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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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Happy 2010! Bring it on!
What a week! My son started first grade at a new school, SCBWI Western Washington kicked off a new season, my in-laws are visiting, and I accepted a little challenge to finish this draft of my manuscript by Halloween. Oof.
My question about middle grade authors really struck a nerve with people. Some readers speculated that YA authors blog more for teen readers- but I’m talking about support in the writing community. I’ve been paying extra attention to the YA and MG blogs I read, and the comments seem to be from the others in the kid lit community- not kids or teens (with exceptions like Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray). YA authors are online talking to each other, promoting each other, supporting each other, and building buzz in a way that middle grade authors just don’t.
So, can we take up the challenge? I think we can! We can definitely do better. If anybody has any ideas, shout ’em out- or send me an email at kcb at kimberlycbaker dot com. Let’s get organized!
I’m continuing my middle grade author interview series on Wednesday with someone who definitely has her own take on creating a middle grade novel- with beautiful results. You have until tonight for a chance to win a signed copy of Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s The Year the Swallows Came Early by commenting here.
Speaking of interviews and awesome middle grade writers- Kirby Larson interviews Trenton Lee Stewart on her blog. He has a new book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series coming out next month. Yippee!
Robin Mellom is rereading Judy Blume’s books, and sharing her impressions in the Great Judy Blume Experiment.
A house swap resource for creative folk only.
FSG editor (and middle grade author!) Lisa Graff will be on our faculty for the SCBWI WWA conference in April. Betsy at Fuse #8 posted a video Lisa made this morning…and I think we’re going to get along just fine. And Lisa, if this apprenticeship doesn’t work out, I bet we can find you a Washington cow to milk when you visit in April.
One more video, but it’s a doozy.
Insert a metaphor here, or just enjoy the facial expressions.
I think YA is well represented in the blogosphere. Lots of YA authors blog, and YA releases generally get a lot of online buzz . Picture books and middle-grade don’t seem to have as strong of an online presence (in my opinion, anyway). Why is that?Do you agree?
I like to post about general kid lit stuff and random things that interest me, but I’m going to try and have more of a focus on middle-grade fiction as well.
How, you ask?
Weekly author interviews and giveaways, I say!
I’ve asked a few of my favorite middle-grade authors with recent or upcoming releases to consent to be interviewed- and they’ve obliged! So, stay tuned for the first installment next week.
CuppaJolie has a contest for bravery on her blog.
Are you in Seattle? Consider a preview screening of Where the Wild Things Are with a Q&A with Dave Eggers to benefit 826 Seattle.
Mitali Perkins wrote an insightful note to young immigrants here.
Darcy Pattison has declared Random Acts of Publicity week starting on September 7. Promote some books!
Have a great holiday weekend!
Good grief, it takes me a long time to get into the flow of writing. I used to blame it on my sporadic writing schedule, but I’ve been writing pretty regularly for a while now and I still can’t just jump into it. I have to warm up for a while and then slooowwwwwlly I get into a flow. Once I get into it I can go as long as time permits, with a few dud days here and there. I was discussing this with a certain ambassador at our regional conference. First, he laughed and made fun of me (in a warm, ambassador-y kind of way). Then he said most of his writing is in spurts of a few minutes, whenever he has time to spare. Parenthood and teaching conditioned him to work this way. I’ve got the teaching and the parenthood, but I don’t have the ability to work in short surges. Oh, well.
How do you work??
I just received a new computer (!!!), so there should be more pictures and video in the near future.
Look what Nathan Bransford just did. Amazing.
I want to go to Peru! Over the next six weeks I’ll be in Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. I might not want to go anywhere after that.
Jen Robinson made a pretty great list of series’ featuring adventurous girls over at Booklights.
The Vermont College of Fine Arts has added a children’s literature section to their Hunger Mountain journal with the likes of Sara Zarr and Susan Patron.
What happens after your book is acquired? Check out the new blog by someone in a publishing house’s sales department- Pimp My Novel.
I don’t know why I’m blogging. I finally have a copy of When You Reach Me to read!
Let me know about your process!