OUT OF PLACE

THE PLOT (From Harper Collins Publishers)

Twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein’s year has gone from bad to worse. First, her best x510friend, Nina, moved from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City. Then, without Nina around, Cove became the target of a bullying campaign at school. Escape seems impossible.

But opportunities can appear when you least expect them. Cove’s visit to a secondhand clothing store leads her to a surprising chance to visit Nina, but only if she can win a coveted place in a kids-only design competition. Cove doesn’t know how to sew, but her friend at the retirement home, Anna, has promised to teach her. And things start really looking up when a new kid at school, Jack, begins appearing everywhere Cove goes.

Then Cove makes a big mistake. One that could ruin every good thing that has happened to her this year. One that she doesn’t know how to undo.

PUBLISHED: 2019  PAGE COUNT: 304

MY TAKE: Martha’s Vineyard sounds like a wonderful place to be, but not if you’re Cove Bernstein. She’s grown up there and never been anywhere else. Her mom feels safe on the island teaching yoga and selling her framed quotes at the town’s Artist’s Market—staying clear of the commercialism and social media that controls the world. Dad is absent having left before Cove was born. When best friend Nina moves away, the other girls begin wearing elitist t-shirts with an unwelcome saying. They also bark when Cove is near and refer to her as Rover.

In desperation comes new friends from various generations that will help her cope. Same age Jack, twenty-something Jonah who works in a second hand clothing store, and dear Anna, living her days out in a retirement home. It’s a unique set of characters ready to support and encourage in different ways. Mailed letters to Nina also help keep their friendship active in a different way.

Told in first person by Cove, she accurately depicts the angst many tweens go through as the past and future pull in different directions. The setting and narration make this one shine.

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUTlaugh2

OUT OF PLACE by Jennifer Blecher

  1. A reality TV show about a fashion competition in nearby New York City was the perfect connection for Cove and drove the plot forward in a unique way.
  2. The letters written by Cove and Nina were spot on for their voice and depiction of  being twelve-years-old.
  3. Martha’s Vineyard was not a place I’d ever read about in a MG book. Made me want to be one of those tourists visiting the shops and Artist’s Market.
  4. Not many illustrations but the ones included will often make you smile.
  5. Doing something before you think is the mistake made and learned from by many young people. The one Cove and Nina make are believable and rather heartbreaking.

FAVORITE LINES

I wonder now if Mom watched my dad leave. Did she wave to him from the dock as he drove his car onto the ferry? Did she feel as sad as I feel? Why didn’t she go with him? There are so many things I want to know, but one in particular that I need to know.

“Mom. please,” I say. “Tell me why we never leave Martha’s Vineyard.”

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HOW JENNIFER BLECHER FOUND STORIES IN HER OWN LIFE IN WRITING OUT OF PLACE…

Have you ever noticed how some girls sparkle? How they walk down the school hallways setting off confetti bombs of excitement? Jen is not one of those girls. Never has been, never will be. She’s the kind of girl who hangs off to the side, thinking and writing about what she sees.

When Jen was in fifth grade her family moved cities. At her new school a group of older girls decided that Jen looked like a dog. They barked at her in the hallways and called her Rover. It was no big deal! Jen was totally cool with it! So cool, in fact, that she didn’t tell a single adult about it for twenty five whole years. Because really, she could handle it!

Jen got married and became a mother to three wonderful, silly, creative girls. She wrote for magazines, for herself, and for her daughters. One snowy day, a character popped into Jen’s head. The character was twelve years old. She was sad because her best friend had moved away and she was left behind to face a group of girls who -you guessed it- barked at her and called her Rover… (For the rest of her story see Jennifer’s author web site)

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I received a copy for my honest review. Please comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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THE WIND-UP…AND THE PITCH

A baseball player pitching a ballI’m more of a first base or right field kind of guy but tomorrow I’m pitching. Not the kind with nine innings (although our local pro team could use a lot of  help). Instead, I’ll be pitching two of my stories to separate literary agents in a 10-minute live pitch format.

I did this once before and got a request, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’m more prepared this time around, treating it like an infomercial, selling a stranger on a product they must have.

I’ve collected some great advice from the experts. I hope you find it helpful.

“No matter what genre you’re writing in, you have to be able to show why your story is different and why that difference needs to be read.” (FROM HOW TO PITCH A LITERARY AGENT)

My stories aren’t about a boy wizard, but if they were I’d better have something unique or it most likely would be turned away. Having read a ton of middle grade books helped me develop a plot and characters never seen before. Now I just have to convey this information in a clear and concise way.

Using the blurbs on the back of novels as a guide write up a pitch of your own. Make sure to state who your hero is, what his goal is, why he needs it and what’s stopping him from getting it. Focus on the conflict at the heart of your book. You absolutely cannot go wrong with this formula. (FROM HOW TO PITCH YOUR NOVEL AT A WRITING CONFERENCE)

In the first two sentences of my pitch, I reveal who the MC is and their conflict. If you aren’t aren’t clear on this part, your story is not ready for the world.

“Allow your unique voice to shine through so that readers will get a sense of your style, and let your elevator speech “breathe” so that readers get a real sense for what you are offering. Read your description out loud to hear how it sounds, and revise until it’s perfect.” (FROM FIVE STEPS TO WRITING A KILLER ELEVATOR PITCH FOR YOUR BOOK)

I’ve practiced in the car, shower, walking the dog, to anyone who would listen. The poor guy at the door selling his bug extermination services didn’t know what was wrong with me. My critique group has heard and reacted. After several weeks of this routine, I’m more than ready.

Keep it short. Brevity is your friend! Just because you have three minutes (or 5 or 10) doesn’t mean you should take up all the time. Never talk for as long as possible—it can take a mere 15 seconds to deliver a convincing storyline. The longer you talk, the less time the agent or editor is talking. You want to hear their feedback and reaction (FROM HOW TO PITCH AGENTS AT A WRITER’S CONFERENCE).

I get ten minutes with each agent, but my pitches last just 60 seconds. I want their questions to drive the direction and outcome for my session.

So… here I go. Unlike pitching in baseball, I’m not looking for a strike out. I’m hoping for a grand slam!

****UPDATE FROM THE DAY AFTER: TWO PITCHES/TWO REQUESTS!!!

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I’ll be back Monday with another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

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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MMGM for July 22, 2019

          

Click a happy green check mark to reach a blogger’s post!

Here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of BAD ORDER, an interesting extraterrestrial tale.

June McCrary Jacobs at ‘Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic’ has a mg picture book biography of two Swiss brothers: Two Brothers, Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti.

Susan Uhlig has a fun contemporary mg novel today–BOY BITES BUG.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews a book about a ragtag flock of Canada geese: Skylar by Mary Cuffe-Perez.

Suzanne Warr at Tales from the Raven spotlights The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a non-fiction selection this week with a review and GIVEAWAY Leonardo’s Science Workshop by Heidi Olinger.  Rosi also has some great links for her writing friends.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews a humorous chapter book—Warren & Dragon: Scary Sleepover by Ariel Bernstein.

A GARDEN OF BOOKS has a review of The Morgans and the Jewel of Bar-Ran by K.T. Dady.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, 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 , , | 1 Comment

BAD ORDER

bad orderTHE PLOT: Mary Day’s life has always been different, because her little brother, Albie, is different. He doesn’t speak, but he can communicate with Mary via mental telepathy, sending her—and her alone—“mind memos.” To Albie, Mary is Pearl, the person he holds most precious. Then, one snowy day, Albie transmits an alarming two-word message: Bad order. Soon after, Mary and her best friend, Brit, discover a mysterious red mist in the woods that seems to draw them in . . . and turn all their feelings negative. A visit from three extraterrestrials (hilariously trying to pass as human) reveals the truth: there’s a disastrous leak in the dimensional universe—and if Albie can’t repair it, angry, evil thoughts will overtake the entire population. Can Mary, Brit, Brit’s brother Lars, and Albie save the world? And will Mary finally realize that she, like Albie, has something special inside herself? (From AMAZON)

PUBLISHED: 2019 PAGE COUNT: 224

MY REACTION: Take one part of the popular cable program Stranger Things, mix in a dose of Men in Black, and add a dash or two of the child like innocence of ET. What turns out is a unique story sure to please science fiction fans and pull in more us  contemporary readers along the way.

Most of the chapters are told from 13-year-old Mary’s point of view, only deviating with an initial chapter about Albie and soon followed by one focused on the extraterrestrials. She’s spunky, honest, and a strong female lead. The 40 chapters are short and almost always end with a page turning cliffhanger (Read one in my favorite lines below).

The mom and grandmother stay clear of the action (they get stuck in another town due to a road closure) giving Mary, Albie, and their friends, Britt and Lars full control of what occurs.  Geared toward grades 3-7, I’d recommend this intriguing tale to the upper end of that range given the small amounts of violence and language.

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:laugh2

BAD ORDER by B.B. Ullman

  1. The theme is a powerful one and shines through to the end: Together we can believe in the good of humankind for a positive future.
  2. Take away the fantasy side of the story and you have a set of believable characters who have all the normal kid concerns of growing up.
  3. I once owned a VW Bug and I had to laugh at how it was used in the plot.
  4. The reason as to why Albie doesn’t talk was a total surprise. A nice tie in to the dad Mary barely knew or understood.
  5. Comedy is provided by the aliens—Commodore, Med Tech Tek, and Citizen Lady. They aren’t quite ready for what awaits them in the human world

FAVORITE LINES

Pearl! Albert’s memo seemed to slap me, interrupting my dark train of thought. He filled my brain with a cold, empty memo. The cold cleanliness of it squeezed out the red fever and froze the bad thoughts. In the middle of this cool, clean memo there was a tiny red thought, and the thought said RUN!

A TIDBIT FROM  B.B. ULLMAN

I’ve lived in Washington State since I was born, and in Western Washington most of my life. I think it’s the best place to live; not too hot, not too cold, and certainly not too dry.

I was always the kid who liked art. I drew and doodled and painted all my life. I liked to write, too, but I knew I could never record the staggering number of words that a book would require.

(For more on her books and how she gets them written visit Barb’s Website)

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I received a copy from the publisher for my honest review. If you have time, please comment below.

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MIDDLE GRADE in the NEWS 7/19/19

Below are a few articles and features I’ve enjoyed recently with a middle grade theme:INTHE NEWS

  1. Here’s a librarian’s viewpoint on acquiring diverse books.
  2. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the moonwalk and space buffs of all ages (but especially the young ones) should check out this list of books inspired by the Apollo 11 era.
  3. Summer is disappearing fast, but there’s still time to check out The Best Middle Grade Books for Summer.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back Monday with another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

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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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BOOK, BOOKS, AND MORE BOOKS

It was a busy first half of the year. Publishers, authors, and a few books I bought made my TO BE READ pile grow to record heights. I read every book and then routed them to the intended middle grade audience.

This includes a nearby school, a public library (who used my donation for their summer reading program), and the occasional giveaway here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE (More giveaways coming up in August). But I still had dozens of books left over. What to do? A book without a reader is one of my pet peeves.

The solution was a neighborhood middle grade book giveaway. It took three hours but every book found a new owner. I couldn’t be happier. My bookshelves are empty!

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MMGM for July 15, 2019

           

Click any to read one of our all-star’s features or reviews.

Here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of THE ORANGUTAN RESCUE GANG by Joyce Major.

June McCrary Jacobs at ‘Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic’ features a middle-grade picture book biography on artist Edgar Degas, Degas: Painter of Ballerinas.

Sue Heavenrich at Sally’s Bookshelf has a a review of A Possibility of Whales, by Karen Rivers.

Susan Uhlig is sharing about LAST OF THE NAME, another great historical mg about Irish immigrants coming to New York City in 1863.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea has a review of Island War by Patricia Reilly Giff

Alex Baugh is at The Children’s War today with a feature on Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal gives a little more book love to, Taking Cover: One Girls Story of Growing up During the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homayoonfar.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews THE OWLS HAVE COME TO TAKE US AWAY by Ronald L. Smith. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including BLASTAWAY and ROCKET MAN.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, 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 , , | 1 Comment