Picky Picks: SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Somehow, this book has existed for 16 years and I hadn’t read it until last week. Wow. There is so much that can be said about SPEAK, so much that has already been said. So, I’m going to take a different approach to this review….here are my thoughts, in little bulleted snippets!

  • I loved that SPEAK really didn’t go overboard with issues, like so many contemporary YA’s. I think its power is in its simplicity. Melinda is just a young girl whose life feels familiar. School. Family issues. Changing friendships. Navigating high school. It’s not a book rife with catastrophe, like dead people and bombs and accidents and tragic death at a young age. Nothing exploded. No cars chased each other down a highway at night in a snowstorm. It’s one thing – one very bad thing – that puts Melinda at a loss for words. It’s one issue, and leaving so much of the book so “ordinary” allows its power to truly, well, speak!
  • Melinda’s hilarious commentary on average high school life to the reader offsets her silence to the people in her life, and makes us completely convinced that she has a LOT to say, and not just about what happened to her.
  • TBT: Anderson did a really good job capturing high school in the late nineties! Like, woah, I was back in high school. this was at once icky and hilarious and moving. It’s so important to see that we’re not alone – and that kids in high school now don’t really feel all that different from kids in high school 16 years ago, like, um, me! And still comforting to a 31 year old that, yes, I wasn’t the only person who felt that high school really sucked.
  • I got the Platinum edition of this book, which includes some Q&A with the author. She talked about her own general dislike of English class as a middle and high schooler, and I once again found some camaraderie. In response to the question, “How do you feel about your book being taught in so many middle schools, high schools, and colleges?”

Laurie Halse Anderson says”….I think the reason I didn’t like English was because I couldn’t stand the books we had to read. They were all about boring, middle-aged people a hundred years earlier. Gack. Too many kids are turned off reading by being forced to read and regurgitate books that have no connecytion to their lives. I applaud the school districts and teachers who are bold and smart enough to find literature that helps their students grow as readers, and mature into thoughtful, caring people.

Yes, yes, yes! I love words, love stories, love psychology, love reading, but I am a PICKY WORD EATER! I didn’t connect to so much of what I was required to read, even as a college English major. However, my desire to write and my intense connection with those books that have touched me fueled my fire to get through the crap assignments. The discussions that followed reading assignments was what I lived for. I wanted to know what others thought, how they were moved, what they saw that I missed. And I am so, so happy that the YA market is alive and well and finding itself not just in bookstores, but on classroom shelves as well.

  • I’m not even going to go into all of the multi-faceted issues surrounding rape in this book, because I’m sure they’ve all been explored in other online discussions. And it’s all handled so sensitively and gently in the book, you just have to read it. But the one thing that stuck out to me as incredible was Laurie Halse Anderson’s comment in the interview. She says:

“I realized that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman. They are inundated by sexual imagery in the media, and often come to the (incorrect) conclusion that having sex is not a big deal. This, no doubt, is why the numbers of sexual assaults is so high.”

I’m so glad I came across this special and graceful book. Hope you’ll check it out, too, and share it!

I’m Back!

So, it’s been a fun and crazy nine months since I began coordinating the blog for Eastern PA’s SCBWI! I really haven’t had much time for my own site while posting, interviewing, and assembling a SUPER team of contributors for Eastern Penn Points. However, said Super Team is taking some of the weight off my shoulders and freeing me up to give the Picky Word Eater the TLC it deserves.

So stay tuned for more reviews and posts coming soon (like, really soon!)

I Dare You to “Lern,” by Lindsay Bandy

EasternPennPoints

My writing notebook was recently hijacked by a 6-year-old. My oldest daughter decided to use it to practice her handwriting. She also gave it a title, which it was, admittedly, lacking. Behold my notebook:

DSC02277

This is my project journal, filled with scribblings of character traits, research details, a bazillion questions and thoughts, and now some doodles of kitties and kidwriting, too. While my first reaction was to remind her to be respectful of other people’s things, I quickly realized she’d given me a gift that keeps on giving every time I open this notebook.

See, I had this crazy idea that my second novel would be somehow easier than my first. You know, enter the novelist…been there, done that, ready to zip through this baby like a boss.

