Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books


SwitchSwitch (Dial, 2015) by Ingrid Law is the third book in her series that started with Savvy*. Like the two other books, it grabbed me and was hard to put down.
Gypsy Beaumont gets her savvy like her siblings on her 13th birthday, but the excitement is spoiled with the news that mean Grandma Pat is going to move in with them because she has Alzheimers. But then something very strange happens. Gypsy’s savvy switches to something different and so do the savvies of the other family members at home. Is the switch permanent? And will the disaster her first savvy predicted come true?
On her website, Ingrid answers this question:
If you had a savvy what would it be?
If I could have any power, I’d want the ability to teleport. Then I could go anywhere I wanted, anytime! (I’m always changing my answer to this question… maybe I really want to have a different power every day!)
Read more on her FAQ.
*Savvy was a 2009 Newbery honor book. The sequel is Scumble. Switch just came out in September.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

A Snicker of Magic

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
SnickerofmagicA Snicker of Magic (Scholastic Press, 2014) by Natalie Lloyd reminds me a bit of Savvy by Ingrid Law–I think it’s Natalie’s wonderful use of language. I like the fullness of hope in this story, too.
Felicity Pickle sees and collects words from everywhere, like magic. And magic might just be what she is looking for. She and her little sister Frannie Jo are facing yet another new town and new school. But this time is different–Midnight Gulch is the town where their mother grew up. Maybe they’ll get to stay. And, maybe Felicity can undo the curse that sent the magic away all those years ago.
This is author Natalie Lloyd’s first book, but according to her blog we can expect more as she’s working on revisions… Yea! And you should take a look at her blog just to see pictures of her dog Biscuit.

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

Professional Problem Maker


What catches attention? Bad news or good news? You only have to look at a newspaper, the internet headlines, or watch the TV to know the answer. Bad news gets more space and attention.
Think back to your school days. When kids whispered about a classmate was it because something good happened? Not usually. The “did you hear . . .” topics were about someone doing something wrong, getting caught, etc. The stories didn’t have to be true and often got worse as they spread.
Sounds a lot like fiction writing. Writers are paid to give characters problems and make them worse. Readers can’t necessarily solve their own problems, but reading how someone else solved a problem gives them hope.
In a novel the first problem introduced may not be the main one of the book. Here’s an example: “When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.” (Savvy by Ingrid Law). Mibs, the narrator, will be turning thirteen and finding out what she has to deal with when she gets her own savvy. First, however, we are introduced to her brother’s problem.
Short stories don’t have the time to deal with multiple problems or much character development. Like juicy gossip, a short story problem needs to start right away.
Launch a short story problem with action, dialogue, thoughts or a combination. Let’s take a girl who has lost the watch she borrowed. We could start with action: Wendy reached into her jeans pocket for the watch she’d borrowed from her older sister–it wasn’t there! A dialogue beginning might be: “Oh, no! Teresa’s watch is gone. She’s going to kill me!” Her thoughts could introduce the problem this way: It’s gotta be here, Wendy thought. I know I put Teresa’s watch in my pocket. No matter which way this story starts, the reader knows it is bad news for Wendy.
Here’s an example from a classic story: “There was once a prince, and he wanted a princess, but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled right round the world to find one, but there was always something wrong.” (“The Princess and the Pea”) By the end of the second sentence, we know there is a definite problem.
Some short stories may introduce the problem with the title of the story as “Who Will Care for Spot?” does. (Marilyn Kratz, Highlights) This problem is reinforced by the beginning lines. “Mom looked worried as she hung up the phone. ‘That was Jenny next door,’ she said. ‘She won’t be able to take care of Spot while we are on our vacation.’” Again, bad news.
Are you giving your readers bad news up front? Try it and see if sharing the problem early makes the readers worry and want to read on.

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


A 2009 Newbery honor book…

savvyThe first sentence of Savvy (Dial, 2008) by Ingrid Law is a grabber and immediately lets you know you’re in for an interesting ride. “When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.” The book doesn’t disappoint.

The main character, Mibs, short for Mississippi, is about to turn 13, the birthday when Beaumont kids get their savvy. She’s sure it will be a good one.  But that especially becomes important when Poppa is injured in a car accident and won’t wake up.

This is one of those books I know I’ll be rereading! (And I’ve heard she’s writing a sequel and they’re making a movie…woo whoo!)

Read more about the author at her website.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!