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Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting, and please let me know how this blog served you.
Cheers,
Kim Tomsic

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Starred Reviews for Melanie Crowder: Three Pennies



“Never, under any circumstances, tell anyone that you’re waiting for your mother to come back for you.” That’s Marin’s motto in ThreePennies by Melanie Crowder.

With her I Ching, three pennies, and a ceramic piggy bank, eleven-year-old Marin travels from foster home to foster home until she meets Dr. Lucy. The sweet, honest, earnest Dr. Lucy would love to adopt Marin, but only if Marin will let her in her heart, and the heart is a very important organ. Even though Dr. Lucy is a surgeon, she has a less-than medical explanation for the four chambers of the heart. She says she likes to, “…think each chamber is responsible for a different kind of love. One for family. One for friends. Maybe another for pets and really special teachers…” Dr. Lucy’s fourth chamber is saved for romantic love and that space is full, but Dr. Lucy goes on to say, “…the other three chambers of my heart still have lots of room left—the family chamber, and the friends one, and the one for pets, too. What about you? Do you have any room left? Not in the chamber you have saved for your mother, of course. But what about the pet one?”

Still, as much as Dr. Lucy tries, Marin just can’t let someone else be her mother, can she? With the clock ticking down to the court meeting for adoption proceedings, Marin starts a secret and clever hunt for her birth mother. Readers will fall in love with Marin, which makes it all the more worrisome as she dives head-first into danger!

Crowder’s writing is beautiful and engaging. If hearts had a chamber for loved books, then Three Pennies would fit perfectly in that chamber.

Don’t take my word for it. The stars shine bright from the reviewers, too:
STARRED REVIEW FROM KIRKUS: “As tectonic plates shift underneath San Francisco, 11-year-old Marin rearranges the spaces in her own heart for the woman who wants to be her mother. A beautifully written and thoroughly modern family breaking-and-making story. (Fiction. 9-12)”

STARRED REVIEW FROM SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: The language of this short and intense story is spare and evocative, and the chapters are brief and impressionistic. VERDICT This tender tale of human frailty tugs at heartstrings and will satisfy tweens who like to read with a tissue handy.

Where to buy:



Boulder Bookstore (EVENT!  Book signing with Melanie Crowder, Tara Dairman, and Jeannie Mobley September 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm. Boulder Bookstore, Pearl Street, Boulder CO)



  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (May 2, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1481471872
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481471879

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman

Author Tara Dairman (All Four Stars series) has another great book coming out this fall. 
In The Great Hibernation, (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Kids, September 12, 2017) all the parents and teens in the town of St. Polonius fall fast asleep in a mysterious state of hibernation, and science-minded Jean Huddy can’t help but wonder if there’s a strange illness…or worse, a curse—a curse that Jean has brought upon the town.

With parents and teens out for the count, Magnus, the son of the Mayor, proclaims the town charter requires the children of St. Polonius must take over their parents’ jobs, especially since St. Polonius is remotely located on a fjord and a blizzard has hit thereby preventing access to help. Naturally, the twelve and under crowd step up and start running things.

Almost everyone is excited: The daughter of the librarian wants to throw out the Dewey Decimal system and file books by color; Axel Gorson, who is only eight, now drives the snowplow; and six-year-old Annemarie Hammerstein (the daughter of the local doctor) starts practicing stitches on her dollies! But it’s not all fun and games, because Magnus the Mayor is ready to run things with a Mafia-esque iron fist.

Jean, her brother Micah, and a sheep named Rambo lead this story in adventure and hilarity, but also woven in are a handful of beautiful yet subtle devices in which this story deals with cultural differences and prejudices. For example, after a horrible kitchen incident where Jean doesn’t know what to do or how to act, Isara, the now proprietor of the restaurant whose family moved to St. Polonius from Thailand, comes to rescue. He offers a kind hand and says he knows what it’s like to, “be in a place where nothing makes sense. Were you don't know the rules. Sometimes, you need someone to show you the way.”

The Great Hibernation delivers page-turning doses of intrigue, adventure, and humor with one fun-filled complication after another, a truly can’t-put-downable book!

Buying Links listed alphabetically:
Amazon  
BookBar (a beautiful independent bookstore)
Second Star to the Right (a beautiful independent bookstore)
Boulder Book Store (signing event at this bookstore in September!) 


The Great Hibernation fall book tour
Books of Wonder – New York, NY
Sunday, September 17, 1 pm
Middle-grade panel and launch party! (with Jessica Lawson, Tracey Baptiste,  & Allison Cherry)
The Voracious Reader  – Larchmont, NY
Monday, September 18, evening (time TBA)
Science & magic! A middle grade event with Sarah Albee, & Corey Ann Haydu

Trident Booksellers & Cafe
 – 
Boston, MA
Tuesday, September 19, 6:30 pm
Super middle-grade panel! (with Debbi Michiko Florence, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Jen Malone, & Katie Slivensky, moderated by Dana Alison Levy)

One More Page Books
 – Arlington, VA
Saturday, September 23, 3pm
Kidlit panel! (with Tracey Baptiste, Caroline Carlson, & Jessica Lawson, moderated by Madelyn Rosenberg)
Boulder Book Store – Boulder, CO
Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 pm
Middle-grade book launch party! (with Jeannie Mobley & Melanie Crowder)
BookPeople – Austin, TX
Sunday, October 8, 2 pm
A Triple Launch Party! (with Christina Soontornvat & Jeannie Mobley)

Author:Tara Dairman
Publisher:Wendy Lamb Books / Random House Childrens Books
Date Published:September 12, 2017
Street Date:September 12, 2017
Format:Hardcover
Length:272 pages
Language:English
ISBN:1524717851 / 9781524717858
Categories:Kids & Teens / Fiction & Literature / Family & Social Issues / General
Kids & Teens / Fiction & Literature / Health / Illness & Injuries
Kids & Teens / Fiction & Literature / Family & Social Issues / Friendship
Audience:Children's - Grade 4-6, Age 9-11







Saturday, July 22, 2017

Two Picture Books with Great Page Turns



Fact: The page turn is important. Librarians and story time readers select books that are engaging to their little listeners. Tired parents and grandparents often select books that don’t seem daunting and wordy, especially when they’ve promised three stories. And children and publishers select books they want to read over and over again. Key to everyone’s taste, cue the page turn: Did something happen on the page you’re reading that makes you excited to flip to the next page?



Two releases (one just a week old, and the other from 2016) that master the art of the page turn include WHOBERT WHOVER Owl Detective (Margaret K McElderry books  July 18, 2017) written by Jason Gallaher and illustrated by Jess Pauwels; and DEAR DRAGON (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016)written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo.



WHOBERT WHOVER:  Whobert is a bumbling detective always on the search of his next case. And since he's searching for a clue, so is the picture book audience who is alerted (a-la Find Waldo) to figure out what's wrong starting on the very first page. Here, illustrator Jess Pauwels offers a lovely smorgasbord for the eyes. Throughout the story, she delivers colorful creatures with delightful expressions—art that truly inspires the reread. Book-lovers will want to comb the pages over and over again to search for what they might’ve missed—a worthwhile effort, especially when you find the spider and the crawdad!



Adding to the reread is the text, of course! Gallaher's mystery has page turns to guide readers through the necessary qualities of a good detective (find a clue, follow a trail, etc.), plus the fun play on colloquialisms make the story twice is fun to hear aloud (of course a fish says "Glurgle blurp").  Each page turn engages the child to be part of solving this mystery.



In short, it's sparse text, adorable illustrations, and the audience engagement factor makes WHOBERT WHOVER Owl Detective a winner!




DEAR DRAGON (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016)written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo is another must-have for your personal library.


From the book jacket:

A sweet and clever friendship story in rhyme, about looking past physical differences to appreciate the person (or dragon) underneath.
"George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write letters to each other about everything: their pets, birthdays, favorite sports, and science fair projects. There’s just one thing that the two friends don’t know: George is a human, while Blaise is a dragon! What will happen when these pen pals finally meet face-to-face?"

