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Friday, February 28, 2014


for reading on chilly nights

by Kitty Griffin

Take a beautiful, stubborn Princess.
Give her two suitors.
One a devilishly handsome young magician,
The other a magically handsome young devil
Shake it up.
Add one adventure tumbling into another scattering all the pieces again and again
Read on
As they reassemble
And the young devil becomes a handsome wizard
And the young wizard turns to deviltry

That is the Seven Realms Quartet written by Cinda Williams Chima

Told from two points of view, (occasionally adding in others) the story begins with the street lord, Cuffs Alister, who has left his home of Ragmarket to go up into the hills to go hunting with his friend, Dancer. There they discover three underage wizards using magical fire to help enhance the Queen’s own hunting adventure.

In the heated exchange that follows, Alister ends up with a flash piece, a magical amulet that will become the key to a long forgotten puzzle.

Weaving back and forth, the reader is taken from the Castle of Fellsmarch and the trials of Princess Raisa, with the trials of Han Alister, or Cuffs as he’s known. For he wears a silver band on each arm, bands that have been on his arm since he was a young child. Bands that won’t come off. Bands that mark this feisty young man who has given up ruling the streets of Ragmarket so that he can work several odd jobs in order to support Mam and his little sister, Mary.

Just as the author weaves back and forth with the two characters, the Seven Realms of the story also weave. For there is the Demonai Camp, the camp of the fierce warriors who are pledged to kill wizards. The clans people with their bronze-colored skin are a quiet people living in the hills. There are the Wizards, kept under control by the amulets they must get from the talented clan craftsmen. Anxious to be set free of this binding, dark wizards keep trying to find ways around the restrictions. There are other Kings anxious to marry Raisa to gain dominion over her country.

Everywhere the reader looks there is danger waiting, for Raisa’s mother appears to be a weak queen. Is she under the influence of the dreadful Gavin Bayar?
Who will Raisa chose? For she obviously loves the son of the Captain of the Queen’s Guard, Amon Byrne. Oh, he’s a handsome, strong young man with powerful arms she could easily fall into.
Will she fall for Micah Bayar’s charms? Are those real or conjured charms?
In the background pads Demoni warrior, Ried Nightwalker, a stern, handsome man who captivates many ladies of the court.

This is the joy of this series. The tension remains taut throughout. The characters are desperate, but more importantly, you want them to win. They are more than likable, they are alive.
I listened to all three books and didn’t tire. The reader, Carol Monda, has a very distinct voice, pleasant to listen to.
After finishing the three books I started asking around and lo and behold, a number of my friends have read the series and they agree, a well-done, enjoyable fantasy.

This series is suitable for ages 9 to whoever enjoys well written fantasy!
Book One: The Demon King
Book Two: The Exiled Queen
Book Three: The Gray Wolf Throne

Book Four: The Crimson Crown

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Writer's Onesies by Judy Press

http://yahoo Eurosport UK (to see the latest fashion in onesies)
The hot new style that swept the recent Sochi Olympics is onesies. Yes, the very onesies that my kids wore when they were little. Now, I'm not into fashion big time. My basic outfit when I'm home working on a book is jeans or cords and a t-shirt and hoodie. The thing about being a stay-at-home writer is that you never have to think about your wardrobe. But when I saw these onsies, I realized that they're the perfect outfit to wear when I write. And what better way to get into the mindset of a young child than to dress like one! But if you're not into wearing a onesie, here are ten other ways to gain insight into their world:
1. Observe children at play
2. See how they interact with each other
3. Listen to their dialogue
4. Talk to a librarian about books kids request
5. Ask a child about a book they've read
6. Check out parenting blogs
7. Observe children in a restaurant
8. Watch children interact with their pets
9. See what clothes they choose
10. Watch as the play sports

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What is she dreaming about?

ten for Tuesday, dreams, thoughts, ponderings…by Kitty Griffin

Here, for your thoughts are ten story starts, snippets I've stored in my many notebooks. And if you'd like some music to go with them, try the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, I find the music sets me free, unbound to the far reaches of wishes and dreams.


