I had an unplanned blog hiatus there for a while. I don’t know how it is for you, but if I haven’t blogged for a few days I feel like I should post something big, and so I wait for an idea/news/etc. A few more days pass and then it’s been even longer and I get out of the habit. Throw in the holidays, visitors, kittens, flu season- and a month goes by. I’m a girl in a bubble. Or a jello mold. Yes, I’m a pineapple tidbit encased in lime jello.

So, that’s where I’ve been. I’m still overwhelmed and I STILL don’t have anything too important to say, but I want to get back into the habit.

So…

I’m reading the Cybils finalists. So many great stories! I’m a judge for the middle grade fiction category, but I’ve been reading books from the other lists as well. So many awesome stories to be read- like Joni Sensel’s The Farwalker’s Quest! I just read the ARC for the sequel, The Timekeeper’s Moon. Great stuff!

Congratulations to all the finalists for middle grade fiction:

Captain Nobody
by Dean Pitchford
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Dawn Mooney

Even though he’s smart and capable, Newt is the neglected younger brother of a high school football star, mostly content with sliding through the cracks of life.  Then a couple of events–his older brother ends up in a coma the night of the Big Game and Newt is forced to improvise a Halloween costume–coincide to spur the creation of a new superhero: Captain Nobody. Newt finds that he feels different when in his costume: stronger, more outgoing, more able to handle…well, everything (within reason, of course) that’s thrown his way. Hilarious, fun, and completely charming, this is one superhero that the world can’t do without.
Melissa Fox

Chains
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: melissa

Anderson has taken the historical facts of the American Revolution and given us a new perspective. Chains is told through the eyes of Isabel, a slave girl. Sold after her master dies, Isabel is thrust into the middle of the war where both sides claim they want what is best for her. She passes along messages to the Loyalists only to learn that the only one she can trust to help her gain her freedom is herself. Anderson has presented a story that with the proper foundation can be read, enjoyed and understood by the youngest to the oldest middle-grade student. War is always a tough topic but the details were intricately woven into Isabel’s life.  It can be read as a stand-alone book and yet Anderson has left it open enough for a sequel.
–Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

Anything But Typical
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Pam W Coughlan

There is much to love in Nora Raleigh Baskin’s Anything But Typical. The writing–in particular the narrative voice–feels so genuine: vulnerable and heartfelt; simple yet beautiful. Almost poetic. The book stars Jason Blake, an autistic hero, who loves to write stories and participate in online forums.  When his parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard writing convention, you might think he’d be happy instead of terrified.  But for Jason the thought of meeting his online friend, PhoenixBird, in real life causes nothing but anxiety.  Everyone has moments of insecurity and doubt, and to see these reflected so honestly in Jason feels more than right.
Becky Laney

Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry
Random House Children’s Books
Nominated by: jone

Twelve-year-old Ignatius Alderman discovers the “heart of a shepherd” as he helps his grandparents take care of the family ranch when his father is deployed to Iraq. Nicknamed “Brother,” Ignatius is the youngest of five brothers, named for St. Ignatius, and searching for his own gifts, talents and career path. He’s not sure that ranching or military service, the two traditions that dominate his family, are truly his gifts.  And although he learns to live up to his responsibilities, it will take a major crisis for Brother to find his own right road to maturity.

The book is rather quiet, the pacing slow and deliberate, like Brother himself. Even when the crisis comes, it sneaks up on the reader rather than announcing itself with trumpets.  In addition to its coming-of-age theme, Heart of a Shepherd also has lots of little details about ranching life and rural Oregon and the life of a soldier in Iraq and even about chess.  These will capture the young reader who’s interested in any of those subjects and make him pay attention to the larger themes in the book.  This debut novel by author Roseanne Parry is a treat to be savored.
Sherry Early

All The Broken Pieces
by Ann Burg
Scholastic
Nominated by: Laurie Schneider

Matt Pin is haunted by his memories of Vietnam. He was born a bui doi, the dust of life — son of an American GI and Vietnamese mother during the Vietnam War.  He was airlifted out of Vietnam at ten years old, leaving behind his mother and brother.  Through the course of this verse novel, Matt is forced to come to terms with his with his horrifying past and his American present.

The spare, poetic format of the story allows the reader to feel like they have entered Matt’s head and heart. All the Broken Piecesis a gorgeous novel that captures the emotional and physical rubble left in the aftermath of a war. The free verse is incredibly well-written and not a single word is used when it isn’t necessary.  This powerful novel will satisfy even the most anti-poetry readers but many of the verses will remain in the heart and mind of the reader for days afterward.
Sarah Mulhern

Operation Yes
by Sara Lewis Holmes
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas

Operation Yes is a story that revolves around cousins Bo and Gari. Bo’s father is in charge of a military base in the south and Gariâ’s mother is deployed to Afghanistan; so Gari must relocate from Seattle to live with her cousin.  They are both in the same sixth grade class and their teacher teaches in a box about the importance of life outside the box.  What makes this story a standout is how kids can overcome tough times and show adults what they are capable of when they work together.
Kyle Kimmal

Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, The
by Barbara O’Connor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Augusta Scattergood

Popeye is dreading the boring summer that stretches out before him…until Elvis arrives in a broken-down motor home and the two boys start exploring the back woods, investigating the mysterious Yoo-Hoo boats that come floating down the creek.  Barbara O’Connor’s book manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and still deal with more serious subject matter without veering into Depressing.  This is a rather quiet book for anyone who’s been bored and dreams of having small adventures.
Abby Johnson

*****

Speaking of great middle grade fiction- do you remember a few months ago when Fuse #8 accumulated that massive list of everyone’s favorite picture books? She’s doing it again- with chapter books! Send her your votes for the best chapter books.  I had fun making my favorite picture books list, so I’m going to have to give this some thought.

We are a week away from launching registration for SCBWI Western Washington‘s conference on April 10-11. We just got the poster from the printer yesterday, so I’ll share it with you in a few days, along with more details. It’s going to be a very cool conference.

Did you make any resolutions? I’ve been chewing a few around, but they’re not set in stone yet. Who says you have to start on the 1st? I’m resolving to blog more regularly, and have my primary focus be on middle grade books with author interviews and such. I’m going to give morning writing another shot. I prefer to write at night when I can just go until I’m sleepy, but then I start the next day tired. Maybe if I can get into the groove, it will make me more efficient knowing that I need to wrap things up before the kids need to get ready for their days.

Then I can leave the nights to reading, leisure, and crafty activities. I might “Stay up and make something” as recommended by this poster that glows in the dark and smells like coffee.

I’m getting excited about the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York at the end of the month. Yay!

Last but not least, my sweet husband bought me an iPhone for Christmas. Great googily moogily, I love this thing. Any apps you recommend? Lemme know!

What better way to get back into blogging than Lee Wind & MotherReader‘s 2010 Comment Challenge?

Happy 2010! Bring it on!

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