"When I was a kid, my best friend was Josh Funk. Now he's becoming a friend to a whole new generation.”--B.J. Novak, author of The New York Times bestseller The Book With No Pictures




Dear Dragon may have more words than Whobert, still every single word matters. Furthermore, Dear Dragon's has an absorbing play between the words and the art; between what the pen pal reader assumes vs. what's really happening. The misunderstandings make the pages in the story flip faster and faster as excitement builds and readers wonder how this will resolve in the end.

Not only is Dear Dragon a fun read, but according to an Amazon reviewer, “The book is a good way to talk to children about finding similarities where we might otherwise only see differences.



Friday, May 26, 2017

BookBar Puts 2500 Books in the Hands of Needy Children



This week, BookBar Denver, will be donating over 2500 children’s books to local students—and if that’s not fantastic enough, they made sure the books they plan to donate were written or illustrated by local authors and illustrators!

Don’t blink! When BookBar says they want to get something done, they move fast. At the beginning of May, BookBar Denver set a goal to get local author and illustrator books in the hands of needy children so these kids would have something to read over the summer. In order to meet that goal, BookBar reached out to the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and allowed authors and illustrators to apply to have their book selected for purchase in BookBar's giveaway plan.

After carefully considering the following: relationship with individual publishers, book publication date, diversity of characters, settings, situations for the diverse community, price, and previous relationships with local authors and illustrators—BookBar chose 15 RMC SCBWI member titles and purchased an average of five cases of each title (all recorded by Bookscan). Here are the titles they selected:
Author or illustrator
Title
Regan, Dian
Space Boy and the Space Pirate
Fenske, Jonathan
Plankton is Pushy
Wing, Natasha
Night Before Summer Vacation
Cowles, Ashlee
Beneath Wandering Stars
Bertman, Jennifer
Book Scavenger
Jones, Traci
Silhouetted by the Blue
Tuell, Todd
Ninja Ninja Never Stop
Vega, Denise
If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed
Phumiruk, Dow
Maya Lin - Artist-Architect
Cooner, Donna
Can't Look Away
Feagan, Alice
School Days Around the World
Mills, Claudia
Cody Harmon, King of Pets
Rose, Judy
Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco
Crowder, Melanie
A Nearer Moon
Reidy, Jean
All Through My Town

More about their press release and birthday celebration: BookBar will be celebrating its fourth year as an independent bookstore and wine bar in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood on Saturday May 27th. Festivities will include raffles, literary games and giveaways all day from 10 am - 10 pm. There will be a cake cutting and champagne toast at 8 pm. In appreciation of four years of collaboration with local authors/illustrators and local schools, and in partnership with RMC SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), BookBar will be donating over 2500 children’s books by local authors to local schools!

These donations will be delivered to Northwest Denver schools the week of May 28th to ensure that children can take a book home for summer break. This is part of a program that BookBar and RMC SCBWI hope to expand upon in order to connect Colorado students with Colorado authors. BookBar is also excited to announce the addition of a 1400 square foot events and gallery space for the whole family. As the store continues to grow and thrive, there is an increasing need for a dedicated event space to serve our growing literary community. This space will include a mini bar / cafe and serve as a book art gallery during non-event hours, featuring local artists specializing in art created from and about books as informative literary showcases. In addition, it will be available for community events and meeting reservations

Thank you for all you do, BookBar!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Just A Normal Tuesday



JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY by Kim Turrisi (KCP Loft, May 2, 2017) is packed with raw and honest writing—pain and heartache, but also laughter and hope. Until I read this book, I never knew family members left in the wake of a suicide suffered shame and worry over being judged. Turrisi’s writing sings, laying everything bare on the page and making the emotions and experiences accessible.  This book is the real deal, and thankfully so, because the brilliance, beauty, and honesty of Kai’s story will serve as a gift to the teens who need to know their emotions are legitimate and they are not alone.


"It's just a normal Tuesday for sixteen-year-old Kai, until suddenly it's anything but. She's received a letter from her beloved older sister, Jen, a letter that begins, My very bestest sister, Kai, if you are reading this, I am already gone. From that moment on, Kai's life will never be the same, as she is forced to deal with the shock and horror of losing Jen to suicide.

