Category Archives: childrens’ literature

meet anola pickett and primmy, from whisper island, the outer banks, nc

It’s always a thrill when someone you know publishes a book–a double thrill when it’s someone in your critique group. I give you Anola Pickett, author of the new middle grade novel, Whisper Island.

Interesting where ideas come from, isn’t it?

Here, Anola tells us a bit about the Lifesaving Service:

So it’s quite a predicament for Primmy, the 12-year-old main character:

They say a writer tells the same story over and over in each novel, just with different characters. Anola’s characters are always plucky kids overcoming great obstacles. Makes for exciting reading!

Here, Anola talks about the conflict between Primmy and her mother, reflecting on a bigger picture, in my opinion:

One of Anola’s strengths as a writer is her attention to detail of setting. Here, she talks about research, and why Whisper Island is an important book for kids:


Here are a few of the fascinating details Anola found out about living on the Outer Banks in 1913:

What a pleasure to read an historical fiction written by someone so dedicated to authenticity! Like in Anola’s first book, Wasatch Summer:

And as one of her critique partners, I can tell you she’s researching diligently for the novel she’s writing on now:

When she’s done with that…will Primmy appear in a sequel?

But if you’re going to read the sequel, you’ve gotta read the first book. Here’s someone who might inspire you to do just that:

Where did her name come from?


Poor kid. I agree.

I’m so excited for Anola’s book, I’m giving away an autographed copy, with some Island gee-gaws, donated by Anola herself.

And lastly, I just have to squeeze this clip in. All published authors who have done the rounds will appreciate this audience question:

whisper

BUY ANOLA’S BOOK, WHISPER ISLAND TODAY.

But first…

Enter my blog contest for a free, signed and personalized copy. All you have to do is Tweet, Tumbl or Pin about Anola’s book, and leave a comment with the link to your handiwork. DEADLINE: MIDNIGHT CST, SUNDAY, AUGUST 4TH. The winner will be drawn from the proverbial hat and announced on Monday. Prize may or may not include the mermaid bookmark. OH JUST KIDDING.

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summer reading–let kids invent themselves

We interrupt our revision programming for this important blog entry.

I hate to give this article any more exposure, but I suppose you have to read the buttal before you read the rebuttal.

Claire Needell Hollander, a self-described “middle school reading enrichment teacher” has written an article for the New York Times saying that kids in middle school and high school should not be reading frivolous fiction during the summer.  Like The Hunger Games.

She urges children to be unfettered with the specter of essays and tests for their summer reading, that they be free to explore works which may be out of their comprehension comfort zone. On that point I agree whole-heartedly. When a grade is attached, students tend to play it safe.

But Ms. Hollander maintains “Reading literature should be intentional.” Her suggestions for summer reading include a first hand account of the aftermath of Hiroshima and books about kids who have been real child soldiers and a child sex worker. She feels these book choices  “increase world and verbal knowledge”.

Oh, baloney.

There is a reason we tell stories, and it is this: to make sense out of a senseless world.

Kids and teens especially must have the luxury to explore in a fictional setting the topics that frighten, anger and titillate them. They should be given the space to figure out how life works, how it should work.

Reading fiction with compelling characters gives kids and teens the chance to feel those characters’ dilemmas, to make moral choices along with them. They’re building their understanding of the world and their place in it, one book at a time.

jon scieszka–spell it right…j-o-n

So then I went to see Jon Scieszka. If you’ve ever seen Jon Scieszka, you know he’s as funny as he looks, or…

Yes, one of Pete’s many famous pals.

Jon talked about his family, mostly. Be sure to read Knuckleheads: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka.

It explains everything about what makes him tick. He’s the second of SIX BOYS. No girls. If you look at their pictures, they all look about the same age.

Holy cow.

Jon answered some questions at the end, of course. First his favorite books he’s written, and favorite book he’s read:

His favorite story from the Guys Read Books–THE ONE THE GUY’S EDITOR COULDN’T BEAR TO READ:

What he’s working on now. Something with Kate DiCamillo!

Of course he’s on tour promoting his latest SPACEHEADZ book.

The Spaceheadz books teach the kids to interact on the intrawebs, and there’s a nifty-frito website where readers can write their own stuff, read a blog, upload pictures. Major Fluffy even has a lame app.

If you ever have a chance to see Jon, geez. Don’t pass it up.

And bring your kids.

i get mooned by pink granny panties

It’s great to know people in high places.

Michelle L. Brown is a writer you’re going to be hearing about, soon and often. Not only is she a great writer, but she’s smart and generous. She lives in the Kansas SCBWI region, but in the Wichita area. When you don’t live near the hub of an SCBWI region, it’s easy to get left out, but Michelle reaches out through social media to stay in the loop.

