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Leo: A Ghost Story Written by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Christian Robinson Chronicle Books 8/25/2015 978-1-4521-3156-6 52 pages Age 3—5
“Most people cannot see ghosts. Can you?
“You would like being friends with Leo. He likes to draw, he makes delicious snacks, and most people can’t even see him. Because Leo is also a ghost. When a new family moves into his home and Leo’s efforts to welcome them are misunderstood, Leo decides it is time to leave and see the world. That is how he meets Jane, a kid with a tremendous imagination and an open position for a worthy knight. That is how Leo and Jane become friends. And that is when their adventures begin.”[press release]
Review Leo has lived alone in his house for some time as evidenced by his attire. He spends the time amusing himself with his drawings and taking adventures through the books he reads. Then, much to Leo’s delight, a family moves in, but when Leo tries to welcome them with mint tea and honey toast the family runs into the bathroom, locks the door, and considers their options. The young boy defiantly states,
“I hate tea! And I hate ghosts!”
(I suppose in their fright they forget a locked door won’t keep out a ghost, and it doesn’t.) Leo is floating above the tub. He hears the young boy’s words and decides it is time to leave his home and explore the world. But no one can see Leo. Worse, they walk right through him as he stands on the sidewalk.
Fortunes take a good turn the day Leo meets Jane. Jane is in need of a knight and thinks Leo will fit the bill. King Jane is introducing the new Sir Leo to her royal court—all imaginary friends. Leo is disappointed Jane thinks he is imaginary, rather than real, but Leo does not want to risk scaring Jane with the truth. That night, Leo moves into the living room just in time to see a burglar climbing through the window. The thief does not see Leo, walking right through the young ghost. Leo is not deterred. He finds a way to capture the thief and prove to Jane he is more than imaginary.
Leo: A Ghost Story begins to impress right from the cover. Underneath an inviting book jacket is a classy blue cover with Sir Leo’s shield. The spine simply says, “LEO.” The acrylic painted cut-out construction paper illustrations are shades of blue and blue-grey, and if you look closely—if you contain the imagination—you can see Leo in nearly every spread.
Those without the needed childlike imagination get a chance to see Leo on the occasions he chooses to reveal himself. I love that Leo draws and reads books. An adventure awaiting in books is a terrific message to send young children. I also love that Leo and Jane become friends, showing children that friendship does not need to be conventional, just accepting of differences. Leo is a great friend and an inspiring example for young children, as is Jane. I love Jane’s unquestioning acceptance of Leo, the ghost. When Leo tells Jane he is a ghost and her real friend, Jane replies,
“Oh! Well that’s even better.”
Young children will adore Leo and enjoy his friendship with “King” Jane. Many will commiserate with Leo when his “new family” misunderstands his intentions. What young child has not had something they meant one way been taken the other way? What adult, for that matter. Accepting others despite their differences is a good message and very appropriate for today’s world.
The press release for Leo: A Ghost Story states that Leo is a “charming tale of friendship . . . destined to become a modern classic that will delight readers for years to come.” After reading the story and enjoying the illustrations, it is difficult to disagree. Leo is a charming little ghost who easily captures the reader’s heart.
Full Disclosure: Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett & Christian Robinson, and received from Publisher, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Pram has never truly been told the tale of her beginnings. A beginning that started with her still inside her mother, even as she hung from the branch of the tree. Pram was orphaned right from the start, but was taken in by her two no-nonsense aunts. Pram is even short for Pragmatic -- named such because it was deemed sensible for a young lady, and sensible is just what the aunts wanted for Pram.
But Pram has always been the opposite of sensible. She’s dreamy, and her oldest and best friend is a ghost named Felix who appeared one day in the pond by the home for the aged where she lives with her aunts.
Pram is forced by the state to actually attend school at the age of eleven and this is where Pram meets her first real life friend. She gets into an argument with Clarence before school even starts when he informs her that she is sitting in his desk. By lunch time they have discovered that both of their mothers are dead and with this the seeds of their friendship are planted.
As time goes on, Pram doesn’t tell Clarence that she can speak with ghosts, but she does agree to accompany him to a spiritualist show where he hopes his mother’s spirit will reveal herself. Things don’t go as Clarence hoped and instead the spiritualist is very interested in Pram. What Pram and Clarence cannot know is that the spiritualist is anything but a charlatan, and a girl like Pram is very valuable to her.
What follows is a haunting and frightening ghost story that straddles the world of the living and the dead. Lyrical and tender, DeStefano’s story will scare readers without tipping into horror. This is an achingly beautiful story of love and loss, of friendship and family. A Curious Tale of the In-Between is for the deep reader, and I can see it becoming that touchstone title that ferries readers into more complex and intricate stories. Gorgeous.Add a Comment
Yesterday, Raina Telgemeier, author of the Eisner-winning autobiographical comic, Smiles, announced her next graphic novel. The book, entitled Ghosts, will be released in fall 2016, and will be published through Scholastic’s Graphix imprint, which focuses on YA and kids comics.
