Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Because

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Because (Hyperion Books for Children, 2019) by Mo Willems and illustrated by Amber Ren is a fun cause and effect picture book on the power of music. It’s deceptively simple.

“Because a man named Ludwig wrote beautiful music–” the story begins. Then goes to Franz, to an orchestra and those who studied hard to play, ending up with a little girl who listened (because her uncle had a cold and she got his ticket), who was changed and changed others.

One aspect I like is that luck was involved in the girl’s success. It also includes people we might think of as mundane as they are “only” preparing the music hall.

Mo is a bestselling author, illustrator, animator, and playwright famous for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus among others. Read about him here and check out his other books here.

This book was Amber’s debut. Read about her here and see some of her illustrations here. She already has five other books out and has illustrated some book covers as well. (Click on the Book link on her website to see individual titles.)

Here’s a video on the making of Because.

Posted in Guest Post, So Many Good Books, YA Novels

The Worst/Best Day of My Life

guest post by B. Lynn Goodwin author of
Disrupted (Olympia Publishers, January 25, 2024)

“O.M.G. This is the worst day of my life. Bowen gave us double homework in algebra and Diego walked right past my locker as if I was invisible. Probably his head is in his music, but where does that leave me?”

Sixteen-year-old Sandee Mason is living her life one moment at a time and one issue at a time. Sometimes it seems like everything’s a crisis, but when a real earthquake rocks the school while she’s on top of a ladder, she gets a new perspective on what’s vital. Staying alive is vital. Her brother, who was killed by an IED six months earlier, didn’t have the privilege of staying alive. As her parents mourn, she tries to show them that she’s still here and still matters. She tries to make right choices, and some days she succeeds.

If you have a teen in the house or a good memory of your own experiences, if you teach teens or coach them, you know intense and dramatic the teen years can be.

Loss hits teens with the same intensity as returning a promise ring or losing a lead role or having someone else picked as team captain. It’s horrendous. Bone-chilling. A disaster of unequal proportions. Everything shifts and in that moment many teens are filled with the fear that nothing will ever be the same again. Some lash out. Others shut down, and why wouldn’t they? They’re still acquiring coping skills.

One wise solution for teens, or any of us, is to find a person to listen. Fortunately, Sandee cares, and she listens to her friends because someone was there for her when she lost her brother. She offers help when Nicole finally asks for it. Eventually she finds the courage to ask the new boy, Pete, probing questions when his story doesn’t add up, even though she has no idea how big of a loss he’s been through. It’s amazing, but I’m not giving you any spoilers. Suffice it to say that Sandee uses her own creative spirit to take solution-oriented actions.

Loss hurts and it’s something we’ll all relate to sooner or later. Disrupted shows teens how characters cope with their losses, how they recover, and that things are not always as they seem. I’m being deliberately vague about the plot because I’d love to have you click on the link, read about the book, and maybe read the opening for yourself. There you’ll get a first-hand look into how teens cope. Keep reading. Pick up some ammunition for your worst days. It’s so much better than floundering in the dark.


Disrupted is Lynn’s 5th book, and her 2nd for teens. She’s been helping writers with Writer Advice ezine since 1997.

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

Amari and the Night Brothers

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, #1) (Balzer & Bray, 2021) by B. B. Alston is like a cross between Men in Black and Harry Potter at summer camp.

13-year-old Amari Peters struggles with anger against those who think she doesn’t fit in since she’s a scholarship student and black. It’s worse since her older brother Quinton has been missing. Many believe he is dead, but Amari knows he’s alive. A chance to tryout for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs this summer may help her find out where Quinton is. But again in a world of magic, there are those who don’t think she belongs. Amari must stand up for herself and learn all she can about this new world to have any chance of finding her brother.

This was B.B.’s debut novel. The books have been published in over 30 countries and a movie is in the works! Wow! Here’s the Spanish version, Amari y Los Hermanos de la Noche. The third book in this trilogy is expected out this summer.

Awards:

  • ALSC Notable Children’s Books, 1995-2024. Commended, 2022. (Association of Library Services for Children)
  • Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Award, 1997-2023. Selection, 2022. (Children’s Literary Assembly)
  • Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1997-2024. Commended, 2022. (YALSA)
  • Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2011-2024. Selection, 2022. (YALSA)
  • SLJ Best Books of the Year, 2010 – 2023. Selection, 2021. (School Library Journal)

Read about this NY Times bestselling author here.

Creating characters is like throwing together ingredients for a recipe. I take characteristics I like and dislike in real people I know, or know of, and use them to embellish and define characters.
Cassandra Clare

Creating characters