When this year’s Newbery winner, WHO IS FROM WICHITA, KANSAS, had a book signing in her hometown, Michelle picked up a few extra signed copies and ran a Twitter contest.

I won!

Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties that will be explained at the end of this blog post, we pick up the action mid-video:

Then I had to excise some material….

Yes, I said it. Addled.

But Michelle clearly is not addled. Visit her blog here and keep an eye on her. Things are going to happen.

btw**

Clare Vanderpool will be signing books at Reading Reptile this Monday, April 4th at 7PM. Don’t hesitate. Just come. Newbery.

mark teague: writer, illustrator, knows where the bathroom is

Another day, another author signing at the Reading Reptile. The beautiful, amazing, children’s bookstore.

Did I mention I live two blocks away?

Why yes, I DO live a charmed life.

This time, the author in question is also an illustrator. Mark Teague! Scholastic has sent him on a junket! Yes, they still do that for the chosen few. Mark has a new book, LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation.

This time, the book signing was held at 5PM, and the crowd was mostly kids and their moms. It made for a different kind of signing than I’m used to. If you’re going to be a picture book author, you’ve gotta tolerate low-level chaos.

Mark related a real-life scenario that helped inspire his new book:

And the kids (and adults) enjoyed recognizing it in the finished product:

And of course we all LOVE to watch an artist create. Do you find that when artists are drawing or painting, they usually have to stop talking?

Listen to these questions. Mostly, Mark tells the kids the same things he’d tell adults.

If you couldn’t hear that last part, Mark said illustrator Don Wood told him artists usually draw characters that look like themselves. And he said it while Mark was drawing a picture of Ike the dog!

Having an audience of mostly rugrats didn’t faze Mark:

In fact, I don’t think there’s much that fazes Mark:

Because he’s kind of a Renaissance guy. He writes. He illustrates. He’s written a middle grade, too. He’s broken a lot of rules:

And what makes him smile? Yup. Same thing that makes every writer smile.

Ye Gods, Freckles McYoungest is going to murderlize me. Let the record show she is SEVENTEEN.

And the Mark Teague book she is emotionally attached to?

 

‘Nuff said.

fortune cookies book launch party

I know you’re beginning to think we don’t do anything around here but launch books.

YOU MIGHT BE RIGHT.

Case in point: Fortune Cookies, by A Bitterman (Pete Cowdin), Illustrated by Chris Raschka.

How many authors do you know run the register at their own book party?

So I run into Judy Hyde, Fearless Leader of Wednesday Morning Critique Group who I would Follow Anywhere–which you can see I do right here–and Anola Pickett. Who has a book coming out soon.

Chris Raschka, as I’m sure you know, is a Caldecott winner. He and Pete gave an illustrated reading of Fortune Cookies. Here’s a little taste:

Then it was time to sign books. So we lined up uncooperatively with Laura Manivong and drove Mrs. Bitterman (Debbie) insane.

FINALLY it was my turn, and I got the true scoop on how illustrator and author got together.

What was interesting about this book bash was the participants. Most book launches are attended by a small circle of writers, but Pete’s crowd was overwhelmingly composed of Reading Reptile customers.

EVERYTHING’S different when Pete Cowdin’s involved.

alice in wonderland: where childhood is real

Tim Burton? I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you. You are a master of visual splendor. The Wonderland you created for Alice is incredible.

I saw your film with my pal Jenn Bailey and two of her three BaileyBoys–The Bandman and Lord Bluntly.  We enjoyed it, yes, but…

Tim, you don’t really get it.

Alice in Wonderland and the sequel, Through the Looking Glass are quite the subversive pieces of literature.

On the surface Wonderland is fantabulous creatures,

splendiferous beauty,

outrageous creativity,

bounteous color,

precious sentiment.

But Alice learns very quickly that she cannot let her guard down. Eat an irresistibly tempting cake and grow too large to fit through the door.

The gorgeous flowers can talk–

but they only have nasty things to say.

And if you meet a grinning, good-natured looking Cheshire cat, beware. Even he will admit, “…we are all mad here.”

I read this book approximately six million times when I was a kid. My own kids hated it. Now that I’ve seen your film, Tim, I finally understand why. It’s because the book has what you’ve left out of the movie:

Veiled menace.

I’m not talking about obvious dangers like the bandicoot or the jabberwocky.  Enemies who declare themselves are easily dealt with.  I’m talking about the darkness that comes clothed in the guise of angels, like the walrus and the carpenter:

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

We all know how THAT turned out.


“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.                                                                                                                                                                         

.

The Mad Hatter, who poses a riddle without an answer. The Red Queen who will chop off the gardener’s head for planting the wrong color of flower. The baby who turns into a pig.

Even though Alice is only a quarrelsome little girl, she sees these petty creatures for what they are. Chess pieces. A pack of cards. Nursery rhymes. They are grand-standers and charlatans, and she can protect herself from them.

