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We’ve embedded the video above–what do you think? The trailer has already drawn more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.
The trailer offers the fans glimpses of several major events in the story and a first look at Oscar-winning actorPhilip Seymour Hoffmanas Head GamemakerPlutarch Heavensbee. This adaptation of Suzanne Collins‘ young-adult novel won’t be released until November 22, 2013.
Peanuts, Cracker Jack, cotton candy, and hot dogs! Those are my fondest memories of the ball park, and they certainly top my daughters' lists as well. But one equally hallowed tradition of baseball had been fading from the American scene, so I'm glad to see a picture book that's bringing it back.
Betsy's Day at the Game, written by Greg Bancroft and illustrated by Katherine Blackmore, describes a young girl's visit to the ballpark with her grandfather. The book captures all there is to love about baseball, and that's because author Greg Bancroft seems to be a baseball fan first and foremost. His words and Katherine Blackmore's images capture the sights, sounds, smells, and (my favorite part) tastes of the ballpark. Via their narrative, we spend a day vicarioulsy at the park. Simple enough, right?
As the story progresses and the game begins, however, we realize that much more is taking place. Betsy and Grandpa are teaching us, step by step and in plain English, how to keep score. For the those who are as clueless as me, keeping score in baseball goes way beyond tallying runs!
Codes and symbols are entered onto a scorecard, effectively chronicling every offensive and defensive play of the game. From what friends have told me, baseball fans can read a score book and see the entire game played out in their heads in the same way that musicians can read sheet music and actually "hear the song."
So while I started out as a true scoring novice, by book's end I had a pretty good idea of the whole process. And trust me, if I can figure it out, anyone can! Betsy's Day at the Game would definitely score a home run with any young baseball fan. Using the handy scorecards supplied in the back of the book, fans could easily follow along with and score their favorite team at the park or on TV.
You can enter to win a free copy of this book for your fave fan or yourself by simply emailing me at keithschoch at gmail dot com (standard email format) with PLAY BALL! in the subject line. Contest closes at 11:59 PM EST Friday, April 19, 2013.
Check out a tutorial on scoring if you want more examples, plus the formulas to figure out all the stats you would ever need. The actual scorecard isn't as nice as the one in the back of Betsy's Day at the Game, however.
Taking your child to the park for the first time? Definitely have a Plan B! We know how attention spans can dwindle as kids become hot, tired, cranky, over-sugared, and all of the above. TeachMama has a fabulous set of suggestions for surviving your outing using Kid-Friendly Learning During Baseball Games.
With 42, the Jackie Robinson movie, releasing in theaters this weekend, younger readers might interested in learning more about this courageous hero in baseball history. For readers in grades 2-5, I highly recommend Jackie Robinson: American Hero, written by the star's own daughter, Sharon Robinson. This transitional book features not only the perfect blend of images and text, but also the perfect blend of backstory and biography. Sharon Robinson provides young readers with just enough historical context to understand and appreciate what made JackieRobinson's accomplishments incredible not only for his time, but for all of time. If you're a teacher hoping to engage your reluctant readers with chapter books, this one is a winner!
Whatever After: Fairest of All. Sara Mlynowski. 2012. Scholastic. 170 pages.
Abby and Jonah are modern day children traveling--at least in this first book--through a magic mirror to the land of fairy tales. Abby and her brother Jonah accidentally ruined the story of Snow White when they prevented her from eating the witch's poisoned apple. Now, they must come up with a way to set things right, and introduce Snow White to her Prince Charming (Prince Trevor). Of course, this won't be an easy task, but with a little teamwork, anything can be accomplished.
I liked this one. After reading heavier books like Sever and The Wall, it is nice to have something so deliciously light and completely non-serious.
Read Whatever After: Fairest of All
If you're looking for a new series to introduce to young readers (age 8+)
If you are looking for a new fantasy series for the youngest of readers
If you enjoy fairy tale retellings AND children's books (this is NOT a YA book; it is clearly a children's book.)
The Runaway King. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. Scholastic. 352 pages.
I really LOVED The False Prince. The Runaway King did not disappoint as a sequel. The novel opens with an assassination attempt,"I had arrived early for my own assassination." I love it when books have great first lines! How could I not want to read on?! Jaron has only been on the throne a short while and already the kingdom is in great danger, Jaron's life is at risk. The regents of the kingdom want Jaron to go into hiding, "for his own good" of course. They would rather deal with a steward in the king's place than have a "boy" on the throne, a boy who isn't afraid of facing reality. Jaron looks at the facts and sees: WAR IS COMING, WAR IS COMING, WAR IS COMING. His regents seem to see a different reality: peace, peace, peace, we must have peace no matter what, peace, peace, always we must have peace. Jaron would feel absolutely alone--forsaken--if it wasn't for a few friends who knew him before, knew him as Sage...
Running away from the throne, from the kingdom, might be Jaron's best option...
The Runaway King is such an exciting book! I love, love, love the fact that we get to go with Jaron/Sage on his journey into enemy territory as his own cleverness is put to the test...
I am still loving the world-building, the characterization, the dialogue, the storytelling. It's a GREAT book.
“Above all else, I think that you are a compulsive liar." My laughter was tense, but sincere. "Hardly. In fact, I consider myself a compulsive truth teller. It's only that everyone else seems compelled to misunderstand me.”
Read The Runaway King
If you LOVED The False Prince, it will not disappoint!
If you enjoy fantasy novels
If world-building, characterization, and great storytelling matter to you!
The False Prince. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2012. Scholastic. 342 pages.
