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Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the Horizon

     As I frantically try to keep up with the new books coming into the store, I'm already preparing for the books to come in 2012. Already, our basement storage area at the store is overflowing with advanced reading copies for books due out through August. And yet, I still have ARCs for January on my pile.
     I'm excited about what's on the horizon for this next year. It is shaping up to be as promising as this past year. While we're waiting for the sequels to Divergent, Ashes, Ashfall, and eagerly awaiting the upcoming Hunger Games movie, we can fill our thirst for compelling reads with CINDER by Marissa Meyer (out January 3).
    I'm not overexaggerating how great this book is. With the re-emergence of fairytale-based stories (Grimm and Once Upon a Time -- television shows), Meyer may just have a mega-hit on her hands. And in August, Stephanie Bodeen's next book, THE RAFT, comes out. Like all her books, this one has to be read from start to finish as quickly as possible.
   Also in January, John Green's new YA novel, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, comes out. A powerful, raw, and poignant look at kids with cancer. Don't miss this one.
   And for humor, Meg Rosoff's THERE IS NO DOG will do just fine. This is an irreverent and often humorous answer to the question "What kind of God would...."  The answer is hilarious -- and strangely makes a lot of sense.

   There are certainly more out there, and I do hope to discover them as they come along. I hope you do too.

Have a great new year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Newbery Season

 The season of speculation for the major children's literature awards is upon us. Lots of places are holding Mock Newbery, Caldecott, or Printz discussions. While it's anyone's guess, really, what the winner will be, it's always fun to try to pick the winners.

Like everyone else, I have my favorites. And while I'm usually less disappointed in what the committee chooses, there are always a few that I truly wish hadn't been overlooked.

This year, instead of waiting for the committee to announce the winners and writing a blog about which ones I wished had won, I'm going to stick my neck and write about the ones I think deserve notice.
Okay for Now - Gary Schmidt
     It will be difficult for the committee to ignore this one. Schmidt, once again, writes a compelling story. This companion to Wednesday Wars has been getting buzz since it the advanced reading copy was released.
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness (from an outline by Sioban Dowd)
     Once it was determined that it was actually eligible for the award, this one has been one everyone's list. This is a moving and poignant tale of dealing with illness and death.
With a Name Like Love - Tess Hilmo
     This one isn't getting as much attention as I'd hoped it would. I'm hoping the committee finds it and loves it as much as I do. The voice is amazing. The story is kid-friendly. This is a keeper.
Dead End in Norvelt - Jack Gantos
     I'm not as big of a fan of Jack as some people are, but this book is a gem. Funny. Surprising. Informative.
The Trouble with May Amelia - Jennifer Holm
     I was a huge fan of the original Newbery Honor book. I'm a bigger fan of this one (in spite of the historically inaccurate cover). Holm has shown she's a talented writer. This one once again proves it.
Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick
   Amazing! I was completely blown away by it. My concern is the criteria for the Newbery which must be based on the text. In this case, it means the committee must take into account only half the book.
Small Persons with Wings (They Hate to be Called Fairies)- Ellen Booraem
   An early "front runner" that still holds up. It has great magical elements. And not since Tinkerbell have there been fairies with such attitude.
Small as an Elephant - Jennifer Richard Jacobson
   A moving novel about a boy abandoned by his bipolar mother at a campground. Structure is similar to the Secret Life of Bees in that each chapter begins with some quote about elephants.
The Absolute Value of Mike- Kathy Erskine
   Another great novel from the National Book Award winner. This time, she adds some comical characters that will warm (and break) your heart.
Inside Out and Back Again - Thanhha Lai
   Wonder first novel in free verse about a young girl's experience as a refugee coming to America. Based on the author's personal experience, it is both informative and moving.
Amelia Lost - Candace Fleming
   Beautifully written and comprehensive account of the famous aviatrix. Reads more like a novel than non-fiction.
Bluefish - Pat Schmatz
  This one sits on the cusp of the Newbery/Printz awards. Only two books have been honored by both committees. Told in two voices (both of which are spot on), readers witness the destruction and reconstruction of two teenagers who find a way to help each other rebuild their shattered lives.
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Septys
   A masterful work depicting the real, but often overshadowed, plight of eastern block people at the hands of Stalin.  This time it's a girl whose family is labeled war criminals who are forced to travel (train and marching) to Siberia, stopping only to work along the way.

These are the books that seem to be showing up on lists with some consistancy. Of course, the committee may have discovered a hidden gem among the many books that have been published this year. We'll find out in January.

Keep reading.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Scratch This Off My Bucket List

     A few weeks back, I attended a writing group that I've been part of since at least the early 2000s. Not much had been happening in my writing life recently, short of getting used to my new editor's management and communication preferences at Reading Today.  I had started a new novel, but even this work was going slowly. And while I was still in the "infatuation" period, it wasn't anything I felt comfortable talking about just yet.
     Nothing traumatic. Nothing terribly exciting. Just the daily grind. Add to that the dull, dreary, continual rainy weather we'd been having, and you can guess my general outlook.
    I left the meeting a little early that evening, as I had much to do the next day and was hoping to get a good night's sleep. When I arrived home, my wife told me I needed to check my email. Kent Brown from Highlights for Children had called and asked for me. When he found out I wasn't home, he asked if my email was still the same, and then said he'd contact me there. I didn't have anything out to Highlights at this time, so I assumed it was about something of mine they'd previously published. If you're a writer, you may think getting a call like this would set off the adrenaline pump. But if you've have ever worked with Highlights for Children, you know that personal contact is the norm, not the exception. They really do run their operation differently.
    My email did have a note from Kent -- one I wasn't expecting. Kent wanted to know if I'd be interested in being part of the Founders Workshop faculty for one of the session. Needless to say, I had to read that line 4 or 5 times before it actually registered what he was asking.
   Of course, once I'd whooped and hollered, hugged my wife, kids, dog (and one cat, the other would have caused a bigger scene than I was making), I emailed back with a definitive YES!
   I've since learned Patti Lee Gauch is heading up the workshop with Robert J. Blake, Jillian Sullivan, with special guests Joy Cowley and Peter Jacobi. What an incredible line-up! And quite humbling to consider that my name is among theirs for this workshop. There's still a part of me that thinks I'm attending, not facilitating.
  I'd been to the Chautauqua Workshop (2004) in New York and a Founders Workshop in Honesdale, PA(2007). Both were amazing experiences, professionally and personally. I'd made friends, contacts, and eventually got my Reading Today position because Pat Broderick, my mentor at Chautauqua, happened to know my love of books AND the editor of this periodical. I made lasting friendships, and many of these people have gone on to publish their work in various venues. Some have even won national awards. In addition to this, I've had the privilege of working with Highlights for Children on two articles, and I couldn't have asked for better treatment.
  So it's no wonder I had "Be a part of the Chautauqua or Founders Workshops faculty some day" on my bucket list. I wanted to know what it was like to be on the "other side." What I didn't think was that it would come so soon. While my books have been to a few acquisition meetings, and my writing gets personal responses from editors, I'm still chasing that elusive book contract. "Some day," I kept telling myself, "I"ll get that contract, and maybe, just maybe, I'll give Kent a hint that I'm always available as a last minute sub -- just in case."
  It turns out, someone else was bending his ear about me, and he was listening. In June 2012, I'll be able to cross this off my bucket list.
  The class is called Master's Class in Fiction Writing for Children and Young Adults. It's one of three new workshops offered at the Honesdale location in lieu of Chautauqua. The Foundation has built its own facilities and lodging on Myer family homestead and will be able to offer the same outstanding workshops there at a more manageable cost to the participants. 
  I strongly encourage anyone who has ever considered trying one of these workshops to go for it. There scholarships funds available, if cost is an issue.
  You won't regret your decision. It is definitely worth it.

