Smek for President
by Adam Rex
Science fiction for kids is rare enough; truly funny middle-grade science fiction is even rarer. In fact, off the top of my head I can only think of one book in the hilarious middle-grade science fiction genre: The True Meaning of Smekday.
Now that number has doubled, with the publication of a worthy sequel, Smek for President
If you haven't read The True Meaning of Smekday
, why not? Go forth and read it now!
It's a great road-trip buddy comedy about a girl and an alien on the run from the evil alien overlords.
Beyond this point there will be spoilers for the first book.
In Smek for President
, human leader Dan Landry has taken credit for defeating the Gorg. No one, human or Boov, knows that it was really Tip and J.Lo who discovered the Gorg's weakness and defeated them with hundreds of cloned cats. Tip is living an anonymous life trying to adjust to being a regular girl again. J.Lo is infamous on two worlds: he can't seem to stay out of trouble in their community on Earth, and to the Boov he's still the Squealer, who accidentally signaled the Gorg in the first place. Tip and J.Lo decide to take a trip to New Boovworld (formerly known as the moon Titan) to explain to Captain Smek what really happened and clear J.Lo's name.
Hilarious hijinks ensue, including a low-gravity chase that is every bit as awesome as you'd hope for a low-gravity chase to be, an escape into a garbage-pit, (with obligatory Star Wars reference) and a lonely bubble-billboard. There's more awesomeness that I can't say anything about without spoiling the book. There are several comic sections that extend the story throughout the book.
There's not much else I can say, except that this is a perfect middle-grade book, and fans of The True Meaning of Smekday
will love it. Anyone who hasn't read The True Meaning of Smekday
would be well served to read it first.Diversity?
The protagonist Tip is mixed-race and dark skinned. She's also an awesome character that boys and girls of all races can identify with. (How many times am I allowed to say awesome in one review?)Buy from Powells.com:FTC required disclosure:
Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
If you, like me, missed Kidlitcon this past weekend, Leila has a delicious recap & link roundup for you at Bookshelves of Doom. I haven’t been since 2010, the Minneapolis gathering, and I had many a pang of longing as the tweets and FB updates came rolling in. But it was delightful to see so many of my blog-pals having what was clearly a Very Good Time.
One reason I couldn’t be there is because I was engaged to speak at SCBWI-San Diego on Saturday. (The other reason is because I have a hundred children and am therefore Always Broke. You know how it is.) I’m happy to say my SCBWI talk seemed to go over very well. The topic was Middle-Grade and Chapter Books, two categories of children’s publishing I can speak about with considerable enthusiasm. What’s more fun than speaking to a full house about your very favorite books? The crowd was wonderful, with really smart questions afterward. The only thing that could have made it more fun would have been having the Kidlitcon crowd there.
Sunday felt amazingly luxurious: nothing was required of me but to read. This was convenient, as the nominee tally in my CYBILs category is currently 100 novels, with more contenders coming in every day. Only two more days, guys, until the public nomination period closes. People are starting to compile lists of worthy books that haven’t yet been nominated; you can find links to those posts here.
Speaking of piles of books, the younger set and I finished The Boxcar Children over the weekend (it’s a mighty quick read) and today it fell upon to me choose the next readaloud. Sometimes I know EXACTLY what book I want to reach for next, and other times I have option paralysis. Today was the latter sort of occasion. I got Rose to go around the house with me, pulling likely candidates off shelves, and when we had a comfortable stack, I decided on a Jane-Rose-Beanie favorite, Rowan of Rin. Chapter one was well received. I’ve never read this one aloud before, and there’s always a risk—some great books just don’t make great readalouds. But so far, so good. So gripping!
Unlike 112 years ago, when the Conyers Civic League was founded, the written word has fierce competition winning the hearts and attention spans of today's kiddos. With a unique roster of inter-active author presentations, the League aims to engage youth with a book's possibilities during The Irene Irwin Children's Literary Day on Sunday, Sept. 28, 12:30 - 3:30 p.m. at the Olde Town Pavilion. The day will also serve as tribute to Irene Irwin, a former teacher and CCL member whose generous legacy continues to fund League endeavors today.