I thought this one would be good, but even I didn't expect it to be THAT GOOD. This book is WONDERFUL. Everything I wanted it to be! Readers first meet an orphan named Sage. When we meet him, he's on the run having just stolen meat from the butcher. He is "rescued" from the butcher by someone in the crowd, Connor. But is the rescue genuine?
Connor goes with Sage to the orphanage and explains that he's just bought Sage. Sage soon meets other orphan boys his own age that Connor has bought from various orphanages in the land. He's taking them to his castle...
Sage is suspicious fearing that Connor and the men working for him are DANGEROUS. Yes, he could be beaten, he could be imprisoned, but he knows that he could also be KILLED if he displeases Connor. Does knowing this make Sage less defiant or outspoken? Not really.
Connor has a plan--an ambitious plan. The royal family has been killed, murdered, and no one knows the truth, yet. The second son was presumed dead at sea, but, what if one of the orphan boys could assume this second son's identity and become king? Connor wants the boys in competition with one another and in training to become the future king. In a few weeks time, he'll pick the "lucky" boy.
Sage wants to be the boy, for better or worse, perhaps knowing that to fail in this means certain death. But that doesn't mean he likes Connor or trusts him. He doesn't trust Connor...at all.
I loved spending time with Sage! I loved being introduced to this fantasy world!!! I loved the setting, the characterization, the writing!!! This is a magical, oh-so-satisfying read!
“The saddest thing is there won’t be anyone to miss us when we’re gone. No family, no friends, no one waiting at home.” “It’s better that way,” I said. “It’ll be easier for me, knowing my death doesn’t add to anyone’s pain.” “If you can’t give anyone pain, then you can’t give them joy either.”
Read The False Prince
If you like fantasy, especially MG or YA fantasy
If you love fantasy, this is a MUST read
If you like fantasy novels with great world-building and characterization
He makes his living scaring children and has been called the Stephen King of children’s books.
“Goosebumps” author, R.L. Stine sat down with mediabistroTV to talk about how finding a typewriter at the age of nine started him on his journey to becoming one of the most successful children’s book authors in history.
Today, check out this Mark Teague video from School Library Journal's 100 Scope Notes. You'll not only get to peek into his studio and see his process, you'll get a bit of advise and inspiration. Also check out this great interview with Mark and Jane Yolen from Scholastic. You find some of Mark's books here. And his bio here. Enjoy!
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Tweet As you may recall, Craig Thompson’s followup to the long brewing Habibi will be a kids comic, called Space Dumplins, which will be published by Scholastic, arrival date unknown. (What was it we were just saying about space comics?) On his blog, Thompson just announced that Dave Stewart will be doing the coloring: The [...]
Scholastic has unveiled the first of seven new covers for a set of U.S. trade paperback editions of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series. The new editions will come out in September.
Amulet graphic novel artist Kazu Kibuishi created the covers. What do you think? Kibuishi explained his process in the release:
When I was asked to submit samples, I initially hesitated because I didn’t want to see them reinterpreted! However, I felt that if I were to handle the project, I could bring something to it that many other designers and illustrators probably couldn’t, and that was that I was also a writer of my own series of middle grade fiction. As an author myself, I tried to answer the question, ‘If I were the author of the books – and they were like my own children – how would I want them to be seen years from now?’
Revenge of The Girl With The Great Personality. Elizabeth Eulberg. 2013. [March] Scholastic. 272 pages.
I have enjoyed Elizabeth Eulberg's work in the past--The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom and Prejudice--so I was hoping that I would enjoy her newest YA novel. It didn't work for me. But I think it may still work for many readers.
The heroine of Revenge of the Girl with The Great Personality is Lexi. She is the girl with the "great personality." It's a label that she has difficulty letting go of, in a way, because she believes what she hears or overhears about herself. What should you know about Lexi? Well, she has a seven year old sister who's into beauty pageants. Her mom is obsessed with putting her sister into every pageant possible--no matter the cost, no matter the drama. Lexi is part of this lifestyle--like it or not. And her favorite thing about the pageant life is spending time with Logan. (Logan has a girlfriend, Alyssa, who's in pageants.)
Essentially Lexi hates not having a boyfriend or a life and one day she's dared by her gay best friend, Benny, to do something about it. He dares her to wear make-up for a week, to do her hair, to wear dresses, etc. She then dares him to start talking to the guy he likes, to ask him out, etc.
What will happen when Lexi transforms into the most beautiful woman ever? Will she get attention? The right kind of attention? Will everyone suddenly think she's worth knowing? worth talking to? worth eating lunch with? worth inviting to parties? worth dating? What will people start saying about her and her new look? And dare she go back to her old self?
I did not like this one. Lexi's obsession with Logan prevents her from taking the one guy who might actually like her seriously. Though it doesn't stop her from dating him [Taylor] for most of the book. While I am glad that Lexi did not get a happily ever after--with either Taylor or Logan--and that she eventually realized how silly she'd been over Logan once she caught a glimpse of the real Logan, I still found most of the book annoying.
Revenge of The Girl with the Great Personality has plenty of drama and conflict. Lexi's family is certainly dysfunctional and broken. Lexi struggles to have a good relationship with her mom and her sister. And there is even a love triangle, of sorts. For those that like YA books focusing on popularity and fitting in or not fitting in...it may be right for you. But. It didn't work for me.
I am very excited to announce that Jenne Abramowitz, Senior Editor at Scholastic has agreed to be out Guest Critiquer for February. She acquires chapter books and middle grade fiction, as well as easy readers. She has worked with a diverse and talented list of authors and illustrators including Marion Dane Bauer, Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, Frank Remkiewicz, Beth Ain, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Robert Neubecker, and Kevin Sherry.
Before joining Scholastic, Jenne worked at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency and Harlequin. Jenne looks for commercial voices and high-concept plots. She loves mysteries, modern (but not epic) fantasy, adventures, humor, ghost stories, and anything with a really juicy secret.
