Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Screen-Free Week -- Go outside!

No post from me today. I'm participating in Screen-Free Week!

Go outside and play. Draw a picture. Read a book. (Okay, I admit I'll still be checking my email and writing, but I'm saying no to blogging, facebook, Twitter, and TV. Ulp!)

I'll be back next week with a new middle grade recommendation. Have you joined Deb Marshall's May reading challenge yet?


Monday, April 22, 2013

A winner -- and an exciting Middle Grade adventure!

First, I have a winner to announce. According to, the winner of the signed hardcover copy of LULU AND THE DUCK IN THE PARK by Hilary McKay is:

JESS of the DMS

Congrats, Jess! Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address. The publisher, Albert Whitman, will mail the book directly to you.

*   *   *   *   * 

And now, back to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen (March 2013, Scholastic, Book Two in the Ascendance Trilogy, for ages 10 to 14)

Source: hardcover purchased from Children's Book World (my new favorite indie bookstore!)
Synopsis: Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

Why I liked it:  This is a fast-paced action/adventure novel (I don't consider it a fantasy, although the author certainly did a great job of worldbuilding when she created the three neighboring countries). There are parts where you hold your breath. And parts that make you cheer. I read this in one weekend, wanting to find out what happens to Jaron, especially when he joins the pirates. Be forewarned, these pirates have a hideout on land, so if you're looking for a ship-based story, this isn't it. I was fine with that, as I get seasick just reading about ships. But there's plenty of sword-fighting and clever hijinks. 

I loved the new characters Jennifer introduced, especially Fink and Erick and Harlowe, and the return of familiar characters from The False Prince like Roden, Tobias and Imogen. You definitely need to read The False Prince first!  

What's your favorite action/adventure novel for middle grade?

See also:

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger


Monday, April 15, 2013

Random Acts of Poetry

Don't forget my giveaway of a signed hardcover book by Hilary McKay. Go to this post to enter.
*   *   *   *   *

No MMGM post from me today. I'm taking my birthday off!

But you can find me hanging out with the other bloggers of the book blogger panel at Random Acts of Reading. This month, for National Poetry Month, we're discussing our favorite poet. Come join us!

Copyright Joanne R. Fritz

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Visit from Hilary McKay -- and a giveaway!

Hilary McKay's LULU Blog Tour!

I'm honored to be part of the blog tour for British author Hilary McKay, best known for the Casson Family series of middle grade books (including Saffy's Angel) and now the creator of the Lulu series of early chapter books. Yes, I'm the final stop on the Lulu tour, but like magic, you can still check out the others HERE!

So far, two of Hilary's Lulu books are available in the U.S.

Lulu and the Duck in the Park, written by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont (Albert Whitman and Company, 2012, for ages 7 to 10)

Synopsis (from the publisher): Lulu loves animals. When Lulu finds a duck egg that has rolled out of its nest, she takes it to class to keep it safe. Lulu isn't allowed to bring pets to school. But she's not really breaking the rules because it's just an egg. Surely nothing bad will happen. . . 

Why I liked it: Lulu is an irrepressible character, who absolutely adores animals of all kinds. I laughed out loud at the thought of Lulu keeping the duck egg warm inside her sweater and the fact that her teacher doesn't notice. This is a fun book for your favorite animal lover and chapter book reader.

Lulu and the Duck in the Park has been nominated for a Kiddo Award. You can vote at this link (scroll down for best beginner read).

Lulu and the Dog From the Sea is Book Two in the series.

Synopsis: Lulu loves animals. When Lulu goes on vacation, she finds there's a stray dog living on the beach. Everyone in the town thinks the dog is trouble. But Lulu is sure he just needs a friend. And that he's been waiting for someone just like her.

Why I liked it: Just as with the first book, Lulu's love of animals shines through here. She finds a way around the "don't feed the stray dog" rule. Lulu and her cousin/best friend Mellie are always getting into shenanigans, and McKay finds the perfect solutions to the problems. The story is a lot of fun and makes you long for a seaside cottage.

A third title is coming in Fall 2013: Lulu and the Cat in the Bag. The hardcover books are published by Albert Whitman & Company, while the ebooks are available from Open Road Media.

Hilary McKay

Finally, I asked Hilary to tell us about her favorite book from childhood and how it influenced her as a writer. Take it away, Hilary!

The Sword in the Stone
T H White

First, in fairness to all the other books of my childhood that I loved so much, I have to say this was not my favourite. It was one of my favourites- one of the best of the best. They were the books that lifted me from the red brick hum drum overcrowded world of home and transported me to other times and lands and ways of thinking. 

The Sword in the Stone is the first book of the series that is known as The Once and Future King and it is simply lovely. Perfect. There is not a paragraph you want to skip, or a scene you want to change.  It is the story of King Arthur’s boyhood in a castle deep in a forest, in the days before he heaved Excalibur from its stone and thus brought his fate clattering down upon his too-young shoulders. In those days he lived with his foster brother Kay, and his guardian Sir Ector, his wizard tutor Merlin and Archimedes, the perfect owl. Various knights and questing beasts and giants appear from time to time.

The thing about this book is, the depth. The layers and layers of time and greenwood leaves into which the  reader tumbles. The colours are so bright, the characterization so brilliant, the jokes so sparkling, the nights so dark, that you come out of it blinking and rubbing your eyes.

 What did it teach me about writing?  If you want to experience real magic in action read The Sword in the Stone. It taught me that twenty six letters, arranged in quite short sequences,  with the dexterous use of a few symbols of punctuation, can have an effect on the human heart that lingers for years. 

*   *   *

Thank you, Hilary! I loved The Sword in the Stone too. And it was a pleasure having you here.

The publisher has generously agreed to give away one SIGNED hardcover copy of Lulu and the Duck in the Park. Sorry, but this giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. or Canada ONLY.  To enter, simply be a follower and leave a comment on this post. This giveaway ends at 10pm EDT on Saturday, April 20. Winner will be chosen by and announced on Monday, April 22nd.

Monday, April 1, 2013

On Writing and Having Fun

Katherine Applegate

The truth is, you have to have fun with it. It is fun. You have to do it because you love it, and if you love it, the rest will come. I think people forget that. They get tied up in questions of "Will I be published?," and at the end of the day, it's just about words on paper. And that's the part we all love--most of the time.   
– Katherine Applegate, 
on winning the 2013 Newbery for The One and Only Ivan
as quoted in Shelf Awareness January 29, 2013.         

Writers, what do you think? Is writing fun for you? Or do you tend to get caught up in the wishing-to-be-published blues?