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Results 26 - 50 of 2,742
26. Seeking writing about the craft of writing

Biannual magazine Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing seeks submissions for their Spring 2016 issue. Accepts fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, artwork, and feature articles and interviews about the craft of writing. Deadline: January 31, 2016. Guidelines.

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27. Review of The Emperor of Any Place

wynne-jones_emperor of any placestar2 The Emperor of Any Place
by Tim Wynne-Jones
High School   Candlewick   328 pp.
10/15   978-0-7636-6973-7   $17.99

“So much of grief is unlearning,” observes Wynne-Jones in this perceptive and 
multi-layered page-turner. When Evan’s single father, Clifford, dies suddenly, the high-schooler must work through his own grief while dealing with Clifford’s estranged father Griff, a military man who Clifford had claimed was a murderer. Griff’s also a control freak and is somehow tied to the strange book that was sent to Clifford just before he died. As Evan reads the book — the translated journal of a WWII Japanese soldier stranded on a mystical island with an American Marine plane-crash survivor — he experiences a strange sense of déjà-vu. Wynne-Jones skillfully weaves the World War II journal into Evan’s own story, building suspense and keeping Griff’s part in the proceedings just obscure enough to create a cracking mystery. The author’s conversational tone provides occasional comic relief when things start to get too sinister, and the immediacy of his writing leads to some evocative descriptive passages (such as when Evan and his father listen to Miles Davis: “A night breeze stole into the room and was doing a slow dance under the jazz. Evan could feel it on the back of his neck, the sweat on him cooling. He shivered”). There’s a whole lot going on here: Evan’s and Griff’s shared heartbreak, exhibited in very different ways, and their own increasingly complicated relationship; the stark contrast between the mainly nondescript “Any Place” of Evan’s suburban Ontario and the horror of the desert island; and the unlikely friendship between enemy soldiers in the story-within-a-story. All these seemingly disparate parts come together in fascinating ways, resulting in an affecting and unforgettable read.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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28. Five questions for Tim Wynne-Jones

Tim_Wynne-JonesAt the start of Tim Wynne-Jones’s The Emperor of Any Place (Candlewick, 14 years and up), Evan, reeling from the death of his single father, has no choice but to contact his paternal grandfather, Griff — whom Evan’s dad called a murderer. A gripping story-within-the-story unfolds about a WWII Japanese soldier stranded on a haunted island. How Wynne-Jones weaves these strands together is elegant, surprising, and exhilarating.

1. How much did you know about WWII Japan and Japanese folklore before writing this book?

TWJ: Very little! I’ve had the good fortune to travel in Japan, and loved it, but I cannot claim any particular prior knowledge of Japanese culture or folklore. For years I had wanted to write a World War II book to honor my father, whose experience of the war in Europe scarred him. What we would call PTSD now, but which he did not acknowledge as more than “shell shock,” haunted him and had an effect on us, his children. War does that: spirals down the years and decades, affecting generations. Whenever I tried to write myself into the war, so to speak, I found it impossible, and only after a great deal of time did I come to the realization that the European war was my father’s war. Which left me with the “Other War,” in the Pacific Theater, the one I knew next to nothing about. That gave me the freedom to research deeply, to dig and imagine and finally find a corner of the war that I could inhabit, fictionally.

As I was getting to know Isamu Oshiro, I realized he would have grown up with the folklore of his people just as I have grown up with the folklore of mine. And as soon as I started reading up on that, I knew it would be an integral part of Kokoro-Jima. I have played with the idea of the jikininki, giving them a unique back-story. This is what Bram Stoker did with Dracula: take an existing folktale and breathe new life into it. It has happened down the ages and was one of my favorite parts of writing this book.

2. Did you write the different threads of the story one at a time or were you working on them all at once?

TWJ: Oh, the threads. The threads were a complete schmozzle! There were so many threads — far more than made the final cut. At one point I had thirteen point-of-view characters all clamoring to tell their stories. “Me, me!,” they shouted until my head hurt. What really came first was the story-within-the-story, that of Isamu’s adventures on the island of ghosts and monsters. Then there was the very lengthy task of finding out who else was going to make their way to that mysterious place and how it would all play out and how those people were related to the contemporary characters. I drew a whole lot of family trees!

wynne-jones_emperor of any place3. Did you make Griff up? Or is he based on someone you know?

TWJ: Griff grew out of my research and wide reading about the war, but with aspects of various people I’ve met, including my father. War shapes a man, whether he wants it to or not. A lifetime of fighting wars has shaped Griff. There was a whole novella-length part of the book that I eventually took out, about when Griff was a young man, Evan’s age, stationed in Iceland, before he was shipped over to the Pacific after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was, among other things, a love story. He alludes to that in the novel, but originally I had the whole story as part of this book. That was when the novel was over six hundred pages long and…well, something had to go. But I’m so glad I wrote his story. It really helped me to get to know him and see that he wasn’t always like he is now. Once he was young and in love, with his whole life before him.

4. This book is: realistic family story; fantasy; mystery; ghost story; historical fiction; war story; contemporary fiction; story-within-a-story; and more. How’d you make that all work?

TWJ: Phew! Put that way, I’m not sure! It took a long time, I’ll say that much. I usually spend a year or so writing a novel. This one took more than three and a half years. There were so many parts of the story I wanted to tell, and I juggled all that in such a way that there were many, many versions. Gradually, the stories that needed to be there stayed and the other parts fell away. Along with the Griff novella, there was another whole novella telling us Hisako’s story as she lived through the invasion of Sampei. I think it was only when Evan rose to the top as my central character that I knew what I could include and what had to go, no matter how interesting it was to me in and of itself. This is, in the end, Isamu’s and Evan’s book, and there is nothing in it now that doesn’t shore up their stories and, hopefully, weave them together: the Emperor of Kokoro-Jima and the Emperor of Any Place.

5. Do you believe in the afterlife? (Or the beforelife, in this case?)

TWJ: Do you want the long answer, the short answer, or the truth? The afterlife has been a part of human culture — the Human Mind — for so many millennia it’s not something one can simply dismiss. I don’t believe in heaven as a place, per se, so much as a deeply rooted concept, but I do believe that the idea operates on us and through us while we are alive. So in a way it does exist as we live in a world with this unanswered and persuasive question hanging over our heads. It was only after a long time of writing this novel that I came up with the idea of preincarnation, and I loved the poetry of it. I quickly learned that there are other definitions of this word out there, but my own definition and its appearance on Kokoko-Jima captivated my imagination. I love the idea that there was — is — this magical island in the largest of our oceans where the future waits in ethereal form and recognizes us for who we are, if we happen to wash up on the shore there. I suppose that even if heaven is only a metaphor, it’s a particularly powerful one. And I take metaphors very seriously. A metaphor is how we describe something we have no description for. Sounds like heaven to me!

From the November 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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29. Lights, camera, chapter books!

These lighthearted outings for early primary readers offer adventures both everyday (a run-in with a teacher, a classmate rivalry) and extraordinary (a dog’s rise to superstardom and…a ghost raccoon sighting).

davis_flop to the topIn Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing’s Flop to the Top!, young Wanda is a superstar — in her own mind. After posting a selfie taken with her droll, droopy-faced dog, Wilbur, she scores millions of online likes and hordes of admirers fill her street. But instead of Wanda, the crowd wants “FLOPPY DOG!” Wife-and-husband team Davis and Weing share author-illustrator duties for this expertly paced — and funny and topical — early-reader comic, with digitally rendered illustrations infused with warmth, color, and whimsy. (TOON, 5–8 years)

potter_piper green and the fairy treePiper Green, resident of Peek-a-Boo Island, Maine, and star of Ellen Potter’s Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, is about to start second grade. For her, this involves taking a lobster boat to school and insisting on wearing green monkey-face earmuffs. Her new teacher looks like a princess, so Piper assumes she’ll have a tinkly voice and won’t mind about the earmuffs; but Ms. Arabella does not live up to expectations. Very brief chapters and frequent illustrations by Qin Leng advance the story, as does Piper’s spunky first-person narration. How the standoff is resolved makes for a satisfying, funny early chapter book. (Knopf, 5–8 years)

mills_izzy barr running starIn Izzy Barr, Running Star, Izzy’s passion and dedication have made her the fastest runner in the third grade. That is, until classmate Skipper — whose dad is their P.E. teacher and the coach for Franklin School’s Fitness Club — beats her. Author Claudia Mills presents and resolves problems in a winning story, the third installment in the Franklin School Friends series, with friendly illustrations by Rob Shepperson. (Farrar/Ferguson, 5–8 years)

dicamillo_francine pouletFans of Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s Mercy Watson books will remember Francine Poulet, the animal control officer who tried to net Mercy in Mercy Watson Thinks like a Pig. In Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, Francine — fearless, and with an impressive resumé — receives a call about an unusual raccoon (“He shimmers! He screams like a banshee!”) on a roof. When the shimmery raccoon screams “Frannnnnnnnnnnyyyyy!” and hurtles toward her on the roof, she loses her confidence, and then her balance. The wacky plot comes smartly together with humorous insights and lively illustrations. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

From the November 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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30. Boys to remember

Four novels featuring teenage boys — in both contemporary and historical settings — take on big issues, with memorable results.

reynolds_all american boysAll American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is a ripped-from-the-headlines story written with nuance, sharp humor, and devastating honesty. When a quick stop at the corner store suddenly escalates into a terrifying scene of police brutality, two high school classmates are linked and altered by the violence — Rashad (who is African American) as its victim; Quinn (who is white) as its witness. The authors have brought together issues of racism, power, and justice with a diverse cast of characters and two remarkable protagonists forced to grapple with the layered complexities of growing up in racially tense America. (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 14 years and up)

leavitt_calvinThe seventeen-year-old star of Calvin by Martine Leavitt believes that his life is inextricably linked to the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes — a belief reinforced by the constant presence of the voice of tiger Hobbes in his consciousness. Recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, he’s convinced that if he can persuade the famously reclusive cartoonist Bill Watterson to draw a final cartoon of a teenage Calvin without Hobbes, he himself will be cured. On a pilgrimage to find Watterson, Calvin sets off across frozen Lake Erie, accompanied by old flame/current frenemy Susie. Along the way, Calvin and Susie examine — sweetly and humorously — their relationship and ponder the big existential questions of life. (Farrar/Ferguson, 14 years and up)

quintero_show and proveIn the summer of 1983, best friends — and alternating narrators in Sofia Quintero’s Show and Prove — Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega are working as camp counselors at a summer enrichment program in their South Bronx neighborhood. Smiles is crushed when he loses out on a promotion to senior counselor; Nike thinks that winning a break-dancing competition will impress his crush. As the summer goes on, neighborhood tensions and secrets are revealed, from the camp’s budget concerns to racial and religious conflicts among black Caribbeans, Puerto Ricans, and Palestinians. The novel features two vibrant, fully realized narrators with complex lives, a memorable supporting cast, and a complete immersion in the zeitgeist of the eighties, from music to politics. (Knopf, 14 years and up)

schmidt_orbiting jupiterIn Gary D. Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter, sixth-grader Jack’s family fosters a fourteen-year-old boy with a troubled past. Joseph attacked a teacher, was subsequently incarcerated at a juvenile detention center, and has a baby daughter whom he’s never seen. Jack and his parents gradually peel away Joseph’s protective veneer, but the teen’s single-minded desire to parent his daughter — and then the arrival of Joseph’s violent father — leads to strife. The book’s ending is bittersweet but as satisfying as a two-box-of-tissues tearjerker can possibly be. (Clarion, 11–14 years)

From the November 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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31. Review of All American Boys

reynolds_all american boysstar2 All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
High School   Dlouhy/Atheneum   316 pp.
9/15   978-1-4814-6333-1   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-6335-5   $9.99

Teens Rashad (who is African American) and Quinn (who is white) are high school classmates and not much more — neither even knows the other’s name. But when a quick stop at the corner store for a bag of chips on a Friday night suddenly escalates into a terrifying scene of police brutality, the two boys are linked and altered by the violence — Rashad as its victim and Quinn as its witness. During the week following the incident, and in alternating voices, the teens narrate events as Rashad deals with his injuries and the unwanted limelight as the latest black victim in the news; and as Quinn tries to understand how a cop he considers family could be capable of such unprovoked rage, and where his loyalties are now supposed to lie. Faced with an all-too-common issue, both narrators must navigate opposing views from their friends and families to decide for themselves whether to get involved or walk away. Written with sharp humor and devastating honesty, this nuanced, thoughtful novel recalls the work of Walter Dean Myers and is worthy of his legacy. Reynolds and Kiely explore issues of racism, power, and justice with a diverse (ethnically and philosophically) cast of characters and two remarkable protagonists forced to grapple with the layered complexities of growing up in a racially tense America.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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32. The North Coast Writing Retreat: Grande Riviére, Trinidad, 7-10th January, 2016



The course is a three-day intensive which will include master classes in life writing, with Monique Roffey, and poetry, with Loretta Collins Klobah.

Held on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, the retreat is for writers who have experience of work-shopping their work, and have either been published or are working towards publication. Morning workshops will be given over to poetry and afternoons will be centered on life writing. The two strands of writing workshops are intended to weave together and complement each other. There will also be time to work on your own writing, and evenings will feature readings from students and discussions about the creative writing process. The course is open to 16 participants.

APPLICATION GUIDELINES

To apply, 1) submit either two poems or 2000 words of life writing (or both) and 2) a short resume of your writing experience to date to moniqueroffey@gmail.com Once your application has been accepted, booking is done via Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, Grande Riviére at maktoub@mac.com. You will need to liaise with Piero Guerrini at Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, for transport from Piarco International Airport, Trinidad, to Grande Riviére.  A welcome dinner at the hotel is at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, 7th January, and we will start out first informal session at 8:30 pm. Please aim to be at the hotel in time for the Thursday night dinner.

The cost of the retreat is $TT 900 per day (including tuition, accommodation and meals) or $TT2700 for three days (£280 British pounds or USD $420 in total). Accommodation is shared and en suite. Single occupancy will be available at an added cost.

About the tutors:

Both tutors have many years of teaching experience.


Loretta Collins Klobah is poet and professor of Creative Writing and Caribbean Literature at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. She has published poems in many regional and international literary journals. Her poetry collection, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman received the 2012 OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in the category of poetry (Trinidad and Tobago). It was also one of five books shortlisted for the 2012 Felix Dennis Prize, offered by Forward Arts Foundation in the UK. She has received a Pushcart Prize and the Earl Lyons Award from the American Academy of Poets.


Monique Roffey is a writer and creative writing tutor, who has taught at COSTAATT in Port of Spain, Goldsmiths College, London, for the Guardian/UEA Master classes, The Arvon Foundation and privately in Trinidad. She is the author of four novels and a memoir. Her third novel Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. She has also been short-listed for the Orange Prize, the Encore Award, the Orion Award and the Costa Fiction Prize in 2015. Her work sells in the UK, Caribbean, USA and has been translated into five languages.