Jenne will be on the faculty at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June and doing critiques. This is a great opportunity to, not only, learn from Jenne, but to get a flavor of what she thinks and help you prepare. Registration will open shortly for the conference. Don’t worry about not seeing the information, I will post as soon as you can register. The New Jersey conference gets writer’s and illustrator from all over the country and many parts of the world.
Deadline for First Page Critique Submission: February 23rd.
Here is an incredible opportunity for children’s book authors. The National Association of Elementaary School Principals has teamed up with Charlesbridge Publishing to discover, publish and launch two aspiring writer’s careers. There will be two winners, a children’s picture book winner and a children’s chapter book winner.
DEADLINE:Entries need to be postmarked by March 15th, 2013
What is the National Children’s Book of the Year Contest? It’s a contest for prospective children’s authors to submit manuscript(s) for picture book and/or chapter book written for children 3-16 years of age. Applicants have the opportunity for their work to be endorsed by the NAESP Foundation and published by a nationally known publisher.
Why submit a manuscript? It is extremely difficult to break into the publishing world, let alone have your manuscript reviewed by an esteemed publisher. This is your chance to have your work(s) reviewed by a publisher with a proven track record and extensive outreach across the nation. If you win, you will receive a contract with Charlesbridge Publishing and have your work endorsed by the NAESP Foundation. This is a wonderful opportunity for authors, aspiring authors, or anyone with a great piece of children’s literature.
Who is eligible? This opportunity is for any individual who has written a children’s manuscript that they feel is worthy of being published.
Who is judging and what are the judging criteria? A select panel including experts from the fields of editing, education, reviewing, bookselling, and libraries will judge each manuscript. Judging will be based on content, originality, and age-appropriateness.
How do I submit my manuscript? 1. Download an entry form 2. Attach your completed manuscript(s) 3. Enclose cash, check or credit card information payable to NAESP Foundation $45 for the first manuscript and $25 for second and subsequent entries (entry fees are non-refundable) 4. Mail entry form and manuscript(s) to the NAESP Foundation, Attn.: National Children’s Book of the Year Contest, 1615, Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. No email entries are accepted.
When does the contest end and how do I know if I won? Entries can be submitted until March 1, 2012. Five finalists will be announced on March 23, 2012. You will be contacted via email if you are a finalist or check the NAESP Foundation homepage after March 1, 2012. Two winners will be announced March 23, 2012 at NAESP 2012 Annual Conference and receive a contract to publish his/her books.
What do the two winners receive? Each winner will receive a contract to have his/her book published by Charlesbridge Publishing in Boston and endorsed by the NAESP Foundation with the NAESP Foundation Children’s Book Award emblem on his/her book.
Will I get my manuscripts back? No, please send copies of manuscript only.
Do I have to submit illustrations? No, illustrations are not required for either category. The publisher will identify an illustrator after the manuscript is approved.
Do I relinquish rights after I submit my manuscript? No, the authors retain all rights unless they win and work with Charlesbridge in a publishing contract.
If I win, will I receive royalties from the selling of my book? The author contract, including royalties will be negotiated with Charlesbridge, but you are under no obligation to accept they agreement if you decide otherwise.
Who will sell the books? The books will be marketed for sale via the extensive Charlesbridge Publishing network which will include school libraries and major retail sellers. The books will also be marketed and sold to the education market via NAESP.
Where can I go for more information? More information about the contest and download an entry form is available on the Foundation page, or by contacting:
In case you missed the announcement on Sunday, I am very excited to announce that Jenne Abramowitz, Senior Editor at Scholastic has agreed to be out Guest Critiquer for February. She acquires chapter books and middle grade fiction, as well as easy readers. She has worked with a diverse and talented list of authors and illustrators including Marion Dane Bauer, Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, Frank Remkiewicz, Beth Ain, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Robert Neubecker, and Kevin Sherry.
Before joining Scholastic, Jenne worked at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency and Harlequin. Jenne looks for commercial voices and high-concept plots. She loves mysteries, modern (but not epic) fantasy, adventures, humor, ghost stories, and anything with a really juicy secret.
Jenne will be on the faculty at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June and doing critiques. This is a great opportunity to, not only, learn from Jenne, but to get a flavor of what she thinks and help you prepare for the conference. Registration will open shortly for the conference. Don’t worry about not seeing the information, I will post as soon as registration is open. The New Jersey conference gets writer’s and illustrator from all over the country and many parts of the world.
Deadline for First Page Critique Submission: February 23rd.
WRITERSSending in a First Page: 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. Put “December First Page Critique” or “February First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line and send it to me at: Kathy.temean(at)gmail.com and send by February 23rd. Make sure you have your name on the submission, a title, and indicate the genre. Also let me know which steps you took, so I will know how many times to put your name in the basket. The four chosen and their critiques will be posted on March 1st.
The picture prompt for this month is by Lisa Anchin to help inspire a first page for Free Fall Friday or send a first page in progress from a story. Lisa was featured on Illustrator Saturday on October 27th last year. Take a look to see more of her great artwork. http://wp.me/pss2W-5yi
AUTHORS: If you have a new book coming out and want to be considered for a post, please e-mail me at: Kathy.temean (at) gmail.com
Call for illustrations for February: You can send anything, but it may not get used for February, unless I have a post that will go with it. I will try to use all illustrations that reflect the month. You do not have to wait, I will post the illustrations as they come in. Please make sure the illustration is at least 500 pixels wide and include a blurb about yourself and a link to see more of your work. Please send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com and put “February Illustration” or “General Illustration” in the subject box.
I was never the highest jumper or the fastest sprinter at school, and standing in the middle of a netball court surrounded by a pack of short-nailed, indomitable girls with only a thin bib between them and my trembling heart filled me with terror. No, sport and I don’t really gel well. I lacked that flame of desire to cross the line first; unlike Jack, the newest hero of Scholastic’s Mates-Great Aussie Yarns series.
Christine Bongers’ freshly released, Drongoes, is a magic little yarn about confronting fears, surmounting obstacles like Corby Park Hill, true grit and above all friendship, and is faintly reminiscent of the classic fable, the Hare and the Tortoise in so much as the unexpected outcome leaves us with an immense and satisfying sense of victor victorious.
It’s Jack’s last year to beat ego-inflated Rocket Robson in the Year Five cross-country race at the athletics carnival. It’s also his best mate, asthma-stricken, Eric’s chance to simply finish the race. All of Eric’s previous attempts have been thwarted by over-anxious intentions and Eric’s inability to breathe.
Eric however excels at best-mateship and together, he and Jack embark on a determined training program consisting mostly of encouragement, patience and the ubiquitous presence of a flock of spangled drongoes.
In true slow and steady style, they compete against Rocket Robson against all odds, with surprisingly hilarious and touching results.
I’ve been a fan of this ripper series for some years now. The short, Aussie flavoured stories showcase some of Australia’s finest and funniest children’s writers. Christine Bongers’ contribution is no exception.
There are dozens of little things I liked about Drongoes: the title for one – the re-emergence of a classic slice of Aussie vernacular, the strong undercurrent of mateship, the timely message that pride (and too many pies) comes before a fall, and the subtle reference to Eric’s ethnicity and Jack’s personality through their nicknames; Puff the Magic Dragon and Drongo. But it was the ultimate act of selflessness on Jack’s part that made me want to stand up and whoop along with the cheering crowd in the end. I actually shed a tear or two instead!
What I love about this series is how each powerful storyline is supported by equally fabulous illustrations, in this case aptly provided by Dan McGuiness. Each page is smothered in pictures, with complimentarily themed page borders and interesting fonts; perfect for magnetising the interest of 6 – 8 year olds taking up chapter books for the first time. The explanatory text at the end is a lovely informative bonus.
I still don’t have much time or talent for sport. But I do adore spangled drongoes, who fortunately frequent my backyard too. What Drongoes did for me was to bring the two unexpectedly and effortlessly together so that the resulting spark almost ignited that flame to jump up and race off into the sunset – almost.
Chuck Sambuchino says Steve Kasdin who joined Curtis Brown in 2012 is looking to build his list of writers. Steve has over twenty years’ experience in books and publishing, beginning his career as the Mystery buyer at Barnes & Noble. He has been a Marketing executive at St. Martin’s Press, Scholastic and Harcourt, an agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency and worked on Content Acquisition in the Kindle group at Amazon.com. In addition to representing clients at Curtis Brown, he is also the agency’s Director of Digital Strategy, advising clients on all aspects of electronic publishing.
He is seeking: “The most important thing I’ve learned in over twenty years in publishing is also the simplest: plot sells. And the definition of what makes a great plot is also very simple: interesting, well-drawn characters thrown into unpredictable situations. I’m looking for: commercial fiction, including Mysteries/Thrillers, Romantic Suspense (emphasis on the suspense), and Historical Fiction); Narrative Nonfiction, including Biography, History and Current Affairs; and Young Adult Fiction, particularly if it has adult crossover appeal. I am NOT interested in SF/Fantasy, Memoirs, Vampires and writers trying to capitalize on trends.”
How to submit: skasdin [at] cbltd.com. Responds in 4-6 weeks. Please send a query letter about what makes your book unique, a 1-3 page plot synopsis, a brief bio (including a description of your publishing history, if you have one), and the first 40-50 pages of your manuscript as a Word attachment to the email. “Let me know in your query letter if I am reading your work exclusively, in which case, I shall give it priority. If the book has been self-published or previously published, please let me know all the details – publisher, date, etc.”
Here are the four winning first pages critiqued by Sr. Editor Jenne Abramowitz from Scholastic:
Raise and Release (contemporary fiction – coming-of-age) by Betty Vanderwielen
“Dad! A raccoon!”
The shoulder belt bit into Lance’s chest as his dad slammed on the brakes. Lance barely registered the car’s swerve, the final jerky stop, his dad’s arm thrust out toward him. His eyes stayed on the grayish-brown creature launched to the side of the road. And something spiraling off into the underbrush, something it had been carrying in its mouth.
Lance held his breath as the raccoon landed and lay still. He watched it push itself upright, stagger, fall, force itself up again, stumble into the woods.
“Are you all right?” his dad’s voice broke through.
“She’s hurt,” Lance said, pulling the seat belt release with one hand, reaching for the door handle with the other.
His dad pulled him back into the seat. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“She’s not dead. But she’s hurt. We have to help her!”
“Don’t be stupid, Lance. You never approach an injured animal. That raccoon would claw your eyes out if you tried to touch it.”
“But, Dad, it’s our fault.”
“My fault!” His dad released Lance’s arm. “It’s not like I tried to hit it. The thing had no business on the road. Put your seat belt back on.”
“She had something in her mouth. A baby I think. It got thrown over there, in that brushy section.” Lance pointed, but his dad’s head was turned the opposite direction looking for oncoming traffic. “Let me go see, Dad. A baby can’t survive without its mother.”
“It’s not a baby. Probably just something it caught for food,” his father answered without turning around. “A deer mouse maybe.”
“But what if it’s a baby raccoon? On Animal Channel they showed a mother raccoon carrying a baby in her mouth like that.”
