Monthly Archives: December 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Savvy

Middle Grade Author Shannon Whitney Messenger began Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays a while back. If you love middle grade literature, check out her blog for a list of other sites featuring MG books.

Today I’ll talk about Savvy by Ingrid Law.

From Goodreads: For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day.

As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up -and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

From Vicki: I have been recommending this book to every child of appropriate age (from 8 up, depending on the reader). Neighbors, friends, family. Everyone. From the first sentence, Mibs’s voice leaps off the page at you. Any backstory is so fascinating that you just want more. And the plot is a rollicking joyride. Actually, a heartwarming and rollicking joyride.

I loved the theme that we all have a savvy, even if not in the sense of the Beaumont family. We all have something special about us, our own kind of magic.

And the family names – from Grandpa Bomba and Grandma Dollop to Mibs (short for Mississippi) and her siblings (Rocket, Fish, Samson, and Gypsy). My kids got a kick out of hearing about the characters.

What books can’t you stop recommending to everyone who’ll listen?

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Read-Through Thursday: Little Brother

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

From Goodreads: Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

From Vicki: Go check out the reviews on Goodreads to see how controversial this novel is. I was actually quite surprised by the vehemence of some of the negative reviews. I felt like I’d read a completely different book. I enjoyed this one a lot and it really stayed with me afterward (I read it in April). Putting it down, my glassy eyes didn’t focus for several minutes, and I couldn’t get Marcus out of my head.

I don’t tend to read sci-fi, and I wouldn’t have called this sci-fi, but others do. There is a lot of technology and some violence and some sex, but all of that was just background to me. The story moved along at a great pace and I cared what happened to Marcus and his friends.  I felt sick for them at certain points.

The voice and the tension kept me turning pages.

Have any of you read it? Which side of the debate do you land on?

PS I just read on Twitter that Cory Doctorow is working on Little Brother II!

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Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Beyond Lucky

Middle Grade Author Shannon Whitney Messenger began Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays a while back. If you love middle grade literature, check out her blog for a list of other sites featuring MG books.

Here’s how Goodreads describes Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson: Ari Fish believes in two things: his hero-Wayne Timcoe, the greatest soccer goalie to ever come out of Somerset Valley-and luck. So when Ari finds a rare and valuable Wayne Timcoe trading card, he’s sure his luck has changed for the better. Especially when he’s picked to be the starting goalie on his team. But when the card is stolen-and his best friend and the new girl on the team accuse each other of taking it-suddenly Ari can’t save a goal, everyone is fighting, and he doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in.

Before the team falls apart, Ari must learn how to make his own luck, and figure out what it truly means to be a hero.

Vicki says: One of the themes of this book reminds me of a post I wrote earlier this year about imbuing our characters with heroic qualities. In that post I mentioned that Jimmy Carter used to be my hero, because of his humanitarian endeavors. But in his last book (and in his defense of it), Mr. Carter made some comments that many people found offensive, and basically meant that this politically-aware Jewish girl couldn’t continue to keep him on such a high pedestal.

Ari goes through a similar experience. What do you do when your heroes are found to have “feet of clay?” Heroes are human, too, but we tend to hold them to a higher standard. What happens when they can’t live up to our standards?

This is the kind of theme that gets me in the heart and the head. Combine it with tight writing, good characterizations, and a well-woven plot, and you have the makings of a GOAL! Not just any goal, of course, but the goal that leads to winning the league championship for the first time in fifteen years.

I originally picked up Beyond Lucky to see if A-Read would like it. His teacher wants him to broaden his horizons beyond fantasy. Like Ari, he loves soccer, and he will be studying for his Bar Mitzvah in a few years. (You do not need to be Jewish to appreciate this book.) While I loved this book and highly recommend it to MG readers, Beyond Lucky is a little beyond my 8-year-old. But he will read it one day. Definitely.

Who are your heroes? Do they continue to live up to your ideals?

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Favorite Quotes from SCBWI Winter 2011

This is a repost from last winter, but as it gets colder and colder here in Upstate New York, I thought we could all use the reminders.

I had an awesome, inspiring weekend in New York City. I made some new writerly friends (Hi, Guys!  *waves*), and met some amazing authors.

Here are some highlights – I apologize if my quotes are not exact. I did my best to take faithful notes, but I also didn’t want to miss anything important by focusing on note-taking.

  • Picture books are the lynchpin of a child’s emotional beginning. Jane Yolen
  • “I’ve read 40 of your books and they’re so boring.”  From a letter by a child to R.L. Stine
  • Say yes to everything. You never know where it will lead.  R.L. Stine
  • Save the chaos and drama for your books. Sara Zarr
  • Fundamental difference between adults and kids is that kids are shorter. Mo Willems
  • Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in the work. Linda Sue Park

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A-Read’s Recs

This is a new series based on the Book Talks my 8-year-old son writes for school. As you’ll see, he is not ready for publication, but he knows what he likes. And I think it’s great for us kidlit writers to read the opinions of our audience.

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation by Matt Myklusch

I was inspired to read this book because my mom brought it home from the public library.

The story takes place in the Imagine Nation.

The main character in the book is Jack.

Here is how I would describe the main character: cool, smart, and awesome.

Another important character is Jazen.

Here is how I would describe this character: smart, cool, robotic, and nice!

The story is about Jack Blank who doesn’t know he has superpowers but he does.

The main problem is they can’t figure out what his powers are.

I liked this book because it had a lot of cool parts.

A connection I made while reading this book was I didn’t have one (despite many many notes).*

I would recommend this book to people who like superheroes because half the city are superheroes.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5.

*His teacher asks them to take notes while reading, about anything that occurs to them. He told me she calls it thinking about the book. So now all his books have multiple yellow sticky notes sticking out of them with notes like, “I’m amazed that Jack wanted to read Smart’s science books,” “Because Smart is asking where he was 137 minutes and 49 seconds ago,” and “Because Galaxis is giant space-port with aliens all over the place.”

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