Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorites of 2009 [updated and bumped]

Well, clearly, ETERNAL is a favorite. But I also wanted to highlight some books by persons not married to me that I have recommended on this blog over the course of the year.

Same caveats as last year.

Middle Grade/Tween:

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro, by Eduardo Calcines
Sobering memoir of growing up and escaping Communist Cuba.

Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run, by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger
Witty Civil War time travel adventure.

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, by Barbara O'Connor
A small adventure with big heart.

Winnie's War, by Jenny Moss
A timely and poignant story centered around the early twentieth century flu epidemic.

Bull Rider, by Suzanne Morgan Williams
Engaging characters and a setting not often seen in contemporary novels.

Young Adult:

Jumped, by Rita Williams Garcia
An intense triangle of hostility at an urban high school.

Soul Enchilada, by David Macinnis Gill
How to beat a deal with the devil.

Bug Boy, by Eric Luper
1930s horse racing and corruption.

So Punk Rock, by Micol and David Ostow
Hilarious escapades of a teen trying to decide who he is.

The Pricker Boy, by Reade Scott Whinnem
What is really going amidst the forest of thorns?

The Chosen One, by Carol Lynch Williams
Inside of, and trying to escape, a polygamous cult.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Short Stories

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a prosperous 2009. One of the pleasures of the year for both Cyn and me was in the publication of short stories.

In IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE (Benbella), Cynthia has a story entitled "Haunted Love," about a vampire, a ghost, and a human girl in small-town Texas.

In SIDESHOW: TEN ORIGINAL TALES OF FREAKS, ILLUSIONISTS AND OTHER MATTERS ODD AND MAGICAL (Candlewick), Cyn's short story "Cat Calls" involves a girl's mysterious coming-of-age.

Finally, GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD (Little, Brown) includes a short story Cyn and I wrote together, called "The Wrath of Dawn." It's about a girl named Dawn who goes to a Buffy Sing-Along and takes issue with the treatment of the eponymous character...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all!

Blizzard eyes the Scrooge-like sentiment with suspicion.

I just want to sleep, saith the felines.

Go see Cynsations for more pics (Scroll down).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Recommendations

The good folks at the Book Kids blog from Book People have been asking authors what books they've been giving for the holidays this year.

Cynthia started it off here, while my selections are here. Check out the rest of the blog for even more!

Also, I updated my Favorites of 2009 post. And I'm going to stop now. Really.

Tantalizing news! [updated to add Sanguine]

To the left is the cover for the softcover Walker Australia-New Zealand version of Cynthia Leitich Smith's Eternal. (It's also available in hardcover, with the original US cover).

And, it's also available from Walker UK, with the cover on the right.

And, there's even more tantalizing news: In addition to the forthcoming graphic novel version of Tantalize and the prose novel, Blessed, (both Candlewick 2010), Candlewick will be publishing a graphic novel version of Eternal, as well as a new prose novel set in the Tantalize universe. Check out Cyn's post here for the gory details!

And, finally, here's the cover for the French version of Tantalize, Sanguine:

Monday, December 14, 2009


THE SMALL ADVENTURE OF POPEYE AND ELVIS, by Barbara O'Connor (FSG 2009)(7-10). Popeye is bored. Nothing ever happens in the small town of Fayette, South Carolina. Until one day, the Jewell family's giant motor home gets stuck in the mud. And Elvis Jewell decides he and Popeye need to have an adventure.

But Popeye doesn't know what to do since, after all, nothing ever happens in Fayette, South Carolina. But then they discover a boat made from a Yoo-hoo carton floating down the creek. And the boat contains a secret message...

And so they have the makings of an adventure. Well, a small adventure. One that won't get them into trouble. Not much, anyway.

THE SMALL ADVENTURE OF POPEYE AND ELVIS is sweet and fun and should appeal to anyone looking for a (small) adventure. Elvis and Popeye and their families are engagingly quirky and charming. The setting is textured and the language elegant. Altogether, THE SMALL ADVENTURE OF POPEYE AND ELVIS is satisfyingly old-fashioned yet also has a modern feel.

Check out the trailer:

Saturday, December 12, 2009


THE PRICKER BOY, by Reade Scott Whinnem (Random House 2009)(12+). In THE PRICKER BOY, Whinnem deftly captures adolescent angst, night terrors, and our atavistic fear of the dark forest.

Fourteen-year-old Stucks Cumberland and his friend Pete live year-round at Tanner Pond. But every year, their friends Vivek, Emily, Ronnie, and Stucks's cousin Robin arrive for a summer of fun, swimming, and campfire stories amidst the hawthorne woods.

And every year, they know better than to go into the woods beyond the Widow's Stone, where dwells the Pricker Boy, creature of the thorns. Until now...

THE PRICKER BOY is an intensely compelling and creepy novel. Stucks and his friends and family are lively, fascinating, and sometimes surprising. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


aETERNAL, by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick 2009). Zachary is a neophyte guardian angel. Miranda is his second, err, charge. In love with her, he breaks the rules to try to save her, which results in catastrophe: she's turned into a vampire and, worse, into the hand-chosen "daughter" of the current bearer of the mantle of Dracul.

Cast from heaven, stripped of his angelic powers, Zachary is forced to wander the earth until he's given one final chance at redemption. Which leads him into the service of his once-beloved in the castle of the current incarnation of Dracula himself...

Can he save himself and her, or did his choice cost them both life eternal?

A striking and brilliantly affecting treatment of sacrifice, redemption, and the struggle of good vs. evil. Highly recommended.

And, yeah, I'm married to the author :-). Also available from Walker UK and Australia.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo giveaway at Cynsations

Go check out the Friday roundup at Cynsations for information on how you can enter to win one of three signed copies of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo!

Then stay at Cynsations and read Rita Williams-Garcia's account of her National Book Award experiences.

And, then, if you haven't already, go read my review of Rita's JUMPED, from way back in February.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA, by Sue Corbett (Dutton 2009)(8-12). On his twelfth birthday, Wil David of Steele, PA, is scheduled to take over the paper route a David boy has had ever since their great-grandfather founded the town. But then Wil gets a call from the editor telling him the Cooper County Caller is discontinuing home delivery.

So Wil decides he must save his route, which leads to tangled web including a fortune teller, a carnival scam, a closed hairpin factory, cinnamon rolls and, just possibly, true heroism.

THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA offers a (last?) glimpse into small-town life and its relationship to media that are going the way of the slide rule. Wil is smart and engaging as he perseveres to seek a solution to his problems. Supporting characters are likewise quirky and fun. Altogether, a charming read: very 21st Century, yet with an almost nostalgic feel.

Monday, November 30, 2009


THE WITCH'S GUIDE TO COOKING WITH CHILDREN, by Keith McGowan, ill. by Yoko Tanaka (Henry Holt 2009)(ages 8-12). Eleven-year-old Sol Blink and his younger sister Connie have moved with their father and new stepmother to Grand Creek. Their new neighbor, Fay Holaderry, is a little creepy and may be older than anyone thinks. And then Sol notices that the bone Fay's dog is gnawing on is a human femur...

WITCH'S GUIDE is a fun new take on "Hansel and Gretel," with 21st Century protagonists and all the Old World charm, err, creepiness, of Bavaria's Black Forest. Both sinister and enjoyable, WITCH'S GUIDE will have readers laughing, thinking, and looking for recipes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


BUG BOY, by Eric Luper (FSG 2009)(12+). It's the height of the Great Depression and 15 year old Jack Walsh is senior exercise boy for his stable at Saratoga racetrack, but aspires to be a world-famous and winning jockey. It's all he can do at the moment, though, to keep his mind on his job, eke out a meager existence, and send modest sums back home.

But Jack gets his chance when his stable's premier jockey suffers an accident at the gate. Jack immediately becomes an unexpected success and celebrity. But between the mobsters who want to fix the races and the fat cats who own them, can Jack make it to the finish line in one piece?

Replete with period detail, BUG BOY exposes in compelling fashion both the glamor and dubious ethics of the 1930s horse-racing culture. Jack is likeable, engaging, and sympathetic. In short, BUG BOY is the fascinating story of a young man deciding who he is and wants to be in a world of temptation, corruption, and (sometimes) integrity.

Friday, November 27, 2009


SEA OF THE DEAD, by Julia Durango (Simon & Schuster 2009)(ages 8-12). Thirteen-year-old Kehl is the youngest son of the premier warrior prince of the Teshic Empire, an empire at war with the rebel Fallen. Training to become a warrior himself, and trying to live up to his family's expectations, Kehl is kidnapped from barracks by the minions of the Fallen King.

Taken aboard their ship, Kehl learns their ways and some uncomfortable truths about the Empire and how his mother was killed...

In SEA OF THE DEAD, Durango offers a likeable and engaging protagonist, as well as rousing adventure; and creates a unique fantasy world with satisfying amounts of both intrigue and blood and mayhem.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR, by F.E. Higgins (Feiwel & Friends 2009)(10-14). In the corrupt city of Urbs Umida, divided between the rich north and the southern slums by the toxic River Foedus, Hector Fitzbaudly is living the life of a scion of society and wealth.

But when his father dies after being blackmailed by the dastardly Gulliver Truepin, Hector loses everything and must make his way on the south side. And all he has left is revenge on the one-eyed man who killed his father...

A companion to THE BLACK BOOK OF SECRETS and THE BONE MAGICIAN, THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR is another winner set in the deliciously creepy world of Urbs Umida. Read them all.

Friday, November 20, 2009


THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE, by Jacqueline Kelly (Henry Holt 2009)(ages 12+). The middle child of seven (the rest are boys), eleven year old Calpurnia Tate is not your typical girl in 1899 Texas. As she becomes fascinated by the natural world, she grows closer to her fearsome grandfather, an amateur naturalist. When they discover a new plant which they send to the Smithsonian for corroboration, Calpurnia begins to struggle with what it means to be a girl in turn-of-the-century Texas and what it will mean for her dream of going to college to become a professional naturalist.

In a voice that resonates with nostalgia, Kelly evokes simpler times and richly details episodes in one summer of Calpurnia's life as she and her grandfather await the important scientific news...

Illinois SCBWI

Last weekend, Cynthia and I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Illinois chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators (SCBWI), which had invited Cynthia to be a keynote speaker. It was a terrific chance to see old friends, meet new ones, and hear interesting things about the state of children's literature and publishing.

Other main-session speakers included Yolando LeRoy (Charlesbridge); Michael Stearns (Upstart Crow); Stacy Cantor (Walker & Co.); Nick Eliopulos (Random House); and Alisha Niehaus (Dial).

Altogether, it was an excellent event, characterized by great comraderie and Midwestern efficiency. :-). The night we got in, the group took us to dinner at the Weber Grill restaurant (barbecue was excellent) and the night after, to Uno's.

Some pictures:

I just like this one :-). The event was held at Harper College in Schaumburg and the theme was "Brick by Brick: The Architecture of our Stories," and this sign put me in mind of the Big Bad Wolf. For some reason. And, yes, for the record, the Men's Room was likewise a tornado shelter.

Carolyn Crimi and Michael Stearns engage in heated conversation while Yolanda LeRoy looks on.

Yolanda LeRoy discusses picture book layout.

The panelists (from left to right): Nick, Yolanda, Michael, Alisha, Stacy.

Alisha laughs at something Michael and I are discussing.

Thanks to everyone who drove and organized and escorted and attended!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CLS interview

Cyn is interviewed today by Hip Writer Mama! Go check it out!


ROLAND WRIGHT: FUTURE KNIGHT, by Tony Davis, ill. by Gregory Rogers (Delacorte 2009)(ages 6-10). All ten year old Roland Wright, the son of a famous blacksmith, wants to do is become a famous knight. But only sons of nobles can become knights. But then, he's given a chance to compete to be one of King John's pages. Can skinny, scrawny Roland win and achieve his dream?

ROLAND WRIGHT: FUTURE KNIGHT is witty and fun as it explores a young boy's quest to achieve his dreams while staying true to himself. First of a series.

Monday, November 16, 2009


BORDER CROSSING, by Jessica Lee Anderson (Milkweed 2009)(ages 14+). Sixteen year old Manz, half-Mexican, half-Anglo, is just trying to make it in his small Texas town. With an alcoholic mother and a long-dead father (a possible suicide), it isn't easy. But things start looking up after he and his friend Jed get a job at a local ranch, and he meets the intriguing and sexy Vanessa.

If only they weren't all out to get him...

BORDER CROSSING is a fascinating and disturbing novel of Manz's descent into hallucinatory paranoia and suspicion, a result of his emerging schizophrenia. Using a first-person narration, Anderson skillfully unwraps the contours and tragedy of Manz's life and mental illness. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


GOING BOVINE, by Libba Bray (Delacorte 2009). Sixteen year old Cameron has been acting even more erratically than usual; turns out, he has mad cow disease and his brain is turning, literally, to mush. In the hospital, he encounters Gonzo, a sixteen year old hypochondriac dwarf, and Dulcie, a punk angel. Together, they undertake a cross country road trip (and more) to find Cameron a cure at a secret medical facility in Disney World.

Throw in a yard gnome who's actually a Norse god in exile, an insidiously catchy tune (you know the one), string theory, and the man of La Mancha, and you have a brilliantly funny novel of life, death, friendship, and life.

Cyn and I had the good fortune of reading an early draft during our 2005 Writefest workshop. The manuscript was massive (400+ pages) but, like the finished work, at once zany and thought-provoking.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


THE BOOK OF THE MAIDSERVANT, by Rebecca Barnhouse (Random House 2009)(ages 12+). The holy woman, Dame Margery Kempe, is on pilgrimage to Rome, so naturally, she must take Johanna, her maidservant. Along the way, the pair fall in with an eclectic group of fellow pilgrims, most of whom treat Johanna as if she was their servant and are antagonized by Dame Margery's frequent preaching and crying and gnashing of teeth (she feels the suffering of the Virgin Mary).

Angry at her situation and her mistress, Johanna is eventually abandoned and so must make her way alone. But how can she, with no money and no knowledge of the language?

THE BOOK OF THE MAIDSERVANT is apparently based on the 15th century Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in the English language. Told with a fresh voice and wry humor, MAIDSERVANT offers an fascinating glimpse into the travails of 15th century life.

Monday, November 09, 2009


I WANT TO LIVE: THE DIARY OF A GIRL IN STALIN'S RUSSIA, by Nina Lugovskaya (Houghton Mifflin 2007). In 1932, in the heart of Stalinist Russia, thirteen year old Nina Lugovskaya began writing her diary. It covers everything you'd expect: stories of her friends, crushes, siblings. And experiences with the police state that sent her father to prison camp.

The diary was seized by the NKVD (forerunner to the KGB) when Nina herself was arrested at 18 and used as proof of Nina's anti-Soviet sentiments. The volume(s) was uncovered after the fall of the Soviet Union in the KGB archives.

I WANT TO LIVE is a chilling account of life in a totalitarian state. Particularly intriguing are the passages marked by the State as indicative of anti-Soviet thoughts. At once terrifyig and compelling, I WANT TO LIVE offers a searing portrait of the girl, the place, and the period.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Texas Book Festival

In honor of the book festival, the Statesman had an article on Saturday about the Austin writing scene.

Our goings-on this year began at the Children's Author and Moderator party graciously hosted by Clay Smith, literary director of the festival.

After much Tex-Mex and one or two libations...

Me: Is the very tall blonde woman whose name tag says "Jane Smiley" THE Jane Smiley?
Cyn: I don't know, why don't you go and ask her.

Later, while I was in conversation with Jacqueline Kelly and a gentleman from PW, Jane Smiley approached, and I blurted, "Hi! I love Moo!" Jacqueline Kelly also expressed admiration for that book, although much more serenely. So, anyway, Jane Smiley was very gracious as we talked about humor and horses and writing...

Next morning, Cyn and I went over to the Capital and ran into Ken and Kathi Appelt in the green room (author reception)

At noon, we attended the Small Town Girls panel with Jill S. Alexander, author of The Sweetheart of Prosper County; Heather Hepler, author of The Cupcake Queen; Jacqueline Kelly, author of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate; and Diana Lopez, author of Confetti Girl. All offered fun insights into their writing and writing processes.

Later, was the Deals with the Devil: Writing about Faustian Bargains, with Cyn and Daniel and Dina Nayeri, authors of Another Faust. The discussion, led by moderator, April Lurie, ranged from literary antecedents to, well, Faustian bargains, and what teens look for in fiction. Daniel and Dina, whom we met for the first time, are smart and fun. You should go out and read their book, even though Daniel is a Sooners fan.

After the signing, Cyn, April, Daniel, Dina, our author escort, and I headed out for an early dinner at El Chile on Congress. Margaritas and chile rellenos were excellent, as was the conversation. After taking the Nayeris through the lobby and bar at the Driskill Hotel, Cyn and I called it a night.

Sunday morning, we got up early to have brunch with Anita Silvey, whom Cyn had met up in Vermont last summer. We had a lovely time at Moonshine, where we all ate far too much :-). Conversation ranged through a variety of publishing-related topics and we all agreed that sunlight seems to make people more optimistic. :-).

Cynthia attended the Ouch! That Hurts panel featuring Libba Bray, author of Going Bovine; Jessica Lee Anderson, author of Border Crossing; and Sara Zarr, author of Once was Lost; while I concurrently attended Anita's talk on her new book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book. Insights from prominent personages were both surprising and gratifying.

After the signings in the signing tent, we all (and with the addition of Erin Edwards and Emily from Book People) wandered down Congress Avenue for dinner at Roaring Fork in the Stephen F. Austin Hotel. Food and conversation were, again, outstanding.

More photos to come. Also, check out Cyn's blog for her take on the event.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Texas Book Festival '09

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) is the Texas Book Festival. As always, the event is free and will be held on and inside the Capitol and around the Capitol grounds. Check here for the complete schedule.

Some panels of note to the youth literature community:


2- 3 PM, Saturday, October 31, Capitol Extension Room E2.2012: Deals with the Devil: Writing about Faustian Bargains, featuring Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize and Eternal; and Daniel and Dina Nayeri, authors of Another Faust. Moderated by April Lurie.

10:30 - 11:45 AM, Saturday, October 31, Capitol Extension, Room E1.012, Badgerdog: Youth Voices in Ink, featuring Rene Saldana Jr. Moderated by Melanie Moore.

12:00 - 1:00 PM, Saturday, October 31, Capitol Extension, Room E1.012, Small Town Girls with Jill S. Alexander, author of The Sweetheart of Prosper County; Heather Hepler, author of The Cupcake Queen; Jacqueline Kelly, author of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate; and Diana Lopez, author of Confetti Girl. Moderated by Sarah Bird.

1:30-2:30 PM, Saturday, October 31, Capitol Extension, Room E1.012, Everybody Needs a Hero, with K.A. Holt, author of Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel; Aaron Starmer, author of Dweeb; and Rene Saldana Jr., author of The Case of the Pen Gone Missing. Moderated by Joanna Nigrelli.

3:00 - 4:00 PM, Saturday, October 31, Capitol Extension, Room E1.012, The Texas Book Festival UIL Fiction Writing Contest. First Place winners will receive their awards and read their compositions. Moderated by Lila Guzman.

Picture book readings will be in the Read Me a Story tent on 11th Street all day. Additional panels of youth literature note will be all day in the Family Life Center at 1300 Lavaca.


3:30 - 4:15, Sunday, November 1, Capitol Extension, E2.102, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book, with Anita Silvey. Introduction by Gillian Redfearn.

1:00 - 1:45, Sunday, November 1, Capitol Extension, E1.004, The House of Night Series,
with authors Kristin and PC Cast. Moderated by Nettie Hartsock.

2:00 - 2:45, Sunday, November 1, Capitol Extension, E1.004, Michael Scott, with Michael Scott, author of the Nicholas Flamel series. Introduced by Topher Bradfield.

3:30 - 4:30, Sunday, November 1, Capitol Extension, E1.004, Ouch! That Hurts featuring Libba Bray, author of Going Bovine; Jessica Lee Anderson, author of Border Crossing; and Sara Zarr, author of Once was Lost. Moderated by Varian Johnson.

In addition, picture book readings will be in the Read Me a Story tent on 11th Street all day.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Texas Memorial Museum

Texas Memorial Museum (Austin, TX)

This small museum on the campus of the University of Texas, built in the 1930s, is now exclusively a natural history museum, featuring displays on evolution, Texas wildlife, and vertebrate paleontology.

The basement houses the Shoal Creek plesiosaur, the Onion Creek mosasaur, several dinosaur skeletal fragments, and various Paleozoic and Cenozoic animals (including the giant "armadillo," glyptodont, below). Majestically soaring over the main hall is the Texas pterosaur, quetzalcoatlus northropi (above).

Outside, you will find a small building housing a section of the Glen Rose dinosaur trackway, and a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of a smilodon (sabre-toothed cat).

Nearby are the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the Lyndon Johnson Library and Museum, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, and the Capitol Visitors Center.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Austin doesn't have quite the level of museums of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth, but Cyn and I recently discovered the Austin Museum Partnership, a consortium of most of Austin's museums, and decided to check out and/or revisit some of them.

Last weekend, we hit the Austin Museum of Art's Laguna Gloria Art Museum and, just down the street, the Texas Military Forces Museum.

The Laguna Gloria is located on the former estate of Clara Driscoll. The Italianate mansion and grounds are absolutely gorgeous and almost overwhelm the artwork inside. The new Art and Nature exhibition is well worth seeing, though. The AMOA also runs classes out of new classrooms and studio space on the grounds; and the facility is available for rental and weddings.

The Texas Military Forces Museum, located at Camp Mabry, is not nearly so prepossessing. The museum is, however, in the process of implementing a new master plan. Its collection is extensive and impressive. Particularly noteworthy, I thought, are the tank display outside, and the exhibits on Texas cavalry, Texas Medal of Honor recipients, the USS Houston, and the 36th Texas Infantry Division (including the 442nd Regimental Combat team).

Next up: The Texas Memorial Museum and the Harry Ransom Center.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


TREASURE ISLAND, by Robert Louis Stevenson, ill. by John Lawrence (Candlewick 2009). This handsome, over-sized (it's 8 1/8 in. x 11 13/16 in. and tips the scales at 2.5 lbs.), unabridged edition, illustrated with Lawrence's trademark woodcuts, brings the classic tale of adventure and piracy to life.

Jim Hawkins works with his parents at the Admiral Benbow Inn, where a strange drunken sailor named Billy Bones, but who usually goes by "the captain," has taken up residence. A mysterious series of odd personages/cutthroats comes to visit, followed shortly by the captain's death. When Jim and his mother find a map in the captain's belongings, the local squire and doctor immediately conclude that it leads the way to the hidden treasure of the notorious pirate, Captain Flint.

So they outfit a ship (the Hispaniola), take Jim aboard as cabin boy, and hire a crew, including the charming and villainous Long John Silver.

And along the way, they find treachery and mutiny and mayhem...

This is an absolutely gorgeous volume. The woodcuts are bold and striking, the pages are thick, and the font is old-fashioned-seeming, yet easy to read. Sure, you can get the text of TREASURE ISLAND in paperback or download it onto your Kindle, but this edition is a work of art from and for people who appreciate the difference.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL, by K.A. Holt (Random House 2009)(ages 8+). Some time in the future, Mike Stellar gets the unwelcome news that his family is moving to Mars. Tomorrow. On only the second Mars mission, after the first failed (and which his parents might've been responsible for). About the only good part is that he'll be leaving his hated teacher, Mrs. Halebopp, behind.

Once on board the Sojourner, Mike meets an odd girl, Larc, his parents' weird assistant, aka, Mr. Honey Bear, and discovers that Mrs. Halebopp is there, too! Throw in a conspiracy to sabotage the mission, and Mike will truly need nerves of steel to get to the bottom of it all.

MIKE STELLAR is a clever and fun middle grade adventure, both funny and action-packed. Altogether, an excellent debut novel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


BABYLONNE, by Catherine Jinks (Candlewick 2008)(12+) is either book 5 of the Pagan Chronicles or book 1 of the Babylonne Chronicles.

At the time of the Albigensian Crusade, Babylonne, the daughter of Templar knight Pagan Kidrouk, runs away from her abusive grandmother and aunt, on a Crusade of her own: to fight the Catholic Church and the French king, who are trying to destroy Toulouse and put down the Cathar heresy.

On the way, she disguises herself as a boy, finds herself in the company of a Catholic priest who apparently knew her parents, and ends up in the middle of a siege...

With terrific voice and great period texture, BABYLONNE is an intense and exciting adventure and provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of the early thirteenth century. Readers will be eager for more.


ALL THE WORLD, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books 2009). This gem of a picture book follows a family through a summer day, highlighting in rhyming groups of four the interrelatedness of small and large things.

The text is exquisite and the illustrations are detailed and gorgeous, with plenty for the reader to pore over. Excellent for a young read-aloud and for those who love language.

Monday, September 28, 2009


THE BOY WHO INVENTED TV: THE STORY OF PHILO FARNSWORTH, by Kathleen Krull, ill. by Greg Couch (Knopf, 2009). This picture book biography tells the story of Philo T. Farnsworth, credited with inventing, among other things, the first electronic television (U.S. Patent No. 1,773,980).

THE BOY WHO INVENTED TV describes Farnsworth's modest upbringing in Utah and his flash of inspiration while plowing a potato field when he was 14 (which he subsequently described to his science teacher) that led to his development of the first working "image dissector" at age 21.

With illustrations that provide a period "feel," THE BOY WHO INVENTED TV is an excellent introduction to a little-known piece of television history.

Monday, September 21, 2009


SACRED SCARS, by Kathleen Duey, (Atheneum, 2009)(ages 12+), book 2 of the Resurrection of Magic trilogy (read my recommendation of book 1: SKIN HUNGER), is a vivid and darkly compelling fantasy that takes up where the first, SKIN HUNGER, left off.

In the past, Sadima tries to convince Franklin to leave and/or kill the obsessed and sadistic Somiss, and take the captive youths with them. Ar first, it seems she succeeds, but then Somiss uncovers her "treachery" and takes vengeance, leaving her alone and without memory...

In the present, Hahp continues his studies at the magicians' academy and, with his roommate Garrard, uncovers some uncomfortable facts...Along the way, they resolve that they must destroy the magicians...if they can get out alive.

SACRED SCARS is an intense and fascinating story of obsession and evil. Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


STONEWALL HINKLEMAN AND THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN, by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger (Dial 2009). Twelve-year-old Stonewall Traveler Hinkleman was named after a general who got shot by his own troops, and a horse. His parents are Civil War re-enactors and he's sick of having to spend weekends in leaky tents and wearing itchy, hot, wool clothing, and could there be anything more dorky than being the bugle boy?

But then he encounters a pretty girl, a corrupt politician, and a mysterious vendor, and suddenly finds himself transported back into the real First Battle of Bull Run Manassas, where he will need to use all the knowledge he's unwillingly picked up over the years to prevent the South from rising again and changing the course of American history.

STONEWALL HINKLEMAN is an entertaining and sophisticated romp that nevertheless provides a serious look at the first battle of the Civil War. The sarcastic, first-person voice is just right and gradually grows less snarky, more thoughtful (but still full of wit), as Stonewall experiences the real, not re-enacted battle, and grows to appreciate the real people involved therein. In STONEWALL HINKLEMAN, Hemphill and Riddleburger have succeeded in the difficult task of pulling off a novel based around a grim historical event that is both fun and thought-provoking.


FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE, by Allen Zadoff (Egmont 2009). Sophomore Andrew Zansky has a forty-eight inch waist and weighs in at 306.4 pounds, and he's only the second fattest kid in school. His mom's a caterer, his dad's a lawyer (they're divorcing), his sister is thin, he's being plagued by a bully, and April, the girl of his dreams, just transferred in to his high school.

To impress April, he jumps at the chance to join the football team, where he's immediately made starting center and, for a while, enjoys the rise in popularity and new-found fame. But then he discovers that things just might not be as they seem...

FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE will resonate with everyone who's ever been on the outside looking in and everyone on the inside looking to get out. Andy is smart and engaging and the supporting cast also feels real and well-rounded. In short, FOOD GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE is a funny and sometimes bittersweet tale of a boy who's just growing into himself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We're going to need bigger bookshelves...

Okay, so I haven't been blogging many books this summer, for several reasons.

First, I've been in the process of finalizing a new new manuscript and revising an old new manuscript, so that hasn't left a lot of time for extra reading or time to go to the book store.

Second, we haven't actually been receiving many books, which we had attributed to the slow economy (i.e., we assumed that publishers weren't sending out review copies to the same extent as previously). Well. We just discovered that the post office has been holding incoming packages addressed to our PO Box without letting us know they were being held (No, we don't know why). Yesterday, we went to pick up our mail, and discovered three months worth of review copies. (That's six postal bins worth). Pretty much everything from review copies from publishers and copies from individual editors and individual authors since about the beginning of June...

Oh, and am I the only one disturbed that most of the objects at IKEA labeled "bookscases" are in fact designed to hold one's television?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More writing ...and the odd pizza

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a writer's workshop at the home of Austin SCBWI founder Meredith Davis. We broke into small groups to critique first ten pages of manuscripts in progress and then had workshop-wide sessions with all the participants. It was a terrific event, full of camaraderie and even some excellent writing :-).

My small group consisted of Chris Barton, Helen Hemphill, Alison Dellenbaugh, Lyn Seippel, and me. The manuscripts were all a pleasure to read -- it's always fun to peer into the creative processes of other writers.

Other participants included Brian Anderson; Varsha Bajaj; Chris Barton; Donna Bratton; Gene Brenek; Shana Burg; Meredith Davis; Alison Dellenbaugh; Debbie Gonzales; Helen Hemphill; PJ Hoover; Julie Lake; Carmen Oliver; Lyn Seippel; Andy Sherrod; Don Tate; Brian Yansky; Frances Hill Yansky; and Jenny Ziegler

For pictures, Donna Bowman Bratton posts here; Don Tate posts here; Deb Gonzalez, here; and P.J. Hoover, here.

And here's the odd pizza (from the lakefront pub we retired to afterward):

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Writing Community events...

Last weekend, the Austin writing community had the pleasure of Chris Barton's launch party of The Day Glo Brothers at Book People. Some pictures:

The box demonstrating the effects of black light on Day Glo ink:

Chris Barton's Day Glo fist of power:

Mugging for the camera (Carmen, Mark Mitchell, April Lurie, Jenny Ziegler, Emily):

The Day Glo couple:

And a sighting of Geektastic (check out an article on the cover here):

Then, Saturday, was the SCBWI monthly meeting, in which Jim Seippel spoke on various computer-related issues.

Tim Crow and Jim:

Betty Davis and Jerry Wermund:

Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover:

Emma Virjan:

Brian Anderson:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...