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Results 1 - 14 of 14
1. Designing Denis Johnson’s ‘The Laughing Monsters’ Cover

Denis Johnson's manuscript binder inspired the cover design

Denis Johnson’s manuscript binder inspired the cover design

In the Huffington Post series “Rejected Covers,” Rodrigo Corral–the designer behind a slew of recognizable covers for books by Gary Shteyngart, Chuck Palahniuk and Junot Díaz—shares the creation process behind the cover for Denis Johnson’s new book, The Laughing Monsters.

Johnson, a National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist, had created a manuscript cover that served as inspiration. Corral described it:

“His sketch is what I like to think of as three-quarters Basquiat, one-quarter ninth grade geometry class. I love the two joyful skulls–violent and rapturous somehow with their grins and sharpened teeth. Denis also suggested that we take a look at the paintings of Ronald Sloan, an outsider artist who creates macabre, almost Goya-esque paintings. These images were menacing in a lot of ways, but there was almost a childlike regard to that danger, a joy in the face of it.”

The designers experimented with Basquiat’s work and more traditional African imagery for contrast, in the end going with Johnson’s skulls because they captured the duality of humor tinged by death. Gold was used to reference the “get rich quick” aspects of the plot.

Corral told HuffPo, “The final cover is one that I hope conveys just how unsettling this book is and that nothing that transpires is ever black and white. Denis said it best to his editor here: ‘I’m not trying to be Graham Greene. I think I actually am Graham Greene.’”

 

The final cover design for "The Laughing Monsters

The final cover design for “The Laughing Monsters”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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2. Review: Second Star

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2014. Review copy from publishers.

The Plot: Six months ago, Wendy's younger brothers disappeared. Everyone is convinced they are dead. Not Wendy. She doesn't care what the police, her parents, or her best friends think.

John and Michael loved surfing; and when Wendy meets Pete, a surfer, her instinct tells her following Pete may lead her to her missing brothers. She'll do whatever it takes to find John and Michael, including leaving home to join Pete and his band of carefree surfers.

The Good: Of course it's a retelling of Peter Pan!

I love the story of Peter Pan and what it has to say about embracing and rejecting adulthood and growing up. Sheinmel doesn't shy away from her source material: Wendy Darling is looking for her missing brothers. She has a dog named Nana. Pete's name, is, well -- Pete. Pete's girlfriend is Belle. And Pete's nemesis is Jas.

Surfing is the stand in for flying away to Neverland. Michael and John, like Pete and his friends, believe that the only thing that matters is the next wave. Wendy, the good daughter and good student -- she's on her way to Stanford after graduation -- didn't share her brothers' obsession and passion. In trying to find out what happened to her brothers, she enters their world -- and Pete's world.

Jas is the local drug dealer, dealing in "fairy dust", and Wendy's journey, her following in her brothers' path, brings her into Jas's world. Pete and Jas used to be friends, but the friendship ended when Jas started selling drugs.

As I said, I love the story of Peter Pan. I adore the 2003 film. I also love what Once Upon a Time did with their Peter Pan retelling: making Peter the villain, full stop. For the most part, thought, I've stayed away from sequels and retellings because of some of the elements of the original story, particularly Tiger Lily. Sheinmel's version avoids those problems by using Peter Pan as an inspiration, not a blueprint, and omits those parts of the story.

The essential part of the story is about growing up, yes -- and Second Star explores what it means to grow up, to embrace adulthood. Pete and Jas and the others have decided that there is only one particular way of moving forward, and that is to build their world around surfing. For Pete, that's living in abandoned homes and stealing to eat; for Jas, it's dealing drugs to buy surfboards and get money to travel.

Wendy is in search of her missing brothers, but she's also in search of herself. There is the pathway she has always been on, the one leading to Stanford. She jumps into Pete's world, into the world of her brothers -- and finds she loves surfing. Later, she finds herself with Jas, and finds herself falling for him, as she fell for Pete, and is confused by her emotions and desires. She's seeing two different pathways for her future, and has to figure out what is right for her, not her parents, not her brothers, not Pete and Jas. Those struggles are complicated, of course, and not simple -- and it's not as simple as "be a boring grown up" or "be self indulgent."

What else? There is a lot about surfing in this book. It's not just a device; it's a critical part of the story. I love that the "pirates" are drug dealers. Addiction and mental health issues are also touched on, especially as it becomes unclear how much of Wendy's search is real and how much is wish fulfillment.

