Thursday, May 27, 2010

Texas Capitol Visitors Center (and Capitol)

This past weekend, Cyn and I decided to do some tourist stuff and check out the Capitol Visitors Center (and Capitol). Yes, we've been up to and wandered around the Capitol a few times (usually during Texas Book Festival), but we'd never been to the Visitors Center before. Also, during Book Festival weekend, one never really gets the chance to take a leisurely look around.

Artesian well/drinking fountain on Capitol grounds.

The Visitors Center is in the old General Land Office building and contains various displays about the construction of the Capitol (including original blueprints, a video on the XIT Ranch, and samples of the stone that had originally been selected to be used) and the functioning of the General Land Office itself (a highlight was the O.Henry room).

Monday, May 24, 2010


TURTLE IN PARADISE, by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House 2010)(ages 8-12). It's 1935, and eleven-year-old Turtle has been shipped off to live with her aunt, uncle, and a boatload of cousins in Key West, Florida, where, to her, everything is strange. How will she adjust to life as a Conch? Will the boys ever let her into the Diaper Gang? And will her mother ever come back for her?

Drawing on family history, Holm provides a fun and fascinating look at a young girl trying to learn the ins and outs of a strange, new world. Evocative of a bygone era, and with just a touch of The Little Rascals, TURTLE IN PARADISE is an enjoyable and sometimes bittersweet read.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A weekend of the book

This weekend, Cyn and I had (independently) a great weekend with the New England and Austin SCBWI chapters, respectively. Cyn was up in Massachusetts keynoting at the New England conference, while I stayed here in town for the Carol Lynch Williams writing salon (on Saturday).

Above, Debbie Gonzales, and Carol.

Writing exercises were fruitful, critiques were frank and honest, and the opportunities to discuss WiPs were plentiful. Altogether, a very fun day.

Sunday, Carol dropped in to BookPeople to sign her book, The Chosen One.

Some of the gang gather around the lunch table.

Thanks to Debbie G. and everyone who assisted with all the details and food! Also, thanks to Carol for braving the tornadoes in Oklahoma!

Friday, May 14, 2010


THE AGENCY: A SPY IN THE HOUSE, by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick 2010)(ages 12+). At age eleven, in 1850s London, orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn was rescued from the gallows by agents of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. For the next six years, she studied all that was expected of a proper Victorian lady (and more).

And now, at seventeen, she's invited to join The Agency, a secret organization of women investigators whose mandate is to assist Scotland Yard. Mary's first assignment is as paid companion to the spoiled daughter of a wealthy merchant who is suspected of insurance fraud and smuggling. But along the way, she encounters secret upon secret and no one is what they appear...

Exciting, full of verve, and with a hint of romance, A SPY IN THE HOUSE offers a terrific protagonist and a fun mystery as it explores Victorian London and traditional and nontraditional roles of both men and women therein. With her background in Victorian literature and culture, Y.S. Lee provides texture and pungency without overshadowing the characters or plots.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


UNDER A RED SKY: MEMOIR OF A CHILDHOOD IN COMMUNIST ROMANIA, by Haya Leah Molnar (Frances Foster/FSG 2010)(ages 12+). Eight-year-old Eva Zimmerman (as the author was previously known) lives with her family in tight quarters in Bucharest, Romania. Her family, Holocaust survivors, have hidden Eva's Jewish heritage from her, in the hopes that it will shield her from anti-Semitism. Formerly well-to-do, the family has suffered under the Communists and is trying to emigrate to Israel. But when her family applies for visas, they are fired from their jobs.

UNDER A RED SKY is, at its core, the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, story of the day-to-day life of a young girl trying to discover who she is in a society where even school-children can be government informers. More broadly, it provides a compelling and sometimes chilling look at the tribulations of life in post-war Romania and living under Communist rule.

Friday, May 07, 2010


THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS, by R. L. LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin 2010)(ages 8-12). Theodosia Throckmorton is back and the Museum of Legends and Antiquities is as unsettled as ever. This time, she and her brother unearth a mysterious Emerald Tablet which the Scorpions and a mysterious stage magician have been after for years.

Add some secrets about her own past, dealing with her austere grandmother, avoiding the cabbage-y Fagenbush, and lifting the usual petty curses that seem to populate the museum, and Theodosia has almost more than she can handle...

THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS, the third Theodosia book, is another entertaining romp through an Edwardian London where the mysteries of ancient Egypt have come home to roost.


NIGHTSHADE, by Andrea Cremer (Philomel, October 2010)(ages 14+). An intriguing gothic fantasy romance, NIGHTSHADE is a lusty tale of action, passion, lies, and deceit.

In the mountains above Vail, Colorado, seventeen-year-old Callie rescues a handsome human hiker from a bear. But to do so, she has to violate the rules of the Keepers and expose herself as a Guardian, a race of humans magically invested by the Keepers with the ability to change into wolves.

Things become more complicated when, a month before her scheduled union with the alpha of a rival pack, the hiker, Shay, enrolls in her high school. Worse, her pack’s Keeper orders both packs to protect the boy from the Searchers, who have long been at war with the Keepers.

As Callie finds herself increasingly drawn to both Ren, the alpha, and to Shay, the bonds of duty and loyalty become increasingly frayed.

The back-story, and Callie's reactions to the complications Ren and Shay bring to her life, unfold gracefully as she takes steps to discover the truth about herself, the packs, and their roles in the Witch's War.

Book 2, WOLFSBANE, is tentatively scheduled for Fall 2011.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tennessee Flooding

Our thoughts and prayers this week are with friends, colleagues, and fellow Americans in the mid-south, which just underwent a thousand-year flood event.

Do the Write Thing for Nashville is auctioning critiques, signed books, etc., for flood relief.

Take a look at some pictures of the flood here.

The video below (from the Tennessean) shows the Gaylord Opryland Hotel (Nashville) filled with ten feet of water. The Gaylord Opryland was the site of the 2006 NCTE/ALAN conference that Cyn and I attended and spoke at (click here for an account of the conference).

This USA Today article discusses the impact on Nashville.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Cheers for an Austin Original!

Okay, she's from Akron, Ohio, but now lives here in Austin :-). She's been a friend and part of the Austin children's writing community since the mid-1990s.

Nonagenarian Betty X. Davis has a new web site here.

Cyn has a post on a speech she did at Austin SCBWI here.

And see her interview on Texas Country Reporter:


ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES, by Brian Yansky (Candlewick, Oct. 2010)(12+). High-schooler Jesse thinks he's just a typical teen-ager, bored in class and trying to figure out his life. But then, ten seconds after the Sanginians arrive, most of mankind are dead. A handful, like Jesse, have latent telepathic abilities and survive as slaves with no hope of manumission for themselves or the earth. But then Jesse and his friends discover that the Sanginians just might not be as omnipotent as they appear...

Quirky, thought-provoking, and insightful, ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES offers an engaging protagonist, a thrilling plot, and wry humor. Perhaps the most dryly funny post-apocalyptic YA novel ever.

Watch the trailer:


BLACK HOLE SUN, by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, Sept. 2010)(12+). For seventeen-year-old (in earth years) mercenary chief Durango, things keep getting worse. Once a member of an elite military corps, now he's just trying to get by.

It was one thing to attempt (for hire, of course) to thwart the bizarre kidnapping of the children of a noblewoman, but now he's taken a job protecting a group of reclusive miners from humanoid cannibals in the antipodes of an anarchic Mars. But the miners are harboring a secret, and even the cannibals are not quite what they seem. Can Durango and his group hold it together, overcome their past, protect the miners, and still get paid?

Plot is well-wrought, fast-paced, with an intriguing back-story; Durango, his AI implant Mimi, and Vienne (Durango's number two) are intense, sarcastic, and sometimes brutal in a society whose law has deteriorated into "kill or be killed." In sum, in BLACK HOLE SUN, Gill offers an exciting, action-packed read on a Mars that is red in tooth and claw.
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