Jenne’s Response to: Raise and Release by Betty Vanderwielen
Immediately, I can sense the tension between Lance and his father. It’s clear they have very different values when it comes to animal welfare, and I’m guessing this is going to be a cause for major conflict over the course of this manuscript. And it’s also clear that Lance’s father is more deeply engaged with his own inner thoughts than he is with his son’s beliefs or feelings. When Lance wants to take responsibility for this accident, his father immediately reacts in a defensive, aggressive manner. I suspect this book will explore this relationship and how it affects Lance’s choices, which could make for a really interesting emotional narrative.
I do wonder, though, about where this first page initially drops the reader. It can always be exciting to begin a story in the center of the action. But sometimes this doesn’t allow readers to get to know characters well enough before asking them to care about what’s important to them. In this first page, we immediately meet Lance who wants to help the raccoon and her baby and his father who just wants to get out of the situation, and they’re depicted in fairly black and white terms. Lance is on the side of good and right, and his father, who goes as far as calling his son stupid is clearly not. I would have liked to see a bit of non-raccoon-related interaction between Lance and his father before the accident to help show how the dynamics between them are oriented in general rather than just on the topic of animals, and to give the reader a more nuanced sense of each of them so that we are introduced to them as layered three-dimensional characters rather than simpler archetypes.
Additionally, at times the characters narrate action which might be more naturally conveyed to the reader through description. For example, when Lance explains that he thought he saw a baby raccoon thrown into the brush, he’s overly explaining an event that his father may have seen. If the reader were shown Lance observing this instead, the information would be conveyed in a more believable way.
The Art of Being Remmy
(An illustrated, middle grade novel of about 40,000 words)
By Mary Zisk
Miss Krasner, the art teacher, stood so close to my desk, I could smell her lily-of-the-valley perfume mixed with a whiff of cigarette smoke. While she shuffled through my drawings, I watched the red nails on her fingers dance and I bit my lip.
All the eyes of my third grade class were on me, except for my best friend, Debbie, who was busy drawing hearts on a pink piece of paper with a magenta crayon.
Miss Krasner crossed her arms, narrowed her dark Cleopatra-lined eyes, and puckered her lips.
“My, my,” she said and broke into a wide smile. “You’re a regular little Rembrandt, aren’t you?”
Rembrandt? A famous artist?
My pal, Billy, grinned and winked at me.
With a pat on my shoulder, Miss Krasner leaned down and whispered, “I think you have a special spark, Rosella. Don’t lose it.”
A spark. I had a spark.
Miss Krasner didn’t know then that her declaration would lead to my nickname, Remmy. The important thing was that she had stamped me with her seal of approval. I was an Artist with a capital A. It was my dream and then I knew it was also my destiny. Nothing could stop me.
Until last year.
Jenne’s Response to: The Art of Being Remmy by Mary Zisk
There are so many wonderful details in this first page. With her lily and cigarette smell and her dancing red nails, we definitely get a visual image of what the kind of woman Miss Krasner the art teacher is. I do wonder though about the voice of this character. The compliment she pays Rosella has a bit of arch humor to it, and comes off a bit sarcastically to me. Which both made me question what I’d previously thought of this character and also of how I’m supposed to interpret Rosella’s artistic ability. Is she actually talented? Or is she so bad in art class that she’s given an ironic nickname? Details like the smile and the pat on the back the teacher gives Rosella answer these questions, but I’m still left with a conflicted picture of this character. And since she’s being used to set-up reader expectations for how Rosella sees herself, I wonder if it might make more sense to be clearer about all of the details that show us who she is.
I quite like the tone of the writing in this first page. It’s intimate and personal, a bit wistful and full of hints about what’s to come. The last few lines on this page are a great set-up for the drama to come as Rosella aka Remmy’s story unfolds. But the timeline of this piece does confuse me a bit. This initial scene takes place when the character is in third grade and quickly jumps to an allusion to what’s happened later in seventh grade, from the point of view of after events have transpired, all of this transpiring in the past. Which is a lot to sort out. I wonder if it might be clearer to simply begin with the events of seventh grade in 1963 to streamline the reader’s understanding of the setting.
All-in-all, I’d definitely keep reading this manuscript.
MAG-NIF-I-CENT by Betty H. Matthews
It was sunrise in the garden. Willie the caterpillar munched, and crunched and slurped his way across a
crisp hibiscus leaf. He looked up and found himself surrounded by a crowd of BIG eyes. Then he heard a crowd of BIG voices.
They ooh-ed and aah-ed, “It’s outstanding…exquisite in every way.”
The loudest BIG voice gasped, “It is truly magnificent!”
Willie peeked up. It was an orange hibiscus blossom. Must be nice to be mag-ni-fi-cent…whatever that means,thought Willie.
His friend, Pete, wiggled over.
“Pete, do you know what mag-nif-i-cent means?”
“I don’t have a flea’s idea,” said Pete. “Ask Mrs. Quail. She knows lots of words.”
Willie wiggled down to the tomato plants. “Mrs. Quail, I need your help to figure out what mag-nif-i-cent means.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Quail, “it has to do with art. Look up. Do you see all of the colors in the morning sky?”
“Yep, I sure do,” said Willie.
“It’s a masterpiece,” said Mrs. Quail. “It’s magnificent. That’s the perfect word.”
“But I can’t paint a picture like that. What can I do to be mag-nif-i-cent?”
“Might ask Sylvia Hen. Too-da-loo!”
Willie wiggled to the hen house. “Good morning, Mrs. Hen.”
“Hi, little feller. Whatcha need?”
“I’m looking for MY mag-nif-i-cent. Do you know where to look?
Mrs. Hen looked down at her nest. “I ‘jest’ might be able to help you.”
He heard a little cracking sound and then a whole little chick stepped right out of that shell.
Sylvia Hen clucked and cooed, “My, oh my! Hal-le-lu-jah! If this ain’t magnificent, I don’t know what is.”
Jenne’s Response to: MAG-NIF-I-CENT by Betty H. Matthews
The genre of this first page wasn’t labeled, but based on the young tone, lovely restraint in description, and the well-balanced structure, I’m going to assume this is a picture book manuscript. One of my favorite things about this page is the occasional specificity of language (“Too-da-loo!”) in dialogue that really brings the characters to life. Sylvia Hen’s southern mothering is an especially nice touch. I do find myself wishing Willie’s voice had that same specificity of language. He’s a bit less fleshed out than many of the other characters we meet here.
I find the premise of this manuscript both sweet and a bit confusing. On the one hand, Willie is going to collect lots of examples of things that can be considered magnificent, and I can already see in Mrs. Quail’s description of art and Sylvia Hen’s brand-new chickadees, that these examples will be charmingly varied in their depictions of big, bold conceptual ideas and small, personal moments. On the other hand, the premise is nestled in Willie’s exploration of what the word “magnificent” means, when it seems clear he already at least knows it’s something wonderful. He doesn’t question what “exquisite” or “outstanding” mean, he recognizes oohs and ahs, and concedes that it must be nice to be magnificent. Which tells me this book is really more about him finding the magnificent in the world around him and in himself than it is an exploration of unfamiliar vocabulary. I think the premise would be more effectively set up if that were clearer for the reader.
Words Can Hurt by Janice Milusich - middle grade
The house was dark, but from her room Talia could see the glow of the kitchen light, when she looked down the hallway. Her stomach knotted. Dad would be home soon.
Mom shuffled a deck of cards. They slapped the kitchen table as she dealt them: king, queen, jack, ten—solitaire. Mom played it every night while she waited.
Dog-earing the page of the book she’d been reading, Talia tucked The Secret Garden under her pillow, and clicked off her light. Closing her eyes, she pictured a garden full of sweet roses, honeysuckle… Raising her snub freckled nose, she could almost smell their sweetness.
BAM! The front door shuddered. Talia snatched at her covers. She shoved her arms to her side and straightenedher legs.
Mom turned on the light and crossed the hall. Talia’s eyes followed her, until she couldn’t see her anymore.
“Why was it locked?” asked Dad.
Mom trailed him across the living room. “Why’re you so late?” She sounded tired.
“Late—? Late for what? ” Dad was ready for a fight. He stopped in the hallway.
Through her lashes Talia saw his back was turned. Tall, his body all squares and
rectangles, he towered over Mom. He turned toward Talia’s room. Her leg twitched—that was all it took.
“Talia Maria Keens, come out to the kitchen.”
The only time Dad said all three of her names together was when she’d done something wrong, or he thought she had.
“Talia, I said come out here.”
Jenne’s Response to: Words Can Hurt by Janice Milusich
The tone of this first page is dark and ominous and does a really effective job of drawing the reader in. There are so many fabulous descriptions, from the cards “slapping” the table to the front door “shuddering,” that all fit together to create this really tense scene. I’m wondering what the history of this family is, and what is going on with Talia’s father to make her and her mother both anticipate his anger so severely. And I’m also wondering what specific incident is driving the confrontation that brewing here. Because of the details chosen to introduce us to Talia (her observant, thoughtful voice and the fact that’s she’s reading a classic novel), she comes across as a quiet, well-behaved girl. So the possibility of wrong-doing, even if only in her father’s eyes, really piques my interest and makes me want to find out more.
The one element that’s not quite working for me here is the way the author’s tried to convey physical descriptions of Talia. The mentions of her “snub freckled nose” and the way she looks up through her lashes feel a bit forced into the scene to help show the reader what she looks like. But I’m not sure these details are necessary in this first moment, and might be better served by introducing them at a more natural point in the story that focuses on self-reflection rather than anxiety directed outward at her family.
I want to thank Jenne for sharing her expertise with us. It is greatly appreciated. Remember you have a chance to meet Jenne at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June.
The Bar Code Tattoo. Suzanne Weyn. 2004/2012. Scholastic. 256 pages.
The Bar Code Tattoo is a quick read that I ultimately found disappointing. Kayla is weeks away from turning seventeen, in just a few weeks she'll have to choose whether she wants to conform or rebel against society and the government. The tattoo is relatively new--at least to the United States, having been tested first in Europe and Asia. And the tattoo is changing lives, for better or worse. For some who receive it, their lives improve dramatically: new opportunities at work, pay increases, etc. For others, it ruins them almost completely. Some lose their jobs, their homes, their credit or money no longer being "good" enough to be accepted anywhere. Not that any of this is being publicized, not really. Those who speak out against the tattoo are in the minority--or so it seems. And while there are rebel groups out there, well, they don't have the power to change things. At least not yet. Kayla's mind is made up almost from the time of her father's death. She blames--and her mother blames--his suicide to the tattoo. He has NOT been the same since receiving it, the changes coming slowly but surely over a month or two. Kayla joins a group she learns about at school, and so her rebellion begins. It may not seem like much of a commitment at first, but Kayla will ultimately have to make some tough choices.
It is a quick read, very fast-paced, very plot-driven. It started off promising enough, but by the end I was disappointed. The last few chapters were odd.
Read The Bar Code Tattoo
If you're looking for a light, quick read
If you're looking for a futuristic (2025 or so?) read featuring conspiring evil governments, societies, scientists, corporations, etc.
Dear America: Christmas After All. Kathryn Lasky. 2001/2012. Scholastic. 192 pages.