This is the story of a girl lost in a lonely, desolate, and bare world; and a girl lost in herself. Wasp is an Archivist, one of a handful of girls selected from a young age to serve in a religious order where she must capture ghosts, learn what she can from them about their lives in the world Before and then dispatch them. It is a good thing to finish them eternally, or so she has been trained to think. Wasp must also battle to the death for her title every year. There is a line of upstarts looking to become Archivist themselves, and it is also how she herself took the title. She wears the braids of the Archivist before her and of all the upstarts who have challenged her in her own hair. It’s a fierce and brutal world our Wasp inhabits. This is a girl who... Read more »
Scribble on her Dress .... from the book Thin Time
Matilda by Sophie Bignall
I was furious with Thomas for running off, but I had to find him. Crawling from under the bench, I tiptoed along the aisle to the wooden trellised gates and was shocked and surprised to hear Thomas giggling and the sound of gentle laughter. There was someone else in the church!
The laughter was such a comforting noise in that gloomy place and I hurried between the high-backed choir stalls into the cold moonlight pouring through the huge, stained glass window that filled most of the east wall of the church. In front of me was a vast expanse of dirty red carpet stained with candle wax. It covered the paving and the three wide shallow steps that led up to a low platform against the back wall of the church. On the platform was the altar, a long stone table draped with an old grey cloth, and sitting on the bottom step was Thomas with the young girl from the knight’s tomb beside him!
Her long hair fell in a colourless shawl round her thin shoulders. Her dress was like the cloth on the stone table, threadbare and so old it was hard to tell the colour it had once been. The folds of her dress were full of dust, but I saw smudges of gold paint on the cords and tassels of her cloak. Recovering a little from the shock of seeing her, I remembered something else and went hot and cold inside. I’d scribbled my name all over her. Thank goodness, I hadn’t scribbled on her hands and face!
The Plot: Amber is telling about the night her world went wild because the doors opened and the guards were missing. Amber is locked up in a juvenile facility for girls and the electric went out and the generator didn't kick in and all the girls are let out and free and running wild.
Violet is getting ready to go on stage. It is her final dance before she leaves for Juilliard. She is thinking about this final, home stage ballet dance and leaving this town and her family and her memories. It's like escaping a prison, she thinks, realizing it's a terrible thing to think considering what happened three years ago, when her what happened happened, when her best friend Orianna was sent to juvenile detention.
The Walls Around Us is about these three girls, Amber and Violet and Orianna, and how their stories overlap and weave together in a tangled mess of walls and doors, expectations and fears. And anger. Always, anger.
The Good: I'm a fan of Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls and 17 and Gone. The Walls Around Us doesn't disappoint; it may be my favorite one yet. Like those books, The Walls Around Us does many things: there is a surface story but there is also a story underneath, there are observations about how the world views teenage girls and how the girls view themselves, and there may or may not be a ghost story. Then there is the language, creating a world and a setting and a tone that wraps around us -- like walls wrap around us.
As with Suma's other stories, I don't want to give too much away, but at the same time, I just want to talk about what happens and what does not. So the short version is, drop everything and read The Walls Around Us.
The longer version, which some spoiler-sensitive won't want to read.
Amber is a long term inmate and introduces us to her world, starting on that night when the doors opened, to her world and the other girls. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? Why did they end up there? Does it matter, now that they are locked up, what came before or what will come after? As the chapters go back and forth, it is revealed that Orianna has not yet arrived at the facility which means all Amber says happens three years before Violet's story.
And something terrible is going to happen at that place, and Amber's role as observer and watcher and eavesdropper means she is going to tell it to us, best as she can. Orianna never speaks for herself: instead it is those who knew her who describe her.
For Amber, Orianna is the new girl who has to learn the ropes. But Amber is also puzzled by something else, because Ori seems somehow familiar. And that night of almost-escape, has it happened before? Is it happening again? Why do things yet to happen seem familiar?
For Violet, Orianna was her best friend. But also her number one competitor in ballet; even now, years after what happened and Ori was arrested and tried and sent away, it is Ori's easy accomplishments that drive Violet's own path. Vee is still competing. Violet's life has gone on exactly as it should, with her place at the ballet school, and her boyfriend, and a new best friend, and best of all she'll be leaving all this behind her shortly when she leaves for Juilliard.
What did happen? What did Ori do? What did Vee do?
Violet's story seems straight forward enough, even though she's reluctant to say what happened years before. And frankly Violet seems a bit hard, a bit of a bitch, but is wanting to leave your home and start the new life that college promises such a bad thing? Is wanting to forget painful memories bad, and don't some build a hard shell to deal with the past?
Violet wants to go see where Ori was sent, even though now the place is in ruins and no one is there. Or is it it abandoned? Do all the dreams and hopes and fears and anger of those girls just -- disappear, go away, when those girls go away? When Violet walks into that broken, abandoned place, does she see ghosts or is it her own guilt haunting her?
Anger. As I write this, I realize that if there is one thing that The Walls Around Us is about, it's not about ballet and friendships; it's not about murder and punishment; it's not about escape or justice.
It's about anger. Anger that girls feel for all the right reasons, anger at abandonment and betrayal and abuse, anger that is denied because society doesn't want to see it, anger that is denied because girls aren't supposed to be angry, anger at why some girls are punished and some are not. Anger at why some girls have things so easily and others do not. And being angry is hard work, no matter how much a girl tries to deny it and keep it in control. Eventually, the walls holding the anger in, the walls holding the anger out, have to come down.
Yes, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2015.
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We’re getting ready for Halloween this month by reading the classic horror stories that set the stage for the creepy movies and books we love today. Every Friday this October we’ve unveiled a part of Fitz-James O’Brien’s tale of an unusual entity in What Was It?, a story from the spine-tingling collection of works in Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson, edited by Darryl Jones. Last we left off the narrator, Harry, tried to fight off a mysterious creature fighting him in his bed. His friend Hammond had just come to his rescue.
Hammond stood holding the ends of the cord that bound the Invisible, twisted round his hand, while before him, self-supporting as it were, he beheld a rope laced and interlaced, and stretching tightly around a vacant space. I never saw a man look so thoroughly stricken with awe. Nevertheless his face expressed all the courage and determination which I knew him to possess. His lips, although white, were set firmly, and one could perceive at a glance that, although stricken with fear, he was not daunted.
The confusion that ensued among the guests of the house who were witnesses of this extraordinary scene between Hammond and myself, — who beheld the pantomime of binding this struggling Something, — who beheld me almost sinking from physical exhaustion when my task of jailer was over, — the confusion and terror that took possession of the bystanders, when they saw all this, was beyond description. The weaker ones fled from the apartment. The few who remained clustered near the door and could not be induced to approach Hammond and his Charge. Still incredulity broke out through their terror. They had not the courage to satisfy themselves, and yet they doubted. It was in vain that I begged of some of the men to come near and convince themselves by touch of the existence in that room of a living being which was invisible. They were incredulous, but did not dare to undeceive themselves. How could a solid, living, breathing body be invisible, they asked. My reply was this. I gave a sign to Hammond, and both of us — conquering our fearful repugnance to touch the invisible creature — lifted it from the ground, manacled as it was, and took it to my bed. Its weight was about that of a boy of fourteen.
‘Now, my friends,’ I said, as Hammond and myself held the creature suspended over the bed, ‘I can give you self-evident proof that here is a solid, ponderable body, which, nevertheless, you cannot see. Be good enough to watch the surface of the bed attentively.’
I was astonished at my own courage in treating this strange event so calmly; but I had recovered from my first terror, and felt a sort of scientific pride in the affair, which dominated every other feeling.
The eyes of the bystanders were immediately fixed on my bed. At a given signal Hammond and I let the creature fall. There was the dull sound of a heavy body alighting on a soft mass. The timbers of the bed creaked. A deep impression marked itself distinctly on the pillow, and on the bed itself. The crowd who witnessed this gave a low cry, and rushed from the room. Hammond and I were left alone with our Mystery.
We remained silent for some time, listening to the low, irregular breathing of the creature on the bed, and watching the rustle of the bed-clothes as it impotently struggled to free itself from confinement. Then Hammond spoke.
‘Harry, this is awful.’
‘But not unaccountable.’
‘Not unaccountable! What do you mean? Such a thing has never occurred since the birth of the world. I know not what to think, Hammond. God grant that I am not mad, and that this is not an insane fantasy!’
‘Let us reason a little, Harry. Here is a solid body which we touch, but which we cannot see. The fact is so unusual that it strikes us with terror. Is there no parallel, though, for such a phenomenon? Take a piece of pure glass. It is tangible and transparent. A certain chemical coarseness is all that prevents its being so entirely transparent as to be totally invisible. It is not theoretically impossible, mind you, to make a glass which shall not reflect a single ray of light, — a glass so pure and homogeneous in its atoms that the rays from the sun will pass through it as they do through the air, refracted but not reflected. We do not see the air, and yet we feel it.’
‘That’s all very well, Hammond, but these are inanimate substances. Glass does not breathe, air does not breathe. This thing has a heart that palpitates, — a will that moves it, — lungs that play, and inspire and respire.’
‘You forget the phenomena of which we have so often heard of late,’ answered the Doctor, gravely. ‘At the meetings called “spirit circles,” invisible hands have been thrust into the hands of those persons round the table, — warm, fleshly hands that seemed to pulsate with mortal life.’
‘What? Do you think, then, that this thing is — ’
‘I don’t know what it is,’ was the solemn reply; ‘but please the gods I will, with your assistance, thoroughly investigate it.’
Check back next Friday, 31st of October for the final installment. Missed a part of the story? Catch up with part 1, 2, and 3.
Since we’re coming up on All Hallow’s Eve, we thought it would be fun to discuss our favorite ghostly reads. It’s been fun to look over our choices and see just how varied the genre is. There are so many possibilities with a ghost story–creepy, sad, vengeful or harbinging–and we’ve hit just about all of them. So which are our favorites? Peyton’s Favorite Ghostly Read I don’t read a lot of ghost stories because it is ridiculously easy to scare me with the supernatural. I was the child who cried when her friends brought out the ouja board at sleepovers. So, my favorite ghost story is one I stumbled upon and loved, rather than something I actively went looking for. (Spoilers Ahead!) The Burn for Burn series by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian was what I thought was an entertaining, high school revenge story. We follow three girls... Read more »
Our brains seem to want comparisons. Every time a new book comes out, editorial blurbs sing, “For fans of….”, or “Blank meets blank in this striking new novel…” I am both attracted to and wary of these comparisons, because they often create a false hope. After all, a significant amount of connection to a story comes by what we bring to it. I was first struck by the gorgeous cover of The Greenglass House, by Kate Milford and then I started hearing the buzz. I started to heartalk of The Westing Game . Now, if you don’t already know, any time someone asks me what my favorite book of all time is, The Westing Game slides quickly from my mouth. No questions asked. Over the adult titles that I have swooned about, the Newberys I have loved, the picture books that spawned the art that is matted and framed on my walls, The Westing Game is still firmly on the tippy top of the pile. So the talk worried me a bit.
Milo and his family have just settled in for the holidays at their inn, The Greenglass House. The guests have all departed, school is out for a couple of weeks, and it’s officially family time. Imagine Milo’s surprise when the bell rings to alert the family that a guest is ready to come up the hill in the rail car called the Whilforber Whirlwind. Situated on the top of Whilforber Hill, the inn is somewhat iconic in their town. Nagspeake is a smugglers’ town, and Milo’s parents are as likely to get paid in goods by the folks passing through as they are money. But smugglers have seasons and the winter holidays are not smuggler time. Who could be coming to stay now?
Milo and his family are even more surprised when the bell keeps ringing! More than one guest? What is going on?
After the passel of guests shows up, Milo’s folks call on their regular help to come and help with meals and rooms and such. Since it is break, the cook brings her kids and even though Milo has never met Meddy before, the two get along famously even starting to role play using Odd Trails -- a game Milo’s own dad played when he was young. Milo’s personal of Negret comes in handy when guest’s belongings start disappearing.
This is such an atmospheric, multi layered story -- I just can’t say enough about it. When you put all of the aspects of the story into writing, they can seem overwhelming. We have the mythos of the town, the rules of the game, the mysterious guests, the criminality afoot, Milo’s own adoption story and sense of self, the lore of the house...it goes on and on. But in Milford’s deft hands all are perfectly balanced and unfurled just so. I started to slow down as I read this one, because I didn’t want it to end. I ache to see this on the big screen, and am anxiously awaiting the first real snow of the season so I can hunker down and treat myself all over again! Add a Comment
Review by Andye
Yep. I'm one of those people who read A Vision of Fire because I loved the X-Files.
listened to the audiobook, which was read by Gillian Anderson herself,
so that was kind of awesome. She did a great job with all the voices and
characters and accents. The only thing was that her narration was a
little . . . sleepy? (That's the second time this week I've
Sublime is a dark, atmospheric romance. It’s the story of a living boy and a ghost who fall in love, but more than that it’s about the lengths someone will go to be with the person they love. There were things I liked and things I didn’t, but overall I thought it was a very romantic, unique paranormal romance. The best part about this book were the two main characters. The chapters switch between Lucy and Colin’s perspectives, and I think each character is given equal depth. I was especially surprised by Colin. He was sensitive and likable, even when he did stupid things (like crazy bike stunts that break his arm). A lot of times when I read young adult books I don’t feel like the boys come across as authentic, but Colin did effortlessly. He thought and acted like a teenage boy. His chapters were some of the... Read more »
A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
I have watched A Christmas Carol more times than I've read it, and I've read it two or three times at least. The story is oh-so-familiar; the phrasing is oh-so-familiar. It's a book that has an old-friend feel even if you haven't read it dozens of times. There are scenes and descriptions that just feel incredibly right and familiar. For example,
Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. “Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug!” “Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.” “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!” “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
Other details, I've found, are less memorable perhaps.
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?” “It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.” From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children, wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. “O Man! look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. “Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more. “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” The bell struck Twelve.
I don't recall thinking much of the two children Ignorance and Want, of thinking about what message Dickens was sending. But when I was reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Standiford stressed their significance. (Standiford called A Christmas Carol, "a bald-faced parable that underscores Dickens's enduring themes: the deleterious effects of ignorance and want.") Why had I not noticed them before? I can only suppose that I've been rushing through the text looking for what was familiar and beloved, not really considering the book as a whole.
I like A Christmas Carol. I don't love, love, love it. I have found it to be a Christ-less Christmas story. A book that doesn't really focus on the Savior--newborn babe or risen Savior--so much as it focuses on humanity improving and changing and saving themselves. The message to Scrooge isn't, you're a bad man; you need a Savior; consider your eternal soul. The message is whether that even Scrooge, as horrible as he was, can change; he can change the way he lives; he can become a good man, a great man. He can avoid after-life horrors by changing his behavior. That isn't a Christian message.
I had very high expectations for Kate Milford's Greenglass House. I loved, loved, LOVED Kate Milford's The Boneshaker. My love for that one hasn't faded a bit since I first read it. (I've reread it at least once or twice since.) Greenglass House is one that I've been looking forward to reading for most of the year. Almost a book I NEEDED to read instead of merely being one I wanted to read. And the opening paragraph was wonderful:
There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you're going to run a hotel in a smugglers' town. You shouldn't make it a habit to ask too many questions, for one thing. And you probably shouldn't be in it for the money. Smugglers are always going to be flush with cash as soon as they find a buyer for the eight cartons of fountain pen cartridges that write in illegal shades of green, but they never have money today. You should, if you are going to run a smugglers' hotel, get a big account book and assume that whatever you write in it, the reality is, you're going to get paid in fountain pen cartridges. If you're lucky. You could just as easily get paid with something even more useless. Milo Pine did not run a smugglers' hotel, but his parents did.Unfortunately, for me, the book proved disappointing. However, just because it was an almost for me does not mean that it would prove equally disappointing to other readers. I think it could definitely work for other readers. In fact, the very elements that annoyed me may be what another reader loves best of all about the book.
For a book set during the Christmas holidays, this is a very un-Christmas-y book. Christmas proves to be the last thing on every character's mind. So if you pick up the book thinking, A Christmas book! A Christmas mystery! How delightful! You may be disappointed.