Consumed with grief, Kai looks for answers, lashes out at people who love her and eventually turns to excessive drinking and drugs, all with disastrous results and no relief from her suffering. Struggling with their own sorrow, Kai's parents realize she needs more help than they can give, and they enroll her in the Tree House, a "grief camp" for children. Though reluctant to go, once she's there, Kai finally finds others who truly understand her loss. No longer alone, she's able to begin dealing with her pain. And to see light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Kim Turrisi's beautiful, wrenching young-adult novel sheds a much-needed light on the subjects of mental illness and suicide. Using the unique idea of a grief camp, Turrisi lays out a process for healing and moving forward for readers who have been touched by loss. But this book's appeal reaches beyond that. With combined elements of tragedy and romance, compellingly told in Kai's authentic voice, this ultimately hopeful story will be an unputdownable read for any teen.
 "

#LiveYourStory
#JustANormalTuesday

Buying Links:
Book Bar
Tattered Cover
Boulder Bookstore
Barnes and Noble 
Amazon

ISBN: 9781771387934
ISBN-10: 1771387939
Publisher: KCP Loft
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 256
Language: English
Recommended Reading Age: 14-18

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Next John Green?



DIE YOUNG WITH ME by Rob Rufus
Clipped from the pages of Simon & Schuster (release date September 20, 2016):

In the tradition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes the incredibly moving true story of a teenager diagnosed with cancer and how music was the one thing that helped him get through his darkest days.

Punk’s not dead in rural West Virginia. In fact, it blares constantly from the basement of Rob and Nat Rufus—identical twin brothers with spiked hair, black leather jackets, and the most kick-ass record collection in Appalachia. To them, school (and pretty much everything else) sucks. But what can you expect when you’re the only punks in town?

When the brothers start their own band, their lives begin to change: they meet friends, they attract girls, and they finally get invited to join a national tour and get out of their rat box little town.

But their plans are cut short when Rob is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has already progressed to Stage Four. Not only are his dreams of punk rock stardom completely shredded, there is a very real threat that this is one battle that can’t be won.

While Rob suffers through nightmarish treatments and debilitating surgery, Nat continues on their band’s road to success alone. But as Rob’s life diverges from his brother’s, he learns to find strength within himself and through his music. Die Young With Me is a raw, honest account of a brave teen’s fight with cancer and the many ways music helped him cope through his recovery.

Pre-order Die Young With Me
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (September 20, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501142615
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501142611

Rob Rufus is represented by Shannon Hassan, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Interview with Literary Agent Shannon Hassan

Hello, Readers!

Today on the blog we have agent Shannon Hassan from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Prior to this interview, Shannon and I sat down for coffee, so I can tell you from my face-to-face encounter, Shannon is personable, smart, and funny. The whole package!

Shannon has been an agent for three years, which is good news for writers seeking an agent, because she is currently growing her client list. Please know, her short time as an agent does not mean she is a “newbie” to the field of literature or contracts—she has years of experience as an acquisitions editor at Fulcrum Publishing and also years as a corporate attorney.

KT: Hi, Shannon! Thank you for meeting with me and for agreeing to answer my “fast five” questions. 
SH: Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, and for your kind words! So Marnice to meet you and have you as my neighbor. J

KT: ICE BREAKER: You’re clearly one smart cookie! You earned a BA in Journalism and Economics at George Washington University, a JD at Harvard Law (Harvard!), and then you worked as a corporate attorney at a Park Avenue law firm—so please settle my burning questions. Which is better—cats or dogs? Dogs Pasta or sushi? Pasta Subway or bike? Bike!

1.  KT: Imagine we could strap into a time machine (ours can be a Tesla instead of a DeLorean) and travel back to your middle school and high school days—what books would we see on your night stand (and what else might be there)? 

SH: Well that would send me back to Texas in the 80’s, when I had big bangs, ha! The first book I fell in love with was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Another favorite was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I also read a lot of Stephen King—I’ve always been an eclectic reader.

KT: Also I know you have twelve-year-old twins—what are some of their current favorite titles?

SH: All Four Stars, Pax, When You Reach Me, The Land of Stories, The Crossover, and Book Scavenger. I enjoyed those too!

2.      KT: Some writers spend hours crafting their query letter (and they should!); others simply whip something together (yikes). I’m sure you can tell the difference. What are three tips you can give writers on query do’s and three tips
on query don’t’s?

