MMGM for 8/20/18

School is back in session! Click a schoolhouse to read each blogger’s post.

Leading the MMGM parade today is Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles. Her site is filled with fantastic posts from Agent and Author interviews to some very special giveaways.  I’ve heard many authors refer to Literary Rambles as the spark that got their career started. Although she does both MG and YA, Natalie’s  feature today is an interview with debut author Brigit Young and an ARC giveaway of her MG contemporary mystery Worth a Thousand Words. Click the schoolhouse to start reading.
This week at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES by Ellen Wittlinger, a story filled with dramatic moments.
June McCrary Jacobs at ‘Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic has a fun Retro Fiction Feature on two of Beverly Cleary’s books, ‘Beezus and Ramona’ and ‘Ramona the Pest’.
Suzanne Warr at Tales from the Raven spotlights You Wish: The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff, by Jason Lethcoe.
Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal has a review of Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin.The new novel has been getting a lot of buzz since its release. Read what Patricia has to say.
Completely Full Bookshelf  recommends one of my favorites this week, The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, a 2008 Newbery Honor book.
How about another slice of watermelon! Author Rosi Hollinbeck has a REVIEW and GIVEAWAY of  Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin.
Author and speaker Elizabeth Van Tassel at Thorn & Vine is wishing Percy Jackson a Happy Birthday with thoughts  about his influence, a brief review, and also some jewelry that the goddesses might have worn in the day. Elizabeth is also a gemologist!
Author Susan Uhlig returns this week with a review and a lot of love for Sally J. Pla’s THE SOMEDAY BIRDS.
Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads always has an informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature on City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot on the walkway, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged , | 2 Comments

SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES

WELCOME TO ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

As The Middle Grade World Turns. There should be another genre of books called MG soap opera. More and more of these family dramas appear each month. You’ll find stories about divorce, death of a parent, bullying, and suicide to name a few. This new entry by Ellen Wittlinger covers all of those and a few more. But you know what? The turmoil in Someone Else’s Shoes had me hooked.

Third person narration was the right choice to cover the unsettling times in the families of three kids. The narrative stays close to preteen Izzy, but you also get to know her younger cousin Oliver, and Ben, an often misunderstood teen. Their parents give them plenty to worry about, but these three attempt to make things right for themselves and each other.

The characters are spot on in their portrayal and the ending left me hopeful for their future. The world is not perfect. We all know families dealing with at least one of these gut wrenching issues. It’s this type of book that can provide a dose of bibliotherapy to help others going through the same challenges.

PUBLICATION DATE: Sept. 11, 2018   PAGE COUNT: 304

THE OFFICIAL WORD on what to expect courtesy of Penguin Random House:

Twelve-year-old Izzy, a budding stand-up comic, is already miserable about her father’s new marriage and the new baby on the way. Then ten-year-old cousin Oliver and his father, Uncle Henderson, move in with Izzy and her mom because Oliver’s mother committed suicide only a few months ago. And to make matters worse, Ben, the rebellious 16-year-old son of Izzy’s mother’s boyfriend, winds up staying with them, too.

But when Uncle Henderson–who has been struggling with depression after his wife’s suicide–disappears, Ben, Izzy, and Oliver set aside their differences and hatch a plan to find him. As the threesome travels in search of Henderson, they find a surrogate family in each other.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES by Ellen Wittlinger

  1. Each of the characters at first seem so different, but in the end they are very much alike. A great arc for all of them.
  2. I’ve witnessed fathers dealing with a tragedy in their family with grace and a strong heart. Grieving is one thing, but leaving behind those who still need you like the dad in this story is a difficult choice. It was heartening to see how this father was given the chance to see it a different way.
  3. The road trip. So wrong and so right all at the same time.
  4. Izzy wanting to be a comedienne was a fun side story. It was the connection she had with her own dad—although references to Jerry Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, and Melissa McCarthy may not hit home to young readers like it did for me.
  5. Classroom and family discussions are just waiting to happen with each scene. The perfect song in the story can replicate to one’s own life through listening and guidance.

AUTHOR BIO and her ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS:

A former Children’s librarian, Ellen Wittlinger is the author of two
previous novels for young adults. She lives with her husband and two
children in Swampscott, Massachusetts.

Simple advice, but not always easy to follow. Read everything you can get your hands on, all sorts of different things—fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry, newspapers, the toothpaste tube. And then, write. If possible, write every day. In doesn’t have to be great. A lot of it won’t even be good, but the exercise of writing keeps your mind limber the same way exercising your body keeps it limber. Don’t worry about publishing anything for a long time. You wouldn’t expect to play at Carnegie Hall the first year you took piano lessons–writing is no different. You have to practice a long time before you become proficient.

For much more visit Ellen’s web site.

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Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Words are Powerful

Memories… About the time I was a fifth grader, I began sitting at the kitchen table with my dad every morning before he left for work. Instead of talking we’d read the newspaper. I’d grab the sports section and any article he’d written. You see, he was a journalist. It’s really where my initial spark came from to be a writer. But I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. He had long hours and traveled a lot. I wanted to write stories. Of course at that age I had many other dreams and writing took a back seat.bylines

My father passed away many years ago, but left behind a self-published book for family and friends. The 236 pages are filled with many of his columns and news stories. He usually wrote for and about adults, but one particular story was a plea to a young girl. Always my favorite. It is perhaps 35-40 years old and I’ve included it below.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Spring Will Come, Lili Ann—But Without You, It’s Empty

Dear Lili Ann Potter:

Golden leaves that fluttered to the ground last fall will soon be replaced, as is nature’s method, by glistening greenery. Flowers of varied hues will appear. Spring is returning to Colorado.

At the wonderful age of 16, Lili Ann, there is no greater view of spring than from your home atop a mesa overlooking Fountain, Colorado.

The frozen pond on the 50 acres of your parents—Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Potter—will be open and still. The winds will subside. An occasional gentle rain will fall. All will seem right with the world. But it isn’t.

You, with the long, dark red hair and fair complexion, have been gone from home 21 days. For your parents, sister, and brothers that figures out to 504 hours, or 30,240 minutes, or 1,814,400 seconds.

It has been a lonely time. Especially for your dad even though he is going ahead with his work as purchasing agent for the International Typographical Union in Colorado Springs. He has also circulated your picture throughout Colorado.

Remember the night of February 12 before you disappeared from home? Your dad got down on the floor and played jacks with you. Your brown eyes seemed to radiate happiness. There was no hint of trouble, your dad and mom say.

You left no farewell note. But you have been reported seen in Colorado Springs. Also, a truck driver in New Mexico saw a beautiful young girl matching your 5 feet 7 inches, 125 pounds and other features.

Your parents pray to God that you did just leave home. But there is always the fear of foul play. They hope anyone with information about you will call…

Your bicycle awaits you. The poster of Jesus Christ Superstar is still up in your room. Recordings by Jim Croce and John Denver can be enjoyed.

As a junior honor students at Fountain High School, the fun of socials and sports also awaits you. Too, there is the fascinating world of books. You may not realize it now but the opportunity for knowledge at age 16 or 60 is very precious. That’s especially true because you talk of becoming a nurse.

Remember, you and your folks also talked about getting you a used car to tool around in.

To this generation and your loving parents, Lili Ann, you are the promise of tomorrow. Please if at all possible, come home today.

Sincerely,

Robert Pattridge, Denver Post Editorial Page Editor

 

 

The Potter family was no relation to the more famous fictional one, but there was a bit of magic in the words my dad wrote. After the above plea appeared on the front page of The Denver Post, Lili Ann read the article again and again for almost a week. She finally called home from a mid-western city and the next day a reunion was planned.

Spring arrived along with Lili Ann and the power of words was never so strong.


Coming up next week is another…
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
 (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Writing | 3 Comments

MIDDLE GRADE: In the News 8/16/18

Here are a few news and special feature articles I’ve enjoyed recently (If you missed any of the previous posts click here to see them all):

  1. Here’s a list  books for those types of adults who are a little embarrassed to read anything off the MG shelf. It’s 8 Middle-Grade Books Every Adult Should Consider Reading in Secret.
  2. Critically acclaimed MG and YA author, Judy Blume wants to know which of her books should be made into a movie.
  3. Here’s another nice list of 25 middle grade books that have received a starred review in the past year and a half. Great for the teacher or student looking for suggestions.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back Friday with a special guest feature.

Posted in Middle Grade News | 2 Comments

MMGM for 8/13/18

  Click an image to read each blogger’s post.

Leading the MMGM parade today is June McCrary Jacobs and her family friendly blog—READING WRITING, & STITCH-METIC. She joins us each Monday but also blogs during the week. It might be a non-fiction feature or reviews on picture books through adult fiction. Thanks for the dedication you’ve brought to MMGM. Click on the star for her review of a STEAM Education book entitled, ‘Three-Dimensional Art Adventures’.
This week at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of SPUTNICK’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH by Frank Cottrell Boyce. This is the fourth and final selection in my summer feature: The Nurturing of Middle Grade Books. 
Andrea Mack at That’s Another Story deals out her thoughts for My Deal With the Universe by Deborah Kerbel.
Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal has a review of The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman—an unusual perspective on adoption.
Completely Full BookShelf is recommending Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.
Author Rosi Hollinbeck has a REVIEW and GIVEAWAY of 1001+ FANTASTIC FACTS ABOUT ANIMALS. Be a follower and comment to win. It’s easy!
Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads always has an informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot on the walkway, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged | 4 Comments

SPUTNIK’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH

Welcome to another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Today I present the fourth book in my quest to provide support to past titles. I call it The Nurturing of Middle Grade Books.

My other favorites included CLUTCH, THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS, and THE SWEETEST SOUND. I hope you will give all of these a go, including today’s selection…

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I wasn’t more than fifty pages into this unusual tale when the thought struck me: This would make a great movie…maybe an animated one. And to my surprise others already had the same thought. SPUTNIK’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH will be heading to the big screen thanks to DreamWorks.

Prez is the boy on the cover. He use to live with his grandad until the beloved caretaker started to have issues with his memory. Prez is sent to what is called THE TEMPORARY, where homeless children wait for a new family or hopefully some day return to their original one.

Summer arrives and Prez goes off to live with a foster family for a few months on their farm. He doesn’t talk but begins to fit in with the family. Then the doorbell rings— despite the fact they don’t have a doorbell. Prez answers and another boy stands there dressed in a leather helmet and kilt. His name is Sputnik. The rest of the family sees Sputnik as a dog (character two on the cover). The dog talks to Prez by somehow reading his thoughts. From there it goes from strange to weird and wild.

Sputnik is hilarious and hasn’t read the manual on how to be a dog. Let’s just say gravity isn’t always in reach. There’s an war old chest, juvenile delinquents, and a boy longing for his life with Grandpa. A great story to be shared with a message that will touch your heart. Write it down on a post-it note and then read the book full of its own post-it notes.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2017   PAGE COUNT: 336

THE OFFICIAL STORY BLURB (From Harper Collins Children Books)

Prez knows that the best way to keep track of things is to make a list. That’s important when you have a grandfather who is constantly forgetting. And it’s even more important when your grandfather can’t care for you anymore and you have to go live with a foster family out in the country.

Prez is still learning to fit in at his new home when he answers the door to meet Sputnik—a kid who is more than a little strange. First, he can hear what Prez is thinking. Second, he looks like a dog to everyone except Prez. Third, he can manipulate the laws of space and time. Sputnik, it turns out is an alien, and he’s got a mission that requires Prez’s help: the Earth has been marked for destruction, and the only way they can stop it is to come up with ten reasons why the planet should be saved.

Thus begins one of the most fun and eventful summers of Prez’s life, as he and Sputnik set out on a journey to compile the most important list Prez has ever made—and discover just what makes our world so remarkable.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

SPUTNIK’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH by Frank Cottrell Boyce

  1. Every time you think you have the plot figured out it goes in another wacky and surprising direction. Life is not like this, but it sure would be fun.
  2. The grandfather’s map holds many answers and it was a marvelous way to bring the story to a climatic ending.
  3. Sputnik…Need I say more? Yes, he should have his own talk show.
  4. Imaginative and just the type of story I love reading out loud to the targeted audience.
  5. Earth is a pretty amazing place if we’d stop for a few minutes and notice.

FAVORITE LINES (from Sputnick):

“That’s something I love about this planet. Only one moon. No wonder you have the best gravity. We had a dozen moons where I used to live. Imagine that—a moon going past every half an hour. The tide was up and down like a frog on a frying pan.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Frank Cottrell Boyce is the author of Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, The Astounding Broccoli Boy, Cosmic, Framed, and Millions, the last of which was a New York Times bestseller and was made into a movie by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. His books have won or been nominated for numerous awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and the Whitbread Children’s Book Award. Frank is also a screenwriter, having penned the scripts for a number of feature films as well as the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. He lives in Liverpool with his family.

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Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Little Big Shot Editors

notebook macbook pro designer technology

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Over the years I’ve had critiques and edits on many of my stories. Adults with a passion for writing or often a job to critique manuscripts have always provided excellent reactions and advice. Last May I had the opportunity for a different type of a critique. A teacher friend offered her writing club of fifth and sixth graders a chance to become junior editors for one of my unpublished stories.

These kids were at a school close to my home and we had never met. I didn’t expect to get a lot of useful feedback. Maybe a this was good or I liked the characters. The reality in middle grade is the majority of books are purchased by parents, teachers, and librarians. Adults also control the publishing of books because they know what sells. But this was the target audience and boy did they have something to say…

So there I was on a lunchtime visit to hear from these fours students (two girls; two boys). They gave me thirty minutes of feedback along with a page of written remarks each. You’d never know these kids were 11 and 12 years of age:

*Cut down on the figurative language connected to how fast Ethan can run. Younger readers are not going to understand this.

*Give the mother a raise in her job and why must every story I read have to have a happy ending?

*I was weirded out with the one scene where Shirley dressed up as Mrs. Dumphey, but I loved everything else.

*More background on the adoption. Make it so the mom was always going to adopt but was waiting until it could work out. This would provide more anticipation.

*You could go deeper with some of your character emotions especially in the first chapter.

*I liked every character but this could be longer than the 44,000 words you stated on  the cover page.  Maybe one more side plot?

And that was only the beginning. They did in fact love the story and thought it was sequel worthy. I thanked them and spent the evening contemplating more changes. They have a promising future based on their professional comments.

Junior editors?

I don’t think so.

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Coming up next week is another…
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
 (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Critiques, Editing, Writing | 5 Comments