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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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten with Literary Agent Terrie Wolf


TOP TEN: Info/Advice/& Fun Facts with Terrie Wolf of AKA LITERARY LLC
The Colorado/Wyoming region of the SCBWI is proud to announce Terrie Wolf as a faculty member for the September 2014 LETTERS AND LINES CONFERENCE.
Who is Terrie Wolf? Before becoming a literary agent, Terrie was an editor as well as a member of the international media. She studied English Literature at Cambridge University, Creative Writing at NYU and Journalism at CU-Denver. Terrie founded Wolf Literary Services, and in 2009 she co-founded AKA Literary.
 The Letters and Lines Conference is said to be one of the most intimate ways a writer can connect with leaders in the publishing industry. To launch participants’ conference-connect experience, Terrie has generously agreed to answer the following ten questions:

1.       SUCCESS STORY (the crème brulee):  Hi, Terrie! Thank you in advance for serving on the faculty at the upcoming RMC SCBWI conference, and for taking the time to answer my questions. Before we get into the meat and potatoes (craft), I’d like to start with dessert (contract).  Please tell us about one of your conference success stories.
Thank you very much for including me. After several years in the conference and workshop “trenches” I recently offered representation to a very talented author whose nonfiction work for children is inspiring and exciting. We were focused on adult nonfiction works but then she mentioned an idea she had for a children’s series of books.  To say I was floored would be an understatement! You’ll love her.

2.      PUBLISHING PATH: I read that before you were an agent, you were an editor with Hobson’s Press and also an award-winning member of the media with NBC and CBS. How and why did you decide to become an agent?
My father always said that if I was stranded on a desert island, I’d be just fine as long as I had a fishing pole, books to read and a phone so I could tell everyone I knew about the books I read and the fish I caught. A series of events that included big trucks, freak southern gales and patio umbrellas all taught me about  resilience and allowed me (forced me) to return to Colorado full time. It seemed a little desolate in the beginning but gave me the opportunity to slowly find my way back to wellness. A few years ago I met an author whose work was witty and fresh. It reignited my passion. The author asked me to act as her agent because she said I talked about her work more than she did. That was the beginning. She was right and I still proudly represent her. 

3.      YOUR NEXT CLIENT: In addition to other genres, I understand you represent YA, Middle Grade, and Picture Book writers…excellent!  We all know agents are looking for great and compelling writing, and the word on the street is you pick story over genre. Please give us more insight into your preferences.
There’s so much that goes into this process. I like to know what my editors are interested in finding but I also ask readers what they would like to see. It’s really important to write the story as it is meant to be written rather than for a trend or market. Good stories just have a way of finding good homes.

4.      Sometimes the Internet gets buzzing with a lot of misinformation of where an agent is or isn’t. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT  2012-2014
I took much of 2012 - 2013 and 2014 away from work due to illness, the Black Forest Fire and the 2013 floods. I ran into the big three: my mother’s death, my father’s illness, and I have been stalked daily since April 2013. It’s just part of the drill, part of what helps me decide what I want to do. Usually what I want to do is fall back and read.

Wow! That’s a lot to shoulder. I’m sorry for your difficulties, and I admire your bravery and determination. I’m glad to know your father is doing well again, and your experiences are a testament to how books are friends to people during difficult times—a point that moves me to the joyful side of life—READING: I’m sure you would agree that in order to become great writers, we must first read, read, and read! Writers should also know when shopping for an agent, they should read the agent’s client’s books to help further reveal if the agent is the right fit. Terrie, are you an editorial agent and if yes, tell us more?
I am an editorial agent, and proud of it. You won’t see many of our works for some time due to the publishing schedule. Learn what you can from every single book you pick up.
·         Picture Book:  
·         Middle Grade:  
·         YA:  
·         I encourage you to visit our website as a way to familiarize yourself with our clients and their writing.
·         Upcoming Fact: our Kenley Conrad’s HOLLYHEARTS HOLLYWOOD will be released Tuesday, September 23, 2014 via Month9 Books.
     
