Monday, December 23, 2013

Cybils Awards and Merry Christmas!

Friday night my fellow middle grade fiction Cybils panelists and I sat down and decided on our final shortlist, the books we recommend to the final round judges to consider for the top award. It was a fun experience and I can't wait until you can all see the list on the Cybils Awards' site in early January. Definitely check it out!

With that said, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I'm going on a blogging break and will be back in January. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Athlete vs. Mathlete

Today I would like to share a book that is great for boys - case in point, one son has read it and the other is almost done.  I think my husband is a little jealous that we are all reading the same book! 


ATHLETE VS. MATHLETE
by: W.C. Mack
Bloomsbury Children's Books 2013

From Goodreads:
Owen Evans lights up the scoreboards. His brother, Russell, rocks the school boards. These twin brothers couldn't be more different. They've long kept the peace by going their separate ways, but all that is about to change. The new basketball coach recruits Russell for the seventh grade team and a jealous Owen has to fight to stay in the game. When someone tries to steal Russell's spot as captain of the mathlete team, will the two be able to put aside their differences in order to save his position? Or will they be sidelined?

Not only is this a great book for boys, but it is also good for those who struggle with their identity and who people think they are - whether it be sporty, smart, quiet, popular, etc. The secondary characters and their attitudes seem pretty genuine to the real world and help maintain the sense of realness in the story. This book is also fairly easy to read which makes it good for a wide age range and reluctant readers.

I just found out that this is actually the first book in a series about the Evans twins. The second book is already out and a third is set to be released next spring.  My boys plan on looking for these soon!

I hope you all have a great week and are enjoying this Christmas season. Be sure to take time for family and friends!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as a judge for the Cybils awards. All opinions are strictly my own.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reading, Reading, Reading

Thanks for stopping by! Unfortunately I don't have a post for you for today. I've had a basketball-filled weekend and with trying to get Cybils reading done, I'm running out of time! For other great blogs about reading and writing, please check out the links on my right sidebar. Have a great week!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Twerp and PiBoIdMo 2013 Winner

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a great weekend! Two items on the agenda today. 

First - I'm a winner!  Yeah!  Once the Cybil reading is done, I desperately need to get back to writing more.  And I have a whole notebook full of ideas to work with.



Secondly - Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

TWERP
by Mark Goldblatt
Random House Books for Young Readers 2013

From Goodreads:
It's not like I meant for him to get hurt. . . .

Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.

Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.


I really enjoyed this book, but I think the name almost gives it a disservice. I honestly thought it would be filled with dumb boy pranks and silly vocabulary, but I was totally mistaken. Twerp is the sometimes nickname of the mc - Julian Twerski. As he writes down his thoughts on his sixth grade year, he begins to fully understand what he "did" to earn the week-long suspension and how to finally come to terms with how to become a better person because of it. I also appreciated that Julian was in gifted classes, but was still portrayed as a normal kid - he's athletic, has a good group of friends and a normal family. So often smart kids are shown as nerds or geeks. Breaking the stereotype is refreshing. A great book and one definitely for boys, although girls might enjoy it too.


So that's it for this week.  Have a good one!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - A Song for Bijou

A SONG FOR BIJOU
by Josh Farrar
Walker Childrens 2013

From Goodreads:
Life for Alex Schrader has never involved girls. He goes to an all-boys prep school and spends most of his time goofing around with his friends. But all that changes the first time he meets Bijou Doucet, a Haitian girl recently relocated to Brooklyn after the earthquake-and he is determined to win her heart. For Bijou, change is the only constant, and she's surprised every day by how different life is in America, especially when a boy asks her out. Alex quickly learns that there are rules when it comes to girls-both in Haitian culture and with his own friends. And Bijou soon learns that she doesn't have to let go of her roots to find joy in her new life.

Told in alternating viewpoints against the vibrant backdrop of Haitian-American culture, Alex and Bijou take their first tender steps toward love in this heartwarming story.


First, I would like to mention that this is definitely for the upper middle grade set. Much of the book focuses on Alex, a seventh grader, and the huge crush he has a new girl, Bijou. Some of the emotions might be a bit much for 8-10 year-olds to understand.

This is definitely a unique concept and plot that I don't think I have read lately in a middle grade. Showing first love and how that grows and evolves, especially in the light of a multi-cultural relationship, makes for an interesting, fun read. I enjoyed seeing the characters grow, especially as they learn how to deal with those who aren't as open to other cultures and ideas. I think both boys and girls would like this book.


I'm glad I found out about this book as a judge for the Cybils. Another I might not have read without seeing it on the nominations list.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY

by: Chris Grabenstein
Random House Books for Young Readers 2013

This gem of a book is part Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, part Trixie Belden/Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew and part Night at the Museum. Such a fun book to read, and best of all it is filled with references to books and authors through the ages. 

From Goodreads:
Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.


I definitely hope all kids have a chance to read this book, not only for the sheer fun of it, but to learn how important it is to occasionally put aside technology and sit down to play a board game or read. And just as a disclaimer, when the book description states that the "stakes are high" to get out of the library, it isn't a life or death situation, it is more along the lines of what could be won. Totally kid-friendly!

I hope you all have a great week!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Jessica Darling's It List

JESSICA DARLING'S IT LIST - The (totally not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection
by: Megan McCafferty
Poppy 2013

Today's post is short, I have to get back to my reading! But I wanted to share this gem of a book I read this past week. I don't tend to read too many "girlie" books, as 1) I have two boys and no daughters and 2) My work-in-progress is geared for boys. This for me was an enjoyable read, one I would have loved in my younger years. It made me laugh out loud and root for Jessica in her triumphs and failures.

From the jacket flap:
I hadn't even gotten to homeroom yet and I'd already discovered five hard truths about junior high:

1. My best friend had turned pretty.
2. She didn't know it yet.
3. It wouldn't be long before she did.
4. That knowledge would change everything between us.
5. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

It's the first day of seventh grade. Is Jessica Darling doomed for dorkdom?


The best part of this book - it is the first in a new series!  I can't wait for the next installment. Well, that and the fact that the voice in this book was spot on, such a great learning tool!

Until next week, happy reading and/or writing! And Happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country, including my dad! May God bless you all!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Losing It

Today's pick was fun and inspiring to read. My middle grader read it before me and absolutely loved it. Once again, if it wasn't for the Cybils, we probably wouldn't have come across it! 


LOSING IT
by: Erin Fry
Amazon Children's Publishing 2012

From Goodreads:
Bennett Robinson loves baseball, especially watching Dodgers’ games with his dad while munching on burgers and fries—the perfect “game food.” Baseball even helped Bennett and his dad get over his mom’s death from cancer. But there’s no way Bennett could ever play baseball. Bennett is fat, the kind of fat that gives you belly button sweat stains and makes it tough to get off a saggy couch.

But on one perfect, baseball-watching day, everything changes. Bennett’s dad is taken away on a stretcher, and Bennett doesn’t know if he will live or die.

Now Bennett has to move in with know-it-all Aunt Laura, his mom’s sister, who hates Bennett’s dad. And Aunt Laura is making it her personal mission to Get Bennett Healthy. Bennett knows that Aunt Laura will take over his entire life if he lets her.

It’s time for Bennett to step up to the plate. Because maybe there are some things a fat boy can do
.


Why kids will love it - Bennett is a great protagonist. He's a normal boy who has the same feelings and wishes that other kids do. What Bennett has to deal with is being overweight and not ending up like his dad. He also has to deal with friendship issues, the cute girl who actually LIKES him :), and living with his aunt and her family and making some life changes. These situations many middle-graders also work through and they can be tough. Reading how Bennett survives the changes and readjusts to a new way of living is so inspiring. A very positive book!

What I learned as a writer - Being honest and not sugar-coating situations is the way to go. Erin Fry really keeps things realistic and doesn't try to add too much to make the story sell. It feels very in touch with this age group.

I hope you have a great week.  I must get back to my reading! :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Counting by 7's

This week's book was high on my to-read list and was also nominated for a Cybil. It is a book that once you start reading, you can't put it down. It's addicting!


COUNTING BY 7'S
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial 2013

From Goodreads:
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.


Why kids will love it - Willow is such a fascinating character; she doesn't behave like normal kids, so the reader never knows what she will do or say.  She is also easy to relate to in her own way and you can't help but want her to find happiness again. At the same time, the other characters are all unique, and reading how they all interact and grow right along with Willow makes for an addicting story.

What I learned as a writer - Making sure each character is well-rounded, even if they are only minor, is so important. I think that's one of the reasons this book works, each character has been well thought out and it shows.  I also learned that having a surprise at the end of a book, even if it is small, gives such a satisfying ending for the reader. 

The Cybils nominating period has ended for the year for everyone. Our list in the fiction middle grade category is impressively long. I may have to lock myself in a room for a few days to make a major dent!

Have a great week! I can't believe my next post will be in November.  Crazy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Don't Feed the Boy

Today's feature is a book that's been on my to-read list, but was moved up as it was nominated for the Cybils. I was drawn in by the main character, Whit, and felt an emotional connection to the story, always a plus for any good book.  So, let's get right to it.


DON'T FEED THE BOY
by Irene Latham and illustrations by Stephanie Graegin
Roaring Book Press 2012

From Goodreads:
No kid knows more about zoo life than Whit. That's because he sleeps, eats and even attends home-school at the Meadowbrook Zoo. It's one of the perks of having a mother who's the zoo director and a father who's the head elephant keeper. Now that he's eleven, Whit feels trapped by the rules and routine of zoo life. With so many exotic animals, it's easy to get overlooked. 

But when Whit notices a mysterious girl who visits every day to draw the birds, suddenly the zoo becomes much more interesting. Who is the Bird Girl? And why does she come by herself to the zoo? Determined to gain her trust, Whit takes the Bird Girl on his own personal tour of the zoo. He shows her his favorite animals and what happens with them behind the scenes. For Whit, having a friend his own age that he can talk to is an exciting new experience. For Stella the Bird Girl, the zoo and Whit are a necessary escape from her chaotic home life. Together they take risks in order to determine where it is they each belong. But when Stella asks Whit for an important and potentially dangerous favor, Whit discovers how complicated friendship and freedom-- can be.

Why kids will love it - The emotions of Whit and Stella are common for many tweens. Readers may understand things in their own lives better by reading how Whit and Stella deal with their own unique situations.  For kids that have grown up going to the zoo, reading about what happens behind the scenes might interest them.

What I learned as a writer - The voice of this book is perfect. The dialogue between Whit and Stella is so important to the book and so believable. I also felt the secondary characters were brought to life and developed, not just thrown in to make the story work.

Thanks for stopping by today. For those of you who also blog, if I don't stop by as much over the next month or two, it is because I have my head in a book somewhere. Over 100 books have been nominated so far in the middle grade fiction category of the Cybils. Amazing!

Have a great week!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Duke

Welcome to another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Today's pick is another book that I was introduced to as a Cybils judge. The same as last week's book, it is an historical fiction, although it goes back a little further to Seattle, Washington during World War II. Much of the book is based on actual fact, so it is entertaining as well as educational.

DUKE
by: Kirby Larson
Scholastic Press 2013

From the jacket flap:
With World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, eleven-year-old Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to "loan" their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again? Will life ever by the same?

Why kids will love it - Kids will relate right away to Hobie. He's a normal, every day kid who just happens to live during a traumatic time in our country's history. Not only is his dad fighting overseas, but he is talked into donating his beloved dog and sending him to fight as well. Larson does a great job showing all the emotions and issues Hobie is dealing with - sadness with his dad gone and then captured, regret over donating Duke, a bully at school that won't go away and how to be brave and support your country with all this going on in the background. I didn't know about the Dogs for Defense program (which was real) and kids can find out about this important part of the war effort. 

What I learned as a writer - In the back matter, Larson explained why she picked to write about the Dogs for Defense aspect of the war. She hadn't found any books for kids showcasing this fact of the war and saw a need.  I've heard this so many times at writing conferences - think of subject and what aspect hasn't be written about yet.  There's your marketable idea!

Thanks for stopping by today. If you've read a great book in 2013 for kids (actually anything published between October 15, 2012 and now), be sure to nominate it for a Cybil award. The nomination period closes tomorrow, October 15th, so stop by today!