"We are excited about our slate of accomplished authors," said Event Chair Julie Rogers. "We've planned for it to be an engaging afternoon activity for families." 12:45 - 1:30
Chris Rumble, artist, musician and author of "The Adventures of Uncle Stinky" series 1:30 - 1:45
Susan Rosson Spain, author of "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia," as well as "Deep Cut," a historical fiction work for middle-schoolers set against the back drop of the Civil War 1:45 - 2:30
Michael P. White, illustrator of many award-winning books including, "The Library Dragon," involves audiences in the illustration 2:30 - 2:45 Mary Cunningham, author of the award-winning five book 'tween series, "Cynthia's Attic" 2:45 - 3:30
Danny Schnitzlein, author of "The Monster Who Ate My Peas" and "The Monster Who Did My Math"
The event is free. Authors will have books on hand to sell and sign, cash or checks only accepted. Mellow Mushroom pizza will be available for $1 per slice. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, please visit the Facebook page ~ Irene Irwin Children's Literary Day.
The other day I mentioned I’ve been meaning to write a post about the 1972 middle-grade novel Sarah and Katie by Dori White. THIS IS NOT THAT POST. This is purely a curiosity itch I can’t wait to scratch. I took my query to Twitter, too, and…crickets. Now, ordinarily the merest mention of any book on Twitter, let alone a childhood favorite, garners zillions of immediate and enthusiastic responses. People love to talk about their childhood books.
Which leads me to believe that no one I know either on Twitter or here has heard of this book!
Can this be? Am I alone in my Sarah and Katie mini-obsession?
Illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, you guys. It was a Scholastic Book Clubs book; I’m sure that’s where I came across it.
This book haunted me. I don’t remember what age I was, maybe eleven? Story of two best friends, sixth graders, in Depression-era Oregon. Thick as thieves, a regular Betsy-Tacy pair, but the arrival of a new girl in their midst doesn’t work out quite as well as when Tib shows up. (Then again, B-T and Tib were around six in that book. Big difference between six and twelve. Trios are much trickier, at twelve.) The new girl is dazzlingly beautiful, a cloud of red curls, glamorous, dazzling, a wee bit manic; and everyone including Sarah is smitten—except Katie, who sees through Melanie’s stories. Ring a bell? No? There’s a play, and of course Melanie gets THE PART, and she’s amazing in it, she’s this incredible actress, but that too sticks in Katie’s craw…
And the whole scene when they go to Melanie’s crummy apartment, and she’s playing it up, lady of the manor, lavish, starletty…until her mother comes home and suddenly she’s TOTALLY CHANGED—clothes, hair, voice, manner. All meek and humble. And Katie’s like I KNEW IT!
What haunted me about it was the disturbed and disturbing tone, the undercurrents caused by Melanie’s deception. And the idea, which must have been new to me then, that a girl could so thoroughly fool people, could fool even her own mother. And the gradual realization, handled so deftly by Dori White (as I noticed when rereading it last year for the first time in maybe two decades), that there was a deep longing and desperation behind Melanie’s actions, that she wasn’t just someone you could slap a Bad Guy label on. Katie awakens to this slowly, painfully, and she brought me right along with her. The only other children’s book I remember experiencing that same awful poignancy—almost a sense of guilt—was The Hundred Dresses.
Okay, so now I sort of have written the post I was thinking about, I guess. But really what I want to know is, have none of you heard of it?
Rose and the Lost Princess
by Holly Webb
In the first book, Rose was thrilled to be selected for a position as a housemaid for a prominent magician. As an orphan, her dream was to get out of the orphanage and earn her own living. But when she discovered that she has an inherent talent for magic, Rose had mixed feelings. Magic is exciting, but also so far outside her experience that it makes her uncomfortable. Although Rose is now an apprentice to the magician, Mr. Fountain, she wanted to keep her position as a housemaid in the house. Besides providing her income, she's not quite ready to let go of her ordinary, normal life.
But now that the other servants know that she is magic, they don't want to have anything to do with her. Most ignore her, and some are actively antagonistic. Only Bill the houseboy is still friendly. To make matters worse, there is a growing anti-magic movement in the aftermath of the events of the first book. It's not a good time to be a magician. People are blaming the early winter and heavy snowfall on magic, and when the beloved Princess disappears, and is found again, the whole country is in a frenzy, convinced that magic is involved. The King is worried that there will be another attempt on the Princess, so Rose is sent to the palace to stay with the Princess, because as another young girl she can provide some magical protection while seeming to be an ordinary housemaid and companion for the Princess.Rose and the Lost Princess
is a delightful book that I enjoyed even more than its predecessor. Rose is such a great character. She loves the magic, and yet she's a very no-nonsense, practical girl. She's what Mary Poppins might have been like as a girl. The book is extremely well-written and immersive. There's gentle humor, much of it provided by Gus, the magical cat. In many ways it's a perfect middle-grade novel. Even as an adult I quite enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to future books in the series.Diversity?
I didn't see any diversity of color or ethnicity, but then, Victorian-type settings tend to be pretty monochrome. Sexuality simply doesn't come into the book, other than Rose's hand on Bill's arm at one point, so there's not really any opportunity for sexual diversity.
There is diversity of class, and in fact class is one of the themes in this novel. As a servant who is also an apprentice to a powerful magician who is a councilor to the King, Rose is caught between classes in a most uncomfortable way. The lives of both the upper and lower classes are vividly portrayed, from the glittering palace to the lives of Mr. Fountain's servants downstairs. The effect of power on the powerless is shown in small ways, including the house manager's not-so-subtle threat to a servant who is threatening to leave, "How will you get a new position without references?"Who would like this book:
Middle-grade readers who love an immersive, character-driven fantasy. There's enough excitement to keep anyone interested, but it's not overly violent or scary, so it should be fine for sensitive readers. Although the protagonist is a girl, I think that boys will enjoy it as well, if they can get past the girl on the cover and the feminine name, "Rose." (Edited to add: the first book has an evil magician kidnapping children and drinking their blood, so sensitive readers may want to skip that one and start with this one.)My review of Rose, the first book in the series.Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
Booktalking at schools is a time-honored way of pitching summer reading, but only if you have the books that command attention. With a great topic, title, and cover, this one is a booktalker's dream.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous
by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
Walker Books 2011, reviewed from library copy
It starts with a warning: "If you don't have the guts for gore, do not read this book." It continues with a conversational and cheeky tone, "There are funny crying parts and disgusting stupid parts and hideous cool parts, but it's pretty much one train wreck after another." There are stories about people from the past like Cleopatra, Pocahonatas, Mozart, Dickens, Darwin, and Einstein, along with little fun fact breaks about mummies, scurvy, and bloodletting. Yay! In exploring the ends of historic figures - often in graphic and gruesome detail - bits of actual history and biography are included. Perhaps without the student realizing that learning may be taking place. For instance, to get to Marie Antoinette's losing her head at the guillotine, the reader goes through pages of description of her life and place in the French revolution. The clever illustrations add to the irreverent feel, while adding interest and explanation. You know, in case you wondered what George Washington's wooden teeth might have looked like. While disgusting, horrifying, and absolutely creepy, How They Croaked is completely engrossing - with emphasis on the gross. Available in paperback this month, this is a fantastic, highly appealing book for public and school libraries. Not to be missed!
Nonfiction Monday is hosted at Perogies and Gyoza.
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I’ve been holding my tongue for a few months now. Makes for awkward ice cream eating, but a man is supposed to suffer for his art, right? Thankfully, I’ve finally been given the greenlight to Paul Revere it through the cyber-streets hollering: New books are coming! New books are coming!
That’s right. My latest tales have found a home at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly’s Children’s Bookshelf said about the deal:
Joy Peskin of FSG Books for Young Readers has acquired world English rights to Aaron Starmer‘s Riverman trilogy, about a girl who claims she is visiting a parallel universe, where a nefarious being called the Riverman is stealing the souls of children. The first book in the trilogy, The Legend of Fiona Loomis, will be published in winter 2014, followed by The Quest of Alistair Cleary in winter 2015 and The Myth of Charlie Dwyer in winter 2016. Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich did the deal.
Of course, I’m ridiculously excited by these developments. And I hope (I’m pretty sure, actually) you will dig these books. I hesitate to tell you much about them right now, but I can say that the first one, titled The Legend of Fiona Loomis, is the most personal and realistic thing I have written, while also being the most fantastical. A contradiction? Maybe not as much as you would think.
Let the record show that a few incredible people are fully responsible for this happening:
- Nova Ren Suma, author of the luminous novel Imaginary Girls, was beyond kind when she vouched for me and my writing. As advocates for artists go, Nova is without peer. And good god can she write the breath out of a room.
- Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is more than an agent. Honest, impossibly well-informed, and unrelenting in his support of his clients, he’s one of the people who’s daring the book industry to live up to its potential. I’m not sure how he treats his mortal enemies, but he’s a great man to have on your side.