Other reviews: Book Swoon; Beauty and the Bookshelf.






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

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3. Free Fall Friday – Editor Announced

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Only one illustrator sent in something for March. Surely you have something to show off, so please look to see if you have an illustration that would go well with the month or any illustration that might go with a writing or illustrating post. Same as always: At least 500 pixels wide, sent to kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com, and include a blurb about you. Thanks!

I am pleased to announce that Susan Dobinick, Assistant Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux has agreed to be our Guest Critiquer for March.

susan-dobinick

Susan wants to work on everything. Right now she is especially looking for funny middle grade girl novels. In the young adult realm, I’d like to see books that tackle big social issues but aren’t preachy. With picture books, I like short and funny; I prefer quirky stories over cuddly. Across all formats, I’m a fan of books that have depth but are accessible—so that both kids and critics will love them.

Susan assists two children’s trade imprints. She works with fiction and nonfiction, ranging from picture to young adult books. Her specialties include children’s trade publishing, picture books, chapter books, middle-grade books, young adult books, educational publishing, textbooks, and teacher editions. She holds a B.A. in English from Chicago Goucher College.

Susan is Edith Cohn’s editor for Spirits Key, which is coming out in September. Edith has a nice interview with Susan on her blog. Here is the link:

http://edithcohn.wordpress.com/interviews/interview-with-my-editor/

Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in March: Please attach your double spaced, 12 point font, 23 line first page to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail.

DEADLINE: March 21st.

RESULTS: March 28th.

Put “March First Page Critique” or “March First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Make sure you have your name on the submission, a title, and indicate the genre.

You can only send in one first page each month. It can be the same first page each month or a different one, but if you sent it to me last month and it didn’t get chosen, you need to send it again using the March directions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the same submission. It can be a first page from a work in process or you can use the picture prompt above.

Please include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

BELOW IS THE MARCH FIRST PAGE PICTURE PROMPT for anyone who would like a little inspiration to spark their first page.

markgatortrain

Always thought there was a story with this picture illustrated by Mark Meyers. Mark spends his days drawing and painting pictures filled with kids, escaping circus monkeys, and everything in between. He was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/illustrator-saturday-mark-meyers/

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Editor & Agent Info, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, picture books, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Chicago Goucher College., Farrar Straus Giroux, First Page Critiques, Free Fall Friday, Susan Dobinick

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4. Micro Review: Some Cat! by Mary Casanova and Ard Hoyt

 

Title: Some Cat!

Author: Mary Casanova

Illustrator: Ard Hoyt

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Violet has always imagined ruling a kingdom with sharp claws and velvet paws, so when she is adopted and goes to live with two dogs, she immediately takes over with a Meowww! Hisssss! and Spat! Poor George and Zippity try to befriend Violet, but they get nowhere. One afternoon, while her new family is out fishing, Violet is awakened by some stray dogs who chase poor Violet into a corner. Luckily, George and Zippity arrive home just in time to help.

Review:

I love Ard Hoyt’s art, and I am now a rabid fan.  Some Cat! revisits George and Zippity from Some Dog!, introducing Violet, a homeless cat, to the family.  I love the humans in both of these books.  They are patient and loving to their pets, willing to watch from the sidelines as their new family member tries to find a place for herself.  The problem is, Violet isn’t easy to get along with, and she doesn’t make things easy for herself.  She, like most cats, believes that she is royalty, and instead of trying to make friends with George and Zippity, she attempts to take charge – of everything.   She bullies her new animal companions, stealing their toys, food, and favorite sleeping spots.  She hisses at them, and she swats at them with her velvet paws, claws extended.  She is so NOT nice!  When a pack of dogs attack her, though, it is George and Yippity to the rescue.  Will Violet finally learn to play well with others?

This is a delightful story, with wonderful prose and charming illustrations that perfectly capture the mood and action of the book.  Some Cat! is sure to enchant animal lovers both young and old.

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by publisher

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5. Book Review: With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo

Title: With a Name Like Love
Author: Tess Hilmo
Series: None
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Released: September 27, 2011
Website: http://tesshilmo.com/

Book Summary:

When Ollie’s daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, pulls their travel trailer into Binder to lead a three-day revival, Ollie knows that this town will be like all the others they visit— it is exactly the kind of nothing Ollie has come to expect. But on their first day in town, Ollie meets Jimmy Koppel, whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy insists that his mother is innocent, and Ollie believes him. Still, even if Ollie convinces her daddy to stay in town, how can two kids free a grown woman who has signed a confession? Ollie’s longing for a friend and her daddy’s penchant for searching out lost souls prove to be a formidable force in this tiny town where everyone seems bent on judging and jailing without a trial.

With a Name Like Love is a wonderful middle, grade historical fiction, read that reminded me of Little House on the Prairie.

Ollie's dad is a traveling preacher. Every three days her family moves on to a new town. That's the way life is, the way it has always been and the way it seems like it will always be. At least until the family arrives in Binder, Arkansas. When Ollie befriends lonely Jimmy Koppel the family's way of life is turned upside down and they find themselves in a battle to help Jimmy and his mother.

This book is a heartfelt story that would make a great read aloud.


Content: Clean

Rating: 4.5 Stars - Highly recommend

Source: Review Copy

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6. Review: My Brother’s Shadow by Monika Schroder

 

Title: My Brother’s Shadow

Author: Monika Schroder

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

ISBN: 978-0374351229

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz’s brother returns home a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany’s defeat on everything but the old order, Moritz must choose between his allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and those who usher in the new democracy.

Review:

I usually try to avoid books set during either world war.  I find them depressing, and they leave me with so many questions far beyond the scope of a fictional novel.  When I was asked to review My Brother’s Shadow, I hesitated.  Would I be able to make my way through a setting that I find unpleasant?  Bleak?  Hopeless?

The answer is a resounding yes.  I even found myself using the Google-fuu to do some on the spot research into the background of some of the events that take place during the story.  After struggling to get through the first chapter, I powered through this book.  I had to know what happened to Moritz and his family.  I had to know that he, at least, found some happiness and hope in the dreary world he was forced to live in.  Moritz is forced to grow up much faster than is fair to a boy his age, and as he struggled to keep the remnants of his family safe and fed, he is also forced to let go of his childish illusions that his life can go back to the way it was before the war.

In this bleak setting, Moritz is a bright, relatable character.  His father has been killed in the fighting, his brother has proudly marched off to the frontlines to do his duty for his fatherland, and his mother, like most of the women in Berlin, has been pressed into service, too.  She works in a factory making ammunition, making arms for the soldiers weary after four years of brutal warfare.  Moritz works at in a print shop running a press, his dreams of attending school and becoming a journalist dissolving with the mind-numbing hunger and stifling poverty that plagues most of the Germany citizenry.  When he discovers that his mother is attending illegal gatherings that rally against the Kaiser, he is beyond dismayed.  How can his mother be a traitor?

I enjoyed this book so much because I liked Moritz.  He strives to help his family in every way he can, and he makes some huge blunders in judgment along the way.  I liked that he learned from his mistakes, and as he began to truly open his eyes to the political conditions in Germany, his own opinions of the war and the Kaiser begin to slowly change.  He no longer blindly believes in the current governing system, and more importantly, the war,  and he sees that it is people like himself who are suffering the most. 

I am so happy that I overcame my reluctance about the setting of My Brother’s Shadow and read the book despite my misgivings.  It’s a compelling read about a brave boy who is forced to become a man before his

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7. FACT AND FICTION






 

       In January at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I helped facilitate a discussion on non-fiction books including Charles and Emma and Claudette Colvin, which got me thinking about stories that entertain as well as inform. As a novelist who’s also written her share of non-fiction, I’ve long been interested in the relationship between fact and fiction for writers.

 

       How do you best tell a story that opens up new worlds of science or industry to young readers? This week three authors with new releases join us for in depth conversations about their own relationship between fiction and non-fiction, and the literary process.

 

       Vicki Wittenstein, author of the non-fiction book on astronomy, Planet Hunter, Jacqueline Houtman, science writer and author of the new novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, and author and writing teacher Leda Schubert, whose picture book about making wool Feeding the Sheep is being released by Farrar Straus Giroux.

 

      First, congratulations Leda!

 

     Leda Schubert is author of several books for children including Ballet of the Elephants (Roaring Brook, 2006) and Here Comes Darrell (Houghton, 2005) and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts where she lends a warm and wise presence, and can always be counted on to liven things up with a little humor.

 

     She’s been a librarian, teacher and school library consultant for the Vermont Department of Education and has served on the Caldecott Committee, the Arbuthnot Committee, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Committee, among others. Mor

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8. New Madeleine L'Engle Covers


Farrar Straus and Giroux brings another great new cover for a Madeleine L'Engle book.

This time, it's And Both Were Young.

It's about Flip (aka Phillipa) who is sent to a Swiss boarding school. The way, you know, girls are, at least, girls in L'Engle's early books. It was published in 1949.

Flip doesn't get her own grown up book; but she, and her art, are mentioned in A Severed Wasp: A Novel, the 1982 sequel to 1945's The Small Rain.

L'Engle fans understand exactly what I'm talking about, and how fun it is to have characters pop up again and again.



By the way, last year, Camilla was reissued with a sweet new cover.

Because I'm showing off, I'll remind you that the sequel to this 1951 novel is A Live Coal In The Sea, published in 1996.














Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of

7 Comments on New Madeleine L'Engle Covers, last added: 2/22/2010
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9. Lockdown: Escape from Furnace


Lockdown (Escape From Furnace) by Alexander Gordon Smith. Farrar Straus & Giraux 2009. Brilliance Audio 2009. Narrated by Alex Kalajzic. Reviewed from audio from publisher.

The Plot: Alex Sawyer admits he is a thief. Has been for two years, since he was twelve. Started with money from kids on the playground; moved up to burglary. But he is NOT a murderer. He did not kill his best friend, Toby.

Nobody believes him, though. So Alex gets sent to the worst prison ever imagined: Furnace. Beneath heaven is hell. Beneath hell is Furnace.

The Good: Have readers who are adrenaline junkies? Who want books were things actually happen? Who have little patience for books about thoughts, and feelings, and emotions? Who don't want books that are all about lessons?

Give them Lockdown. And guess what? There are thoughts and feelings and emotions, but they are wrapped up in a nonstop breathless reading experience. And there is a lesson or two. Either, "don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Or, it's OK for guys to show emotion by crying, especially when they are tough, strong criminals wrongfully accused of murder who are thrown into prison and have to witness other inmates eaten by out of control dogs.

All of Lockdown is set in Furnace; but a handful of flashbacks tells us how Alex got himself in this situation, a life sentence in Furnace. A prison just for teenagers -- well, some only boys, younger than teenagers -- who society decided are too scary, too dangerous, too bad to be free. Instead, they are sent to Furnace, with no promise of parole, no hope of escape. Death is the only way out.

Alex doesn't understand why he was framed. He may be innocent of murder, but others in Furnace are not. His new cellmate, a few years older than Alex, was eleven when he killed a man. Gang members from the "Summer of Slaughter," when teen gangs killed mercilessly, control Furnace. Well, control Furnace to a certain extent. The person really in control? The warden. And his silver-eyed, black suited guards. The odd, wheezy men wearing gas masks. And the dogs... Don't forget the dogs. The blacksuits, the wheezers, the dogs.... aren't normal. Aren't like anything you'd see on the street. They are monsters. What is worse? Being taken away at night, disappearing.... or being a meal for things that may or may not be dogs?

Lockdown is non stop action. Both Alex and the reader never pause for breath. One minute, it's arrival in Furnace; next is scrambling for the cell as sirens ring and dogs are let out; then there is the terrifying moments when "they" come, in the night, to take people away. Turn the page (or in my case, listen for one minute more) to find out what happens next, what Alex does next, whether Alex can figure a way out. Because while everyone says escape is impossible, Alex doesn't care what everyone says.

Oh, Alex. He is an old-fashioned hero, but I doubt he'd think of himself th

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10. Hummingbird

I am happily getting into a ritual of biweekly visits to the public library with my daughters. While they are off perusing the picture book shelves, I head on over to fiction to find some more tweeny titles. Hummingbird, by Kimberly Green Angle ended up in my pile this week.

March Anne lives on her family's watermelon farm with her dad, brother Kevin and Grenna. March Anne's mom died when she was quite young, so Grenna has been like a mom to her ever since. Daily pieces of March Anne's life are taken up soaking in Grenna's advice and particular sayings.

Then right in the middle of the watermelon harvest, Grenna collapses in the field. March Anne knows that her life is about to change forever. Even though Grenna comes home, the doctor's words of "irreparable damage" stay with her.

March Anne tries to keep on. She has her friends Meg and Laverne, of course, and there is the daily grind of school to follow. Her Daddy tells her that cooking is now up to her, and with disastrous results, March Anne is feeling a bit more useless than she would like.

Hummingbird is a slow, simmering family story. To be honest, the pace at first made me consider putting this one aside, but I am glad that I kept on. The characters are refreshingly honest and humble, and when the inevitable happens at the end, tears are sure to come. Give this to thoughtful readers who like quiet stories.

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11. Alien Attack


Just trying something a little different. Still trying to do at least one digital illustration a day.
By the way, the Alien's aren't attacking all of Earth, just Halliburton.

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12. Illustration Contest

I'm challenging YOU!

Enter the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Illustration Contest!

It's free and you can win a year's membership with SCBWI or a SCBWI t-shirt!

Deadline: Friday, June 1st by 4 p.m. Pacific Time!

Click this link for contest details!

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13. Resources about the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict


Yesterday, I reviewed Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, Ibtisam Barakat's gripping account of her childhood growing up on the war-torn West Bank.

As I mentioned in my review, found here, I found myself wishing to know more about the history of the war and of the long, ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. But given the fact that Barakat stayed with the viewpoint of a young child, that kind of information just wouldn't have worked in this particular book. After reading the book, your children and students will be likely to have questions about the war and the continuing conflict that has been ongoing for decades.

Not surprisingly, I had difficulty finding neutral websites that stuck to the facts, but I did manage to find a couple here:

Social Studies for Kids This site gives a basic overview of the conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in a Nutshell A more detailed overview, with lots of links for more information.

In addition, in the back of the book, Barakat gives recommendations for books, websites, and films where you can learn more about the history. I'm most intrigued by these books:

Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis
From booklist: " 'They murdered my friend.' Growing up separate and apart in a world of bombs, bullets, removals, checkpoints, and curfews, 20 Israeli and Palestinian young people talk about how the war has affected them. The author of Parvana's Journey (2002) and other novels about children in Afghanistan moves to nonfiction with 20 stirring first-person narratives by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim young people she interviewed in 2002. An accessible historical overview that is fair to all sides leads off, followed by brief individual profiles of the kids, which include a small photo, and the words of kids, who are traumatized, angry, hopeful, hateful, despairing, brave."

The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye
Book description from Amazon: "In this stirring anthology of sixty poems from the Middle East, honored anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye welcomes us to this lush, vivid world and beckons us to explore. Eloquent pieces from Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere open windows into the hearts and souls of people we usually meet only on the nightly news. What we see when we look through these windows is the love of family, friends, and for the Earth, the daily occurrences of life that touch us forever, the longing for a sense of place. What we learn is that beneath the veil of stereotypes, our human connections are stronger than our cultural differences."


Barakat also mentions the organization, Seeds of Peace. From the site: "Founded in 1993, Seeds of Peace is dedicated to empowering young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence." It's well worth checking out.

These links, along with Tasting the Sky, will help your child learn more about the conflict between Israeli and Palestine and help put a face to the stories we read about and hear on the news.

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14. Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor

Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor

If you’re in the mood for the type of book that just gives you the “feel-goods,” Greetings from Nowhere may be what you’re looking for.

Aggie, an elderly woman hesitantly puts the motel she’s run with her husband, now deceased, for years up for sale. She doesn’t want to but sees no other way.

Loretta, a young girl receives an anonymous package containing the only worldly possessions of her birth mother who has recently died. The package contains clues as to places the birth mother may have visited during her lifetime, and the girl’s loving adoptive parents set upon a trip to visit some of the places.

Kirby, a young boy in much need of love is on the way to reform school when his mother’s car breaks down.

Willow, a lonely and heartbroken young girl whose mother suddenly left her and her father is surprised when her father decides to buy the motel and start a new life.

In Greetings from Nowhere, these four people’s lives connect at the Sleepy Time Motel, forming a heartwarming story that provides a bit of elixir to the soul.

Barbara O’Conner does an exceptional job with getting inside the head of four very believable and likeable characters. What is most impressive is that fact that in one short book, she was able to tell the story of these four characters from their own points of view AND connect them through their loneliness and need for love.

It’s a story of hope, a story of healing, and a story about finding friendship when you need it the most and least expect it.

Highly recommended.


What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Carol's Corner: "GREETINGS FROM NOWHERE is also a story of hope and redemption- of people who need and find and care for each other. I know so, so, so many kids who need books like that too. " (read more...)

Abby (the) Librarian: "And the setting is another thing I loved about this book. I could see the mountains, the dried-up swimming pool, the weedy parking lot, the musty rooms, the tomato garden... it all really came alive for me." (read more...)

Eva's Book Addiction: "...thanks to some wonderfully understated writing and a keen knowledge of how people think and talk, it all comes together in a satisfying package. " (read more...)

More info:

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374399379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374399375
  • Source: Library



More by Barbara O'Connor:


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