TBD. Once a month.

Critique Group level: Beginner, Mid-level, Advanced, Well Published : Mid level

Critique Group Person Limit: Five

Critique Group Goal: polishing work; getting published

Name: Carol Jones

Contact Info: crljns@verizon.net or www.carolhjones.com


Critique Group Genre: Picture Books and Flash Fiction

Critique Group Type – in person or online: Either, or both depending on schedules

How often? twice a month, Hobcaw Cafe, Verona, NJ

Critique Group level: Beginner to Mid-Level

Critique Group Person Limit: 6

Critique Group Goal: Give feedback, offer constructive criticism, share leads/contests/blog hops & fests for creative writing exercises

Name: Tracy Bermeo

Contact Info: tracybermeo@gmail.com
Note:- my own schedule is best for day time meetings once school starts.


New Group Forming in the New Jersey Ramsey, Mahwah, Allendale, Upper Saddle River, and Vicinity

Critique Group Genre: Picture Books

Critique Group Type: IN Person

Critique Group level:  Beginners and up.

When: Thursday 7:30 PM (every two weeks)

Where: Ramsey Free Public Library

Contact: Debbie at dgordon01@optonline.net


Critique Group Genre: Picture Book
Critique Group Type:  in person or online: Online or in person if in 
Where:  If in personKnoxville, Tn area.

When:  Sunday afternoons.

How often:  Once or twice a month.
Critique Group level:  Minium mid level up to advanced.
Critique Group Person Limit: 6
Critique Group Goal: Overall feedback, constructive critiques to help correct grammatical issues or character/plot weaknesses. Sharing of industry news, contests, blog hops or other pertinent writing information as necessary.
Name: Donna L Martin
Contact Info: donnadays@gmail.com



2 Comments on Critique Group List, last added: 8/2/2012
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37. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire!

When we moved to Phoenixville a few months ago, we found our premises already occupied. Rabbits live in our backyard and, because ours is a residential area, we found them to be somewhat blase about our presence. They usually don't run away; they just stop nibbling grass and dandelions and stay put, whiskers twitching. Now that I've read Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire, I doubt I'll ever be able to view rabbits as bland, innocuous creatures again. Who knew that's just their cover, that underneath rabbits are as varied and nuanced as we are!

Polly Horvath (or rather Mrs. Bunny) has written a fantastical novel in which a pair of fedora-sporting bunnies help a young girl find her missing parents. Madeline, the girl in need of assistance, lives in a commune on an island with her hippy dippy  parents. Horvath makes it clear from the start that Madeline is the responsible one in the trio. When her parents are kidnapped by a band of treacherous foxes, it's up to Madeline to rescue them. She does this with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, who have just recently decided to try their hand--er, paw--at detecting. (Madeline, it seems, has the knack of understanding the Rabbit language, as well as Marmot and Fox.)  

Their quest to get to the bottom of the mystery takes many twists and turns, as Madeline forges a relationship with the nurturing lagomorphs. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny are hysterical (and perhaps uncomfortably recognizable to some adult readers) as a long-married couple prone to bickering. I confess that in places the story became a tad too whimsical for my taste and I have no idea why Madeline wanted her clueless, childish parents back. However, these are small quibbles. Overall, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire is an amusing tour d'force that practically begs to be read aloud.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire
by Polly Horvath
Schwartz & Wade, 256 pages
Published: February 2012

2 Comments on Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire!, last added: 8/9/2012
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38. Malcolm at Midnight for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Whew! That's a lot of M's.  And I've just been in Millinocket, Maine.  More M's.  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger (Ha!  One more M!)  For other participants, please see my sidebar to the right.

I'm back from our road trip vacation and I have a terrific new book to share with you.  And a giveaway!  I'm celebrating two things since I last posted for MMGM: My seven years of survival since my brain aneurysm ruptured in 2005. And my three years of book blogging. So I figured it was only natural to have a giveaway!  Read on for my MMGM pick this week and for details about the giveaway.

Malcolm at Midnight by W.H. Beck, with pictures by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Coming 9/4/2012, for ages 9 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher):  When Malcolm (a smaller than average rat) arrives as the fifth grade pet at McKenna School, he revels in the attention, the Pop-Tart crumbs, and his new Comf-E-Cube.  He also meets the Midnight Academy, a secret society of classroom pets that keeps the nutters (kids) out of trouble.  After all, everybody knows, "a lot happens in a school when the teachers aren't looking."

There's just one problem.  Rats have a terrible reputation.  So when the Academy assumes Malcolm is a mouse, he doesn't exactly speak up.  Then the Academy's leader, a glasses-wearing iguana named Aggy, disappears and the Academy smells a rat... a dirty rat fink, to be specific.  Now Malcolm must use all of his ratty persistence to prove his innocence, get Aggy back under her heat lamp -- and find out if it's possible to be a critter of valor and merit even if you're a rat.

Why I liked it:  They had me at "a secret society of classroom pets"! This is great fun, especially for fans of the Ralph S. Mouse books by Beverly Cleary and the Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney.  An added bonus is the format. The book is written as an anonymous letter and story that the fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Binney, found on his desk one day, and the anonymous authors have cleverly inserted lessons they've learned from Mr. Binney, fifth-grade vocabulary words, and some funny footnotes. Alert readers will eventually realize which students wrote the note and story. I found this book hugely entertaining, and Malcolm a worthy middle-grade hero.

Read about the author here

Read about the illustrator here

And now for the good stuff:  the Giveaway!

This giveaway is open internationally. You must be a follower and you must comment on this post.  But to make it a little bit challenging, I'm going to do what I did last year and give away some arcs and things based on your response to one question:


Road to Campground in Baxter State Park - never saw another car!

That's me at Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park  

Mt. Katahdin

We started in Southeastern Pennsylvania and drove all the way to Millinocket, Maine, and Baxter State Park, up in the far northern woods of Maine (no, we didn't see a moose, darnitall -- it was too hot!).  But keep in mind we made many side trips along the way up and back.

The person who comes the closest to guessing how many miles we drove wins first prize.  The second closest guess wins second prize.  And the next closest guess wins third prize. 

Holy Smoke!  Three prizes!  I've never done this before.  

FIRST PRIZE:  An arc of Malcolm at Midnight AND a mini-poster of an illustration from the book, signed by Brian Lies AND an arc of The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech (also pubbing in September)

Detail from Brian's drawing

SECOND PRIZE:  An arc of What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt (see my review here) AND an arc of Third Grade Angels by Jerry Spinelli (both due in September)

THIRD PRIZE:  An arc of The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann (also coming in September)

So put your thinking caps on and try to guess how many miles we drove on our road trip.  Just include your answer in a comment below.  Thanks for entering!  This giveaway will end at 10:00 pm EDT on Saturday August 25, 2012.  Winner will be announced on Monday August 27.

25 Comments on Malcolm at Midnight for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!, last added: 9/8/2012
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39. Top 10 Middle Grade Novel Agents

10 Agents, 60 Deals

These are the top ten agents for middle grade novels for the past twelve months, as reported on Publisher’s Marketplace. Caution: PM relies on self-reporting and not all agents report their deals and many agents report only a portion of their deals.

  1. Sara Crowe (Harvey Klinger),
    8 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  2. Tina Wexler (ICM),
    7 deals in this category in the last 12 months (interview)
  3. Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary Agency),
    7 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  4. Rosemary Stimola (Stimola Literary Studio),
    5 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  5. Caryn Wiseman (Andrea Brown Literary Agency),
    5 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  6. Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy Literary Agency),
    5 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  7. Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Literary Agency),
    4 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  8. Tracey Adams (Adams Literary),
    4 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  9. Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary),
    4 deals in this category in the last 12 months
  10. Josh Adams (Adams Literary),
    4 deals in this category in the last 12 months

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40. MMGM -- Space Station Seventh Grade

First, I have a giveaway winner to announce:  The winner of the hardcover copy of IF I LIE by  Class of 2K12 author Corrine Jackson is:


Congrats and expect an email from me asking for your mailing address!

 *   *   *   *   *   *

Now for today's MMGM.  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  Visit her blog for the links, or see my convenient sidebar to the right (and if you're not in there and you believe you should be, let me know).

Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite authors. And not just because I've met him and I've actually seen him shopping in the bookstore several times!  You may remember my interview with him and my review of Jake and Lily from May. My all-time favorite Spinelli books are Stargirl and Maniac Magee.

Jerry said his favorite, of all the books he's written, is his first. Well, I was embarrassed that I'd never read the man's first book (at least, the first one he published, after four novels were rejected).  So I recently bought a copy and read it that same day.

Space Station Seventh Grade by Jerry Spinelli (Little, Brown, paperback published 1991, hardcover published 1982, probably best suited for ages 10 and up)

Source: paperback purchased at the bookstore

Synopsis (from the book cover): Seventh-grader Jason Herkimer struggles with all that junior high brings: pimples, puberty, football, school dances, and most of all, girls! 

Why I liked it:  It's written in first person and that twelve-year-old (and later thirteen-year-old) boy voice is perfect.  The dialog between Jason and his friends (and between Jason and his parents) is hilariously realistic. Jerry might have delved into his own boyhood and recalled everything good and bad about being a seventh-grade boy in the suburbs.  Or maybe he simply listened to his own six children!  The structure is straightforward: it follows the school year, with chapter titles like Hayrides, Football, Girls, Snow.  This is very much a boy book, but girls could read it too.  It's a little dated, but I find it refreshing to read a book in which no one has a computer or a cell phone, and they all spend a lot of time outside!

Note that the space station of the title is a project Jason is building.  It's something he brags about to Debbie Breen, the cheerleader he has a crush on. 

(I'll warn you that I was surprised to find the "s" word sprinkled throughout this book.  Yet in ten years as a bookseller, I've never heard any complaints about it from customers.)

What's your favorite Jerry Spinelli book? 

And I hope you all saw the Los Angeles Times article (as mentioned by PW's Children's Bookshelf) proclaiming that the field of children's lit is still growing!  That's fantastic news for everyone who reads or writes children's books.

19 Comments on MMGM -- Space Station Seventh Grade, last added: 9/13/2012
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41. The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  For other participants, see my sidebar or Shannon's links.

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver (coming October 2 from Harper, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher):  When Liza's younger brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: the spindlers -- evil, spiderlike beings -- have gotten to him and stolen his soul. And she is certain that she is the only one who can save him.

Why I liked it: This would make a terrific read-aloud!  Short chapters with cliffhanger endings, imaginative worldbuilding, a brave heroine, lots of action, and a heart's desire: what more could you want?  There were moments that made me gasp, and quite a few that made me smile. This book could easily take its place alongside Gregor the Overlander, James and the Giant Peach, and even The Wizard of Oz.  It introduces human-size talking animals inhabiting another world Below. And most of the book is a challenging hero's journey to save Patrick and get his soul back home. Liza is accompanied on the journey by a human-size rat named Mirabella, who agrees to be her guide.  So with two strong female characters, this is a must-read for girls.

Please be aware that some of the creatures Liza encounters might be a tad scary for younger readers.

What middle grade novels have you read that involve a hero's quest, or humans interacting with talking animals?

17 Comments on The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, last added: 9/21/2012
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42. TRUE COLORS for MMGM -- and why the blog looks different

I rarely get personal on this blog. But I'm about to. So if you'd rather scroll down for my MMGM recommendation, TRUE COLORS by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, feel free.

Now that summer's over, I can tell you it wasn't the happiest of seasons.

For the past ten years, I worked in the Children's Department of Chester County Book & Music Company.

(Taken in September 2010)

A lovely young woman named Suzanne hired me and trained me (in fact, I was the only one there all these years who was hired and trained by her).  Everything I know about bookselling, I learned from this wise and funny gal.  She left the bookstore in 2003 to move on in her career, even owning her own store at one point.  I had dinner with her in Portland, Maine, where she was then working, in 2007. Years went by and we lost touch.

Suzanne and me in 2007

In mid-June of this year, I learned that she had passed away suddenly, senselessly, tragically, at the age of 39.  The family had a private funeral and promised a memorial service in Pennsylvania at a later date.

Then in mid-July bookstore employees, followed quickly by the public, learned that the bookstore has been operating on a month-to-month lease since January. A fitness center is interested in the space and it's only a question of time before the deal is completed and the bookstore will then close.

These two seemingly disparate events combined in my mind to make this a difficult summer.  I learned that some people in authority will stoop to nefarious means to find out what people said on their facebook page.  I learned who my friends were ( You know the ones who ask how your vacation was? Those are your friends).

I realized that life is too short and what I really want to do is write for kids.

So that's what I'm doing.  And yes, I am blessed to be able to afford to do this.  I gave notice at the bookstore and timed it so that my last day was Friday, September 14. The next day was the memorial service for Suzanne. It seemed entirely fitting to me that my career as a bookseller should both begin and end with Suzanne. Rest in peace, dear friend.

*   *   *   *   *   *

What will I miss about the bookstore?

I will miss meeting people who love children's books.  I will miss recommending books to my favorite customers and talking about books with enthusiastic book lovers. Luckily, I can still do that with this blog!   I will miss unlimited advanced reading copies at my fingertips.

I will miss this:

(But I can still meet wonderful authors like Richard Peck at book signings anywhere)

I will miss this:

and this: 

and this:

What won't I miss?

I definitely won't miss this:

Yes, we were still using DOS computers

or this:

The ceiling leaked when it rained

I won't miss selling toys.  I won't miss shrieking toddlers.  I won't miss checking the public restrooms at closing time. And I won't miss working every Saturday for ten years. I won't miss that at all!

I'm now self-employed and loving it.  I figured the blog needed a facelift, so that's why it looks different.  And next week I'll be having a giveaway to celebrate my new status!

 *   *   *   *   *
Now for today's MMGM.  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants, see my sidebar.  I think my friend Suzanne would have enjoyed this book about family and friendships and one summer of self-discovery for a sensitive girl.

True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (Coming November 13 from Knopf, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): One girl's journey to find the mother she never had, set against the period backdrop of a small farming town in 1950s Vermont. For her entire life, 10-year-old Blue has never known her mother. On a cold, wintry day in December of 1941, she was found wrapped in a quilt, stuffed in a kettle near the home of Hannah Spooner, an older townswoman known for her generosity and caring. Life with Hannah so far has been simple—mornings spent milking cows, afternoons spent gardening and plowing the fields on their farm. But Blue finds it hard not to daydream about her mother, and over the course of one summer, she resolves to finally find out who she is. That means looking through the back issues of the local newspaper, questioning the local townspeople, and searching for clues wherever she can find them. Her search will change her life forever.

Why I liked it:  This beautifully-written novel is a true middle-grade in the purest sense. There's not a lick of romance. Instead there's adventure and mystery. There are fascinating characters. And historical fiction fans will love this -- it's the summer of 1952, a time period not often treated in children's literature. It's also one of those quiet books I'm so fond of (see this post about another).  The synopsis doesn't tell you that an important part of the book is Blue's friendship with Nadine or that Nadine has trials of her own. It doesn't mention Raleigh, a man who suffered a brain trauma and now can only say a few words.  And it doesn't mention Mr. Gilpin, the newspaper editor, who offers Blue her first paying job.  Along with Hannah, all these people are important to Blue, for varying reasons. The only drawback is that this book won't be published until November! So add it to your TBR lists.

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is the author of The Canada Geese Quilt, Gifts From the Sea and many other wonderful books. Her website seems to be under construction, but this link should work.

Thanks for sticking with me. What middle-grade books are you looking forward to?

27 Comments on TRUE COLORS for MMGM -- and why the blog looks different, last added: 10/13/2012
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43. THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET and a giveaway!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants, see my sidebar.

The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas (Sept 2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ages 8 to 12)

Source: hardcover purchased from bookstore

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Guided by a tattered map, accompanied by Thomas the Pig Boy, and inspired by the storyteller’s blood that thrums through her veins, eleven-year-old Trinket searches for the seven stories she needs to become a bard like her father, who disappeared years before. She befriends a fortune-telling gypsy girl; returns a child stolen by the selkies to his true mother; confronts a banshee and receives a message from a ghost; helps a village girl outwit—and out-dance—the Faerie Queen; travels beyond the grave to battle a dastardly undead Highwayman; and meets a hound so loyal he fights a wolf to the death to protect the baby prince left in his charge. All fine material for six tales, but it is the seventh tale, in which Trinket learns her father’s true fate, that changes her life forever.

Why I liked it:  The best thing about the book, of course, is Trinket! She comes across as very real, human, flawed and yet lovable. She wants desperately to be a good storyteller as her father was, but she's shy about actually telling the stories to people they meet. So she listens and observes and gathers the tales for later telling. I had no trouble guessing what happened to her father, but I doubt a tween reader would figure it out. Filled with vivid descriptions, this book has a decidedly medieval flavor and stories based on Celtic folklore. My favorites are the Selkie's tale and the Banshee's tale. The Seven Tales of Trinket would make a perfect read-aloud.

You might recognize Shelley Moore Thomas as the author of the adorable Good Knight series of picture books and young readers. This is her first middle grade novel.  

And here's the giveaway I promised you last week. I will use random.org to choose one lucky winner of my hardcover copy. The rules are simple: You must be a follower and you must leave a comment on this post. International entries welcome. This giveaway will end at 11:00 pm EDT on Saturday October 14, 2012.  Good luck!

27 Comments on THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET and a giveaway!, last added: 10/13/2012
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44. UNGIFTED for MMGM -- and a Winner!

First, I have a winner to announce.  According to random.org, the winner of the hardcover copy of THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET by Shelley Moore Thomas is:

Michelle Mason

Congratulations, Michelle!  Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address. 

*   *   *   *   *

Now for today's MMGM.  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants, see my sidebar or Shannon's links.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman (Balzer + Bray/Harpercollins, August 2012, for ages 10 and up)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the back of the arc): The word gifted has never been applied to Donovan Curtis. It's usually more like Don't try this at home. So when the troublemaker pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he's finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction (ASD), a special program for gifted and talented students.

It wasn't what Donovan intended, but there couldn't be a more perfect hideout for someone like him. That is, if he can manage to fool people whose IQs are above genius level.

Why I liked it:  It's entertaining and hilarious! Despite being a troublemaker, Donovan's a likeable kid. The POV alternates between several characters, and their names and IQs are given at the beginning of each chapter. So you get Donovan's point of view (IQ: 112) followed by, say, Chloe's (IQ: 159) or Noah's (IQ: 206), or even that of their teacher, Mr. Osborne (IQ: 132) -- and it gives you a different take on what's really going on.

Gordon Korman has always been wonderful at making us care about his characters and at bringing out the humor in middle-school situations. I've been a fan of his since way back in the 1990s, with those very funny MacDonald Hall books.  Start with the first one, This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall (which, amazingly, Gordon Korman wrote when he was 12!).   Find the author's official website here .

The cover I remember

Recently reissued with a new cover

Like Bruno and Boots in those books, Donovan Curtis is a troublemaker. He may not be gifted in the traditional sense, but he might just be the one who can pull this group of misfit geniuses together and make them a team. I'd recommend this for anyone looking for a light, funny read and a book that both boys and girls can enjoy.

Deb Marshall also recommended this for MMGM, last week.

What's your favorite Gordon Korman book?

30 Comments on UNGIFTED for MMGM -- and a Winner!, last added: 10/26/2012
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45. A Winner -- and Hokey Pokey MMGM-style

First, I have a winner to announce.  According to random.org, the winner of the paperback of SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES is:

Jennifer Rumberger

Congrats, Jennifer, and expect an email from me asking for your address!  

Now on to today's book recommendation:

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli (coming January 8, 2013 from Knopf, for ages 10 and up)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis: Jack wakes up one morning and everything is different. His beloved bike, Scramjet, is gone. Stolen by The Girl, Jubilee.

Without his bike, nothing feels right to Jack.

In Hokey Pokey, Spinelli has imagined a world where childhood is a place, not a time. It's like one huge funscape. (Note that the map wasn't in the arc, so I can't wait to see the finished book!) There's an actual Playground, but also the Jungle, the Great Plains, Tantrums, Snuggle Stop (because Spinelli wisely realizes every kid needs a hug in the dark), Thousand Puddles, Cartoons, a Doll Farm, Trucks, The Forbidden Hut, the giant statue of The Kid, and much more. There are no grownups except the Hokey Pokey man, who arrives to hand out shaved ice treats every day at noon, when the sun is high in the sky. Any flavor you imagine is available.

It never rains in Hokey Pokey (yet those Thousand Puddles are always there, and one of the four Rules states, "Never pass a puddle without stomping in it."). A kid grows from a Newbie, just out of diapers, to a Snotsipper, then a Gappergum, a Sillynilly, a Longspitter, a Groundhog chaser, and finally a Big Kid. Jack's a Big Kid, and something is off today. He can't quite put his finger on it, but games aren't as much fun, and he keeps hearing a train whistle that no one else hears.

In Hokey Pokey, bikes are wild mustangs roaming the Great Plains. Scramjet was the most powerful black and silver stallion of all and Jack tamed him. But now Jubilee is riding Scramjet. She even had the gall to paint him yellow and girl him up with pink handlebars and pom-poms.

His best friends, Dusty and LaJo, help Jack look for the bike, but they also notice something different about him. As the day wears on, it's not the bike Jack thinks about, but that faraway train whistle.

Interestingly, this is the advanced reading copy cover - and I prefer this one!

Why I liked it: Filled with inventive wordplay, this is a nostalgic look at an ideal childhood spent mostly outdoors, where distance is measured in spit lengths or frog flings. Where every kid has a bike, a cap gun and a slingshot. Where cartoons play all day long on a giant screen, yet there are no computers or video games.  This is all bittersweet because it's also about growing up and leaving.

This isn't everyone's childhood, but Jerry Spinelli does an excellent job of convincing you this is what childhood feels like. This is what it's about. Or perhaps what it should be about. 

Does anyone play outside anymore?

What would you add to Hokey Pokey? I'd include a huge library where every book you want to look at is always available. Sure, I spent my share of childhood outdoors, climbing trees and running races and playing King of the Hill, but I also remember many happy hours spent reading. And before I could read, I followed my mother around with a book in my hands and begged, "Read this to me?" That's the one thing I think is missing here. (Instead, in Spinelli's inventive world every kid carries a walnut shell. When held to your ear, the shell tells you The Story, but it's the same story every night. The story of The Kid. As beautiful as that is, I would want different stories every day.)

I'm sure my sons would add a video game area. What about you?

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. She has all the links, or you can check out my sidebar.

19 Comments on A Winner -- and Hokey Pokey MMGM-style, last added: 12/13/2012
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46. A Thunderous Whisper -- and an interview!

Yes, it's another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!  UPDATED TO INCLUDE INTERVIEW!

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants see my sidebar or Shannon's links.

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Knopf, October 2012, for ages 10 and up)

Source: hardcover won from Medeia Sharif's blog (and if you haven't checked out her blog, you should! She's the author of Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. and she reads more than anyone I know.)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world.

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.

Why I liked it: This is historical fiction as it was meant to be. Gripping. Moving. Beautifully written. The Spanish Civil War and the plight of the Basques come alive through Ani. Before reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about Guernica, other than the fact that Pablo Picasso created a famous painting about it. And if you're looking for multi-cultural books, you can't go wrong with this one. (Parental note: This might be a bit scary for younger readers, with the descriptions of dead bodies after the bombing.)

Christina Diaz Gonzalez (from her website)
You can find the Author's website here.

Christina is the author of The Red Umbrella, which I reviewed for my very first MMGM (you can see that in this post from November 29, 2010 -- sheesh, have I really been doing this for more than two years?!).  And now, I'm updating this post to add a mini-interview with Christina Diaz Gonzalez. 

1) Tell us a little about your research. It must have been daunting! Did it take you months or years? What was it like to travel to Guernica and see these sites with your own eyes?

 The preliminary research took a few months and then I added more detail and fine-tuning once I went to Guernica myself. The trip there was amazing (although way too short) and the people were fantastic. They were so incredibly friendly and helpful... really gave me a sense of understanding what it was like during that time period.

2) Do you outline your novels before beginning to write? 

 I never outline my novels before writing but I do know how the book will end. It keeps me going in a certain direction.

3) As a pantser, I'm happy to hear that. I love the character of Ani and how much she grows and changes. I also loved Mathias. Is there any of you in Ani? And is Mathias like anyone you know?

 There is always a little of me in my characters.

4) Can you tell us what we can expect from you next? Will it be another historical novel?

I'm working on a contemporary/ quest-like story. It has a touch of historical to it, also. More than that, I can't talk about!

That's understandable, Christine. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Readers, be sure to come back on Friday December 14, when I'll be listing all the books I've read this year. That will be my last post before January, as I'll be taking a blogging break to work on the rough of my third MG novel.

What historical fiction have you read recently or look forward to reading?

18 Comments on A Thunderous Whisper -- and an interview!, last added: 12/13/2012
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47. Giveaway Reminders -- and a Remarkable MMGM

Giveaway Reminders:  Don't forget you still have until Sunday night, May 13, to enter my giveaway for a signed hardcover copy of JAKE AND LILY by Jerry Spinelli!  Go to THIS POST to enter!

You also have until Thursday night May 17 to enter my giveaway for an arc of DEVINE INTERVENTION by Martha Brockenbrough.  Go to THIS POST to enter!

Now onto today's MMGM recommendation:

Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley (Dial, April 17, 2012, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound):

A wonderfully whimsical debut that proves ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane's school and a strange pirate captain appears in town.

Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable's most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It's up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rather exceptional things.

With a page-turning mystery and larger-than-life cast of characters, Lizzie K. Foley's debut is nothing short of remarkable.

Why I liked it:   The premise is great! This is wonderfully goofy and charming and the kind of book I would have loved as a kid.  There's a quirkiness reminiscent of Roald Dahl.  The town of Remarkable is populated by a collection of colorful characters.  Oh, and there are pirates!  Yes!   How Jane figures out what's really going on in Remarkable is, um, rather remarkable, and yet it all fits together.  A fun read.

What colorful, quirky characters have populated your favorite books?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  For other regulars, please see my sidebar (and if you don't see your blog in there, please give me a nudge).

17 Comments on Giveaway Reminders -- and a Remarkable MMGM, last added: 5/9/2012
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48. I'm back with a Marvelous MG Monday: CHAINS and FORGE... and writing advice from Laurie Halse Anderson!

I'm back! Did you miss me?  Okay, show of hands, how many people didn't even realize I was gone?? 

Yes, I'm back from Revision Beach (sorry, I hate caves!) and I managed to finish Draft 5 of the MG novel that I've been working on for three years. Woo hoo!! So I'm here, at least for a few weeks.  I've really missed keeping up with all your wonderful blogs, but I stayed away for a reason. My hero, Laurie Halse Anderson taught us something during a workshop at the Eastern PA SCBWI Poconos retreat in April.  It was her "magic formula" for writing success.

And I'm going to share it with you, because I feel selfish keeping it a secret.  Are you ready?

For every 10 hours you spend writing, you may spend 5 hours reading and ONE HOUR on the internet OR watching TV.  That's right.  One hour.  I can hear the groans now, but that, my friends, is how Laurie Halse Anderson got where she is. 

And to prove that she does have a sense of humor and isn't just a harsh taskmaster, this is how Laurie signed my copy of FORGE:

Now, on to today's double MMGM:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Seeds of America, Book One, paperback published January 2010 by Atheneum, for ages 10 and up)

Source: paperback purchased from the bookstore where I work!

Synopsis (from Indiebound):  If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

Why I liked it: Isabel is such a smart, strong character and so full of life and humor and love for her sister that you just can't help admiring her. You also can't help being incensed by her lack of freedom and the atrocities that she and the other slaves had to endure (which is why this isn't appropriate for younger readers). I learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War through the eyes of a young slave.  How many of you knew that landowners in Rhode Island had slaves, just as those sout

21 Comments on I'm back with a Marvelous MG Monday: CHAINS and FORGE... and writing advice from Laurie Halse Anderson!, last added: 7/12/2012
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49. JUMP INTO THE SKY for a marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Jump Into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall (Knopf,  August 14, 2012, for ages 10 and up)

Source: advanced reader's copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Levi Battle's been left behind all his life. His mother could sing like a bird and she flew away like one, too. His father left him with his grandmother so he could work as a traveling salesman—until Levi's grandmother left this world entirely. Now Levi's staying with his Aunt Odella while his father is serving in the U.S. Army. But it's 1945, and the war is nearly over, and Aunt Odella decides it's time for Levi to do some leaving of his own. Before he can blink, Levi finds himself on a train from Chicago to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where his father is currently stationed—last they knew.

So begins an eye-opening, life-changing journey for Levi. First lesson: there are different rules for African Americans in the South than there are in Chicago. And breaking them can have serious consequences. But with the help of some kind strangers, and despite the hindrances of some unkind ones, Levi makes his way across the United States—searching for his father and finding out about himself, his country, and what it truly means to belong.

Why I liked it:  This is historical fiction at its finest. Told in a realistic 13-year-old boy's voice, Pearsall's moving and at times humorous novel isn't afraid to tackle tough topics like discrimination and abandonment.  You'll also learn about a little-known aspect of World War II: the black paratroopers of the 555th battalion. The characters are wonderful, from Levi to Aunt Odella, to Cal and Peaches, the Fayetteville couple who give Levi a temporary home, to the mysterious old Maw Maw Sands, who seems to know everything, and finally to Levi's father himself, the almost legendary Charlie Battle. 

As you read, you'll feel you are right there, in 1945. The scene in the grocer's in Fayetteville is etched in my memory, and I read this book more than two months ago.  Levi's just gotten off the train from Chicago.  He's hot and thirsty and he sees a Coca-Cola sign in the grocer's window.  But when he enters the shop and puts his money down on the counter, the grocer hands him a dusty grape soda instead and points a gun in Levi's face.  It's Levi's first experience with a white man in the South. And it's dramatic and intense.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this novel wins a Newbery honor in January.

For more MMGM recommendations, please visit the blogs in my sidebar to the right.  And if you're not in my sidebar, and should be, please let me know! 

Please remember to stop by Literary Rambles today for Natalie Aguirre's interview with Lenny Lee and a giveaway!

12 Comments on JUMP INTO THE SKY for a marvelous Middle Grade Monday!, last added: 7/19/2012
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50. What Came From the Stars by Gary Schmidt

Today, I want to talk about loss and grief. Those who know me personally may know why I'm in this kind of mood.  I've learned it's possible to grieve for a place almost as much as for a person. I'll go into more detail in a future blog post but it occurred to me that the book I planned to discuss today deals with both kinds of loss and does so beautifully.

What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt (coming September 4, 2012 from Clarion Books, for ages 10 to 14)

Synopsis (my own this time!): In a faraway world under siege, Young Waeglim forges a chain, holding all the art and beauty of his world. He flings it into space and the chain hurtles all the way across the universe and falls into the lunch box of Tommy Pepper, sixth-grader, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

And then everything begins to change. Wearing the chain, Tommy can suddenly speak an odd language that his teacher and classmates don't understand. He can draw pictures that move. He can catch the football every time James Sullivan yells, "Go long!"

Grieving for his dead mother, Tommy is barely holding it together. But he's trying to be strong for his father, who has given up painting, and for his little sister, who has stopped talking. Then the local real estate developer announces plans to put condos on their beach. Tommy and his father know it will ruin everything, but they're powerless to stop it.

When a dark lord from the faraway world arrives in Plymouth and takes over as their teacher, Tommy is the only one who realizes it. Somehow, he has to convince his classmates to help him fight back before everything is destroyed.

Why I liked it: For the first time, Gary Schmidt (Newbery honor winner for both Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars) has written a fantasy. And what a touching and gorgeous fantasy it is!  I truly admire the voice of this novel. It's a haunting voice of grief and loss, yet with a marvelous sense of hope too. I'm also impressed by the strong sense of place. Even if you've never been in Plymouth, you'd be able to picture it.

The Mayflower replica, Plymouth Rock, the beach, the cemetery, it's all described perfectly. The town becomes a character in itself.

But perhaps the best part is the way Tommy and his friends, James, Alice, and Patrick, band together to fight the Dark Lord. It's not Harry Potter, but you'll cheer all the same.

For other MMGM love, see the links in my sidebar (and if you're not there, and you believe you should be, let me know).

Do you have a favorite MG book that deals with grief and loss? 
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