One, starting with dialogue

"I want a change in attitude, missy," Dad snapped. "After all, this move is for you."

Because of me, she wanted to scream. Because of what I did.

Two, a silly start

"Lizard," said Wizard, "I need your tail."
"Wizard," said Lizard, "it's not for sale."

Three, an Irish start

The mirror reflected a face as sad as a wed Wednesday.

Four, another Irish start

She held the pen in her hand, the notebook lay open and ready for words. How could she describe this place? Every color of the rainbow, as long as it was green.

Five, a dangerous start

You need to find her. You need to tell her that the forces of darkness are hunting her.

Six, YA 

"I want to have your face tattooed on my ass."
"Cause you're always on it."

Seven, YA 

The counselor leaned forward, her eyes blinking. "So tell me, what do you think about your parents?"

"My parents? They're okay. As long as I can run from them."

Eight, creepy

"You know who's killing the children?"

Nine, wacky

My father will visit any place he has a relative, or where Elvis lived.

Ten, prickling

She'd been told to sort the laundry. Someone had balled up a shirt and stuffed it into the pant legs of a pair of jeans. Why? As she pulled the shirt free and shook it her mouth opened and she sucked in air. Where had all that blood come from? Whose was it? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Picture-Book Biographies to delight and enlighten

A Ten for Tuesday List by S. C. Poe

Each of these picture books enthralled me with its illustrations, while telling a story I had never heard before. (I list them alphabetically, by the subject's surname.)

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos*

Deborah Heiligman (Author), LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)
Roaring Brook Press, 2013. Ages 3 – 8 years. 

By the time he was four, Paul already seemed to have a sophisticated calculator in his head. As an adult, he enjoyed a weird, vagabond-scholar's life, spent entirely as a guest in first one colleague's home after another's. With each host, he worked on math challenges and partnered on papers—so many hosts and so many papers that mathematicians and scientists still award themselves an "Erdos number" to show their degree of closeness to The Magician from Budapest. (Albert Einstein had a 2; Crick and Watson each a 4.)
The illustrations and voice of this book add layers of number-clues and images that make this a read-again (and again) story. (Read more here.)
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013; New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013.

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee

Marissa Moss (Author), Carl Angel (Illustrator) 
Tricycle Press, 2009. Age 5 - 8.

Chinese-American Maggie Gee dreamed of flying from early childhood, and World War II gave her the chance—she won a coveted job as a Women's Airforce Service Pilot. Women were barred from combat, so Gee trained male pilots and ferried military aircraft—but she still found herself in some scary situations. (Read more here.)
Amelia Bloomer Best Book; Booklist Top Ten Biographies for 2010; a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.

Magic Trash

J. H. Shapiro (Author), Vanessa Branley Newton (Illustrator)
Charlesbridge, 2011. Age 5 – 8. 

Tyree Guyton used art to heal. When his childhood neighborhood in Detroit lay trashed and dying in the 1980's, he worked artistic magic with junk, scraps, and paint to resurrect his street as the now-famous sculpture park, the Heidelberg Project. (Read more here.)

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins

Barbara Kerley (Author), Brian Selznick (Illustrator)
Scholastic Press, 2001. Age 4 – 8. 

This scientist-artist examined the first dinosaur fossil evidence, deduced what kind of flesh covered the giant bones, and created life-size model dinosaurs that can still be seen in England's Crystal Palace Park, over 150 years later. (Read more here.)
A Caldecott Honor Book.  

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream

Crystal Hubbard (Author), Randy Duburke (Illustrator)
Lee & Low Books, 2010. Age 5 and up. 

Growing up in the 1930's, Marcenia Lyle never doubted that her destiny lay in baseball. Here's the story of how she became Toni Stone, the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues, and one of the best players you have never heard of. (Read more here.)

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

Margarita Engle (Author), Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
Henry Holt and Co., 2010. Age 5 - 8. 

Born in 1647, artist and scientist Maria Merian broke ground by actually observing the life cycles of insects—particularly butterflies—traveling, collecting specimens, and recording her observations in delicate paintings still treasured by collectors. (Read more here.) 

The Poppy Lady

Barbara Walsh (Author), Layne Johnson (Illustrator)
Calkins Creek, 2012. Age 7 - 10. 

The story of the red poppy, and of Moina Belle Michael, the schoolteacher who devoted much of her life to establishing it as the symbol we pin to our lapels to remember and honor war veterans.  (Read more here.)
A portion of the book’s proceeds supports the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, which benefi ts children of the U.S. military.

My Name is Gabriela / Me llamo Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral / la vida de Gabriela Mistral

Monica Brown (Author), John Parra (Illustrator)
Luna Rising, 2005. Age 4 – 8. 
English / Spanish.

Although her formal education ended by the time she was 12, this auto-didact became a prominent teacher and poet, and the first Latina to win the Nobel Prize for literature. This is part of a series of bilingual biographies by Luna Rising (Celia Cruz and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are other subjects in the series). (Read more here.)
Junior Library Guild Selection. 

Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing

James Rumford; Anna Sixkiller Huckaby (translator)
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Age 4 – 8. 
English / Cherokee. 

In the 1820s, with no knowledge of English, and with no experience of reading or writing, Sequoyah decided that his native Cherokee language needed a writing system--and set out to devise one. The bilingual text will show how Sequoyah borrowed symbols from English, Hebrew, and Greek texts (without using their sound values, which he did not know), to create his 85 syllabograms. (Read more here.) 
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Award.

Queen of the Falls

Chris Van Allsburg
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2011. Age 6 - 9. 

The amazing true story of Annie Edson Taylor, who--at age 62--decided to create a retirement nest egg by having herself tossed over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Allsburg's characteristic illustrations capture the feeling of 1901 photography. (Read more here.)

*There should be a phonetic mark over the "o," but I don't know how to make Blogger put it in.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Thomas Jefferson in a Picture Book...and then some

 Thomas Jefferson
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything
by Maira Kalman

I did not know that Thomas Jefferson had red hair and freckles.
I did know he was the third president of the United States.
I did not know that his Monticello home had seventy-six windows.
I did know about his writing of the Declaration of Independence.
I did not know that his favorite vegetable was peas.
I did know that he orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase.

I delighted in reading this marvelously illustrated picture book about Thomas Jefferson, the "monumental man (who) had monumental flaws." However, it screeched to a halt for me three fourths of the way through when the polite, multilingual, book-loving man became the owner of about 150 slaves, among them Sally Hemings, who was strongly believed to have had children with him.   What is a picture book meant for children in kindergarten through third grade doing by introducing  Sally Hemings?
I love that this 'presidents are people too' book included the pages showing the slaves who worked for the man who said of slavery, "This abomination must end." He is real and hardly faultless, from his violin-playing to his huge gardens to his fig-plucking walks with his friend the visiting Marquis de Lafayette.  I just don't think that the discussion of Sally's possible role in his life is necessary for elementary school students.
I showed this book to several elementary school social studies teachers who said they would have loved to have shared it with students except for the Sally pages. In grade school American history text, that surely is a topic best discussed at home. So should it have been included here? 
What do you think?

Submitted by Andrea Perry

Monday, February 10, 2014

First Friday Debut Novel - Being Henry David

by Cal Armistead

This past Friday, February 7, Marcy and I posted our answers to Cal’s debut novel, Being Henry David. Today, you get to read Cal’s favorite's. Reading Cal’s answers transported us back into the book.

Thanks for giving our readers a terrific insight into your characters, Cal. We hope they enjoy the story as much as we did.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

 I don’t think this is a spoiler…but I’m going to choose this line from near the end of the book, when Hank has endured a life-changing ordeal and feels a stirring of hope at last:

Nobody is here but me to see the world cracked open, to look out on the world and see hundreds of miles into the distance, to smell the rain-cleansed air. Somehow, I feel clean too.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?   

I like this section, because it reflects the moment when Hank has remembered the trauma that robbed him of his memory.  This is a turning point, because he will now have to face the painful truth. Yet there is still some comfort in nature, at Walden Pond.

No more, says the beast now at Walden Pond, the beast who has become my friend in spite of myself. Enough, he says.

Red turns to black, total eclipse, and I collapse behind a lichen-covered rock, far from home in the silent forest of Concord, Massachusetts.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Like most people, I have a great fondness for Thomas, the tattooed librarian/historian/ punk rocker. But I also have a soft spot for Nessa, the 15-year-old runaway who has seen too much, but maintains an unshakable inner strength. 

Nessa looks up at me with this shine to her eyes like she thinks I’m amazing, and I won’t lie, it makes me feel really good. Dressed in a clean white shirt and jeans, without all that dark makeup she used to wear, she doesn’t look anything like a street kid anymore. Just another cute girl at Thoreau High. I don’t know how she did it, but Nessa has been able to hold onto a sweetness and innocence in spite of everything that’s happened to her.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

I like this paragraph when Hank first encounters Walden Pond, because it reminds me of the many times I’ve walked this same route myself, taking note of the wonderful sounds, scents, sights, and peaceful surroundings of Walden.

 The sounds of the highway fade as I take the road into the woods. The air is cool and fresh and smells like leaves and dirt and the pine needles crunching under my feet. I continue down the road and sense the presence of the pond even before I see it—an open space off to the right, a break in the thickness of the woods. Then, there it is, a smooth gray surface like chrome reflecting the sky.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

I like this section (it’s more than one line, but all part of the same conversation!) because it offers insight into what makes Thomas tick:

“For a kid who worships Thoreau enough to stay all night at his cabin site, you have a lot to learn,” Thomas says, handing me a spare helmet from the back of his bike. “Thoreau was a rabble-rouser in this time.  A free spirit. A rebel.”  He pulls on his own helmet, straddles his Harley, and flashes straight white teeth. “Why do you think I like him so much?”

We would like to congratulate Cal Armistead on her debut young adult novel, BEING HENRY DAVID, which was named one of the Top Books for Teens 2013 by Kirkus Reviews, Buzzfeed, and Mashable!

To read more about Cal’s debut novel, Being Henry David, go to:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A "Love Bug" Craft For Valentine’s Day by Judy Press

Recently I was asked for a quick and easy craft for kids to make on Valentine's Day. I came up with this "Love Bug" which is fun and doubles as a puppet.  Enjoy and Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day "Love Bug"

Here's what you need:
Red construction paper
1 Small white paper plate
1 White paper lunch bag
1 Red pipe cleaner (cut in half)
1 Small red pom-pom (optional)
Wiggly eyes (optional)
Tape and glue stick
Here's what you do:
1. Cut out one large and two small red paper hearts. Glue the large heart onto front of the bag.
2. Glue the paper plate onto flap of the bag.
3. Tape a small heart onto the end of each pipe cleaner and tape them to back of bag for antennae.
4. Cut out eight strips of red paper and accordion fold. Glue each strip onto sides of large heart for “legs.”
5. Glue on wiggly eyes and use marker to decorate the bug.

Friday, February 7, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

Welcome to February’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Cal Armistead and her novel, Being Henry David.  This is the type of book that you’ll fly through because you have to find out what happens next. Then you’ll want to go back and re-read it a second time. We hope you enjoy our answers and encourage you to buy the book.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – This is a point in the story were Hank, the main character, who has lost his memory because of some awful trauma, is beginning to find out who he was. He is in examining a newspaper article when this particular connection happens.

With detached curiosity I stare at this Daniel Henderson, huffing and puffing his way through a race, examine the contorted face of a stranger. I feel nothing.

But then slowly, a sensation creeps up on me, like a ripple circling from a stone thrown into a pond. It grows into a wave, starting somewhere in the roots of my hair, reaching tendrils into my scalp and neck and face, and I feel the flush, a red burn spreading over every surface of my skin. And then, with a deep shudder to the bone, to the brain, to the heart, I switch places and I become that boy.

Marcy – Slowly, Hank learns about himself and his situation. Emotions run high as Hank realizes bad stuff must have happened to him before he got amnesia.

And there are the crimes I might have committed before I woke up in Penn Station. And there’s that other thing. Maybe you killed somebody. Did somebody hurt my sister? Did I kill the guy? Is this what I’m blocking out?