Greenglass House is very much a mystery. It is a puzzle-solving mystery. It is a book that celebrates brainstorming. Milo, our hero, finds a map. He doesn't know anything at all about the map. Just that one of the new guests must have dropped it--either on purpose or by accident--on his/her way into the inn. Perhaps he first becomes curious out of boredom or frustration. It is the holidays. The inn never has--that he can recall--had guests over the winter holidays. So when three or four guests appear within an hour or two of each other, he's annoyed. Guests mean work. If not work for him directly, then work for his parents. And the guests range from slightly eccentric to VERY eccentric.
Greenglass Mystery is more than a mystery. I can't talk about it without spoiling it, however.
So what annoyed me most about the Greenglass House? The game-playing. The introduction of the role-playing game in order to solve the mystery at the inn. All the details--big and small--that come from the game. Including the names. Most of the book, the characters use their game-names (personas) instead of their real names.
There are also elements of a coming-of-age story within Greenglass House. Milo is adopted. He's Chinese. His parents are white. He thinks about being adopted a lot. Plus, I think he's just at that age where one questions their identity and who they are and why they are and what they want to be and where they fit and how they fit.
I love the seven books my panel selected as the finalists for YA Speculative Fiction. I'm really proud of our shortlist as a representation of the best YA Spec Fic books of 2014. However, there are always the ones that got away, the ones that didn't quite make it. When seven people are deliberating, compromises have to be made, and sometimes, no matter how passionate you are about a book, you can't convince your fellow judges. Here are some of the 2014 Cybils nominees that I loved, but which didn't make the cut as finalists:
This is a frighteningly believable book about a near-future conflict between a state and the Federal Government, with the National Guard caught in the middle. Exciting plot, credible and distinctive teen male voice, and well-developed protagonist.
For anyone who has ever wanted to be Circus. Part mystery, part circus story, and a bit of magic, this story of a young wire walker trying to overcome her family's past and prove herself is dripping with atmosphere and loaded with teen appeal.
Federal agents investigating Washington DC prep school student Emily Bird may be more of a danger to her than the rapidly spreading global pandemic. An exciting thriller that shows the stark contrast between the power elite in Northwest DC and the working class in the Northeast, and the racism that exists in both.
The conclusion of a terrific high fantasy series that started with Shadowfell. I've loved all the books in this series, but sadly I've been unsuccessful at convincing my fellow judges to shortlist any of them. With well developed characters, a page-turning plot, and themes of sacrifice and choice, this may be the best book of the trilogy.
A creepy paranormal horror story told from the point of view of a centuries-old ghost. With distinctive voice, an almost poetic writing style, and a strong dose of Japanese culture, The Girl from the Well has a lot of teen appeal. This one came very close to making the shortlist, but we had some concerns about the mentally ill being used in a stereotyped way for horror effect.
As the daughter of a dragon and a princess, Marni is torn between two worlds, the wild and beautiful but dangerous forest, and the equally dangerous life at court. A beautifully lyrical, character-driven fantasy with a theme of choice and being true to yourself.
I’d been meaning to get to this series all of 2014. After being totally amazed by both The Girl With All The Gifts and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August I asked the person the Australian publisher who had recommended them both what I could checkout next. And this was the series they said. […]
Review by Paola
SHUTTERby Courtney AlamedaHardcover: 384 pagesPublisher: Feiwel & Friends (February 3, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat -- a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the
I’m torn on this one, you guys. There were many things I liked about Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us: the prose style is gorgeous, and I was much more interested than I expected to be in a story about killer ballerinas. On the other hand, I saw the twists coming from a mile away (rare for me!), but dammit, I was still so interested in this book up until the last twenty-five pages or so. The basic premise of The Walls Around Us: Amber’s in a juvenile detention center, Violet’s off to Julliard. These are our novel’s two narrators. Both their stories are bound together by their relationship to Ori – a promising young ballerina who is sent to the same juvenile detention center after allegedly murdering two rival ballerinas. As readers, we never get Ori’s story directly, but are asked to piece it together from Amber and Violet’s accounts. (This... Read more »
On March 5, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and I will be reading and talking about exorcising the past (all meanings of exorcise possible) at McNally Jackson at 6 p.m.
Marie’s wonderful new book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, is about death and grief and family and ghosts and so much more. She’ll read from it, and I’ll read from the working introduction to my book on the science and superstition of ancestry, and then we’ll talk about all of that and take questions and comments from you. Hope to see you there!
Larissa Renaud doesn't live in a regular house. As she tells it,
"My parents moved us into the Bayou Bridge Antique Store—a fact I do not brag about. It's embarrassing to admit I share the same space as musty, mothball-smelly furniture, dusty books, and teacups that dead people once drank from."
Sometimes she wishes they had never come back here from Baton Rouge, but her family has a long history in the bayou town, much of it is tragic.
When Larissa receives a mysterious call on a broken antique phone, she's got a real mystery on her hands.
"Trust the fireflies,"
the ghostly girl tells her, setting Larissa on a strange and eerie path of discovery. Can Larissa right the wrongs of the past to save her family's future?
Though it highlights rural poverty, bullying, and new sibling issues, The Time of the Fireflies is at heart, a ghost story with a remarkably likable and resourceful protagonist.