Mt. Plaisir Estate is a world-renowned eco-lodge on the north coast of Trinidad. Behind the hotel, there is a small village and rain forest and in front of the hotel is a half-mile of white beach, the nesting destination of thousands of leatherback turtles every year. For more see www.mtplaisir.com


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33. Review of The Hired Girl

hiredgirl_210x300star2 The Hired Girl
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Middle School   Candlewick   392 pp.
9/15   978-0-7636-7818-0   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-7943-9   $17.99

In 1911, spirited fourteen-year-old Joan, the only girl in a family of three boys plus a verbally abusive father (her weak-of-constitution mother has died), musters her courage and leaves her rural Pennsylvania home for Baltimore, the final straw being her father’s burning of her few precious books. Once in the city, and with no real plan for survival, Joan is fortunate to be taken in by a kindly, well-to-do Jewish family, the Rosenbachs. She’s employed as their “hired girl,” acting as assistant to longtime (and grumpy) domestic Malka and serving as the observant family’s “Shabbos goy,” performing household tasks forbidden to Jews during the Sabbath. Over the course of the story, Joan, wide-eyed and open-hearted: meddles in the eldest Rosenbach son’s love affairs (luckily, it all works out); very ill-advisedly attempts to convert the family’s young grandson to Catholicism; makes something of an enemy of the lady of the house; and falls helplessly in love with the Rosenbachs’ younger son, an artist who persuades her to pose for him…as Joan of Arc. The book is framed as Joan’s diary, and her weaknesses, foibles, and naiveté come through as clearly — and as frequently — as her hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The pacing can be a little slow (she doesn’t even get to Baltimore, where the bulk of the story takes place, until almost eighty pages in), but by the end readers feel as if they’ve witnessed the real, authentic growth of a memorable young woman.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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34. Review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here

ness_restofusThe Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
High School   HarperTeen   320 pp.
10/15   978-0-06-240316-2   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-06-240318-6   $10.99

Ness’s latest offering is a fantasy novel — and simultaneously a fantasy-novel send-up — whose true focus is on its cast of innocent bystanders. Mikey’s town is “just like your town,” except that every once in a while impossible things (the undead, vampires, soul-eating ghosts) invade it and are driven out by the heroic “indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies.” This time, the invaders are Immortals with a mission to select someone as a permanent Vessel for their Empress in preparation for taking over the world. Brief chapter openings encapsulate these details, but the rest of each chapter tells what’s happening to ordinary Mikey. He and his siblings and friends sometimes cross paths with the hero indie-kids but rarely take part in their adventures, which the main characters brush off as just another one of their crazy sagas. The novel’s tone, with its ripped-from-current-YA-fantasy indie-kid names (two Finns; a heroine named Satchel; lots of Dylans), encourages readers to view the Immortal invasion the same way. The narrative’s real weight is attached to the mostly realistic events surrounding Mikey: the “loops” that his OCD traps him in; his sister Mel’s severe eating disorder; the outside attention on the family because of his politician mom; a love quadrangle involving longtime friends and fluid sexualities. In this often-hilarious (and just as often poignant) parody of fantasy stories from Harry’s to Buffy’s, not everyone is a Chosen One, but “everyone’s got something”; everybody matters.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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35. Really scary middle grade

Horrifying Hymenoptera, frightening faeries, malicious magick, and creepy corpses come out to play in these chilling middle-grade novels.

oppel_nestSteve’s baby brother comes back from the hospital sick (“there was something wrong with his heart and his eyes and his brain”) and needing lots of care, so his parents don’t pay much attention when Steve develops a fear of the wasps in the backyard. The boy finds comfort in a recurring dream in which a compassionate voice offers to make everything better: all Steve must do is say yes, and his dream confidante will turn her promise of a healthy baby into reality. In his (terrifying!) book The Nest, Kenneth Oppel’s language is straightforward, but the emotional resonance is deep. Jon Klassen‘s full-page black-and-white drawings — simple, but with maximum impact, in shades of light, dark, and darker — astutely capture the magnitude of a child’s imagination when he can rely only upon himself. (Simon, 10–12 years)

hahn_tookIn Mary Downing Hahn‘s Took, Daniel’s family abruptly leaves Connecticut for a simpler lifestyle in West Virginia after Daniel’s father loses his job. Daniel and his little sister, Erica, find their new dilapidated home and the woods that surround it frightening, and the kids at school tease them with scary tales of a strange old woman, a man-eating razorback hog, and a little girl who disappeared from their house fifty years before. Daniel does not believe these stories, but Erica becomes progressively stranger, withdrawing from her family and obsessing over her look-alike doll, Little Erica. Told alternatingly through Daniel’s first-person narration and a third-person omniscient narrator, the story spookily — and effectively — weaves in the oral tradition of folklore, legends, and ghost stories. (Clarion, 10–12 years)

smith_hoodooHoodoo by Ronald L. Smith is a creepy Southern Gothic ghost story focused on the insular 1930s black community of Sardis, Alabama. Folks there believe in equal measure in their God and in folk magick (or “hoodoo”). Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher doesn’t have a speck of magick in him—or so he thinks. When a Stranger, a nasty, foul-smelling incarnation of evil, comes to town Hoodoo discovers the magick deep within himself and the strength and heart to summon it. Filled with folk and religious symbols, the story is steeped in time and place. Hoodoo’s earnest first-person narrative reveals a believable innocent who can “cause deeds great and powerful.” (Clarion, 10–12 years)

trevayne_accidental afterlife of thomas marsdenWhile out grave-robbing one night, Thomas Marsden — star of The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden — digs up a corpse that looks exactly like him. In his hand the dead boy is holding tickets to a performance by the famous spiritualist Mordecai, along with a note bearing the instruction Speak to no one. As it turns out, Thomas is of faerie descent, and his people have been enslaved by Mordecai. As the last surviving member of the royal line, it’s up to Thomas to break Mordecai’s enchantment. Author Emma Trevayne plays her cards close to the vest, slowly doling out clues; the central drama — Thomas’s decision whether to help the faeries despite having been rejected by them at birth — makes it worth the wait. By the end, the boy’s humanity holds the key to the faeries’ salvation, leading to a satisfying resolution. (Simon, 10–12 years)

