Monday, September 29, 2008


Adam Selzer is hilarious! This is the sequel to HOW TO GET SUSPENDED AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. Leon and the gifted pool are assigned their next project. He and Anna and his group decide to make another film. (If you remember in the first book, they made an avant garde sex-ed film that caused much uproar at school). This time, the kids are all real mad about what’s happening to the old downtown section of town. Stores are closing because of the new mall & Mega-Mart that opened up in the new area of town. Their favorite coffee shop, Sip, is located in the old downtown. However, in the new area of town Wackfords (reads a lot like Starbucks) has opened and threatens the existence of Sip. So Leon hatches a rebellious plan to help Sip from closing its doors.

This one was a smidge less funny than the first book, but still great. The action and the dialogue is hysterical. Leon’s parents are so quirky (dad conducts science experiments on himself & ends up with a green mohawk). You really have to wonder what it would be like to live with them.

Completely worth the read, but please read the first one first.

Click here for my review.

Here’s the website for Adam Selzer, so you can read more about him, if you’re interested. He calls himself a writer, rock star, tour guide, ghost buster and all-around smart-aleck, which totally makes sense!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Deborah Hopkinson: Author Interview

I'm thrilled to be hosting Deborah Hopkinson on the first stop of her Blog Tour! You probably know her from her many, spectacular historical fiction books. She's been winning awards since her very first book, SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT, which won the International Reading Association award in 1994. Her books have won ALA recognition, as well as many state awards. Deborah was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Massachusetts and a master's in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii. She is a great supporter of education and loves to do school visits. Plus, she has a ton of great resources for teachers and librarians on her website.

Click here to see a few of my favorite books by Deborah.

Here is her brand new book: ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK

Let's get o
n with the Interview! (several of the questions were contributed by students)

Q: When did you get started writing? Did you write as a child?

A: As a girl I loved to read fiction, and I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I didn’t write much as a child, although I did keep a journal. It wasn’t until I had a little girl of my own that I began writing.

When I began taking my daughter, Rebekah, to the library I suddenly realized that picture books were short enough for a busy working mom to try. And so I did!

I think reading is the best preparation you can make for being a writer. And remember, most of us have to do some kind of writing whatever job we get. 

It’s all practice!

Q: Are you a full time writer or do you work in another occupation in addition to writing?

A: No, I am not a full time author. I work in philanthropy, which means I raise money to help others. I do lots of writing in my day job too.

Q: Since most of your books are picture books and younger reader chapter books, what made you decide to write INTO THE FIRESTORM, your middle school/YA novel?

A: Actually, before I wrote Into the Firestorm I had written a longer fiction piece for middle grade readers, a Dear America diary called Hear My Sorrow. I also wrote two longer nonfiction books for older readers. So it was a natural step to try a novel for middle grade readers. I love history and couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn more about the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in 1906, which forms the setting for Nick’s story in Into the Firestorm.

Q: I was surprised to read that you didn't like history much as a child. But I know what you mean. History in textbooks isn't the same as reading stories about history. What inspired you to write historical fiction?

A: The part of history I did like was being able to learn on my own and do research. I actually wrote a really long term paper in the sixth grade about horse racing! I didn’t study history much in college, though. But when I began to search for topics to write about I returned to history. Historical fiction and nonfiction are great ways to learn more about ordinary people who lived before us who often did extraordinary things!

Q: Do you enjoy the research involved with writing historical fiction?

A: I guess most kids will think I am a real nerd, but the truth is I could do research all day long! I love poking into libraries, finding old books no one has checked out in years, poring over maps, and looking on the Internet. Of course, the very best research takes place when I have the chance to actually go someplace and see it with my own eyes! I remember walking up the old stone stairs to Jubilee Hall of Fisk University, where my book A BAND OF ANGELS is set, and getting shivers just thinking that the young people in my book probably walked up and down these very same stairs long ago.

Q: After researching so many time periods for your books, is there a time in American history that you're particularly fond of?

A: Most of my books are set during the 1800s, and it really was a fascinating time in American history. So many dramatic events happened, including the Civil War, and the beginnings of the suffrage movement, as well as the arrival of many immigrants. The more I write about this period the better I understand how our country came to be.

Q: Which do you like writing better: picture books or chapter books?

A: Well, since I still have a full time job, I do like writing picture books, partly because they are shorter and easier to concentrate on when I come home tired from work!

Q: My students are always curious about how illustrators are selected for picture books. Can you tell us a little about that process? Do you get to have some input?

A: In most cases, a book’s editor chooses the artist for the book. The author may have some input but may not make the final decision. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to get together with an illustrator and come up with an idea. For instance, illustrator James Ransome and I put our heads together to come up with the theme of building the Empire State Building in SKY BOYS How They Built the Empire State Building.

Q: Did you have any favorite authors while growing up?

A: My favorite books growing up were The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin, and Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte. I still love these books. In fact, I have a tape of The Secret Garden in my car to listen to right now!

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors now?

A: I have many favorite authors! I like reading books for young readers by Deborah Wiles, Cynthia Rylant, Christopher Paul Curtis, and Lois Lowry. And I still read Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen a lot!

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a successful, published author?

A: It is a wonderful feeling to create something new, like a book. But it’s even better to be able to share that book with kids. I love meeting young people and talking about books. And luckily, being an author means I get to do that a lot.

Q: Tell us about your new book, ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK. Did something inspire you to write this story?

A: The year 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Abe Lincoln’s birth. My new book tells a story about Abe as a boy most people don’t know: how he was rescued from downing when he was seven by his friend, Austin Gollaher. I think it’s a fun book about two boys getting into trouble that that kids today will like – especially the pictures!

Thanks so much for taking time away from your busy schedule to answer some questions for my students and readers! We’re looking forward to reading your new book.

Read more about Ms. Hopkinson on her website or blog:

Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the tour please check

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Suzanne Supplee. ARTICHOKE'S HEART

Rosemary feels like her life would be perfect if only she were skinny. And everyone around her seems to echo that sentiment. Her mother buys her a treadmill for Christmas, and her Aunt buys her tickets to a weight-loss seminar. It’s even more difficult when Rosemary works at her mom’s beauty salon, since Rosemary feels anything but beautiful. Watching all the skinny, pretty girls from school traipsing in and out everyday only makes her feel worse about herself. Then a few dramatic events happen to make Rosie reevaluate her life. She begins to stick to a plan that makes her begin to lose weight. But, she must do more than lose weight to lose her “fat” image of herself. Along with a few good friends, she does begin to find her value and begin to hope for the future.

Okay, I have to admit that the chocolate on the cover is what grabbed my attention! But this book is really lovely and well-written. It’s so honest about how many teenage girls feel about themselves, whether they are overweight or not. It’s also honest in the way it shows how you really can be loved by friends and boys, even if you aren’t perfect. That is such a wonderful sentiment for teenagers (and older girls) to learn and to internalize.

What a wonderful, inspirational book. The atmosphere and the southern charm really warmed my heart. Plus, it was funny!

Check out the author’s website here
And her blog here

I’m looking forward to more from this charming author!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Deborah Hopkinson. INTO THE FIRESTORM

Back when I was a classroom teacher, I used to tell my language arts students that reading historical fiction is like taking a trip back in time. This is a trip back in time to a major natural disaster. It takes place in 1906 in San Francisco. Nicholas Dray has just become an orphan. He grew up Texas, picking cotton since he was a small child. Since he’s all alone, he decides it’s a good time to make his way to “the Paris of the Pacific”, as his teacher used to call San Francisco. After several days of bad luck, he finally meets a man that offers him a job and a place to stay. The kind Mr. Pat allows Nick to watch his stationery store while he goes out of town for a few days. The very first night of Nick’s new job, an earthquake strikes. An earthquake alone was bad enough, but then fires break out in various places in the city. The fires spread quickly, since the water mains are broken from the earthquake and limit the amount of usable water. People are evacuating their homes and leaving town. The remainder of the novel is an account of Nick making heavy decisions for such a young kid. How will he help his neighbors, a young girl and her pregnant mother, evacuate if necessary? How will he protect the store or its valuables? How will he ever find Mr. Pat’s dog, Shakespeare, who ran off? Should he go back home to Texas? You really feel the desperation and sense of loss that must have clouded the city through Nick and the other characters.

This was a fast paced, exciting novel. What a devastating event. It’s one of the worst natural disasters in American History. It left half the population homeless and so much of the city destroyed. Usually, I find it difficult to pick up a historical fiction novel, unless I’m already interested in that time period. But, this one grabbed me from page one. I enjoyed my trip through time. In my opinion, a good historical fiction novel, like this one, leaves you with the feeling you were there.

This author has written many historical fiction books. To find out more, click here for her website.

***I have the pleasure of interviewing this author. I will be posting that interview the week of Sep 21. She has a new book coming out on Sep 9:

In Knob Creek, Kentucky, in 1816, seven-year-old Abe Lincoln falls into a creek and is rescued by his best friend, Austin Gollaher.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of my other favorites by Ms. Hopkinson:

APPLES TO OREGON: being the (slightly) true narrative of how a brave pioneer father brought apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, and cherries (and children) across the plains
(yes, that's the full title!)

A pioneer family moving to Oregon decides to take part of their orchard with them. They carefully place apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, and cherries in a big wooden wagon and head off on their journey. Along the way, they have obstacles such as rivers to cross, droughts, hailstorms, and Jack Frost. All through it, one daughter, Delicious, helps her father to protect the precious plants. He loves the plants so much you wonder when he says that “we got to find a water hole or my babies are done for” if he is thinking of his kids or his plants. They finally make it to Oregon with the plants intact, and they live to a ripe old age. The whimsical illustrations depict the light hearted tall tale well. They really made me laugh out loud numerous times. My favorite is when the kid’s feet are shown dangling out of the apple trees. The author’s consistent use of alliteration like “peaches are plummeting” and “plums are plunging” make this an excellent read aloud.

THE KLONDIKE KID: Sailing for Gold

I loved the size and length of this book. I think it’s a great way for advanced readers to get longer books, yet still have pictures. The cliffhanger ending is a wonderful way to keep kids interested in the series. The plot was well-paced. The illustrations are simple black and white sketches of meaningful scenes. The main character is endearing. The secondary characters are interesting.


SHUTTING OUT THE SKY:Life in the tenements of New York 1880-1924

SKY BOYS: How the built the Empire State Building