Sunday, June 27, 2010


AFTER EVER AFTER, by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic 2010)(Ages 10+). At age four, Jeffrey was diagnosed with leukemia. Through his treatment, and ever since, his stalwart older brother Steven has been there. Until this summer, when Steven suddenly left college and family behind, to "find himself" in Africa.

And now that Jeffrey's in eighth grade, he must face the perils of girls and math and parents and testing and his idiosyncratic best friend Tad, a fellow cancer survivor, on his own...Feeling abandoned by his brother (the protagonist of DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE), Jeffrey emerges from the shadow of being "The kid who had cancer," and the problematic younger brother of the perfect Steven, to decide what and who he wants to be. And what it all means.

In this bittersweet and elegant sequel to DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE, Sonnenblick provides Jeffrey with a wisdom borne of his experience with cancer that almost belies his years, yet which is still genuinely that of an eighth grader. At once funny and profound, AFTER EVER AFTER is both heart-warming and thought-provoking.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE: TRUE STORIES OF THE RISK-TAKING SCIENTISTS WHO FIGURE OUT WAYS TO EXPLORE BEYOND THE EARTH, by Gloria Skurzynski (National Geographic 2010)(ages 10+), offers a fine introduction to the history and physics of rocket science. Most of the book is given to discussing the past and present of rocketry and the space program, with final chapters looking toward the future and the potential for ever-more-advanced methods of sending humans into space.

In short, from the beginnings of rocketry in ancient China to the current era of modern space exploration and beyond, THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE provides an exciting look at the development of the science and engineering -- and the physicists and engineers -- behind the rockets.

Friday, June 25, 2010


ONE CRAZY SUMMER, by Rita Williams-Garcia (Harper Amistad 2010)(ages 9-12). In the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine lives in Brooklyn with her father and grandmother and two younger sisters, Vonetta (9) and Fern (7).

Delphine is the responsible one: organized and polite and always getting her sisters to behave, even if she can't stop all their fights before they begin.

And when thier father decides the girls are to spend a month out in Oakland, with their mother Cecile, who walked out on them years before, Delphine will be put to the test. Cecile's not like ordinary mothers: she never hugs and she never lets any of the girls into the kitchen. All their meals are at the Black Panther community center or Chinese take-out. Worse, Cecile seems to hate their being there or the fact that the girls exist at all.

Can Delphine keep her even keel while everything and everyone around her seems to be going crazy?

ONE CRAZY SUMMER is insightful, poignant, disturbing, and, occasionally, funny. Williams-Garcia does an outstanding job of framing the turbulent era, while at the same time keeping the focus on, and the perspective of, Delphine herself. More than a period piece, ONE CRAZY SUMMER is, ultimately, an affecting and illuminating story of family and responsibility.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another Bookish Weekend...

Photo of me with cows, which really doesn't have anything at all to do with this post.

This coming weekend many eyes are on Washington, DC, which is hosting the annual conference of the American Library Association! Make sure y'all say "hi" to Austinites Chris Barton (winner of Siebert Honor), Liz Garton Scanlon (author of Caldecott Honor book), and Jacqueline Kelly (winner of Newbery Honor).

For those staying closer to home, this weekend is also the annual Editor and Agent Conference of the Writers League of Texas! I'll be moderating one panel and speaking on another (see post below for details).

Also in Austin on Saturday from 10 AM to 4PM is the fourth annual African American Book Festival, at the Carver branch of the Austin Public Library. Check out the article in the Statesman, which features Austin YA author Varian Johnson. Also appearing at the festival is Austin author-illustrator Don Tate.

Finally, Cyn will be speaking Saturday night at the University of New Mexico. Her speech is titled TALKING BACK TO BRAM: REINVENTING GOTHICS. If you're in the neighborhood, go check it out!


CHARLES DARWIN AND THE MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES, by Niles Eldredge and Susan Pearson (Roaring Brook 2010)(ages10+). A fascinating and eminently readable account of the life of Charles Darwin and the voyage of HMS Beagle.

Details abound, and the authors do a great job of showing how Darwin's experiences and observations led to the development of his theories on the origin of species.

The volume includes many figures and maps, as well as sidebars elaborating on the context of the narrative and of nineteenth century life. An excellent introduction to Darwin and his times.

Monday, June 21, 2010


SEAGLASS SUMMER, by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2010)(ages 8-12). More than anything, eleven-year-old Poppy Ray wants to be a veterinarian. So she convinces her parents to let her spend the summer on an island in Washington state with her veterinarian uncle Sanjay, who runs the Furry Friends Animal Clinic.

Once there, she comes to realize that it isn't all just about what she can pull out of her black vet kit. It involves blood, emergencies, and occasionally, pain and sadness. But with the help of a piece of seaglass (for meditating) and a boy named Hawk, she just might muddle through and survive the summer.

SEAGLASS SUMMER is a sweet and affecting story of a girl pursuing her dream and overcoming the occasional bout of squeamishness.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


THE BOOK OF TORMOD: A TEMPLAR'S APPRENTICE, by Kat Black (Scholastic 2010)(12+). Thirteen-year-old Tormod MacLeod is the seventh of nine children, and the only one gifted with visions. He wants nothing more than to leave his remote village, and gets the chance when a Templar Knight appears and assigns him an errand involving delivery of a scroll and a map.

Now irrevocably caught up in Templar intrigues, Tormod flees with the knight to the Continent on a quest to find the Templar Grand Master and seek the treasure whose location is defined by the map - a treasure that they must, at all costs, keep out of the hands of the king of France.

A gripping historical fantasy, A TEMPLAR'S APPRENTICE offers a compelling protagonist, terrific voice, period detail, and a rousing adventure. First in a series.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


AMAZING FACES, anth. by Lee Bennett Hopkins, ill. by Chris Soentpiet (Lee & Low 2010). In this lovely picture book anthology, Hopkins brings together sixteen poets and poems about brief flashes of time and instantaneous emotions resulting therefrom. Soentpiet's elegant illustrations evoke the feelings of the poems via environmental detail and the expressions on the people's faces.

The collection includes poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kam Mak, Carole Boston Weatherford, Jane Medina, Nikki Grimes, Jude Mandell, Jane Yolen, Tom Robert Shields, Pat Mora, Janet S. Wong, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Prince Redcloud, Mary E. Cronin, Joeseph Bruchac, J. Patrick Lewis, and Langston Hughes.


THE RISE OF RENEGADE X, by Chelsea M. Campbell (Egmont 2010)(12+). Damien Locke, son of the mad scientist "Mistress of Mayhem," has his life planned. Once his powers develop, he'll attend Vilmore Academy and learn how to take his place in the front ranks of those villains opposed to the superheroes of Golden City.

But at his coming-of-age ceremony on his sixteenth birthday, Damien discovers, to his horror, that his father -- whom he never knew -- was not a failed archvillain, but of all things, a superhero.

Then, even worse, his mother makes him go live with his father and his half-siblings. While she's plotting to take over Golden City, Damien is stuck in a family of do-gooders, with a half-sister who hates him...Can he avoid their clutches to rendezvous with his villainous destiny?

Funny and wry, THE RISE OF RENEGADE X is an exciting and engaging novel of secrets, family, sometime heroism, consequences, and free will.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Writers League of Texas Upcoming Events

The Writers League of Texas has a couple of great events coming up of interest to the youth literature community.

The first, the 2010 agents-editors conference, will be held in Austin on June 25-27. On Saturday, at 10:15, I will be moderating a panel titled Kid Lit: One Hot Market, with editor Mary Colgan of Chronicle Books; agent Laurie McLean of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents; and Alice Tasman of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

At 1:45, Jennifer Ziegler will be moderating a panel called YA, YA, YA Not: How to Tell if your Book is for Adults or Teens or Both, with editor Mary Colgan and author Mari Mancusi.

On Sunday, at 9, Laurie McLean and Alice Tasman will be on a panel titled Trendspotting: The Forecast for YA and Children's Books.

Also on Sunday at 9, I will be on a panel moderated by Clay Smith (Literary Director of the Texas Book Festival), called The Ties that Bind: The Agent/Author Relationship. Also on that panel will be James Fitzerald of the James Fitzgerald Agency, Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, and author David Marion Wilkinson.

Many other panels (including many of interest to both adult and children's authors) will be ongoing, and the event also presents writers with the chance to "pitch" their work to an agent. Also noteworthy is the Saturday keynote luncheon, which will honor winners of the Writers League Manuscript Contest for 2010.

Check out the conference page here to confirm times.

The second is the 2010 Writing Retreat at Sul Ross University in Alpine. Austin's own Jennifer Ziegler will be discussing "Writing the YA Novel."


SHARK VS. TRAIN, by Chris Barton, ill. by Tom Lichtenfeld (Little Brown 2010). Two boys and their favorite toys. What could go wrong?

In SHARK VS. TRAIN, Barton and Lichtenfeld bring an epic and hilarious battle that will answer, once and for all, who will reign supreme - fish or machine?

Witty, colorful, and full of laughs, SHARK VS. TRAIN will appeal to readers of all ages.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Florida SCBWI

Last post, I mentioned our slight difficulties in traveling to Orlando for the Florida SCBWI Mid-Year Workshop. No, I was not exaggerating. However, once on the ground, things went much more smoothly. The Florida folks put on a great workshop.

Florida SCBWI member Curtis Sponsler picked us up and kept us entertained while we waited through the storm for our luggage, and then drove us to the Disney Coronado Springs Resort Hotel, where they have, among other things, alligators (in the lagoon, not on the menu)...

We met with the organizers and other speakers over dinner at the Pepper Market. We retired not long after from exhaustion.

Cyn went out early next morning to do her workshop, while I partook of the resort amenities: weight room, running track around the lagoon (where lives aforementioned alligator), and lap pool. Then I went to work...

That evening, we had dinner with the organizers and other speakers (and I'm too lazy to name and link everyone, but here are a few): Alvina Ling, Kathleen Duey, Stephanie Lurie, Brian Farrey, Alexandra Cooper, Adrienne Sylver, Christina Gonzalez, Alex Flynn, Dorian Cirrone, Joyce Sweeney, and more!

We saw a hatchling in the nest of a mourning dove and went to bed.

Sunday, after laundry (we didn't pack for the humidity :-)), we headed over to Epcot! Where we walked around the entire world in one afternoon. Dinner was at the Japanese steakhouse and was both entertaining and probably the best meal we had while at Disney.

Next day, we went over to the "Downtown Disney" area, window-shopped at the world's biggest Disney merchandise store, and had lunch at the T.Rex Cafe (which is by the same people who do Rainforest Cafe, but more prehistoric).

That afternoon, we escaped the heat and went to see Shrek: Forever After. Dinner, at Fulton's Crab House, was also quite good. Then we went back to the hotel and collapsed from exhaustion.

There's something very wrong when vacation is more physically demanding than work. Or maybe not...:-).

Cyn has a more thorough post here.

Ahh, air travel...

Cyn and I just got back from Orlando, Florida, where she spoke on Marketing with Greg Pincus and Ed Masessa at the Florida SCBWI Mid-Year Workshop.

The event itself was terrific, although our flight out to Orlando devolved into a kind of a comedy of errors. Or maybe, terrors.

Here's what happened:

Our flight is through Atlanta (no, I have no idea why, and I booked the flights - you can go direct from Austin to Orlando, but they must have already been full; or didn't work with our schedule. Or something).

So, anyway, we fly into Atlanta and get on our plane (it's a big 767, a lovely wide-bodied jetliner, which it's kind of unusual to be on domestically these days):

It's scheduled take off time, and the pilot gets on the horn and announces that we can't leave yet, because they have no catering. Really, you ask? Catering?

In days of yore, this would mean that the chefs haven't loaded the lobster thermidor and cognac for the first class passengers. Nowadays, of course, it just means that the peanuts and the Cokes aren't there. Did I mention it was Atlanta?

Forty-five minutes later (BTW, the flight itself only takes 65 minutes), the catering gets there and they take ten minutes to load the plane. Most of the passengers and crew would've been fine going an hour and five minutes without a soft drink (oh, that's right, we did. Only on the ground!).

Once catering departs, the pilot thanks us for our patience and they close the doors and we're off!

Sadly, no. Now, it appears that the little red light that indicates the door has closed is not blinking or signifying code blue or whatever it's supposed to do. Another hour goes by when the maintenance and paperwork people come. It's not the door, it's the switch! Hurrah! Finally, we take off!

And, once we achieve cruising altitude, they begin delivering the much-delayed and therefore greatly-anticipated catered libations! Unfortunately, they only get halfway through before we hit a low pressure zone or air pocket or something and the flight gets bumpy and the plane feels likes it's plunged about a thousand feet, out of control (More or less. I'd show you the math, but I think my count of seconds was wrong).

Everyone screams, but not in a good way (Seriously, it was quite terrifying. Except to the children sitting in the seat in front of us who were laughing and peering out the window, apparently trying to see if the engine was still attached to the wing).

So...Once stable flight resumes, the pilot makes the flight attendants sit down...and half the plane doesn't get the beverages we waited two hours for...

But! We make it to Orlando. Safely, despite the thunderstorm. Except, once on the ground, they can't unload our luggage for another hour due to the thunderstorm during which the sky turns black.

Once on terra firma, and free of the clutches of the airline, we had a lovely time.

And our return flight was much less eventful.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


NATHAN ABERCROMBIE, ACCIDENTAL ZOMBIE, by David Lubar (Starscape/Tor 2009, 2010, etc.). In this ongoing series (currently at three books), fifth grader Nathan Abercrombie is accidentally doused with a chemical bath that leaves him partially zombie-fied...

In Book 1, MY ROTTEN LIFE, we are introduced to Nathan, the second skinniest kid in school, and the tribulations resulting therefrom. When he's doused with the chemical, he must rely on his friends, the brilliant Abigail and the occasionally-pungent Mookie, to attempt to find a cure.

In Book 2, DEAD GUY SPY, Nathan meets up with operatives of the Bureau of Useful Misadventures (BUM), a secretive organization dedicated to promoting freedom throughout the world, who attempt to recruit him due to his unique, undead abilities.

In Book 3, GOOP SOUP, Nathan and his friends must thwart the designs of an evil organization that wants to poison the water supply with fungal waste products.

In NATHAN ABERCROMBIE, Lubar has created a terrific character and series, both funny and gross (sometimes simultaneously), and always smart. Readers will be dying to hold of the next books in the series. Heh.
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