MMGM for 5/21/18

The #MMGM LINKS for May 21, 2018

(Happy VICTORIA DAY in Canada! Click the flag to read each post)

I have a review of THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE from Leslie Connor. Scroll down to read or select the Canadian flag.
Author, June McCrary Jacobs has a Historical Fiction feature on Author Lauren Wolk’s award-winning historical novel, ‘Beyond the Bright Sea‘.
Suzanne Warr at Tales from the Raven is featuring If the Magic Fits, by Susan Maupin Schmid, and also announcing a GIVEAWAY of Where the Watermelons Grow.
Aspiring author Kara Armstrong joins the MMGM parade this week with a feature on The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani.
A big welcome to Ginger Mom Reads and her review of Honey Moon Shiver by Joyce Magnin.
Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Inspired by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, a novel about Greek muses and mythology.
S.A. Larsen at Writer’s Alley spotlights middle grade author C.Lee McKenzie’s latest release Some Very Messy Medieval Magic.
Author Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing and giving away ROAD TRIP WITH MAX AND HIS MOM.
Karen Yingling always has great MMGM picks. Be sure to read her review today along with the many other choices she posted 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.

 

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THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE

WELCOME TO MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

I’m tired of bullies. Both in real life and in fiction. I was about to pass on this story until I saw the author’s name—Leslie Connor. Her special way of creating an endearing character wraps me up every time. These are characters you remember months and even years after reading. Like Addie in WAITING FOR NORMAL, Dewey in CRUNCH, and 2016’s Perry in ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK , one I reviewed at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE.

So… I weakened. Bring on the bullies. I’m glad I did.

Seventh grader Mason Buttle is an honest boy with a lot of emotional baggage. He lives with an uncle and grandmother because he had a walk-away daddy. Six years ago his gramps and mom both died. More recently he lost his best friend in an accident… or was it? Lieutenant Baird doesn’t think so and is looking for an answer from Mason.

Not an easy task for Mason since he can’t read and emotions emit colors in his mind (a form of synesthesia). To add to his woes, he has a condition that makes him sweat profusely. Enough to make him bring a change of shirt to school each day.

He does have comfort in the social worker room at school and a new friend, Calvin. He also loves the apple orchards surrounding the family’s house. Getting home each day after school is a race to beat the two neighboring bullies who pelt him with apples and balls slung from their lacrosse sticks.

Mason’s first person narration will make your eyes water at times, but also give hope for such a positive persona put forth by Mason. He struggles and survives despite the turmoil of his existence. I’m hugging this book but also hugging Mason. Kids like him need understanding and compassion. Thank goodness for the Ms. Blinny’s of the world who provide just that in schools everywhere. Besides the bullies there was only one other character who I didn’t care for— the family’s young tenant, Shayleen, but eventually a reason surfaces for her place in the story.

Overall, it is a bit long for a MG contemporary and a hard sell will be needed for some young readers to pick up and read the 74 chapters. They will be rewarded with another winning character study from a masterful author.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2018   PAGE COUNT: 336

FULL PLOT (From Amazon)

Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard. An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day.

Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground club space for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin, and eventually, Benny.

But will anyone believe him?

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE

  1. The bully’s dog, Moonie, provides a heartwarming friendship to Mason. Dogs always know where to find their true friend.
  2. The story is complex on many levels but so clear by the time you turn the last page. The work of a gifted author.
  3. The secondary characters shine in their own way. Social worker Ms. Blinny, Detective Baird and sweet Calvin—each providing their own brand of support to Mason.
  4. Mason is a perfect prescription for those kids who feel they’ve drawn the bad cards in their lives. He looks the other way and sees what he does have and is thankful for it.
  5. Mason often uses three words before his thoughts: I think this… What I think of after reading the novel is Heartwarming. Powerful. A compelling read for all.

FAVORITE LINES

When I say that Ms. Blinny knows a lot about me. I mean she knows because I tell her. She says I talk a blue streak. She thinks I have a story. Funny thing. She is not the only one who thinks that. Lieutenant Baird thinks it too. He thinks I have a story about my best friend, Benny Kilmartin. More than I already told him. He gave me that notebook. Wants me to write in it. But that is a nightmare for a kid like me.

QUOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

The first draft usually takes me about a year. I spend a long, long time thinking about the story first. (I start an envelope for each idea, where I collect scribbled passages, snippets of dialog, research notes, museum brochures, maps, and photographs.) After a manuscript is accepted I work with my editor through several revisions. That can take six weeks for some projects, and as much as a year for others. (For more insights visit Leslie Connor’s author website).

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

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ROSETOWN

Author Cynthia Rylant wrote her first story way back in 1979. Since then there have been over a hundred more from toddler books and poetry to chapter books and middle grade fiction. She’s been honored with numerous awards. The Caldecot honor went to WHEN I WAS YOUNG IN THE MOUNTAINS (1982) and THE RELATIVES CAME. (1985) The awards kept rolling in with the A FINE WHITE DUST (1987) winning the Newbery honor, and MISSING MAY (1992) took home the Newbery Medal.

This month comes her newest—ROSETOWN. Here’s the official background from Amazon:

From Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant comes the charming story of nine-year-old Flora Smallwood and the eventful year she spends in the quiet community of Rosetown, Indiana.

For nine-year-old Flora Smallwood, Rosetown, Indiana, is full of surprises, many of the best of which happen at the Wing and a Chair Used Book Shop, where she loves to read vintage children’s books after school in the faded purple chair by the window.

But lately, those surprises haven’t been so good. Her dear old dog, Laurence, recently passed away. Not long after, her parents decided to take a breather from their marriage, and now Flora has to move back and forth between their two houses. Plus, she’s just begun fourth grade, and it is so much different than third.

Luckily Flora has two wonderful friends—one old and one new. And with them around to share thoughts and laughs and adventures big and small, life in Rosetown still has many sweet moments—and even some very happy surprises!

It’s a quiet story set in 1972 with a big message about friendship and family. Flora’s  friends include long timer Nessy who lives in an exclusive gated community, and her new friend Yury, who sits behind her on the first day of fourth grade. He’s from the Ukraine and they hit it off, especially in his honest way of dealing with life.

Family includes her loving parents. The are separated but each give Flora lots of their time: The father with his love of framing the perfect picture in his job as a photographer; The mother with her love of old books. Flora has the same problem many kids have today  in a sharing situation. When she’s at the white house (Dad’s) there is always something she needs at the yellow house (Mom’s) and vice versa.

Told in third person, you’ll feel a longing to visit a place like Rosetown. Life is consistent and change comes slowly. It’s the perfect town for Flora to deal with the pressures of getting older. The tale should also help other kids dealing with the many tough changes in their own lives.

Sit back and enjoy life in Rosetown.

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Coming up next week is another MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, 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.
Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and for spreading the middle grade love!
*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.
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MIDDLE GRADE in the NEWS—5/17/18

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

1. The biggest trend in books these days are middle grade graphic novels. Read all about the resurgence here.

2. Oh Middle Grade! (OMG) is a year old endeavor to bring a celebration of MG books and authors to under served populations. The bookfest had a successful start in Columbus, Ohio last year and this week it comes to Denver with another impressive line-up of authors. Maybe your city will be next!

3. Barnes & Noble gets support from this writer in SAVE BARNES & NOBLE!

4. Have you ever queried your manuscript? You sometimes get a response and often that response takes months. Laura Backes of Children’s Book Insider proposes a new method to editors and agents.

I’ll be back on Friday with a review of ROSETOWN.

Posted in Middle Grade News | 1 Comment

MMGM for 5/14/18

The #MMGM LINKS for May 14, 2018

(Click on the happy check-mark to read their post)

I have a review of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF GWENDOLYN GRAY by B.A. Williamson. Scroll down to read or select my green check-mark.
Author, June McCrary Jacobs has an author interview, book spotlight, and publisher giveaway for C. Lee McKenzie’s newest release, ‘Some Very Messy Medieval Magic‘.
Middle Grade Minded has a review of SEE YOU ON A STARRY NIGHT.
Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Krista Kim-Bap by Angela Ahn,  a story about a Korean-Canadian teen.
Susan Uhlig is featuring INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS by Dusti Bowling.
My Brain on Books returns with THE PENDERWICKS AT LAST by Jeanne Birdsall
Karen Yingling always has great MMGM picks. Be sure to read her review today along with the many other choices she posted 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 MMGM Links | Tagged , | 3 Comments

THE MARVELOUS ADVENTURES OF GWENDOLYN GRAY

WELCOME TO MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

Book covers are there to convince you to read a story. A great cover can also provide visual hints to the plot. This new fantasy tale (Due out this week) succeeds on both counts along with it being an enjoyable and imaginative story of two worlds.

Let’s take a tour of the cover. Of course in the middle is the protagonist, Gwendolyn. Her out of control red hair and and often out of control thoughts bring much unwanted attention at school. The red book she holds in one hand and a shiny round object in the other become the center in her quest to figure out who she is and what is happening in her world.

“The City” is on the left. A dark place where tall buildings and ultra modern transportation can’t hide the disturbing feeling the residents are all under some sort of trance. They do as told and the city runs like clockwork. That is until Gwendolyn sees it another way. Her imagination gets her into huge trouble when what she thinks comes true for a classmate. It’s then that two faceless men follow her, sent to eliminate the threat.

As Gwendolyn escapes their grasps she runs into two unusual kids—Sparrow and Starling. Together they portal to another world that you see on the right side of the cover. It’s the opposite of where she lives with inventors, bright colors, and pirated airships. Gwendolyn has imaginative powers she will use to try and save the new world and the one she came from.

The third person narrative is often humorous in tone but also very serious in the various scenes of escape. Gwendolyn is a strong female character leading the way, and except for her occasional “It’s all my fault” tirades, she has a great presence to cheer for.  The surprising ending will have readers hoping for a quick sequel.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

THE MARVELOUS ADVENTURES OF GWENDOLYN GRAY

  1. Sparrow and Starling are such strong brother-sister characters, a whole story could be written about them. A testament to the author’s skill at bringing them alive.
  2. The boy pirate, Kolonius Thrash, was also a different type of character who provided a few chuckles at how he went about his leadership role.
  3. World building is a must for the success of a dystopian, steampunk type of story. There are many to build here and all are brought forth, leaving you with vivid memories.
  4. You may find it unsettling when the narrator addresses you with a statement as to what’s its like in our world, but it provides a little break to an otherwise always moving forward story.
  5. A story within the story (the red book titled KOLONIUS THRASH and the PERILOUS PIRATES) is a creative way to move the plot forward and infuse even more adventure.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2018   PAGE COUNT: 336

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: B. A. Williamson is the overly caffeinated writer of The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray. When not doing battle with the demons in the typewriter, he can be found wandering Indianapolis with his family, singing in a tuxedo, or taming middle-schoolers. He is a recipient of the Eli Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship. Please direct all complaints and your darkest secrets to @BAWrites on social media, or visit gwendolyngray.com.

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

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A Decade of Love

Ten years ago. It doesn’t seem that long. At the time I had spent a good portion of my adult life thinking about my desire to write for kids. The problem was I didn’t know how to get started. A dear librarian friend sent me off on the right foot in the summer of 2008. She said if I was serious then I needed to read juvenile fiction.

I was already doing this, reading to students almost every day for 10-15 minutes. My at home reading was mostly books for adults, but that changed and I never looked back. I walked out of school on a sunny June day with a box of books the librarian had just received. Included were the first four Percy Jackson novels, Gordon Korman’s Swindle, and Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath. There were more, but these were the ones I remember the most.

It’s fitting that Kathi joins me today to answer a few questions about her Newbery Honor book, The Underneath, and the momentous occasion of the ten year anniversary of its release. I was fortunate to read the book again last month and was reminded of its magic and emotions in every chapter. Enjoy my interview with Kathi and be sure to check out the awesome giveaway at the end.

Welcome Kathi and congratulations on THE UNDERNEATH’s tenth anniversary. What’s been your greatest joy concerning the reception of the book this past decade? Any misgivings?

Without question, my greatest joy has been the hundreds of letters I’ve received from students from all over the world. I love hearing from my readers. Even when they have disagreements about the book, they’re always thoughtful. I love that.

Misgivings? I think every author has misgivings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read from the book, and half-way through my reading I’ve thought, “why did I use that word?” There’s one page that has “squirrel” on it something like three times. Ouch. That’s a minor issue.

When I have misgivings is when I hear that someone is using this book in a first or second grade class. That feels too young to me. I know that kids are way more capable of reading hard things than we give them credit for, but there are also so many wonderful books that are just right for that younger set, sad books, funny books.

Once in a while I get a note from a parent who has a seven year old, and they’ve read the book together and had a great experience. That strikes me as wonderful. To have a one-on-one setting like that. It gives the child a safe place to experience a range of emotions, including fear. But I also once had a parent get very angry with me when she began reading the book to her four-year old. Thankfully, the age range is clearly printed on the book (and of course, not all kids fit into age ranges when it comes to what they’re ready for). But four seemed pretty darned young.

Has the audience changed since the release and would today’s middle grader’s react any differently to the story than ones from 2008?

I actually do feel like the audience has changed. I think that kids are more sophisticated, more savvy, more “in the world.” I think their exposure to electronic media makes them this way. My worry is that maybe they’re growing up too fast, maybe they’re missing some things. At the same time, it’s amazing to me to see what kids are capable of.

What themes in the story still resonate today for young readers?

To me, the primary theme of this book is to choose love. No matter how rough things get, we can all make choices that lead us into the light. I think that theme is timeless—at least I hope so.

Below is the new trailer for the book. How did this come about?

The very first trailer that we made for this book was actually made out of a Power Point Presentation. My talented son Cooper put some music to it, and my web designer helped post it. So much has changed technologically since then. Now, my still talented son Cooper is married to the also talented Laurel Kathleen, and they’ve begun a book trailer business called Botra Productions. When I came to them with the idea for a new trailer, they jumped right on it. They do beautiful work, and of course I can say that because I’m the Big Mama.

There are plenty of unpublished authors out there who would love to be celebrating a ten-year book anniversary. I know one of your tips for new authors is to write all the time. What other advice can you give for those in the trenches?

You know, so much advice is repeated so often that at a certain level it feels cliché. But if it wasn’t true, I guess it wouldn’t be cliché. One of the best things I do for myself is this: I find a class or a workshop or a weekend retreat every year, and I sign up for it. Sometimes, I get halfway through it, and wonder why, why did I subject myself to this. But then . . . I hear something new, I see some new way of looking at a problem, I get a fresh idea. So, just because I’m a professional does not mean that learning has to stop. So, I would say that it’s really important to stay on the learning wagon.

And my very favorite motto is this: Write like your fingers are on fire.

In other words, write so much and write so fast that when you’re done, you have to blow on them to cool them off. Because the thing is, we tend to get out of our own way when write quickly. Once we’ve got a draft of something, that’s the time to slow things down, to be deliberative and thoughtful. But in that early stage of creation, just go. Go, I say!

If you could interview yourself, what’s one question you’ve always wanted to be asked? (You can answer it, too!)

Hmmm… Kathi, do you want to go see the Grand Canyon?

Why yes, yes I do.

Thanks for your time, Kathi. Enjoy your anniversary!

Thank you so very much! Let me know if you have any further questions.

THE BIO

Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the PEN USA Award. Her other novels include The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, a National Book Award finalist, and Maybe a Fox, one of the Bank Street Books Best Children’s Books of the Year. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, and to find curriculum materials and activity pages, visit her website at kathiappelt.com.

Giveaway!
Fifteen lucky winners will receive an autographed paperback copy of The Underneath. In addition, one Grand Prize winner will win a classroom set of 20 copies of the book PLUS a 30-40 minute Skype visit for her/his school, classroom, or library with award-winning author Kathi Appelt. Enter here!

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