Monday, August 26, 2013

MMGM: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I'm a huge fan of Wendy Mass (see this post and this one). But I never read Jeremy Fink until this summer.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (Little, Brown paperback, February 2008, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: purchased from The Big Blue Marble Bookstore, an indie bookstore in Philadelphia, on a trip to visit my friend Mariga, who works there.

Synopsis (back cover copy and Indiebound): Jeremy Fink is about to turn thirteen. He collects mutant candy, he won't venture more than four blocks from his apartment if he can help it, and he definitely doesn't like surprises. On the other hand, his best friend, Lizzy, isn't afraid of anything, even if that might get her into trouble now and then.

When a mysterious box arrives for Jeremy with the words The Meaning of Life engraved on the lid, Jeremy and Lizzy can't wait to find out what's inside. But the box is locked, so they set off an on adventure around Manhattan to find the keys to life's biggest mystery.

Why I liked it: You've gotta love a book that starts with this line:

My sweat smells like peanut butter.

The almost-teen boy voice is fantastic. And I loved the dynamic between Jeremy and Lizzy. The adventure with the keys brings Jeremy out of his shell, so there's plenty of character growth. And the ending was not at all what I expected. 

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I'm excited that Wendy Mass has a new book coming in September, The Last Present, set in the Willow Falls universe of 11 Birthdays, Finally, and 13 Gifts. Leo and Amanda get to travel through time! Can't wait. Release date: September 24, 2013.

For other MMGM links, visit Shannon's blog.

If you read Jeremy Fink, what did you think of it? And what books are you looking forward to in September?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Catching Up

News alert: Since I last posted, I became a published writer of fiction. Okay, so it's flash fiction and it's online, and I was paid all of $3, but it's a publishing credit. Visit this page on Every Day Fiction if you'd like to read my story. I have another story coming in September from Twisted Endings.

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So sorry I haven't been around lately. I'm back from my blogging break, which wrapped up with two weeks' vacation in Maine. My family and I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania. So why do we go to Maine, when we could more easily drive to New Jersey's beaches, or the Chesapeake Bay?

I think a few photos will explain that.

Back Cove, West Boothbay, Maine

Back Cove, West Boothbay, Maine

Looking the other direction toward Boothbay Harbor

My husband walking on Ogunquit Beach 
Ogunquit's rocky coastline 

That, my friends, is a Lobster BLT, and it was delicious

But enough dreaming about my vacation (sigh!). It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. And on my blogging break, besides finishing a much-needed revision and blueprinting a new novel, I tried to catch up on some middle grade classics I'd missed. I bought these books from my friendly local second-hand bookshop. I recommend all three of these, though by today's standards, they're a wee bit old-fashioned.

The Witches by Roald Dahl (Puffin paperback 1998)

Synopsis from indiebound: This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.

Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There's nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma's stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself.

My take: Like every Roald Dahl book, this is imaginative, funny, fast-paced, and well worth reading.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (Puffin paperback 2001)

Synopsis from Indiebound: Sam Gribley is terribly unhappy living in New York City with his family, so he runs away to the Catskill Mountains to live in the woods—all by himself. With only a penknife, a ball of cord, forty dollars, and some flint and steel, he intends to survive on his own. Sam learns about courage, danger, and independence during his year in the wilderness, a year that changes his life forever. Named a Newbery honor in 1960.

My take: Lovely, in an idealistic sort of way. I've always enjoyed books about a kid on his own in the wilderness (Hatchet, for instance) and how he manages to make fish hooks, build a shelter, and figure out what berries to eat. I doubt real parents would be as unconcerned about his adventure as Sam's seem to be (but I was really glad his Dad came to visit him at Christmas). This is one of those quiet books that simply don't get published today. If you're looking for more excitement, stick with Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (Puffin paperback 1986)

Synopsis from Indiebound: Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on Krakatoa, and discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions. Winner of the 1948 Newbery Medal.

My take: A fun, old-fashioned story, this felt like The Wizard of Oz meets Around the World in 80 Days. No one writes books like this anymore. For one thing, the main character is an old man, not a child. I'm not sure if today's kids would enjoy this, but I did.

While in Maine, I read Neil Gaiman's new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is not for kids. But it's filled with gorgeous writing, so read it if you get a chance.

What did you read this summer?