Monday, October 31, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - A Ghost Story that's not just for Halloween! AND pics of Richard Peck visit AND a giveaway!

Whew!  That's a lot to pack into a blog post.  But I'll try to do it all as briefly as possible so you can get on with your day.  Oh, and Happy Halloween.  Feels more like December here in the Northeast US!  Hope y'all didn't lose power.

First, the MMGM feature:  LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, illustrated by Kei Acedera (9780062014511, HarperCollins, October 2011, for ages 8 to 12).

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.  

Why I liked it:  The writing is gorgeous (which one would expect from Lauren Oliver); the language is luminous and lovely.  And the story is moving.  It reads like a fable or an original fairy tale (the plot hinges on several amazing coincidences). And despite the gloominess of the subject, there is quite a bit of humor. This is a very unusual ghost story because it's more about loss and grief and finding unexpected friendships than about scaring the reader.  In fact, Po is my favorite character.  It's nearly impossible to say much more about this book without spoiling the plot.  Just go read it!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger (and if you haven't congratulated her yet on her amazing book deal, hop on over there). Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming (and go congratulate her on her agent!)
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now 
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at her blog
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads
Danika Dinsmore at The Accidental Novelist
Jennifer Rumberger at her blog 


 ...for part two of this post.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I'm a bookseller as well as a writer, and last Monday evening Richard Peck visited the store to sign his new novel Secrets at Sea. He was charming and personable and a true gentleman. His speech was funny and entertaining.

And yes he did talk quite a bit about writing.  He didn't start writing until he was 37 (which made writer Kim Wheedleton very happy).  He writes a book a year and has written 40 of them.  And believe it or not, he still writes all his books on an electric typewriter.  Richard said, "It has to look like a book" right from the beginning.  He writes each page six times, then when he thinks it's just right, "I take out another 20 words," because you can always take out 20 words.

The cure for writers' block, according to Richard Peck, is to just "stay at the desk."  He used to think he needed to go for a run, but that didn't solve it.   He also said writers should read the newspaper, because that's where a lot of his ideas come from. In fact, he spoke at length about Three Quarters Dead, his most recent YA novel (which creeped me out) and he said he got the idea from a news story about five teenagers who died in a car accident because the driver was texting.  You can imagine what he thinks about technology!  He also admitted he couldn't write it at night because it was too scary!

There aren't many quotes here because I didn't have a chance to take notes. When I'm in charge of a signing, I'm in full bookseller mode.  I'm there to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that the author and the audience are comfortable and happy.  (And if you're a writer and you're reading this post, I'll be that way when YOU get a book published and come to the store!)

He took the time to answer audience questions and then signed as many books as people wanted signed (some had heavy bags full!).  Here are a few pics (and thanks to Michael Gettel-Gilmartin for reminding me to take a camera).

After I introduced him, Mr. Peck started out behind the mic:

But then he quickly decided he didn't care for that, because he wanted to get close to his audience (which was a nice mix of excited kids and adult writers and teachers).

 Afterward, he signed tons of books and posed for photos:

And when all the customers had left, he gladly posed with me:

So, as a reward for reading this far and looking at my (*cough*) awesome pics, you get to enter a giveaway!  I have one SIGNED hardcover copy of Secrets at Sea (here's my review) to give away!

That means for the first time I will have two giveaways going on at once: this one for MG fans, and one for YA fans (see this post from Friday about A.S. King and Everybody Sees the Ants).

If you'd like to enter to win the signed copy of Secrets at Sea, simply be a follower and leave a comment. All ages may enter.  International entries welcome.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST Wednesday November 9, 2011.

Good luck!

Friday, October 28, 2011

YA Friday -- Pennsylvania authors edition, Part Three! EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS by A.S. King -- plus a GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you read that very long title correctly.  There will be a GIVEAWAY of a SIGNED hardcover copy of Everybody Sees the Ants.  But first, the review:

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (Little, Brown, 9780316129282, October 2011, $17.99, ages 15 and up).

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher and Indiebound):  Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?

Why I liked it: This book blew me away.

I had no idea you could do things like this in a YA novel.  Or that a YA novel could encompass so many themes (bullying, war, the effects of torture, the long suffering of MIA families, feminism, family issues) and especially that they could all mesh so well. A.S. King is an amazing writer. But the best part of this novel is the character of Lucky.  He's totally believable and real, and despite all the crap that he's been through, he stays positive and utterly likeable. 

Oh, and it's funny.  Really.

There are three things I especially love about this novel that aren't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis at all (you can only fit so much into a synopsis):

1) The character of Ginny and what she does with her hair.  Yes!
2) The touch of magical realism when Lucky brings something back from each dream.  
3) Lucky's unusual coping mechanism of seeing ants.  When the ants gave Lucky a standing ovation, I laughed, I cried, I cheered.  For a book that tackles some very tough issues, this is one amazingly uplifting tale.

Yes, A.S. King (also known as Amy) lives in Pennsylvania.  In fact, she's been to the bookstore where I work at least three times now.  Most recently, we even sat down and talked together, while she ate red beans and rice and I, um, didn't.  She graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me.

1) You have stated that EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS is not a book about bullying so much as an anti-war novel. Which anti-war novels have influenced you the most?  

Well, I didn’t mean to say it wasn’t at all about bullying. It certainly is a book about bullying, but for me, when I step back from it, it’s a book about torture and how our society has an absurd habit of ignoring everyday torture instead of trying to do something about it. My favorite anti-war novels are Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

2)  Oh, I love Slaughterhouse Five!  One of my favorites of all time.  Amy, the jungle dream sequences in your book provide some intense and moving moments between Lucky and his Granddad Harry. How did you come up with this storyline?  

Coming up with this idea was no different than coming up with any other book idea for me. I’m inspired by the non-fiction I read and the Vietnam War is something that has always fascinated me. Then, when I started to learn about the National League of POW/MIA Families, I was blown away by what those families go through. When I started to write Lucky, a boy who felt emotionally abandoned by his own father, I realized that he knew more about how to help his father, Vic, than Vic himself did—and that was why he turned to Granddad Harry in his dreams.

3) What made you think of using the ants as Lucky's coping mechanism? Why ants instead of, say, spiders? Or birds? Or dragons? 

 I help run my community swimming pool and ants are one of those things that show up at a swimming pool. They’re not there a lot…but if you drop a French fry, give it an hour and there will be ants. Since Lucky started seeing the ants as he was beaten at ground level at the pool, the ants appeared and were his friends from that moment forward. Also, there are no dragons at my pool.

4) Oh, very funny, Amy!  What advice would you give aspiring writers, especially those struggling to publish young adult novels?

I’m horrible at advice because many writers want so many different things from their efforts, so I’ll offer this. Write well. Try your best to write well. Write a lot. And try to keep the writing separate from the publishing. The first question I got this week from a room full of 5th graders at the New York Public Library was, “Are you rich?’
I shook my head no and said, “I am not even close to rich.”
To which they answered, “How old are you?”
And I said “How old do you think I am?”
And they all called out numbers that started with twenty to make me feel better about not being rich. Anyway, it played well for me 30 minutes later when I asked them, “So, since you know I’m not rich, then why do you think I do this?”
All of them got the answer on the first try. “You like it.”
I said, “I love it. I’d do it 12 hours a day every day if I could.”
As hokey as that sounds, it’s the best advice I can give anyone about writing. Love it.

5)  That's wonderful advice.  Thanks, Amy!  Now... tell us your favorite guilty pleasure. C'mon. Please??

This is such an impossible question for me. I rarely do things that make me feel guilty in that way that a guilty pleasure does. I’m really not trying to be difficult.  So, okay, I feel guilty when I eat more than one bowl of tortilla chips at night. That’s it. I don’t buy anything that makes me feel guilty. The only other thing I do that makes me feel guilty is work too much because I don’t see my family enough. So I don’t think that counts and we’re back to tortilla chips. We could call the answer to this question “Confessions of a Boring Tortilla-chip Eating Nerd.”

Thank you for having me on the blog, Joanne! And for your years of support. I am grateful more than you know!

Thank you, Amy!  It was a pleasure having you at the store.

And now...

(drum roll, please)

 I have a SIGNED hardcover copy of Everybody Sees the Ants to give away!  This giveaway is open internationally.  You must be at least 15 to enter.   Giveaway ends Wednesday, November 9 at 11:59 PM EST.  To enter, simply be a follower and comment on this post.  

Extra point for tweeting!   But please let me know (I'm @booksnbrains).  

Another extra point for mentioning on your blog.  

Another extra point for mentioning on Facebook (yeah, I'm on there too - and go play Gardentopia while you're at it -- I know the designer).  

Good luck!  Has anyone read any of A.S. King's other novels?  Here's my review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which went on to win a Printz Honor award.  

(*coughs*)  Attention, everyone:

I'm sticking my neck out and predicting that Everybody Sees the Ants will also win at least a Printz Honor. What book do you think will win?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- Richard Peck (again!)

In honor of Richard Peck's visit to the bookstore tonight (!) to sign Secrets at Sea (see my review here), I'm presenting a brief retrospective of some of his middle grade books, with blurbs courtesy of Indiebound.  (And my apologies to anyone who saw an unfinished version of this on Friday -- for the first time in my blogging life, I hit "publish" when I meant to hit "preview.")

Richard Peck has written more than thirty novels and won every award you can think of. He's the first children’s author to have received a National Humanities Medal.  What follows is just a sampling of his middle grade books:

Each summer over the nine years of the Depression, Joey and his sister Mary Alice--two city slickers from Chicago--make their annual summer visit to Grandma Dowdel's seemingly sleepy Illinois town. Soon enough, they find it's far from sleepy and Grandma is far from your typical grandmother.


Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up her neighbors-and everyone else! All Mary Alice can know for certain is this: when trying to predict how life with Grandma might turn out . . . better not. This wry, delightful sequel to the Newbery Honor Book A Long Way from Chicago has already taken its place among the classics of children's literature.


Peewee idolizes Jake, a big brother whose dreams of auto mechanic glory are fueled by the hard road coming to link their Indiana town and futures with the twentieth century. And motoring down the road comes Irene Ridpath, a young librarian with plans to astonish them all and turn Peewee's life upside down. Here Lies the Librarian, with its quirky characters, folksy setting, classic cars, and hilariously larger-than-life moments, is vintage Richard Peck--an offbeat, deliciously wicked comedy that is also unexpectedly moving.

One of the most adored characters in children's literature is the eccentric, forceful, bighearted Grandma Dowdel, star of the Newbery Award-winning A Year Down Yonder and Newbery Honor-winning A Long Way from Chicago. And it turns out that her story isn't over. It's now 1958, and a new family has moved in next door to Mrs. Dowdel: a minister and his wife and kids. Soon Mrs. Dowdel will work her particular brand of charm on all of them, and they will quickly discover that the last house in town might also be the most vital.  (Here's my review from November 2009.)


Thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett has never strayed further from her family's farm than a horse can pull a cart. Then a letter from her Aunt Euterpe arrives, and everything changes. It's 1893, the year of the World's Columbian Exposition-the "wonder of the age"-a.k.a. the Chicago World's Fair. Aunt Euterpe is inviting the Becketts to come for a visit and go to the fair! Award-winning author Richard Peck's fresh, realistic, and fun-filled writing truly brings the World's Fair-and Rosie and her family-to life.


Blossom Culp is the outspoken outcast of Bluff City, always getting into trouble. No one wants to cross her, especially now that she's revealed that she can see the Unseen. Then Blossom herself is stunned, because her lie turns out to be truth. She actually does have second sight . . . and she is "on board" the sinking Titanic.

When Alexander notices an eerie light out in the barn, he thinks his friend Blossom Culp is trying to spook him. But one night, Alexander comes face to face with the ghost of a drowned girl who brings a cryptic message. Is there time for Alexander to act on her words?


Do I have a favorite Richard Peck novel?  That's a tough call.  VOICES AFTER MIDNIGHT (sadly out of print) is my favorite time travel novel.  Ever.  Of the books still in print, I'd have to say A YEAR DOWN YONDER is right up there on my list, but I also adore the Blossom Culp novels.  And what I love about SECRETS AT SEA is the mouse characters, certainly a switch for Mr. Peck. 

If you haven't read any books by Richard Peck, well, get busy!  And if you have, which book is your favorite?  

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger (and if you haven't congratulated her yet on her amazing book deal, hop on over there). Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now 
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads
Danika Dinsmore at The Accidental Novelist
Jennifer Rumberger at her blog

Monday, October 17, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- Hound Dog True by Linda Urban

My apologies if someone else has recently reviewed this.  Sooner or later, two of us will feature the same book on the same day.  Inevitable, right?

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (September 2011, Harcourt Children's Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547558691, $15.99, for ages 9 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher and Indiebound):

A story about small acts of courage from the author of A Crooked Kind of Perfect.

Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders. But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.

Why I liked it:   This is one of those quiet books that I love so much.  I could see this winning a Newbery honor in January.  The voice is perfect and the characters are wonderful, especially  Mattie and Uncle Potluck (great name!).  This book is all about overcoming shyness and I well remember being painfully shy in elementary school.  This is the kind of book I would have clutched to my chest and loved when I was 8 or 9.  The PJ buttons alone (see cover) made me cry.  Mattie worries so much at night that she twists and twists the buttons (how adorable is it that she names them Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Moe?) until she twists poor Moe right off and loses him.  Sounds heartbreaking, but there's plenty of positive stuff here too, especially with Uncle Potluck's gentle guidance.  Mattie's mother finally begins to see what her daughter really needs.  And a new neighbor just may turn into a real friend for Mattie.

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger.  Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now 
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads
Danika Dinsmore at The Accidental Novelist
Jennifer Rumberger at her blog

What quiet middle grade novels have you loved as a child (or more recently)?

Friday, October 14, 2011

YA Friday -- PA authors Part Two, CENTAUR'S DAUGHTER by Ellen Jensen Abbott

Today's YA Friday continues the series of Pennsylvania YA authors that I started with Amy Garvey, author of COLD KISS, in this post.

The Centaur's Daughter by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Marshall Cavendish, Sept 2011, for ages 12 and up)

Source: advanced reading copy from the author herself (thanks, Ellen!)

Synopsis (from the publisher and Indiebound): Abisina had found a home in Watersmeet, the community her father led until he was killed by the evil White Worm. But now, Watersmeet is as divided as the home she fled as an outcast. The land faces a new threat, and an uneasy alliance between the humans and the creatures will have to be formed to survive. If Abisina doesn't become the leader that Watersmeet needs, she may lose everything. But can she take her father's place? This powerful and moving fantasy deals with timely issues about identity, prejudice, and war. It is the sequel to Watersmeet, which was an IRA Young Adult Award Notable Book and a YALSA Teens'Top Ten nominee.

Why I liked it:  I'm a big fan of Ellen's first book, Watersmeet, and this continues several years later.  If you're looking for a fantasy with a strong female heroine, this is perfect. Abisina really comes into her own in this second book. She discovers something new about herself that will make you gasp.  And throughout the book she struggles to control this new power.  There's also more romance in this sequel.

Ellen lives right here in my home town!  We met recently for breakfast at the bookstore. I'm honored to say I actually have been friends with her for a few years now.  I really grilled her with these questions, though, and she was gracious about taking time out of her busy schedule (she's a high-school English teacher and a mom as well as a writer) to answer them in person.  Thanks for doing this, Ellen!

When you were writing Watersmeet, did you already know you wanted to write a sequel? How about a third book?  (Please tell us there's a third book!)

Yes.  From the beginning, I had a story arc in mind.  At first it was going to be four books, but now it's definitely a trilogy.  The third book isn't titled yet, but it's been accepted and it's coming out probably in Fall 2013. 

Was Watersmeet the first novel you ever wrote?

No, I wrote a book set 200 years later in that same world.  At the SCBWI one-on-one conference, I met Margery Cuyler, who said, "It's not ready to be bought, but I want to see more.  This feels like a sequel."  I was already writing the book that became Watersmeet.  I stayed in touch with Margery and when I submitted it to her two years later, she turned it over to Robin Benjamin, who became my editor.

Was it easier or harder to write The Centaur's Daughter?

In some ways it was easier.   I had the world, the characters, the economy, the religion.  But in a way I was also restricted by those decisions.  For instance, I couldn't move a mountain range!  I also created two very different communities and I sometimes wonder if the worlds are too disparate.

How much of the character of Abisina is really you?

Not much.  Some of her deep psychological landscape is.  The longing for home is mine.  My parents split up when I was eleven.  My dad was heroic to me.  But he wasn't a centaur!

I can sense the influence of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in your books.  Tell us a little more about that.  And were there other fantasy authors you loved as a child? 

I also loved A Wrinkle in Time and Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books.  And Lewis more than Tolkien. You should read The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller.  Tolkien and Lewis were friends at Oxford and influenced each other.  But Tolkien didn't like the Narnia books, partly because Narnia was polyglot.  My theory is that as Americans, we are a polyglot society.  We don't have just one mythology, like Norse.  We have a lot of influences.  I'm Western, yes, but there's no law that says I can't bring Chinese dragons into my books.

Do you have a writing group?  How about beta readers?

Not a writing group, no.  I do have a beta reader who's not a writer, but has a PhD in history.  She's great. She's read both novels and made some good suggestions.  I also have a 2K9 friend and we get together once a year for a writing retreat.  In between we email each other with our goals.  So it's more like a process partner than a writing partner.  (At this point in the interview, Ellen stopped to write down the phrase "process partner" because she loved the sound of it.  Once a writer, always a writer!)

How has being published changed your teaching life?  Are your students suitably impressed?

Not really.  Being edited certainly impacts my teaching.  But being published hasn't changed my actual classroom moments.  My students are incredibly supportive of me, but I feel I could be weaving rugs and they'd support me.  I also have a supportive community of teen fans.

Tell us a little about your journey to publication with your first book, Watersmeet.  Did you send out numerous queries?  How long did it take you to get an agent and a book contract?

When Watersmeet was with Marshall Cavendish and the creative people all liked it and were just waiting for the marketing people to weigh in, a friend of mine told me now was the time to get an agent.  I queried Ginger Knowlton (at Curtis Brown) and another agent.  They both offered me representation the same day.  I went with Ginger.  But keep in mind, Watersmeet wasn't the first novel I wrote.  With that first book, I queried 6 or 7 agents. Several asked for partials, but ultimately all of them rejected me. 

What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?

Read, of course!  And write!  Also, collect all the advice people give you and then pick what works for you.  We each have our own way of doing things.  All the process questions should be ways of filling your own toolbox.

Thanks, Ellen!  I appreciate you taking the time to answer all of my questions.  Note to anyone who lives in the Southeastern PA area: Ellen will be signing her new book at Chester County Book & Music Company tomorrow, Saturday October 15 at 2 pm!  Come and meet her!

Readers, have any of you read Watersmeet or The Centaur's Daughter yet?  If not, what YA fantasy novels have you read and loved recently?  And do you think fantasy is still going strong?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Island's End

Well, my brief blog break (try saying that three times fast!) went on a little longer than I anticipated and I'm sorry I missed reading so many of your posts.  I'm back, for now at least.  The writing is going better than it did with my first novel, but I'm superstitious about saying too much, so I'll keep my lips sealed for now!

For today's MMGM post, I'm touting Island's End by Padma Venkatraman (Putnam, August 2011, for ages 10 and up).

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher and Indiebound): From the acclaimed author of Climbing the Stairs comes a fascinating story set on a remote island untouched by time. Uido is ecstatic about becoming her tribe's spiritual leader, but her new position brings her older brother's jealousy and her best friend's mistrust. And looming above these troubles are the recent visits of strangers from the mainland who have little regard for nature or the spirits, and tempt the tribe members with gifts, making them curious about modern life. When Uido's little brother falls deathly ill, she must cross the ocean and seek their help. Having now seen so many new things, will Uido have the strength to believe in herself and the old ways? And will her people trust her to lead them to safety when a catastrophic tsunami threatens? Uido must overcome everyone's doubts, including her own, if she is to keep her people safe and preserve the spirituality that has defined them.

Why I liked it:  A strong female protagonist!  Plus, it's eye-opening to read about a little-known part of the world and a little-known culture.  Fans of Island of the Blue Dolphins or Julie of the Wolves would love this book (and I think it has strong Newbery potential), although it may have more in common with The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera.  Uido's island is fictional, but the author based it on islands she encountered during a year spent doing oceanographic research in the Andaman Islands.  She also based the tsunami on the actual 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Note that this is definitely upper middle grade, not because of any intimate scenes (there aren't any), but because after the tsunami recedes, there's one very shocking scene of the devastation.  If you don't like books that describe dead bodies or body parts, you might need to skip that chapter.  But don't miss the very powerful ending.

Now tell the truth: did you try saying "brief blog break" three times fast?

What middle grade marvels have you read this week?

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger:  Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now 
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads
Danika Dinsmore at The Accidental Novelist

I'll be back on Friday with a YA Friday interview with a fantasy author from Pennsylvania!  Stay tuned.