5.      FAVORITE BOOKS: What were some of your favorite books as a child, and what are your current kid lit favorites (other than the ones you represent J)?
I read everything from Louis L ‘Amour to Zane Grey, Sports Afield and Boys’ Life. I still adore The Velveteen Rabbit, Little House on the Prairie, and Black Beauty.
Current favorites:
-         Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, 2013)
-         The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HC, 2012)
-         Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (Egmont, 2012)
-         Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker (Chronicle Books, 2011)
-          And the list goes on and on!

Helen Lester’s TACKY THE PENGUIN and A PORCUPINE NAMED FLUFFY still make me giggle. I still love Jerdine Nolan’s HARVEY POTTER’S BALLOON FARM, Robert Munsch’s I’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER, and ROTTERS by Daniel Kraus are all favorites at this very moment. Ask me in ten minutes as my list will change.  

6.      What’s on your wish list of future projects to represent?
Three words: unforgettable, empowering and unexpected. If I can find works that make me laugh out loud, that’s even better.

7.      What can you tell us about the state of the publishing industry?
It has yet to bore me.

8.     How does the answer above influence you as an agent?
I am easily distracted.

9.      Like I said, a special benefit of the Letters and Lines Conference is attendees walk away knowing the faculty on a more personal level. One fun fact about Terrie is that she knows sign language and has served as an interpreter for the Deaf and Blind School in Colorado Springs (cool!!). What’s another fun fact you’re willing to reveal?
I have a piano in my office.

10.  THE MEAT AND POTATOES: What’s the final word of advice that you would like writers to walk away with?
Be the writer our characters know you are. Be kind, be loving and allow everyone around you to see your need for a place like this one.

Thank you Terrie Wolf! I look forward to meeting you in September.
The pleasure is mine, really.

Writers who would like to query Terrie Wolf should email the query and the first ten pages of the manuscript in the body of the email (no attachements, please!) to  aka@akaliterary.com. The AKA Literary website is being updated, and Terrie will soon provide that address so you can learn more. Bonus piece of advice: it’s Terrie, not Terry. It’s Ms., not Mr. J


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So You Want to Write or Illustrate Children's Books and Magazines

Illustration by Roberta Collier-Morales

SCBWI Colorado and Wyoming (Rocky Mountain Region) will host the annual Letters and Lines Conference

Conference for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

WHEN:  Sept 20-21, 2014.

Where:   Marriott Denver West
1717 Denver West Blvd - Golden, CO

Who:  This conference for those interested in children's book publishing serves both BEGINNER and EXPERT. Whether you simply dream of writing or illustrating, or you're actively pursuing a career, this conference is for you. It will help you make connections, learn from classes, and get you positioned for next-steps. Here you'll meet editors, agents, award-winning authors and illustrators ; you’ll actually connect on a personal level because the RMC SCBWI offers an intimate conference experience. Stop mulling over “wouldn’t it be great…” and launch your aspirations into action today! Learn or Pitch or Connect or Polish--it's up to you. There is something for everyone. Beginners feel included and find this conference a nice way to break-into the industry, while experts find sessions and get ideas to help polish their pieces.

If you’re actively writing or illustrating (or both!), there is also an opportunity for you to participate in a critique-connect session with peers…perhaps you’ll find your future critiquing group, or perhaps you’ll get a fresh perspective. Feeling shy…no problem, you’re also welcome to sit in and see how critiques with peers works.    

This year’s faculty features three editors, two literary agents, and several award-winning authors and illustrators.

Confirmed featured faculty:
Salina Yoon, Author/Illustrator
Terrie Wolf, AKA Literary
Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary
Carter Hasegawa, Candlewick Press
Lanie Davis, Alloy Entertainment
Sarah Miller, Sleeping Bear Press
And others! For full faculty listing and bios please click here: FACULTY

SAMPLING: Below please take a glimpse at some of the many sessions available during this year’s conference. For the full schedule please click here: SCHEDULE:

A brief glimpse is listed below:
·       Creating the Buzz-Worthy Novel-Donna Cooner
·       Children’s Publishing 101-Lindsay Eland
·       From Pages to PR: What a Literary Publicist Offers-Jen Hailligan
·       Crafting Picture Books for Illustrators-Salina Yoon…also Illustrating a concept picture book with Salina Yoon
·       Writing for the Children’s Magazine Market-Cheryl Reifsnyder
·       Creating Picture Book Hooks and Endings- Sarah Miller
·       Narrative Non-fiction-creating the award winner-Carter Hasegawa
·       The Magic of Motivation-Jeannie Mobley
·       First pages
·       And more!!!

HOW TO ENROLL: *Update* you can register on September 20th at 7:45 am or on September 21 at 8:15 am at the Marriott Denver West, 1717 Denver West Boulevard, Golden CO 80401
Cash or credit cards only, please.

For details about the event visit our web page: https://rmc.scbwi.org/events/2014-letters-lines/

COST:  

Saturday and Sunday Registration: $290 non member or $240 SCBWI Member Price*
Saturday ONLY Registration: $235 non-member or $185*SCBWI Member Price 
Sunday ONLY Registration: $175 non-member or $125*SCBWI Member Price *







Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ninja Moves for a Successful Book Launch





Todd Tuell, author of the action-packed picture book NINJA NINJA NEVER STOP (Abrams, April 2014 ), entertained dozens of kids at his book launch which was held at that Maime Doud Eisenhower Public Library in Broomfield, Colorado on April 27, 2014. Kids laughed, danced, chopped, made crafts, played games, ate ninja-lato, and bought books! It was one of the most successful and exciting book launch parties I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps Todd has a jump in the fun-department, since he has previous experience as a preschool teacher. Whatever his source of ninja moves and magic, kids love his book! Of course they do—it’s fun, and colorful, and invites the mind to journey on a clever path full of possibilities. Kirkus reviews says of NINJA NINJA NEVER STOP, "bright primary hues add energetic yet retro feel to carpenters illustrations a good choice for mischievous preschoolers with an interest in martial arts.” 

K: Hi, Todd! Thanks for agreeing to an interview. Congratulations on a fun and fantastic story. Without a doubt NINJA NINJA NEVER STOP is a hit! I understand you've already done several school visits as well as your book launch party. What went into your decision-making for planning your launch and the school visits?
Thank you so much, Kim, for this opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned with your readers.

The first thing that went into planning was to look at my book launch as something bigger than an individual event. This was great advice I got from my agent, Rubin Pfeffer. For that, I’ve focused on creating some resources to get kids excited about the book, about reading and all the fun of being a ninja. By putting all of this together, I can generate some buzz by helping anyone around the country host a fun ninja event in places I can’t physically attend. Now that I’ve put these elements together and tested them out with my own events, I can distribute them as an online resource kit. You can look for these on my website in the coming weeks.

It’s also been important to me to share the experience with those parts of my life that have been so important. So for my initial events, I approached my children’s elementary teachers and our local library, practically our second home. These teachers and librarians have been such a big part of our family and even my writing career. It was only natural to include them.

K: How do the plans you make for school visit differ from what you prepare for bookstore or library appearances?
With a school visit there is inherent structure and elements of decorum. The expected classroom behavior is understood and generally accepted by the children in the classroom. In that environment, the kids know how to move from one activity to another. Additionally, your host in the school, either the teacher or librarian you are working with, generally has the hope that you’ll bring some type of academically driven activity to extend what they’ve been doing in the classroom. The one thing to remember is that you’ll probably only have the teacher with you in the classroom to help with activities. Make sure that the individual activities you bring such as writing exercises can be self-directed by the children.

A library is much different. It’s a different environment than school, so kids don’t always understand the rules. Develop a schedule but be ready to adjust. Your audience can range widely in age, so you’ll need to develop appropriate activities to engage everyone’s interest. One great thing about a library event is that parents and other adults will often stay. This makes it easier to break out into stations so a parent and child can explore a bit more independently. Do try to have friends and family available to help at each activity. Finally, you also have to allow for families to come and go as they need.


K: What do you think are the three most important elements for a successful school visit or book launch, especially for authors who write picture books?
1.    The most important thing is to extend your book beyond its pages. Engage the kids with activities that enhance the book experience. Many books are fun for these kids, but you want to make yours stand out with an outstanding experience.
2.    It really helps make the event successful when you have a champion at the venue, that teacher or librarian who is just as invested as you in making it a fun and memorable experience for the audience.
3.    Learn from each experience for the next. You’ll see early on how long the kids’ attention span lasts, what’s working for an age group, and more importantly what’s not. After an event, always ask for suggestions to make it better. Teachers can pinpoint subtle things that can make a huge difference because they know these kids so well.

