What have you been reading lately? Here's my list:
What have you been reading lately? Here's my list:
I am one lucky author. When my former editor left Dutton in 2006 I was assigned the wonderful Steve Meltzer. Over the years Steve has become one of my good buddies as well as my outstanding editor. Generous to a fault, he always takes my calls, was game to be interviewed for my blog tour and endures my requests for a Writing Tip of the Day every time I see him. Today's Tip is about submitting.
Here are some of the best books I managed to read in February:
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, by Jennifer Niven, gives readers a compelling look at depression and bipolar disorder through the eyes of two extremely engaging characters. We first meet Violet, less than fully functional and considering all options after the death of her sister, and Finch, obsessed with death but talking Violet into living again. These two make a connection and we join them on an exploration of life (and their home state of Iowa). It's charming, funny, sad, and a terrific read. YA
RAIN REIGN, by Ann M. Martin, shares the journey of Rose Howard, a girl on the autism spectrum who is obsessed with homonyms. Life isn't easy with a dad who doesn't understand her and classmates who are less than kind, but luckily Rose gets strong support from her uncle and her beloved dog, Rain. When a storm hits and Rain goes missing, events spiral out of control. Through it all, though, Rose stays true to herself and to her principles. This is one of a number of middle grade books with autistic girls as protagonists, along with Counting by 7s and The Categorical Universe of Candace Phee. All three are strong choices. MG
My good friend, the talented author Alexis O'Neill, just released her new picture book from Boyds Mill Press, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations. The book is getting raved reviews...
“Memorable and dramatic.”
-- Kirkus Reviews
“The style lends itself to a terrific read-aloud. Teachers can use this book to make curriculum connections in science, social studies and expressing emotion in narrative writing, to name a few.”
-- Bookitkids, Amazon Reviewer
This week Alexis has her book launch at Niagra Falls, where the story originally took place, but I recently attended her local book launch in Ventura, California at a kite flying party with other kidlit authors. Alexis, Barbara Bietz, Mary Ann Fraser, Yuki Yoshino and I participated.
Alexis's book is taking the kidlit world by storm, and her much aclaimed book trailer is drawing a lot of attention. I must say I am as pleased as punch to have produced it. Congrats to Alexis. She is an inspiration to all, and I know I am not alone when I say she deserves every success for her hard work and generousity to many in the Kid Lit and the SCBWI community.
March's Book Pick is WEST OF THE MOON, by Margi Preus. This beautiful story elegantly blends Norwegian folklore into a historical fiction plot line. It's a lovely edition put out by Abrams/Amulet, with evocative jacket art and carefully chosen typefaces and interior art.
When Astri's aunt sells her to an odious goatman for two silver pieces and a package of meat, Astri bides her time until she can escape. Spring comes and the goatman means to marry her, but Astri runs away, taking with her a strange girl who spins wool into fine yarn, and all the "treasures" she can find in the goatman's house. She grabs the sister she was forced to leave behind at her aunt's, and the three girls head for the harbor and a ship that's waiting to take them to their father in America. Astri spins stories as they go, until their journey resembles a valiant quest to find a white bear (really a prince) in a legendary castle, aided by spells, curses, and a magical hairbrush.
Novels I have recently read and loved include:
THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY, by Laurie Halse Anderson. For years, Hayley Kincain has been on the road with her dad, trying to outrun his PTSD and lose his memories of the war in drugs and alcohol. But when Hayley is a high school senior, the pair settle down in what was Hayley's grandmother's house, trying to find a bit of normal. Spoiler alert: It won't be easy. This YA reaches out and grabs you right in.
GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE, is another winner by A. S. King. Using her flair for inserting an element of fantasy into her realistic novels, this time she has Glory drink a potion made from desiccated bat, which gives her the ability to see into the future. For Glory, whose mother committed suicide when Glory was four and who doesn't know whether or not she will follow in her mom's footsteps, the question is whether she herself has a place in this future she is seeing. Not as gloomy as it sounds! This could pair well with Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle, showing a similar epic scope, but told from a female point of view. (YA)
Joan Brandsfield Graham is one of my favorite people. Her new book The Poem That Will Not End is a fabulous book. Here is the book trailer that I produced for the book.
