Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Catching Up on a Monday

 
I love these Monday, IT'S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING posts. Because it makes me actually think about what I've been reading. 
Since I'm no longer a librarian with a host of young readers waiting to share their next great book recommendations and talk about how they love the characters, I mostly read to see how they're written. Does that make sense?



So I did a little re-reading this week. 
How many of your kids have read (and loved?)  HOLES?
Wow. Talk about a fast, fun read. 


(That's a totally awesome cover, isn't it? It's not the one I'm familiar with but it's sufficiently creepy while artistic, and I really like it.
Don't get me started on the importance of cover design!)


My buddy Barbara O'Connor recently shared that HOLES was edited by Frances Foster (now deceased), her long-time FSG editor. Since Frances is basically known as a dream editor and brilliant, I took a closer look, trying my best to "read like a writer."

Speaking of closer. THIRD PERSON CLOSE is the point-of-view and man, does Louis Sachar nail it. I love reading third person close, but I've struggled to write it. In fact, I tried with THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. Started that story in what I "hoped" was a Close Third Person point-of-view.
Nope, wasn't happening. While journaling in first person to get into the head of my main character, Theo, I realized it was working better in first person and I switched. 

If you haven't read HOLES in a while but want to see what I mean and don't have the book handy, check out this preview from the beginning 30 pages. The physical description of Stanley and how "close" you are inside his head. Perfect. I not only felt like I knew him from the get-go, I knew how he was being fooled and yet, there was a tiny niggle of a doubt...

If only I were Louis Sachar.
Though I didn't really like the follow-up to that book, did you? True confessions, I skimmed it so maybe I missed something.

I discovered a book I hadn't read by Kevin Henkes. Now, there's a surprise! I'm a big fan of his novels and his picture books. Publisher's Weekly called this one touching and funny, and I totally agree.
It's a book about mini-golf, sort of, which is what originally led me to it. But it's really about families and friendships and all those things that tug at the hearts of kids, big and little. Henkes really knows how to do that. And okay, while searching for an image for this book, I see he's written a couple of novels I didn't even know about. More to read! 





Can't wait to see what my teacher and librarian friends have been reading as their summers wind down!

Thanks for reading!

 A card from a student, saved from my years as a librarian.
Who would have expected I'd write three books of my own. Not me. Not in a million years.






Monday, July 15, 2019

Reading Craft Book(s). Or not.

My friend Joyce Sweeney once said--and I'm sure I'm slightly paraphrasing: "Craft books are for when things aren't going well."

But, Joyce, I have a big shelf of them!
She's right though. That's way too-much-information unless something's going wrong. Start with your story. Begin with your characters. Keep writing till you get bogged down.
That's the time to see what's helped others, to explore lots of What ifs?, to find a trick to get you out of the Muddy Middle.

Before we took off to find a place to escape Florida's summer heat (which is turning out to be very hard this week), I grabbed a book by one of my favorite writers and teachers, ANN HOOD. I brought CREATING CHARACTER EMOTIONS with me. 
It's a perfect book for dipping into.




(And pictured, also, is the very cool notebook our Critique Group leader, Teddie Aggeles, gave us! I'm filling mine up fast.)

One interesting thing about this re-reading is finding little notes scribbled in the margins (Yes, I do dog-ear, scribble, sticky-note books if they're mine- don't you?). 
I've found thoughts about characters from two of my previous books and one WIP that may be "in progress" for a very long time! 

I grappled with emotions, especially for Theo and Azalea, and now smile-out-loud reading my notes.





I bought this book in January of 2008 when I was lucky enough to study under Ann at the fabulous Writers-in-Paradise conference. I love her examples, which have made me want to seek out some of the short stories and novels she references. Her exercises are excellent. She picks emotions like fear or happiness or grief, and shares things that work and things to avoid. This is a good choice to pick up with your writing notebook, to sit under a shade tree without your computer or your story racing through your fingers.

And since it's MONDAY and everybody is sharing what they're reading, I also re-read a picture book tucked away on my shelf. (I love picture books.)

Have you read Brian Lies's BATS AT THE BALLGAME. Hey, it's baseball season, people! Read all the baseball books you love. Right?

Re-reading this book makes me want to stop by the library and check out another favorite from Brian (truthfully, they all are favorites. I'm a big fan): BATS AT THE BEACH. 

This is what I said when I first shared this in a gift-buying blogpost: 
"When the grownup reading it continues the story even after the two-year-old lapchild wandered off, you know the book's a winner."



Thursday, June 20, 2019

Historical fiction lives!

And we know this because of THE SURVEY just posted by my friend Caroline Starr Rose.

Here's what she concluded:

Historical fiction is still seen as meaningful.
While it might be a “hard sell,” historical fiction isn’t dead! Many adults are sharing titles with young people. Many kids are reading.

I've been reading historical fiction most of my life. Come to think of it, even the stories I heard growing up were probably mostly fiction and definitely historical. 

These are the books I cut my reading teeth on. We thought they were true! Even librarians classified them as biographies. No longer. Now most agree- there's a whole lot of storytelling going on in the Childhood of Famous Americans series.

(I've never seen these early editions. The titles haven't changed, 
but the ones I read were mostly turquoise!)

Don't forget to click on the link to Caroline's blog up there. 
It's a very interesting survey. 
 
So, what do you think? Is historical fiction dead? Do kids still read the genre?

Monday, June 10, 2019

It's Monday and I'm Reading

the BEST BOOK!

(Full disclosure: I've met the author at two terrific Maryland SCBWI conferences over the years, where I connected with two great agents and was signed by Linda Pratt so naturally I've always had a soft spot in my heart for those events' organizers, and Naomi was there. And speaking of events, if you're in NYC or MA or MD, CLICK HERE TO SEE where you can actually meet Naomi Milliner and ask her about this fun, important, beautifully-written story.)


But #IMWAYR is all about reading and sharing. 
And people, you do not want to miss this one:



There are so many reasons to buy this book. I bought it because I have a reader in the family who's into magic. He's a little young for middle-grade novels, but give him another year and I predict this will be a favorite. 

So there's magic and Jake's a magician, obviously (great cover image!). And he's funny. Perfect, right?
BUT this book is so much more. 
The brothers' connection is perfectly written. Big brother Ethan is a narrator to love. He's funny. He's mad. He's caring. He's a normal kid. 

There are three boys in the family. One is Jake, the baby brother with special needs. Jake is special in many ways, and this is another reason to own this book. 

Parents are important to the story, but they don't rule the world. I can vouch for the difficulty of having adults in the room, so to speak. It's a tricky balance. Of course, kids have parents and teachers (Jake has a really good one, striking the right balance between listening with a chocolate bar and letting a kid find his own way). But I think kids love reading the parts of a story where kids interact with their friends (and enemies!), where school scenes ring true, where birthday parties don't always turn out exactly as planned. Yep, that's Jake and his brothers and their friends. Ethan's difficult decisions feel authentic. Oh how well the author understands her characters!

There is a whole lot of truth inside these pages. You know those reviews that say "I laughed, I cried"? Well, I truly did while reading SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS.
Well done, Naomi Milliner.



I'm sharing another book today: LEAVING GEE'S BEND


Okay, today I re-read parts of it. I've read it more than once. 
I was inspired to dip into this story by Kirby Larson's FRIEND FRIDAY blogpost with Irene
Irene shares some very powerful, very personal remarks about writing outside your own culture. She has a new picture book about an African American boy, MEET MISS FANCY. Check out Kirby's blog to find out more about this book. 


I've been traveling and reading a whole bunch of grown-up books on my Kindle, via my wonderful public library, but I finished one middle-grade novel and reread parts of another, and I call that a top ten day!

Happy summer to my librarian and teacher friends. Here's to joyful, lazy, feet-up, sweet tea reading days!









Friday, May 24, 2019

Kids write the MOST WONDERFUL things

Remember that (very) old TV show: Kids Say the Darnedest Things?

I have an update. Yes, they say funny things. They ask crazy questions. They often have no filters.
But they also write really great, really delightful things, and answering their letters makes me smile. A lot.

Yesterday, I opened four envelopes filled with letters from third grade classes about my novel, GLORY BE. There were so, so many thoughtful questions.

The first letter began this way: "At school, my fellow classmates and I have indulged ourselves in the literary feast that is Glory Be." 
Be still my heart. I love this kid already.

AND- it actually went UP-hill from there.


One student explained why he needed to know the answers to his questions about the Beatles v. Elvis. "I wanna know what best fits your personality."
He also added that I needed to write him back because he'd spent a lot of time on his letter and his "pencil got worn out."

Another starts off with a bang. The first sentence announces, "I like to eat hot dogs."
(and now I'm laughing and hungry.)

Another shared that her favorite part was how the girls lied a lot to Emma and to the dad. 
Whoops.
Another remarked that GLORY BE made her and her classmates laugh, and that was her favorite thing, the laughing together. 
Teachers, I've read a lot of books to kids over the years and I love remembering the books that made us laugh.

And in case my head is swelling from all the lovely things they say? Andre adds this, "When I first was reading, I thought it was boring but then it started to be exciting."

A writer's worst nightmare. Starting out boring. I'll work on that, Andre.
Oh, he ended his note with, "Mrs. Scattergood, you are probably the best author I know so far. I want answers."
A veiled threat? He's jumping ship if I don't answer? 
See, these kids absolutely crack me up.

Teachers don't always have time to comment, and I totally understand this. I was a school media specialist for a very long time. 
I understand how busy everybody is, especially at the end of the year.
I'm just flattered when they take the time and effort to share my book with a class. They don't need to write.
But Mrs. Arnold said such lovely things, I'm going to quote her. 

"Your book gave us so many chances for deep discussions not only about this period in our country's history, but also about the way people should be treated in the present."

And Mr. Blank from the Bethlehem Lutheran School thanked me for bringing to life this period of the South during segregation. 

It's hard writing books, but this is very writer's dream.

As the school year winds down, I'd like to thank all of you who've shared so many books with your kids this year.  Picture books, non-fiction, poetry-- It really does make a difference. You make a difference.

Now, here are some of these bright young students. 
Seeing them holding my books, I'm over the moon! 


(Kids at the Vernon Hill School in Worcester, MA. Love those smiles!)

Monday, April 1, 2019

It's MONDAY again. What are you reading?

I've sadly neglected reporting on the great books I've read recently.

Let me jump right in!

Hot off the presses, a brand new middle-grade debut. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this, but now everybody can buy, request from your library, read and share.


This new novel has FOUR starred reviews, and that's not surprising.  I loved Lyndie's personality, her sheer joy in research and facts, how she doesn't give up. I loved the 1980s southern setting, the Vietnam War connection via her veteran dad, the gorgeous language and strong characters. Such a good book!

Another middle-grade novel, just out: Cynthia Lord's BECAUSE OF THE RABBIT.
(Click HERE for a post I wrote ages ago and one of my favorite quotes about fantasy, via Cynthia.)
Check out this tres cool cover!

What young reader wouldn't line up to read this one?

If there's a teacher or librarian out there who hasn't read it or has a special student just meant for this middle grade novel, I'd love to send my ARC to you. Leave me a comment and I'll pick someone and zip it off.
One thing I liked about this novel (there were many) was how accessible it is. Less than 200 pages, easy reading, appealing story-- this could be that gateway book for a reader who's been challenged by longer books and has not yet found the perfect novel to love.

The third book I recently finished is Sharon Draper's BLENDED.
Yes, there were many "issues" covered in Izzy's story. She's biracial, her parents are divorcing, and then the normal pre-teen things every kid worries about. There is also a strong theme of race, obviously, and a scene where Izzy is stopped by the police.
But they were handled reasonably well and could provide food for thought and discussion. 



I can't sign off without strongly recommending a book that's NOT middle-grade. GRADLE BIRD is really an adult book, but the narrator is a teen so I can see this one having readership among "new adults," if that's even a thing anymore.




The writing is beautiful, the characters beyond quirky, the story so unusual and funny and sad at the same time-- a must-read for many of my friends. Especially my southern friends, or those who love books set in the deep south, with all the hilarious and unique trappings of our heart-homes. I bought this book because it wasn't in my local public library. I'm recommending they buy it. So good.

Can't wait to hear what my #IMWAYR friends are up to today. Do tell!




Friday, February 8, 2019

Kids are the best!

I just finished a Skype visit with The Learning Center for the Deaf. I've Skyped with this school before and it's always such fun.

(This was one of my free Skypes, 15 minutes or so of Q&A with students who've read my book. Easy Peasy, I do it whenever I can.)

But y'all, I wanted to talk all day to these two.


Their teacher had gently cautioned me that they might need a little extra time. There would be an interpreter signing my answers. The boys were nervous about meeting an author in "real life."
Because really we're pretty scary!

Their questions about GLORY BE were thought-provoking; I'm still pondering my answers.

They wanted to see my office. (I showed them the palm trees out my window. I know, mean. They were cold up there. I'm pretty warm down here.) 

They wanted to know why there's no "Glory Be 2." (I get that a lot.)

They made a movie signing GLORY- a first! Their teacher explained that they used the sign for "laughing" because they think a lot of what she does is fun!



They sent me a thank-you letter. Which cracks me up. I hope my sister sees it.


This is truly why authors spend all those hours figuring out their stories. Mining our characters for depth and emotion, ARCS and DIALOG and INNER WISDOM. 
And then you send that book into the universe and you get this back. Kind of makes it all worthwhile, no?





Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Thank you, readers!

So many fun/funny/smart things in this new year of 2019!

This week I visited a local Book Group that had just finished GLORY BE. We had a "continental breakfast" and Q&A. A donut and a book, as one boy noted, "doesn't get much better than that."

The questions were a blast. 
One of my favorites? "Do you have any family members who've read this book?"
Oh boy, do I!
Here we are, disguised as copies of GLORY BE. Fun times!


I love sharing books with kids, so when they asked me who'd inspired me and also if I could recommend another book for them to discuss, I mentioned Barbara O'Connor and WISH. The librarian hustled himself off to the library and came back with this. WISH is on the current Sunshine Readers. Win win!



And then there was the mail.
A librarian in Texas had emailed to ask my mailing address. She had a student who'd read my novel, the first book she'd completed on her own. 
Writers, this is why we spend (so so many!) years trying to publish a book. Or writing a book. Or trying to publish multiple books. It's all about the readers.

On the second page of the letter, the P.S., Isabella tells me she wants to grow up and be just like me. 
I hope that means she's going to find another book to read all by herself. 
Of course, I answered her. And of course, I mentioned a few more books she might also love.



While tidying up my files, I found a group of letters from a school in Washington state.
I'd filed them away for when I worry that nobody's paying attention. And let me tell you, that happens to all writers!
Finding them today was a gift.

"When we stopped at a chapter, I wanted to keep reading!"

"Did you have a bossy sister? Did you have a friend like Frankie? Did you live a life like Glory?"

And what librarian-turned-author wouldn't cherish a picture of the library in GLORY BE? She even remembered the "Back Room."



Did I say it doesn't get much better than this lovely way to start the New Year? 
Here's hoping you've all had a little joy in your mailboxes, too.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

To Blog or Not to Blog

That is the question.

About this time eleven years ago, I considered starting a blog. I was publishing a lot of book reviews and a few personal essays and I wanted a place to share the links. I hoped to write fiction, and I loved finding things to share about books.
The advice then was that if you were trying to find an agent or an editor, many of them would check to see if you had an online presence. Facebook and Twitter were barely on the horizon. Or at least my horizon.
So off I traveled to Blog City.

My new critique group friend Lee Hilton started SPOON AND INK then, her fabulous food blog.
Fun times in the blogosphere, no? We thought so.

But I don't read too many blogs now, and I wonder if anybody's reading this.
:)

(Hellooooo out there! Anybody home?)

And then today I discovered an author I admire has a really great blog, and reading it inspired me to write this.

When I still worked as a school librarian, Claudia Mills's books were very popular in my school. I remember hearing her on a panel about publishing at the New School when I first thought about writing. I had those notes forever! Probably still do!
Here's the link. I'm going to make it extra large and obvious.
Please visit. You can thank me later.

https://claudiamillsanhouraday.blogspot.com/


Another blogger I try to follow is Caroline Starr Rose.  
She never fails to inspire me, teach me, or make me smile. 
When I clicked over there to get her link, I see she has a lovely photo and a quote I'm going to remember:

Learn to respect the pages the reader will never see.
— Joshua Mohr


I sorry to say I don't know Joshua Mohr, but I sure like that quote. I also love seeing the pictures she shares, mostly of the American Southwest which seems light years and many miles from my own vistas.
Thanks, Caroline!

(Aside: here's a nifty trick! Caroline turned one of her blogposts into a short article you can read in the current WRITERS DIGEST magazine.)

Inspired by Caroline and Claudia, here's my first blog photo of 2019 and a quote from the new Quaker Motto Calendar!



"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."  
Thomas Aquinas.




Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Books and Opinions

My first book was published in early 2012. 
(December, 2011, GLORY BE was already being shipped! Happy book birthday, Glory!)
And I got a lot of excellent advice. 

One thing my already-published friends said: Don't read reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Don't even look!
My editor said something even more comforting. "Long after those reviews are forgotten, your books will still be in libraries being read by kids who will love them." (I paraphrase, but that's the gist and it was just the thing a new author needed to hear. Did I mention, my editor is brilliant?)

So I don't read reviews unless I stumble onto Amazon or Goodreads. 
Sometimes I'm glad to run into a review. Sometimes I want to avert my eyes!
Today, I happened upon a lovely review of MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG. 

And it made me think that I seem to be drawn to redeemable bullies. (Hello, Willis DeLoach!)

Recently I read something one of my favorite middle-grade authors, Leslie Connor, wrote in answer to a question from the National Book Award committee which had nominated a truly terrific novel of hers- THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE:

(Apologies to Leslie if I don't have her exact quote. But I love the message and hope I have it right.)

"The NBA asked me what I learned by writing this story. Part of my answer was about my own misconception about bullies. I always thought they acted out of feelings of being unloved or fearful. But a social worker told me that bullies act out of an inflated sense of entitlement. Recent days have made me sure she is right."
 

Helpful advice, right?
Basically, all our characters are made up of many varied, often conflicting parts. But if you dig deep enough, there's a reason a character acts a certain way. The author's job is to understand and (hopefully) make that part of the character's personality and motivation.



Here's the review from Amazon, if you're interested-
SKW

February 20, 2017
I enjoyed this book on so many levels; the granddaughter learning to get to know, love and help her grandmother, adjusting to being away from all things familiar-family & friends, learning to find and make new friends-not only a boy but a Chinese boy, dealing with prejudice, learning to stand-up for what is right. discovering things and people aren't always what they seem and becoming aware of personal strengths. All this was neatly wrapped up in the historical prejudices suffered by the Chinese in 1950's Mississippi and Arkansas, accurately depicted through Ms. Scattergood's depth of research.

Augusta has penned a very enjoyable book guaranteed to capture young readers attentions without their realizing they will be learning and growing right along with Azalea, the main character.

The only disappointment in the book was the still unexplained story of Willis DeLoach. But then, maybe that was purposeful. Maybe we'll learn more about Willis in a future book.



Merry Christmas to all you readers and writers, reviewers and book supporters!


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Thank you, Indiana School Librarians!

When my first book came out, I'm not sure I appreciated how important state recommended book lists can be to a book's future. But they are!
Just when you think your novel's time in front of the world is simmering down, somebody finds it and adds it to a list of recommendations and just like that, new readers.

It's truly a terrific experience.

I am in awe of the librarians and teachers, parents and kids, who put these lists together.

Today I'm thankful to the hard-working school librarians in Indiana for adding MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG to their list of Intermediate readers' recommendations.

Here's what they said about my middle-grade novel:


Azalea’s summer plans suddenly change when she is sent to Paris Junction, Arkansas to help a grandmother she doesn’t know. Shy and reluctant to talk to others, Azalea meets Billy Wong and finds an unexpected friend. 

 


HERE'S THE LINK to the list. 

I am proud and humbled to be included among some of my favorites and some I can't wait to read.

(If you're a writer interested in a list of various awards, check out CYNSATIONS, a blog filled with helpful information.)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Time to Skype!

Must pop into my sometimes overlooked blog to share what a fantastic week this has been.

First of all, if you have the opportunity to study with Patricia Lee Gauch, take it. I spent four days at a Highlights workshop and am still processing that fabulous time. 

Then I returned home to two great Skype experiences. Thank you to the fun kids in Jonesboro, Arkansas, for reading MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG and for your excellent questions.




(Aside: While we were Skyping, it started snowing.  It doesn't snow every day in Arkansas! Which reminded me of my very first school librarian job in Atlanta. I had a group of kindergartners in the library when it snowed for the first time and they went crazy with excitement. So thank you for continuing to ask questions, kids!)

The next day, I spoke to a really lively and smart group of sixth graders in Worthington, Ohio. 
They'd read a mix of my books and had some great questions, too.
Example: Why do your characters talk so country?
I truly LAUGHED OUT LOUD. 
And then I explained that that's how southerners talk whether they live in a city or in the country. 
That is, if they're natives. 
And especially if it was a "while back."



Books Mentioned
(I always try to tell them about at least one book other than mine. Sometimes time doesn't allow too much other than Q&A though!)











Sunday, November 11, 2018

Frankendraft

I didn't make up the term. But I totally get it.

I read it on Janice Hardy's excellent post about whether or not to pull that "trunk manuscript" out of the drawer and revise. Here's just a tiny bit of what she has to say:

Does it fix what went wrong? Before you dive in and spend who knows how long just to wind up in the same spot, try outlining or summarizing the new direction. Does it fix the original problems?
Is the draft salvageable or do you need to start over? Reworking an old draft that didn’t work risks turning it into a Frankendraft (pieces of novel sewed together to form a plot, but it really doesn’t fit), so consider how you want to proceed carefully. Starting over can seem like more work, but not if it takes you three times longer to revise what’s there. 

Thank you, Rosi Hollinbeck, for your excellent blogposts that always give me something to ponder. AND she almost always has a book to give away!



(And, maybe this is actually what I'm doing here...) 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday Reading Report

Man, have I read some great books recently.
Lucky for me, it's Monday and I get to share.




Yesterday I finished a book I LOVED. 
Jonathan Auxier's new middle-grade novel, SWEEP: THE STORY OF A GIRL AND HER MONSTER- don't miss it. 
Chimney sweeps, a taste of late 19th century history, interesting tidbits about golems, characters to break your heart. 
I literally couldn't put this one down. 
Last night, dinner had to wait for a chapter ending. 

I know many teachers and librarians like to share authors reading and talking about their own books.
Here's Jonathan booktalking SWEEP (recorded before the book was published).  
Click this link and check out his website for up-to-date info.






Another book I recently reviewed is Meg Medina's newest. Here's a little adaptation from my Christian Science Monitor round-up of new middle-grade novels:


Merci Su├írez Changes Gears 
Mercedes Suarez, Merci for short, lives with her exuberant extended family in south Florida. But she spends school days trying to fit in at the prestigious Seaward Pines Academy. She and her brainy brother are scholarship students and are expected—by their family and the school—to give back, set an example, and never ever cause trouble.

Medina mixes humor with poignancy and affection for her characters with a fast-paced story. The Cuban food and culture, the love tinged with embarrassment typical of many pre-teens make this novel perfect for discussion and for reading together with a friend, a teacher, or a family member.

So many books I want/ need to read! (The part of my bookshelf NOT pictured at the top of this post is my towering TBR shelf. Many of which may not be read, but I'll peruse each of them.)

I'm off to a Highlights Foundation writing weekend and I've loaded my Kindle app. Just in case I have time to read. 

Can't wait to hear what all my #IMWAYR buddies have to share this week.



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

On Naming a Character Thelonious

October 10th is the birthday of that great jazz pianist, THELONIOUS MONK.

Here's an image of his fabulous portrait, via the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery (which may be my new favorite DC museum):



His music and his name inspired a little backstory in my second middle-grade novel, THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

Theo was named by his musician parents. But they died when he was quite young and the grandparents who raised him lived on a farm and weren't exactly music or jazz aficionados so he never fully understood the significance of his name. 

I love creating backstories like his. Even if my readers never know them, they deepen and complicate a character. There may not be a lot of middle-grade readers familiar with Monk's music. Perhaps after reading my book, they'll be curious to listen. But that's not why I chose the name. It's part of my Theo's story. And when I happened upon the reason to give Theo that name, it opened a part of the plot that I hadn't figured out yet.

Here's a little more about CHOOSING CHARACTER NAMES.

From Writer's Digest. Great "rules" which of course can be broken.

This one has a thought or two about the ethnicity of names.

And a name generator!
"Aim to have the name suggest something about the character. Think of the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and that family of girls. Beth was the quiet, gentle daughter; Jo the strong, boisterous one; and Amy the baby of the family." 

(I'm about to name a character after a great guy I worked with. Doesn't Mr. King sound like somebody you'd trust?)


So Happy Birthday to Thelonious Monk. Here's a little music for you, your students, or to save for later:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Funny Books

Not funnybooks. (Those things from my childhood that I read ravenously. Archie, Little Lulu, etc.)

I'm talking about books that make me smile, laugh a little, or even a lot. 
Funny BOOKS.

I've just created a Pinterest board of books that handle humor well. 

I don't mean bodily function jokes, which I'm sure kids love. But I love sweet humor, wise-cracking or eye-rolling characters, descriptions which make me say Oh Yes! and even laugh heartily.

So on this Monday of IT'S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING, I'll share a few of the books on the new board.

I read this one a while ago, for inclusion in a Christian Science Monitor middle-grade roundup. You can see it HERE. I pulled it out this week while scouring my shelves for funny books.


 It's written by a fifth grade teacher, so you can bet he knows what kids love. The book is funny, occasionally scary, and the characters seem so real.

(I have been thinking a lot about characters recently. And the advice to know them well before you put pen to paper. I wrote about this HERE on an earlier post and linked to some good tips.)


 This week I've re-read MS. BIXBY'S LAST DAY. From start to finish. Well, to almost-finish.





(Spoiler alert: If you haven't read this terrific book, skip the next paragraph.)

Now before you remind me that this book is about somebody actually dying, let me say that I absolutely loved these three boys. They are each such individuals. They say typical kid things, that are truly funny. Their teacher was funny, too.  I've been putting off reading the ending and maybe I'll stop right where I am. The boys have busted into Ms. Bixby's hospital room and are having a picnic, which they've gone through hoops to bring to her. I know what's about to happen. But right now, it's squarely in my Love this Funny Book corner. 
Since the book received three starred reviews and lots of accolades, I'm sure everybody's read it. PS I was on a panel with John David Anderson once, and he's a very funny guy.

Two books I'm just beginning but know they're on my Pinterest Funny Books Board.

The cover illustration (and others inside) by Dan Santat cracks me up. And the book had me laughing at chapter one. (Very clever chapter titles, Kate!)





I met Crystal this summer in Arkansas. We signed books together and she had me laughing the whole time. Her workshop had everybody LOL. Can't wait to finish her book.




Next up, coming at the end of the month: Can't wait to read THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS. I don't know much about it, but I sure love that cover. Funny, no?




Speaking of Witness Protection (see above)... And funny.
Great line from a TV show that I wish would come back:


"I wanna figure you out myself. You're like a crossword puzzle with B.O."


                                        (Marshall to Bad Gang Guy, In Plain Sight)



More FUNNY STUFF.
An example of the kind of humor I like. A 4th grader made this for me when I visited his school. 
As he was explaining it, he had the whole class laughing.
He originally left out the L in Glory.  GORY BE.  
He decided it would make a great title.

Then he fixed it.




It's hard to explain what makes one person laugh and not the other, isn't it? 
But I'd love to know what books tickle your kids' funnybones.