Not your usual children’s literature from the Victorian Era, when childhood was deemed an idyllic time tended to by all-knowing adults. As kidlit writers, we know the notion of a carefree youth is a myth.

So now I get why I loved these books as a child, and why my kids didn’t like or understand them.

And Tim? Afraid you really missed the boat. There’s a rumor you’re looking at the Wizard of Oz next. If you are, think LONG AND HARD about the STORY before you start. And let me tell you a secret:

The shoes are silver.


flippin’ out at the “little piano girl” book launch

My delicious friend Ann Ingalls launched her book, Little Piano Girl last Saturday at our local indie children’s bookstore, The Reading Reptile.

Co-written with her sister, Maryann Macdonald, Little Piano Girl (Houghton Mifflin) tells the story of Mary Lou Williams, a jazz piano genius who arranged music for Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

I shot a little video that has AMATEUR written all over it.  Next time I’ll know to narrate more.  It’s fairly self-explanatory, but besides meeting Ann and Maryann, keep an eye out for:

Barbara Stuber, whose debut middle-grade novel, Crossing the Tracks will hit the stores this July.

Colleen Ryckert Cook, whose first non-fiction book in a three-book deal for Rosen Publishing comes out in August.

Katie Speck, author of the Maybelle early chapter books.  You know, the roach? *shiver*  Maybelle will visit someplace tremendously fun in a third book to be released next January. (Ooo!  Kidlit scoop!)

Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of  A Curse Dark As Gold and the first recipient of the William C. Morris Award from the ALA.  Yes, indeedy do.  Don’t worry gang, she has another book turned in which is in production, and she’s writing a third.

Pete Cowden, owner with his wife Deb of THE most incredible children’s bookstore in the nation–The Reading Reptile.

And now, without further ado, my very first vlog:

getting behind each other

You may have heard that I edit this little weekly info-rag called the Sunflower Scoop.  Every week I read An Abundance of Katherines newsletters, articles, blurbs, tweets, innuendos, rumors…and blogs.

I am one jaded internet peruser.

So when I find a stupendously brilliant and generous blog entry by a YA author that is a call to action that we can all heed…

I am going to link the hell out of it.

If you want to support a kidlit book that you’ve heard about, but don’t have the funds to buy, do this.

If you want to support a kidlit book that an acquaintance has written, but don’t have the funds to buy, do this.

If you buy a kidlit book from a friend of yours, don’t stop there, do this.

Many thanks to Lisa Schroeder, author of  Far From You and I Heart You, You Haunt Me.

I think you will agree, she is…

Einstein.  On wheels.

sing for your supper

Uf.

We have returned from the Valley of Pigflu.

Hope you are well too. Though what I’m writing about today makes me a little heart-sick.

Seems nursery rhymes are dying out. The London Telegraph reports that modern parents find them old-fashioned and uneducational.  Harumph.

I sensed the first stirrings of this 20 years ago, when Boywonder was young enough for playdates.  When the living/rumpus room was a wreck and blocks had gone from stackable objects to missiles, I would settle the boys down on the couch for a book or two.  Out would come good ol’ Mother Goose.  Boywonder could recite the rhymes with me–and Visitor?  Never heard ’em before.

Child abuse!

Nursery rhymes were a huge part of my childhood.  Song lyrics.  Games.  Books.  What an easy transition from memorized poems to reading those poems on the page.

Rhythm and rhyme.  Babies learn motor coordination in poems like Pat a Cake and This Little Piggy.  Surely nursery rhymes pattern young brains to appreciate Ode on a Grecian Urn and Leaves of Grass later in life. Listen to the rhythm:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.

I don’t know about you, but that nursery rhyme makes me feel like setting a 2-year-old on my knee and bouncing her around while she giggles.  And don’t forget to pinch her little fingers and toes at the appropriate parts.

I could always pull several dozen nursery rhymes out of my skull at the drop of a hat.  When Bottled Lightning was four, she and I had a nursery rhyme-off at the car repair shop.  Now that I think about it, that’s damn weird.  But, hey.  That’s how we roll.

My nursery rhyme roots go back to my grandmother, who was born in 1885.  She grew up educated, but very poor.  Eventually, she became a leading member of the DAR and a well-known genealogist.  At that time, it was a woman’s only way out of obscurity.  Her grandmother recited the rhymes to her, and I will recite them to my grandchildren.  Imagine.  The very same poems, entertaining seven generations.

I can’t end this post without adding my favorite nursery rhyme of all time.  I don’t know why, but this is it:

Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea,

With silver buckles on his knee:

He’ll come back and marry me,

Pretty Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe’s fat and fair,

Combing down his yellow hair;

He’s my love for evermore,

Pretty Bobby Shaftoe.

Tell me your favorite nursery rhymes.  Come on, guys.  Don’t let me down!



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