Have a great week! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Seeing Red

Thanks for stopping by today! Judging for the Cybils is in full swing, and it is exciting seeing all the great books coming in for my group to read. Today's feature is one that has been nominated and actually was just released last month. It is historical fiction, taking place in 1972 Virginia, and definitely for older middle grade readers, as Erskine doesn't sugar-coat the history of the time period.

SEEING RED
by: Kathryn Erskine
Scholastic Press 2013

From the jacket flap:
Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He's a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown, Stony Gap, Virginia.

Red's daddy, his idol, has just died, leaving Red and Mama with some hard decisions and a whole lot of doubt. Should they sell the Porter family business -- a gas station, repair shop, and convenience store rolled into one, where the slogan -- "Porter's: We Fix it Right!" -- has been shouting the family's pride for as long as anyone can remember?

With Daddy gone, everything's different. Through his friendships with Thomas, Beau, Rosie, and Miss Georgia, Red starts to see there's a lot more than car motors and rusty fenders that need fixing in his world.

When Red discovers the injustices that have been happening in Stony Gap since before he was born, he's faced with unsettling questions about his family's legacy.


Why Kids Will Love It - Any middle grader who loves historical fiction will love this book. It goes into much detail and really makes the reader feel they are in the early 1970's, and girl or boy, it doesn't matter. The book is pretty fast paced and keeps the reader on their toes. Many characters seem a bit stereo-typical at first, but as their layers are revealed, they become more interesting and not always who they seem to be originally.

What I learned as a writer - The attention to detail. Erskine obviously spent a tremendous amount of time on research for this book, although after reading the back matter, she revealed that many of the characters are based on real life people and events, as well. Erskine also shows a delicacy to her writing when describing difficult, hard-to-read situations. It is tough to imagine that people in our history could act they way that they did, and I'm sure, very hard for many middle graders of today to understand. Erskine's writing helps tone down the emotion without taking anything away from it.

I hope you all have a great week! I will be busy reading, reading, reading!  For other middle grade picks, see my favorite links to the right on my website.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Three Times Lucky

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick is not only funny, but also a mysterious murder mystery that takes place in the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. My son and I both read it this week at separate times with competing bookmarks. He finished it first and was just dying to spill the ending. Luckily I finished it before he gave anything away!

THREE TIMES LUCKY
by: Sheila Turnage
Dial Books for Young Readers 2012

From Goodreads:
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Why Kids Will Love It - The humor, adventure and mystery are enough to draw in any middle-grade reader into the story. My son was drawn in from the first chapter and couldn't put it down until all the answers had been revealed. We are both excited for the sequel coming out next year - THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING.


What I learned as a writer - The mastery of language is what stood out for me in this book. And the way Turnage shared details about the characters was so seamless, the reader doesn't even realize she is doing it. This is a book where the setting is it's own character, without it the book wouldn't be what it became - 2013 a Newbery Honor Book.



Another exciting note - Tomorrow nominations open for the Cybils! If you know of a great children's literature book that has high literary value and "kid appeal" then stop on by and nominate. I thought I would share my fellow panelists for the first round of judging. Check out their blogs for more kidlit fun!
Have a great week!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel & an announcement!

This week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is by my new writing friend and fellow Michiganian, Ruth McNally Barshaw. Ruth is one of those special people in the writing community who are not only talented and smart, but share their knowledge about writing, the business and everything in between with others. Ruth and I spent some quality time together traveling to and from and during the Indiana SCBWI Picture Book Day a couple weekends ago. If you missed my post on that, catch it here

Ruth's book that I'm sharing today is the first in her Ellie McDoodle highly illustrated series. She is currently finishing up book six, and I was able to see how she puts the book together for her editor as she writes and illustrates each page. Very cool! Now, on to the book.

ELLIE MCDOODLE: HAVE PEN, WILL TRAVEL
by: Ruth McNally Barshaw
Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books 2007



As you can see I put two different covers up. The first is the original hardcover and the second is the new hardcover edition with a slightly new name to the series - The Ellie McDoodle Diaries

Description from Ruth's website:
One girl. One sketchbook. One week of camping with the world's most annoying relatives!

Ellie McDougal (better known to her friends as McDoodle) is being held prisoner . . . by her aunt, uncle, three annoying cousins, and baby brother, Ben-Ben. Sentenced to a camping trip with them while her parents are out of town, Ellie is absolutely, positively determined to hate every single minute of it. Thank goodness she at least has her sketch journal in which to record all of the excruciating (and, ahem, funny) details. But how will Ellie keep her journal from falling into Er-ick the Enemy's hands? And what will happen if -- inconceivable! -- she actually starts having fun? 


Part graphic novel, part confessional journal, part wilderness survival guide, Ellie's story is a treat for young campers, vacationers, or any kid looking to curl up with a great summer read
.


Why Kids Will Love It: The voice! Ellie shares all her thoughts in her drawings and the text of the book making the reader feel like they ARE Ellie. Her adventures with her cousins are funny and very real.  Any child could picture themselves as Ellie.

What I learned as a writer: It is SO important to nail the voice of your main character!


I also have some exciting news to share with you all today.  I was picked to be one of the first round judges for the Cybils awards in the middle grade fiction category. I'm excited to begin reading and discussing with my fellow panelists. The nomination period opens October 1, so only a couple more weeks until we start!


Thanks so much for stopping by today. For other MMGM recommendations, see the list of my favorite blogs on my website.  Have a great week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Busy weekend and Facebook

It's been a busy weekend and I haven't had the time to get a blog post ready. So, next week I promise I will be back with a new Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. I did want to share that I now have an author page on Facebook! Please stop by for more tidbits and info on children's books and writing. I hope to share fun info throughout each week as I come across it. Just another spot to share kitlit love! 




Click on the links to the right on my website for other MMGM links. See you all next week! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Picture Book Day - Penguin Cha-Cha & Conference Recap

Today I'm featuring a brand new picture book that was written and illustrated by the wonderful Kristi Valiant. I had the chance to meet Kristi this weekend at Indiana SCBWI's Picture Book Day. She is as nice in person as I thought she would be. I will share more about the conference in a bit. 


PENGUIN CHA-CHA
by: Kristi Valiant
Random House 2013


From the jacket flap:
When penguins at a theme park become fascinated by the dancers who perform there, the typical penguin shuffle turns into a dance-floor extravaganza. And when Julia, a curious little girl, becomes fascinated by the penguins and their new hobby, she is determined to join in the fun.


Get ready to move, groove, whirl, and twirl with Julia and her penguin pals in this funny and spirited story.

Why kids will love it: Children love to move around, so seeing Julia and the penguins shake and dance will get them in the spirit. The onomatopoeia and lyrical language will have kids wanting it read over and over, and it is such a fun book that adults won't mind.

What I learned as a writer: Kristi's use of language is amazing and the text flows just like a book of dancing should. It is such fun to read!

For more penguin fun, check out the book website penguinchacha.com.

Another cool aspect of this book is that Kristi does all her illustrating on the computer, even her sketching. Check out her website to see more of her work.

As I mentioned, I attended a picture book workshop this past weekend. The main speaker for the conference was Tammi Sauer. If you follow my blog, you know how much I adore Tammi's books. Not only did I get to hear her speak, but I got to spend some quality time with her. It was such a cool experience for me!  Check out some of her books that I've featured on my blog.

I would be remiss if I also didn't mention my traveling buddies and roommates for the conference - Leslie Helakoski and Ruth McNally Barshaw. They both shared so much information on writing and the business, my head is so full from all I learned.  I featured Leslie's newest book last month - Doggone Feet! and I will be sharing Ruth's books - the Ellie McDoodle books - soon.


I hope you have a great rest of the week. I will be back next Monday with a middle grade post. See you then!




Monday, August 26, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The False Prince

My pick for today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a book I haven't actually read yet. But, my middle grade son has and loved it, so I wanted to share it with you today. He read it for the middle grade book club at his school. It is now very high up on my to-read list!


THE FALSE PRINCE
by: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic 2012

From Goodreads:
In this first book in a remarkable trilogy, an orphan is forced into a twisted game with deadly stakes.

Choose to lie...or choose to die.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.


As my son and I talked about the book, I would jot notes down for my post. His thoughts are pieced together below.

Who is the perfect audience for THE FALSE PRINCE?  Middle graders, probably 5th grade and up.  Boys might like it more than girls, but girls can definitely read it too. It is filled with battles, fighting and killing, but there are also funny parts.

Who is your favorite character? Sage - I liked him because he has an attitude and he pretends to be really bad at sword play, horse riding, etc. and he says he doesn't know how to read – but he really can do all those things. 

As soon as he can get his hands on the second book - THE RUNAWAY KING - he wants to read it.  The third book - THE SHADOW THRONE - comes out next year.

That's all I have for this week. For other MMGM posts, please see the list on the right side on my website.  Have a great week!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Exciting News!

I know, I know, my second post of the day, but I have some exciting news that I would like to share! One of my picture book manuscripts is going to be made into an ebook with MeeGenius!, the #1 app for children's books. If you don't know about them, check out their website, especially if you have young children. The timeline right now would have my book - Ducklings on the Move - available on the app sometime around Christmas.

It has been a bit of a whirlwind the last couple of weeks, but everything is starting to sink in now. I can't wait to see the illustrations and my story come to life!

I'm so thankful to all my writing friends who have helped me so far in my writing career. All the critiques and advice are so appreciated! Now, back to work! :)

Picture Book Day - Doggone Feet!

Today's featured book is a new picture book by my friend and fellow Michigan author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski. This is Leslie's sixth picture book she has written and the second picture book she has written and illustrated. Leslie has stopped by my blog before, click here to read her Q and A.

DOGGONE FEET!

by Leslie Helakoski
Boyds Mill Press 2013

From the jacket flap:
Just me and two feet!

That's what this dog likes - having her person all to herself. But then new feet arrive, insisting on icky things like doggie shampoos! Soon, baby feet appear, bringing noise and chaos. As the family expands, these doggone feet are everywhere! It's a good thing that making room also brings surprises...and joy.

Here is a dog's eye view of life in a growing family.

Why kids will love it - Reading about each new set of feet will have kids guessing who they might belong to. Since the faces that go along with the feet aren't shown until the end of the book, kids can imagine the faces until the end. The surprise at the end of the book is very fun and definitely a total surprise! The illustrations are cheery and so kid-friendly, there's so much to look at and enjoy.

What I learned as a writer - Picture books are so dependent on the text and illustrations to have a give and take with each other. This book is a perfect example of needing both. Leslie does a fantastic job of meshing the two together. The repetition she uses to carry the story along is simple, but so fun to read.

This is such a fun book to read aloud, I hope you will all check it out! Stop by Leslie's website to see the book trailer. Very cute! Have a great week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Rock Harbor Search & Rescue

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday features the first book in a new middle grade series by Colleen Coble and Robin Caroll.  The series is based on Coble's Rock Harbor series for adults.   Interestingly, Rock Harbor is a fictional town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that sits on Lake Superior. Pretty close to home for me. So, let's get to the book.

ROCK HARBOR SEARCH & RESCUE
By: Colleen Coble and Robin Caroll
Thomas Nelson 2013

From Goodreads:

Emily O'Reilly is obsessed with all things Search and Rescue. She volunteers with the team and goes on rescue missions with her stepmom. She is even selling homemade jewelry to save up for her own Search and Rescue puppy. But when an expensive necklace is stolen from a renowned jewelry artist at Rock Harbor's fall festival and Emily is accused of the crime, it looks like she'll never get her puppy and be able to join the Rock Harbor Search and Rescue team.

Emily isn't willing to give up on her Search and Rescue dreams that easily, and she sets out to find the real culprit and to restore her reputation. With a few suspects in mind, Emily is determined to uncover the truth, but she isn't prepared for the secrets she and the Search and Rescue dogs sniff out in the process. This exciting mystery is filled with twists and turns that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and have them pining after a Search and Rescue puppy of their own!


Why kids will love it - For those that love mysteries, especially girls, this is a great story. The twists and turns make it hard to figure out who the thief is until the very end.  It is also very "real" and I'm sure many girls can relate to Emily and her best friend, Olivia. 

What I learned as a writer - The more twists and turns, the more readers will keep turning the pages to find the answer to the mystery. It was also interesting to read how the blended families were handled in a middle grade.  It was nice to see a loving step-mom who was also loved by her step-kids. That can sometimes be hard to find in kids lit.

That's all I have for today. For other MMGM links, see the list to the right on my website. Have a great week!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Picture Book Day - Wooby & Peep

Today I would like to share a fun, new picture book with you. I actually met one of the main characters in person at the SCBWI Wild, Wild Midwest Conference this past May.  Isn't Wooby cute?

WOOBY & PEEP: A Story of Unlikely Friendship
by: Cynthea Liu and Mary Peterson
Sterling Children's Books 2013

From the jacket flap:
Peep and her pet iguana, Ricardo, are LOUD and WILD.

Wooby and his goldfish, Wendy, are NOT.

When Peep moves in next door, Wooby is in for quite a shock. Peep throws crazy parties, wears silly costumes, and makes a lot of noise. This quiet neighborhood will never be the same. Can Wooby and Peep ever learn to become friends?

Why kids will love it - Reading about Peep's antics will bring many laughs. And seeing the friendship bloom between Wooby and Peep will show kids how much fun it can be to be friends with others, even those who might be a little different than you.

What I learned as a writer - Having fun, original characters is so important in picture books. And giving them names that are unique, but match with the other characters is also important. I loved the dialogue between the characters, which shows that for some pb's plenty of dialogue does work.

I hope you all check out WOOBY & PEEP. It's a fun book!  Have a great week!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Dead End in Norvelt

It's been a few weeks, but I'm back with a new MMGM.  Today's feature was the winner of the 2012 Newbery Award. When my son saw I was reading this book, he told me I wouldn't like it.  "It's too gross for you, Mom," he said. I would agree that it does seem to have lots of references to blood, specifically Jack's chronic bloody nose, and many old women die, but it wasn't too gross for me. I survived! Now on to the book!

DEAD END IN NORVELT
by Jack Gantos
Farrar Straus Giroux 2011

From Goodreads:
Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets.

But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his Utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder.

Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Why kids will love it - Jack is fun! His summer is doomed after he is grounded, but he still manages to have adventures with his new best friend Miss Volker. The crazy things these two cook up (literally and figuratively) while writing obituaries and driving around Norvelt are at times hilarious. Kids will also relate to Jack's parents pulling him in two directions, but still being a loving family. Kids that love history will enjoy the bits and pieces of US and World history that are interspersed throughout the book.

What I learned as a writer - Writing historical fiction not only requires lots of research, but needs to be written in an entertaining way, because of either the context or the history that is shown.  Jack's story is also a great example of writing in first person. Because he spends time alone or running errands by himself, knowing his inner thoughts and ideas is crucial to the story. Seeing the family dynamics though his eyes really bring the reader into the story.

Hope you all have a great week!  For more MMGM links, check out my website and the list on the right.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Middle Grade Book Club

This past week was the first meeting of the middle grade book club I'm attending. Many of you asked for me to share about it, so here goes! :)

I have to say what a great idea it was. We read the last five Newbery Winners which included:
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - my thoughts
  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos - hope to share soon!
  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool - my thoughts
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead - my thoughts
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The book club meeting was so much fun! A few of us prepared ahead of time some thoughts on various aspects of writing - Point of View, Setting, Characters, Plot. As we went through each topic, we talked about each of the books and how they compared and contrasted. Even though I hadn't gotten through all of the books by the meeting date, I still learned a ton based on the discussion.  I also found out that THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is not for me!  

We are in the process of picking out books for next meeting, and I'm definitely looking forward to the discussion again. We're choosing between Newbery Honor books from the last few years. So many good books to choose from! 

That's all from me today! Have a great week!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Kidlit Website

A new kidlit website launches today! 


http://emblazoners.wordpress.com/

In their own words: 

Emblazon is a blog written by a collection of indie and traditionally published authors who care about producing high quality stories for kids. We have a particular focus on ages 11 to 14. We call them Tweens. The purpose of Emblazon is to celebrate tween literature. We want to draw attention to this fabulous genre, interact with other enthusiasts whether child or adult, and encourage new writers.

After checking out their website, I can see how much time and effort these authors have put into their website and launch.  I encourage you to check them out!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Moon Over Manifest

Today's MMGM features the winner of the 2011 Newbery Award. It is a book I've been wanting to read for a while now; I actually received my copy for Christmas in 2011. I can't believe I waited so long! As a side note, after reading another wonderful historical fiction book, I've come to realize the special place in my heart that loves to read them.


MOON OVER MANIFEST
by: Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Press 2010

From Goodreads:
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”


Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.


Why kids will love it - The mystery! Following along as Abilene searches for signs of her father in Manifest's history, as well as searching for the Rattler with Lettie and Ruthanne will keep kids guessing until the end of the book. Piecing together stories of the past and the present and how they are interconnected will have kids wanting to turn the page. I would recommend this to girls, as well as boys.

What I learned as a writer - I can only imagine how much research and time went into writing this book. It is evident from the Author's Note, that the love of history and stories from the past fueled Vanderpool's writing of this story. I admire her attention to detail, which took me back to Kansas in the early 1900's. Her second book, Navigating Early, (which I shared here) also shared this same love. I can't wait for her next book!

For other MMGM links, see the list to the right on my website. I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

This week I've been catching up on reading the SCBWI Bulletin. For those of you who are members, don't forget about this amazing resource. I always come away with useful information for my writing with every issue. I hope to never get behind again! :)

Have a great week! I hope to have another MMGM post for next Monday. For all of you in the United States, have a safe and happy Fourth of July! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The One and Only Ivan

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday features the 2013 Newbery Medal Winner -

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

by Katherine Applegate
HarperCollins Children's Books 2012

From Goodreads:
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Why kids will love it - Told from Ivan's point of view, kids will love reading from the perspective of a gorilla. The friendship between the animals is no different than humans, and the questions Ivan raises about humans will make kids laugh. The ending of the story will have all readers shouting for joy.

What I learned as a writer - Applegate uses such simple, even language, yet the story is beautiful and artful. She shows that using big words and flowery language isn't necessary to write a wonderful story. The use of short chapters was also interesting to see and follow, as not many books use that format.

Overall, this is wonderful story that deserves all the accolades and awards it has received.  For other MMGM books, be sure to visit the links to the right on my website. Have a great week!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Picture Book Friday: Nugget and Fang and The Monstore

Since I didn't have a post this past Monday, I thought for today I would share two new picture books that I recently read.  I admire both of the authors and have learned so much from them. First up:

NUGGET AND FANG: Friends Forever - or Snack Time?
2013

From the jacket flap:
1+1=2
Minnows = Shark lunch
This is what Nugget is learning in minnow school. And this is why Fang is losing his best friend. Yes, Fang is a shark. He does have big sharp teeth. And he will convince Nugget that they can still be friends!
If he doesn't, then ...
2-1=1 lonely Fang

Why kids will love it - They will love the word choices and bright pictures. It also shows them it's okay to be friends with all sorts of people, not just those just like you. 

What I learned as a writer - I love the word choices that Tammi makes, especially the alliteration. She also uses the "rule of 3" which seems to be a characteristic of her books. Great balance of narration and dialogue. 


THE MONSTORE
2013

From the jacket flap:
The Monstore sells only the most useful monsters - perfect for all your monsterly needs. And Zack has a big monsterly need indeed: to frighten his pesky little sister away. No more sneaky sister snooping, sleepwalking, or snatching his stuff! But Zack's monsters don't quite work to plan. And the only rule of the Monstore? No refunds.

Why kids will love it -Bright, over-the-top illustrations take the "scariness" factor away and make the book more silly and fun. The brother-sister relationship is easy for them to relate to and enjoy.

What I learned as a writer - The repetition of certain scenes was handled very well, that it didn't seem boring or "here we go again." The variety of character names fit together smoothly. I loved how the book came full circle. Cleverly done!

I definitely recommend finding both of these books at the library or bookstore for summer reading. And if you can't find them, request them!

Have a great weekend!