From the October 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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36. Pick your poison

A chilling short story collection, two suspenseful novels, and one book that’s a bit of both: there’s something here for every young adult horror fan.

tucholke_slasher girls & monster boysEach of the fourteen short tales of horror in Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, selected by April Genevieve Tucholke, is inspired by at least one other story, film, or song: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Hitchcock movies, Carrie, Zombieland, etc. With such eclectic antecedents, a wide range of approaches to the theme, and settings that span time and cultures, the resulting collection is satisfyingly diverse and compelling. After encountering the horrors here, variously supernatural and disturbingly human, readers may want to leave the lights on. (Dial, 14 years and up)

lee_this monstrous thingIn Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing, set in an early-nineteenth-century alternate-universe Geneva, Alasdair Finch lives with a terrible secret: he’s responsible for the accident that killed his brother Oliver. He’s also responsible for having furtively dug up Oliver’s body and re-animated him entirely with clockwork parts. Now, two years later, an arrest warrant forces Alasdair to flee the city, leaving his monstrous brother behind. This retelling of Frankenstein, set in the year the novel came out—and with Mary Godwin (Shelley’s maiden name) as a character — has all the gothic atmosphere of Shelley’s classic horror story. (HarperCollins/Tegen, 13–16 years)

hunt_13 days of midnightSixteen-year-old Luke Manchett, protagonist of Leo Hunt’s 13 Days of Midnight, thinks he’s got it made when his estranged father, host of a popular ghost-hunting TV show, dies suddenly. Luke will inherit millions if he just signs the creepy goatskin contract proffered by lawyer Mr. Berkley. Luke does, and soon regrets his decision when it turns out he has also inherited the secret to his father’s success: necromantic power and a mutinous spirit Host. The frequent dark humor of Luke’s narration is balanced by moments of true suspense and satisfyingly complex relationships. (Candlewick, 13–16 years)

shelton_thirteen chairsTwelve strangers meet by candlelight to tell ghost stories in Dave Shelton’s Thirteen Chairs. A thirteenth — Jack, a boy who gate-crashes the gathering — listens and waits for his turn. As the tellers finish, they blow out their candles until only Jack is left…but by then he is certain that the stories are more real than anyone has let on. The ghost stories’ varied subjects and the different voices employed in their narration keep the pace moving along nicely. The common theme of the tales — that the dead seek retribution on their killers, or sometimes on bystanders who are just a little too curious — provides low-key chills. (Scholastic/Fickling, 11–14 years)

From the October 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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37. Not-scary magic

Not everyone wants the pants scared off of them on Halloween. Some people like their witches sweet and their HobGrackles cuddly.

heppermann_sadie's storySadie’s Story, the first in the Backyard Witch series by Christine Heppermann and Ron Koertge, introduces readers to nine-year-old Sadie, her cat — and the small witch who takes up residence in the plastic playhouse by Sadie’s family’s garage. Morgan, a.k.a. Ms. M., may be somewhat unreliable with spells and hexes, but she’s great company and quick with a gag. Best of all, she’s a birdwatcher witch, or ornithomancer, and Sadie herself soon gets bitten by the birding bug. Sprightly prose will pull in chapter book readers, and spot illustrations by Deborah Marcero keep the page design lively. (Greenwillow, 7–10 years)

mlynowski_upside-down magicThough her father is headmaster of the prestigious Sage Academy of Magic and Performance, Nory’s own magic is wonky. After a disastrous showing at her Sage Academy entrance exam, Dad sends Nory to live with eccentric Aunt Margo to attend a school that offers a special program for “the worst of the wonky.” Upside-Down Magic is a collaboration among three authors — Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, and Lauren Myracle — and there’s no telling who did what, in a good way: the writing is seamless. The book is light but not inconsequential, and its multicultural and differently-abled cast will be welcomed by a broad audience. (Scholastic, 7–10 years)

pearce_pip bartlett's hiode to magical creaturesAfter a unicorn mishap at school, the nine-year-old (human) protagonist of Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures is sent to her aunt’s for the summer, where she helps run the family’s veterinary clinic. Then the town is infested with Fuzzles (combustible dustlike creatures that live in underwear drawers), and Pip and her pals — plus a scaredy-cat unicorn — investigate. Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater’s fast-paced prose is lively, witty, and gripping. Stiefvater’s black-and-white textured illustrations show the griffins, HobGrackles, and other magical creatures that inhabit Pip’s world. An accessible fantasy for independent readers not yet ready for Rowling. (Scholastic, 7–10 years)

Gypsy Beaumont, star of Ingrid Law’s Switch (and little sister of Savvy protagonist Mibs), has just turned thirteen and is starting to get the hang of her particular magical ability, or savvy — seeing people’s pasts and futures — when things go “wackadoo.” Soon after envisioning her own death (or so she thinks), Gypsy loses her original savvy and gains a surprising new one: stopping time. This comes in handy as her mother, big-brother Samson, and little-brother Tucker reluctantly travel to Colorado, through a blizzard, to retrieve prickly Grandma Pat, suffering from “Old-timer’s disease,” as Tucker calls it. In typical Law fashion, whimsy abounds, with vibrant supporting characters and helter-skelter pacing. (Dial, 9–12 years)

