the stars on my bookshelf:

THE PRINCESS DIARIST

by Carrie Fisher

Carrie on how she felt about Harrison:

The itty bitty spidered his way up my water spout

He little Jack Hornered his way into my corner

And now I can’t get him out

He ate all my porridge, sat in my chair

Slept in my bed, washed himself into my hair

Hey, all you King’s horses!

Whether you’re horse’s asses or men,

Could you pretty please piece my heart back together again?

Journal notes from the filming of the first Star Wars movies

RIP Carrie Fisher. May the force be always with you.

SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD

by M.T. Anderson

“Engaging, impeccably well-researched and written.”

Dmitri Shostakovich

The author

SALT TO THE SEA

by Ruta Sepetys

“Brought salt to my eyes–happy and sad ones!”

Starts and ends with these words.

4th Annual Thanksgiving Author Talk: Writing Contest 3rd Grade Winners

Bobbie Pyron, author of A DOG’S WAY HOME, THE DOGS OF WINTER, and LUCKY STRIKE, and I did a school visit at Trailside Elementary School in Park City, Utah before the Thanksgiving holiday. We hosted a writing contest for the 3rd and 5th graders and judged their entries. Today’s blog post features the 3rd grade winning and finalist entries. Each child was asked to write a Fibonacci poem about Thanksgiving, family, friends or a pet.

3rd-grade-winners

Congratulations to Janie who produced the winning entry!

winner-janie

Finalists included Ty, Lily, Brocton and Emma.

Here are their poems:

finalist-ty

finalist-lily

finalist-brocton

finalaist-emma

Special thanks to:

All of the kids who participated in the workshop and the teachers who supported them.

Sue Beasom, librarian extraordinaire for inviting us to her school.

Debbie Gonzales for developing the Fibonacci writing exercise.

Anjuli Turner for taking photographs.

4th Annual Thanksgiving Author Event: Writing Contest 5th Grade Winners

Bobbie Pyronimg_2533, author of A DOG’S WAY HOME, THE DOGS OF WINTER, and LUCKY STRIKE, and I did a school visit at Trailside Elementary School in Park City, Utah before the Thanksgiving holiday. We hosted a writing contest for the 3rd and 5th graders and judged their entries. Today’s blog post features the 3rd grade winning and finalist entries. Each child was asked to write a Fibonacci poem about Thanksgiving, family, friends or a pet.

Congratulations to Kaleigh for producing the winning entry!

winner-kaleigh

Finalists included Sofia, Izzie, Kaylee, Carson, Garrett, Grace, Carter and Kardin.

finalist-sofia

finalist-izzie

finalist-kaylee

finalaist-carson

finalist-garrett

finalist-grace

finalist-carter

finalist-kardin finalist-kandin

Special thanks to:

All of the kids who participated in the workshop and the teachers who supported them.

Sue Beasom, librarian extraordinaire for inviting us to her school.

Debbie Gonzales for developing the Fibonacci writing exercise.

Anjuli Turner for taking photographs.

Author Interview with Joel ben Izzy: DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN

dreidelsonthebrain_2-18Today I welcome Joel ben Izzy to World Reads. His new book, DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN (Penguin, 2016) would make a perfect gift for middle grade readers and up. With Hanukkah coming up soon it would also make a great Hanukkah gift for any reader interested in a fictionalized coming-of-age Hanukkah memoir!

Where is it set? 

The stories takes place in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles, over the eight nights of Hanukkah, in December, 1971. There are mentions of both Poland and Israel.

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Joel is a “seriously funny looking” twelve-year-old magician trying to survive Hanukkah, 1971. That’s no small task, as the only Jew at Bixby School with a family that’s both mortifyingly embarassing and flat-out broke.

When Joel asks God for a miracle, he has no idea that what’s about to happen him and his family will be far worse than he’d feared – and better than he could have imagined.

Here are some links to reviews you can check out to learn what other people are saying about DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN: 

Amazon has some nice reviews

School Library Journal

Libraries Unlimited (appearing January 1, 2017) offers this book blurb:

“This fresh, fast-paced read is a must purchase for any middle school collection… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

This being a fictionalized memoir, it’s the home and city where I grew up, in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles.

What inspired you to write this story?

Hanukkah is such a quirky, often overlooked holiday, I wanted to write a story that captures that sense of finding light within the darkness.   Digging into my past as a nerdy kid magician, I found one story I’ve always loved – about an orange – that became the inspiration for this book.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

I’m a professional storyteller, so telling stories in person comes easily to me. The hard part is getting them to sound right – and still be funny – when I write them. I found it took draft after draft after draft, the help of my editor – and a great deal of input from my wife, a gifted wordsmith.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

I’ll be telling all kinds of stories in the weeks and months ahead – from China, Ireland, Israel, Mexico and everywhere in between. As a storyteller, that’s what I do.

As for writing, I’m playing with some ideas about a story like this, that would have one foot in that same suburb, another in Paris, and a third in Israel…

joelbenizzy_ahrigoldenWhat else would you like us to know about you or your story?

This is my second book. The first was The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness (Algonquin, 2003). Though a memoir for adults, it’s also great for older kids, from about 12 and up.

Weaving together folktales from my travels around the globe, it recounts the journey that began when I awoke from surgery to discover I could no longer speak.  At first doctors thought it was temporary, but later they decided it was permanent, and so it was that I fell into a story as strange as any I had ever told.  It was filled with twists and turns including the most surprising all – the return of my voice, long after I had given up hope.