- And finally there’s Joy Peskin, editorial director of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. When I first spoke to her about the project, I was astounded by her contagious enthusiasm and by the way she understood my story better than I did. Her reputation for shepherding projects that are both daring and entertaining cannot be exaggerated, but it’s her uncanny insight into storytelling that will truly guide The Riverman Trilogy from scrappy beginnings to a shiny spot on the bookshelves. Do you have a better editor? I’m not sure that you do.
So there you go. A new day, some new books. I’ll be updating you about the writing and revision progress and with other news as it comes in. In the meantime, to give you an idea of the tone, plot and themes of the first book, The Legend of Fiona Loomis
, I ask to listen to Daniel Johnston’s Some Thi
How do you feel about middle-grade novels that deal with life's harsh realities? My novel, May B., focuses on a child who has been abandoned, who faces starvation and possible death. Several young readers have confessed parts of it are scary. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with, though, is leaving my readers in a place of despair.
Here's a quote from the amazing Katherine Paterson on just this topic:
I cannot, will not, withhold from my young readers the harsh realities of human hunger and suffering and loss, but neither will I neglect to plant that stubborn seed of hope that has enabled our race to outlast wars and famines and the destruction of death. If you think that this is the limitation that will keep me forever a writer for the young, perhaps it is. I don’t mind. I do what I can and do it joyfully.”
-Katherine Paterson, A SENSE OF WONDER: ON READING AND WRITING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
I love Ms. Paterson's idea of a "stubborn seed of hope", something that grows beyond painful circumstances, something that can anchor both the character and reader in a better future to come.
Do you shy away from heartache in the books you read or write? Why or why not?
Twenty debut middle-grade and young adult novelists. Twenty-two signed books. All for one lucky winner.
The giveaway opens today!
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Your books have been set in medieval times, during the Gold Rush, the McCarthy era, and other time periods. As someone whose career has been built on historical fiction for children, why do you think the genre is important, both for you as a writer and for readers?
I think for readers historical fiction is important because it helps them to see beyond the boundaries of their own experience
. It helps them to stretch and to see what life is like for others. This helps illustrate both how we are the same and how we are different,
and can give readers more empathy.
As a writer the story always comes first. Then it seems to fit into one time period and a place. I also like to stretch beyond my own boundaries and to see our commonalities
. One thing historical fiction does for writers is that it helps us to look at a time when we know how things turn out, which is very unlike our own.
Karen Cushman Interview
:: Kirby Larson
My library chose a nonfiction location for Can You Survive the Titanic?: An Interactive Survival Adventure by Allison Lassieur. The book shares lots facts about the ship, the process of the sinking, the types of passengers, and chances of survival. It includes a bibliography, index, glossary, and photographs. It's also one of a You Choose Books featuring multiple story paths and possible endings, which stretches the nonfiction label for me.
After a short introduction, the reader has the choice to navigate the book as part of the crew as a surgeon's assistant, as a governess of a wealthy family, or a 12 year old boy traveling with his father as a third class passenger. At different points, the book offers choices, for instance whether to help third class or go to the upper deck, until the end of your story. As fiction, it was engaging, interesting, and detailed, with a well-researched historical and emotional accuracy of the experience. The truth certainly wasn't sugar-coated, as many of the storyline endings did not leave the characters alive.
These dire conclusions are where the book gets tricky for me. I know death happens in the genre of "choose your own adventure," but this was more real... because the Titanic itself was real. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The other survival books in the You Choose Books are more vague - Antarctica, storm chasing, the jungle. The basis on an actual event made me uncomfortable in sort of a voyeuristic way, much less wondering if it was appropriate for younger readers for whom the series is intended. Or in our twenty-four hour news cycle of the latest tragedy, is this the new normal? Thoughts?
For more titles, visit our Nonfiction Monday host, Supratentorial.
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By: Caroline Starr Rose,
Blog: Caroline by line
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reading and writing
, Love that Dog
, Sharon Creech
, Mr. Sharp
, verse novel
, Add a tag
Click through to sign up for the National Poetry Month giveaway!
My junior year in college I took my favorite course of all time, adolescent literature. It was the year I discovered books from my adolescence I hadn't known existed before, books like HATCHET and JACOB HAVE I LOVED. It was the year I fell in love with newer titles, like THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE and LONG NIGHT DANCE. It was the year Sharon Creech won the Newbery for her gorgeous WALK TWO MOONS.
I continued to read Sharon's books over the years, the impossible-to-put down ABSOLUTELY NORMAL CHAOS, the feels-like-home-to-this-gal-who-attended-international-school BLOOMABILITY, the simple and stunning verse novel, HEARTBEAT, and this gem, LOVE THAT DOG.
The poem below I started a few years ago
after first reading DOG. Last year, after a second reading, I pulled it out and worked on it again.
With the #SharpSchu book club scheduled to discuss LOVE THAT DOG and MAY B. on April 24, this felt like the perfect time to share.
Thank you, Sharon, for writing words that pushed me to respond. The kindness of the children's literature community never ceases to touch me. Still pinching myself that the author I discovered in college knows who I am!
and giving voice to those children
who don’t yet know their power
is to open the world.
knows how to woo her student Jack,
understands how to draw from him
phrases that play with shapes and sounds,
stanzas that speak to the pain
During a school year
where poetry is a regular part of things,
words work deep,
as Jack does
from a boy who thinks
writing poetry is to
to one who finds the courage --
through the structure, voice,
and style of others --
to speak his own.
Hurrah! I love it when a book comes out in paperback. Such a thrill to know it will reach a new audience.
Handy-dandy purchasing links for you, because I’m helpful like that:
Amazon • B&N • Indiebound
Do you know what I would love? If you happen to buy a copy (or if you have already purchased the hardcover) from your local indie, would you leave a comment to let me know the name of the bookstore? There are few things lovelier for a writer than knowing someone wandered into a bookshop and met your book on the shelf, and adopted it for keeps.
Here are some reviews:
“Wiley has created a charming, inventive tale that reads like a delightful mash-up of Little House on the Prairie and Tony DiTerlizzi’s ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ (S & S). Short chapters and the air of mystery and suspense keep the pages turning, and readers will be taken with Louisa, who is sweet and mild-mannered, yet has the strength to fight for what is right. The writing is breezy and lyrical…[a] top-notch story.” —School Library Journal
“Fans of the Little House books will recognize the setting and enjoy the fantastic twist. Stylized black-and-white illustrations capture key moments and add to the warm tone. The comedic, unexpected, satisfying conclusion hits just the right note. A pleasing folkloric/historical blend.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Wiley’s cleverly constructed story, which switches over to the circuit judge’s amusing perspective for a few chapters, is not only a fine tall tale but also gives some sense of nineteenth-century frontier life.” —Booklist
“Frontier fiction and folkloric fantasy are an unusual combination, but they actually blend remarkably well here, and Wiley does a fine job of staying true to the pioneer inflections of Louisa’s story while effectively integrating the magical brownie…The effective mashup of popular genres will make this a hit with a variety of readers, so try handing it to Little House fans and folktale-lovers alike.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“…a delight from start to finish.” —Jen Robinson’s Book Page
“Every now and then a book makes me miss having a class to read to. Some books absolutely beg to be read aloud. The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley is that kind of book….And then, the must of all musts for reading a story aloud… the language. The Prairie Thief is rich with gorgeous, evocative language that begs to be heard as well as read. We feel as though we’ve been transported back in time when we listen to expressions like, ‘He was wailing loud enough to curdle milk,’ or ‘Ye look like last year’s scarecrow.’ Even the simple ‘Balderdash!’ sounds better out loud. Wiley uses big words too—words that some kids will latch on to and roll around in their minds and mouths—like audacious, gesticulations, rapscallion, scrutinizing—they add to the mood and help us sink into this world.” —Writing on the Sidewalk
“Wholly delightful. I found it impossible to put down and read it in one great gulp. I don’t think I could have loved it more, had I read it as a child. The characters are lovely, each and all. The story, while never veering from the path to a happy ending, had plenty of dips and bobbles and surprises. I grinned my way through much of it, and am not ashamed to tell you my eyes filled with tears at the end. It’s wholesome without being smarmy, and fun without being arch.” —Salamander House
“…a mystical mystery not to be missed.” —the kids at Bookie Woogie
The Prairie Thief is a Junior Library Guild selection, an SCBWI Crystal Kite Member’s Choice Award nominee, and a Bravewriter Arrow selection. It is currently a nominee for New Hampshire’s Great Stone Face Children’s Choice Award. (Check out the rest of the books on that list, you guys—looks like some fun reading there.)
by Holly WebbSynopsis:
Rose is a practical girl. When the other orphans daydream about finding their parents, Rose dreams of getting a position in domestic service, of being independent, working hard, and earning a living. So when the housekeeper for a leading magician comes to the orphanage looking for a young housemaid, Rose is thrilled to be selected.
