Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let Their Names Live On

Fifteen of the twenty children killed: (Top row from left) Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Green. (Middle row from left) Dylan Hockley, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli. (Bottom row from left) Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos

We were all shocked and saddened by the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last week. Yes, I was taking a blogging break, but this is simply too important. It's been nearly a week, and it's still hard to comprehend this atrocity.

I'm not going to get into a discussion here of the many issues involved but I'm sure we can all agree that this massacre was a tipping point for a lot of Americans.  I've decided that I will refuse to utter the name of the shooter and instead choose to learn and remember the names of the victims at the school:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James  Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
  Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6 

Rachel Davino, 29, Teacher
Dawn Hochsprung, 47, School Principal
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Teacher
Lauren Rousseau, 30, Teacher
Mary Sherlach, 56, School psychologist
Victoria Soto, 27, Teacher

What can we do that's positive?  Shelley Moore Thomas, a teacher as well as a writer, suggests doing good.  Ann Curry started #26acts of Kindness to honor the victims.  Many groups are collecting funds, but the best suggestion I've seen so far was in an article by Judith Rosen in PW's Children's Bookshelf this week. We're all book lovers here. Donating books to preserve the memories of the children (and teachers) who died is one of the most positive things you can do right now. Let their names live on! You could donate to Newtown, CT schools or to your own local schools or libraries. I plan to donate some picture books to my local library and elementary school in memory of the children.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What I've Read So Far -- And a January challenge

Drum roll, please! Here is a list of all the books I've read in 2012 (divided up by months and not counting picture books. And please note that most of these were arcs, unless otherwise noted):

1. Cinder - Marissa Meyer
2. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
3. A Diamond in the Dust - Kathryn Fitzmaurice
4. Chomp - Carl Hiaasen
5. Because of Winn Dixie - Kate DiCamillo
6. Looking for Alaska - John Green
7. Gil Marsh - A.C.E. Bauer
8. Never Fall Down - Patricia McCormick
9. Jake & Lily - Jerry Spinelli

10. What the Dog Said - Randi Reisfield
11. So Close to You - Rachel Carter
12. Breathing Lessons - Anne Tyler (paperback purchased from indie bookstore)
13. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
14. Curveball: How I Lost My Grip - Jordan Sonnenblick

15. Breath of Eyre - Eve Marie Mont
16. critique partner's MG novel
17. Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator - Josh Berk
18. Embrace - Jessica Shirvington
19. Insurgent - Veronica Roth
20. Kaspar the Titanic Cat - Michael Morpurgo
21. Small Damages - Beth Kephart
22. The Year of the Book - Andrea Chang
23. Remarkable - Lizzie K. Foley

24. The Wicked and the Just - J. Anderson Coats
25. Summer of the Gypsy Moths - Sara Pennypacker
26. Drowned Cities - Paolo Bacigalupi
27. Starters - Lissa Price
28. The False Prince - Jennifer Nielson
29. Chains - Laurie Halse Anderson
30. My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick

31. Devine Intervention - Martha Brockenbrough
32. The Patron Saint of Beans (now called If You Find Me) - Emily Murdoch
33. Keeping the Castle - Patrice Kindl
34. Don't Turn Around - Michelle Gagnon
35. Gilt - Katherine Longshore
36. Lucid - Adrienne Stolz and Ron Bass
37. The Mapmaker & the Ghost - Sarvenaz Tash
38. A World Away - Nancy Grossman
39. Keeping Safe the Stars - Sheila O'Connor
40. Gold Medal Summer - Donna Freitas
41. The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy - Nikki Loftin
42. This is Not a Drill - Beck McDowell
43. Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson

44. Jump Into the Sky - Shelley Pearsall
45. Noah's Compass - Anne Tyler (paperback purchased from indie bookstore)
46. What Came From the Stars - Gary D. Schmidt
47. Forge - Laurie Halse Anderson
48. Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers
49. Son - Lois Lowry
50. Ungifted - Gordon Korman
51. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
52. Capture the Flag - Kate Messner
53. Edge of Nowhere - Elizabeth George

54. Nerve - Jeanne Ryan
55. Burning Blue - Paul Griffin
56. The Great Unexpected - Sharon Creech
57. Malcolm at Midnight - W. H. Beck
58. Ten - Gretchen McNeil
59. Lindsey Lost - Suzanne Phillips
60. The Diviners - Libba Bray
61. Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

