Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chronal Engine News and Giveaway

Check out Claire Legrand's blog where I'm featured on Middle Grade Memories today!  I'm giving away a signed copy of CHRONAL ENGINE, along with a copy of THE ENORMOUS EGG!

In addition, I am one of the authors for the current round of Author Insights at Wastepaper Prose.  Go check out this round's lineup and the first post in the series, titled Writing Behind the Scenes.

Also, next month, I've got a few speaking/teaching gigs coming up.

On June 9, I will be speaking at the monthly Austin SCBWI meeting, on The Impossible and the Improbable and the Willing Suspension of Disbelief in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  The meeting starts at 10 am at BookPeople.

June 18-22, I'll be leading a workshop at the 13th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, in Sandy, Utah.  There are still a handful of spaces available. 

June 30, Cyn and I will be speaking at the Bastrop Public Library, from 1-3 pm.

Finally, CHRONAL ENGINE in is a Junior Library Guild Top Pick on SLJ's On the Radar!

Monday, May 28, 2012


A couple weeks ago, we heard the sad news that Jean Craighead George died at the age of 92.  Read the obituary in Publisher's Weekly.

Her works included the Newbery Honor book MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (1959), which I just picked up from BookPeople and read (or maybe re-read).  I remember seeing and even checking it out of the library when I was a kid, but I have no specific memory of it.  I think I must not have read it, because I'm pretty sure I would have remembered it if I had. (Also, when writing CHRONAL ENGINE, I researched falconry because of a certain hatchling dromaeosaur and think I would've recollected a children's book that had featured it).

Anyway, I can't believe I missed out on it all these years:  MY SIDE has all the things I enjoyed in books when I was in elementary school: a smart, plucky protagonist; details on survival in the wilderness; and an awesome "pet" -- a Peregrine falcon he raised himself and taught to hunt. 

MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN is the story of Sam Gribley (in his early teens, I believe, although I don't think the novel actually gives his age), who runs away from his over-crowded home in New York City to his several times great-grandfather's land in the Catskill Mountains.  There, he survives almost an entire year (mostly by himself) before civilization catches up with him again.

MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, in addition to being a great story of survival in the wilderness (and how to survive), also has what might be the most awesome parents in all of children's literature.  Sam's father and mother actually let him run away from home.  To be sure, they knew he was heading to the old family property and figured he'd return the next day, but when he didn't, they let him stay. For nearly a year.  In these days of helicopter parenting and over-scheduling, it's terrific fun and kind of mind-boggling.

Also, a couple years ago, George and her daughter Twig published POCKET GUIDE TO THE OUTDOORS BASED ON MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (Dutton 2009).  It provides a nice overview of wilderness survival and cross-references relevant portions from the novel.  Go check it out.

And turn down an empty glass.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mongolian Dinosaurs and Roy Chapman Andrews

Considering how much Mongolian dinosaurs have been in the news, it seemed appropriate to do a post highlighting biographies of one of the more interesting personalities in 20th Century paleontology, Roy Chapman Andrews (1884-1960). 

Andrews led the American Museum of Natural History's famous Central Asiatic Expeditions during the 1920s and later became director of the musuem.  The expeiditons discovered the first nests of dinosaur eggs, and new species, incluidng Protoceratops, Oviraptor, Velociraptor, and Pinacosaurus, as well as a number of Eocene mammals inclding Andrewsarchus and Baluchitherium.

(Although none of CHRONAL ENGINE is set during the 1920s, it was an interesting time for dinosaur paleontology (It was also during that decade that the German Tendaguru expeditions occurred), and I did a lot of reading about the expeditions during my research phase...)
DRAGON BONES AND DINOSAUR EGGS: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY OF EXPLORER ROY CHAPMAN ANDREWS, by Ann Bausum (National Geographic 2000)(ages 10+).  As the subtitle implies, DRAGON BONES tells Andrews's life in photographs, including a good number from the Central Asia expeditions.  A fascinating and visually compelling introduction to the man and his life.

DRAGON HUNTER: ROY CHAPMAN ANDREWS AND THE CENTRAL ASIATIC EXPEDITIONS, by Charles Gallenkamp (Viking 2001).  Although published for the adult market, this  biography could be enjoyed by any young adult reader, as well.  Eminently readable, it provides many details on the planning, personalities, and politics behind the expeditions, as it explores Andrews life and passion for adventure.    

Reminder: For some fun dinosaur-related activities, download the free Chronal Engine Activity Kit!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill/Penguin, August 2012)(ages 8-12). When eleven-year-old Lorelei's school burns down, she and her brother transfer to Splendid Academy, a new school which appeared practically overnight.  With gourmet meals, bottomless bowls of candy, no rules about texting or talking in class, and the best playground ever, it seems to be the perfect school. 

But there's a dark secret at Splendid Academy, and Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are determined to uncover the truth.  But who will believe that the school is a front for a witch?

THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY is a deliciously dark debut, offering an engaging heroine, a nicely creepy villain, and piles and piles of marzipan.  A splendid 21st century update to the tale of Hansel and Gretel.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The deluge and other stuff...

The view at 12th and Lamar
Last week was a week of writers and rain. 

Thursday night, Cynthia and I spoke with Lindsey Lane, Jeff Crosby, Mari Mancusi, and P.J. Hoover on a panel at Liz Garton Scanlon's Creative Writing class at ACC.  Afterwards, we got drenched (see above photo).

Mari and PJ
Saturday, we went to the SCBWI monthly meeting to hear Salima Alikhan speak, and then we were off to Reagan High, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of AISD libraries!

Salima speaks while Sam operates the tech
Librarians mug for the camera
Jeff Crosby and Wiener Wolf

Finally, here are some links of itnerest:

Last week, Debbi Ohi interviewed our mutual agent Ginger Knowlton at the MiG Writers blog.  It's part of a series, so go check them all out.

Also, last week, Uma Krishnaswami's article on Horn Book Magazine, titled No Joke! Humor and Culture in MIddle Grade Books.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


DINOSAUR THUNDER, by Marion Dane Bauer, ill. by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Scholastic 2012)(ages 3-5).  Whenever there's a storm, big brother Chad likes to dance to the thunder.  Not Brannon, though.

At first, he runs and hides while his family tries to explain thunder to him.  It's a big cat purring, his father says.  Angels bowling.  Clouds bumping into each other.

But it isn't until Chad tells him it's just dinosaurs tromping around that Brannon feels safe.  After all, he knows dinosaurs...and has always wanted a T.rex of his very own.

Exuberant illustrations and text make for a fun exploration of thunder and its CRASHING and BOOMING!  And everything's better with dinosaurs.

Monday, May 07, 2012

CHRONAL ENGINE roundup and Dinosaurs on Screen!

Chronal Engine at IRA.  Photo courtesy of Cynthia Levinson

A couple of nice reviews of Chronal Engine came out last week.

First, Booklist:

“[T]his is exactly the book young dino fans would write themselves, crammed with sandbox-style action and positively packed with words like Nanotyrannus and Parasaurolophus. Great back matter clarifies fact from speculation, while Henry’s manga-inspired illustrations provide a good sense of the monsters’ scary scale.” – Booklist

And from a couple of blogs:

"Grab this summer thrill-ride read at your local library or independent bookstore soon!" - BooksYALove

"Young dinosaur fans will enjoy this fast-paced MG novel full of Cretaceous creatures and facts." - deenaml

In other news, I've joined Twitter.  My handle is @GLeitichSmith.

And in my continuing quest to seek out all things dinosaur, even in their most bizarre forms, I feel compelled to note that the theme for Senior Prom on this week's episode of Glee, titled "Prom-asaurus" is dinosaurs.  The preview had a bunch of people dancing while wearing T.rex heads...

But, even better, the History Channel show ANCIENT ALIENS had an episode last week featuring aliens and dinosaurs, which addressed the important issue of whether ancient aliens wiped out the dinosaurs to make way for human beings.  Just in case you were wondering. (The show actually was a pretty good resource for when I was researching LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN. :-)).          

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


WHEN DINOS DAWNED, MAMMALS GOT MUNCHED, & PTEROSAURS TOOK FLIGHT: A CARTOON PREHISTORY OF LIFE IN THE TRIASSIC, written and illustrated by Hannah Bonner (National Geographic 2012)(ages 8+).  In this follow-up to WHEN BUGS WERE BIG, PLANTS WERE STRANGE, AND TETRAPODS STALKED THE EARTH and WHEN FISH GOT FEET, SHARKS GOT TEETH, AND BUGS BEGAN TO SWARM, Bonner explores (in 48-page picture book format) the Triassic, the period when dinosaurs, mammals, and pterosaurs all first appeared.

Bonner's illustrations are lively and fun, while providing a detailed look at the flora and fauna of the era.  The text, too, is engaging, full of wit, and surprisingly comprehensive.  Altogether, a terrific introduction to the dawn of the dinosaurs. 

Here's a Cynsations interview with Bonner from 2008.    
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