Melissa Stewart drops by ReaderKidZ to talk about her latest book No Monkeys, No Chocolate, co-authored with Allen Young, illustrated by Nicole Wong (Charlesbridge, 2013). Click HERE to read Part I of our interview.
Having written over 150 books for young people, Melissa knows a thing or two about writing nonfiction! And she shares research tips for young readers, too. Perfect timing as 4th and 5th graders will be starting their science projects next month in central Texas. I also adore her advice on organizing writing ideas.
- Current Mood: good
It's hard to believe fall is knocking on our door again and Halloween is around the corner. Trick or Treat! We're shopping for pumpkins. Are you?
|Kids carving pumpkins in 2012|
Brainstorming costume ideas. What will we be this year?
|2011's costumes with the family|
And naturally, reading scary and sweet books! Today, I highlight two new books to hit library and bookstore shelves and I hope you enjoy them as much as we did! Just hop on over to ReaderKidZ and read my review "Ode to Halloween!".
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
- Current Mood: surprised
Over at ReaderKidZ it's Historical Fiction month, and I couldn't be happier than to review Leah Pileggi's debut novel Prisoner 88 (Charlesbridge, 2013) for their many readers! To read the review click HERE.
Prisoner 88 is one of those novels that will get under your skin. You'll feel for Jake and his predicament. The ten-year-old is in jail for killing a man. For killing a man who was trying to harm his father. It's a great example of cause and effect. How life can turn on a dime. How one decision can change your life. One minute your life is flowing in one direction, and in another it's overflowing its banks and taking you into uncharted territory. Pileggi peers deep inside her protagonist and peels back the layers for us. Jake's courage, hope, and unfailing resolve to see the good in people, to make the most of his situation, and to carve a new path for his future are nothing short of inspirational. Prisoner 88 is unputdownable and unforgettable.
Check in at ReaderKidZ throughout the month of October for many more great books, resources, reviews, interviews, and activities surrounding the theme of Historical Fiction!
- Current Mood: optimistic
Today, I'm really excited because the interview with my buddy Don Tate is live at ReaderKidZ, and he's shared his views and emotions with young readers about illustrating his latest book The Cart That Carried Martin written by Eve Bunting (Charlesbridge, 2013). Click HERE to read the interview.
I'm also participating in Nonfiction Monday. Check out Sally's Bookshelf to read reviews on the latest nonfiction books by kidlit bloggers. Sally is reviewing Best Foot Forward by Ingo Arndt (Holiday House, 2013) and she'll host rounding up many more titles worth checking out before this Monday is through.
"The cart was old. Nobody wanted it.
There was a faded wooden cart outside Cook's Antiques and Stuff. The store was closed, so two men borrowed it and painted it green. They hitched it to Belle and Ada, the mules chosen to pull it through the streets of Atlanta from the Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College.
It seemed like an ordinary car pulled by ordinary mules. But it wasn't. The cart carried greatness. It carried the body of Martin Luther King Jr. on the day of his funeral."
Bunting and Tate's collaboration bring us the story about the “humble cart that, not so long ago, carried greatness.” It is a poignant tale that pays tribute to the late reverend and how the American people honored Dr. King. Bunting's words are poetically chosen and rich with emotion and Tate's illustrations create light on a very dark day. Young readers will discover the depth of how Martin Luther King Jr. touched the souls of thousands as they turn the pages in The Cart That Carried Martin and the story behind the borrowed cart.
- Current Mood: indescribable
The full author list, including all genres, can be found by clicking HERE.
Congrats to some of my friends who are featured this year!
Jon Agee, Little Santa
Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan
Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka, Battle Bunny
John Bemelmans Marciano, Madeline and the Old House in Paris
Sophie Blackall, Ivy & Bean
Monica Brown, Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash
Clark Burbidge, The Prodigals: Giants in the Land
Amy Rose Capetta, Entangled
Alexandra Coutts, Tumble & Fall
Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat
Caprice Crane, Confessions of a Hater
Matt de la Pena, The Living
Tracy Deebs, Doomed
Kristina Ellis, Confessions of a Scholarship Winner: The Secrets That Helped Me Win $500,000 in Free Money for College-How You Can Too!
Brian Floca, Locomotive
Gayle Forman, Just One Year
Kami Garcia, Unbreakable
Xavier Garza, Maximillian and the Bingo Rematch
Adam Gidwitz, The Grimm Conclusion
Marcia Goldman, Lola Goes to Work: A Nine-to-Five Therapy Dog
Karen Harrington, Sure Signs of Crazy
Edward Hemingway, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship
P.J. Hoover, Solstice
Kate Hosford, Infinity and Me
Gordon Korman, The Hypnotist: Book 1
Jessica Khoury, Origin
Claire Legrand, The Year of Shadows
Cynthia Leitich Smith, Feral Nights
Diana Lopez, Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel
Bennett Madison, September Girls
Yuyi Morales, Niño Wrestles the World
Herman Parish, Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book #1: Amelia Bedelia Means Business
Joanna Philbin, Rules of Summer
Aprilynne Pike, Earthbound
James Preller, Scary Tales: Good Night Zombie
Chris Raschka, Daisy Gets Lost
Adam Rex, Moonday
Adam Rubin, Secret Pizza Party
Sergio Ruzzier, Bear and Bee
Leila Sales, This Song Will Save Your Life
Liz Scanlon, Happy Birthday, Bunny!
Bob Shea, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
Steve Sheinkin, The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
Neal Shusterman, UnSouled
Lemony Snicket, “When Did You See her Last?” (All the Wrong Questions)
Bob Staake, Bluebird
R.L. Stine, A Midsummer Night’s Scream
Elizabeth Suneby, Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education
James Swanson, The President Has Been Shot: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Don Tate (illustrator), Hope’s Gift
Heather Terrell, Relic: The Books of Eva
Duncan Tonatiuh, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale
Jude Watson, The 39 Clues: Unstoppable: Nowhere to Run
Brian Yansky, Homicidal Aliens & Other Disappointments
Gabrielle Zevin, Birthright: In the Age of Love and Chocolate
What a lineup for Texas families to enjoy with their children. Way to go, 2013 Texas Book Festival!
- Current Mood: pleased
It's Thursday and we're almost knocking on the door of Labor Day weekend! As promised, I've reviewed several books to celebrate back-to-school over at ReaderKidZ today and I hope you'll stop by and check them out. Click HERE.
|Rufus Goes to School by Kim Griswell, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
And don't stop there! ReaderKidZ is geared to fostering a love of reading in the ages K-5 so don't be shy, go ahead and explore the website. You're sure to find new favorites and timeless classics. Haven't you already fallen in love with the pig above and his curlicue tail!
If you're not too busy, drop me a line at ReaderKidZ or comment on my blog and let me know what you think of the recommendations.
Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!
- Current Mood: accomplished
It's August. The end of summer is on its way but you wouldn't know it from the radiating heat here in Texas. Still it's time to get ready for back-to-school. New shoes. New supplies. New books to uncover.
I'm kicking off the last lazy days of summer with The Cat with Seven Names by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Charlesbridge, Aug 2013). It's just the kind of book you want to curl up and read when the clouds roll in and cover the plains. I love the watercolor illustrations splashed across the pages in sunburst yellows, sky-blues, and autumn reds and the mellow hues of springtime sprinkled in. Turns out illustrator Davenier lives in my favorite city Paris, France and close to where my agent Erzsi Deak resides, too.
Johnston introduces us to a stray cat who romps through an urban neighborhood making new friends. Every neighbor has a name for the rogue tomcat and almost everyone feeds the full figured male except the homeless man who can't feed himself. Tacos, tuna fish, Big Mac's. Oh, my! Of course, like every good picture book, Johnston saves the best for last when she brings the community together to save the cat and back into the hands of his rightful owner. It's a good thing our hero had nine lives and even better that's he's introduced the neighborhood to new friends. It turns out the homeless man and the old man have a war in common and the senor, mom, daughter, and librarian love books. Who doesn't, right?
The Cat with Seven Names is perfect for all you readers who adore furry friends and those who just want to be entertained with an endearing tail. I mean, tale. For ages 5+.
Also you might want to check out my upcoming post at ReaderKidZ on August, 29th, 2013 for some new back-to-school book reviews. There's going to be something there for everyone!