February's Book Pick is WE WERE LIARS, by E. Lockhart. She has done it again. Author of 2008's wonderful The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks, WE WERE LIARS is a gem of a novel.
Seventeen year old Cadence Sinclair, of the rich and beautiful Sinclair family, has been through a terrible trauma. When the novel opens, she is in awful shape. She takes lots of pills for her crippling headaches, she keeps her blond hair dyed black, and she is in the process of giving away all of her earthly possessions. She hasn't been to her family's private island since her mysterious accident the summer she and the other Liars were fifteen. Until then, the four Liars had spent their summers together, running wild and forging deep bonds of friendship. And love--Cady and Gat have fallen in love. But there is more to life than this idyllic little island. Gat isn't one of the Beautiful Sinclairs, and the eventually the Liars begin to see that all things in this world must come to an end. When Cady returns to the island to piece together the mysteries of her past, the Liars spend one last bittersweet summer together.
Can you name your favorite books from 2014? I don't want to try to predict Caldecott/Newbery/Printz winners, but I thought I'd share a few of my favorites from last year:
BLUE ON BLUE, written by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes
PEGGY: A BRAVE CHICKEN ON A BIG ADVENTURE, by Anna Walker
GASTON, written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson
BAD BYE, GOOD BYE, written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean
DORY FANTASMAGORY, by Abby Hanlon
EL DEAFO, by CeCe Bell
BROWN GIRL DREAMING, by Jacqueline Woodson
WEST OF THE MOON, by Margi Preus
THE CATEGORICAL UNIVERSE OF CANDICE PHEE, by Barry Jonesberg
EGG & SPOON, by Gregory Maguire
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, by Andrew Smith
WE WERE LIARS, by E. Lockhart
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, by Jandy Nelson
Once, again, I've been reading a lot of excellent kid's books lately!
The wonderful EGG & SPOON, by Gregory Maguire, features a peasant girl from a remote and starving village, an aristocratic girl traveling through the country by train, the Tzar, the Tzar's godson, a Faberge egg, the Firebird's egg, a legendary ice dragon, and Baba Yaga, along with her chicken-legged hut, among many other Russian-themed elements. It all comes together in this sophisticated literary YA (and crossover) novel that is a pure pleasure to read.
In Meg Wolitzer's BELZHAR, Jam Gallahue is sent to a school for kids who have suffered through enough trauma that they don't fit in at at their traditional schools anymore. She and four of her classmates are chosen for a special English class, assigned Sylvia Plath to read, and given special journals. What Jam and her classmates discover as they write is both comfort and nightmare. BELZHAR is compelling YA.
Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse, Turtle in Paradise) crafts a strong MG featuring eleven-year-old Ellie and her scientist grandfather, Melvin, who has turned up looking strangely like a dorky teenager (who still dresses like her grandfather). Melvin has discovered a "fountain of youth" but now that he looks like a kid, he can't get back into his lab to finish his experiments. THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH is funny and very readable.
Happy New Year! Here's wishing you lots of books to read, write, and illustrate in 2015!
January's Book Pick is the witty and wonderful Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown.
In a world where animals dress formally and act with the utmost decorum, Mr. Tiger is bored. He wants to loosen up. So he drops down on all fours, sheds his clothing, and runs off to the wilderness. But the wilderness isn't his home, and Mr. Tiger misses his friends. Happily, things have changed a bit when he returns to the city.
Sketch book art is the purest form of art for art sake. It is more about the feel of a place than the actual likeness. The Bedouin push their wares, smelly camels saunter by and my guide waits on the side as my pencil works it's magic. And I have my sketch.
Petra is amazing with all the buildings carved right out of red sandstone. This is one of the magnificent royal tombs, the Urn Tomb. Sketch on the left, photo on the right.
I love to repeat this post every Christmas.
I have been lucky enough to have visited the town of Bethlehem on Christmas day. It was one of my parochial school kid's dreams come true. Our Jewish mother tour guide took us to the Church of the Nativity on Christmas night. The line was hours long to go down to the cave where the baby Jesus was born, but our guide knew of a secret door that is open only on Christmas. We followed her down and viewed the glorious Nativity scene--surround by chicken wire, just in case someone wanted to take baby Jesus home. As we sang Christmas carols on our way back to the hotel, the brightest star I have ever seen shone over the land.
On this blessed day, Merry Christmas to all.
What have you been reading recently? I have especially enjoyed these books in particular:
If you enjoyed Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. (or even if you haven't yet) don't miss JACKABY, by William Ritter. This paranormal-infused detective story, which takes place in New England in 1892, is chock-full of personality, murder, and supernatural beings. Abigail Rook arrives in New Twiddleham needing a job, and the only one who will take her on is a rather strange man, Mr. R. F. Jackaby. Her first day on the job lands her right in the middle of a murder investigation, and things only get crazier from there. This is high on my list of favorite books for 2014. As a bonus, check out the first paragraph--it's pretty nearly perfect.
If you like steampunk, check out the STOKER & HOLMES novels, THE SPIRITGLASS CHARADE, and THE CLOCKWORK SCARAB. Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram, and Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, find themselves investigating a couple of strange cases involving missing society girls, vampires, fraud, and murder. And yes, this series is paranormally infused too. It's good fun.
MORTAL HEART, by Robin LaFevers, is a strong, strong finish to her HIS FAIR ASSASSIN trilogy. This one is told from the point of view of Annith, a handmaiden of Death who seems to be on a path to be the convent's next seeress. But Annith wants to venture forth to prove herself on a mission before being locked away in solitary service to Saint Mortain for the rest of her life. She wants to see if she may serve the god of Death in a manner more truly befitting her. So she strikes out on her own, whereupon she does, indeed, find plenty of adventure, romance, and courtly intrigue.
This is a really complex story in a tidy MG package. The author tackles his main issue of stuttering, but also takes on race relations, bullying, what it means to be a parent/what it means to be a son, growing up, coming of age, standing up for what you think is right, etc. There is even a crush that has the potential to be cringe-worthy, but it feels honest and true, and never takes up more than its share of the story.
The setting, late 1950's Memphis, also plays an important part and, in Vawter's hands, it comes through loud and clear.
These are some books that I would like to recommend this month:
One of the MG books I enjoyed most this year (along with El Deafo) is THE CATEGORICAL UNIVERSE OF CANDICE PHEE, by Barry Jonsberg. I think this book suffered by being released so soon after Counting by 7s, as the description might sound somewhat similar. The main character, Candice, is likely on the autism spectrum and is seen as beyond weird by her classmates. But her quirky way of dealing with family, friends, enemies, tragedy, adversity, and teachers, along with her warm-hearted intentions, makes for a rich and rewarding read. I almost didn't pick it up, but I'm so glad I did!
CLARIEL, by Garth Nix, is a long-awaited prequel to his fabulous Abhorsen trilogy. Clariel, a loner who wants only to hunt in the Great Forest, is forced to move to the capital city of Belisaere, where strange people and customs stifle her. When she is attacked by a Free Magic creature, she discovers her own powers as a Berserk, and finds herself increasingly drawn to Free Magic sorcery. You can enjoy this even if you haven't yet gotten to the rest of the Abhorsen books, but why not just read them all? In fact, the audio is an excellent idea, performed perfectly by Tim Curry. (YA)
And HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER, by Lish McBride, is a really fun read. It's the only zombie entertainment I have allowed myself, and I'm glad I did (despite a few nights of icky zombie dreams). College dropout Sam finds out that he's a necromancer and has made a powerful enemy. It's witty, there's a lot of action, and a severed head gets to deliver many of the best jokes. (YA)
November's Book Pick is The Lucy Variations, by National Book Award Nominee Sara Zarr.
Those of you who have read any of her other work, including The Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, or How to Save a Life, know that she has a terrific knack for crafting strong and believable realistic YA. Her characters are usually high school girls navigating the ups and downs of getting close to adulthood--and figuring out the changes that come with getting there.
I have thought a lot about what works for me in The Lucy Variations, and I think it's the way she has created a flawed yet thoroughly understandable character in Lucy, one that readers can relate to despite Lucy's special circumstances, which include her huge talent for playing the piano and early professional success with it. She still has problems with family dynamics, with friendships, and some cringe-worthy crushes on teachers and tutors. Zarr also manages to weave all her elements into a smooth plot.
You may also want to check out Zarr's Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, and How to Save a Life, along with Roomies, co-written with Tara Altebrando.
Have you read any great books recently? Since last month, here are some of my favorites.
LOCKWOOD & CO.: THE WHISPERING SKULL, is the second installment in the new series by Jonathan Stroud (who is also the author of the wonderful Bartimaeus books). Lockwood & Co. features a London that's overrun with supernatural activity. The agents, Lucy, George, and Anthony Lockwood himself, are hired to oversee the exhumation of a dangerous grave. Belonging to a dark arts practitioner who died horrifically, the grave is thought to house a "Type Two Visitor." When the coffin is opened for the agents to seal the bones, a terrible relic is found, and George's fascination with it allows a nasty ghost to escape. When the relic itself goes missing, Lockwood & Co. must find it before it falls into the wrong hands. If you haven't already read the first book in the series, don't wait! The books are a fine blend of creepy mystery and wry humor. I would call this upper MG for the 10 - 14 year old crowd.
Also out recently is Jandy Nelson's second book, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. Her debut novel, The Sky is Everywhere, was a Book Talk book in the past, and if you haven't read that one, trust me, you do NOT want to miss it! I'll Give You the Sun is her terrific second book about twins Jude and Noah who, at thirteen, are as different, and yet as close, as twins can be. By the time they are sixteen, however, a huge rift has formed and they are all but cut off from each other. I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is narrated alternatively by Noah as a thirteen year old, and Jude as a sixteen year old. It's an interesting device and Nelson carries it off beautifully. (YA)
This month's Book Pick is the 2014 Golden Kite winner for picture book text, SOPHIE'S SQUASH, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.
October brings lots of squash to the markets. Kids will get plenty of chances to adopt one of their own, and they might want to after reading this story.
When Sophie picks out a squash at the farmer's market, her parents think they will eat it for dinner. Not so. Sophie names the squash Bernice and adopts it into their family. Though Sophie is warned that the squash will become blotchy and gross, she's hearing none of it, at least until the evidence becomes too strong to ignore. Then Sophie buries Bernice in "good, clean dirt" with "a little love" (advice from the squash farmer) and she waits until the snow melts to find out how Bernice did out there all winter.
Here are some of my favorite books from this past month:
I finally read the conclusion of the YA Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, called DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS, by Laini Taylor. I've rarely read a fantasy as wonderful as the first book, and then the second one was completely depressing. This third and final installment is a fitting and somewhat lovely ending to the whole saga. I felt very satisfied when I shut the book. If you've read the first two, make sure you get a chance to finish up with this one.
THE NIGHT GARDENER, by Jonathan Auxier, is a wonderful, darkly magical MG that's got to be on Newbery committee radar. I loved this old-fashioned tale of two orphans who need to work as servants at a sinister house, that's engulfed by a sinister tree, and is harboring sinister secrets behind a small, mysterious door. Even though it's British and set in an earlier time, I found the aura of creepiness to be remarkably similar to Holly Black's Doll Bones.
NIGHTINGALE'S NEST, by Nikki Lofton, has also got to be under Newbery consideration. This is MG magical realism on a very fine level. It's based on a Hans Christian Anderson story, but with a contemporary setting. Little John works to clear brush from Mr. King, the richest man in town. His younger sister has recently died, and his mom seems to be losing it. His dad drinks too much, and Mr. King is an ogre. When Little John hears Gayle singing, he also finds that her voice has the power to heal. It's a lovely and touching story.
September's Book Pick is WINGER, by the increasingly prolific Andrew Smith. Although WINGER was published in 2013, he already has GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE and 100 SIDEWAYS MILES coming out in 2014. (GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, by the way, is weirder and more epic in scope than Winger, and is quite possibly a masterpiece--so far, it's my pick for the Printz this year. I haven't read the Sideways Miles book yet.)
I have to admit that the cover of WINGER made it really hard for me to open the book. Every time I saw that guy in the prep school outfit, with the bloody tissue sticking out of his nose, I picked up something else. Even when I heard over and over how great the story was. I finally must have focused only at the back cover, which is an artist's rendering of the photo on the front, and somewhat more appealing to me.
Martha Bennett Stiles was the winner of a book trailer on the Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose Blog Tour Comment raffle. As it turns out, her new book, Sailing to Freedom, has just been released. I was delighted to produce a trailer for her.
Have you read any great books this month?
I finally caught up with HOW TO CATCH A BOGLE, by Catherine Jinks. Orphan Birdie is apprenticed to the Go-Devil Man, a bogler named Alfred. She considers herself lucky to be helping to catch bogles rather than working in the sewers of London. But the job is dangerous each and every time she sings within her circle of salt, and she and Alfred can't let anything distract them as they lay their traps. When other orphans begin to disappear, Birdie and Alfred have their work cut out for them. This is appropriately creepy Victorian fun, and I look forward to the sequel, coming out in November. (MG)
THE ISOBEL JOURNAL, by Isobel Harrop, is a quirky scrapbook, full of the musings of one young woman who is just beginning to figure out the meaning of her life. It's not a traditional narrative by any means, but taken as a whole it is strangely satisfying. (YA)
SINNER, by Maggie Stiefvater, returns to the werewolves of the Shiver/Linger/Forever trilogy. In this one, Cole St. Clair, is a famous musician (also a werewolf), trying to stay clean after faceplanting onstage from a drug overdose. He swears to Isabel that he has come to LA for her. Never mind that he's also managed to land himself a six week stint on a reality show, where he will be recording his new album in front of the world. So what's Isabel to believe? Relentlessly restless, and always a player, Cole longs to find a home in this sun-soaked city, but only if he can convince Isabel that their love is real. Sinner is a terrific follow-up to the Shiver trilogy, but it can also stand on its own for readers willing to believe that a bad-boy rocker in LA can be a werewolf! (YA)
I have known Valerie Hobbs for many years. I have enjoyed her wonderful stories and her marvelous master classes. I also produced a book trailer for her last novel, The Best Last Days of Summer. I cornered Val at the SCBWI Summer Conference and asked her to give us a Writing Tip of the Day.
August's not-to-miss Book Pick is Meg Medina's YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. Meg won an SCBWI Golden Kite for Picture Book text a few years ago, and this year won the Pura Belpre prize for YAQUI. From the first sentence to the last, Piddy's story grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.
Piddy Sanchez has just changed schools. And, suddenly, someone is threatening to beat her up. Piddy tries to find out who Yaqui Delgado is, and why someone she doesn't even know would want to stir up trouble. At first, Piddy struggles to make sense of the situation, but soon we see her begin to evolve. At her old school, Piddy was a high achiever in all her classes, had a group of friends, and was on track for college and a degree in biology. She worked a Saturday job, and was close to her mom, and her mom's best friend Lila. Now Piddy begins to shut down, missing assignments, cutting school, and fighting with those who love her best.
I have known children's book author Alexis O'Neill for many years. She has been my teacher, mentor, SCBWI Regional Advisor and now is my friend. She has inspired many to reach for the dream of publication through years of putting on fabulous local SCBWI events. Alexis is considered an expert on school visits. With schools cutting budgets and lacking funding, I asked Alexis to give us a school visit tip of the day for these tough economic times.
The SCBWI Costume Contest has turned into my one performance piece of the year. I usually try to incorporate children's literature into the theme, but this year was difficult. The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland was the obvious choice for Heart and Soul, but that wasn't creative enough for me.
What really struck me for this theme is that the Heart and Soul of the fabulous SCBWI are Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser. I have attended 12+ summer conferences, and I am always touched by the generosity and kindness of Lin and Steve. I decided that one very small way I could thank them was to make them part of my costume.
With a $15 bridesmaid dress, a hot glue gun, and a bunch of sparkly do-dads, this is what I came up with.
I've been getting some great reading done lately!
WE WERE LIARS, by E. Lockhart (The Secret History of Frankie Landau-Banks), is a tense, emotional story about four friends who spend summers together on a private island. The Sinclair family is rich and privileged, beautiful and troubled. Cadence Sinclair has survived a terrible accident, and now she relates to readers the summer leading up to it, the summer she was fifteen. Secrets and lies abound in this hard-hitting intense and suspenseful novel. (YA)
A CREATURE OF MOONLIGHT, by Rebecca Hahn, is a beautiful, atmospheric tale about one girl who lives on the edge of a magical forest, a forest that is on the move, encroaching on the kingdom it surrounds. Marni is the daughter of a princess and a dragon, but she has been exiled to a tiny cottage to live with her grandfather. Now that she is grown, she must make a choice: claim her birthright as princess, though the King wants her dead, or disappear into the forest, in search of the father she has never known. (YA)
As I said before, I consider the SCBWI National costume ball an art performance piece. Every year, around April, they announce the theme. This year it took me approximately two seconds to know what to do for the Silvery Moon Ball, I would become the Silvery Moon Queen. I would be decorated with famous children's book paintings with the name "Moon" in the title and of course I would paint them in silver. These are the books I chose to wear:
Good Night Moon, Kitten's First Full Moon, The Cow that Jumped Over the Moon, Walk Two Moons and the Golden Kite honor winner for non-fiction, Team Moon.
I have discovered that I love doing school visits. The kids and teachers really excite and inspire me. Recently I used my book trailer skills and created a school visit promo to advertise my visiting author services to schools:
From three time Caldecott winner David Wiesner comes this complex, funny, richly imagined picture book called MR. WUFFLES! It's somewhat wordless, with only a few overtures from the cat's human (the artist himself?) when he tries to engage Mr. Wuffles with a new toy, a few "mrowwws" from Mr. Wuffles himself, and a whole lot of indecipherable alien and ant conversation.
The sequential art tells a detailed story of aliens, ants, and one very helpful ladybug carrying on right under the nose of the oblivious human. Mr. Wuffles spurns his new toy to pounce on a tiny silver spaceship, sending the aliens into a tizzy. Some of their equipment is damaged, so they make a run for a gap in the wainscoting, looking for help. Aliens and ants team up to drive Mr. Wuffles batty.
from the teaching files
of children's author and educator
Barbara Jean Hicks
What American holiday is more celebratory than Independence Day, and what classic poem celebrates America and Americans more than Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing"? I love this poem from the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass in part because it reflects my own beliefs about America--that we are a great country because we are home to a people who appreciate the opportunities afforded us in this land. Sing, America!
My good buddy, illustrator/author Mary Ann Fraser, is one busy and prolific girl, with over 60 books to her credit. I tracked down Mary Ann to give us an Illustration Tip of the Day.
Here are my recently-read don't-miss-them favorites:
Catherine Linka's debut YA novel A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS, is here--and, wow, it's a good one! What if women in the United States were suddenly denied the right to handle their own finances, drive without a male escort, or even go to college, all in the name of keeping them safe? Sixteen-year-old Avie Reveare learns she has been Signed to Jessop Hawkins, a businessman more than twice her age. Beginning with dress fittings and verification of virgin status, Avie is warned that marriage requirements will escalate to include satisfying her husband's needs at any time and having as many babies as he wants. Aided by longtime best friend and cute guy Yates, she plans her escape to Canada. But it's not long before Avie realizes her real responsibilities may lie in bringing down the entire system. Escalating suspense, added onto the already intense premise, make this novel unforgettable.
Another satisfying read is TIN STAR, by Cecil Castellucci, an enjoyable YA space adventure with a Casablanca-like feel to it. Tula Bane is on her way to help establish a colony on the planet Beta Granade, until her spaceship unexpectedly malfunctions. When the ship stops at a remote space station, she is beaten and left for dead. Stuck in a place that no one came to "unless they were lost or in trouble," Tula learns to wheel and deal with the resident aliens to survive. She also dreams of getting off the space station so she can take revenge on Brother Blue, the man who tried to kill her. However, Brother Blue also happens to be the powerful leader in charge of Earth's attempts to colonize the galaxy. When three more humans arrive on the station and find themselves stuck, too, things begin to heat up. This is fun, accessible science fiction that will keep readers guessing.
Printz Award Winner, John Green.
When and why did you start writing for children?
I didn't start writing for teens until I was about a year out of college and living in Chicago. I was working at the book review journal "Booklist," and I was reading a lot of YA novels.
I have known Lisa Yee for many years. Kind, fun, and always smiling, my fellow blogger Lisa is also a great speaker who keeps her audiences rolling in the aisle. It is great to have my buddy Lisa Yee give us a "Writing Tip of the Day."
I meet a lot of writers who say, "I want to be a bestselling author." Um, that's a lot of pressure for anyone--published or unpublished.
Book Promotion Tip # 13: Volunteer to read your book and talk about writing at your local library or writers' organization or a local non-profit that serves children and families. Your interest in writing, kids and families makes you more than a salesperson for your book—it makes you a salesperson for literacy, creativity and fun!
Going hand in hand with volunteering is my final promotional tip. Book Promotion Tip #15: Show genuine interest in people. Listen to their stories. Accept their invitations to lunch. Share your journey. Acknowledge theirs. Make new friends. Your friends will be your biggest promoters!
June's Book Pick is the middle grade, Newbery Honor-winning DOLL BONES, by a master of the fantasy genre, Holly Black.
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends for a long time. They play a complex, ongoing game with dolls and action figures, making up elaborate stories for their beloved characters. Among others, there are pirate William the Blade, adventurer Lady Jaye, mermaids, and the Great Queen, a bone china doll who sits alone in a glass display case at Poppy's house.
When Zach, Poppy, and Alice reach middle school, Zach's father, who thinks it's time for Zach to give up this baby stuff, throws out William the Blade and Zach's other characters. Zach is so upset, he shuts down the game without explaining why. But when Poppy says that the Queen is really the ghost of a young girl who wants a proper burial, all three are pulled into a very strange quest.
Grounded in a very realistic world, Doll Bones walks a fine line between the healthy skepticism that most middle grade readers will feel about the ghost stuff, and the growing creepiness of the plot. Zach muses about how he'd like the world to have magic in it, even if it's only the bad kind. And even Alice, who fights agains believing, thinks it's better to go ahead and get the doll buried, just in case, Like the main characters, readers will be won over, though no one can ever be entirely sure what to believe.
I love how the expressive and eerie illustrations by Eliza Wheeler add to the overall spooky atmosphere. I also love how these are real kids--they are not "perfect" characters who do what's expected of them. Rather, they rebel, run away, and that's just the beginning. But Black let's them show us why we should root for them, and how they are growing up with integrity.
I have said that no one can ever be entirely sure what to believe--would you rather Black had either let us (and probably her characters) be sure the ghost didn't exist, or encouraged us to believe more fully in it?