 Personal attention. These workshops are intensive, but the amount of one-on-one time you get with so many professionals in your field is amazing. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you are with the faculty. These people make themselves available to you all through the day. Just one lunch listening to Patti Lee Gauch talk about writing is worth more than the cost of the whole conference. Believe me. I've seen her in action.

Great workshops no matter what level you are on. From beginners to intermediates, to experienced writers, these workshops offer something for everyone. The workshops cover all aspects of writing from plot, to character, to revision, to marketing. It's all there, and you can tailor it to your needs.

Critiques. You get a formal critique with a one-on-one conference, but there are so many opportunities throughout the workshop to get informal advice and share your work with other attendees.

Great keynotes.  Since this is new, I don't know exactly how this will work, but I've seen these people talk to a large group. It's always a treat.

Meet the Highlights and Boyds Mills Staff. The offices are just a few miles down the road. I'm sure they'll be stopping in. They wouldn't  pass up a chance at Marcia's cooking. (see below).

Build contacts/make friends. No one leaves without at least one email address, phone number, address, or Facebook friend. There's something magical that happens at these workshops. Perhaps it's a shared purpose, or maybe it's the sharing of writing and meals. Whatever it is, many of these relationships last well beyond the week you are there. 

The food. No, seriously. If Marcia is cooking, you're in for a treat.

The price. It's a steal, really.
     1. Consider what you pay for a "day" workshop. It really isn't a whole day, is it?. Often it's over at 2 or 3
          p. m. When Highlights says it's a full day, they mean it. Multiply that by 7, because it's a full week, not
          just one day.
     2. Add to that lodging for the week. What would you pay for a hotel room for a whole week?
     3  Food. That's included. We're not talking box lunches with a meager turkey sandwich, some
         macaroni salad, and soggy cookie . These are meals prepared by a real chef. A week's worth of meals.
         How much would that cost?
     4. Critiques. Most conferences charge extra for this. Here, it's included.
     5. Access to faculty. Most conferences shield the guest speakers/keynotes from attendees. Here, that
         won't happen. You get access to them all day long. Formally and informally. This in itself is priceless.
     6. The unexpected. Kent Brown and the Highlights Foundation crowd always throw in a surprise or two.
         They're always invaluable and memorable. 

      While the Highlights Foundation (or any writing organization for that matter) can't promise you that you'll be published, I'd be willing to bet their percentages of former attendees who have done so is quite high. There are many people from the year I attended who are now published. I suspect it's because serious writers know they need education to go along with talent. But I also suspect it's because these serious writers get the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals in the field and learn to avoid many of the pitfalls that writers make on the journey. Maybe it's time for you to take that next step too. I've never regretted my decision to attend either workshop. And it's paid off for me, once again. I get to cross this off my bucket list.

Needless to say, once everything sank in, the adrenaline pump went into overdrive that night. A good night's sleep was out of the question -- but I'm not complaining. Not one bit.

Keep writing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Here and Somewhere Out There

One of the advantages of working as a book reviewer and in a book store is that you get a multitude of advanced reading copies long before the books are published. One of the disadvantages is that you get a multitude of advanced reading copies long before the books are published.

I do like getting the jump on things and having an "in" on books that are highly anticipated. But when I say multitude, I mean just that. Any given season, we get 100-300 ARCs into the store. Now I'm an avid reader, but come on, even I can't keep up with that. Consequently, my pile grows and grows. Often, some books just have to be put on the "someday" pile. And more often than not, a book becomes terribly popular, then the publisher decides an ARC is not needed to create buzz and bolster sales. That means, unlike the general population, I have to wait MUCH longer to read the sequel.

The following books may or may not have sequels, but here's hoping if they do, the publishers won't leave me hanging.

Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater. Carniviorous horses from the sea. A budding romance. A much anticipated race. The perfect combination.

Cinder - by Marissa Meyer. Based on the Cinderella fairytale. This one takes into the distant future and does it well. This quartet (each based on a specific fairytale) will keep everyone wanting more.

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green. We all know that whatever John writes is going to be good, but this one is great. Poignant and heartbreaking, this novel takes a real look at teens with cancer. People will be talking about this one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

10 Reasons Why

Saturday, November 26 has been designated Small Buisiness Saturday for shopping. The purpose of this is to encourage shoppers to patronize the indepedent shops in their community. While my take on this applies to the Indie bookstores struggling to stay solvent, many small businesses are losing ground to online ordering and mega-chain stores.

Sadly, when some business closes in my community, so many people say, "Oh, what a shame! I really loved that place." But I wonder, did they really? You don't ignore something you truly love. How often did they drive by it on their way to the chain store just to save a couple of dollars? When was the last time they patronized the store?

It occured to me that it really doesn't take that much on the part of the community who "loves" a place to keep it in business. How many local businesses would thrive if the community at large made the conscious decision to spend $20 a month at the stores they "love" instead of ordering online or going to the mall?

Sure, you may pay a little more at the indies and small businesses, but here are 10 reasons why it's worth it. (some of them are targeted specifically toward bookstores, but you'll get the gist)

1. Ask yourself: How often does my online store donate to my local school, charity, or fund raiser for a community member fighting a dibilitating disease?
2. When was the last time your online store posted your poster for your child's school play, band performance, or passed out fliers with pictures of your missing cat on them?
3. Next summer, when your teenager/college-age child can't find a job because there are no businesses hiring (or it's all been self-serve), think about how many teenagers your online store hires in your community.
4. That person helping you at that chain bookstore was probably selling lattes the day before. Do you really think he/she knows anything about your child/grandchild will love to read?
5. For every $100 spent in a community, a small business reinvests $68. Big box stores, $43.
6. How much tax revenue did Amazon generate for you community this past year?
7. Indie employees will be spending Thanksgiving at home with their families. For most, families are more important that the bottom line.
8. Personal service. Need I say more?
9.The people who own and work in small businesses are your friends and neighbors. Keep them employed.
10. When you call a small business with a question, you get a REAL person who actually works in the store.

Take some time and patronize those businesses you would hate to see go. Make it a wonderful holiday season for yourself and your community. Shop local.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life in a Bookstore

     Almost every week that I've worked at the Blue Marble (8 years now), I've had a customer come in and tell me that "it's their dream to own/work at a bookstore someday." I smile and nod.
     They go on to say, "It must be great being surrounded by all these books and getting the chance to read them whenever you want." I smile and nod, again.
     Why do I do just this? Because telling the truth would not convince them otherwise. They really believe this is the life a bookstore owner/employee -- especially the small, indie kind.
     But the truth is, in 8 years I've read one book inside the walls of this store. That's right. One. And it wasn't even a full book, just the last three chapters of a EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS (and then I had to try to pull myself together in case customer came in).
     Most bookstore people don't read in store. (Nor do librarians.)
     I do read. At home. The pile of books on my dining room table, my nightstand, and in my car can attest to that. And while I end up loving so many of those books, I rarely look at those ever-growing piles with affection. They are constant reminders of how much work I have to do.
     Some books stay on my pile for a long time. For instance, I finally got around to Life of Pi. It got moved up because my son was reading for his AP English class and wanted to talk about it. When a book is read is really dependent on why I need to read it: One of my favorite authors. A friend's book. The author is visiting the store. I just won a major award.
     It's all part of the job. And it's a valuable part of what I do. When a customer comes in and asks, "I've been hearing about this book, have you read it or do you know anything about it?", I can smile and nod.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'm back

I apologize for the long absence. I didn't mean to go this long without posting, but it seems life had other plans for me.

In addition to reading volumes of books for the New Voices committee (our final list needed to be finished by mid-August), I've been working with my new editor at Reading Today to see where Susan and I fit into the mix. Thankfully, they want to keep us on, and it seems they have some interesting ideas for us in the future. I'll keep you posted as soon as everything has been worked out and the ink is dry.

Also my family (in late May) said goodbye to our beloved cat, Heather, who graced us with her presence for fourteen years. Those of you who have pets know how hard this can be. I had planned to blog about how my son handled this, but still it's too close for me to do so. Maybe in the future I will.

We didn't last long before a new cat entered our lives. His name is Gus. And while Heather was the epitome of grace, style and dignity, Gus is a bit of goofball and always good for a laugh. And he can certainly turn on the charm, especially with my college-age daughter whom he seems to have taken a distinct liking to.

On to the books I've been reading. I've had an amazing summer with the ABA New Voices books, reading many more wonderful books than actually made the list. The committee was a terrific mix of people who, in spite of varying tastes and opinions, were able to discuss, laugh, reason, and talk about books with enthusiasm and genuine interest.

Now, I'm getting caught up (slowly, but surely) on the books that were not eligible as well.

First, I think one book that deserves major accolades is WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE by Tess Hilmo. It's one of the WOW! books. From page one, the voice and writing style let you know you're in for something special.

And keep an eye out next week for WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick. In form, it resembles THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET. But once you begin reading it, you'll find it's only in structure that there is a similarity.. It's a completely different novel, weaving two stories (one in pictures and one in text), from two different times together. Again, a WOW! book.

Mike Mullin's ASHFALL arrived in the store this week. I'm assuming it's shipping early because of the amazing job Mike's done of advertising his debut novel and the buzz surrounding it. It really is that good, folks.

Also, the sequel to I AM NUMBER FOUR is out, titled THE POWER OF SIX. This by no means is going to win literary awards, but that's not what it was written to do anyway. It was written to give the reader a great ride, and that it does. Like the first book, this one is nonstop, nail biting action. The one drawback: This one doesn't end as neatly as the first, so it really leaves you hanging and wanting the next edition.

I  do hope to be posting more often in the next few months about the new books coming out.

In the meantime, keep reading and writing.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Many hats

In the next few weeks, I'm going to be speaking to several groups about books, reading, and writing. The topics range from non-fiction books and non-fiction writing to books for middle grade and teens (to a group of teens) to elementary librarians and fiction writers.

As I prepare for each of these events, I'm feeling somewhat schizophrenic. My tastes tend to run along the middle grade/young adult line -- fantasy, historical fiction, humor. So when I'm working on speaking events for other topics, I feel as if I'm doing homework. And switching from topic to topic makes it feel just like high school. To be honest, when I'm finished, I feel more of a sense of accomplishment than I did in high school, and I think that's what keeps me agreeing to do more events out of my "comfort zone."

I'm continuing to read for the New Voices committee. It's amazing the variety of books that are being published by new writers. Many of them are really very interesting. I am falling behind on reading though. And my own writing has been suffering because of this. My spare time has been taken up with reading other's work. Not that that's a bad thing.

On a side note, wishing all the best to the readers and writers in the South who are recovering from the devastion of the recent tornadoes. And to the mid-westerners who are dealing with the flooding.