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - Marcy chose a great chapter ending that you’ll read about below, but I chose this one because I was worried while reading the whole way through that trouble from New York City would catch up to Hank, trouble with guns.

Out of the darkness behind the school comes a raspy shout, and the two of us freeze. “Back off,” it says. “Or I’ll kill you.”

Marcy –The main character Hank doesn’t remember anything from his past. The only clue is a book he’s holding – Walden – by Henry David Thoreau. As he is reading the book searching for clues, he is transported into Thoreau’s world. Loved this vivid chapter ending!

Instead of the stink of the alley and the echo of sirens and honking taxicabs, while I’m reading the book it’s actually like there’s fresh air rustling leaves in a tree over my head. I hear the water and birds singing. Somehow, I know this place in Henry’s book. I can remember being outside like that, in the woods, near a lake. It’s familiar in a way I feel to my bones. It’s the closet feeling so far to home.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – Like Marcy, my favorite character is Thomas. He’s been through so much and hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from so he is able to help Hank through the dark times while he is trying to figure out who he really is… And maintain a sense of humor, as evidenced in this quote.

“So, I suppose this is where you tell me you’re not actually Thoreau reincarnated.” Thomas says at last.

Marcy – Thomas! He is this diverse character who’s a kind-hearted, off-the-radar kind of guy and who does everything he can to help Hank.

Hank asks Thomas,
“Why would you do this for me?” I whisper.

“Like I told you. When I was younger, some good people helped me out, and that made all the difference,” he says. “This is my chance to pay that back. Maybe you’ll do the same someday for somebody else.”

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – There are so many great descriptions throughout the novel (and you’ll see below that Marcy has the same sentiments) but there were a certain few that stuck out to me, all of them dealing with the beast, a metaphor for Hank’s memory returning, that stuck with me the most. I’m torn between a few of them, so I’m going to give you two separate examples.

He laughs after he says maybe you killed somebody, loving his own crazy joke, and I tried to join in, but my face is frozen. My pulse hammers in my ears and something dark lurches in my chest like a beast waking from a deep sleep. A wave of dizziness breaks over me and I grip the edge of the table so I won’t fall off the chair.

And, from later in the book…

I almost fall down the concrete steps, vision bombarded with black-red flashes as the beast roars to life from its pit inside me. But it’s just not one beast, not anymore. It divides itself into a billion smaller versions of itself, each with curled claws, red eyes, rising, choking, leaping at my throat, trying to kill me for starting to remember what is crucial to forget.

Marcy – There were so many descriptions that it was extremely hard to pick – between all of the beautiful quotes by Thoreau and thoughts from Hank. But, if I had to pick my favorite it would be when Hank is about to perform on stage with Hailey. He is so nervous, he’s frozen, he can’t play a note.

But then, the silence is broken by the sound of a voice. A girl’s silky alto voice. At first, I’m so lost in my own head that I don’t recognize the voice or the song. But it cuts through my panic and I recognize that it’s Hailey. Singing “Blackbird,” a cappella, without me. Her voice soars to the rafters, so beautiful.

I’m mesmerized along with the rest of the audience, just listening, until she reaches the end of the first verse. Then, as if they have finally come to life, my fingers relax and start to move. They form chords across the frets, hover above the strings and then come in perfectly for the intro of the second verse. The music consumes me and the magic takes over at last, transcending my fear. Hailey joins in and starts singing the second verse like this is exactly how we planned it all along.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave – This line is simple, but to me it says what any parent would want someone else to say a runaway, or a child that is lost.

“Hank, call your mother,” she whispers, like she knows something about me that I don’t. I guarantee she would sacrifice her own life just to have you back home. Understand?”

Marcy – I cracked up when I read this paragraph. Hank walks into Hailey’s house for the first time so they can practice their song. Her family owns this beautiful, pristine house.

She leads me into a room that’s all white. No Kidding. White rug, white sofas, white walls, even a white grand piano. I’m afraid to have a dirty thought in this room. Which is difficult, considering the way I’m starting to feel about Hailey.

To read more about Cal Armistead’s debut YA novel Being Henry David please go to: