It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

February 2017

It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

The Winged Pen Blog Interviews Me!

 

the winged pen

I love the new blog, The Winged Pen.

So I was absolutely honoured when Kristi Wientge asked if I’d like to talk about my publication journey and flash the cover for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! again – as if there was any doubt!!!

The interview was so much fun and you can read it here!

And then you should subscribe to The Winged Pen, as it is full of great information and inspiration!

Thanks Kristi!

Review: The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society!

PB&J

 

It’s not always easy maintaining a boy-girl friendship in Middle Grade

But Annie and Jason are doing a pretty good job, at least until the economic downturn forces Jason’s parents to sell their house and move for work.

Janet Sumner Johnson’s debut middle grade novel is everything I want in a middle grade novel: it’s sassy, funny, cozy, mysterious, heart-warming, and a little sad.

First of all, the cover is killer. Kids will definitely want to see what’s going on inside.

From the very first page the reader is completely taken with Annie and her best friend Jason, the two members of the PB&J Society.

Navigating family tensions, a new and odd friendship with an old foe, trying to maintain their boy-girl friendship in the face of teasing, and their desire to figure out a way to ensure that the PB&J Society doesn’t have to disband, we root for them every step of the way.

What I really love is how real their friendship feels.

There are ups and downs and Johnson doesn’t take the easy way out at the end, as some authors might have.

There are valuable lessons for kids in this book, but they are hidden in the sandwich.

I for one hope that we get more of Annie’s story, because she is just such a fun and perfectly imperfect character.

This book is sweet and funny and clever and very well written and I highly recommend it!  Plus, if you visit Janet’s website, you get a bonus story and the PB&J rules!

 The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society comes out April 1st!

Books as Change Agents

 

symptoms and girl who fell

One of the most important roles books can play in our lives is to shine a light on a particular social or political issue.

We are hardwired to learn and absorb information through stories, so it is no surprise that they are the perfect vehicle to open our hearts and minds.

In the past two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of reading two YA novels:

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

The Girl Who Fell by S.M. Parker

Jeff’s book explores the world of gender fluidity, something which I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about before I read the book, but which I was passionately supportive of by the end.

 

symptoms of being human

The tagline says it all: Boy or Girl? Yes.

Human Beings have a tendency to want to categorize things, and this categorization begins as soon as we are born and our parents are told we are male and female.

But what if you identify as both, depending on the day or even the time of day?

Garvin, and our protagonist Riley, help us understand gender fluidity in heart-warming and heart-wrenching ways. We walk in Riley’s shoes in this book and we are all the better for it.

I am convinced everyone, of all ages, should read this book. Garvin has found a way to educate us and entertain us, a fine balance to achieve and masterfully done here.

 

Likewise, Shannon Parker takes us into the world of intimate partner violence in The Girl Who Fell.

 

the girl who fell

 

Zephyr Doyle seems like a girl who’s on top of the world when we meet her. But as is the case for many young girls, Zephyr is insecure and reeling from her father walking out on her 18th birthday. When cute new boy Alec wants to date her, she is swept off her feet.

Parker has done her homework: she builds Alec’s controlling tendencies slowly, and we watch in fear as he isolates and belittles Zephyr, feeding on her insecurities like a vampire.  This is exactly how these predators work and the book does a wonderful job of showing why Zephyr stays, until it is almost too late.

Every high school in the US and Canada needs copies of these books in their libraries and in the hands of their guidance counsellors.

Pretty impressive debuts and available in bookstores everywhere!

 

Book Review: The Eye of Midnight

I love a well-written and adventurous Middle Grade book…

…and Andrew Brumbach’s The Eye of Midnight delivers.

 

eye of midnight

 

Here’s what I wrote in my Goodreads Review:

Cousins Maxine and William are to spend the summer with Grandfather Battersea, expecting a dull summer with a man they barely know. But from the very first chapter the cousins find themselves in a world of adventure, intrigue, and danger, as they navigate 1925 New York City. Toss in a mysterious courier and you have everything you need for an adventure! This is Indiana Jones for middle graders and you can’t put it down! Even better – the writing is divine – Brumbach immerses us in Maxine and William’s world and we are all the better for it! This book s a jewel and I can’t wait for the next adventure!

Here’s what I left out:

I was gobsmacked by Andrew’s imagery and description in this book, both of which are used so deftly that you kind of forget that he’s painting you a picture. Wait – gobsmacked isn’t the right word. Horribly jealous is more appropriate or inspired to do the same in my work would be better.

When I was a kid I took old Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome novels out of the library and gobbled them up. This book is in the same thrilling category and I can see you and the kids in your life loving this book!

I’m not alone in my adoration:

A fast-paced, action-packed adventure…danger at every turn… Murders, mayhem, chases, capture, and daring feats… vivid descriptions and terse, to-the-point dialogue keep the action moving and readers constantly engaged and surprised.”

                                           –KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Nonstop adventure involving gangsters and a secret society of assassins . . . This debut novel is a youthful mystery worthy of John Bellairs, with lyrical language reminiscent of Edith Nesbit; yet it stands on its own, creating a fully realized world with clearly defined lines of good and evil, and just a dash of magic.”

                                                   –BOOKLIST 

This book will be a welcome addition to your personal library, your school library, ANY library!

But don’t say I didn’t warn you: Andrew’s going to keep you up all night reading and you’re going to be tweeting him to get the next one published already!

5 Stars!!!

Cover Reveal – It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

 

Drumroll please….

I am so pleased to be able to share the cover for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

scroll down…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a little further….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here it is:

 

Pig-Face Cover

 

How cute is that? You’re going to hear a lot more about them in the coming months leading up to book’s publication, but there’s Tracy, Pig Face (AKA Lester) and Ralph!

A paper bag filled with money. A town full of suspects. An annoying little brother. What’s a girl to do?

The illustrator, the immensely talented Valerio Fabbretti, has perfectly captured the characters in a big moment in the book. Valerio was on my dream list for illustrators, and I am so pleased Sky Pony Press, and my wonderful editor Alison Weiss, were able to secure him.

This is the kind of book cover I would have adored in elementary school, and I think it will really attract readers!

I am thrilled with how things are coming together and can’t wait to share more news and goodies in the coming months!

Would love to know what you think!

Inspiration

Are you inspired?

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
– Vincent Van Goh

I have been thinking a lot of about inspiration recently. Maybe because sometimes it feels as if everything is inspiring me, while other times it feels like I have lost my ability to see the wonder around me.

My Work in Progress inspires me. Every day I wake up anxious to see what will happen next. While I have a detailed outline (as per last week’s post), most of the time I feel as if I am merely taking dictation from someone else.

I also wonder who that someone else is, that source of all creativity.

Sometimes, I start off inspired and then find myself hopelessly lost, wind-tossed on a rough sea, unable to see land. When I have tried to plow through that mist of confusion I seem to only get myself more lost. Sometimes, you just have to put things away for awhile and come back to them.

Sometimes you never do.

For me, the greatest source of inspiration is the what-if question.

 

what if

 

What if a girl and her best friend find a bag of money in a baseball dugout? What if her little brother won’t leave them alone as they try to solve the mystery, for they are certain there is a mystery…

That’s the basic premise behind It’s a Mystery, Pig-Face! I was sitting around thinking about my childhood and how my friends and I were always wanting to solve mysteries. If someone looked at us sideways, it was a mystery.  A few years later and many revisions later, a book was born.

I am already percolating on a new story idea, and this one arrived via my twitter feed. I won’t share it yet because it’s the merest wisp of any idea, but if all goes well, it will take root.

For about 3 months last year I felt as if I’d lost all inspiration. Blame it on the Sophomore book blues, but I just felt like I was out of gas.

The only solution: rest and reading.

Reading really good books by really good writers is ALWAYS inspirational.

 

inspiration_sign

 

What inspires YOU?

I’ve got a new gig!

I love keeping busy!

In addition to my own blog here at wendymcleodmacknight.com, I’ve been invited to be a regular blogger over at the wonderful Middle Grade Minded Blog!

 

middle grade minded

I’ve been a fan of the Middle Grade Minded blog for quite some time.

The Blog describes itself as follows:

About Us

 Middle Grade Minded is a group of up and coming middle grade writers looking to pull together our knowledge and become a resource on middle grade writing. We are but our own unique experiences, and each of us will be sharing advice, lessons learned on our writing adventures, and even some of our own middle grade memories. There will also be reviews, contests, and interviews with middle grade authors and agents. On this journey, we hope to help other writers as well as explore the world of middle grade together. Because let’s face it, middle grade is one of the most fun genres to write. Anything is possible with an infinite imagination.

We look forward to getting Middle Grade Minded with all of you!

It’s a wonderful source of fantastic information for writers and reads of middle grade fiction.

My first post is about why I write Middle Grade Fiction. I have to say: I loved writing this piece!  It was so much fun and so near and dear to my heart!

Middle Grade Minded is a great blog and I hope you’ll follow along with me and the other middle grade authors over there!

 

 

 

 

Revisions! (Sung to the Tune of Tradition! if you please)

I hear some people love revising. I do, too, but I sort of feel I suck at it.

I am in the throes of revising my current WIP and I was thinking that my process may be, to put it politely, a little ‘garbled’.

My first draft of every book has a loose outline that I mostly pants my way through.

I am more and more convinced that this is a wretched way to go about things, but I seem incapable of doing anything different.

Finally,  I end up with a printed version and

a WHOLE lot of notes…

 

rev4

Sigh.

Then I make a timeline with rolled paper.

“Ah yes, I will make sure I don’t have Wednesday night occur before Wednesday morning THIS time!”

 

 

rev3

 

I reread Martha Alderson’s Plot Whisperer to remind myself of why I am screwing this up…

 

rev2

 

Then I finally break down and do what works every.single.time: detailed scene-by-scene, chapter-by-chapter analysis.

 

detailed scene analysis

26 pages of good old-fashioned fun

In a panic, I refer back to other books on revisions. I stop and drink tea. I may watch some bad TV. I cut, cut, cut. And I add in all the lovely details that I can’t seem to come up with the first couple of go-rounds.

The draft I’ll turn into my agent will be so different from the original draft that they would hardly recognize each other if they sat side by side on the train, though they might both marvel that they have characters with the same name.

The first draft of my most recent book was 400 pages. I don’t know how Stephen King or Donna Tartt tame their  beasts. I cannot imagine revising a 700 page novel! But then, I’m not Donna or Stephen.

If you have advice, I’d love it!

 

 

 

Pig-Face Has a Publication Date

Houston, we have a date!

For everyone who’s been asking (and thank you for your interest!), It’s a Mystery, Pig-Face has an official publication date: February 7, 2017. While that’s still a ways away, it’s awesome to have a date and now I can do some serious planning around giveaways, launches, etc.

In less than one year, Pig-Face, Tracy and Ralph will be out in the world!  I can’t wait! And St. Stephen, you’re a big character in the book, too!

Woo-hoo!

Coming soon: cover reveal!

What I learned at #NY16SCWBI

You Gotta Find  Your Tribe

In my experience, conferences are all about networking and being inspired to return home with a new perspective about your work.

What I didn’t expect to find during my first SCWBI Conference was what Rita Williams-Garcia told us during her Sunday morning talk: “Look around – this is your tribe”.

scwbi group

Some Canadian and Australian Tribe Members!

When I walked into the first session on Saturday morning, all I experienced was a sea of faces.

Nearly 1200 faces.

But you chat with someone, which leads to chatting with someone else, and so on. And then SCWBI invites you to a lovely gala that night where you meet more people.

But the best thing is this: they are all passionate about children’s books. Just like I am.

It was like coming home, finding people who share a common theme: writing and illustrating the best books they can.

And throughout the conference I experienced more than my fair share of a-ha! moments:

  • William Joyce’s (!) infectious wild genius mind that refuses to be bound by anybody’s expectations except his own vision of excellence;
  • The Big 5 Publishing Houses telling us we are in the right business at the right time so long as what we produce is excellent;
  • Rainbow Rowell (!) encouraging us to come at our work using other creative mediums – hers is music – and not be afraid to play with tropes;
  • Agent Sarah Davies asking us to fill our readers with “wonder”;
  • Kate Messner and Linda Urban encouraging us to step away from the work now and then, whether to walk or engage in another creative pursuit, and get a writer pal;
  • Rita Williams-Garcia’s list of don’ts, which were seriously hysterical;
  • Jacquelyn Mitchard’s reminding us that our ending is “a beginning that ushers the reader back into the real world.”; and
  • Gary Schmidt’s poignant reminder of  how much Children’s Books matter.
  • The AMAZING quality of the illustrators!
  • Getting to see all of the award winners!
  • Getting to put faces to SCWBI staff and leaders!  Lin Oliver is my new crush!

And now I am back  at my desk, processing what  I have learned, glad to be able to incorporate those learnings into my WIP.

Lucky  me.

name tag

 

I’m Going to My First Writer’s Conference!

 

This weekend is the SCWBI Winter Conference in New York City.

SCWBI winter conference

 

I will be there. I will try to look like I fit in. I will try and act natural.

I will be squealing on the inside.

You see, I feel like Alice. I am a little late to the party.

mad-hatter-tea-party

I like to think of the 25 years I spent doing other things as the time I spent getting ready for what I am doing now.

But the truth is I see all these amazingly talented, younger authors debuting the most wonderful books this year and I am utterly gob-smacked. I can’t help but wonder where I might be now had I kept at it in my early 20s.

Oscar Wilde once famously said “One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.”

Writing and writing conferences fall into that category for me.

So here I am, off to my first children’s writer’s conference in the same year my first book will be published. It’s heady stuff.

But it’s also kind of unnerving. For years I would hear about the SCWBI conferences and imagine myself sitting there, soaking up all that knowledge, meeting writers with similar interests to mine.

In my mind there was always a golden haze around it – it was Oz, and I had closed the gates on myself as I had given up on my writing.

oz gates

What a DIFFERENCE three years make! I am going! And so if you see someone gawking, looking a little too excited, a little too happy, kind of goofy, that’ll be me. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

 

The Pain and Joy of Revisions

Life is one revision after another.

We crawl, we walk, we run, and sometimes if we are lucky, we fly.

Writing is no different. You come up with a great idea. Well, it seemed like a great idea, but then as you begin to write you find yourself stopping and starting, wondering “Who thought THIS up?” So you tweak it, turn it over, check its soft underbelly for weakness, discover it IS weak and begin again. Or change something. Or both.

You finish a first draft and think “This is the most brilliant story the world has ever seen. They might as well give me my Newbery Medal, my Oscar, my Pulitzer right now.”

A month later you read it again and think “This is unsalvageable”, but of course, it almost always is salvageable so long as you have the heart and the willingness to tear it all apart, move the pieces, throw a good chunk of the pieces away, and allow the true story, the one that needs to be told, to come out.

Revising-cartoon

 

When I first began writing, I was dogged by the twin enemies of excellence in writing: I thought I was a good writer and I was lazy.

I’d been told all my life I wrote well. Well yeah, but there is a huge difference between writing well in everyday life and writing well so your reader doesn’t want to put your book down.

And of course I wanted to get it right with draft one. Wouldn’t we all love that? I hang my head and admit to the rookie mistake of sending my manuscript to 5 agents before it is was ANYWHERE near being ready. I was shocked when I was rejected. But I shouldn’t have been, because the book was crap.

But I learned. I took courses, I got critiques, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. So long as I could think of a way to make it better, I tried. Only when I couldn’t, did I try submitting it again.

Apart from the reality that NO ONE is going to agree to publish your book until it is the best it can be, we  always have to remember who we are doing this for: the reader. They deserve our excellence. Anything less is a vanity project.

Can you tell I am in revising mode these days?  Well I am. I always will be. And I am glad.

Anyone else revising anything out there?

 

 

New Site Launched

Hey everyone, the new website is LIVE!

Many thanks to Ben Duncan at BEN.D Graphics for doing all the heavy lifting to give me a website I am so proud of!  I would definitely recommend Ben!

wendymcleodmacknight.com

Book Review: Dig Too Deep by Amy Allgeyer

dig too deep

I recently had the pleasure of reading Amy Allgeyer’s debut Young Adult Novel Dig Too Deep and I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you all!

First things first – this book is so timely. With its unflinching approach to how sound environmental practises are often tossed aside in the name of profits and local employment, Dig Too Deep does a masterful job of discussing mountaintop removal in coal mining, something I’d heard of but was not too familiar with.

mountaintop
The book tells the story of high school student Liberty (love the name), who is forced to move to Kentucky to live with her Granny when her mother is jailed for suspected environmental terrorism. But Granny’s world has changed – the mountains are being destroyed, the well water is bright orange, and people in the area are getting sick, including Granny. And Liberty, who until now has been a gifted student in a private school in Washington, finds herself in a strange new world where everyone seems to know that something bad is happening, but are too afraid or powerless to stop it. And while Liberty may think her public school classmates are hayseeds and chickens for not confronting the issue, she comes to realize the complexity of the issue for all involved.

Allgeyer is a world builder. You feel you know this world and even the potential love triangle has its own surprising twists and turns along the way. Can Liberty help her neighbours? Can she cope with her increasingly sick Granny? Can she forgive her mother? (un-affectionately called MFM – my former mother – by Liberty.

I loved this book and I think it is going to spark a lot of wonderful conversations and debates amongst its readers! A real page turner!

You can pre-order the book here.  I think this book would be really useful for the jobs versus the environment debate in the classroom. For the rest of us, it is just a marvelous read.

If you want to learn more about Amy, visit her website.

 

Happy New Year and Welcome to the Year of the Sweet 16s!

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but January 1st is always my tabula rasa, my opportunity to start anew. Of course that always involves reading and writing.

I expect my debut novel to be published later this year, although I still do not have a firm date. No matter – I am already working on its sequel, as well as the second draft of the book I began before the holidays. I am excited about both projects, as well as my debut novel!

I am also excited about all the good things I will read this year!  And there are so many!!!!  I am absolutely obsessed with Goodreads – I use it to track what I’ve read and what I want to read. As with all things in my life, my “want to read” list is the reading equivalent of my eyes being too big for my stomach, but a person has to dream, mustn’t they?

While I am excited about some of my favourite authors coming out with new books this year, I also want to support fellow debuts. I belong to a wonderful group of middle grade and young adult writers called The Sweet Sixteens. To date, there are over 170 of us with debut novels this year. We live all over the world and we have become a real support system for one another, which is grand, because trust me when I tell you: the whole publishing process is VERY confusing. Luckily, I am later in the process than many and I am learning by watching them!

Over the coming year, I will share some reviews of their books as well as just a heads up that they are out there in the world. To date, I have had the pleasure of reading 7 of the authors’ works and I can tell you they are writing great stuff. But debuts need your support, so I hope you will consider showing them a little love when you are at the bookstore or the library!

The first five were launched yesterday and include:

thisis where it ends paper wishes firsts curio bounders

 

I’ve read two of these books already and cannot wait to read the others!

Feel free to follow along on our journey on the Sweet Sixteens blog, or on twitter @TheSweet16s.

And by all means, follow me on Goodreads and let me know what you’re reading as well! It will give me more to add to my “want to read” list!

Have a great week!

 

 

Merry Christmas!

“Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”
Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

I wish you and yours the merriest of holiday seasons!  Here’s to a wonderful and peaceful 2016, full of amazing children’s and young adult literature!

 

P1030613

Blessings to you and yours.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I’ll be back next week with a review of an amazing Young Adult book set to be published in early January!

My favourite books of 2015!

 

Well I can’t resist! I’ve been reading so many wonderful year-end book lists that I thought I would add my two cents!