62. What's Left of Me - Kat Zhang
63. critique partner's YA novel
64. Third Grade Angels - Jerry Spinelli
65. Beholding Bee - Kimberly Newton Fusco
66. Space Station Seventh Grade - Jerry Spinelli
67. The Spindlers - Lauren Oliver
68. Every Day - David Levithan

69. Empty - K.M. Walton
70. If I Lie - Corrine Jackson
71. True Colors - Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
72. Popular - Alissa Grosso (paperback I purchased at PAYA)
73. Pretty Crooked -- Elisa Ludwig (hardcover I purchased at PAYA)
74. Dying to Know You - Aidan Chambers
75. Seven Tales of Trinket -- Shelley Moore Thomas (hardcover purchased from indie bookstore)
76. Glass Heart -- Amy Garvey
77. Unspoken -- Sarah Rees Brennan
78. Liar & Spy -- Rebecca Stead

79. The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons - Barbara Mariconda
80. Lovely, Dark and Deep -- Amy McNamara (hardcover from S&S)
81. Breathe - Sarah Crossan
82. A Dog Called Homeless -- Sarah Lean
83. Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities -- Mike Jung (hardcover purchased from indie bookstore)
84. Touching the Surface - Kim Sabatini (hardcover from S&S)
85. Ask the Passengers - A.S. King
86. The Secret Underground - Natalie Bahm (paperback purchased to help Baby Jayden)
87. The Brides of Rollrock Island

88. Double Vision - F.T. Bradley
89. The Tide-Changers -- Sandy Green (paperback purchased from Amazon)
90. Through to You - Emily Hainsworth
91. The Flight - C.F. Runyan (old paperback I've read before)
92. Circle of Secrets - Kimberley Griffiths Little (hardcover won from Deb Marshall)
93. A Tale of Time City - Diana Wynne Jones (paperback purchased from indie bookstore)
94. A Thunderous Whisper - Christina Diaz Gonzalez (hardcover won from Medeia Sharif)
95. Recipe for Trouble - Sheryl Berk & Carrie Berk (paperback won from Jennifer Rumberger)
96. Hokey Pokey - Jerry Spinelli

97. Hattie Ever After - Kirby Larson
98. When We Wake - Karen Healy
99. Dead End in Norvelt - Jack Gantos
100. A String in the Harp - Nancy Bond (paperback lent by a friend)
101. Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

So I've read more than 100 books and December isn't over yet. If you have questions about any of these books, feel free to ask!  Which one's my favorite?  Oh gosh, I couldn't possibly pick ONE favorite. For YA, I'd have to say The Fault in Our Stars, but Small Damages and Devine Intervention both hold a special place in my heart. For MG, I love Wonder, but also What Came From the Stars, and Malcolm at Midnight. Of course, I also loved The One and Only Ivan (but I read it last year!). One of those books had better win a Newbery.

For the next few weeks I'll be taking a blogging break to spend time with my family and to work on my third novel. In January,  I hope to be querying my second novel, but I'm also joining Katia Raina's 31-Minute a Day Challenge.  If you've never checked out Katia's blog, you should hop right over there. She's a lovely young writer I met at the New Jersey SCBWI conference last year, and her first novel is coming from namelos in 2013! Join the challenge! All it takes is a commitment to work on your project (whatever it is) for 31 minutes a day, every day, throughout the month of January. And there's a prize for a random winner at the end! Sign up on Katia's blog.
See you in a few weeks. Enjoy your holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Thunderous Whisper -- and an interview!

Yes, it's another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!  UPDATED TO INCLUDE INTERVIEW!

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants see my sidebar or Shannon's links.

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Knopf, October 2012, for ages 10 and up)

Source: hardcover won from Medeia Sharif's blog (and if you haven't checked out her blog, you should! She's the author of Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. and she reads more than anyone I know.)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world.

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.

Why I liked it: This is historical fiction as it was meant to be. Gripping. Moving. Beautifully written. The Spanish Civil War and the plight of the Basques come alive through Ani. Before reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about Guernica, other than the fact that Pablo Picasso created a famous painting about it. And if you're looking for multi-cultural books, you can't go wrong with this one. (Parental note: This might be a bit scary for younger readers, with the descriptions of dead bodies after the bombing.)

Christina Diaz Gonzalez (from her website)
You can find the Author's website here.

Christina is the author of The Red Umbrella, which I reviewed for my very first MMGM (you can see that in this post from November 29, 2010 -- sheesh, have I really been doing this for more than two years?!).  And now, I'm updating this post to add a mini-interview with Christina Diaz Gonzalez. 

1) Tell us a little about your research. It must have been daunting! Did it take you months or years? What was it like to travel to Guernica and see these sites with your own eyes?