Um, no.

It’s kinda like having a second child. You think, okay, I’m already a MOM. I’m a pro! I’m going to get…

View original post 525 more words

Picky Picks: Two By Marcus Sedgwick

If I could choose to sit down and have coffee with any author living right now, it would be an easy choice: Marcus Sedgwick. He has this fabulous way of combining a fast-moving historical plot with extraordinary depth that leaves readers thinking and discussing for a long time after. I’ve heard the statement “We read to know that we’re not alone,” and I have to say, Mr. Sedgewick brings up all the things I think about late at night.

REVOLVER is a Prince Award winner, and for good reason. This book is tense, tight, and surprising! Seamlessly moving between two times and places, the story unfolds with perfect tension, revealing details at just the right moment to keep us guessing. Set in the Alaskan Gold Rush and then ten years later, this story follows Sig, who is trapped in his remote cottage with a menacing stranger, a loaded gun, and the dead body of his father.

The historical quotes about the Colt Revolver are fascinating historically and incredibly thought-provoking as readers are pulled into a story of survival, ethics, morality, and religion. Questions about divine involvement in human life and the perplexities of suffering are central to the story as Sig, the 14-year-old protagonist, navigates between the at-odds ideologies and lessons of his parents. A quick read that will stay with you for a long time, REVOLVER is pretty much everything I look for in a good book.

 

revolver

THE FORESHADOWING is a fascinating historical novel set during WWI that explores the questions of fate vs. free will. 17-year-old Alexandra is apparently cursed with the ability to see the future and no ability to change it, but she sets out on a journey to save her beloved brother Tom from the fate she’s seen for him. I will admit, this was not my favorite book, but I did enjoy it. The ending took me totally by surprise! I loved the way the chapters moved backward from 100 to 1, and I really had no idea how things were going to end for Alexandra and her brother, Tom. I felt that some of the dream sequences were a little much…there were so many, they lost their effect a bit for me. But I love the way everything tied into the ending, and the ways Sedgewick included so many perspectives and questions about war. An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

the foreshadowing

Picky Picks: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

tiger lily
          The story of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy Darling, and yes, Tiger Lily is re-imagined with an anything-but-Disney feel in this intriguing YA novel. I picked this book up and wondered if it were possible to make the idea on the book jacket work, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s nothing like any other version of this story, and I love it.
         The ill-fated love between Peter and Tiger Lily and the eventual arrival of Wendy on the island of Neverland is told by Tinkerbell – an unusual and clever choice. She is a mute and endearing, insect-like fairy who is as devoted to Tiger Lily as she is to Peter, and her ability to understand the thoughts of humans give her unique power as narrator. Tiger Lily herself is a sympathetic and often frustrating character. But above all, Peter Pan shines in an enchanting and believable makeover as the brave, yet insecure, leader of a band of lonely, lost boys desperate for both love and safety.
         The writing is poetic and tight, with a very Native-American sensibility to the language. The plot is tightly woven with just the right amount of tension and great pacing. The themes are thoughtful and not overdone: the nature of belief, especially within groups/communities, the nature of love and why sometimes people who love each other can’t stay together, and the unfairness in the laws of nature/time. The effects of forcing beliefs on individuals and bullying are also explored.

King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel

king-arthurs-very-great-grandson-cover-image-kraegel1

On the morning of his sixth birthday, Henry Alfred Grummorson eats a very large breakfast, mounts his trusty donkey, Knuckles, and sets out to find adventure. What does he desire? A fight to the uttermost, swordplay with a formidable beast who’ll have ado with him, strength against strength, might against might. But what does he find? A Dragon who blows smoke rings, a Cyclops with one eye perfect for a staring contest, a grim Griffin who pulls out a chess board, and a Leviathan anxious to play games in the roiling sea! He doesn’t end up finding the danger he seeks, but he does find something even better…friendship.

Hilariously verbose and impeccably illustrated, this book will please boys and girls alike with its perfect balance of danger and fun. I have two very sensitive girls (they can’t handle Disney movies yet), and they adore this book, because the terrible beasts turn out to be wonderfully friendly.  But don’t worry, adventurous little boys and girls, like Henry himself, with not be dismayed. Win!

#YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen…

girls

 

We’re writers. We know we’re a little weird. And hey, we’re really kind of proud of that fact. But other people don’t always get it.

You Know You Are A Writer When….

1. You go through the line of the checkout girl at the grocery store who has the face of your main character and you feel like a total creeper. And yet, you have to restrain yourself from saying, “I love you!” or “Can we have coffee this afternoon? I really just want to make sure I’m getting your reactions right in this scene.”

2. You do a successful character interview in which your character has revealed his most difficult-to-get-to secret (finally!). You verbally thank him, and then you close your notebook and whisper, “It’s alive!”

3. People stopped at red lights see you having a two-sided conversation alone in your car as you work out a difficult section of dialogue. You shrug it off, assuming they’ll think you’re using Bluetooth, and continue laughing,  gesturing angrily, and/or crying appropriately. You promptly type it out before putting your groceries away when you get home.

4. Your sister is tossing around prospective baby names and you’re like, “Oh, no. That name is taken.” “By whom?” “Umm, my protagonist’s love interest, okay? And that would just be awkward for me.”

5.  You don’t get caught singing in the shower. You get caught doing dialogue or untangling a knot in your plot aloud while rinsing out your shampoo. “Mommy, who are you talking to? Is Daddy in there with you?”  “Unfortunately, no.”

I’d love to hear from you!  Embrace your inner weirdo and share…we’ll embrace you, too.

Five For A Little One

Five For a Little One

Five For A Little One by Chris Raschka

There is so much to adore in this artsy little book: Cool, minimalist illustrations, stellar, poetic text full of internal rhyme, alliteration, and surprising word choice. As the little bunny learns about  the amazing possibilities of each of his senses, he finds at the end that there are “Five senses–just enough–to know the love we (Mommy and Daddy Bunny) have for you.”  Artsy, cool, AND sweet!

Teaching Tips: Great for very young readers as they learn about how their body parts work. My two-year-old loves touching her eyes, nose, etc. and talking about how things might feel (feathers are soft). It’s a great conversation starter for little ones! Older readers will love the word choice and expand their vocabulary with words like noble, blessing, scent, and granite, just to name a few.

Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story

 

 

porcupining

 

“Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story” by Lisa Wheeler, Illustrated by Janie Bynum

What could be more problematic than a porcupine in a petting zoo? As Cushion the lonely porcupine scours the petting zoo at night for a wife, he sings his sad, sad song, hilariously tailored to each potential mate. He finally finds the perfect girl for him – an adorable little hedgehog that doesn’t look like a hedge or a hog. She’s beautiful! And, she doesn’t think he looks much like pork or a pine. In fact, she thinks he’s outstanding. (And she even likes his singing!)

Cute, silly, and oh-so-punny, this book will have you giggling with your kids again and again. My recommendations are to think Green Acres when doing Cushion’s voice, and be sure to sing off-key.

My five-year-old says: “I just love it! The rabbit hutch song is my favorite. It’s just the greatest thing! That’s all.”

Teaching tips: There are lots of great vocabulary words embedded in this funny tale, and lots of opportunities to help young readers’ comprehension along as they think through the puns and jokes throughout the book. It’s also loaded with alliteration, which can get young readers thinking about beginning word sounds. Read through once, then go back again and talk about the wordplay!

Do I Need an Agent? Things to Consider in a Changing Publishing World

EasternPennPoints

By Lindsay Bandy

???????????

One of the most important questions writers have when thinking about submissions is: Do I need an agent? It’s a question individual writers ultimately have to answer for themselves, but here are some considerations to get you on the right track. Seasoned writers, please add your wisdom in the comment section! Beginners, feel free to ask questions!

Let’s see what the SCBWI’s The Book has to say:

“Many successful children’s writers and illustrators do not have agents, preferring to control all aspects of their careers. And most editors will tell you that children’s books, unlike adult books, is one area where manuscripts are read whether agented or not.”

This is encouraging, isn’t it? And the good news is, if you do sell your work to an editor without an agent and then become overwhelmed or tired of the “business,” you can acquire an agent to help you…

View original post 547 more words