Keep reading.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's author season!

Publishers are not sending authors on tour nearly as much as they used to. Truthfully, all the authors coming to the store have either scheduled their own visits (because they are passing through), or the author is local.

That said, the store does have some really great people visiting the store in the next month or two.
To start off, we have George Ella Lyon coming to promote ALL THE WATER IN THE WORLD, a picture book about water conservation and use. If you ever get a chance to meet George Ella and hear her speak, take the chance. You'l not meet a more fascinating and gentile lady.

Writer Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is next in the line up. We first met Tracie when she moved back to Cincinnati and was promoting her book REACHING FOR SUN (which became an award winner). This time around, she's talking about her poetry collection COUSINS OF CLOUDS, poems about elephants. There are many hidden gems in this book. It's well worth spending some time discovering it.

Next is the talented illustrator Christina Wald. Christina's new book is HABITAT SPY. Christina has done several terrific books about nature for Sylvan Dell, and this one is one of them.

And finally, author/illustrator Will Hillenbrand is visiting the store. Will will be signing his new books SPRING IS HERE and MOTHER GOOSE PICTURE PUZZLES. I'm a big fan of Will's art and writing. He's produced more than 50 books in his career, and none have been a disappointment.

I'll be dropping in here to let you know how things went in the future.

Keep reading.

Curse You, UPS Man!

As my journey into being on an awards committee continues, I'm begining to hate the UPS man. He never just drives right on by. With the submissions for the awards committee, the review copies sent from my editor at READING TODAY, and my daughter's college book orders, he stops every time. Truthfully, I don't think he's much liking me either.

One of my neighbors even asked if I'd started a home business given the frequency of deliveries. (Don't you just love neighbors who know more about your personal life than your own children? I wanted so badly to say, "Uh, no, just building something in my garage. By the way, your home insurance is paid up, isn't it?")

In the meantime, some of my favorite authors have books coming out this season (and next) and those books are calling my name as well. I've decided to alternate. Read an award submission. Read a favorite author. It's the best compromise I can come up with.

I have read a good book recently. It's called HOURGLASS by Myra McIntire. Due out in May or June (depending on what sources you check). It's listed as a "time-slip" romance. It was quite well-written, and it does hold one's attention. This one will appeal to those who love SHIVER by Stephanie Stiefvater or like CHIME by Franny Billingsley. Not only does it have a romance (mostly chemistry that is literally and figuratively, electric), but it also has special powers (think X-Men), mystery, and suspense. And it has a great fast pace that keeps the reader turning pages. The really nice part is that McIntire manages to keep it real with the characters without putting anything in the text that's going to keep it off the school library shelves or the hands of younger readers of ages 12-14.

I think this one's going to catch the teen audience's attention.

What's next? Well, it arrived today in the store: the ARC of THE POWER OF SIX. Sequel to I AM NUMBER FOUR. I see a sleepless night ahead.

Keep reading.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Matter of Taste

 When I started this blog, I told myself I'd keep out of the "controversy of the day" as much as possible. But recently, a blog that has gone viral piqued my interest. I think the teacher in me began to see this as a "teachable moment."

This blog is a review of a self-published (often referred to as an independently published) e-book. The reviewer gave the novel a fairly good review on plot and description but was concerned that the grammar and sentence structure often got in the way of the story itself.

The author retaliated. Loudly. Rudely. And profanely. You can find the blog here.

What followed was a public tirade by the author herself, along with a multitude of responses telling the author to apologize, take the criticism like and adult, and be a little more professional. Obviously, for those of you who read all the comments, this did not sink in. 

There are several lessons to be learned here:

    1. NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR WRITING, not matter how good it is.
     This is a tough one for new writers (and some very experienced ones as well). This work is your baby, and someone is pointing out its flaws. How dare they?! 
      Having been involved in an "open" writing group for many years, I find this to be a very common problem. Many of our first-timers come not wanting honest critiques but rather lavish praise piled high upon their flawless writing. When they don't get that, they often get angry and defensive. Most we never see again.
   The group is very gentle in its approach, often wrapping their criticism in excellent suggestions on possible fixes or solutions. That doesn't seem to help.
    No writer is going to tell you that constructive criticism feels good, but good ones will tell you it's necessary. They will tell you it's a learning experience. And they'll tell you that you have two ears and one mouth. When accepting criticism, it's best to use them in that proportion. 

   That's why there are such things as second editions.
   One "famous" flaw is the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry is playing Quiditch without robes. And he's supposed to be wearing his cousin's clothes, but the cover shows them being skin-tight.
   There's always room for improvement. 

   For me:
   Catcher in the Rye. Why anyone would to read a whole book about a self-absorbed, spoiled, whinny young man?
    The Outsiders. I never have been able to understand its appeal, except maybe its young author.
   Love You Forever. This a picture book given at almost every baby shower in the country. I see it as a manual for stalking. Every time we read this to young children, we say it's okay to do such a thing as long as it's done out of love.

      When seen as a hobby, writers don't see a need to revise work. Don't see it as a business. Don't see the a need to charge for their services, or they undercharge for them.
      What's the harm? Well, for those who do see this as a profession and try to make a living doing it, these writers devalue all writing. They flood the publishing houses with less than stellar work, causing the houses to close their doors to legitimate submissions. They run the price down so low on magazine and other pieces that it's no longer worth the time of professional writers to submit. And in the end, readers suffer. They don't get the quality they expect. They don't get the variety they need.

       That's what it boils down to, really. Yes, it's on the web, or it could be in a national publication. Still, it's just one person's opinion. Lots of award-winning and/or financially successful books have received negative reviews. It happens.
      Take the review with a grain of salt and move on. Don't retaliate, call the reviewer out, or create a negative public image to go along with the negative review.

  Lessons to be learned indeed. But sometimes, even the best advice falls on deaf ears.

Keep reading.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What have I gotten myself into?

  I recently found out I'm on the American Booksellers Assocation NEW VOICES of 2011 committee. The goal of the committee is to pick 10 middle grade and 10 young adult authors whose first book (in any genre) came out this year. 

It's just dawning on me what a momentous task this is. To be fair, I did agree, even volunteered, to do this. I thought "Hey, I read tons of books each year. I love discovering new talent to follow. This will be fun." But as the books have started trickling in, I'm seeing the future more clearly: This is going to be a lot of work.

I've started reading and so far so good. Let's see if I can keep up the pace AND continue reading some of my favorite authors who have books out this year too.

And speaking of keeping up, I finished the electronic version of Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Jennifer Choldenko. It was wonderful. So nice to visit Alcatraz again. This time, there are more convicts, more intensity, and we finally meet Al himself. As usual, Choldenko tells a good story that is both suspenseful, well-developed and accessible for kids of many ages.

Keep reading.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting Ahead of Myself

Sometimes it's difficult to keep time straight in the book buisiness. Often when I'm working on the shelves of new books, I have to stop and check the publication date on the computer. Why? Because the Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) arrived at the store 5-7 months prior to the publication date. That means I've seen it on our basement ARC shelves or my personal pile at home, may have read it, and have already discussed it with our sales rep. By the time it hits the actual shelf, it seems like it's an old book -- and I hear myself saying, "Why is this book on the NEW shelf still?"

I know this is going to be the case for the book I just finished. It's been on my personal pile since January and doesn't arrive until August.  THIS DARK ENDEAVOR: THE APPRENTICESHIP OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN by Kenneth Oppel is excellent. Basically, it's the prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but understanding the new book does not require having read the original. Oppel explores the possible events that led Frankenstein to take the horrific path he chooses as an adult. We get a glimpse of how his love for Elizabeth started and a hint of the monster's origianal identity.

I also finished THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson in electronic version. This was not my cup of tea. But this is not to say it wasn't a good book. I certainly found the writing to be superb. It's just that the audience is clearly teenage girls -- which I am definitely not. That said, it's clear the book deserved all the accolades it has received and all the buzz it garnered about possible awards.

Keep reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alan Gratz was Awesome!

Alan Gratz was at The Blue Marble!!!!

We had a such a great time with Alan this past Saturday, along with his wife Wendi. I love talking books with her. Anyone want to know whose book recommendations I take seriously? Wendi's are at the top of my list. And I finally got to meet the famous Jo Gratz -- their daughter. Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. What a bright, well-spoken, creative young lady.

While Alan signed pre-ordered books and stock, we chatted about his current book Fantasy Baseball, his upcoming Star Trek novel, and sadly, the shelved Hortio Wilkes series. Interestingly, Alan has a special stamp he puts on his series books, his Samurai Shortstop, and his two baseball books (Brooklyn Nine being the other one).

Thanks, Alan, for stopping by. Come visit us again.

Keep reading.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So Many Books....

The "buying season" is almost complete for the season, which is a good thing because my pile of advanced reading copies (ARCs) teeters on my dining room table. Some days the pile just reminds me of work, but most days I see it as a tremendous opportunity to explore new worlds.

I do try to keep up, and there are times when the pile gets shuffled if something new catches my eye, or there's a buzz about a new book coming out. That's what happened this week.

I became an instant fan of Tom Angleberger when The Strange Case of Origami Yoda came to my attention. Great book -- and something to give the Wimpy Kid fans who have exhausted their supply of reading materials. So, when Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery or Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset [Amulet, May 2011] arrived, I had to read it. From the beginning, there's humor - laugh out loud humor that kids will love -- along with a mystery and some great characters. This one's a keeper, for sure. And I hear there's a sequel to Yoda on it's way entitled Darth Paper.

And I finished another audio book, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan [Dutton]. Sometimes, I may skip a book simply because I know the topic or language in the first chapter will keep it off the shelves of teachers or librarians I work with. (Please don't holler censorship. These are people who must follow guidelines put out by school boards and districts. What they want and can do are often very different.And as much as I realize those kids may be missing out on some spectacular things because of those guidelines, I am well aware of how much those same kids would miss if they did not have these dedicated people in their lives.)

I read an excerpt of this book, and as much as I admired both writers, I knew the work wasn't for my clientele, and the book would have to wait until I got time to read it.

I'm glad I finally did get time. This book was awesome! Hilarious in many places. And heartbreaking in others. The characters are memorable (I too appreciate Tiny Cooper, for those of you who have read the book). And I was correct in knowing I couldn't sell it to my clientele. It does have a VERY generous helping language with liberal use of all the words that parents and others believe our kids have never heard or have ever used. That said, take some time and read/listen to this one. You won't be disappointed.

Keep reading.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Tis the Season

I don't know if many people realize there are "seasons" in the book publishing industry. Fall, Winter and Spring/Summer for most. Some publishers work on two seasons, but for the most part, there are three. And with them are author visit seasons too: Spring and Fall.

At the store, we have two more seasons as well for speaking/inservices/conferences. Late summer is when I go out to many schools and librarian gatherings to talk about new books. Fall, when many local conferences are in full swing, and Spring when, once again, local schools and organization do book fairs, reading events, and teachers become frantic for CEU's. If you notice, Spring and Fall seasons happen with all three. So now is a frantic time for me.

I'm reading every spare minute, trying to get caught up on all the books I missed in Advanced Reading Copies (and browsing picture books by the dozen as they arrive in the store), trying to get a jump start on the ARCs for the next season (we have them through October already in our storage area), and trying to keep up the with speaking engagements and new orders coming in for conferences and author visits.

It is because of this I decided to give the new Playaways a try. Now, I've never even owned a Walkman (dating myself here) yet alone an ipod, so I was a little reluctant. But last July I started a walking program, so I thought I'd give this new technology a chance. My first endeavor was Richard Peck's THREE QUARTERS DEAD. I have to admit, it made my hourly walks very enjoyable, and after several days, I had a new book I could talk about. BTW, this book takes Peck back to his roots as a writer. He started with teen thrillers and this one certainly is. Imagine your friends dying in car crash while one is on the phone with you. And months later you get a text from one of them. Enough said.

I don't think it will replace my typical reading habits -- there's something about a real book that makes reading worthwhile and important to me, but when I can't have a book, I think I'm going to like this alternative. And, it gives me a chance to catch up on the books I "missed" in previous seasons.

Speaking of author visit season, I get the opportunity to meet an author this Saturday whose work I've admired for several years now. I discovered him because his wife was our sales rep for another publisher. When she told me he had a book coming out, my curiosity was piqued. The title? Samurai Shortstop. The author? Alan Gratz. This book has one of the best first chapters I've ever read. Read this aloud to any group of kids, and you'll have a waiting list for the book. And, since then I've been impressed with everything he's put out.

This Saturday, he's stopping by the store (with his wife and daughter) to sign some stock, have a chat, and talk to whoever decides to drop by. If we're lucky, his new novel Fantasy Baseball will arrive in time for him to sign copies. Now, I've eaten lunch with Gary Schmidt, had a manuscript critiqued by Jerry Spinnelli, eaten dinner with Linda Sue Park, and even gotten a tattoo after a long conversation I had with Laurie Halse Anderson. So, you would think that this should be old hat for me, meeting a new author -- especially one whose wife is a friend, but I have to admit, I'm pretty stoked about his visit. He should be here some time around 2:30 in the afternoon. If you're in the area and would like to meet him, do stop in and say hi.

If you can't, I'm sure I'll be letting you know how it went soon.

In the meantime, keep reading.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chime In

I've been busy reading since my last post, so I have much to share with you.

First, it's been more than a decade since her novel Folkkeeper received raves, and I knew it wouldn't be long before buzz began about Franny Billingsley's newest novel, Chime. It has. And let me say, it's much deserved. Chime is exquisitely written. Bilingsly has such a mastery of words and imagery that readers can, in fact, get lost in her phrasings and forget that there's a story that goes along with the words. This one is more YA than her previous novel, but not so much that 12-14 year olds can't read it. It is a paranormal story set in a rural town that has many backwards ways, including hanging witches. And that's just what the main character knows she is.

And for the guys, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen.  This is one powerful novel about steroid use gone bad. Fair warning, this is a true YA book with lots of locker room language, many homophobic and racial slurs, and a tragic sexual assault. Told in two voices, one of football player new to the team and the other of a male gymnast who has been the target of the football stars' wrath. Make no mistake, this is a harsh and real look at the competitive world of high school sports. This one will haunt long after you've read it.

And one of my favorites of the season came out today, Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt. This humorous novel about a girl who journals about the boy who has sat in front of her since fourth grade -- more specifically about his head. She does this to resolve her newly discovered family problems, but soon discovers that Sean is more than she originally thought. This is definitely a winner in my book.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I've Been Busy Lately

I've gotten back to reading kids' books again -- finally.

I just finished a terrific book titled SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS (THEY HATE TO BE CALLED FAIRIES) by Ellen Booream [Dial Books]. I don't read many fairy books. Honestly, between the vampires, werewolves and fairies, I'm pretty burned out on them. But when something unique comes along, I'll give it a shot. This book is more of mystery with wonderfully flawed fairies and non-traditional human characters. The plot moves quickly, and the writing is excellent. This is one to watch this year.

In addition, I was given a terrific first novel to read by a colleague. She wanted to see what I thought. The book is called CHARLIE JOE JACKSON'S GUIDE TO NOT READING by Tom Greenwald [Roaring Brook, July release]. This one is a perfect pick for reluctant readers. The narrator even tells the reader he is going to make the chapters short, so it seems like they are flying through the book. While some teachers may not appreciate the "secrets" given away (i.e. reading the first and last chapters and getting someone else to tell you the rest), I found it wonderful. And, fortunately in the end, Charlie Joe has to change his ways -- almost. I see a sequel coming.

Keep reading.

Monday, February 7, 2011

All Kinds of News

As I'm sure most of you have heard, author Brian Jacques passed away this past weekend. No need to say that the children's literature world has lost a giant. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say he paved the way for series writers to be "box office hits." 

I, like my many of my former students and now bookstore customers, anxiously awaited the next installment of his famed Redwall series. But I was also a big fan of Flying Dutchmen series too. He had a way of telling a broad, epic journey and make it fun.

Additionally, the store was fortunate to host him a few years back. What struck me about him was his natural talent to tell a story. He spoke with such eloquence and emotion and had everyone, kids and adults, sitting on the edge of their seats.

RIP Brian Jacques.

On another note, the deadline for the Highlights Foundation's Chautauqua conference scholarships is February 12. As a former attendee (and scholarship recipient), I strongly suggest writers attend this week long event. Not only is it one of the best vacations you'll ever take, it's such a phenomenal writing conference that you won't regret attending.

It took me years to make up my mind to attend (being cajoled by a good friend of mine who had attended earlier). I finally applied and was pleasantly surprised when I got the scholarship. What did I get from it? I did get my Reading Today job through a contact I made there. I met National Book Award Winner Kathryn Erskine before she was published, as well as several other good friends and colleagues.

More information can be found at

My advice is "Give it a shot. If they say no, you are not out anything. But if they say yes...."

Keep reading.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Short Break

I took a break today from reading The Land of the Painted Caves to read an F&G (Folded and Gathered - the advance reading version of a picture book) of an upcoming gem. It's called Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Gordon Sattler (due out May 2011).

I have to say I don't know if I was laughing more at the text or the illustrations, but I do know I fell in love with it. Now, I do have to tell you, the book has a surfboard named Dave, so I could be a little biased. But I'm guessing the two other characters, Fergus and Dink, could become household names. Not only are they hilarious, but their inquisitive and creative nature keeps the reader guessing what's next.

My first thought after reading this story of scavenging/treasure-hunting pigs was "We need to order lots of these for the store, because I'm going to be talking about this book quite a bit." Then I secretly hoped one of my nieces or nephews ask me to be a special reader for their class next year. I love it when I have a great book to introduce to the kids (and I can bring some great props to share too).

Well, back to The Land of the Painted Caves. I'll try to check in soon with at least another picture book to talk about.

Keep reading.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Going on Now

  I'm juggling a lot this week. The children's literature class I teach at a local college is ending it's term, so I have projects to grade. I'm almost always impressed by some of the presentations my students give.
  My boss is back from BEA (which means lots of well-intentioned new ideas).
  And I'm desperately trying to finish Heart of a Samurai. It's the only Newbery I didn't read before this years' announcements.
  Why "desperately"? Because today my advanced reading copy of Land of the Painted Caves arrived. I started reading this adult novel series when I was 17 years old. The plans were for 7 books total, so I was looking forward to each new book.
   I turn 47 this year, so it's been a long time coming. I wonder, in today's market, would publishers have allowed such a thing to happen? I don't know. But I do know, I'm extremely happy J.K. Rowling wrote a little faster than Jean Auel. And now I'm happy the conclusion of this series has arrived.
   If I'm off the grid for a while, you'll know why.
Keep reading.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Drop Everything and Write!

