Wednesday, August 31, 2011


THEODOSIA AND THE LAST PHARAOH, by R.L. Lafevers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2011)(ages 8-12).  In the fourth Theodosia book, Theodosia is off to Egypt (with her smuggled cat) to return the Emerald Tablet and assist her mother on an archaeological dig.  But when the Serpents of Chaos appear, Theodosia finds she might have more than she can handle.  Between known enemies and unexpected allies, can she accomplish her mission and (more important) continue to keep her parents blissfully unaware of her secret life?    

THEODOSIA AND THE LAST PHARAOH is another thrilling adventure in a world filled with magic and danger.  Theodosia is as sharp as ever as she navigates the mysteries of Egypt in the Edwardian era...

Monday, August 29, 2011


THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK, by Kelly Barnhill (Little Brown 2011)(ages 8 - 12).  Jack has always been overlooked by both his parents and his brother and, well, pretty much everyone else, too.  But when he's sent to live with his aunt and uncle in rural Iowa, he finds, to his surprise, that they actually see him.  And not just them: it's the strange kids in the neighborhood (who seem to want to be his friends (!)) and the police, who work for the wealthiest man in town (who wants Jack dead). And then there are the eruptions of magic...

THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK is an atmospheric story of family and belonging and good and evil.  Jack is engaging and believable, and the mystery of the dark magic unfolds to a compelling and satisfying conclusion.     

Friday, August 26, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Nikki Loftin

Nikki Loftin and Coelophysis
Nikki Loftin lives just outside Austin, Texas, and writes middle grade novels.  Her first novel, THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, which she describes as "CORALINE meets HANSEL AND GRETEL," will be published in Summer 2012 by Razorbill/Penguin.

She recently took a trip to New Mexico and took a couple photos of the Ghost Ranch Coelophysis.   

Coelophysis, a small Triassic theropod, is the state dinosaur of New Mexico and appears to have been a cannibal.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(More) Dinosaurs on screen

We're fast approaching the premiere of the Discovery Channel's DINOSAUR REVOLUTION, a four hour extravaganza with episodes airing September 4 and September 11.  Formerly called REIGN OF THE DINOSAURS, the show is said to feature the most cutting-edge animation and research. 

Check out the trailer here.

And on the big screen, PIXAR just announced a dinosaur-themed movie for Christmas 2013!  The official plot synopsis:
What if that life-changing asteroid missed Earth? Director Bob Peterson’s hilarious tale depicts a world where dinosaurs never went extinct

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Congratulations to my wife, Cynthia Leitich Smith, on the release today of her first graphic novel (illustrated by Ming Doyle), TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY!  Go check out an interview with Cyn and Ming here, and a brief article called Going Graphic at Hunger Mountain on turning TANTALIZE into a graphic novel!   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Braving the heat at BookPeople!

Yesterday, Cyn and I braved the 105-degree heat to head to BookPeople, where Jill Alexander was debuting her latest novel, PARADISE, a companion to the TLA Lone Star List book, THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.  Both are set in small-town Texas away north and east of here (Jill lives in Tyler).

Jill provided ice-cold, refreshing Dr. Pepper (in glass bottles!) and thematic cookies; embarrassed her son; and introduced us to the book and characters via a game of "Paradise Bingo."  It was lots of fun and y'all should go pick up a signed copy or two.

While at BookPeople, we happened on a display of a giant-sized Origami Yoda:

Tom Angleberger will be presenting his new novel, DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK, at 7 PM on Wednesday, August 24.  DARTH PAPER is a sequel to the terrific THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA (And, in the category of "it's cooler on Tatooine," if things hold up, it will mark the 70th day of 100+ degree heat this year here in Austin, breaking a record that's stood since 1925.). 

So, anyway, BookPeople is having a contest and had folks take pictures of Origami Yoda around town.  The winner gets the first spot in the signing line.  Check out (and vote for) the finalists here.

Personally, I like the one with the dinosaur.  But I bet you knew that already...

P.S.  The day we tie the record is the release date of the sizzling graphic novel, TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY.

Purchase multiple copies, you must...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book news!

This has been (and still is) one of the more purgatorial summers on record here in the heart of Texas.  But the writing and the business of writing go on...

Last week, I received cover art for CHRONAL ENGINE (I'll post when it's made public) and this week, got first pass pages (above), including thirteen amazing interior illustrations by Blake Henry!  I couldn't be more thrilled.  He absolutely nailed the characters and the paleo-critters, as well.  (No, I can't show you these.  You'll just have to wait and see.  Yes, I'm a tease.  The pub date is March 20, 2012. :-)).

In other news, Cyn likewise received first pass pages for her novel DIABOLICAL, which has a pub date of January 24, 2012. 

Also, TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY comes out next week!  Go here for an interview with Cyn and illustrator Ming Doyle!

In other news, the Austin Teen Book Festival announced its lineup.  Cyn will be moderating Fantasy Panel 1, with Heather Brewer (VLADIMIR TOD), Jackson Pearce (SWEETLY), Tera Lynn Childs (SWEET VENOM), Sophie Jordan (VANISH) and Andrea Cremer (WOLFSBANE).  It's October 1, 2011, at the Palmer Events Center. 

Next, congratulations to Cyn and the other finalists for the Writers League of Texas Children's Book Award!  In addition to HOLLER LOUDLY, finalists are SHARK VS. TRAIN, by Chris Barton, A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY, by Cynthia Kadohata, POP! THE INVENTION OF BUBBLE GUM, by Meghan McCarthy, BETTI ON THE HIGH WIRE, by Lisa Railsback, and CROSSING THE TRACKS, by Barbara Stuber.

Finally, BLESSED is a finalist for the ALA Teens' Top Ten List for 2011!  If you're a teen, go and vote for it here!  The winners will be announced during Teen Read Week (October 16-22).

Saturday, August 13, 2011


LEVI STRAUSS GETS A BRIGHT IDEA:  A FAIRLY FABRICATED STORY OF A PAIR OF PANTS, by Tony Johnston, ill. by Stacy Innerst (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept. 2011)(ages 5-8).  The story of Levi Strauss and the creation of blue jeans gets a tall tale treatment in this hilarious picture book.  The text is funny and full of whimsy, while the illustrations are bright and equally amusing.  (An author's note tells the true story...).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Series books...with dinosaurs, of course.

This month ccbc-net (the listserv of the Cooperative Children's Book Center) is discussing series books, from the point of view of which ones are popular now, which ones were popular when the list members were young readers, and whether a "stigma" attaches to paperback series books.

When I was a kid, I read THE THREE INVESTIGATORS, DANNY DUNN, and THE HARDY BOYS.  Unfortunately, none of them ever encountered dinosaurs...  

So here are a couple of books from paperback series in which the heroes do encounter dinosaurs:

THE DINOSAUR THAT FOLLOWED ME HOME, by Bruce Coville (Aladdin 1990)(ages 8-12).  Book 3 of the Camp Haunted Hills series. Strange things happen at Camp Haunted Hills.  Of course,  some of this is to be expected, since it's a camp run by movie professionals.  But the place really is haunted and, this summer in the middle of preparations for a prehistoric-themed movie, a friendly ghost accidentally sends Stuart and friends to the Cretaceous.  When they return, they discover that  T.rex, a Maiasaura, and a Triceratops have accompanied them.  Can they return them to the past before the present is irrevocably altered? 

THE DINOSAURS THAT FOLLOWED ME HOME is light fun with just the right amounts of humor and suspense.  The 1990 era illustrations add period flavor, although the novel doesn't feel dated.

 IN THE TIME OF THE DINOSAURS, by K.A. Applegate (Scholastic 1998)(ages 10-14).  The second book of the ANIMORPHS: MEGAMORPHS companion series.  Five teens and their alien friend have the ability to change into any animal of their choosing, provided they come into close enough contact with the creature to "acquire" its DNA.   But they're not using their powers for fun and games -- they're out to save the world from a clandestine takeover by the Yeerks, sluglike parasitic creatures who mentally control their unwilling human "hosts."

In IN THE TIME OF THE DINOSAURS, the group is investigating a sunken nuclear submarine when one of its missiles blows, creating a spacetime rift that sends the Animorphs back to the Cretaceous.  There, they encounter, among other things, T.rex, Deinonychus, Spinosaurus, Triceratops, and a hadrosaur or two.  And they discover that the earth of the Late Cretaceous is occupied by a pair of alien races, both of whom claim it as their own...

IN THE TIME OF THE DINOSAURS offers a fun, Animorphs-flavored take on dinosaur time travel paired it with alien invasions.  An afterward by Tobias -- the only one of the Animorphs who seems to know anything at all about dinosaurs (much to his consternation) -- explains certain, err, inconsistencies with the fossil record :-). 

Thursday, August 04, 2011


In my quest to find dinosaur-related children's and young adult fiction, I was pleased to come across this one by Lester Del Rey, who founded the Del Rey imprint at Ballantine Books, many of which I read throughout the 80s:

TUNNEL THROUGH TIME, by Lester Del Rey (Westminster 1966)(ages 10+). Bob Miller’s father has invented a “time tunnel” but when he sends paleontologist "Doc" Tom through, he vanishes.  So Bob and Tom’s son Pete try to find him.  

At first, they’re sent to the Cretaceous, where they encounter T.rex, Triceratops, Allosaurus, Brontosaurus, and “sea serpents.”  (The existence of Allosaurus and "Brontosaurus" at the same time as T.rex is explained away as "our knowing less than we think," which may be the definition of "hand wave." :-)).  

As they incrementally jump forward through time, they encounter woolly mammoths, the saber-toothed Smilodon, Megatherium, and primitive humans.

TUNNEL THROUGH TIME is a sort of fun romp.  It feels a bit old-fashioned, in large part because of the terrific old-school cover, reminiscent of Charles Knight's paintings.  Also, the teen protagonists (17 and 18) could have used a bit more autonomy at times.  Still, they're likeable and develop a good rapport with each other and with Doc.
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