 The preliminary research took a few months and then I added more detail and fine-tuning once I went to Guernica myself. The trip there was amazing (although way too short) and the people were fantastic. They were so incredibly friendly and helpful... really gave me a sense of understanding what it was like during that time period.

2) Do you outline your novels before beginning to write? 

 I never outline my novels before writing but I do know how the book will end. It keeps me going in a certain direction.

3) As a pantser, I'm happy to hear that. I love the character of Ani and how much she grows and changes. I also loved Mathias. Is there any of you in Ani? And is Mathias like anyone you know?

 There is always a little of me in my characters.

4) Can you tell us what we can expect from you next? Will it be another historical novel?

I'm working on a contemporary/ quest-like story. It has a touch of historical to it, also. More than that, I can't talk about!

That's understandable, Christine. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Readers, be sure to come back on Friday December 14, when I'll be listing all the books I've read this year. That will be my last post before January, as I'll be taking a blogging break to work on the rough of my third MG novel.

What historical fiction have you read recently or look forward to reading?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Looking for Holiday Gift Books?

Today, I'm hanging out over at Random Acts of Reading, where the book blogger panel is discussing gifts for the holidays. Come join us!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Winner -- and Hokey Pokey MMGM-style

First, I have a winner to announce.  According to, the winner of the paperback of SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES is:

Jennifer Rumberger

Congrats, Jennifer, and expect an email from me asking for your address!  

Now on to today's book recommendation:

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli (coming January 8, 2013 from Knopf, for ages 10 and up)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis: Jack wakes up one morning and everything is different. His beloved bike, Scramjet, is gone. Stolen by The Girl, Jubilee.

Without his bike, nothing feels right to Jack.

In Hokey Pokey, Spinelli has imagined a world where childhood is a place, not a time. It's like one huge funscape. (Note that the map wasn't in the arc, so I can't wait to see the finished book!) There's an actual Playground, but also the Jungle, the Great Plains, Tantrums, Snuggle Stop (because Spinelli wisely realizes every kid needs a hug in the dark), Thousand Puddles, Cartoons, a Doll Farm, Trucks, The Forbidden Hut, the giant statue of The Kid, and much more. There are no grownups except the Hokey Pokey man, who arrives to hand out shaved ice treats every day at noon, when the sun is high in the sky. Any flavor you imagine is available.

It never rains in Hokey Pokey (yet those Thousand Puddles are always there, and one of the four Rules states, "Never pass a puddle without stomping in it."). A kid grows from a Newbie, just out of diapers, to a Snotsipper, then a Gappergum, a Sillynilly, a Longspitter, a Groundhog chaser, and finally a Big Kid. Jack's a Big Kid, and something is off today. He can't quite put his finger on it, but games aren't as much fun, and he keeps hearing a train whistle that no one else hears.

In Hokey Pokey, bikes are wild mustangs roaming the Great Plains. Scramjet was the most powerful black and silver stallion of all and Jack tamed him. But now Jubilee is riding Scramjet. She even had the gall to paint him yellow and girl him up with pink handlebars and pom-poms.

His best friends, Dusty and LaJo, help Jack look for the bike, but they also notice something different about him. As the day wears on, it's not the bike Jack thinks about, but that faraway train whistle.

Interestingly, this is the advanced reading copy cover - and I prefer this one!

Why I liked it: Filled with inventive wordplay, this is a nostalgic look at an ideal childhood spent mostly outdoors, where distance is measured in spit lengths or frog flings. Where every kid has a bike, a cap gun and a slingshot. Where cartoons play all day long on a giant screen, yet there are no computers or video games.  This is all bittersweet because it's also about growing up and leaving.

This isn't everyone's childhood, but Jerry Spinelli does an excellent job of convincing you this is what childhood feels like. This is what it's about. Or perhaps what it should be about. 

Does anyone play outside anymore?

What would you add to Hokey Pokey? I'd include a huge library where every book you want to look at is always available. Sure, I spent my share of childhood outdoors, climbing trees and running races and playing King of the Hill, but I also remember many happy hours spent reading. And before I could read, I followed my mother around with a book in my hands and begged, "Read this to me?" That's the one thing I think is missing here. (Instead, in Spinelli's inventive world every kid carries a walnut shell. When held to your ear, the shell tells you The Story, but it's the same story every night. The story of The Kid. As beautiful as that is, I would want different stories every day.)

I'm sure my sons would add a video game area. What about you?

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. She has all the links, or you can check out my sidebar.