   Drop Everything and Write! An Easy Breezy Guide for Kids Who Want to Write a Story by Linda Leopold Strauss [E & E Publishing] (out now).
   I believe in full disclosure, so I need to preface this entry with letting you know I've known Linda for many years. How many? I don't quite remember, but I do know that when I decided to jump into the world of writing for children, it wasn't long after that I met her. (That means it's close to 15 years now). In fact, for a long while, she was the only other person who read my work. It was her encouragement that sustained me during those first years. She's very good at encouraging new writers and offering helpful, constructive criticism.
  I've championed this book since its inception, and here's why:
  Yes, there are other books out there about writing, but this one is aimed at middle grade writers. It's a step by step primer for young, budding writers. Parents can use this to encourage their child's interests and help them along. And teachers have a great resource for any student who comes up and asks for help with "writing a book."
   But it's more than that. This book is an excellent starting point for any adult who wants to write for children. The book gives concrete examples of all those terms often thrown around by writers and editors -- characterization, plot, theme, voice, show, don't tell, and dialogue.
  In addition, there are some great writing exercises for all ages.
  I found one more thing about this book that I loved. As a former English and reading teacher, I found myself reviewing this book with great interest. Not only is it a book about writing, but I kept thinking, "This book would be great to teach literary elements and analysis with the kids." After all, it gives terrific and clear examples of all the elements, provides examples from novels they will (or should) have read, and gives them concise instructions on how to recognize and utilize these devices. What teacher wouldn't love that?
  Take some time and check this book out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at its easy-to-read style, and its many, many uses for kids and adults.
   Keep reading.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Absolute Value of Kathryn Erskine

As I said in an earlier post, knowing a writer or illustrator doesn't always make me love (or even like) their latest work, but it does usually get them a higher place in my "to read" pile. Such is the case of Kathryn Erskine's upcoming book, The Absolute Value of Mike [Philomel] (June release). When the book arrived, I placed it on top of the pile.

I'm certainly glad I did. This one takes a 180 degree turn from her National Book Award winner Mockingbird. While there are some serious undertones to the book (many of the characters are coping with the death of a loved one), there's a great deal of humor in the book.  Additionally, the main character, Mike, seems to have fallen into a modern day Oz, encountering one eccentric character after another, and he's left to pull them together to fulfill their wishes.

There is an open-ended, but satisfying ending to the novel, so I'm guessing there may be a companion novel to follow. (One can only hope -- I don't want to say goodbye to these characters just yet.)

Add this one to your pile when it comes out. You won't regret it.

Keep reading.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You're My Idol

          Given tonight's premier of the new season, I thought I'd post something I'd written a couple of years ago during one of my "frustrated" periods of submissions and rejections. Enjoy.

In spite of her Academy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild awards, I feel sorry for Jennifer Hudson. No matter how many accolades she has received, every newspaper, TV show, and magazine has prefaced her name with “American Idol reject”  — a constant reminder that at one time she was just not good enough.
While Ms. Hudson stands as an inspiration for all aspiring singers and actors, there are some important lessons writers can glean from her story as well.
Let’s face it; American Idol did not reject Jennifer Hudson. The judges recognized her abilities. But even after Randy Jackson brought her back for another chance, the public voted her off the show. In a sense they told her, “This isn’t your time. Wait. Be patient.”
Writers encounter this message regularly. Phrases like “Not right for our list,” “We already have something similar on our list,” and “Your writing shows promise,” are just ways of telling the writer, “Your time is coming, but not now.”
As frustrating as this may be, writers need to keep Ms. Hudson in mind. Continue writing, continue submitting, and when it is your time, watch what happens.

Anyone who’s watched the show has at one time or another asked, “Why are you letting Simon speak to you like that?” It’s a natural reaction to criticism. But most of the aspiring singers nod, smile, and many say, “Thank you.”
For most people this behavior boggles the mind, but writers understand this seemingly unbelievable response. As each rejection letter arrives, there’s an overwhelming urge to send a response to the editors and tell them just how utterly and completely wrong they really are.
But writers don’t this. They accept the criticism, and in many cases, they prove to the editor just how fine of a writer they are. After all who else but a truly talented writer can compose a sincere thank you note that eloquently states, “I appreciate your telling me what’s wrong with my work and that you aren’t going to publish it. And I hope that you get the opportunity to do this again in the near future.”

Jennifer Hudson didn’t win American Idol, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. Instead, she used her talents to audition for a role in a film. Sure, it would require her singing skills, but she would use them differently. Sometimes writers need to remember their writing talents can be used in many different ways.
Novels and short stories are not the only venues for publication. Writers need to realize this and expand their horizons.
It’s been a long-held belief by writers that magazine credits improve the odds of getting a book published. Maybe. Maybe not. But in the pursuit of those credits, many writers have found careers and talents they didn’t know they had. And more than a few writers have eventually used those newfound gifts to create the book they always wanted to write.

So your work has been turned down a few times. Whose work hasn’t? But unlike that constant reminder following Jennifer Hudson’s success, publishing is a forgiving business. And failures or rejections, while they may end up as inspirational stories for future writers, are quickly pardoned and forgotten. So when that “someday” arrives and your writing receives the recognition you have always known it deserves, headlines won’t read HarperCollins Wannabe Wins the Caldecott or Random House Reject Nabs Newbery.

Jennifer Hudson has never let an opportunity pass to thank American Idol for the role it played in her success. More likely than not, if she had won, her life would have been very different from what it is now.
Maybe she would have won a Grammy for her debut album, but it’s doubtful she would have had the time to audition for her role in Dreamgirls. The recognition she most certainly deserves might not have happened, if she had won the competition.
So, as a writer, if you can’t let go of the rejections, keep a list of all those who rejected your work. And when the honors finally do arrive, thank those people, publicly and sincerely, for saying, ”It’s not your time. Wait. Be patient.”
If it hadn’t been for them, you would have never found the perfect editor at the perfect publisher who recognized that you were good enough, and it was your time. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It Never Ends

When I started working at The Blue Marble, I thought it was great that publishers sent advanced reading copies (ARCs) for us to preview. Imagine seeing the works of your favorite authors BEFORE anyone else does. This was great! But as the years have progressed, I sometimes find this practice daunting -- this time of year especially.

While I'm trying to "catch up" on the award winning books I somehow missed reading, more and more ARCs are arriving. Already we have shelves of them dated through August of 2011. Some of my favorite authors' ARCs beckon me each time I walk past them. And there are new voices joining in the chorus too.

I have managed to get a few ARCs read recently. Some, I'm already hoping the rest of the children's book world will find as wonderful as I have.

Fantasy Baseball by Alan Gratz [Dial] (March release).
   By the time I was halfway through this book, I had a bit of reader's remorse. I'd wished I'd highlighted or taken notes on the storybook references and characters Alan includes in this book. There were so many I lost count. Honestly, I felt like I was on a treasure hunt, discovering new surprises with each page.
  This is the ultimate fantasy baseball book, with the main character waking up to find he's playing for Dorothy's (of The Wizard of Oz) baseball team -- a team made up of storybook characters. And even more interesting, all the teams are made up of fantasy players. The team who wins the league gets a wish from The Wizard himself.
  While the story is loads of fun, there is a serious and moving subplot woven through the book. Don't miss this one.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. [Clarion] (April release)
   This is a companion novel to Schmidt's Newbery Honor book, Wednesday Wars, and it's stunning. It follows Doug Swieteck as he moves to a new community. For some, this may be seen as an opportunity for a fresh start, but Doug's demons follow him. Fortunately, there are those in this new community who see Doug as a blank slate, not a reflection of his past or of the actions of certain members of his family.
  This time Schmidt uses the painting of Audubon, not Shakespeare, to shine a light on the dark places in Doug's life. And while this novel doesn't have as much humor as its predecessor, it does have the same emotional strength and poignancy.

True (Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan
   By the end of the first chapter of this book, readers know they are in for a special treat. Hannigan's talent for creating quirky and likable characters is at its best. True (Sort of) weaves the stories of a girl who is new to town and has selective mutism, a boy who is suddenly discovering he's no longer tall or talented enough to keep up in basketball, and a main character who is fighting the reputation she's gained through her own behavior. Each must face the truth in order to overcome their obstacles.
   Like Ida B., Hannigan tackles some very serious issues in this book. But she does it with such finesse that readers will not be pulled out of the store when faced with the jarring truth.

Well, that's about it for now.

Keep reading.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Perfect timing

This past week, the ALA announced the major literary awards for  children's literature. This year, there doesn't seem to be as much of an uproar as there has been in recent years over the choices. The books aren't all geared toward one sex. There are no anatomically correct names appearing on the first page (at least in those books that one would not expect that), and while the Newbery winner was not one on many (or any??) lists, everyone who has read the book -- including myself-- is not disappointed in this "dark horse" winner.

Usually, what I feel and hear from others is not about what was honored, but about what wasn't honored. Those who love children's books become very attached to our favorites, and it's hard to let go. (I still haven't forgiven the Newbery committees for passing over City of Ember, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Alabama Moon)

So I thought I'd say congratulations to those who were honored for their hard work and excellence, but instead of writing about the winners, I thought I'd spend a little time recommending some things you might want to read while you are waiting for your copies of the winners of to arrive.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz [Dutton]. This is a true kids' book. Funny, with enough gore (or as Gidwitz puts it "awesomeness") to delight everyone. In addition it makes a great read aloud.
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea [Random House]. Beautifully written. Both funny and tragic, and yet it has such an emotionally satisfying ending. Reluctant readers will like this one (some pages have only  few words on them).
Mockingbird by Kathy Erskine [Philomel]. An amazing and timely book which also won the National Book Award for this year. This really is a masterpiece of writing. (Disclaimer: Kathy and I met at Chautauqua in 2004 and have been friends since. For any author, including Kathy, this does not influence my opinion of their work. However, it does get her books moved up in my "to read" pile.)
Dream of Night by Heather Henson [Atheneum]. When Heather told me what her new book was about, I was a little skeptical. A book told in three voices, including one of a mistreated horse? Could she pull it off? She did. What a wonderful book about acceptance, forgiveness, and healing.
Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve [Dial]. A book about a girl who lives on a magical rhubarb farm. Really. There's mystery. Humor. And anyone who makes a reader care so much about a rhubarb plant named Harry, deserves an award for something.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman [Harper]. Almost nine months after reading this book, it still haunts me. The fine line Shusterman draws between abuse and reason is so thin, readers have a hard time figuring out where they stand.
Dirt Road Home by Watt Key [Farrar Straus Giroux]. This companion novel to Alabama Moon is rough for any reader. But it's so compelling that it can't be put down.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin [Harper]. Not eligible for awards because it was self-published in 2008. This is the best read aloud of the year, and the illustrations are as wonderful as the text.
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt] Again, not eligible because the illustrator is Canadian. A great book on all the types of "quiet" there are. The text is sparse, but the illustrations make it a pleasure to read again and again.
Chalk by Bill Thomson [Marshall Cavendish] This wordless picture book is not only stunning in its illustration, but also in it's concept.

Coretta Scott King
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper [Atheneum] Actually, this could be in the Newbery section too. One of Sharon's best pieces of writing, with a brilliant insight into the world of students who cannot communicate but can learn.

Well, that's about it. There are others of course, but I have to finish reading the only Newbery winner I had not read, The Heart of a Samurai, and then move on to this coming year's selections. (BTW, that may be what I tackle next here. There some great stuff on the way.

Keep reading.

Just to Start

It seems blogging is the thing to do these days, so I finally got myself motivated enough to start one. Now the question becomes, what am I going to write about?

Well, my world pretty much focuses on writing and reading for children, so I thought I'd start there. I thought I'd share my insights into books I've read, authors I've met, the great teachers and librarians I've had the privilege of working with, and my own struggles as a writer.

At the very least, this will give me a place to voice my thoughts. And if anyone else wants to read them, then that's even better.