Books -- reading and writing.
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And whatever connections I can make between them.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh Those Sixties!

Yes, the 1960s were turbulent, colorful, musical, scary, exciting, and almost any other word you can come up with. 

Also fodder for quite a few novels that examine the time period from varying lenses. And really, the 60s were not only about the civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis also took over the news, and we landed a man on the moon. Oh, yeah, the Beatles and Elvis. I could go on and on.

To borrow a quote from a new book written about a slightly earlier time in our history: 
"History is memory researched. 
Historical fiction is memory brought to life."
(Avi, from his Author's Note to Catch You Later, Traitor)

At least two of these authors do write from memory, and readily admit that's what inspired them.

First up? Jackson native Taylor Kitchings', debut middle-grade novel,  
YARD WAR, set in 1964 Mississippi. Published this summer from Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House, the book is filled with memories and research from the 1960s, of boys being boys and often not thinking, of things never said out loud, of people who may have been ignored and overlooked while trying their best during very difficult days.

CLICK HERE for an excellent interview with Mr. Kitchings.

Much as I love the cover image, this book is about so much more than football.

There's a lot of truth in this interview question and this quote from the book.

Trip’s parents’ attitudes change greatly by the end of the book, as they ponder if they should give up on living in Mississippi. Trip’s father explains it like this: “Trip, it’s like one day God took the best of what’s good and the worst of what’s bad, stirred it all up, and dumped it between Memphis and New Orleans. You can’t move away from a place like that. You have to help keep the good in the mix.” Please explain that thought. 

Mississippi is so complex and mysterious, I think you have to grow up here to understand it at all. I don’t claim to understand it, I just know it’s essential to me. “The best of what’s good” goes beyond the food and the music and the sports and everything of which Mississippians are justly proud; it’s the way people care about each other. We know what it is to feel with, and a person doesn’t have to be our best friend in order for us to feel it. Even when it’s formal or fairly surface, it is well-intentioned and the prevalent inclination to be kind here adds a sweetness to life that I do think is rare. For the “worst of what’s bad,” check the latest statistics.

Order this novel from all the usual suspects or you can go right to Lemuria and get a signed copy.  
HERE's the link: 

 But wait, my list runneth over! Or is it runneths?

FULL CICADA MOON, Marilyn Hilton's newest novel (Penguin Random House, September 2015), is a delight. Told in free verse poems, this novel explores both the civil rights history of the 60s and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. 

Beautifully written, strong characterization, a lovely novel in every way. The narrator, Mimi Yoshiko Oliver is smart and wise, a fierce female character in a time when it wasn't easy to be. I especially love the act of civil disobedience involving shop class.

This School Library Journal starred review highly recommends the book. I heartily concur. 


COLD WAR ON MAPLEWOOD STREET (Putnam, 2015) by Gayle Rosengren is obviously- and truthfully as explained in the Author's Note- a story pulled from a strong memory. The Cuban missile crisis is most likely unfamiliar to young readers. This new novel feels very authentic to the days surrounding that event. 

I absolutely adore this cover image. Hats off to the book designers here. 

I also just reviewed THE SEVENTH MOST IMPORTANT THING for the Christian Science Monitor. You can read all about it. Set in the 60s but a very fresh story that could take place any time, and such good writing.

For more middle-grade book reviews, giveaways, and all sorts of goodies, check out the links every Monday on Shannon Messenger's blog: MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY, right here. 

For my own Pinterest board and possible inclusion in future presentation handouts, I'm compiling a list of middle-grade novels set during the 1960s. What are your favorites?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

This is the story of my goat.

Question:  do teachers and librarians reserve a soft spot in our hearts for the first schools we ever  worked in?

I know I do.

My very first school library position was in East Point, GA. I loved that school!
It was part of the Fulton County system, a star in the school library world.
A Title I school, back in the day when there was all sorts of funding to support kids who needed it. (One of my very first blogposts was about that experience.)

Part of the funding went for art.
Can you imagine? We actually had reproductions, small sculptures, all sorts of wonderful things. Lots of brand new books! As a new librarian, I thought that would be the norm for the rest of my career.

In that Georgia school's library, Picasso's goat greeted my students.

The real one resides at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

This was a hefty, table-top reproduction. 
There was just something about that goat that really appealed to kids.

