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“I didn’t think you would do it,” my son Nathan told me when I fell out of an airplane at fourteen thousand feet. But I was determined since I was writing a story about someone who skydived. I learned that freefalling at one hundred miles an hour is very terrifying! The sad thing is that I have never been able to sell that story. But as a former librarian, I love doing research for my writing even if I don’t make a sale. Each new story is an opportunity for learning. Sometimes that involves doing something just a bit crazy.
“I didn’t think you would do it,” my husband said to me when I climbed up the hundreds of steps to the sixty foot drop into a pool of sharks. I didn’t tell him, but I almost chickened out at the top. Still, it was a chance to get close to sharks and I was determined to do the research. So, I took a deep breath and plummeted to what I feared was certain death. Luckily, I lived to write Danger in the Deep Blue Sea, which is book four in the Mermaid Tales series from Simon and Schuster.
I’ve done some other things that were slightly less crazy for research, like the multi-axis trainer at Space Camp for Mrs. Jeepers in Outer Space, a trip to Hawaii for Werewolves Don’t Go To Summer Camp (who says research has to be hard?), and a trip to the dentist for Hercules Doesn’t Pull Teeth (I took notes the whole time).
Another kind of research on Ancestry.com told me that my seventy-seventh grandmother was Cleopatra of Egypt. That led to the fun of writing my newest book, The Lost Princess (Mermaid Tales #5)
I think doing research with books or websites is fine. But whenever I get the chance to do something hands-on, I try to take that scary leap. What better way to be able to write about it than to actually experience it myself? Who knows what’s just around the corner for me to learn? Who will say to me, “I didn’t think you would do it”? I just hope it doesn’t involve freefalling at one hundred miles an hour!
Seven Spectral: Into the Red World
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Valerie Wicks (October 13, 2012)
Rating: 4 stars
Age group: preteen upward
Emerald Drizzleweather Bogwater has an unfortunate name, unfortunate red hair, and an unfortunate tendency to rebel. When she escapes her small, dull, slow village (where everyone and everything is in shades of green) to see the world, she discovers something she wasn’t bargaining for…a whole new one. Now she must solve the mystery of the Egyptian-styled Red World (and its problems), before its dangers ensnare her forever. Escaping was relatively easy. Emer’s father (Alder Bogwater) tries to make her stay by bringing her back forcibly. She has even been married off to the kind of boy any sane girl would avoid—an oaf who drinks far too much lime ale. But Emer is on a mission to find her mother, Lore, with nothing but memories and an old turquoise compass, one of the pair that works in unison. However, if that means charting a dangerous course, so be it. With her green otter Samhain (aka Sam) as companion, she scales the wall separating Green from Red world and is catapulted into an adventure beyond anything she imagined. Deities, magic, death, blood and gore, intertwined worlds, weird characters and scary monsters, and a female Pharaoh determined to lock the Rainbow Gate, a mysterious set of ‘Keys’ that must be found, traitors, rebellions, and a boy that leads an army. Talking of boys, Shigeru is way more exciting and attractive than anyone Emer has ever met before. He comes from the Violet world, an element that hints at the other worlds in this planned series. Will Emer find her mother and is she ready for revelations that will shatter her beliefs?
Author Valerie Wicks has a way with words and a gift for world-building. She weaves a fantasy realm that intrigues with descriptions that unfold with the adventure. Emer is a feisty young woman who thinks on her feet as danger threatens and situations turn distinctly nasty. My criticism would be that although Emer is sixteen, sometimes she speaks and thinks like a younger person. The plot twists and turns in an interesting way, but in various sections I felt as if the plot and its myriad characters ran away from the author. Sometimes too many other elements (albeit fascinating) distract the reader from the main story theme and Emer’s character development. However, a great start to a series where the rainbow’s shades create new and different worlds.
First reviewed for Readers Favorite
Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.
With only two days left to register for the New Jersey SCBWI June Conference, I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss the chance to spend four hours with Sudipta Bardhan at her Writer’s Intensive on Friday June 7th titled, Chapter Books and Series Writing. There are skills writers need to learn to write a good chapter book. No need to spin your wheels trying to bridge that gap between picture books and middle grade, when you can attend Sudipta’s intensive.
