Monday, September 24, 2012

MMGM in Real Life!

Well, I had every intention of e-mailing Shannon with my MMGM pick for this week but I started reading a new book and soon it was too late. Missed the boat. And I have to admit I was pampering myself a bit. Today at the library I grabbed a 2012 release by Harlen Coben. Yes, an adult book! This is only the second adult book I have read this year, but I do like this author's writing and his books are always quick reads for me.

So I'll just post a MG-related anecdote instead.

I don't actually get to Barnes and Noble very often, but my husband and I were out last night and dropped by for the last 10 minutes they were open. Of course I headed to the childrens' section and browsed the new releases. I was surprised to see how many books I recognised by the cover and/or title and/or author from the past couple months of participating in MMGM and blogging in general. I should have taken a picture! There was The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand, What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt, One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath, Third Grade Angels by Jerry Spinelli , Malcom at Midnight by W. H. Beck, and Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris by Marissa Moss. Just to name a few! They looked so pretty sitting there, smug little rectangles of perfection. Yes, they know they look cool. MG book covers are the best and (since in the new release section the books face outward) it is a treat to see them all together. I was sad not to have more time to admire them.

I was also slightly jealous. I realized that for people to have blogged about these books they must have had an ARC. I have yet to read an ARC and think it would be fun to be one of the first. One of the first to (hopefully) enjoy and then spread the word. For now I will put these on my mental TBR list and look for them at the library (I have a very low, if not non-existent book budget.) We did decide to let the kids order from the Scholastic Book Clubs but they have to put up half the price. Unfortunately there is no one to put up half for me when I am salivating in the book store!

Happy Monday everyone!


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Winner! and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

First of all I would like to announce the winner of Cinderella Smith and Cinderella Smith: The More the Merrier by Stephanie Barden:

Akossiwa Ketoglo

Yay Akoss! Send me your e-mail and I will pass your information on to Stephanie as she has graciously offered to mail these out to the lucky winner!


This week I have decided to highlight One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia. I grabbed this from the Book Fair at my kids' school last May and what caught my attention were the four awards that decorated the cover: a 2011 Newbery Honor Book, the 2011 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, a 2010 National Book Award Finalist, and the 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner.

Book Description: (from Amazon) Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.

Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, one crazy summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them—an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.

Why it is Marvelous: I read the paperback version of this book and now that I see the hardcover version I just had to add an image of both covers... they each have a different feel, yet both convey important aspects of the book. I think the one thing that sticks with me the most from this book is the voice of the narrator. It is told in first person from Delphine's POV and the reader knows what she is all about from the get go. She is the oldest and has to take care of her sisters... she promised her father and Big Ma. Delphine is absolutely up to that challenge, but you can tell there is something missing. Whether she admits it out loud or not, she needs to know her mother cares about her, approves of her, and it just might take all summer to build some new, fragile bridges, not only with her mother but with the new people she meets at summer camp. 
I also enjoyed the aspect of them wandering around town on their own, off to the pool and summer camp. While my memories don't include Black Panthers, I remember the days spent at our community pool and center, where there were daily activities for the kids. Very fond memories... in fact I still have a soup can decoupaged with stamps (made at the community center) that we use as a pencil holder!


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Cinderella Smith, Iterview with Stephanie Barden and 2-Book Giveaway!

When I decided to get more serious about writing, I looked for books that I felt were similar to my manuscript. I had read Judy Moody and Clementine, a few well-known series for my target age group, but wanted to expand my knowledge of this section of the middle grade market. I was quite happy to stumble upon Cinderella Smith by Stepahnie Barden!

Book Description: (from Amazon) Cinderella Smith has problems with a capital P. Her new teacher laughs at her name, she has to sit at the smart-boys table, and her old best friend is ignoring her. Now the new girl, Erin, has asked for her advice on wicked stepsisters. But Cinderella doesn't have any stepsisters, wicked or otherwise! And to make things worse, she's got to find her ruby red tap shoe before the fall dance recital!

How will Cinderella solve her capital P problems before it's too late?

Why it is Marvelous: This book is full of great material for the lower middle grade crowd. What happens when you loose your best friend, and the joy of finding a new best friend. How it feels when you are not allowed to get your ears pierced and what you do when your friends think you are being a baby for holding your mom's hand in the mall. Cinderella Smith handles each situation with great integrity. She stays true to herself which is why I have enjoyed this series so much.

Cinderella is a very likable character. She is a good kid who tries her best to make everyone happy, and shines with the support of her parents and a few friends she can trust.

Diane Goode's illustrations bring life and such wonderful expressions to this fun cast of characters!


Interview with Stephanie!
1. I have read about how you landed an agent and it is an inspiring, and sad, and hopeful story. Can you talk a little about that and what you learned from the experience? 

Craig Virden plucked me out of the slush pile, signed me up and helped me polish up Cinderella Smith. He had just sent it out to potential editors when he unexpectedly died. When his agency called me with the sad news, I feared that was the end of my writing career. However, in his honor, his co-workers “vowed to get my book published”! Craig was highly respected in children’s literature, so I’ve always felt it was his “stamp of approval” that got editors to look at my manuscript. I dedicated my first book, in part, to him and feel like he’s my writing-guardian-angel.  

What did I learn from the experience…hmm… 

Knowing that Craig believed in me, I gained the confidence to start thinking of myself as a writer. I’m sure if his agency hadn’t kept me on, I would have persevered and looked for another agent.

2. When I met you at the Western Washington SCBWI this past April we only had a couple minutes to chat, but you admitted to not reading a lot of MG books. You said this was because you didn't want your writing to mimic other authors. I think I would be lost without all the MG reading I have done this year. Why does this work for you?

