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Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Little Ladies with Big Dreams, Black History Month Picture Books Worth a Look, by Andrea Perry

I am Rosa Parks
      by Brad Meltzer
      illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

"Always stand up for yourself (even if it means sitting down)" is the simple message from this child-friendly biographical sketch of Rosa Parks.  As a girl who was small for her age and sick a lot, we meet Rosa Parks,  a pivotal figure in the American movement for racial equality.  She speaks from her child's heart about noticing the different water fountains, bathrooms, bus seats and elevators for blacks and whites in her town, even wondering if "colored" water tasted differently than "white" water.  These differences culminated in her not giving up her seat, sitting down for what she believed, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The simple language and first person narrative, and the few photographs at the end of the book, will make Rosa come alive to any child who wants to learn who she was.

My Name is Truth      The Life of Sojourner Truth
      by Ann Turner
      illustrated by James Ransome

From "I am Rosa Parks," to "Ain't I a Woman?" another first person narrative speaks in plain language about a black woman from a different time.  Born to slave parents in 1797 and one of twelve children, Isabella was sold into slavery for $100 when she was 9 years old.  She would not let her own children be separated from her and went so far as to hire a lawyer to reunite her with a son sold illegally by the Dumont family, one of many families she worked for.  Isabella reinvented herself as Sojourner, her self-proclaimed name of respect, and traveled throughout New England preaching as God had led her to do.  Sojourner preached the good news of salvation, and the terrible days of slavery.  Though she was famously known for her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at the 1851 Ohio Women's Rights Convention, we also learn that a woman author, Olive Gilbert, wrote her biography which Sojourner went on to sell at her speaking engagements. 

Mahalia Jackson     Walking with Kings and Queens
      by Nina Nolan
      illustrated by John Holyfield

Mahalia Jackson was also a tiny girl, but one with a big voice.  She was from New Orleans where she loved gospel singing in church, which raised her spirits particularly after her mother died.  Though she had to leave school at a young age to help care for her cousins, and then also went on to work for years as a maid, Mahalia kept singing.  One of her aunts told her one day she would even be singing for kings and queens.  Mahalia never forgot.  She refused to sing in nightclubs, and saved money for singing lessons for years.  She was 25 when she recorded her first gospel record with Decca Records. 
And her aunt was right.  Eventually Mahalia made it to Carnegie Hall, and even sang at the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

These three black women from humble beginnings all were true to themselves and never stopped believing that what they had to say or sing or sit for was important enough to make a difference.

Monday, February 9, 2015


My Debut Middle Grade Novel Available Now!

by Dawn Malone

This past Friday, February 6, 2015, Marcy and I posted our answers to Dawn's debut novel Bingo Summer. Today, you get to read Dawn’s favorite's. 

Awesome answers, Dawn! We can’t wait for our readers to read the novel. And hopefully to give us a few of their favorites, too. 

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

In Chapter 29, when Summer decides to write her own story for the school newspaper instead of letting her arch rival, Mara, submit her version, Summer experiences a shift in how she confronts obstacles. 

"And then we’d moved here, and I’d decorated my room just like my room in Stanton. I’d tucked the spiral notebook away like the lottery ticket had never happened. I’d pasted the stars on the ceiling, the same posters on the wall, and even moved my new bed facing the same direction it had faced back home. But no matter what I did, this wasn’t Stanton. It never would be. I couldn’t wish on stars anymore."

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

The ending of the first chapter is my favorite. When I first started writing this in 2007, I won an SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant based on this first chapter. With validation like that, I knew I had a chapter to use as a gauge for writing the rest of the book. It challenged me to try to make the subsequent chapters just as intriguing. 

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

J.C. cracks me up. She's full of rambunctious energy, and ornery enough to cause some sisterly conflict between her and Summer, but she's not overtly mean. And of course, at the very basic level, even brothers and sisters who are often at odds with one another will jump to their siblings' defense when that person is threatened by someone else. J.C. shows that loyalty near the end of the book when Summer's competitor on the softball team causes trouble. 

"Where's this Mara Schmara person? Is that her?" J.C. said, pointing at someone getting onto the bus. "I bet I could take her." J.C. jeered over my shoulder before she got in the car. 

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

Despite Summer's lack of confidence during much of the book, she feels completely comfortable on the softball field, like in Chapter 31:

"I owned third base. Coach praised me to the moon and back during practices every day. If I bobbled a grounder or took an extra step before I threw to first, he didn’t say anything. It was like he was watching the nightly news and catching the highlights, starring me. Softball ruled." 

Everyone has a gift, which can feed a sense of empowerment. Sadly, some kids never figure out what they have a talent for, or are encouraged to look for it.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Actually, it's an exchange between Summer, J.C., and their mom, Maggie, after they've landed in the town which Maggie impulsively decides to call their new home. The conversation sums up the family's dynamic; they're closely-knit, a little quirky, and the girls sometimes find themselves in the parental role, taking care of their mom, since she doesn't always make the best choices. 

“This wasn’t what I had in mind,” Mom whispered to us. “Who said money can buy everything?”

“I think that’s ‘money can’t buy everything’,” I said.

“You should slip her a fifty,” offered J.C. 

“Real life doesn’t work like it does on television,” I said. 

“Everyone has a price,” J.C. shot back. 

“Stop it, you two,” Mom said. “Let’s get down to business.”

To read more about Dawn Malone’s debut novel BINGO SUMMER please go to:

Friday, February 6, 2015

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and 
Marcy Collier

Bingo Summer

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, Dawn Malone and her novel, Bingo Summer. Summer and her mom and sister struggle financially. Each birthday, Summer’s mom splurges on a BINGO lottery ticket. This year, Summer hits the jackpot and her life changes dramatically, but not all for the better.

We can’t wait for you to read this exciting novel!

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

Dave – I chose this particular passage because I believe it is the first time Summer is aware of what she is doing to try to fit in.

I waited for him to tell me what he meant. Ever since school started, I felt like I was trying to slip inside someone else’s skin, and it fit me like a too-tight shirt. Sometimes, I wanted to do whatever it took to have friends, to be popular again like I was in Stanton.

Marcy – Summer is not happy in her new situation. She’s trying to make the best of it, but there are so many obstacles standing in her way. This paragraph demonstrates Summer’s attempt to work through some of her problems. And it’s a fabulous idea!

My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Bertram, once told us to write our troubles down on paper, to make a Worry List, and then get rid of those worries by throwing the list in the garbage. I’d done that before, when Mom and Frank were divorcing and she was too distracted to pay much attention to J.C. and me. I’d felt like I was J.C.’s mom, that my own mom had gone missing. Every day, I came home and listed my worries. Then I tore out the page, crumpled it, and banked the shot off the wall and into the garbage can. Sometimes writing stuff down worked. So I flipped to a new page in the notebook and tore it out. Instead of complaining to Dana, I’d make a Worry List.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - This particular chapter ending comes from early in the novel. I chose it because when Summer moved it sets the stage for what happens in the rest of the novel.

I thought people who won the lottery had everything they could ever want. But I didn’t feel like a winner. In fact, I felt like the biggest loser of all, watching Stanton disappear in the side view mirror as we headed north to escape our small town that had become smaller still.

Marcy –  Summer is having a rough day. When she arrives home, her situation only gets worse.

All I wanted was my bed, to pull the comforter over my head, and sleep September away.

But there was a pickup truck in the driveway. That meant I couldn’t disappear upstairs. I had expected a Harley, but he changed vehicles as often as people changed underwear. And the crystal horseshoe dangling from his rear view mirror was a dead giveaway. Mom had given it to him shortly after J.C. was born.

Frank was here.

Just perfect.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – I choose Dana as my favorite secondary character, although I also had Anna high on my list. Dana stays true to her best friend even after Summer moves and begins to socialize with neighbors and friends who have a lot of money. She’s not worried if she will be accepted or not and she still feels comfortable telling Summer exactly how she feels. Following, is an example.

She shrugged. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re not exactly politician material. Sorry. It’s true,” she said, when she saw me frown. “You get defensive when no one likes your ideas. And you’re kind of grumpy.” She looked pointedly at my frown and smiled. “See? That’s what I mean. Grumpy.”

Marcy –  There are a cast of great characters, but Dink is my favorite above all of the others because of his wit, humor and offbeat personality.

Summer has just delivered a speech because she is running for Student Council. She runs into Dink behind the stage.

“Way to deliver a speech.”

“What are you doing back here?” I turned in circles, looking for something. Anything.

“Working the sound system. Hey, you’re looking pretty green—”

Just then, I barfed into the nearest container, which happened to be a barrel of basketballs. Next to me, Dink nodded and grinned. I came up for air, wiping spit from my lips. Had my lunch not been making a repeat appearance, I would have smacked him.

“The basketball team won’t like that, you know,” he said.

I’d never felt so humiliated. I barely made it away from Dink and into the girl’s bathroom down the hall, before I threw up again.

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

DaveThis particular section depicts a perfect image. Not only does it describe this scene but it highlights personality traits of the character as well.

“Frank found his spot on the couch again, this time lying back and propping his boots on the arm. He chewed on his fingernails and spit the bits onto the front of his shirt.”

Marcy – Great line that describes the situation so well.

Announcing our good luck in front of Mrs. Hennessey was our first mistake. She didn’t mean to cause trouble, but telling Ruth Hennessey that you scored ten million dollars on a lottery ticket and expecting her to keep quiet is like telling a rooster he can’t crow. It’s just not possible.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

DaveThis particular line of dialogue is spoken by Summer. I think there’s a touch of irony in what she says given the fact that this is advice given to her younger sister, yet Summer doesn’t apply it to herself when she moves to Dorrance.

“Friends aren’t something you can just whip up like a batch of cookies, you know. Dana and I were friends since kindergarten. Good friends take time.”

Marcy –  J.C. is Summer’s little sister. She is an ornery, funny person and has no objection to moving into a new house in a nicer area after they hit the jackpot.

“I’m going to have a ton of friends here, and I’m not going to be a granny by the time I make them either.”

To read more about Dawn Malone’s debut novel BINGO SUMMER please go to: