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 -


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?

From the jacket flap:
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. 


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!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Middle Grade Book Club

I'm a little late posting today, since I completely forgot today was Monday until my post should have already been up.  Oh well, better late than never! :)

Some fun news from me. A group of us from the Michigan chapter of SCBWI are starting a middle grade book club. For our first meeting in July, we are going to read the last five Newbery winners.  I've read one already, so just four more to go! I've got a little more than a month, so I'm hopeful I will get through them all.

As a guide in our discussions, we will be using Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. I'm excited for the more in-depth talks on setting, voice, POV, characterizations, etc. A big shout-out goes to Wendy Lawrence for coordinating and hosting our meetings. She has a great blog, too, definitely check it out.

Have a great week!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Cliffhanger ending

Okay, I've had enough with cliffhanger endings!  Last week I shared NEW LANDS by Geoff Rodkey, but I hadn't finished it yet. Well, I did (wow, some major revelations, but I don't wait to spoil it for anyone) and it ended with a cliffhanger. And from what I've seen on the Chronicles of Egg website, I have to wait almost a year before the final book in the series, BLUE SEA BURNING, is released. Yikes! 

At least with TV shows, you know they will be back in the fall. I don't know about you, but it seems like the shows that I like felt it was their duty this year to leave as many story lines dangling as possible. Will Becket choose Castle or the job offer? Will Deeks survive being tortured, and what about Kensi??? What will be the aftermath of Deacon and Rayna's car crash?

In thinking it over, that shows the great ability of a good story and memorable characters, whether in a book or TV show, to pull you in, to have a "Voice" that is so powerful it overtakes you. That is my goal in my writing, to have an authentic Voice that pulls the reader in and won't let them go until they have finished reading. What about you, do you agree? Is the overall Voice of a manuscript the most important aspect?