From the October 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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38. Fever of Animals

I can’t remember if I put my hand up to review Miles Allinson’s Fever of Animals or if it was sent to me because the publisher’s PR team thought it might be up my alley. Either way, I was pleasantly and slightly surprised and confused when it arrived. The winner of the 2014 Victorian Premier’s […]

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39. Review of Sunny Side Up

holm_sunny side upstar2 Sunny Side Up
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; 
illus. by Matthew Holm; color by Lark Pien
Intermediate   Graphix/Scholastic   218 pp.
9/15   978-0-545-74165-1   $23.99
Paper ed. 978-0-545-74166-8   $12.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-74167-5   $12.99

Set largely during the summer of 1976, this semiautobiographical graphic novel from the brother-and-sister team behind the Babymouse series includes an amiable grandfather, U.S. bicentennial festivities, and a trip to Disney World — but it is much more than a lighthearted nostalgia piece. Ten-year-old Sunshine “Sunny” Lewin had been looking forward to spending August at the shore as usual, but her parents have suddenly sent her to Florida to stay with “Gramps” instead. Her less-than-thrilling days at the retirement community, complete with early-bird specials and trips to the post office, improve after she befriends the groundskeeper’s son, comics-obsessed Buzz. The two spend their time doing odd jobs for spending money and mulling over age-old superhero dilemmas (“But they’re heroes. Why can’t they save the people they love?”). These discussions, and the series of flashbacks they often elicit, ultimately lead readers to the truth surrounding Sunny’s visit: back home in Pennsylvania, her teenage brother is struggling with substance abuse, and Sunny is convinced that she made the problem worse — a misconception Gramps lovingly corrects. Matthew Holm’s loose, less-is-more cartooning is easy to read and expressive, if occasionally unpolished. Straightforward dialogue, captions establishing time and setting, and extended wordless scenes swiftly propel the narrative and will be appreciated by Raina Telgemeier fans. An affirming author’s note delves further into the Holm siblings’ personal experience with familial substance abuse and encourages young readers sharing a similar struggle to reach out (as Sunny eventually does) to the responsible adults in their lives.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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40. Collected Fiction by Leena Krohn


The most peculiar property of language is its symbolic function. The writer exchanges meanings for marks, while the reader performs the opposite task. There are no meanings outside us, or if there are, we do not know them. Personal meanings are made with our own hands. Their preparation is a kind of alchemy. Everything that we call rationality demands imagination, and if we did not have the capacity to imagine, we could not even speak morality or conscience.

—Leena Krohn, "Afterword: When the Viewer Vanishes"
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have done wonders for the availability of contemporary Finnish writing in English with their Cheeky Frawg press, and in December they will release their greatest book yet: Collected Fiction by Leena Krohn.

I've been a passionate fan of Leena Krohn's work ever since I first read her book Tainaron ten years ago. I sought out the only other translation of her writings in English available at the time, Doña Quixote & Gold of Ophir, and was further impressed. I read Datura when Cheeky Frawg published it in 2013. It's all remarkable work.

Collected Fiction brings together all of those books, plus more: The Pelican's New Clothes (children's fiction from the 1970s, just as entrancing as her adult work later), Pereat Mundus (which I've yearned to read ever since Krohn mentioned it when I interviewed her), some excerpts and stories from various books published over the last 25 years, essays by others (including me) that give some perspective on her career, and an afterword by Leena Krohn herself.

This book is as important a publishing event in its own way as New Directions' release earlier this year of Clarice Lispector's Complete Stories. It's a similarly large book (850 pages), and though not Krohn's complete stories, it gives a real overview of her career and provides immeasurable pleasure.

Leena Krohn
One of the wonders of this collection is just how big it is. I keep jokingly referring to it as KROHN!, and not just because of Jeremy Zerfoss's gorgeous cover, but because this is a doorstop of a book that collects the work of someone whose writing might often be described as delicate, miniature tales. Her books don't tend to be especially long, and even her novels are built of miniatures. But now we can hold this huge collection of decades of writing and its solidity is stunning.

In a helpful overview of the first thirty years of Krohn's writing (1970-2001) included here, Minna Jerman writes: "Gold of Ophir is constructed in such a way that you could easily read its chapters in any order, and have a different experience with each different sequence." This is true for most of Krohn's novels, it seems to me, and is another virtue of her writing, something that makes it feel so different from so many other books, so truly strange, and yet so captivating, like a puzzle that isn't especially insistent about its puzzle-ness — or, to quote the great John Leonard, it embodies "Chaos Theory, with lots of fractals."

This is what I want to tell you, then: Reader, you should get this book at the first opportunity and you should spend a year (at least!) reading through it in whatever order you feel like, letting it be a magical, mind-warping cabinet of curiosities, a wonderbox of a book. You should not devour Leena Krohn's writing. Savor it, take it in in small bits, because there are so many glorious small bits here. Why rush? This is rich, rich material. Just as no rational person would ever guzzle a truly fine scotch, so you should sip from Krohn's fountain of dreamwords.

And this is what I want to tell you, O Writerly Types: This book is a gift to you, a tome of possibilities. Stop writing like everybody else. We don't need you to make your vision fit into the airport bookstore shelves. Those shelves are full. We need more writers who will do what Leena Krohn has done, who will seize language as a tool for dreaming back toward consciousness, who will find forms that fit such dreaming, who will not replicate the conventions of now but instead reconfigure their own conventions until they seem inevitable. Learn from this book, O Writers. Let it inspire you to write in your own new ways, your own new forms, your own truthful imaginings.

In a trance, his hand already numb and senseless, accompanied by the rustle of the rain and the croaking of frogs, Håkan was taken through the eras toward the wondrous time when he did not yet exist.
—Leena Krohn, Pereat Mundus: A Novel of Sorts

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41. Poetry and fiction contest with $1000 (each) prize

New deadline: The Puritan Online Quarterly invites entries of poetry and fiction for the Fourth Annual Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence. Each winner receives $1000, over $900 in books, and publication in the Fall issue. Deadline: October 15, 2015. Entry fee: $15. Guidelines.

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42. 2015 BGHB Fiction Day

Cartwheeling in ThunderstormsToday we’re honoring our BGHB Fiction Award winners! Read reviews of all of the 2015 fiction winners here; see below for more web extras to celebrate them. Join us on October 2–3, 2015, for the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium: Transformations, featuring several 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book award recipients.

The 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction Award winner is Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell (Simon and Schuster).

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick) received a BGHB Fiction Honor.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman and illustrated by Brendan Shusterman (Harper/HarperTeen) received a BGHB Fiction Honor.

Stay tuned for web extras on our nonfiction winner and honorees tomorrow!

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43. Spotlight and Giveaway: Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin

 
Enter to Win a
Print Copy of SIT! STAY! SPEAK!
(US Only)

 
SIT! STAY! SPEAK!
A Novel
Annie England Noblin
Released Sept 9th, 2015
William Morrow

 

Echoing the novels of Mary Alice Monroe, Allie Larkin, and Holly Robinson, this charming debut novel tells the unforgettable story of a rescue dog that helps a struggling young outsider make peace with the past.

Addie Andrews is living a life interrupted. Tragedy sent her fleeing from Chicago to the shelter of an unexpected inheritance—her beloved aunt’s somewhat dilapidated home in Eunice, Arkansas, population very tiny. There she reconnects with some of her most cherished childhood memories. If only they didn’t make her feel so much!


People say nothing happens in small towns, but Addie quickly learns better. She’s got an elderly next door neighbor who perplexingly dances outside in his underwear, a house needing more work than she has money, a best friend whose son uncannily predicts the weather, and a local drug dealer holding a massive grudge against her.

Most surprising of all, she’s got a dog. But not any dog, but a bedraggled puppy she discovered abandoned, lost, and in desperate need of love. Kind of like Addie herself. She’d come to Eunice hoping to hide from the world, but soon she discovers that perhaps she’s finding the way back—to living, laughing, and loving once more.

Excerpt:

She sighed and pushed her blond hair off her neck, piling it high on top of her head. Her thoughts went back to Chicago. To Jonah. To what life had been like before she’d inherited a house that needed more work than she had money. Jonah would have liked this house, she thought. Addie knew that if he were here, they would have stayed in town after the funeral. Jonah would have picked through each piece of furniture, each knickknack. He would have asked for stories about each one, stories Addie had long forgotten.

She rested her head against the coffee table. It had a glass top, something her aunt had brought all the way down here from Chicago. It wasn’t worth much, as far as Addie could tell, but her aunt loved it and stuck cards from relatives underneath the glass. Each time Aunt Tilda had a visitor, she’d tell them about whichever relative happened to be resting underneath that visitor’s coffee mug. Today there was no coffee, and there were no visitors. There was no Jonah. Addie let her hair fall back down onto her sticky neck and said out loud to no one, “I’ve got to get out of here for a while.”

The Mississippi River in Eunice, Arkansas, looked nothing like it had when she’d crossed the bridge in Memphis. It was smaller, tranquil almost. Addie stood with her toes touching the water. She hadn’t been down to the levee since the last time she’d visited Eunice. Even this close to the water, it was hot outside. She found herself wishing she’d just stayed inside with all the unopened boxes and dusty furniture—at least there was air-conditioning.

Gazing around, Addie realized that this was no longer the nice, clean picnic area that her aunt had taken her to during her childhood visits. The tables were overgrown with weeds, and there was an obvious odor of trash in the air. This place hadn’t been taken care of in a long time.

Addie bent down to wash out her flip-flops when she heard a noise coming from behind her. She turned around to face a small wooded area. The noise grew louder. It sounded like a whimpering, but all she saw were bushes. She shoved her feet into her shoes and walked over to the direction of the noise. She pushed her way into the first set of bushes, where a thin layer of trash covered the ground. Off to one side there was a large, black trash bag.

The trash bag was moving. Addie crept closer to the bag. She bent down and touched the plastic. It had been tied in a tight knot. Digging her fingers into the plastic, Addie ripped the bag wide open. The object in the bag stirred, whimpering slightly. It lifted its head and tried to move, but failed. It was covered in blood and blood-soaked newspaper and dozens of crumpled packages of Marlboro Reds.

Addie was looking at a dog.



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Annie England Noblin graduated with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English for Arkansas State University. Her poetry has been featured in such publications as the Red Booth Review and the Moon City Review. She lives with her son, husband, and four rescued bulldogs in the Missouri Ozarks. In addition to her writing, Noblin started working with rescue organizations across the country ten years ago, and has never looked back. The work she does serves as an inspiration in everyday life, as well as in her writing.


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44. Launch of the ‘Young Kelpies’ range of new books. Mine included.

I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch of the new Young Kelpies range. It features four series from exciting authors. ‘Axe throwing’, ‘goal scoring’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘adventurous’ are the key words for each series. Mine is the adventurous one…with lots of gags, wordplay and exciting action. Each brilliant series has six books and is written for […]

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45. "The Last Vanishing Man"

Littleton Opera House, Littleton, NH c.1900, a location in the story
I have a new story — my first (but not last) of this year — now available on the Conjunctions website— "The Last Vanishing Man".

This one's a bit of a departure for me, in that it is a serious story that will not, I'm told, make you want to kill yourself after you read it. In fact, one of my primary goals when writing it was to write something not entirely nihilistic. Various people have, over the years, gently suggested that perhaps I might try writing a ... well ... a nice story now and then.

(I actually think I've only written one story that is not nice, "Patrimony" in Black Static last year. And maybe "On the Government of the Living". Well, maybe "How Far to Englishman's Bay", too. And— okay, I get it...)

So "The Last Vanishing Man" is a story that has an (at least somewhat) uplifting ending, and the good people triumph, or at least survive, and the bad person is punished, or at least ... well, I won't go into details...

Here's the first paragraph, to whet your appetite:
I saw The Great Omega perform three or four times, including that final, strange show. I was ten years old then. It was the summer of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, a time when vaudeville and touring acts were quickly fading behind the glittering light of motion pictures and the crackling squawk of radios. What I remember of the performance is vivid, but I am wary of its vividness, as I suspect that vividness derives not from the original moment, but from how much effort I’ve put into remembering it. What is memory, what is reconstruction, what is misdirection?
Continue reading at Conjunctions...

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46. 50-Word Stories

A very, very short story published on the 50-Word Stories website!

LYNNE NORTH: Progress

August 27, 2015 Artistic, Submissions civilization, Lynne North, nature, tree

‘People pass; most don’t notice my existence.

I lived through two world wars, bearing witness to horrors. I harmed no one.

Yet they want me gone.

They come to end my life. I hear the saws, suffer the cuts in my trunk. Soon I will fall.

They call it progress.’

 

Lynne North writes humorous fantasy novels for children. She decided it was time she tried something else…

 

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47. How well do you know Sherlock Holmes? [quiz]

Test your knowledge of Sherlock Holmes with this quiz, based on the novels and short stories, the canon's history and its place in modern day life.

The post How well do you know Sherlock Holmes? [quiz] appeared first on OUPblog.

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48. What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

Where is Jon - compressed


I'm looking forward to crossing state lines in a couple of weeks, when I'll be visiting my friends at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group in Palmer, Pennsylvania. I'm giving a  presentation and workshop at their September meeting.

2015 September 26th  
Recognize and Embrace Your Narrative Voice
Here There Be Hooks
Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group
Easton Area Public Library (Palmer Branch)
1 Weller Place Easton, PA 18045


2015 November (tbc) NJ SCBWI Fall Workshop (attending)
Plainsboro, NJ

I also turn up at the occasional GSSW or Monmouth Writers meeting throughout the year. They're both good, friendly writing groups. New members are always welcome.

How about you?

What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

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49. Queensland Literary Awards 2015 – still time to vote

After its recent tumultuous history, the Qld Literary Awards are growing from strength to strength under the banner of the State Library of Queensland and a bevy of eminent sponsors. The 2015 shortlists have just been announced and the winners will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony on Friday 9th October in Brisbane. Some categories […]

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50. Review of Lair of Dreams

bray_lair of dreamsLair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel
by Libba Bray
High School   Little, Brown   691 pp.
8/15   978-0-316-12604-5   $19.00   g
e-book ed. 978-0-316-36488-1   $9.99

Seventeen-year-old flapper Evie O’Neill (The Diviners, rev. 11/12) and friends confront another supernatural threat. As before, Bray follows multiple characters, many of them also paranormally gifted; while Evie (now a radio star known as the “Sweetheart Seer”) is still a focal point, here dream walkers Henry DuBois and Ling Chan also come to the fore. Several plot threads intertwine when Ling and Henry begin dream-walking together (Henry hopes to communicate with Louis, the love he left behind in New Orleans; Ling meets another dream walker, a Chinese girl named Wai-Mae) and a frightening “sleeping sickness” descends on New York City, sending people into comas, then death. As the sleeping sickness spreads, Henry and Ling start to notice disturbing things about the dream world…and about Wai-Mae. Bray’s vividly detailed descriptions, which take readers from glittering high-society parties to claustrophobic tunnels filled with ghastly creatures, give the novel a sweeping, cinematic quality. Sweet relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) and snarky banter filled with period slang balance and accentuate the suspenseful horror. Through it all, new questions arise as mysteries from the previous novel deepen. What is the connection between the Diviners and the government’s ominous Project Buffalo? Who is the man in the stovepipe hat lurking at the edges of all this supernatural violence? Despite its considerable length, fans will barrel through this second installment and emerge impatient for the next.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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