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

Beyond the Bright Sea

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

So glad I didn’t miss Beyond the Bright Sea (Dutton Children’s Books, 2017) by Lauren Wolk. This award winning book was fascinating.

Twelve-year-old Crow lives on a small island in Massachusetts with Osh, the man who found her floating in a boat when she was a newborn baby. Crow is curious about her past. Where did she come from? What did her parents name her? Who had decided to give her to the tide? And why? And why are the other islanders besides Miss Maggie afraid of her? As she says, “I had a nagging need to know what I didn’t know.” Adventure with Crow and find out the answers when she learns them.

You can see the awards this book won here where you can also read about the author’s other books and their awards. Here’s an interview with her that talks about Beyond the Bright Sea. Laura is a Newbery honor winner for her debut bookWolf Hollow. Read more about Laura here and check out her art here. She’s also a poet.

Posted in So Many Good Books, YA Novels

The Girl with the Louding Voice

Labeled women’s fiction but with a fourteen-year-old character, I believe The Girl with the Louding Voice (Dutton, 2020) by Abi Daré will be a good read for teens, too. It’s such a moving story of hardship and perseverance. And a reminder of the importance of education that we so often take for granted.

In a small village in Nigeria, Adunni just wants to go to school like Papa promised her mother when she was dying. But her father needs money and sells her to an old man who already has two wives. Not only does she have to deal with being forced to have sex (not described graphically), but also with the resentment of one of the other wives. When Adunni is put in an even more terrible situation, she runs away. Only to be sold again–this time as a housemaid in an abusive rich lady’s home in far away Lagos. But Adunni is willing to risk working and speaking up for a chance at a better life no matter how hard things are.

I love the voice of the character–it’s clear from her words that English is a second language–but more than that Adunni’s determination and sense of right and wrong comes through. She is a so admirable. It’s satisfying to see her learning, too.

This great book became a New York Times Bestseller. I wish everyone would read it.

Amazingly, this is Abi Daré’s debut novel. You can read about her here.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

I’m a Hare, So There!

Perfect Picture Book Friday

I love this picture book I’m a Hare, So There! (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2021) by Julie Rowan-Zoch coming out this month. It’s humorous and so true to how we are. Plus kids will be learning about a variety of animals as they read. And who doesn’t like a main character with an attitude?

When called a rabbit, Hare is incensed. He argues about why he’s not a rabbit. Of course, he calls the ground squirrel a chipmunk, a tortoise a turtle, a coyote a jackal, and doesn’t seem to care that he is wrong about them. But don’t call him a rabbit!

Lovely back-matter explains the differences between other animals who are similar. I can see this book being read and reread.

To learn about the author/illustrator read her bio. See some other books Julie has illustrated here and check out her portfolio with a variety of styles of artwork here.

Posted in Before You Begin, Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

So, You Want to Write a Book…

I periodically get asked, “How do I get started writing a book?” My first response is questions. “What kind of book? Novel or nonfiction?” Then I ask, “For children or adults?” If for children, I ask for what audience age. For a novel, I may ask what genre. For example, fantasy, contemporary, adventure, romance, sci-fi, mystery, historical, etc.

Until I know the answers to these questions, I can’t help as much. But I can make these suggestions:

  • Imagine where your book would be on the shelf in a bookstore or library. This will help you know what kind of book you will be writing.
  • Read books similar to what you want to write. This helps you know the genre. There are rules for many genres, and you need to know them. And it helps you absorb good writing when you read lots and lots of books.
  • Read books published within the last five years. This helps you understand what publishers are currently publishing in the genre or age category.

For this post, I’m going to focus on writing fiction.

My next suggestion would be to write the pitch for your story. Sometimes called an elevator pitch, sometimes a book summary or a logline—no matter the label it can help you know where you want your story to go. It includes WHO, WHEN, WHAT, and WHY.

I love this article aimed at children’s book writers from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: “Preparing for Online Pitch Contests: How to Write a Killer Logline”by Laurie Miller. Another great resource is this one from a literary agent that has simple examples: “A Pretty Much Foolproof, Never-Fail, Silver-Bullet Query Openingby John M. Cusick. Both of these are specifically aimed at getting attention for your book when trying to sell it. However, it can really help you focus as you write. You can also see samples in pitch contests on Twitter. For example, #PitMad. Check out the website. Next one is March 4th.

If you’re having trouble with the pitch idea, write a character problem statement. For example, Main Character wants to overcome the bullies in his life. It can be posed as a question. Will Main Character be able to overcome the bullies in his life without himself becoming a bully? Here’s a good article with examples: “How to Define Your Characters’ Story Goals” by Kristen Kieffer.

Story Elements for Fiction

Most of us learned about basic story elements in grade school. We probably learned more in middle school and high school. When writing our own story, we may forget some. So, let’s review. Story elements include: Character, Setting, Conflict, Plot, Point-of-View, and Theme. Some lists add Style or Literary Devices. Others add Tone.

You as the writer must know:

  • who your character is (although you may learn more as your write) and what she wants
  • where you are setting the story (our world in contemporary times or historical, fantasy world, etc.)
  • what external and/or internal conflicts the main character will experience (again you may not know all, but should know at least one before you start writing)
  • what will happen in the story (outliners’ plan this out, but even if you don’t outline, you should have some general idea)
  • whose story it is and in what POV will it be told (although authors sometimes write in 3rd person and switch to 1st person in later revisions—just be consistent in the story)
  • the universal ideas in your story (e.g. good wins over evil).

The style you write your story in or the literary devices you use may develop as you write. Ditto with the mood you establish, but if you know tone ahead of time, great!

Writing for Children

I’m going to focus now on writing books for children which can include for young adults.

Here’s a very helpful article on the process: “How to Write a Children’s Book in 12 Steps (From an Editor).” I do disagree with point 6—it depends on the book. And none of his examples seem to be children’s books.

Make sure you know what kids today are like! They are your audience. And especially if writing contemporary, you must show realistic kids for today’s readers. Here’s a great post by author K.M. Weiland: “Necessary Tips for How to Write Child Characters.”

Next? Finish Writing the Book!

First drafts are just that—your first ideas. Revising and editing will come later, if you finish. Here’s a wonderful quote: “Get those ideas down without wondering what will become of them. It’s the habit, not the single idea, that will set you on a creative journey you can’t even anticipate.” – Angela Burke Kunkel.

I’ll end with a link to another helpful article: “6 Tips to Help You Finish Your Book” by K.M. Weiland.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

The Capybaras

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Coming in April is an interesting picture book about diversity: The Capybaras (Greystone Kids, 2021) by Alfredo Soderguit.

When the capybaras show up the chickens are not happy about these wild creatures. Rules are shared to keep the capybaras away. But when danger comes, the chickens change their minds. And the ending has a surprising twist, too.

I love how the chickens learn that different isn’t bad. I keep smiling at the end–you’ll have to read it to find out why.

The Spanish edition, Los Carpinchos, is a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids 2020.

Read about the author/illustrator here.