Today I learned that many of the pieces Picasso created during that period were influenced by his young family. The fabulous exhibit at MOMA now has a whole room of them. 

Little Girl Jumping Rope
Baboon and Young

My goat has been moved inside for the occasion. 
Here she is, early this spring, in the museum's sculpture garden.

His shiny bronze nose shines from years of rubbing.

Seeing She-Goat always takes me right back to those first years as a school librarian. 

I learned as much as I taught.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Thinking and walking

Via Sara Zarr's fabulous THIS CREATIVE LIFE podcasts.

Are you a listener?

Today I had to stop near the end. I wanted to write something down.
Varian Johnson talked about how to figure out exactly what a book would be.

This is exactly what I'd been thinking about while reading some of the submissions from my Florida critique group. What's the tone? The VOICE of the novel? Who's the intended reader?

(Or, as our buddy Greg Neri loves to say: A book will be what it wants to be.)

Now I'm off to a wonderful HIGHLIGHTS UNWorkshop with two of my best writing buddies. 

Signing off the internet for a while. 
Taking time to figure out what a book wants to be. 
And other important things. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Happy birthday, Ruby Bridges.

Thanks to John Schu's wonderful Book Calendar, I now know that September 8 is Ruby Bridges' birthday.

Her story inspired me to begin my own novel.
She spoke to the student body at Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, where I worked at the time. As I walked back to the library with a group of fifth graders, they were astounded. And in awe. And surprised by all she said.

Ruby Bridges was the first African American child to integrate the public schools in New Orleans.

Many knew I'd grown up in the South. A few asked if I had any of the same experiences.
I hadn't.
But I did have other memories.

That night I started scribbling some of my memories.
Almost ten years later, my book, GLORY BE, was sold.

That's a long journey!

But what a great inspiration. Thank you and happy birthday, Ruby Bridges.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Are You Funny Enough?

I remember reading something once about encouraging a child's sense of humor. Helping them to be funny. Or funnier.

How absurd, I thought. Kids are funny as heck.
Well, the ones talking to/around me sure are.

But writing funny? That's hard.

If you're trying to add some humor to your writing, whether it's a serious or heartfelt or sad or poignant story, here are some tips.

First off, two words: Darcy Pattison.
Always listen to Darcy!

This is an article I've saved and reread a few time:
You can even follow her links to past posts for additional humor tips.
(I'm totally trying the running gag idea, HERE. )

More tips, via Writers Digest are HERE. 

And HERE for a list of funny words.
(I had to google wenis. I doubt I'll be using that word in a middle-grade novel.)

One of my favorite historical fiction middle-grade novels is TURTLE IN PARADISE. It's Turtle's voice that makes me smile. From page one:
"Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten."

A serious story, sure. But I smiled a lot.

Any fabulous tips you'd care to share that make stories laugh-out-loud funny? Or even smile-out-loud?  

Just to make your Monday a little lighter, I'll end with librarian humor.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Elvis Week Updated!

I almost missed marking it. Going on right now in Memphis.

Check it out, folks. Memorabilia for all! You con't have to be there to bid. 
 Just click on this link to go right to

Yes, I'd love a few Elvis collectables. I actually have a few mementos. 


You can read about my Elvis statue HERE.

Or read about my childhood crush on the king and my career as an Elvis impersonator  HERE.

(Some people just have all the fun. Elvis and his fans. 
At a truly memorable school visit in Pelahatchie, MS. )

And here's a short video. 
Look closely for ELVIS'S LITTLE HOUSE IN TUPELO near the end.

Just Another Boy
Thanks for the memories, Elvis. #ElvisWeek2015
Posted by Elvis' Tupelo on Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015

More Setting

Or maybe the title should be more ABOUT setting.

Goodness knows, I've blogged a few times about setting.

Just when I think I've got it figured out, I don't. Ever have that feeling?

Maybe I need a WORKSHEET.
Maybe I need a trip. Much as I love New Jersey, I could never set a novel for young readers here. Oh yes, we have our local color, but is it suitable for young eyes?

 (seen at the local deli)

And we have great food! But it's not food from my childhood. In fact, my children never cared much for NJ specialties so how could I possibly write about them.

(This is a Sloppy Joe. If you have never lived in NJ, it takes some explaining.)

Where a story takes place is almost as important to me as who is telling the story. That's why I've been noodling around to see what others have to say on the subject. I don't want to overdo the Spanish moss, the lizards, the pimento cheese.

Here's what I'm learning- I'll share a few links:

I love what Barbara O'Connor says about HOLES.
And she's said many things about setting over the life of her blog.

I have a tattered old notebook on a shelf with a few quotes from my favorite books: On the Road to Mr. Mineo's, for example.
("lazy days of summer stretch out before them like the highway out by the Waffle House" says more than most people could say in 3 paragraphs.)

And there's this: 
Or this:

Also in that notebook-
A great memory of the Writers in Paradise week with Ann Hood. I love #1.

A few notes:

In all writing, the focus should be right there at the beginning, in the first sentences. We should know where we are and what we are in for.

1. Picture sentences. Close your eyes. If you can't picture it, it needs help.
2. In non-fiction, use all the devices of fiction: dialogue, setting, character, action, climax, resolution.
3. Find a central metaphor (examples: knitting, fire), something that gives your story meaning. 

Okay, writer and reader friends. Can setting by overdone? Does it limit the audience, especially in books for young readers? Do you have tricks to share with the rest of us? How exactly do you bring your scenes alive?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Great Advice/ Happy birthday, Leo ladies.

Happy Birthday, fellow Leos!
Sue Monk Kidd, Kirby Larson, Liesl Shurtliff
and I almost share a birthday. And probably a whole bunch of others I'm leaving out.
(Leos should stick together. We are fierce.) 

I hope some of their Writer Mojo rubs off on me--
on all of us this month!

When I first read this, I shared it on my blog. 
Years ago.
Sharing again here. Great advice from a fellow August author.

The Ten Most Helpful Things I Could Ever Tell Anyone About Writing

(Thinking about Kidd's collages reminds me of my Pinterest boards. That's where I gather things to help my writing. I'm not much of a collage maker.)

One of my favorites from her list of helpful things:

Hurry slowly.
"Getting the pace of a story right keeps me up at night. I have a horror of sitting on a plane, next to someone reading my book, and seeing her flip over to see how many pages are left in the chapter. You want a reader so caught up in the spell of a story it would never occur to her to pull herself away and count how many pages she had to read before she could stop."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Leaning In

I hope non-Facebook people will be able to see this link to Kate DiCamillo's Author Facebook page. But I'll cross my fingers and share because it's so truly wonderful.

I, too, was told to stand up straight. I was the tallest girl in my class for a very long time. My godfather was an orthopedic surgeon. I loved ballet.
All those things "told" me to stand up straight.
But Kate reminds us that if we're looking closely, it's okay to lean down.
The better to see with!

And leaning in is a sure sign of paying attention.

Paying attention and writing slowly= two lessons I'm taking away from Facebook today.

(Maybe it helps that I'm looking at a lot of trees this week?)

Here's Kate DiCamillo's Facebook post. What do you think?

"I took this picture when I was up at the cabin. I like this tree. It leans. I was always told to stand up straight; and..."
Posted by The Official Kate DiCamillo Page on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Monday! What I'm reading today.

A first for me.

A book with a possum character named- TA DAH!


Here she is, dancing with joy with one of her twelve siblings in
 Appleblossom the Possum.

(Thank you, Dial Press.)

Lots of bloggers and readers and writers share books on Monday.

Here's the hashtag if you're tweeting what you're reading:

The blogs?
Find them all over the place!

Here are two I often check. 

Alyson Beecher is here at

And Kellee Moye is here at

In addition to APPLEBLOSSOM THE POSSUM by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Yes, the same author who penned COUNTING BY 7s), I am not only reading but loving so very much-- the new Calpurnia Tate novel
More to come on that one.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Books Needed!

My sister, my niece, much of my Mississippi family lives in Batesville, MS.

This week, one of their schools burned to the ground, overnight. While they were able to save the historic brick school building next door, it was devastating to the 15 kindergarten and 2 Pre-K classrooms.

They've set up a Google Doc for donations:

(On that google doc, there's a link to order via the Scholastic Store. CLICK HERE-- They're having a big summer sale right now.)

For my writer friends whose books are K and Pre-K, scroll down for the address to send a copy of your own book, if you're so inclined.

Here's the memo from the school and the volunteers who are working to supply those classrooms:

On July 10, the Kindergarten classrooms at Batesville Elementary in Batesville, Mississippi, were completely destroyed by fire.

Please help us replenish their children’s book collection.

What You Can Do:

Follow the directions on the attached Google Spread Sheet.

Choose a book or books to donate.

Place an order. Most are found on Amazon.

Have the books shipped here:

Lydia Aderholt
211 Jones Street
Batesville Mississippi 38606

Thank you so much!

Mississippi Bloggers
Lydia, Kacey, Jessica, and Laura

LaSherry Irby, Principal
Batesville Elementary School

Friday, July 10, 2015

Teachers Write

As if you teachers didn't have enough to do over the summer, here's another thought.

Click on over to KATE MESSNER'S blog and follow along with her fantastic fellow writers.

No, wait. This is fun! It's not another chore. You will love this.

And hey, you don't have to be a teacher. You can write for the fun of it and learn so much.

Start with JO KNOWLES'S Monday Warm-ups. CLICK HERE for the first prompt.

I love the idea of that blank piece of paper. Jo asks her writing readers to fill her comments with their ideas for a work-in-progress. Super idea for a Monday warm-up prompt.

Kate has a whole lineup of writers ready to give great suggestions. So far (and the summer is young), my absolute favorite, and one I hope to put into practice, is THIS. Click to go to Sarah Albee's hilarious post about writing funny.

Here's a small sample from Sarah:

1. Surprise your reader with the unexpected.

Last week I heard Dave Barry on the radio. Terry Gross was interviewing him about his new book. He was talking about the good old days when he was a kid, in the pre-helicopter-parenting days when parents basically ignored their kids. “On a summer morning we’d leave the house,” he said, “and my mom would say, ‘Be sure you’re back by September.’” It’s funny because your brain is expecting “by dinner” of course, and he jolts you with the unexpected.

Funny is crucial, even in serious stories. Especially in those. And Sarah writes true stories. Not necessarily humorous non-fiction. And yet it is.
We can all learn a lesson, teachers, students, just plain writers.

Thanks, Kate Messner, for this summer fun. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hot Dog!

Food from books- what could be more fun?

Check out these pictures and menus from some of our favorites:

One of my first writing gigs was a column on BOOK CLUBS for Skirt! 
(a regional magazine, and yes, that exclamation point is in the title.)
Book Clubbers loved to write about the food that complimented their book discussions. 

Like these:

 (You can find a few good ones, HERE.)

And while I'm at it, how about raising a glass to your favorite book and cook with this one?

Now I'm hungry. 
I'm off to eat my semi-annual slaw dog, in honor of July 4th weekend. 
Happy holiday, everybody!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


I'm a fan of Lisa Graff's books. 
You can plug her name into my blog's search box and find several mentions. 
Check it out HERE.

I finished her newest novel right after we sat next to each other at our BOOKS OF WONDER panel. Really, you won't find a nicer, funnier person to share a table with than Lisa. We had some great questions that day from the audience. 
(One young book enthusiast asked what books had influenced or inspired us. Lisa answered HOLES, among others.)

Three Things I really like about LOST IN THE SUN:

1. Fallon Little. What a great character. Unusual girls are not easy to write, let me just say (from experience). 
Lisa has created a likeable, funny, smart, but not necessarily the expected sassy and spunky girl. 
I love Fallon.

2. The emotions in this book are so true to middle-graders, especially one who's angry at himself, at life, at his family. Writing kids' honest reactions to situations can be difficult. 

Check p. 138 to see what I mean. 

For example:

Fire in my chest.
Intestines boiling.
Fingertips twitching with heat.
Kick and yell.

Trent is mad. And with a good reason. Lisa writes it so well.

3. A teacher who isn't perfect, isn't universally loved, but is exactly what Trent needs, even if he doesn't realize it. Love Ms. Emerson.

And now, of course, there has to be a follow-up to this book. I'm hoping Fallon's story is going to be told. 
Okay, Lisa? 
How long do I have to wait?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Listen Up! and a Giveaway!

True confessions.
It's very strange hearing your own book read by somebody else.

But I'm excited about the new audio versions of GLORY BE and THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

Glory's narration is read by Cassandra Morris whose CD of A SNICKER OF MAGIC won an Odyssey Honorable Mention for the best recorded book from the American Library Association.

CLICK HERE for a little sample of her reading my own book.

If you buy the entire audio version, at the end you'll hear ME reading my Author Note and Acknowledgements. Thanks to my friend, Kirby Larson, and my editor Andrea Davis Pinkney, I was brave enough to ask if I could do that. 
(Because they did it on their own awesome audiobooks and I loved it.) 

And the Scholastic audio guy, the fantastic Paul Gagne, said yes.

THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY is available as a real 4-disc CD.
Michael Crouch is reading. A sample is here.
A quite nice School Library Journal review is HERE.

(I love what it says on the front cover. I'm a BONUS!)

Thanks, Scholastic audio and your great actors. Thanks Paul for your super work.

I gave away a handful of the CDs last week via Twitter. But I have at least one more I can share. I'll pick the winner soon. In a few days. When I think I can get to the post office! Sorry to be so random but it is almost July 4th.

Leave me a comment and let's see what happens.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Today I'm thinking about how much my own father sneaked his stories into mine.

My daddy died way too young. But every single Sunday of my life until I left for college, we gathered after church around the dinner table. There were often a few guests. My friend Keith, my own grandmother (always!), Keith's grandmother (frequently) and at least once a month, the preacher came. Oh did those stories flow!

A couple of "dining" scenes from in my first novel,  Glory Be, began directly from those memories.

Last week on Twitter, somebody started a hashtag #iwritehere. It was fun seeing the writing spaces of favorite writers!

This is mine.

Yep. That's Dr. Jack, watching and inspiring me every day!

Happy Father's Day to a real-life character!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Value of a Dollar

Or to be more precise, the value of $5.00.

That was the question I got today while chatting with the entire class of Ms. Emann's fourth graders who'd just finished THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

Literally finished the last sentence this morning. How cool is that.

And were their questions excellent!

When I explained how carefully copyeditors eye manuscripts, I used a financial transaction for my example.

Theo goes into the laundromat. 
He stuffs two quarters into the machine. 
The copyeditor thinks that's too much. 

After all, it was the dark ages of 1974.

I polled my friends.

Most agreed that it should be a quarter.

But just in case, off I went to the county library, checking the Cost of Living index. And promptly changed the sentence to a quarter (p. 23).

While sharing this story today, a student raised his hand. I'd told them about a poetry prize from Captain Jerry's Kids Page in the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper when I was much younger than they are. 

 My prize was $5.00. 

He asked what does that mean in today's dollars? 
(Okay, I told you these kids were bright, right? And resourceful.)

I promised I'd look it up. 

Though I don't really remember what exact year it was, I picked a decade. 

$43.97 is quite a lot of money for a second-grader to win for a really terrible poem.

I challenged them to write a much better poem tonight.

It was fun chatting, kids at Kings Road School! 
And a special thank you to my friend Sheila who invited me to my local, easy-to-find, nearby school -where she taught for a few happy years. 

(And kudos to sharp copyeditors.) 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Way to Stay in Destiny

When your book first appears, you have no idea whether the audience it's intended for really gets it. Or not.
Oh, reviewers may rave and reviewers may Boo. 
Bloggers may invite you. Teachers may Tweet.
But it's the kids we're trying to reach, isn't it.

Then,  if you're lucky, you'll hear from your actual readers. 
Which in the case of my books mostly means Grades 3-7. 
(And their teachers, librarians, parents, too.)

From groups like the after-school Book Group in Jackson Township's Christa McAuliffe Middle School, just up the road in New Jersey, I learn as much from great questioners as they do from reading and interviewing the author.

When I Skype with a class, I try to scribble notes. 
(Since it's the end of the year, I didn't have time to verify the names and the quotes, so don't hold me to this. It's hard to Skype and scribble at the same time.)
If I decipher my notes correctly, here are a few observations.

After Allison called DESTINY awesome and Glory Be amazing (Be still my heart, on both counts), she asked specific writing questions. She wants to be a writer. She IS a writer, according to her teacher.

I told Vinnie he reminded me of the picture in my head of Theo!

Others said they liked how I incorporated baseball and piano. They wanted to know why I chose Hank Aaron. Had I ever actually heard Thelonious Monk perform, in person.

Tyler asked about the parrots! Which are real and a real nuisance where I live in Florida. Though fascinating and unusual- which he told me added to my setting.

Zander read the book in one day. (He reminded me a bit of my own visual image of a character I'm now writing. Glasses, dark hair. Adding his name to my collection, too.)

Others asked about Anabel and why she was the way she was. 
They wanted to know about backstory.

And whether I'd ever moved to a brand new place, like Theo. 
If not, how did I know exactly how it felt.

Now, those are careful readers and writers. 
Hats off to their amazing and awesome teachers, Nancy Dell'Osso and Linda Fera.

For a post about my actual, in-person visit to this school two years ago, with pictures, CLICK HERE.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Getting Near to Baby

One of my favorite books ever.

I re-read parts of it periodically, just to remind me what terrific writing really is.

I'd forgotten it was her debut novel though I remembered it won a Newbery Honor.

 If somehow you've missed this middle-grade novel, and you admire truly beautiful prose, go read it right now.

This is what Booklist said when the book first appeared:

''Couloumbis' first novel wears its heart on one sleeve and its humor on the other. Together, they make a splendid fit." - Booklist, boxed review

(Perhaps having roofers walking above me has made me think of this book again this morning. If so, thank you new-roof guys. As frightened as you make me when I look way up at you, I adore the scenes Couloumbis set on the rooftop.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Girl v. Boy

I've been pondering this topic for a while.

In books, that is.

Might as well put the true confessions part up front. Much of my school library career was spent in all-girls' schools. Not all, but the more recent years. So I probably had it in my head that some books were more likely read by young women than by the other gender.

But that's so not really true in the real world. Or it shouldn't be.

I was about to blog about the recent Shannon Hale school visit story. And make a few astute comments about why boys read books about girls and that goes both ways.

Then I discovered, quite serendipitously  --Okay, it was a tweet about our names being alphabetically quite close-- the blog of writer Kurtis Scaletta. 
And he said all you need to know about the subject.

Hop on over to his blog and read it.

While you're hopping, check out this list of books with female leads that will certainly appeal to boys.

And if you're still not convinced, this will do it. 
 A flowchart.

(Also from my next-door name fellow author, Kurtis.)

Don't miss it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ending the School Year with Skype

This has been a very interesting couple of weeks.
Have you ever tried to talk to somebody when your roof was being repaired?
Have you ever SKYPED with a whole bunch of kids while your house was shaking?

I moved to my basement.
I moved to a corner of my room.
There was nowhere to hide.

That was pretty much how it went with my end-of-the-year Skype sessions.
There were times when I questioned my sanity in agreeing to do so many.
Especially since I had this teensy little writing deadline looming.

But each session made me smile.

The girls who talked to me during their recess and lunch.
The third graders who'd read the book as a class project.

And so many of the questions were truly thoughtful.

For example:
(These are from 4th and 5th graders)

Who helped you when you started out?

What character changed the most after working with an editor.

 What advice did your editor give you?

What's your favorite genre?

(I'm not entirely sure I knew the word GENRE in 4th grade...)

Also, I got to talk to two groups of kids who'd read THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.
Until recently, I didn't know much about how young readers were responding to my new book.

I was especially wowed by a group of 2nd grade advanced readers in Florida who really had some fabulous questions.
(And I added a new name to my Potential Character Name Book= Treasure!)

These bright, smart readers were from The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, MA.

They wrote a thank-you note that very day! Just like our mamas told us we should do.

And this group in Deerfield, IL.
(They told me all about the Bluestem List!)

Their teacher tweeted our picture. It always cracks me up to see that large <ME> on the screen. Paused mid-sentence!

Thanks so much @ARScattergood for talking to us all about Glory Be!— Jill Bonnette (@jill_bonnette) May 21, 2015

As the year winds down, I have to say AGAIN how amazing teachers and librarians are. How hard they work.
How they love books.
How they go that extra mile to connect with books and their authors.

Have a great summer, all you remarkable teachers and librarians.
Put your feet up, stare at the ocean or the lake or the mountains.
And enjoy those summer books.

Just for fun, here's a previous post about Skyping in your flipflops...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Greetings from New Jersey

Yesterday I had a positively FABULOUS school visit with some kids at the George Washington Carver School in Newark (Thanks, Scholastic!). Another blog on the school visit coming soon.

(Okay, here's a teaser. There were 125 kids, all had read the book, all had amazing things to say.)

Since I don't quite have all my photos from yesterday yet, on this rainy day in NJ, here are a few pictorial Jersey Love things you might not expect. Reasons I love spending time in my adopted home state of 25 years...

1. The grocery stores and the many, many Farmers Markets sell fig trees and figs.
The Farmers Markets alone would be reason enough to spend the summer here.

2. The July 4th Parade. I love bagpipers! I love parades!
Can't wait for this event, coming soon.
(Picture from previous edition. They really don't change that much...)

3. Visiting old friends and former libraries. This is the front of the Library of the Chathams, Main Street, Chatham NJ, all decorated for Flag Day or July 4th. I worked here as a reference librarian for five years before returning to the world of school librarianship.
This town loves its flags!

4. The train to NYC. Every hour, at least. Quick ride.

5. And speaking of trains. If you look closely at this view from the Newark Broad Street station yesterday, you can see the Valley Landscape Silo in the distance.

Which reminded me of The Sopranos, that late, great TOTAL FICTION HBO show.

Which of course sent me looking for a clip with that silo. And here it is. Near the end.

UPDATE. I don't think the video plays anymore. It's no longer permitted to be embedded, as far as I can tell, so you'll just have to click over to this YOUTUBE and ride down Memory Lane in Tony's car:

We are shaped by all the places we've lived, aren't we? So far, nothing from The Sopranos has made its way into my own fiction (!) and probably never will, but that July 4th parade? Totally.

How about you? Is setting a product of your own life settings, so to speak?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Template!

To write your novel with!

Of course, there's really no such thing.

But recently I found this "advice" buried deep in my files.

Here's the link:

And remember my Nerdy Book Club post about TEN THINGS I'VE LEARNED FROM KIDS ABOUT WRITING A BOOK?

Remember that dog?

Here's a funny thing from that article by James Thayer about your Main Character:

1)  They are kind when it counts. Not always, and maybe not mostly, but when it is important, the hero will do something kind. If nothing else he will adopt a dog, a common fictional device to salvage otherwise irredeemable heroes, which is called the Adopt A Dog Technique.

 I'm totally good with that.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Who's Reading Your Book?

This month has been Skype month
No, not an officially designated celebration, it just happened that way in my world. 

I love talking to kids about writing, reading, history, genres, characters, the truth or not the truth. So many great questions. Skyping has given me the chance to spread book love to places I've never been.  
(In my flipflops.)

But I got a question yesterday that truly stumped me.

Sixth Grade Boy in Wisconsin, to me: 
"Who would you recommend your book to?"

Now see, the librarian in me should be all over that.

But I stammered and hemmed and hawed.
Finally I mentioned a few authors I love, as in "If you liked THIS book, you'll like THAT book."

I think I mentioned kids who like books that take place in the past. 
But that's so not true. 

(True confession: My first draft of THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY wasn't even set in the past!)

Maybe I mumbled something about Books With Heart.

Because really and truly, one of my favorite tweets in the whole world had recently taken my breath away:

And just like that, my book had become


Be still my heart.

But the librarian in me still wasn't happy with my answer to that boy in Wisconsin.

And the writer in me didn't want to leave it at that.

There's been a lot of discussion recently about Boy Books v. Girl Books.
And judging a book by its cover.

What does the cover say to a reader about to choose a book?

Is that old adage about boys not reading books about girls while girls will always be okay with reading boy main characters hold?
 I doubt it. I've had tons of boys who love GLORY BE.

At a recent Book Fair, a student told me he'd read DESTINY five times already. He wasn't a baseball fan and he can't play the piano. 
Had some wise librarian or teacher had handed him that book because she knew his reading taste?

Do we need to stop pigeonholing books and kids' book choices?
Will all young readers eventually find those HeartPrint books for their own hearts?

Are kids' books just for kids anymore?

Based on this guy who has discovered and loved a few middle-grade novels, I'd say no.

I'm still thinking of a good answer to the question that sparked this blogpost. Who WOULD I recommend my own books to?

Writers- Have you been asked that question? 
Do you have a perfect answer?

I used to think I was pretty good at Readers Advisory. 
But when it's your own book, something feels different.

You might also like these posts about Skype:

Fun Skype in Georgia

Skype 101: the View from Here

And these about some of my own Heartprint books:

Kwame Alexander's Crossover

An Abundance of BOOKS

Hound Dog True