Rose doesn't hold with magic, so when she begins to suspect that she may have some magic abilities, she is determined to get rid of them if possible. She just wants to be an ordinary person, and to fit in with the other servants, especially her new friend, the houseboy, Bill. But when someone starts stealing children off the streets, and Rose's best friend from the orphanage disappears, Rose teams up with the magician's apprentice, Freddie, his spoiled daughter, Isabella, and the magician's cat Gustavus to get to the bottom of it.
is a fun middle-grade fantasy with a delightful, no nonsense heroine. Practicality and imagination are usually portrayed as being mutually exclusive, so it's terrific to see a protagonist who has both in abundance. Young readers will identify with Rose's struggles to both find herself and fit in, two things which sometimes seem to be in conflict. I fell in love with Rose from the first page.
The story is set in an alternate Victorian England where magic is real, although rare and expensive. There's a variety of interesting characters, and most are pretty well developed. The one exception is the villain, who's a pretty clichéd evil villain, and is really more of a story device than an actual character. It doesn't really matter, though, since the battle with the villain doesn't come in until later in the book. Rose is the real centerpiece of this story, and most of the book revolves around her learning to adjust to life outside the orphanage, developing relationships with the other members of the household, and coming to terms with her magic.
This is an engaging book with a lot of kid appeal, and I would recommend it to young readers who enjoy a fun story with great characters and a little bit of magic, as well as those who enjoy historical and pseudo-historical settings.Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy given by the publisher at BEA to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
Blog: Unabridged - Charlesbridge Publishing Company
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, At Home in Her Tomb
, Christine Liu-Perkins
, Han Dynasty
, Qin Dynasty
, Sarah Brannen
, Add a tag
|Photograph by David Schlatter|After growing up in China, my parents immigrated to America in 1946. My brothers and I were born in the Northeast, and then we moved to the Midwest when I was three years old. So I grew up far from the land of my heritage.
But every summer we drove from Kansas City to Toronto for reunions with our extended family. (My father's parents and siblings had also immigrated to the USA or to Canada.) There I was aware of belonging to a large family, a long history, and a complex culture beyond my everyday life. I was surrounded by my grandparents, uncles, and aunts chatting in Cantonese while I played with my cousins. I was introduced to dimsum—small plates of juicy dumplings, steamed buns, and other mouthwatering treats—plucked from carts rolling between a restaurant's giant round tables. I remember my grandfather giving me candy from a secret cache high on his closet shelf, but I also sensed that the entire family treated him as the most honored member.
When I was a mother with two young children, my own mother died. My parents always being there had been my secure foundation, but that shifted with her death, leaving a hole of grief and vulnerability in my life.
In November 1999, I traveled with my father to Taiwan and China. Serendipitously I stumbled upon a special exhibit of Han dynasty artifacts at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. This was the first time I had ever heard of the three tombs of Mawangdui, but I was immediately hooked on learning more about them. Who were the mother, father, and son buried in the tombs? Why would their family bury them with so many treasures, including personal items like the mother's cosmetics case, the father's signature seals, and the son's zither?
The next week, we journeyed to the southern Chinese village where my father's family has lived since the late 1500's. Along with two dozen relatives living in or near the village, we visited the cemetery where four generations of our ancestors are buried. In front of their niches, we lit candles and incense, offered food and drink, and burned mock money and paper clothes—modern versions of rituals performed for thousands of years. I was struck by the realization of being connected to these people whom I'd never met, yet were literally part of me.
|After lighting candles and incense, we set out food and drink in front of our ancestor's niches.|
Three years later in June 2002, my father took me, my brothers, and our families to visit his homeland. We entered the Forbidden City, inspected the First Emperor's terracotta troops, sailed down the Yangzi River, and saw where my parents had lived and been schooled.
I took a side trip to Changsha to see the Mawangdui tomb site and the many artifacts in the Hunan Provincial Museum. By then, I had studied enough about Mawangdui to be completely agog at seeing the silk-draped body of Lady Dai and the cavernous tomb of her son.
The following day twenty-one of us from America and ten of us from China met at the same cemetery I had visited before. My daughters, nieces, and nephews participated for their first time in the traditional rituals of lighting candles and incense, offering food and drink, and burning mock money and paper clothes. I marveled at the continuity of life that bound us together across centuries and continents: four generations of living descendants paying our respects to four generations of ancestors. As I watched the smoke from the burning paper rise into the sky, I saw an image in my mind of an endless queue of our ancestors winding across the cemetery.
Through seeing artifacts from the Mawangdui tombs and performing rituals at my ancestors' graves, I could imagine the family of Lady Dai expressing their love and respect in creating an elaborate tomb for her. I could identify with her family through my experiences of missing my own mother and of honoring my ancestors. And through learning about Lady Dai and her world, I understand more of the history and meaning behind the rituals my family performs to commemorate our loved ones.*****
|It is believed that burning mock money and other paper goods sends them to the ancestors.|| |
Posted by Christine Liu-Perkins, author of At Home in Her Tomb, which releases on April 8, 2014. Find out more about her at www.christineliuperkins.com.
Always be a little kinder than necessary.
James M. Barrie
I have spent the day devouring this book. There is so much I could say, but I will keep it to this:
So often we hear we need more books where children can see characters like themselves. I wholeheartedly agree, though things shouldn’t end there. Kids need books where they meet children completely unlike themselves. They need to be able -- through the window of literature -- to examine the worlds of those who are different so they may in doing so embrace the common threads running through all lives.
Bravo to R. J. Palacio. WONDER is next year’s Schneider Family Award winner.
By: Caroline Starr Rose,
Blog: Caroline by line
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Here's a peek at what I have to say:
My family moved to Louisiana a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina. All the local talk was about wetland erosion and attempts at preservation. I’d never heard of this pressing ecological problem discussed nationally, and after falling in love with the culture, the community, and the gorgeous surroundings, I decided to write about this amazing slice of our country.
In response to a recent Times article author Tommy Greenwald read, he drummed up a little fodder for our blog:
Patricia O’Brien had five novels to her name when her agent, Esther Newberg, set out to shop her sixth one, “The Dressmaker”… A cascade of painful rejections began… Just when Ms. O’Brien began to fear that “The Dressmaker” would be relegated to a bottom desk drawer like so many rejected novels, Ms. Newberg came up with a different proposal: Try to sell it under a pen name.
Written by Kate Alcott, the pseudonym Ms. O’Brien dreamed up, it sold in three days.
-THE NEW YORK TIMES, FEBRUARY 23, 2012
I sympathize with Ms. O’Brien completely. The publishing world is a jungle, and I’ve never been particularly fond of jungles, what with the mosquitoes and humidity. So when it came time to publish my modestly successful children’s book, CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING, I too decided to use a nom de plume (which is French for “unlisted number”).
I went with Tommy Greenwald because I thought it had a nice ring to it, plus it’s a name that makes you think of a kind, humble, extremely handsome person.
But if I’m not Tommy Greenwald, who am I really?
I’m not quite prepared to tell you.
I will, however, give you a hint: My actual identity is one of the following five people. Please examine the following choices carefully, then decide for yourself who you think I am. You may well be right. And if you’re not right, please be at least assured in the knowledge that you’re wrong.
Here are the possibilities:
MITT ROMNEY – I had to change my name because no one would believe I would spend time on something that would yield so little income.
JEREMY LIN – I had to change my name because people would expect a better vocabulary from someone who went to Harvard.
THE GUY WHO STARS IN “THE ARTIST” – I had to change my name because people think I can’t form actual words.
BARBARA KELLERMAN – I had to change my name -- even though you don’t know who I am -- because I’m Tommy’s mother, and I’m so desperate for him to be successful, I wrote the book in his name.
J.K. ROWLING – I didn’t have to change my name – I don’t have to do anything for anyone, as you well know – but I’m tired of people telling me how bloody brilliant I am all the time, and if I had to go on one more publicity tour (you know I love you, Oprah, but enough is enough), I may well have clobbered someone.
So those are your choices. What do you think? Who am I? And perhaps more importantly… did I really write this Op-ed piece?
Come to think of it, this would make a great mystery! Someone should write a book about it.
by James Mihaley
With summer rapidly approaching, kids are wondering about summer jobs. Here are a few you may be interested in:
Summer Job 1: Valet parking spaceships at a hotel on Jupiter
No, you don’t need a driver’s license. However, you must have extensive experience playing video games. It will also help if you’ve read Chapter Three of my book, You Can’t Have My Planet But Take My Brother, Please. The main character, Giles, gets hired to valet park spaceships. You can learn some tips from Giles, like what to do if a shrunken head keychain starts talking to you when you stick the key in the ignition.
Summer Job 2: Working as an eyeball retriever for Dr. Melissa Sprinkles
In my book, Dr. Melissa Sprinkles is an extremely important alien mad scientist. She creates eco-droids that turn paper back into trees. Giles wouldn’t be able to clean New York City if it wasn’t for Dr. Sprinkles.
Dr. Sprinkles has a moveable face. It shifts to different parts of her body. Once in a while, an eyeball will actually leave her body to go watch a movie or to check out the sunset. You must retrieve the wandering eyeball for Dr. Sprinkles.
If you do a really good job, she might give you your very own eco-droid. Then you can go around your neighborhood turning discarded paper back into trees. You’ll become a hero.
Summer Job 3: Working as a poet at a factory on Neptune that makes spaceships that run on rhyming
Giles has a spaceship that runs on rhyming. He uses it to remove graffiti from the streets of Manhattan. We desperately need poets to work at that factory because aliens don’t rhyme well. They do lots of other stuff really well but they’re lousy rhymers.
You probably didn’t know spaceships can run on rhyming. Well, they can, just like the environmental movement runs on kid power. Natural beauty will never survive without kids cleaning up, kids teaching their parents how to recycle and encouraging them to use solar power, and kids doing everything they can to help protect endangered species.
I’ve just listed three summer jobs that require kid power. If any of these jobs interest you, please shoot me an e-mail at Jmihaley@yahoo.com and I’ll pass it on.
Along with my top ten picture books, I submitted my top ten chapter books for the SLJ's Top Children's Novels poll. Since I have some write-ups, I thought I'd share a few of my selections today. Again, I was surprised that I wasn't finding the love for newer titles, but was going back to my own childhood books as favorites. I think I have some attachment issues to work out.
by Sydney Taylor
A classic about a poor, immigrant, Jewish family living in New York City in the early 1900's. The book is about the everyday - chores, market trips, make-believe games - mixed with a helpful and healthy dose of Jewish traditions. It's historical fiction at its finest, putting the reader in the world while celebrating the time period. As for why love this book, well, it's because the joy that the girls had in choosing what to spend a nickel on outweighs most of the excitement I could imagine then or now. It made me crave a dill pickle from the barrel, which is just crazy.
Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilders
While this title is not actually the first book in the series - that would be Little House in the Big Woods - this is the one that really kicks it off, letting the reader get to know Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa as they travel and set up a homestead on the prairie through difficult times. When I was a kid I loved the first books in the series, finding the other ones boring, but as an adult, I think that the later books are better written, with stronger characterization and plotting. The early books have extensive descriptions of scenery, food, and house-building, which makes for some slow reading.
A Little Princess
by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Here's a book about triumphing in the face of adversity, and keeping a positive spirit and nature throughout tough times. When I was young, I read it, lost it, didn't remember what it was called, and for some reason didn't seem to ask anybody, but kept looking for the book for years. I remember the joy of finding it again, on the shelves of a bookstore, and going home to read it again and again. Sigh. I loved this book as a kid, but reading it again as an adult I couldn't capture that same feeling
Classroom Connections is a series meant to introduce teachers to new books.
CHAINED - Lynne Kelly
Lynne Kelly has written a story that unwraps the heart and asks it to be brave, loyal, and above all, kind. Readers of all ages will worry for Hastin as he marks the wall that records his bondage to a cruel master, but they will ultimately celebrate his jubilant triumph. This story unwrapped my own heart. –Kathi Appelt, author of the Newbery Honor and New York Times bestseller THE UNDERNEATH
reading level: 10 and up
setting: Northern India
Please tell us about your book.
CHAINED is a midgrade novel about 10-year-old Hastin, who lives in a rural village of northern India with his mother and sister. To help pay off the hospital bills from his sister's illness, Hastin takes a job as an elephant keeper at a run-down circus far from home. Life at the circus isn't the adventure he expected, but he and the elephant, Nandita, become best friends. They're both captive workers for the cruel circus
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Stop by Project Mayhem today, where author Joanne Levy is posting about humor and middle grade. Here's a taste of what you'll get there.
I’ve been told I’m funny person. In my opinion, that’s a pretty good place to start if you’re looking to write humor—you kind of need to know what makes people laugh. I write my funny on instinct and don’t really think about it too much, so it’s hard for me to talk intelligently about how I write funny. But I’ll give a shot.