- Current Mood: energetic
I don't normally blog about young adult literature on my blog NOT because I don't love reading it but because I write for younger readers who read picture books, chapter books, early readers and middle grade novels. But every once in awhile a book comes along that I feel is a cross-over to those upper elementary readers and a book that is done so well that it just has to be mentioned and that book happens to be debut author Bridget Zinn's Poison (Hyperion, 2013).
Bridget was a librarian, author, and lover of good books and she died far too early at the age of 33 from colon cancer and never got to see youth enjoying her book. But her family, friends, publisher and agent have worked hard to make sure that her dream of being an author and sharing stories didn't die too and released Poison this past spring. To learn more about Bridget and how you can spread the word about her debut YA novel visit her website here:
I must confess I'm not a huge lover of fantasy but I LOVE a good story filled with mischief, mayhem, romance, good vs. evil, and mystery and Poison delivered all of that and then some. So go ahead and read the jacket flap below and meet me on the other side of these paragraphs.
“Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly skilled potions master, is the only one who knows that her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she is the only one who can save it. With no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the King’s Army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute piglet, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?”
Don't you want to run out to your nearest library or book store and grab a copy? I recently had an author friend nominate this book for me for the William C. Morris debut YA award because I feel it's classic, timeless, storytelling at its best!
Bridget Zinn has created a host of diverse and eclectic characters and a world of mystery, romance and intrigue in the Kingdom of Mohr. With page-turning suspense, readers are caught up with Kyra’s struggle to do what’s right and wrestling with the moral dilemma of taking a life to save the lives of many. To make matters worse, the person she must murder is near and dear to her heart, a confident and friend. The only real friend she’s ever known. Her inner conflict is fraught with additional complexities when she learns a truth about herself that thrusts her into a world of evil and consorting with criminal masterminds. Will this secret destroy her or will it make her stronger? She must learn to trust her instincts and believe in herself and at the same time, open her heart and trust the one man she can never have. Or can she?
Strong themes of loyalty, friendship, good vs evil, trust and believing in yourself are well-developed and the main character’s growth over the course of the novel is satisfying and authentic. Zinn’s debut is fantastical with rich characters and a fast-moving plot. Antagonists are well-defined and Zinn carries us to the end of the novel by trying to figure out who is really behind the sinister plot to destroy the kingdom of Mohr. Language and description paint exquisite scenes and this YA is also appropriate for upper elementary ages who are eager to read beyond their reading level. Zinn shows readers you don’t need sex and racy language to tell a great YA story.
Here's a wonderful article written by Alexis Burgling in Publishers's Weekly Promoting a Late Author's Debut Novel: "Poison" by Bridget Zinn and New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith has a guest post by Bridget's friend and critique partner E. M. Kokie, click here to read it.
Happy summer reading friends!
- Current Mood: cheerful
Today, we're here to celebrate her latest picture book Doggone Feet! (Boyds Mills Press, Mar 1, 2013) which is SO doggone cute! Congratulations, Leslie!
What was the inspiration behind this story? And the path to publication?
A couple of years ago, I saw a tapestry hanging in a shop with two dogs sitting under a table. I went back to my room and started writing about the dog’s point of view. I grew up with dogs around the table, so I was familiar with their behavior. But raising my own family with a dog under the table at mealtime gave me a new perspective. We always laughed at how the dog knew where to position herself for the most tidbits. Even though I thought this was a brilliant relatable idea, it was a tricky sell. I didn’t think I wanted to illustrate with all the perspective involved in portraying life under the table. So it was initially sent out with only the text. Several publishers passed it by thinking it was limited visually because of the setting being under a table throughout. But I could imagine it being done—I could see it in my head. Finally, I decided to illustrate a scene or two myself to show how it could be done. A couple of artist friends convinced me that the perspective could be distorted and that what I was doing was working. As soon as my agent sent it out with art it was picked up.
Doggone Feet! is told from the dog’s perspective in rhyme and the language is toe-tapping, read-a-loud fun! I’ve heard it’s very difficult to write in rhyme especially when it comes to revision. Do you approach the revision process differently when you’re revising in rhyme as opposed to prose?
