Peter Dickinson Died

British author of books for children and teens, Peter Dickinson, has died at age 88. Publisher’s Weekly has a wonderful recap of his life.

Eva

As a new librarian for children and teens, I loved Eva by Peter Dickinson. It was the perfect book to book talk to a classroom. All one had to tell was the first scene of the book, one could even read some of it aloud, and teens were captivated. Who wouldn’t love a book where a girl awakens with her brain transplanted into the body of a chimpanzee.

This book though is more than about just awakening in a different body, it talked about ethics of medicine and animal rights. It is a gorgeous book. I also loved A Bone from a Dry Sea by him, another book that was a great book talk and filled with fascinating science.

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst

 

I was thrilled to be asked to interview author Sarah Beth Durst about her new book as well as her writing. Welcome Sarah!

What is your writing process? Do you outline or have a less structured approach?

First, I decide what kind of chocolate this draft needs. Is this a Three Musketeers draft? A York peppermint patty draft? A Ghirardelli milk chocolate caramel draft? Or a traditional and almost-healthy Raisinets draft? I put the chocolate on the bookshelf next to my desk, in easy reach, and then I write a chapter. All my chapters tend to be about ten pages long, because that’s the amount of time until I want to eat more chocolate. If I run out of chocolate, it means the draft is finished.

I am at least partially serious.

In addition to consuming copious amounts of chocolate, I also write every day. I know writing every day doesn’t work for all writers (and it isn’t always logistically feasible), but it really helps keep me in the story. It keeps the sentences flowing. For me, writing is all about momentum. Maintain it, and writing is fun. Let it flag, and I need to buy more chocolate.

That part is completely serious.

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The book is filled with cupcakes of various flavors. What is your favorite flavor of sweet cupcake? What is your favorite savory flavor? And if cupcakes are not your favorite dessert, what is?

In THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM, Sophie’s best friend is a cupcake-loving, six-tentacled monster named Monster. But cupcakes are actually not my favorite dessert. My favorite is berry cobbler, specifically the berry cobbler with black raspberry ice cream served at Artist Point in Disney World — my favorite restaurant ever. I also love crème brulee and anything involving a drizzle of raspberry. Yum.

 

I love that your book features a girl who does not dream, since I was a child who did not dream though I do more now as an adult. Are you a dreamer? What is your favorite dream you have ever had? Do you have a favorite nightmare?

I do dream. Sometimes after I wake, I lie in bed without moving to try and capture the dream before it slips away. I often wish I could bottle and save the best ones — and that is, in fact, where the idea for THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM came from. In the book, Sophie’s family owns a secret dream shop where they buy, bottle, and sell dreams.

This doesn’t qualify as my favorite dream, but in my most vivid dream, I was Cindy Brady’s imaginary friend. I lived in the corner of the squares in the opening credits, between Cindy and Alice.

 

Monster is an amazing character and I was not expecting him to talk at first! Where did Monster come from?

Monster crawled out of my subconscious fully-formed. I actually wrote the first scene of the book — where Monster meets Sophie inside a dream and then comes to life — a couple years ago while I was supposed to be writing another book. I had to put his and Sophie’s story aside then, but I didn’t forget about him.

 

Can you tell me anything about your next project?

Right now, I’m working on an epic fantasy trilogy for adults about bloodthirsty nature spirits and the women who can control them. The first book, THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, will be coming out in fall 2016 from Harper Voyager. I’m really, really excited about it!

 

Thank you Sarah! I’ll be sharing my review of The Girl Who Could Not Dream tomorrow. So stay tuned!

Vera B. Williams Dies

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The New York Times has the news of the death of Vera B. Williams at age 88. Willams started her career in children’s books late in life in her late 40s. She received a Caldecott Honor for A Chair for My Mother, one of my all-time favorite picture books. Williams has illustrated other books that have become instant classics such as More More More Said the Baby which also received a Caldecott Honor.

Her art is exuberant, colorful and filled with joy. She illustrated books in a naturally diverse way, incorporating children of all colors and making her books shine even more.

Guest Post: Maggie Thrash, Author of Honor Girl

I am so pleased to be part of Maggie Thrash’s blog tour. Here is Maggie!

I would never want to be a “comedian” or a “comic” because they can probably never relax at parties. They’re always on call to chime in with some witty barb or a monologue about how crazy it was to make a withdrawal at the ATM today, or what’s the deal with people who drink coconut water. But I do think that a sense of humor is pretty essential when you’re treating your reader to the story of how love slowly and tortuously crushed your spirit.

My graphic memoir HONOR GIRL is about the summer I got totally slammed with love for an older girl, and how that love played out in the confines of a southern Christian camp in the year 2000. It was a very serious summer for me. Every day felt like I was probably going to die. Which isn’t to say that I would go back in time and tell myself to lighten up. No fifteen-year-old girl needs yet another voice telling her that her feelings are melodramatic, that she should just smile and be delightful for the pleasure of everyone around her. But when I decided to write this, it was with the understanding that the reader would need—and deserved—a regularly scheduled break from the relentless angst I was serving up. The Royal Tenenbaums is a movie that does this really well. The characters are all super angsty and hardly anyone smiles for the duration of the film, but it’s not dragging you down. There’s something very buoyant about their despair.

I also remember being fifteen and how the slightest thing could set you off laughing uncontrollably. I think as you get older, you start to lose the expectation that at any second, something completely hilarious could happen. With HONOR GIRL I wanted to capture that particular depression where you spend most of the day lying face-down on your bed, but you still have the energy to explode laughing when some ridiculous person has a wedgie or something!

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HONOR GIRL. Copyright © 2015 by Maggie Thrash. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Judith St. George Has Died

So You Want to Be President? The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr

Judith St. George was an author who wrote about American history. She celebrated history in almost all of the 40 books she wrote. Subjects ranged from the Revolutionary War to Native Americans to feminists. Ms. St. George was 84.

Shirley Hughes Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Dogger All about Alfie

Shirley Hughes, the popular and prolific author of Dogger and the Alfie series, has won the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from Book Trust. She was presented with the award as part of Children’s Book Week.

From the Telegraph article:

Her characters are imprinted on the memories of two or three generations, a recognition of their enduring charm. Shirley continues to innovate and create, providing young children with a love of reading that we know will give them a great start in life.

We often hear about ‘national treasures’, but Shirley Hughes is up there with the best.

Woodson Named Young People’s Poet Laureate

Giving Voice

GalleyCat has the news that Jacqueline Woodson has been named the new Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She began her two-year tenure at the beginning of June.

The Poetry Foundation has a great interview with Woodson that focuses on poetry and Woodson’s work. And of course Woodson answers in poetic fashion:

I would love for everyone to listen to the poetry inside of them. I would love for everyone to believe that they have a poem to write, say, sing, rap, dance—and then execute that poem. I’m thinking about collaborations across race and class and gender. I’m thinking about old poets and young poets sharing stages. I’m thinking about young poets getting published and about young people discussing Ferguson and Guantanamo Bay and high-stakes testing and helicopter parenting and housing and health care—my lists go on and on—through poetry. I’m thinking about giving voices to and back to young silenced people.

Marcia Brown Has Died

Cinderella Once a Mouse... Shadow

Marcia Brown, three-time winner of the Caldecott Medal, has died at age 96. She won her Caldecotts over the course of decades:

  • Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper in 1955
  • Once a Mouse in 1962
  • Shadow in 1983

She is one of only two illustrators to have won three Caldecott Medals, the other being David Wiesner. She also illustrated six Caldecott Honor Books!

Morris Blog Tour – E.K. Johnston

I am honored to be part of the Morris Blog Tour and to get to interview Morris finalist, E. K. Johnston, the author of one of my favorite books of 2014, The Story of Owen.  The Morris YA Debut Award celebrates new voices in teen literature each year.  The 2015 winner will be announced next week at the ALA Midwinter Youth Media Awards ceremony.

EKJ high res story of owen

The Story of Owen is entirely unique.  Right from the beginning you know that the book is something special.  Tell us about how you came to combine modern-day Canada and dragons.

E. K.: The Story of Owen started with a picture I had in my head of a dragon slayer standing on the Burlington Skyway, fighting a dragon while people on the bridge ran away/filmed her on their iPhones. So it’s been Canada + modern day + dragons right from the beginning. I wanted to set a book in my own country, and I thought that dragons would be fun, and then it got out of control very quickly, as these things do.

Another aspect of The Story of Owen that wowed me was that you edited the world’s history to include dragons too, reweaving it so that it supported the story you were telling.  Your world building is deep and extraordinary.  Tell us about your world building process.

E. K.: My world building process was actually pretty straightforward in this case. I did it in one of two ways. The least frequent method was to take a story about a dragon and make it into Actual History (as I did with St. George, for example). The most common method I used (also the most fun), was to break every piece of world building I had into four parts, and make sure the dragon was the last quarter. Thus:

  • Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as Canada’s capital because it was far away from the American border.

became

  • Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as Canada’s capital because it was far away from the American border and also a safe distance from a Hatching ground.

You’d might be surprised at how easy it was to put together. Also, it was super fun. I think it paid off the most with Lester B. Pearson, who my editor thought I had made up whole cloth until two days before my release date when I had to tell him that Lester B. Pearson was an actual person (and Prime Minister of Canada, WWI Ace, WWII “courier”, semi-pro hockey and baseball player, Nobel Prize Peace Winner, helped to found NATO and the UN, etc).

You write fight scenes so brilliantly, letting the readers see the physicality of the fight and the beauty of the skill it requires.  Where did you learn so much about fighting dragons and battle in general?

E. K.: I learned it in high school, actually. From the real life version of Mr. Huffman, who had us do Offence/Defence Friday in his class. We never did the Panama Canal Crisis, but we did do a lot of castles, and look at a lot of battle plans from WWII. I was already quite interested in the ideas and concepts thanks to a lifelong love of fantasy novels, and then in university I studied archaeology, which is also a lot of fortification systems and weaponry and whatnot. Maps and movies filled in the gaps, so I guess it’s been a sort of accumulation since I was four, and my father read me The Hobbit.

Just as surprising as the dragons in Canada is a teen novel where there is a boy and a girl who spend time together, like one another and there is no romance.  Tell us about Siobhan and Owen and why you crafted their relationship the way you did.

E. K.: “There Will Be No Kissing” is actually the only rule I made up for myself that I didn’t break while writing The Story of Owen. They were always going to be friends, Owen was always going to end up with Sadie, and Siobhan was always going to be totally thrilled about that (even in the first draft, where I kind of forgot that people couldn’t read my mind and see Sadie’s character progression even though I hadn’t written it down). Owen is waiting for a girl that is 100% committed to dragon slaying (actual. dragon. slaying.) to avoid inflicting any kid of his with a parental situation like his own, and Siobhan has zero interest in ever parenting a dragon slayer, and, eventually, zero interest in ever leaving Trondheim, and I can’t tell you more about that because: PRAIRIE FIRE.

prairie fire

The sequel to The Story of Owen is coming out this year.  Tell us a little about Prairie Fire and what fans can expect!

E. K.: While OWEN was pretty localized, PRAIRIE FIRE covers Canada from coast to coast (almost, anyway). Owen and Siobhan are themselves a full year older than they were when we left them, and most of the supporting cast is older than they are. There are characters from Japan, the UK, and the US. There are several new kinds of dragons, all of which I took extreme delight in naming. And one possible culturally-appropriated recipe for pancakes that I took out of a cookbook a co-worker found, and showed to me because the computer had misspelled its name so badly in the system that we couldn’t shelve it (Vikings, man).

Huge thanks to E. K. for participating in the blog tour and giving us such a great glimpse into her process and a peek at the sequel!

For more Morris Blog Tour sites, head to Cinco Puntos Press where you can find links to all of the blogs on the tour.