Posted in Award Winners, So Many Good Books, YA Novels

Learning not to drown.

Learning not to drown. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014) by Anna Shinoda is such a spooky good read. Gripping. Puzzling. Moving. Hard to put down.

You know right away that something bad has happened, but not what. The book is divided into THEN chapters and NOW chapters.

Seventeen-year-old Clare has let her memories of THEN cloud over and NOW she’s working on focusing on the good memories. But there’s a thing about skeletons in the closet–they won’t stay there.

I don’t want to say too much about this story of a great girl in a dysfunctional family, but her mother made me so angry.

The book was translated into German and received a German Academy of Literature for Children and Young Readers) Book of the Month Award in 2015. Anna doesn’t seem to be active on her website, but you can check it out here. (That may be because she’s married to musician/singer Mike Shinoda.)

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

That Smudge of Smoke

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

That Smudge of Smoke (Bealu Books, October 1, 2023*) by Edith M. Hemingway is such a good historical read. This story connects two different time periods, 1929 and 2015–via a diary hidden in a door salvaged from an old Chesapeake Bay steamboat–and two twelve-year-olds dealing with life changes.

In 1929, Penelope Sinclair (Piper) has tragically lost her mother and has to go live aboard the steamboat, S.S. City of Atlanta, with her father, the busy captain of the ship. Her teacher gives her the diary to encourage her to keep writing. We get to be with Piper through all her grief and experiences on board until there’s a collision with another steamer.

Eighty-six years later, we pick up with Garrett Stevens, whose injured Army Sergeant dad is in a coma. Garrett and his mother have had to move in with his grandparents. When Garrett slams a door in anger, a panel pops off and there’s the hidden diary. Somehow, reading Piper’s experiences helps him through his own.

The story shares events and books from Piper’s life in 1929 as well. The salvaged door from an old Chesapeake Bay steamboat is real, which is very cool in itself. Plus, this book gives readers hope.

You can check out the author’s other books here and read about her and the real door here.

(*I got to read an arc–the book is officially out next week.)

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Fractured Fairy Tale Picture Books

Since I recently was the judge for a Fractured Fairy Tale Contest aimed at ages 8-10, I thought it might be interesting to look at some recent fractured fairy tale picture books. The descriptions below are from the publishers. (I’m hoping some of the contest winners and other contestants will revise their stories and submit either as short stories or picture book manuscripts, depending how the manuscripts are written.)

Goldie Fox and the Three Hares

Publisher: Clavis Publishing, 2022
Author: Bonnie Grubman
Illustrator: Katrien Benaets

“Goldie Fox would like a nice dinner of hare. With a clever plan, she tries to lure the Hare family into a trap. But Mama Hare soon realizes what Goldie is up to. Can the Hares outsmart her?”

Princess and the Peas

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2022
Author/Illustrator: Rachel Himes

“Ma Sally cooks the best black-eyed peas in Charleston County, South Carolina. Her son, John, is a highly eligible bachelor, and three local women vie for his hand in marriage by attempting to cook as well as Ma.”

Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf: A Counting Story

Publisher: Tundra Books, 2022
Author: Davide Cali
Illustrator: Marianna Balducci

“In this clever counting book, the big bad wolf doesn’t want to tell a long story. He wants to get to the eating part. But the reader has other ideas. From a pig soccer team to a pig for every letter of the alphabet to 101 pigs in an animated movie, the stories get more and more fantastical . . .”

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2017
Author/Illustrator: Dan Santat

“Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall—that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear?”

Once Upon a Goat

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019
Author: Dan Richards
Illustrator: Eric Barclay

“A twisted fairy tale about a king and queen who wish for a child of their own . . . and end up with a baby goat.”

The Little Blue Bridge (Little Ruby’s Big Ideas)

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2021
Author: Brenda Maier
Illustrator: Sonia Sánchez

“Ruby’s mind is always full of ideas. One day, she spies some blueberries across the creek and invites her brothers to pick some. Unfortunately, the bridge is blocked by scary Santiago. “I’m the boss, and you can’t cross… unless you give me a snack,” he demands. One by one, the brothers scamper across, promising Santiago that the next sibling has a better snack. When at last it’s Ruby’s turn, she refuses to be bullied and creates her own way to cross the creek.”

The Poisoned Apple: A Fractured Fairy Tale

Publisher: Page Street Kids, 2020
Author/Illustrator: Anne Lambelet

“Sometimes bad decisions come back to bite you… The princess is too sweet, too kind―but the witch knows just how to handle a princess like that. One bite from a painstakingly made poisoned apple should do it! Once the apple is in the hands of the princess, the plan is in motion. But when the kindhearted princess gives the apple away, the witch watches as her plot spirals out of control. Can she get the apple back before it’s too late? Who will end up with a happily ever after?”

Why look at these recent books (and others)? To make sure yours will stand out. To see what stories are already out there. To look at publishers who publish these kinds of books. And, to read closely to see if these books can be mentor texts for your manuscript.

A mentor text is an already published book, preferably published in the last 5-6 years, that can guide you as your write. Mentor texts can help you with theme, point of view, text structure, voice, language, and more.

This research can also help you find comp or comparative titles for your query letters. “My manuscript has a similar tone to title 1 and invites readers to step into their imagination as title 2 does.”

I hope you enjoy reading these and other fractured fairy tales.