To avoid giving away too much, I'll merely mention that readers may see some similarities to Rebecca Stead's Newbery Medal-winning, When You Reach Me. The spunky Larissa and author Kimberly Griffiths Little will draw you into the rich world of the Louisiana bayou until you too, are carried away by the fireflies.
When Beverly Stowe McClure was in eighth grade, her teacher sent her poem “Stars” to the National High School Poetry Association, and she was soon a published writer in Young America Sings, an anthology of Texas high school poetry. Today, Beverly is a cum laude graduate of Midwestern State University with a BSEd degree. For twenty-two years, she taught children to read and write. They taught her patience. She is affectionately known as the “Bug Lady” because she rescues butterflies, moths, walking sticks, and praying mantis from her cats.
Most of the time, you’ll find Beverly in front of her computer, writing the stories little voices in her head tell her. When she’s not writing, she takes long walks and snaps photos of clouds, wild flowers, birds and deer. She also enjoys visiting with her family and teaching a women’s Sunday school class at her church. Her articles have been published in leading children’s magazines. Two of her stories are in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ANTHOLOGIES, and she has nine novels published, two of them award winning novels at Children’s Literary Classics and other competitions.
A: One summer, on a visit to our son and his wife in South Carolina, we went to Folly Beach, not far from where they lived, to watch the sun rise over the water and lighthouse. It was a beautiful sight. But what caught my attention more than the sunrise was the lighthouse sitting in the middle of the inlet. It was deactivated years ago, but was used during the Civil War. A lighthouse must have a ghost, right? My mind started chasing different scenarios as to who the ghost was and why he was a ghost. What kept him from finding rest? A blockade runner worked nicely, since the ships came into the harbor bringing supplies to the city. Other ideas popped up, too. Pirates were quite active in the area although in earlier years. But, if they were ghosts they could have been around for years. So I added a couple of pirates to the story. And what’s a good ghost story without a cat? My MG/Tween novel APirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Catwas born.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: Thirteen-year-old Erik Burks is a typical young teen. He plays baseball and likes to hang out with his friends. When his dad leaves home, Erik’s life changes in ways he could never imagine. First, his mom takes Erik from Texas to South Carolina where they move in with her sister. Second, he meets the weird twins that live down the street and that claim they’ve seen a ghost ship in the harbor. Third, Erik doesn’t believe that ghosts exist. Fourth, he soon discovers he might be wrong.
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: I had fun creating Erik and the twins, typical teens, if you count a girl who can read mind dreams typical. The ghost pirates are based on real pirates, and I did a lot of research to learn about them and their ships so the historical facts would be accurate. I am a slow writer and it took probably two years to write and edit the story. No major bumps along the way. I had visited some of the places in the story, like the lighthouse, and tried to remember what they were like.
Getting the pirate language just right took some research too, but was a lot of fun. Avast, matey. I discovered fascinating information about the two pirates that ended up in the story.
Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: I try to put the characters in exciting circumstances. In novels for MG readers, the kids like action. They’ll stop reading if they’re bored. Forget description unless it moves the story along. I let the characters get in trouble so the reader will wonder if they’ll get out of it. At this age, friendships are important. And they need trouble. Lots of trouble. Ghosts are just right to cause trouble, along with a cat that Erik hates, and the feeling is mutual.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: Sometimes, I look at the blank screen on the computer and think, Okay, where do I start? Will anyone like this story? Can I even write it?The only way to deal with anxiety is to start typing. Yes, there will be many changes, at least for me. I usually rewrite the beginning a jillion times. If I don’t get those first words down, I’ll never have a story. So I go for it and hope I’m headed in the right direction.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I’m a morning person. Usually I work on my WIP from 9:00 AM to 11:30 or 12:00 noon. Then I take a lunch break and maybe check emails or look at blogs. (I’ve done some mail early in the morning before I started writing.) Around 2:00 PM I do edits if I have a manuscript that’s been sold, or else I check my blogs and post on other blogs. Evenings, I write reviews, do critiques for my critique groups (I’m in two), and whatever else needs to be done.
I’m retired from my teaching job, so I have no outside work to interfere with my writing. I’m a playmate for my cats, but other than that, my time is my own.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Success to me is writing novels that help young people enjoy reading, and if they take anything away from the story that makes their lives happier or more understandable, that’s an added bonus.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: It’s hard when your family doesn’t support you, but I feel we each have the right to pursue our dreams. I’m not saying neglect your significant others. Don’t neglect yourself either. Let them know how important your writing is to you. They may surprise you and understand. If they don’t, find time when you’re alone, or make time to be alone, even if it’s only 30 minutes or an hour. Maybe while they’re at work, or anytime they go out for whatever reason. Don’t give up. Follow your dreams. You only have one life.
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: Oh, yes. A writer has to be driven; otherwise, why would we sit in a chair for hours a day, typing our hearts away, for pennies a day (at least in my case)? Perhaps we’re a little insane. And the beauty of it is we don’t care. We’re doing what we love.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: Just thank you for hosting me today. Thank all you awesome readers for your comments and thoughts. You’re the ones that keep us writing, you know. If you have a chance, stop by my blog and see what’s happening. http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com.
Fall is in the air, and we’re celebrating by hosting a Halloween Thrills and Chills event! Some of our favorite blog friends will present fantastic guest posts and interviews by three Disney Hyperion authors with books releasing this year, including Mary: The Summoning‘s Hillary Monahan, Welcome to the Dark House‘s Laurie Faria Stolarz, and The Whispering Skull‘s Jonathan Stroud. Check out the full tour schedule below, and be sure to enter the giveaway at the very end for a box of horror books that will be delivered to you in time for Halloween reading! We’re kicking off the event tour with Jonathan Stroud, author of the The Bartimaeus Sequence and many other novels. His second book in his Lockwood and Co. series just came out, and if you like the idea of coolly competent young British ghosthunters with a Sherlock-type vibe, you’ll certainly enjoy this series. I love how the... Read more »
I was sold on this book by two things: the words “Lauren Oliver” and the idea of ghost POVs. Rooms by Lauren Oliver is a slow, secretive book that intertwines the lives of the dead and the living, and yet its tone is, in turns, contemplative, chilling, and in the end, nearly unbearably sad. If you’ve read the author’s previous young adult or middle grade novels, you probably know that a supernatural book by this author is not going to be your typical ghost story, and it’s a pleasure to find that the author’s first adult novel is sure-footed and clear-eyed. Not all transitions from YA to adult (and vice versa) feel as natural as this, but the author handles adult themes and language and structure with ease. It also has surprising moments of lightness and humor–although Rooms is certainly about death and its aftermath, it is also about life... Read more »
We’re getting ready for Halloween this month by reading the classic horror stories that set the stage for the creepy movies and books we love today. Check in every Friday this October as we tell Fitz-James O’Brien’s tale of an unusual entity in What Was It?, a story from the spine-tingling collection of works in Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson, edited by Darryl Jones.
It is, I confess, with considerable diffidence that I approach the strange narrative which I am about to relate. The events which I purpose detailing are of so extraordinary a character that I am quite prepared to meet with an unusual amount of incredulity and scorn. I accept all such beforehand. I have, I trust, the literary courage to face unbelief. I have, after mature consideration, resolved to narrate, in as simple and straightforward a manner as I can compass, some facts that passed under my observation, in the month of July last, and which, in the annals of the mysteries of physical science, are wholly unparalleled.
I live at No. — Twenty-sixth Street, in New York. The house is in some respects a curious one. It has enjoyed for the last two years the reputation of being haunted. It is a large and stately residence, surrounded by what was once a garden, but which is now only a green enclosure used for bleaching clothes. The dry basin of what has been a fountain, and a few fruit-trees ragged and unpruned, indicate that this spot in past days was a pleasant, shady retreat, filled with fruits and flowers and the sweet murmur of waters.
The house is very spacious. A hall of noble size leads to a large spiral staircase winding through its centre, while the various apartments are of imposing dimensions. It was built some fifteen or twenty years since by Mr A——, the well-known New York merchant, who five years ago threw the commercial world into convulsions by a stupendous bank fraud. Mr A——, as everyone knows, escaped to Europe, and died not long after, of a broken heart. Almost immediately after the news of his decease reached this country and was verified, the report spread in Twenty-sixth Street that No. — was haunted. Legal measures had dispossessed the widow of its former owner, and it was inhabited merely by a care-taker and his wife, placed there by the house-agent into whose hands it had passed for purposes of renting or sale. These people declared that they were troubled with unnatural noises. Doors were opened without any visible agency. The remnants of furniture scattered through the various rooms were, during the night, piled one upon the other by unknown hands. Invisible feet passed up and down the stairs in broad daylight, accompanied by the rustle of unseen silk dresses, and the gliding of viewless hands along the massive balusters. The care-taker and his wife declared they would live there no longer. The house-agent laughed, dismissed them, and put others in their place. The noises and supernatural manifestations continued. The neighborhood caught up the story, and the house remained untenanted for three years. Several persons negotiated for it; but, somehow, always before the bargain was closed they heard the unpleasant rumors and declined to treat any further.
It was in this state of things that my landlady, who at that time kept a boarding-house in Bleecker Street, and who wished to move further up town, conceived the bold idea of renting No. — Twenty-sixth Street. Happening to have in her house rather a plucky and philosophical set of boarders, she laid her scheme before us, stating candidly everything she had heard respecting the ghostly qualities of the establishment to which she wished to remove us. With the exception of two timid persons,—a sea-captain and a returned Californian, who immediately gave notice that they would leave,—all of Mrs Moffat’s guests declared that they would accompany her in her chivalric incursion into the abode of spirits.
Our removal was effected in the month of May, and we were charmed with our new residence. The portion of Twenty-sixth Street where our house is situated, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, is one of the pleasantest localities in New York. The gardens back of the houses, running down nearly to the Hudson, form, in the summer time, a perfect avenue of verdure. The air is pure and invigorating, sweeping, as it does, straight across the river from the Weehawken heights, and even the ragged garden which surrounded the house, although displaying on washing days rather too much clothes-line, still gave us a piece of greensward to look at, and a cool retreat in the summer evenings, where we smoked our cigars in the dusk, and watched the fire-flies flashing their dark-lanterns in the long grass.
Of course we had no sooner established ourselves at No. — than we began to expect the ghosts. We absolutely awaited their advent with eagerness. Our dinner conversation was supernatural. One of the boarders, who had purchased Mrs Crowe’s ‘Night Side of Nature’ for his own private delectation, was regarded as a public enemy by the entire household for not having bought twenty copies. The man led a life of supreme wretchedness while he was reading this volume.