I also have CDs of my stories – you can see them on my web site as well. They have stories from China, Poland, Israel, Ireland, England, Italy and many other places.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Though not the first, I remember spending a summer reading The Wizard of Oz series from first to last. I loved traveling to that world.

Readers can learn more about Joel ben Izzy by checking out his webpage or connecting with him on Facebook. Thank you for joining us on World Reads, Joel ben Izzy. Your book is a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age Hanukkah story that I enjoyed reading and recommend highly. Good luck with it and look forward to other books from you and your wife, Taly.

 

 

Q and A with Sherry Weaver Smith: THE WOLF AND THE SHIELD

Sherry Weaver Smith The Wolf and the Shield BOOK COVERToday I welcome Sherry Weaver Smith to Dog Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a canine story for kids or young adults. What is the title of your book? Pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group? Illustrator?

The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick, Pauline Books and Media, January 2016, Ages 8-12, Nicholas McNally Illustrator

AOB: Who is your key dog character(s) and what kind of dog is he/she? Feel free to list as many different breeds or mixes as necessary. Tell us a little more about him/her.

Aisling is an orphaned Gray Wolf pup, who likes to chase after anything that makes a sound, falls asleep quickly after playing, and curls up when she’s cold. She has light gray fur like birch tree trunks mixed with the soft white of a snowy path on the way to an adventure. She lives in 5th century Ireland.

AOB: In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Ever since Kieran’s father’s death, he’s tried to take care of his mother and little brother. When Saint Patrick helps him to rescue a wolf pup, his choices become more difficult. Should he leave home to join Carrick’s warriors? Will someone discover the wolf he’s been hiding and kill it? Join Kieran as he cares for the orphaned pup and searches for a shield strong enough to protect everyone he loves.

Links to reviews or blurbs.

AOB: What inspired you to write this story?

I found an article that described how Celtic saints turned to animals as friends when they couldn’t find their way. At other times, they saved animals at a point in history, where unlike today, it wasn’t common to rescue them.

St. Patrick stopped his friends from hunting a deer and her fawn who were resting on a hilltop where the group of men wanted to build a church. St. Aidan protected a hungry wolf by feeding it meat that the saint needed for himself. St. Melangell saved a hare from a hunt by hiding the fleeing animal in her robes. Sometimes, saints needed saving. Otters protected a saint, Cuthbert, so absorbed in prayer that he found himself over chilled in the North Sea. The furry creatures wrapped around his legs.

I was inspired by these caring people, who had so little but often were willing to give that away to animals.

AOB: What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was also the most fun: trying to imagine a story while also making sure it was historically accurate. I faced an exciting pile of books to do research regarding St. Patrick’s spirituality, plants and animals, customs, tools, food, and many details of 5th century Ireland.

AOB: What other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones?

What are these stories about?

The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick is my first book.

AOB: What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?

My next book, Search for the Hidden Garden: A Discovery with Saint Thérèse, will be published in August 2016. In the story, ten-year-old Charlotte and her friends think they are only looking for adventure when they happen upon a hidden garden. But they find much more than they expected—and face a threat to the trees themselves. Can Thérèse, an extraordinary fifteen-year-old girl preparing to become a Carmelite nun, help Charlotte to find the true treasure hidden inside the garden? And will Charlotte discover the mission she’s been on all along?

AOB: What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

It might seem hard for children to relate to St. Patrick, who lived so long ago. He had the courage to return as a priest to Ireland, where he had been a slave. For many Catholics, he is a symbol of having courage to follow God no matter what.

But I think children, by tapping into their deep compassion for animals, can relate to this story of St. Patrick, Kieran, and a wolf pup. Taking care of a pet is one of the earliest ways that kids show kindness and responsibility—all on their own—even at the risk that those first friends may become sick, hurt, or even die. Children show great courage when they journey through pets’ lives and end of life, and kids connect with Kieran, across time and across place, in this universal story.

AOB: Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Yes, Where the Red Fern Grows. I didn’t have a dog as a child (I had a cat), and I never had to move to a different home. But I still understood the beauty of a red fern shading the graves of two beloved pet dogs when a boy has to leave that place behind when his family moves. The title of Where the Red Fern Grows points to the way places can hold memories. As a writer now, I’m still looking for red ferns. I’ve written a series of poems for adults about graveyards that wonder about the stories memorialized there.

Sherry Weaver Smith AUTHOR PHOTOAOB: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

For me, the best part about creative writing is creativity—finding ideas! Ban writer’s block by:

  1. Carrying a 3×5-inch blank notebook or your phone to record your ideas—at all times.
  1. Collecting images of things that you like for your story: in newspapers, magazines, your own photos, or online.
  1. Lining up a playlist that evokes the characters of your story in their world. When I was first writing, I lived in bright California surrounded by brown hills. Kieran in The Wolf and the Shield protects his tiny wolf pup in a dark oak forest. So, I found lots of songs, like a movie soundtrack, that echoed this landscape.

Readers can learn more about Sherry Weaver Smith on her web page or by following her on Twitter. Thank you Sherry Weaver Smith for joining us at World Reads! Thank you Sherry Weaver Smith for joining us at Dog Reads!

All materials © 2017 Annemarie O'Brien. Web site by Websy Daisy. Illustration © 2013 by Tim Jessell