In no particular order, what I loved this year in Children’s and YA books:

  1. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy – Karen Foxlee
ophelia

This was such a good book – so creative and so suspenseful. I loved every moment of it!

2) Tabula Rasa – Kristen Lippert-Martin

tabula

Described as the Bourne Identity meets Divergent, this book had me from the first sentence and never let go. I bow down to Kristen and can’t wait for her next book!

3) The Alchemyst Series – Michael Scott

alch

This series has been out for awhile, but I just discovered it and when I did I devoured all six books in a two week period. For fantasy/adventure lovers who also love history, this is for you!

4) Circus Mirandus – Cassie Beasley

circus m

I loved this book. So much that I hated to see it end. A sweet and sour mystical adventure, you are going to want to run away and join the circus after reading this!

5) Fenway and Hattie – Victoria J. Coe

Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo Res

Okay – technically this book isn’t out until February, but I’m giving you a head start now so you can pre-order it. The most delightful story, all written from the perspective of a jack Russell terrier Fenway, this one made me laugh out loud!

6) The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society – Janet Sumner Johnson

PB&J

Another one that’s not out until March, but which you are going to want to buy for the middle grader in your life, this book soars with its portrayal of two friends doing anything they can to avoid being split up. I loved it!

7) The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

graveyard book

Oh, I know – what took me so long?  I loved every minute of this dark fantastical book and have vowed to share it with every child in my life. Neil Gaiman at his best, but then, you knew that…

8) The Night Gardener – Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener

This is a sort of companion to the book above, a creepy fairy tale that had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen.

9) The Penderwicks in Spring – Jeanne Birdsall

penderwicks in spring

I waited happily for this one and wasn’t disappointed. Jeanne Birdsall writes family, with all its joys and foibles, like nobody’s business. These are classics and for good reason.

10) Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl

Oh my gosh – what a joy. I plan to read this book once a year for the rest of my life, if only to enjoy the language and the masterful way Woodson evokes a time and place that you can taste and touch. Poignant and funny and brutal, this book continues to stay with me.

So that’s my top ten kidlit picks for 2015. Would love to know yours!

 

Books with wonderful Christmas Scenes in them and one very poignant Chanukah scene…

 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about gratitude, in which I mentioned how the Christmas scene in Little Women was such a powerful scene to me, because the girls give up their Christmas breakfast for those in need.

What I didn’t mention then, but which I thought of afterwards, was how homely and cozy that scene was because I love it when fictional characters celebrate Christmas or Chanukah, or any other holiday.

And that got me to thinking about other children’s books that celebrate Christmas or Chanukah well.  This is my short list below. I am counting on you to add others!

  1. Little House in the Prairie

The scene where Mr. Edwards delivers Christmas to Laura and Mary Ingalls on behalf of Santa Claus always makes me kind of weepy.

“oh thank you, Mr. Edwards! Thank you!” they said, and they meant it with all their hearts. Pa shook Mr. Edwards’ hand, too, and shook it again. Pa and Ma and Mr. Edwards acted as if they were almost crying. Laura didn’t know why. So she gazed again at her beautiful presents.

little house

2) Anne of Green Gables

anne of gg

The Christmas Matthew gives Anne her dress with the puffed sleeves (I insisted on something similar after reading about it) is still one of my favourites:

Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem right, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green – they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why-why-Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!

3) The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas – Madeleine L’Engle

twenty four days

This is a bit of a cheat given the title, but when I read this the first time I loved celebrating Christmas with the Austins, one of my all-time favourite fictional families. Full of the excitement that builds before Christmas, along with the warm embrace of a close family, this book is like slipping into a warm tub of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

The sky was dark and clear and crusted with stars. I watched and watched. There was one star that was brighter and more sparkling than any of the others. The Christmas star. Mother was home. Daddy was home, Our baby brother was home. We were all together. I whispered, “Thank you.” And the light shone right into my heart.

4) Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown – Maud Hart Lovelace

betsy tacy

I loved Betsy and Tacy doing their Christmas shopping, something that happens again and again as the series progresses. It reminds me of the time I went shopping in Calais, Maine with my best friend Barbie and we went to Newberry’s Department Store with probably $3 to our names and thought we were queens of the world!

“They gave themselves then with abandon to the sweet delight of choosing. It was almost pain to choose. Each fragile bauble was gayer, more enchanting than the last. What each one chose she would take home; she would see it on the Christmas tree; she would see it year after year; if she were lucky and it did not break. They walked around and around the table, touching softly with mittened hands. Betsy at last chose a large red ball. Tacy chose an angel. Tib chose a rosy Santa Claus. Winona chose a silver trumpet. …They walked to Ray’s Shoe Store, smiling, holding Christmas in their hands.”

5) Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

anne-frank

When I first read this book at age twelve, I was changed forever. Her persecution seared my soul and has never left me after all these years. When the family celebrates Chanukah in the book, I was reminded that even when faced with persecution and potential death, love conquers all. And throughout it all, Anne is the optimist, the beautiful flower trapped in  concrete, growing up towards the light.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Given that this week is the Festival of Lights, and that we would all do well to remember Anne Frank and honour her shining memory, it seems apropos to end this list with Anne.

How about you? I’d love to hear your favourite Christmas/Chanukah scenes in books!

Until next time – keep reading!

 

Review – Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe

 

Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo Res

Happy Wednesday!

Today I have the great treat of giving you an advanced sneak peek of a wonderful new middle grade book, Fenway and Hattie, which will be published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons on February 9th, 2016.

There is so much to love about this book, but I’m not going to lie: you are going to love Fenway most of all.

Fenway is the exuberant Jack Russell Terrier whose joie de vivre and love of all things, especially his short human Hattie, makes you want to run right out and get yourself a dog! Unless, like me, you already have a dog, in which case you will find yourself following him or her around the house trying to imagine what they are thinking about!  (In the case of my dog Indy: bones, sleep, and marshmallows!)

This is a book that is going to appeal to both boys and girls in elementary school, who are going to love the adventures and the sweet optimism of this dog. Like them, Fenway faces his own challenges – the wicked floor, a move to the burbs – but with the help of his personality and his loving family, all can be conquered.  If you want to read more of my thoughts as well as others’ thoughts on this wonderful book, visit goodreads here.

This is Victoria’s first book and she really does a wonderful job of capturing a dog’s view of their world.  You can visit her and Fenway at her website here. Except squirrels. Squirrels are NOT welcome! Fenway even has a sign on the website to make this explicitly clear!

Squirrel

Definitely on my list for the children in my life, this book is going to be a series and I for one cannot wait for Fenway’s next adventure!

I’m giving this two paws up!

You can pre-order your copy at amazon here or Chapters here.

Until next time, keep reading and writing and most of all, keep having fun!

Wendy

Gratitude

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Given that tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, and that I forgot to write a special post for Canadian Thanksgiving, this seems as good a day as any to post on this topic.

While I have almost always felt grateful for the many blessings in my life, I admit that there are times I forget to find the silver lining, or if I cannot go that far, remember that the sun will rise tomorrow.

When I first read Little Women, the scene where the March sisters give up their Christmas breakfast had such a profound impact on me.

Merry Christmas, little daughters! I’m glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfasts a Christmas present?

They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke, only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously, I’m so glad you came before we began!

May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children? asked Beth eagerly.

I shall take the cream and the muffins, added Amy, heroically giving up the article she most liked.

Meg was already covering the buckwheat’s, and piling the bread into one big plate.

I thought you’d do it, said Mrs. March, smiling as if satisfied. You shall all go and help me, and when we come back we will have bread and milk for breakfast, and make it up at dinnertime.

I’ve never forgotten that passage, nor the willingness of the sisters to step up. It is a wonderful reminder of the sentiment of Thanksgiving and of the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons ahead.

 

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Lessons learned in books, not in a heavy-handed way, but as part of a story, are some of the best ways for us to learn our lessons. The March girls aren’t noble, but they are good, and it wonderful to think of what we might share with others in our own lives.

I hope you have a wonderful day!  In gratitude, Wendy

 

Author of Children's Literature

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