You may have noticed Sudipta is a regular on the NJSCBWI faculty each year for the June Conference. The reason for that is she does an exceptional job. Everyone who attends always leaves saying how much they learned.
Here is the blurb about the workshop:
Creating a publishable manuscript is challenging enough; creating one with series potential can be a different animal altogether. The writer must develop a complete stand-alone plot that, at the same time, is open for continued interpretation. In addition, the main character must both develop throughout the pilot book but retain some consistent characteristic/circumstance that can tie the series together. This intensive discusses ways to create character-driven books that editors may see as strong enough to support a series.
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is the author of more than thirty books for children, ranging from thirteen picture books to over a dozen nonfiction books for young readers to a newly-contracted chapter book series called Spectacles of Destiny. Her titles include Hampire!, The Worst Twelve Days of Christmas, Half-Pint Pete the Pirate, Pirate Princess, and Chicks Run Wild. She speaks at conferences, educator events, and schools across the country, teaching the craft of writing to children and adults.
I am very excited today to be part of the Hilary McKay Blog Tour! Today she is stopping by for an interview focused mainly on her books Lulu and the Duck in the Park and Lulu and the Dog by the Sea. These two endearing early chapter books are a delight to read. I will be giving away copies to two lucky commentors on today's post, so make sure you stick around and put in your two cents at the
*Early, early chapter book (like Amelia Bedelia), realistic fiction
*6-year-old girl as main character
*Rating: Well, I’m in love with the character, Katie Woo–this is just one book in a series. Young girls will eat these up and want more and more. Love the illustrations, too!
Short, short summary:
In Katie Woo: Moving Day, Katie is moving to a new house, but she is worried about leaving her old house. She writes a note to the new girl who will have her room, and then she goes with her parents to her new abode. She is a bit worried about the “whirlpool” and especially the “sunken living room”–what if she falls in and can’t get out? Once she’s there, she starts to adjust and eventually feels right at home. This is a “chapter book” but there are pictures on every page–PERFECT for first or second graders who want a step-up from a picture book.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Well, here’s a book where I didn’t have to do much brainstorming to show you how to use it because the authors/publisher did it for me! Love this. In the back of the book, there are discussion questions and writing prompts to use with kids. For example, one of the questions to discuss is: Do you think it would be fun to move? Why or why not? One of the writing prompts is: Make a list of ten words that describe your home. The activities are built right in!
2. And there’s more. In the back of the book, there’s also a step-by-step art activity to go with something that happens to Katie Woo in the story. She notices a bird’s nest outside her window, and the art activity is to create a next with a brown bag, glue, and dried leaves, grass, and flowers. This is an activity that kids would probably need help with–especially the part where you change the bag into a nest shape, but it’s a cute activity.
3. For those of you at home or doing this in a school with computer lab free time, it turns out that Katie Woo is ONLINE. (Who would have thought?) So you can go to www.capstonekids.com and click on the picture of Katie Woo. Once you do this, you will be taken to her section of the site where you watch short videos, learn more about her and her friends, and download color and activity sheets.
Home Court by Amar'e Stoudemire. Scholastic, 2012. I bought this paperback for my fourth grade son. He loves all kinds of sports but is especially interested in skateboarding and basketball. Both of these sports are featured in an interesting combination of passions in the main character in Stoudemire's opening book of the series. "STAT" (standing tall and talented) is well written and fun to
Last year, Tomie dePaola won The Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement Award and his extensive interview with Lee Wind on the SCBWI blog reminded me that I still haven't read Tomie's books about his home front experiences during World War II. He wrote about them in the last four of the eight books that make up his 26 Fairmount Avenue series, subtitled The War Years.
This post probably contains spoilers
In Book 5, Things Will Never Be the Same, begins in January 1941, first-grader Tomie had just received his two best Christmas presents - a Junior Flexible Flyer sled and a diary with a lock and key, and so Book 5 begins with his very first diary entry. With all the charm, honesty and bluntness of a very precocious and artistic 6 year old, Tomie takes us through the year 1941, diary entry by diary entry. Each chapter begins with a short diary entry and the rest of the chapter goes into more depth everything that was going on at the time. And 1941 is an exciting year for Tomie. Through his diary, Tomie presents a wonderful picture of what life was life in that year preceding America's entry into the war. Things he writes about include the day to day family life of the dePaola family, and the world of a first grader, for example, learning about President Roosevelt and the March of Dimes, and not being able to swim in the summer because of a Polio scare; the excitement over seeing Disney's Fantasia in the theater, his disappointment over who is second grade teacher is, about his tap dancing lessons which he loves, and of course all the holidays over the course of the year. But all this changes on December 7, 1941. Tomie writes in his diary:
As the dePaola's listen, along with the whole country, to the radio announcer talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tomie's mother says to her family, "Things will never be the same."
Unlike Things Will Never Be the Same, which covers a whole year, Book 6, I'm Still Scared, diary entries only cover one month, December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1941, but is is a powerful month for second grader Tomie. Not quite understanding what has happened and the implications of war, Tomie is a scared little boy and to make matters worse, no one really wants to explain what's going on to him. Luckily for him, after listening to Roosevelt's speech on the radio, the family go to visit Tomie's grandparents and his grandfather, Tom, takes some time he talk to him about his fears. But life had indeed changed. At school, there were air raid drills, and at home, an air raid shelter had to be created in the basement just in case. And Tomie had to contend with being called the ENEMY because of his Italian heritage. War was everywhere. Even at the movies showing a children's feature, the newsreels showed London in the Blitz, and Tomie realized it was the first time he had seen what war was like. At the end of December, young Tomie is still scared.
Book 7, Why?, begins on January 1, 1942 and runs until April 29, 1942. In his new diary, Tomie gives more details of his day to day life. He writes about his excitement about being able to stay up late for New Year's Eve, of going to help in his grandfather's grocery store, and of his first surprise air raid drill at school. But his real trouble comes when his teacher starts teaching the kids to write in cursive and refused to allow Tomie, a lefty, to hold the pen in a way that worked for him. And Tomie talks more about his older brother Buddy and how angry/annoyed Buddy gets with him. But perhaps saddest of all are the entries about his cousin Anthony A/K/A Blackie. Blackie was a favorite cousin who had joined the Army Air Corps. Tomie seemed able to adjust to everything involving the war - like rationing and air raid drills - but the news of Blackie's death is just incomprehensible to him. In the end, he is left asking himself Why?
Book 8, For the Duration, is the final book in the 26 Fairmount Avenue series and begins on May 1, 1942 and runs through... Well, that's hard to say. It seems that early on, Tomie's diary key disappeared. While there are not more diary entries, Tomie still talks about his life and in 1942, patriotism is in full swing. At school, Tomie gets very sad and runs out of the room when the class starts singing the Army Air Corps anthem. At dancing school. there is a lot so rehearsing for a wonderful recital, but there are also bullies in the schoolyard who take his new tap shoes and start tossing them around. And there are victory gardens and ration books and helping again in his grandfather's grocery. Things between Tomie and his brother Buddy get worse and in the end, it is Buddy who has taken the diary key. But one thing Tomie learns to understand completely is that some things disappear (chewing gum, fireworks) and other thing come into being (war bonds, war stamps), all "for the duration."
The 26 Fairmount Avenue series is an extraordinary group of chapter books recalling Tomie dePaola's early life living in Meridan, Connecticut. For the most part, they are a series of vignettes told in great detail and include whimsical illustrations by Tomie thoughout the books. Much of what Tomie writes is funny, charming, sad and so typical of kids that age. Though I haven't reviewed for first four books here, I would really recommend the whole series to anyone who is a Tomie dePaola fan. My only gripe is that we are left hanging about Buddy and the diary key.
And if you are a Tomie dePaola fan, be sure to read Lee Wind's interview with him:
Part 1 can be found here
Part 2 can be found here
Part 3 can be found here
These books are recommended for readers age 7+ Things Will Never Be the Same was borrowed from the Children's Center of the NYPL I'm Still Scared was borrowed from the Yorkville Branch of the NYPL Why? was borrowed from the Morningside Heights Branch of the NYPL For the Duration was borrowed from the Bank Street College of Education Library
by Louise Erdrich. Harper, 2012. (review copy for the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction list). This is the fourth book in Erdrich's Birchbark House series. I have enjoyed the entire series, including Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, and The Porcupine Year. The stories cover 100 years in the life of an Ojibwe family living in Minnesota in the 19th century. In Chickadee we meet twin boys who are
It is really, very cold outside. It's supposed to stay like this for a few days so I'm hunkered down, working on a commission which I expect to be done a day or two and writing a little chapter book which I want to pitch as soon as I can. After Maddy is finished I'll be pitching books like mad, both for my own stories and for collaborations.
by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams, illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Turner, 2012. (Advance Review Copy). This is a fun twist on the fairy princess story. B. B. Bright, Princess of Light, is living on Bee Isle, floating in "Bright World" between "Other World" and "Raven World", where her parents used to be King and Queen until they got killed in a war. B. B. is cared for by three
The Orange Marmalade blog has done a lovely review of Mokie and Bik - I'm smiling at what she says about the story and words, and agree whole-heartedly with her thoughts on Jonathan Bean's art. I was going to say she's chosen two of my favourite illustrations - but then, I think of some of the others, and am not sure I can choose.
Featuring children as unflappable as Pippi Longstocking, bursting with nonsensical words and invented verbs that waltz and yabber and sing, this book is exuberant and warm-hearted and highly original. I found it by searching for work by one of my favorite illustrators, Jonathan Bean, who has adorned these pages with enchanting, turn-of-the-century, Edward-Ardizzone-esque pen and ink drawings. Sigh. He gets it exactly right.
If you’re looking for something out-of-the-box and full of spice for your young-but-stalwart reader, check this out!
Thanks to Lori Lawson of Pure Imagination for her stellar new fall picks for YA readers. So come along with her and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination….
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was my favorite book in 2011. I’ve been dying for the sequel ever since then. The Unbecoming was a crazy thrill ride of twists and turns. It was hard to know what was real or not and I loved that! Luckily, I’ve had the chance to read The Evolution of Mara Dyer already and I must say that it was a worthy sequel. These are must reads.
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers | October 23, 2012
A.S. King is one of my favorite authors. She’s on my auto buy list because I know I will love anything she writes. I first fell in love with her writing with The Dust of 100 Dogs. Then she blew me away with Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Her books continue to amaze me and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us with Ask the Passengers.
Ages 15-18| Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | October 23, 2012
Daughter of Smoke and Bone left everyone I know in awe last year. Laini Taylor is an amazing talent in the YA world. Her writing and world building are breathtaking. Days of Blood and Starlight is a highly anticipated read for me. I have no doubt that Taylor will amaze again.
Ages 14-17 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | November 6, 2012
Freddie Ramos Springs into Action by Jacqueline Jules, art by Miguel Benitez. Albert Whitman, 2012. Freddie Ramos is a boy superhero. He has purple sneakers with "zapato power". When he is walking they are just like normal sneakers, but when he runs they ZOOM across the playground or down the street in a puff of smoke. The smoke can be a problem when grownups complain about it. The speed can be
Waddle as fast as you can to your library or bookstore and pick up a copy of Duck for a Day, an engaging early chapter book. McKinlay, an Australian writer, covers well-trod ground--a girl wants to bring home the class pet--but she does so with great finesse and with a delightful twist--the class pet is a duck.
Abby isn't allowed to have pets--they're messy and her mom is a bit of a neat freak. Last year, however, she brought home the class rabbit and this year her mom grudgingly will let her take home Max, the duck Abby's teacher surprises the class with one day. But not just anyone gets Max as a houseguest, only those who can provide the perfect aquatic environment. As Mrs. Melvino, their teacher, says more than once, "A duck is different. A duck has demands." Meeting these demands proves almost impossible for Abby and her classmates. Add to Abby's challenges, Noah, her next door neighbor and chief rival, and you have the perfect ingredients for an engrossing read.
The book is expertly plotted and the characters well-drawn and endearing. When obstacles are put in her path, Abby doesn't whinge or whine, she sets out to overcome them. Noah, in his quest to get the duck, comes into his own, changing from a shy, withdrawn boy to a self-confident one. And Mrs. Melvino is a hoot, a teacher who puts so many roadblocks in the class quest to win Max that careful readers will begin to wonder if she has ulterior motives. Leila Rudge's cartoonish illustrations enhance the text and add many comic touches. A delightful book!
Duck for a Day by Meg McKinlay illustrations by Leila Rudge Candlewick Press, 96 pages Published: February 2012
On the first day of summer vacation when I was twelve years old, I got on my bicycle, rode three miles down the street through a tunnel of new leaves, emerged into lemon-colored sunshine in the middle of town, racked my bike, opened the front door of the library to release its peppery aroma into the juicy green afternoon, and saw a book with a fantastic cover awaiting me on the nearest wooden table: M.C. Higgins The Great.
On the first page, Mayo Cornelius, sporting lettuce affixed to his wrists with rubber bands (for reasons that became clear later) stared into the distance, imagining the freedom that lay in his future, wondering what to do with it. Just like me: In the deafening summertime silence made up of nobody telling me what to do, and with a bicycle I could theoretically ride until I fell into the Pacific Ocean, I’d spent the entire day thinking, “Now I’m gonna make something happen. But what?”
So I started reading to see what M. C. had done with all his freedom. On a hot, leafy mountainside overlooking the Ohio River, he set out to explore what it meant—the freedom to stand up to his father, the freedom to forge friendships with people very different from himself, the freedom to imagine a future no one else in his family had ever imagined, and the freedom to pursue it. His life was more dramatic than mine, more dangerous, odd, fraught, and strange, because he was a character in a novel, but M. C. himself, I understood. He was on a quest to find out who M. C. really was.
And so M. C. Higgins The Great made the summer of 1975 last forever. His story was the story of how he became himself amid trees and streams and the first hints freedom that come with growing up.
Video courtesy of DisneyHyperion: Trevor Jones has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer. But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby, drops on him at the bus stop: he needs to branch out and make new friends. Oh, and he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day. Trevor decides that he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes, though, when he meets mysterious new student Molly. Trevor starts to think that going to the dance maybe wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. But with detention-wielding teachers, school gossips, and, worst of all, eighth graders conspiring against him, Trevor will have to do the one thing he wasn’t prepared to do: be epic.
Review by Tintin, age 9
Author/illustrator: Emily Jenkins/Harry Bliss
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 2011)
Hank Wolowitz lives in New York and owns an ice cream shop called The Big Round Pumpkin with his mom, dad, and his sister, Nadia. One day at the shop, Hank feels something under the sink. It feels furry. He finds out it is an animal called a bandapat, and it is
Shana Burg is the author of A Thousand Never Evers (Random House, 2008) and Laugh with the Moon (Random House, 2012). Both novels are for tween, teen, and adult readers. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, “Gripping. Delivers an emotional wallop.” Kirkus Reviews calls Laugh with the Moon “A vivid work of art.”
Laugh with the Moon tells the story of a 13-year-old girl from Massachusetts whose father brings her to live in the bush in Malawi, Africa after the death of her mother.
Laugh with the Moon (Random House, 2012) grew out of one of the greatest adventures of my life. One week I was a graduate student studying public policy at the Harvard’s Kennedy School in Massachusetts. The next, I found myself in a Land Rover tooling through the bush in Central Africa with my driver, translator, and new friend Norman Mbalazo.
I went to Malawi under the guidance of a professor to investigate whether the girls in Malawi’s primary schools had the same access to learning materials like teachers, books, and pencils as the boys did. “I’m not qualified to do that!” I told my professor. But she convinced me that what was really needed was “a fresh pair of eyes.” Her eyes were tired. She had been visiting Malawi for many, many years.
Image courtesy of Shana Burg.
So there I was, in the African jungle, with Norman and my fresh pair of eyes, slowly being transformed by the people I met in this tiny, landlocked country that is one of the poorest on earth. What I saw in the rural schools fascinated me. Yes, sometimes there were 200 students packed into a single classroom sitting on the floor. Yes, often there were roosters walking around inside the schools. And yes, many of the students learned outside in the middle of the rainy season, which meant that whenever the rains came, class was over for the day.
Image courtesy of Shana Burg.
But with my fresh pair of eyes, I also saw the amazing ways that students and teachers were dealing with the cards they’d been dealt. Teachers taught students the alphabet by having them make letters out of termite hill mud, and draw with sticks in the dirt.
In some schools, older students helped teach younger students as the adult teachers roamed from room to room. If a teacher did not
Do you fear approaching your Reluctant Reader? Have they been spotted this summer participating in questionable behavior with their books like building forts and extreme paper dolls? Identified by their atypical behaviors, the Reluctant Readers Road to Recovery Guide is here to help you create successful encounters with hesitant young readers everywhere. Panic no more and take control of rainy day havoc, poolside chaos and playground mayhem with a great book for your unique reader.
Reluctant Readers Road to Recovery Guide
The Make-Believer has more imagination frequent flier miles than a Pan Am stewardess!The best cure for this case of Reluctant Reading isElliot and the Last Underworld War by Jennifer Nielsen (Author of The False Prince). The Make-Believer will be thrilled to join the sarcastically hilarious Elliot in the Underworld. As the King of the Brownies, Elliot has battled Goblins, tricked Pixies, and trapped a Demon. But now, the Demon has escaped and he’s ready for revenge. So, the Pixies, Shapeshifters, Elves, Goblins, and Brownies must join forces to battle the Demon head on before he has the chance to destroy Earth.
The Daredevilthinks trick-or-treating should apply to everyday life, especially the tricks!Cure their hunger for trouble with Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire by Francesca Simon. Not even your daredevil will believe what Henry is up to next in these four new wonderful and wacky tales. The international bestselling Horrid Henry series provides readers with a prankster whose relentless antics create a laugh-out-loud read. WARNING: Do not allow daredevils to consume milk while reading or milk may spray from the nose!
The BFFhas matching bracelets with all her friends and wins Miss Congeniality every year.This is a case of Reluctant Reading that can only be cured with Hailey Twitch and the Wedding Glitch by Lauren Barnholdt. Hailey Twitch and her spirited sprite Maybelle, retu
I have so many books to review that it’s time to do a round up! First, I must apologize to all three of these lovely authors that it has taken me this long to mention your books and showcase them on my blog. I am working on a new, better system (aren’t we all?), so that I will not get so backed up in the future. Anyway, let’s get on to these lovely books. I will share a brief summary, who should read, and a couple discussion points for them. Here we go!
Chigger by Raymond Bial is a well-written book with a touch of humor about a new girl moving into town (in Southern Indiana) in the 1950s, and she is not readily accepted, especially moving in April and starting school “about seven months late.” She insists on being called Eddie and on wearing jeans to school, and she cusses (word of warning–read this book before your children/students to make sure you are okay with language or want to talk to them about it), and fights. So, she’s not your typical girl, which makes her a great literary character! The point of view character has a great voice–he’s a fifth-grade boy, Luke, so this book will appeal to boys (it’s probably more upper mid-grade or tween), and he kind of likes this new girl, which makes him a great character, too. She gets the nickname Chigger from a humorous character, Buzz, because “you’re just a dang bug and you sure get under my skin.”
This book has some serious issues in it and is inspired by actual events. Chigger is obviously poor and always hungry, although she is super independent. She and her mom are running from an abusive father. She is picked on and ostracized for being different and new. It also explores friendship and standing up for what’s right. I see this as the perfect book for a parent and child to read together and discuss because it will bring up issues that the child may be dealing with in a non-threatening way!
The Wild Soccer Bunch Book 3: Zoe the Fearless by Joachim Masannek and illustrated by Jan Brick is part of a series of books titled, The Wild Soccer Bunch. These books are endorsed by a professional soccer player, Landon Donovan, and have quite a bit of merchandise to go with them, which can be found on an extensive website here. In the third super cute book, Zoe’s mother has passed away, and she and her father are moving to Chicago. Zoe wants to play on the boys’ team–not on the girls–and so her father signs her up with the Wild Soccer Bunch, who aren’t too crazy about playing with a girl. She has to prove herself. Plus there’s Grandma, who is busy trying to get Zoe to be more like a girl.
Obviously this is the perfect book for anyone who likes soccer. (There are quite a few illustrations, so this would probably be beg. middle-grade/maybe even chapter book.) I also like it because it showcases girls in sports. We all know girls play and love sports! So why not have a book to celebrate this?! You can discuss all sorts of things with this book, including death and dying, sportsmanship, moving, practice for sports (hard work), individuality, being true to yourself, and more.
Pipper’s Secret Ingredient by Jane Murphy and Allison Fingerhuthand illustrated by Neal Sharp is a delightful chapter book with plenty of illustrations for readers who are ready to step into something harder than a picture book, but still feeling apprehensive about reading novels. Pipper is a dog who blogs! She blogs about food–of course–and the book starts out with her blog. She is actually looking for an interesting blog post topic, and she decides that she will search for a secret ingredient. As she travels around and blogs, she visits some interesting places such as Egypt, New York City, Paris, and the Orient Express. She has her friends, too, a cast of characters who readers are introduced to in the very beginning that help her with her adventure.
This is the perfect book for children to learn more about places all over the world, blogging and using the Internet for research, and what is truly important to an individual. I’m telling you that kids will LOVE THIS BOOK! I love holding it and looking at it. It is so shiny. You definitely don’t want to miss this!
I have to admit, I had a really fun time writing The Lucky Kind. Of course it was plagued, from time to time, with bouts of self-doubt, questions over where the story was going and how I was going to get it there, but overall, I look back on the experience of writing that book as a great time. I loved the characters, I loved the voice, the dialogue seemed to crackle and pop as I put it down on paper. Writing The Beautiful Between was difficult, but always exciting, because it was my first novel and there was so much possibility in every new chapter. I didn’t know if I was writing it just for me and me alone or if it would be published.
Writing The Stone Girl, however, was not particularly fun. It was exhilarating, from time to time, because I was writing about things I’d never written about before, going someplace darker and deeper than I’d ever been as a writer. It was thrilling, sometimes, when the words came quickly and I wrote chapter after chapter in rapid succession. But the words never came easily. There were times when I would go weeks and weeks without looking at the book at all.
I came up with the idea for The Stone Girl in a car, driving from the San Francisco airport to the hotel where my then-fiancé and I were planning our wedding. It was a few days before my 28th birthday, a few years since I’d last made myself throw up, and I was reading Blackbird House, by Alice Hoffman, for the first time. Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw a girl, still and silent as a stone, crouched beside a toilet. At once, I knew everything about her. I knew her name was Sarah Beth, but she preferred to be called Sethie. I knew the boy she loved was only half of a boyfriend, and I knew she was destined to be hurt by him. I knew exactly when and how she first learned to throw up. I know she wore her clothes a couple sizes too big so that waistbands and cap-sleeves wouldn’t dig into her skin. I knew that sometimes she wanted to take a knife to her body and cut the fat pieces away.
I began scribbling in the spiral notebook I always take with me when I travel. A few messy pages of notes later, I’d begun writing The Stone Girl. But I quickly put it aside. The Beautiful Between hadn’t even been published yet. I had only just begun writing The Lucky Kind. And did I really want to write a book about a sick, sad, lonely girl anyway?
Whether I wanted to or not eventually became besides the point. I kept thinking about this girl and I kept scribbling notes, typing stray chapters, imagining where her story would take her. I remembered things long forgotten, from the years I spent wrapped up in my own body-obsession: my illogical “fat-free” days,
Of course, every boy isn’t a reluctant reader. A lot of boys love books. All we’re trying to do is get as many as possible to strike their pup-tents in camp #1 and pitch them in Camp #2.
To quote the great Jon Scieszka (which is something I do quite frequently and with stellar results):
“Boys aren’t believing that ‘Reading is wonderful.’ Reading is often difficult and boring for them. Let’s start with “Here is one book . . . you might like”
Not to name names, but a certain boy I know, who needs to clean up his room right now, used to be a bona fide reluctant reader when he was in first grade. These days, I have to order his light off at 10:30 so he can get some sleep, and usually I find him lying in bed reading BEFORE it’s time to get up on Saturdays.
What happened? Like the great Mr. Scieszka said, one book:
What’s so special about Sideways Stories from Wayside School?
Ask any boy who has read it, and he’ll tell you:
It has short, easy chapters.
It’s a lot of fun, and it’s not intimidating.
Ask me, and I’ll tell you those three things, plus one more:
It’s really sophisticated.
Sure, the scenarios are wacky. As you probably know, Wayside School was supposed to be thirty classrooms wide and one story high, but by mistake got built thirty stories high and one classroom wide. Among its many students are Bebe Gunn, Eric Bacon, Eric Fry, and Eric Ovens. In the first chapter, Mrs. Gorf, a colossally mean teacher, turns all her pupils into apples when they make her mad, until Jenny holds up a mirror in front of Mrs. Gorf and turns her into an apple, whereupon Louis the Yard Teacher eats her.
Louis, by the way, is based on the author himself, who used to be a playground monitor. Louis is nice to all the children and has a multicolored mustache. When Mrs. Drazil makes him shave, he becomes very by-the-book and makes the kids call him Mr. Louis. When the mustache grows back, he reverts to his much cooler self.
There are at least fifty characters in this book, all drawn very clearly in terms young readers can grasp quickly, and Sachar does not dumb down his humor. The intricate web of relationships he creates among characters and the comic conflicts he engineers between them would make Charles Dickens proud.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School proved to be a gateway book for my reluctant reader. He loved the jokes and adored the characters and read it again and again until he started to see far deeper into the complexity of fiction than he’d ever seen—than he’d ever imagined. He inhabited that book, he owned that book, he memorized that book, and it gave him the enthusiasm and
James Dashner was born and raised in Georgia but now lives and writes in the Rocky Mountains. He talked to us about The Maze Runner series and the books and movies that inspire his writing. He is also the author of the 13th Realityseries.
James Dashner:The Maze Runner trilogy is a story of a devastated future, and teenagers thrown into a terrifying experiment for mysterious reasons that are discovered as you go throughout the books. I think it’s a mix of adventure, mystery, and horror.
BS: Without giving anything away—as if you would—what can readers expect from The Kill Order? I’ve heard we should expect the unexpected.
JD: I’m excited for people to read it because my fans will get to see, firsthand, just how the world got into such bad shape and the reason the trilogy needed to exist in the first place.
BS: Each book within the trilogy is different, but all act as a piece of a larger puzzle. For readers that may be new to TheMaze Runner series (blasphemy) and end up with the prequel in their hands, what should they do? Put it down and start TheMaze Runner? Or should they go ahead and read it anyway and continue on with the trilogy upon completion?
JD: Oh, I definitely think people should read the trilogy first, no doubt. I think both the trilogy and the prequel will be more satisfying if done in that order.
BS: You have said that Lord of the Flies (one of my all-time favorite books) inspired your trilogy: “Instead of degenerating into animals, I wanted [the characters] to become more organized, more lawful, more determined, never losing hope. I hope that’s really how humans would react.” Did you have this thought prior to beginning the series while you wer
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (June 26, 2012)
What to expect: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Jazz & Blues
I confess, I judged Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel a little unfairly—I made the mistake of reading the book flap and the author biography and I groaned inwardly. It seemed to be doing too much, first by incorporating a sci-fi/fantasy story in the setting of the Dust Bowl-era in Kansas. Then she threw racism into the mix, and for good measure developed a relationship between a half-black girl and a Jewish boy, and wove it all together with a tapestry of fairy lore.
However, after three days of being unable to put the book down, I completely fell in love with the story and the characters, and left feeling bereft and thankful that there will be two more books in this trilogy. Because this engaging story (with a fabulous ragtime soundtrack) is an engaging, exhausting romp that will leave the reader wanting more.
Callie LeRoux lives in a hotel in Slow Run, Kansas, slowly dying of dust pneumonia. Her mother, who runs the hotel, refuses to leave because she is convinced that Callie’s father will someday return to them. Then one day, her mother mysteriously vanishes in a dust storm—and Callie is confronted by a Native American man who miraculously heals her from the disease that was killing her and tells her she must embrace her identity and her destiny, and go find her parents out in California. Accompanied by a young hobo named Jack, Callie sets off on her quest—only to encounter humanoid locusts, warring fairy factions, and a zombie-like bull marshall who wants her and Jack dead. Because Callie, as it turns out, isn’t exactly human, and Jack is hiding a secret or two of his own.
The book is extremely fast-paced, barely allowing you any time to breathe between the calamities that befall Callie and Jack. While there are strong themes of loyalty to family, Callie and Jack are on a journey where they can’t trust anyone, which adds to the tense, exciting atmosphere of the novel. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment of this series.