November 25, 1932 Indianapolis, Indiana The Day After Thanksgiving Mama and Papa believe in cold. That's why I tell Lady we have nothing to fear. You see, Mama and Papa have toughened us up on the sleeping porch. That's where we sleep with no heat and just screens, and not just in summer but all through the fall and beginning again in early spring. We're used to cold. But now we're going to be hardened off for the rest of the year in the rest of the house. You see, Mama and Papa are closing off the dining room and the big library and four bedrooms.
Christmas After All is my first Dear America book, but it won't be my last! I have a feeling I would have loved this series as a kid! The book is set in November and December of 1932. The heroine, Minnie Swift, is one of many in her large family. The Depression has changed things for her family, sacrifices are having to be made, but Minnie is learning to change and adapt with those times. One of the biggest changes is welcoming in an orphan cousin, Willie Faye. This novel does have heart. I enjoyed seeing these two cousins become close; it also works as a nice coming-of-age story for Minnie. Many things may be changing in the family: her dad's unemployment, her sisters growing up and starting to date, etc., but there will always be plenty of love...even if that love is served au gratin.
I really appreciated the attention to detail. Learning about radio shows and music, comics and books, movies and movie stars, fashion and hair styles. Learning about crafts and hobbies. Her family is very creative and resourceful! And the food!!!! Oh Minnie definitely had opinions on the new recipes. Oh how she hated ASPIC. Not that she was fond of having things au gratin...but tongue aspic--oh, the thought! One of her favorite dishes is Welsh rarebit.
Read Christmas After All
If you are a fan of Kathryn Lasky; this story is inspired (in part) by her family history.
If you enjoy the Dear America series
If you are looking for historical fiction set during the 1930s
Kristy Thomas, Claudia Kishi and Mary Anne Spier are coming to an eReader near you. Scholastic will release the first twenty volumes of the The Baby-sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin as eBooks on December 1, 2012.
Each eBook will feature its original book cover created by artist Hodges Soileau. This venture marks the first time the popular young-adult series will be available in digital format. Fans can also go to the official Baby-sitters ClubFacebook page to access previews of the new eBooks, quizzes, polls, images and memorabilia.
Here’s more from the release: “[The series] was supposed to debut in 1986 and end in 1987, and to consist of only four titles. Instead, it ended 15 years later, with four additional related series, approximately 250 titles, spawned a TV series as well as a movie, and prompted girls around the world to start their own baby-sitters clubs. The Baby-sitters Club became the first children’s series to appear on the USA Today bestseller list and was named one of the ‘Books of the Century’ by the New York Times Book Review.”
Dear America: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Like the Willow Tree, Portland Maine, 1918. Lois Lowry. 2011. Scholastic. 224 pages.
I enjoyed this Dear America book. I haven't read many in the series (so far), but what I have read I have enjoyed for the most part. Like the Willow Tree is set in Maine in the fall of 1918. The heroine, Lydia Amelia Pierce, endures many losses as she loses both parents and a baby sister to the Spanish influenza. Lydia and her older brother, Daniel, survive but are placed with a local Shaker community. The diary chronicles her time with the Shakers and provides an interesting look at faith and culture. Lydia and her brother, Daniel, react very differently to their new life, their new community. And yet, this community changes them both forever, both for the better. I would recommend this one.
Dear America: The Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, The Winter of Red Snow, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Kristiana Gregory. 1996/2010. Scholastic. 192 pages.
The Winter of Red Snow is my third Dear America novel to read, and it is probably my least favorite. The Revolutionary War is not one of my favorite time periods to read about. The book is set in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and the heroine's mother does George Washington's laundry while he's there. Readers learn a little about the hardships endured by just about everyone. Abigail and her older sister have opportunities to help the soldiers--sewing shirts, sewing coats, etc. And the father is a cobbler, so he's able to help as well. The book is rich in details, I think if I'd cared more about the time period I would have found it more interesting. Read The Winter of Red Snow
If you enjoy historical fiction
If you enjoy diary books
If you enjoy books set in Colonial America around the American Revolution
This is Not My Hat. Jon Klassen. 2012. Candlewick. 40 pages.
This hat is not mine. I just stole it. I stole it from a big fish. He was asleep when I did it. And he probably won't wake up for a long time. And even if he does wake up, he probably won't notice that it's gone.
I think I enjoyed This is Not My Hat even more than Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back. In this adventure, a little fish steals a little hat from a BIG fish. Since the big fish was asleep, this little fish is quite confident that the big fish will never, ever know who took his hat. The little fish thinks he's safe...probably. This one is told from his point of view, the illustrations let the reader know more than the little fish. Much more than the little fish! I think this one is quite clever.
Because Amelia Smiled. David Ezra Stein. 2012. Candlewick. 40 pages.
Because Amelia smiled, coming down the street...Mrs. Higgins smiled, too. She thought of her grandson, Lionel, in Mexico and baked some cookies to send to him. Because Mrs. Higgins baked cookies...Lionel ate one of the cookies. He decided to share the rest with his class...and teach them an English song about cookies. Because Lionel taught his class a song...
A little smile, a little kindness can go a long way. In fact, it may even travel around the whole world. Because a little girl, Amelia, smiled, she brought happiness and cheer to many, many people--almost all of them strangers. Little acts of kindness do matter. And you're never too small to make a difference. It is a sweet, inspirational story. I definitely enjoyed it.
Sky Color. Peter H. Reynolds. 2012. Candlewick. 32 pages.
Marisol was an artist. She loved to draw and paint, and she even had her very own art gallery. Not all her art hung in a gallery. Much of it she shared with the world.
Marisol is so excited to be painting part of a mural. She's volunteered to paint the sky. But when she realizes there isn't any blue paint to be found, well, she's not sure HOW she'll paint the sky after all. But a bus trip home, an evening watching the sun set, and a rainy morning inspire her to think differently and realize that many, many colors that could rightfully be called sky color! Peter H. Reynolds has written a handful of art-friendly picture books in addition to Sky Color. These include ISH and THE DOT. All three have been newly packaged together to form a "creatrilogy."
Day by Day. Susan Gal. 2012. Random House. 40 pages. Mile by mile, pigs motor west. Brick by brick, pigs build a house... and piece by piece, it becomes a home. Neighbor by neighbor, pigs say, "Welcome!" Arm in arm, new friendships begin. Then row by row, pigs plant a garden.
I really enjoyed Susan Gal's Day by Day. Readers follow a pig family as they move west, build a home, become part of a new community; a hard-working family that at last takes time to celebrate all together with food, dancing, family...and mud. I just love the illustrations! There are so many great spreads in this one, but I think my favorite is the pigs in their underclothes!!!
Unspoken. Henry Cole. 2012. Scholastic. 40 pages.
Unspoken is a wordless picture book for older readers. It is historical fiction, a story about the underground railroad. The heroine of this story is a young girl who sees someone hiding--a runaway slave--what she does next, silently, carefully--communicates everything that needs to be said. It is so difficult to review a wordless picture book, because the whole story is conveyed by illustrations and it is all left to be interpreted by the reader. But I think this one is worth reading even if you don't usually read picture books.
War Horse. Michael Morpurgo. 1982/2010. Scholastic. 176 pages.
This one surprised me. I didn't expect it to be so good, so compelling. After all, I don't "like" horse books. But. This little book is narrated by a horse named Joey. We get a glimpse of his life before--before he became a war horse, sent to Europe as part of a cavalry unit of British soldiers. We meet the son of his first owner, Albert, a boy who LOVES him oh-so-much, a boy who would do just about anything and everything for "his" horse. Joey is sold to the army because of the family's need for money. Albert is distressed, and Joey has to adapt for better or worse. But life does go on...readers get a glimpse of World War I as seen through the eyes of a horse. And it is an ugly, ugly mess. But the book, as a whole, is not as depressing as it might have been. That's not to say it's a cheerful book, but, it has many redeeming qualities. I love Joey's resilience; I love Albert's determination. There are some sad, brutal moments, but, it felt genuine and authentic--not manipulative.
Read War Horse
If you like horse books
If you don't like horse books
If you like historical fiction set around World War I
Hello everyone, first I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year. It has been a hard year for many of us and lots had happened. Now is the time to start a fresh in 2013. I want to welcome Scholastic Inc. to my every growing publisher list. I am very happy to have them aboard. Last update I reviewed three Young Adult Novels. In this update I will be reviewing three picture books.
1) "The Never- Ending Greenness. We made Israel Bloom."- The book was written and illustrated by Neil Waldman. Published by Boyds Mills Press Inc. 1997. Originally published by: NY Morrow Junior Books 1997. Summary: "When his family comes to live in Israel after the end of World War II, a young boy begins planting and caring for trees, a practice that spreads across the whole Country." The author tells us the story of one Jewish family who escaped the horrors of the Holocaust and settled in Israel. After witnessing the terror of World War II and the bareness of his town of Vilna, a boy decides to plant trees to bring the spark of life to his new home. The amazing Illustratrations add vividness to the story.
2) "Has a Donkey Ever Brought you breakfast in bed"- This book was written by Pat Brannon and illustrated by Karen Deming. Published by Freedom of Speech Publishing Inc., Leawood KS 2012. This author creates a funny world of "mighty" animals who can: "juggle lemons," "wear red go-go boots", or "tap dance all day long." It is a funny book with very simple illustrations that catch the eye. Even though it does not focus on one character, it is still a good story. Your child will be laughing and pointing out the wacky animal events in the book. If you want your child to have a good time get a copy.
3) "Dawn"- This book was written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. Published by Sunburst Books an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1974. This is the second edition 1987. It is a great book to read to your children before they go to sleep. Simple words and simple illustrations make them live and feel in the moment. We usually do not take a moment to observe our own surroundings: the star shining in the sky above, the bird singing, or the blooming flower below our feet. This book will encourage your children to live in the moment. I highly recommend this book for everyone. It is amazing how one picture and a few words can tell a story. Go out there and get your child a copy of this wonderful book.
Thank you everyone for following me on my blog. I will be celebrating two years in February, and I will try my best to make an update twice a month. Happy 2013 let your life shine life. Next time I will review Middle Grade books.
The Giant and How He Humbugged America. Jim Murphy. 2012. Scholastic. 112 pages.
The Giant may not be Jim Murphy's best work of nonfiction, it is still a mostly interesting account of an American hoax in the nineteenth century. The opening chapters tell an unfolding story of the discovering of the petrified giant and its immediate local success. The first fifty pages or so stay in the moment, the rest of the book, on the other hand, chronicles the hoax from beginning to end revealing the intent, showing how it was carried out, detailing all the people involved, following the story from its local beginning all the way around its tour. It does provide a behind-the-scenes look at supposedly "clever" deceivers, and the supposedly gullible audience that "should" have known better. I didn't particularly like learning about these (slimy) characters. But the story revealed wasn't uninteresting. But there were parts of the narration I just didn't care for. (I am not sure it was the author's intent to be condescending in matters of faith, but it didn't feel right to me either.)
Keep reading… Author Sharon Robinson Check out Sharon Robinson at www.sharonrobinsonink.com Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Check out Kadir Nelson at www.kadirnelson.com Publisher Scholastic Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2009) ISBN-10 0545052513 ISBN-13 978-0545052511