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

Rooftoppers

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
rooftoppers.jpgRooftoppers (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013) by Katherine Rundell is a very fun read, although twelve-year-old Sophie has a very big problem. The National Childcare Agency says Charles, the bachelor who rescued her from the sea when she was one and floating in a cello case, can’t be allowed to keep raising her. What will Sophie do without her beloved Charles? The two escape to Paris to search for her Sophie’s long lost mother. On this adventure, when Sophie goes on the roof of her hotel, she makes some unusual friends.
A mix of historical and fantasy, the book is winning awards. Rooftoppers is the winner of the 2014 Blue Peter Book Award and the 2014 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal.
You can read about the author here or follow her on twitter here. She has another book out, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, that I need to check out.

Please follow and like us:
Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

The Right Number of Characters

picture courtesy of Taylor Schlades on morguefile.com
grouppicbytaylorschlades.jpgThere’s no magic answer to how many characters you should have in your story, especially if you are writing a novel. But overwhelming readers with the number of characters in a story is not good.
Sometimes the author shares a list of who is in the room–almost like calling roll in a classroom. Does a kid in a classroom care equally about everyone in the room? No. Neither does a reader.
Older students who have different classmates in every class may not even know all their names. They may think of someone as the tall girl or the annoying guy. It’s okay to have nameless walk-on characters in a novel, too.
Sometimes when reading, I can’t keep straight who is who in the cast of characters, which means there are not enough identifying characteristics of these people for me to keep them straight in my head. Or sometimes, it’s too long between when they were last mentioned and I’ve forgotten who they are.
So what’s a writer to do?
First, know every character in your story. If you don’t know anything about someone besides his/her name and possibly gender, how can the reader? What does your main character, usually your viewpoint character, think of this person? Is he a help or hindrance to the main character? Is she a friend or acquaintance or chance met person? Is he important to the plot? How does she change or influence the main character?
Second, learn about the purposes of characters in novels. If two characters serve the same purpose, are both needed? Perhaps not. But how do we determine that?
I realized I was doing this more by “feel,” than by logic or analysis. Therefore, I had to do research. Look at the great collection of articles I found!
Does Your Novel Have Too Many Characters? by Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
Do too many characters spoil the story?
This article is clear about the types of characters in a novel:
How Many Characters Should You Include in Your Story? by K.M. Weiland @kmweiland
I love the chart example with the characters in this article and plan to try it myself.
How many characters should a novel have? by Robert Wood
Similarly, this piece has some great questions to ask about each character.
Should You Cut That Character? by Margo Kelly, @MargoWKelly
Like many things it’s often hard to see in your own writing if you have too many characters. This is where your critique group or beta readers come in–they can point out where they are confused, or ask what happened to character D who disappeared from a scene, or even suggest how two characters are serving the same purpose.

Please follow and like us:
Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Ice Dogs

ice-dogs-225.jpgIce Dogs (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2014) by Terry Lynn Johnson puts you right there with 14-year-old dogsledder Victoria Secord and her team of dogs. You’ll feel cold and hungry with her and her companion in this realistic story of how easy it is to be in danger in winter in the Alaskan bush. And, you’ll find yourself worrying about several of the dogs as well as the two teens. The book makes me think of Gary Paulsen’s survival stories, except this time with a girl main character!
Look at all the recognition this books is garnering:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • American Booksellers Association (ABA) Best Children’s Books of 2014
  • A Scholastic Book Fairs Selection 2014
  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids 2014

Ms. Johnson was a musher herself, so knows what life is like with sled dogs. Plus, she’s still involved in outdoor adventures and you can read about them on her blog. Read more about Terry on her website.

Please follow and like us: