Christmas Break

I will be taking a blogging break until after the holidays.  During that time, I plan to work hard at completing #bookaday (maybe even 2 #booksaday?) and coming back with lots of reviews to share!

I’d also like to thank everyone who reads the blog, comments, participated in #ARCsFloatOn, and otherwise makes my blog better than I could ever do on my own.  I can’t wait to see where we go in 2011!


Lesley M.M. Blume is Here!

Author of Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate

Today I am so excited to welcome Lesley M.M. Blume to the blog!  One of my favorite authors, I was lucky enough to hear her speak at a publisher’s preview a few years ago.  Her Tennyson is one of my top five favorite books (ever)!  When I was given the opportunity to join her blog tour for Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate, I jumped at the chance to pick her brain.

Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate is different from your other books for children as it is a collection of short stories, rather than a novel. How was your writing process different for this book?

It actually wasn’t hugely different. With novels, I handwrite the elements of each chapter while sitting at my favorite neighborhood café – always with my special fountain pen in a red leather notebook — and then I go home and write it up on my laptop. In the case of MODERN FAIRIES, I’d map out each short story and follow the same process. What was different was being able to create and concentrate on a different setting and set of characters each time around – it was very liberating and fresh.

Short stories seem to be a dying genre for children, outside of textbooks and the occasional children’s magazine. What inspired you to publish this collection?

Well, if you think about it, short stories should be more relevant than ever. Much has been written about the so-called waning of attention spans of the digital generation, so short stories should be more in demand than ever. I personally loved short stories as a kid; one of my favorite children’s books – The Devil’s Storybook by Natalie Babbitt – was a short story collection, and as a writer, I was simply ready to throw my hat into that ring as well.

Were you well-versed in fairy stories as a child? Were you one of those children who was able to see magic in life- fairies in the flowers, hobgoblins guarding the George Washington Bridge , etc?

Yes – absolutely. I read everything on the topic, and it was a great joy to revisit these tales years later while I researched MODERN FAIRIES. I spent hours in our backyard, looking for fairies, “ringing” lily of the valley buds to lure the creatures out of hiding. We had a dark circle of grass in the yard; my mother told me that it was a fairy ring and as a result had to spend many midnight hours chasing me out of the “ring” and back up into my bedroom.

Do you have the same writing routine whether you are writing for children or adults?

You know – I just realized that I have a different approach for the respective age groups. For adult non-fiction especially, I rarely handwrite the elements first. It just goes straight into laptop. So funny. I wonder why.

What do we have to look forward to next? Are you currently working on anything for children or teens?

I’m currently working on another collection of very short stories about the ancient animal world: another fantasy- and mythology-oriented work. It’s quite delightful and bizarre – my illustrator David Foote and I are sort of inventing a new genre and format as we go along. It’s not *quite* a short story collection; nor it is a literal guidebook. It’s novel-like, in that it follows the adventure of a single protagonist over many years. I’ll be curious to see what everyone thinks of it when it hits shelves in 2012.

Wow!  I can’t wait to read what you have coming up.  I always look forward to your writing and I am so glad you could stop by today.

Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate is the perfect holiday gift for that middle grade reader in your life.   Pick up a copy today!




Be sure to check out the rest of the tour:


Monday, December 13th – Random Acts of Reading

Tuesday, December 14th – Library Lounge Lizard

Wednesday, December 15th – Through the Looking Glass Book Review Blog

Thursday, December 16th – Book Divas

Friday, December 17th – The Children’s Book Review

Saturday, December 18th – The Book Faerie

Sunday, December 19th – The Reading Zone

Monday, December 20th – SUVUDU


The End of the World Club (Jaguar Stones #2) by J&P Voelkel

The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club is the second book in J&P Voelkel’s Jaquar Stones series. I read the first book right after it was published by Egmont and absolutely loved it. It’s fresh take on a part of history that a lot of tweens/teens are not familiar with. My connection with monarch butterflies and Mexico also helped me to fall in love with the Mayan setting of the series.

The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club will be published at the end of this month. Just as exciting as the first book in the series, this time the series moves to Spain. However, Mayan folklore continues to be woven throughout the story,despite the change in venue. And the The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club is full of adventure! I actually found myself enjoying Max and Lola more in this book. Maybe because they were both out of their comfort zones and running amok in Spain, maybe because I knew the back story and just fell into the story this time. Regardless, both of them grew on me a lot.

Don’t worry- this book is full of laughs, too. In many ways, the series reminds me of Rick Riordan’s writing. Full of adventure, laughs, and interesting history, I would not hesitate to hand the Jaguar Stones books to readers who are waiting for Riordan’s next book. The history is fascinating, the Mayans folklore is just “gross” enough, and the characters will make you laugh out loud. (Come on, a king and a queen stuck in the bodies of monkeys? How do you not burst out laughing?)

Highly recommended for tween/teen readers.



*ARC courtesy of publicist

Another ARC tease…

I just finished reading an ARC of Lauren Myracle’s April 2011 novel, Shine. I could not put this book down. In fact, I did not even put it in my purse when I went to school because I knew I would not be able to resist peeking at it all day long. I stayed up way too late last night finishing it, and all I can say is, “Wow.”

This is a heavy, heavy book. But it is an important one. The issues Myracle touches on are varied yet the same, many and really just one. This is a book that will upset some people, surely anger some, and more importantly- it should start conversations. Shine will go on the shelf next to Laurie Halse Anderson’s books and Chris Crutcher’s books. It is stunning. Look for a review closer to publication.

Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

Earlier this week I finished reading a fantastic middle grade/tween book and I can not recommend it enough.  Kate Messner’s Sugar and Ice is a book you should be handing to all of your middle grade readers.  It’s just perfect!  Reading it, I was transported to Lake Placid and could almost feel the snowflakes in the air and smell the maple syrup on Claire’s family farm.

Claire Boucher loves to ice skate.  She skates on the cow pond as soon as it is safely frozen over and she loves coaching the little kids down at the town rink.  However, she does not compete, since she freezes up in front of judges.  Instead, she just skates because she loves it.  When she performs as the lead in the town’s Maple Festival, she catches the eye of a scout from Lake Placid.  He is looking for local skaters who are talented enough to join him at the Olympic Center.  When he approaches Claire and offers her a scholarship to train with him and other talented skaters, she assumes her parents will turn it down. And she is ok with that.  But when her parents shock her by saying yes, because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Claire finds herself in a whole new world.  She is not naturally competitive and the other skaters around her live and breathe skating.  Is Claire ready to leave her life behind and step into the spotlight?  And does she have time to skate and stay on top of the homework in her advanced math class?

Messner is a master at capturing the tween brain.  (Probably because she spends so much time with them as a mother and teacher!) Claire is easy to relate to and you are immediately drawn into her world.  Readers don’t have to be ice skaters, beekeepers, of Fibonacci-lovers to fall in love with Sugar and Ice. The characters are strong and well-drawn, the setting is gorgeous, and the ice skating competitions will leave you on the edge of your seat.

As a teacher, I loved Messner’s references to other books (Hattie Big Sky, Twilight, Need).  I was also thrilled to see that Claire loves math and has a fascination with Fibonacci.  Her school project is woven seamlessly into the plot and I found myself constantly learning something new.  It’s so awesome to read about a female main character who loves math and it proud of it.  It even helps her connect with the cute boy in her ice skating group!  Hopefully, this will also catch the minds of tween readers.

And finally, this book can also be booktalked as a mystery.  While at Lake Placid, Claire’s belongings are sabotaged.  Throughout the book you are left wondering who is doing these awful things.  I’ll admit, I was pretty sure I knew who was doing it and I ended up being wrong.  It was a great twist.

Highly, highly recommended for middle grade readers.  I’ve already passed my copy on to my 6th grade sister- the highest compliment I can give a middle grade novel these days!

*ARC courtesy of the publisher

Kate Messner Talks about Sugar and Ice

I am thrilled to be interviewing Kate Messner today!  Her latest middle grade novel, Sugar and Ice, will be released this week and it is absolutely wonderful! I already passed my ARC on to my 6th grade sister because I just know that she will adore it as much as I did. (Look for my review later this week!)

Right now, I am so happy to introduce Kate!  She is an amazing writer, teacher, and mom, which leaves me in awe.


So Kate, when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? And once you did decide, how did you get into a routine of writing daily?

I’ve always been a writer, since I could hold a pencil. When I was in elementary school and junior high, I did a lot of creative writing, but as I got older and had more homework, I put that writing mostly on hold. It was after I was a mom and teacher that I really rediscovered the stories I’d loved as a kid and started writing for myself again.

When I started working on my first book, I wasn’t really in a good routine; I’d write in fits and starts, stealing a few hours on a weekend and then not getting back to the project for weeks. However, as my kids got a little older, I got better at setting aside time for writing each night, which is what I do now.


What is it like to be a writer and a full-time teacher and a mom? How do you do it all?

Actually, I find that my writing, teaching, and mothering lives complement each other beautifully! When I have to take a research trip, whether it’s up the road to Montreal or across the country, the whole family usually comes, and we make a bigger trip out of it.

As an English teacher, I find that being a writer lends a sense of credibility and vulnerability to the job. I think I tend to empathize much better with my students when I have to go home and revise myself at the end of the school day! And of course, it affords us lots of opportunities to talk about craft, since I share my editors’ revision notes and my own struggles with writing with my kids.


When you first got the idea for Sugar and Ice, what came first? Did Claire come to you as a character, or was the concept/plot the first thing?

To be totally honest, this book kind of happened by accident. My daughter had signed up for a basic skills skating camp in Lake Placid, and I was going to drop her off and head for the coffee shop across the street to revise my other book, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. I’d apparently missed the small print in the registration materials, though, and didn’t realize that when I signed the girl up for skating camp, I had also signed myself up for a skater-mom education program.

For the first fifteen minutes, I kept trying to devise ways to escape…but then I really started listening to the experts who gave presentations. Thousand dollar skate blades? Really? And then there was the sports psychologist who really captured my imagination with her stories of how she works with skaters to keep the sport healthy amid all the competition. What a perfect world for a book for kids! I was sold…and started taking notes that afternoon.

Claire came to me later on, as I was wondering what kind of kid might have the most difficulty adjusting to that fast-paced, competitive skating lifestyle. I thought it would be interesting to take a girl from a small-town maple farm and see how she managed in a world of mean girls on ice.


I know you are also working on a teacher resource book that focuses on revision. What have you learned about revision that you did not know before by focusing so much on the topic?

Enough to write a whole book! Honestly, this project was one of the best things I’ve ever done, not only in terms of the actual book, which I love, but because I learned so much that I can use in my teaching and writing lives. I interviewed more than forty authors about their revision processes and learned that while our goals are the same, everyone has their own little tricks and pet strategies that make the revision road an easier one to travel.

I added about a million tricks to my own revision toolbox as I worked on this book. It features lots of the strategies I used when I was revising SUGAR AND ICE and THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, and it also includes lots of tips from other authors, all adapted in ways that can be used in the classroom. The title is REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, and it’ s due out from Stenhouse this spring.


What is your favorite go-to snack when you are writing?

Oh, that’s easy. Chocolate. Always chocolate.


You are also a 7th grade teacher.  What book are you recommending to your students right now? Alternately, what book(s) are they just devouring?

I just got back from the NCTE/ALAN conference with two boxes of books for my kids, and they’ve descended on them like vultures. There’s a big wait-list for dystopian titles like MATCHED by Ally Condie and the ARC of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, due out in May. Kids are also loving the books I had signed to them by Wendy Mass and Lisa Yee.

My students are also loving GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry, OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper, TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord, ALABAMA MOON and DIRT ROAD HOME by Watt Key, THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford, NEED by Carrie Jones, HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly, MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jackie Dolamore, and sports books by Tim Green and Mike Lupica.

And of course, some of the books I can’t quite manage to put into the classroom library until I’ve had a chance to read them! I just finished an ARC of Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT tonight (amazing!) and started reading an ARC of Jenny Moss’s TAKING OFF, set around the time of the Challenger disaster (also amazing so far!).


Wow!  Those are some amazing books.  And like you, I held back my copy of WHERE SHE WENT so that I could read it first.  It’s one of the perks of being the teacher!  Don’t worry, though- I already passed it on to a voracious reader. 🙂

Thanks so much for stopping by, Kate!  It’s been a pleasure hosting you!


Want a personalized, signed copy of SUGAR AND ICE?

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a SUGAR AND ICE launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, December 11th, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at (518) 523-2950 by December 10th. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.

Sugar and Ice

Junior Library Guild Selection

Winter 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List

Amazon Best Books for December 2010


For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (Teaser)

Last week, the amazing Alybee930 shipped me a box of books and ARCs (with some swag!).  It was like having a book fairy!  I immediately dove into the box and let out a little shriek when I pulled out an ARC of Gayle Forman’s Where She Went. I selfishly held that one back when I brought the rest of the ARCs into my students at school.

I don’t want to publish a full review of Where She Went yet, as the book won’t be published until April.  However, I do want to make sure you all preorder a copy right now.  This book is unbelievable!  I was a little unsure about the change in point-of-view before I read it, but I sat down and ended up reading it in one sitting.  The story is perfect yet unpredictable, compelling and heartbreaking.  I already booktalked If I Stay and Where She Went to my students first thing this morning- both have been taken out of the library.

Go, right now, and place your order.  It will be well worth it!  (Look for my full review closer to the publication date).