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!

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!

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.

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!