I love MG books and read a ton of them, but not while I’m actively writing first drafts. When I’m chatting with someone with an accent I find myself adopting it ~ and I’m always afraid that will happen when I write too! I know Cinderella’s voice now, so it wouldn’t happen with her, but I’m afraid a new character in a new book might end up sounding like Wilber in Charlotte’s Web or Arrietty in The Borrowers!

3. I also read that you didn't have a critique group when writing Cinderella Smith. Do you have one now?

Last spring I started meeting with two writer friends every week. We haven’t critiqued each other’s work yet, (although we always intend to). Instead we’ve been sharing potential story ideas, writing challenges and helpful hints. Sometimes we do some writing, but usually we just chat, chat, chat!

4. Your job at the Woodland Park Zoo sounds like a lot of fun. What is your background (job-wise) and do you think writing will ever become a full-time career?

I came to work at the zoo after several years as a docent. I didn’t have any teaching experience when I started, just a love of kids and animals and an appreciation of the natural world.  
As much fun as the zoo is, I’d love to be a full-time writer. My goal this fall is to create a writing schedule, keep with it…and NOT let the dog, crow or my darling neighbor singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” at the top of her lungs distract me!

5. Does working with kids in your job give you any particular insight when writing for that age group?

Absolutely! I think it’s critical to spend time with the age group you’re writing for in order to sound “authentic”. I probably ask my students as many questions about them as they ask about the animals! I counter the students: “Why is the ocelot doing that?” with: “What words would you use to describe him? Handsome? Scary? Weird?” The third Cinderella book, coming out in April 2013, actually begins on a school field trip to Woodland Park Zoo. I used an awful lot of my zoo-experiences in the first few chapters.

6. In my opinion, Cinderella Smith is such a wholesome character who (while flawed) is able to stand up for what she believes in. Did you intentionally write her this way?

Not initially ~ I didn’t have a real game plan when I started this series. I had a basic idea, (a shoe-losing kid), and a name, (Cinderella Smith), but no plot and no character sketches. (And I admit, this isn’t a very smart approach!) I just launched right in and CS came to life as I wrote. She became the kind of kid I was friends with growing up ~ respectful, courteous and always trying to do the right thing. She’s a good kid, but not a “goody-two-shoes”. My favorite description of her came from a student during a school visit: 
“Cinderella Smith is nice, but not so nice that you can’t stand her.”
7. Also, I love the character of Charlie! Can you talk a little bit about his role and why (from a writerly angle) he is there? 

Oh, Charlie. He’s based on two little boys I grew up with. “Tarles” was my very first friend and Tommy was my first crush, (at four years old). Every day I asked him how he thought I looked. If he approved, I stayed in what I was wearing. If he didn’t, I went back inside and changed. (Just like Cinderella does with Charlie.) 
Charlie Prince is certainly Cinderella Smith’s “prince charming” ~ although I’m not sure what that really means today. If I can convince HarperCollins to let Cinderella grow up, perhaps there will eventually be a YA romance between the two!

8. I love your promotional photo for your books and website. Is that in your house, and did you go through a professional photographer?

That is my house in the background. I had a professional photographer, (and a friend), come over and take my picture ~ and my dog, Otis, raced around us the whole time! He nearly knocked over lighting-umbrella-things several times. Twas a bit of a circus, as is life, I suppose.


And now for the giveaway!
Stephanie has offered a paperback copy of Cinderella Smith and a hardback copy of Cinderella Smith: The More the Merrier for my giveaway this week! All you have to do is leave a comment and I will draw one name next Monday and announce the winner then. It would be nice if you signed up to follow my blog, but not necessary to be entered in the drawing.

No international entries. US and Canada only.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.

Monday, September 3, 2012

MMGM Winner! And a little Randomness

First let me announce the winner of Sleuth or Dare #1: Partners in Crime.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi who commented as bibliolinks.

Yay Natalie! And a coinkidink that I just finished her book Flying the Dragon yesterday and let me tell you, it was AWESOME!


I will be back next week with a new MMGM, interview with author Stephanie Barden and a two book giveaway!


And now for a little randomness. The first thing is a repost. I like to reply to my commenters via e-mail and sometimes that is not possible because there is no e-mail connected to their blog account. Sad face...

Blog Education

Not everyone has an e-mail connected to their blog account. So when I try to reply to a comment via e-mail sometimes it goes to a address. I have sent many e-mails to this address before I realized I should check first. So if you would like to add an e-mail to your account here is what you need to do... in Blogger anyway.
  1. Go to Dashboard
  2. Go to Edit Profile
  3. Look in Privacy section
  4. Check the box that says "show my email address"
  5. Go to Identity section, and enter an email address
  6. Click Save Profile
I got this information from Julie Musil's blog. If you would like to see that info first hand, see her

Reading Now

Son #1 (age 10, 5th grade) - This kid has read four books in the six days. Granted, three of them have a 4th grade AR level, but still.
  1. NERDS: M is for Mama's Boy by Michael Buckley - The first book in this series won the 2012 Sasquatch Award from the WLMA (Washington Library Media Associaton).
  2. Flight of the Phoenix from the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series by R.L. LaFevers - This book was also a nominee for the 2012 Sasquatch Award and while he didn't read it last year, picked it up at the library this past week and has read the first three in the series very quickly and is just starting the fourth.
Daughter #1 (age 8, 3rd grade) - She is not reading any new books right now, but has instead concentrated on taking her AR tests for books she read over the summer. I believe she has taken five tests for a total fo 25 AR points in the first four days of school. She was pretty proud!
  1. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - This was one that I read out loud to the kids (again my son couldn't wait and finished it without us!) and my daughter really enjoyed it. When we were reading the acknowledgements I remembered a tweet about (the real) Ivan passing away at Zoo Atlanta and she had a good perspective saying "he was old, it was his time."