- Current Mood: happy
It’s not every day I welcome a bestselling author and poet to my blog so I’m beyond thrilled that Liz Garton Scanlon has stopped by to discuss her latest picture book Happy Birthday, Bunny! with us. She’s a prolific picture book author and some of her highly acclaimed books include All the World, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes and Think Big. When she’s not writing or teaching or visiting schools, she’s busy with her girls making art, sharing quiet time with her loving hubby or finding a home for an abandoned animal. Thanks for making time in your busy schedule to chat with us!
Happy Birthday, Bunny! Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (Beach Lane Books, Jan 2013) invites readers into an adorable family of rabbits as they celebrate Bunny’s birthday. Birthdays are such a special part of a child’s life, a day they look forward to and treasure all year. What were birthdays like for you as a child? Did you tap into your childhood as you created the story? And how do the Scanlons celebrate birthdays today? Any traditions carried forward from your childhood?
I remember my birthdays being happy when I was little – my mom was very good at making special events extra special. This was back in the day when cakes were homemade, and mine were always beautiful. My birthday is in the spring so one year I even had a bunny cake – maybe that’s where I first felt the tickles of this book!
I’ve always tried to make my daughters’ birthdays special, too. For a number of years, we made piñatas in the weeks leading up to the big day. Often, our papier mache was so strong that not even a dad with a bat could break it open!
But even best-laid birthday plans can go awry. I grew up in the mountains and my “spring” birthday was often interrupted by a late season blizzard. My oldest daughter’s September birthday often sees record-breaking heat. And my youngest daughter was so sick on her 2nd birthday that we practically had to skip the whole thing. Plus, birthday parties sometimes require patience, etiquette and sharing skills well beyond what the birthday boy or girl is truly up to. I think it’s those things that really inspired this book for me. Birthdays are full of expectation – sometimes so much so that they’re a little overwhelming for the guest of honor.
You skillfully unveil the inquisitive nature of a child in choosing a question and answer structure for this book, did the story start out this way or did it evolve over many drafts?
Even my very first draft was in question/answer format (though LOTS of the specific questions and answers later changed). I’ve never written a piece using this structure before, but it worked because of that sense of birthday overwhelm I was just talking about. We bring so much energy to birthdays, but little ones – turning 1 or 2 or 4 or 5 – must be SO confused. They don’t know the traditions, the rituals, the rules. What would happen, I wondered, if one of them just asked? And we answered?
|Liz and I in 2008 at the Hill Country Book Festival|
At what stage did you see Stephanie Graegin’s art for the book and were there any surprises?
I saw some of Stephanie’s sketches relatively early on and I adored them. But, I was surprised, once the final art came along, how much MORE I loved it with color. Her palette is so rich and creamy, and every inch of the book is awash in color – from the endpapers on. I feel very lucky to have been paired with her and her beautiful work.
Here’s one other fun thing to share about Stephanie’s art. Her animals were so endearing – so perfect – that we changed the title for them! The book was originally called HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY! but once those animals came to life, our editor suggested changing it to HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUNNY! and I’m so glad we did.
You’ve just returned from a fabulous vacation with your family, will this latest adventure spawn any future stories? Can you share a favorite memory from your trip?
We just spent a month traveling around Asia – specifically China, Laos and Thailand. I hope a story might emerge from the experiences we had, but there are no guarantees. I work with a very independent muse J.
There is a really interesting tradition of haggling for goods in developing countries – my kids find it fascinating and a little off-putting. The key is to be gracious but straight-up. The artisans are quite good at balancing those, and with a little practice you can mirror them. I’ll bet there’s a story in there somewhere, don’t you think?
As for a favorite memory, wow. That’s like asking if I have a favorite book. We loved every place we went, everything we did, and nearly all the food we tried! I think the best part of the whole thing was just being together as a family. Our girls are getting older and are off living their own lives more and more, so to have so many uninterrupted days together (and nights, crammed into little guesthouse dorms!), that’s something I’ll treasure forever.
The book officially released on January 15th, and a release party is planned, please share all the juicy details for readers.
I’ll be at BookPeople in Austin,Texas, this Saturday, January 26, at 2:00 p.m. Think “birthday party meets storytime”: bunnies, balloons, cake! Come one and all…
Thank you, Carmen, for having me. It’s been a treat!
- Current Mood: busy