Do’s:

·        Ask your critique group to give you feedback—it is impossible to have perspective on your own query letter after you’ve immersed yourself in writing the novel for so long.
·        Mention one or two “comp” titles—books that have been published recently (in the past couple of years) that show the type of audience you are hoping to reach.
·        Show your voice. I don’t mean write the letter in one of your character’s voices (that never works!). But do give a taste of what the voice of the story will be. For example: if your story is humorous, then get that humor across in the query.

Don’ts:
·        Don’t write a long lead-in about yourself or why you wrote the book, etc.—just get right to the hook.
·        Don’t tell us every minor plot point—your query should be a concise, engaging blurb like you would see on a book jacket, not a synopsis.
·        Don’t forget to proofread. First impressions matter!

3.      KT: Taste is subjective, but great writing trumps all. For example, I would have said I’m not a fan of dystopian, but then I read (and loved) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (and of course I love the obvious dystopian leaders, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, etc.).  What are your favorite genres?

I love a range of genres, and my list for MG and YA includes everything from contemporary realistic, to humorous, to historical, to suspense, to romantic, to adventure and fantasy. See part two below on what these stories have in common….

KT: And part two—the important question (drumroll please)—what hooks you when reading a manuscript?

SH:  A fresh voice and compelling, authentic characters!  If you give me amazing characters that leap off the page and into my heart, then I will pretty much read about them doing anything.

A couple of my recent wish-list items include a page-turning historical in the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson or Ruta Sepetys, something that plays with narrative structure in the vein of Challenger Deep, and quirky stories with humor and heart.

4.      KT: Your bio shows that you represent authors who write middle grade and
young adult, but not authors who write picture books. If you sign an author based on a middle grade project, and they also write picture books, would you represent their picture books, too, or would they need to find a second agent?  Also, do you represent chapter books (i.e. similar to Junie B. Jones, Clementine, etc.)?  Lastly, please tell us about the nonfiction you are interested in.

     SH: I am not actively acquiring picture books or chapter books, but when I have existing clients who want to work on those things, I will represent them. But if you are looking to make your debut with a picture book, then I am probably not the right agent for you. For nonfiction, I am interested in narrative nonfiction and memoir from authors with strong platforms. 

5.      KT: Writers love to feel like they have the inside scoop—like they know you. Please tell us a little known fact about you (other than the fact that you ride an adorable purple cruiser with basket and all). 

      Well let’s see…I love to travel. Since our twins were barely out of diapers our family has been to some far-flung places like Easter Island, the Galapagos, and Iceland. 

      Thank you, Shannon! It is a pleasure getting to know you! Please provide your query instructions below:

      I look forward to receiving your queries at shannon@marsallyonliteraryagency.com. Please email a query letter + 10 pages.

Thank you again Kim. It was my pleasure!

Shannon Hassan, an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, has worked in publishing and law for more than a decade.  She represents authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, and select nonfiction.  On the kid-lit side, she is looking for fresh MG and YA, and is open to a range of stories as long as they have authentic, memorable characters: contemporary stories with humor and heart, adventures, thrillers, and mysteries, original fantasies (with one foot grounded in reality), page-turning historicals, as well as nonfiction from authors with a strong platform.

A few of Shannon’s recent or soon to be published YA and MG books include THE WORLD’S GREATEST ADVENTURE MACHINE, a middle-grade adventure by Frank L. Cole (Delacorte/Penguin Random House), DIE YOUNG WITH ME, an adult/YA crossover memoir by Rob Rufus of the Blacklist Royals (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), DIAL EM FOR MURDER, a YA suspense novel by Marni Bates (Merit Press/F+W), IN 27 DAYS, a speculative YA novel by Alison Gervais (Blink/Harper Collins), and a quirky, realistic middle-grade novel (working on the title!) by Dusti Bowling (Sterling Kids).

Before becoming an agent, Shannon was the Acquisitions Editor at Fulcrum Publishing, and prior to that, a corporate attorney at Arnold & Porter in New York. She received her JD from Harvard and her BA from George Washington University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Twitter: @ShannonHassan