A system of espionage was established, of which he was the victim. If he incautiously laid the book down for an instant and left the room, it was immediately seized and read aloud in secret places to a select few. I found myself a person of immense importance, it having leaked out that I was tolerably well versed in the history of supernaturalism, and had once written a story the foundation of which was a ghost. If a table or a wainscot panel happened to warp when we were assembled in the large drawing-room, there was an instant silence, and everyone was prepared for an immediate clanking of chains and a spectral form.
After a month of psychological excitement, it was with the utmost dissatisfaction that we were forced to acknowledge that nothing in the remotest degree approaching the supernatural had manifested itself. Once the black butler asseverated that his candle had been blown out by some invisible agency while he was undressing himself for the night; but as I had more than once discovered this colored gentleman in a condition when one candle must have appeared to him like two, I thought it possible that, by going a step further in his potations, he might have reversed this phenomenon, and seen no candle at all where he ought to have beheld one.
Things were in this state when an incident took place so awful and inexplicable in its character that my reason fairly reels at the bare memory of the occurrence.
Check back next Friday, 10 October, as the events of the narrator’s night unfolds.
I love October. October 3 (my wedding anniversary) and October 31st (the best holiday of all!) are my favorite days, but today, October 21st, is really giving them a run for their money because not one, but TWO books that I've been eagerly awaiting are coming out. I seriously couldn't be more excited about these books if they were my own: ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE, edited by Tavi Gevinson, and THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the YA debut by my hilarious, brilliant, amazing, simply-not-enough-cool-adjectives-exist-to-fully-describe-her critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld!
Let's talk about the amazing Vanessa and her book first. My books would basically not exist if not for Vanessa--well, they definitely would not be as good. We became online critique partners (Vanessa lives in Australia where I really hope to visit her one day!) shortly after I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE sold in 2007. She's read multiple versions of both of my books (and some not-published manuscripts as well) and was a total lifesaver during the revisions of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in particular, reading and immediately responding to the changes I was making at 3 am (this was where it was very convenient to have an Australian CP). She's got an eye for character and an ear for voice, which have helped me a ton, but those plus her incredible sense of humor have made her manuscripts a blast for me to read over the years and I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED that readers EVERYWHERE get to be swept into one of Vanessa's worlds.
Here's the lowdown on THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE! When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.
Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.
Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.
This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".
Here's the book trailer:
I devoured THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. It was funny, it was sad, it kept me turning pages, and best of all, it reminded me of my own teenage years when I was obsessed with the Ouija Board and longing for the psychic abilities that Keira has. If you are looking for great ghost story with laugh-out-loud moments and more thrills than chills, this is it.
To celebrate her launch, Vanessa is throwing a big, online bash on her blog from tomorrow, October 22nd through October 31st. It will be filled with guests, including me! I'm doing a post and a giveaway (of an anthology featuring a ghost story I've written) on October 30th. I hope to see you there!
And now.... (drum roll)... on to ROOKIE!!!!
I've had the privilege of being a part of Rookiemagazine since it launched in September of 2011. (Remember this super-excited blog post when it debuted?) I'm still in awe of everything that we do. The Yearbooks feature the best of the best of our online pieces for each year as well as some cool added bonuses. This is our first Yearbook with Razorbill and since I'm a Penguin/Random House author too now, I'm think that's pretty awesome. I also have two essays in this one, which feels like a huge accomplishment.
Rookiemag.com is a website created by and for young women to make the best of the beauty, pain and awkwardness of being a teenager. When it becomes tough to appreciate such things, we have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you're sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of rants, too. Every school year, we compile the best from the site into a print yearbook. Behold: our Junior year!
In Rookie Yearbook Three, we explore cures for love, girl-on-girl crime, open relationships, standing for something, embracing our inner posers, and so much more. Featuring interviews with Rookie role models like Sofia Coppola, Amandla Stenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Kim Gordon, and a bonus section chock-full of exclusive content including a pizza pennant, sticker sheet, valentines, plus advice and contributions from Lorde, Shailene Woodley, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Grimes, Kelis, Sia, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Haim, and more!
I know!!!! Amazing, right? Can't wait to go home and pore over my copy!
And if you are in the New York or Toronto areas, there are events celebrating the release TOMORROW, October 22. There is also an event in Brooklyn on November 5th. All of the details are on the Rookie Events page. Go if you can and tell me how fabulous it was!
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"Now this way, now that way, and won't let me be! Keep him off, Bill - look here - don't let him come near! Only see how the blood-drops his features besmear! What, the dead come to life again! Bless me! Oh dear!"
The Dead Drummer or a Legend of Salisbury Plain from The Ingoldsby Legends a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry supposedly written by Thomas Ingoldsby, actually the pen-name of an English clergyman Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845).
The legends were originally serialised in Bentley’s Miscellany Magazine and later in the New Monthly Magazine the version I'm featuring here was published by Macmillan in 1911. The illustrations are all by Harry G Theaker.
I was thrilled to be one of the lucky recipients of a giveaway hosted by the lovely Yvonne over at Winter Moon. My gift was a copy of The Savage Garden by Mark Mills and as if that wasn't enough Yvonne also included a gorgeous bookmark, a pretty card and a second card with my initial. Thank you so much Yvonne, I know what I will be reading this All Hallows Eve.
The Witching Hour is nearly upon us – are you reading anything scary?