K: At your book launch, you had various fun station set up for kids --a haiku writing station, Ninja mask making and painting station, and a cardboard ninja star throwing game (fun!!) What advice do you have for authors regarding crafts and games?
There were certainly some lessons learned. I was a little overambitious on the mask making with paints and markers. I’d suggest always going simple. The kids got too focused on decorating their masks and didn’t always get to experience the other activities (plus it makes for a tougher cleanup).

Have lots of help. Family and writer friends love to celebrate in the launch and jump in to help lead an activity. This frees you as the author to spend some time individually with your young fans. Make sure to do that. Ask and answer as many questions. You should make these kids as important to the event as the book and the activities.

K: And how did you come up with the fabulous ideas for your crafts? Furthermore, how many arts and crafts stations or game stations do you think are important for a book launch?
Does this answer change for school visits?
I think the number of activities isn’t as important as making sure what you do have planned is safe, engaging and somehow relate to your book. That said, a bigger event should have variety especially if you expect children of varying ages and abilities. You should have some activities that are self-driven by the kids and others where they are challenged but guided by a helper or parent. One easy thing is to have plenty of activity sheets. These are things they can take home, so always brand them with your book and contact information.

Most of my ideas came from parenting blogs. You can find craft and activity ideas on most any theme. Also invite your kids or kids in your target audience to weigh in with ideas. Don’t forget to ask the host at your event venue, too.  They know specifics about what NOT to include in a program.

The crafts and activities you choose absolutely depend on the type of launch event. It’s dependent on the age range, the wider the range, the more offerings you should have.

Schools are different. You’ll definitely be limited on the number and type of activities because you’ll be the primary one leading them. Answering questions and helping 20+ kids can be much tougher. Have samples and prompts prepared if you are doing some type of writing exercise and do one as a class together so they get the idea.

K: Todd, I love the song and lyrics you created, and so did the kids. There was lots of laughter when they danced to What Would a Ninja Do. How can other authors go about creating their own music?
Involving music and movement is ideal for a book event. It’s a fun way to engage the kids because you are involving so many senses. If you have an idea and want to pursue it, definitely do it.

It’s great that there are so many people who love music from high school and college music students to people who play in the band at a local church. I have no skill when it comes to music, so I reached out to a guy I’d heard sing many times. I told him what I was looking for, and was delighted that he was so excited for a fun project. So don’t be surprised who might lend their talents.


K: Regarding time management, how much time do you allot to each component of your presentation to kids?
It’s amazing how the time for your visits will go by so fast. I think you are wise to keep each activity to about 7 to 10 minutes. Otherwise, you can start to loose kids. Alternate your activities between ‘quiet’ ones and active ones. I’d also typically advise starting with group activities then moving towards the independent ones to conclude.

I noticed that you engaged the kids in a question and answer session throughout the presentation. Smart idea! It kept the kids on their toes and drawn to your presentation. What other gems of advice do you offer authors to make the visit successful?
Forget that the day is ‘your day’ or a day about your book. Make it all about the kids’ experience. The book is just a small part of that, but it will be memorable if you’ve made they time fun.

What process did you go through with the library to set up your book launch?
For writers, your librarians should become your best friends. I spend so much time there with my kids already and was lucky when the time came around for my book to launch, to have a champion in my home library. Having that support can make an event so successful and now be able to use her as a reference to get into other libraries with this program.

It’s a matter of first, asking if you can provide a program. But be prepared when you make a contact at your library. Show that you are professional with a full plan for the event and by explaining how it all ties together as more than a simple reading if you are asking for support for a launch event.

Finally, be open to suggestions and change. Most libraries are quite experienced now with wonderful summer reading programs to have great tie-in ideas. Just listen.

What process have you gone through to set up your school visits?
You should start now making friends with your own kids’ teachers and librarians or those in your neighborhood.  As a debut author, I did not have any reference visits to point to when asking to be a visiting author. So I determined to avoid the red tape by approaching the administrators of schools. I went straight to classroom teachers and librarians that I knew. I was prepared with what I could bring and how that might extend what the kids were doing in class.

I wanted to build up my experience as a classroom presenter, so initially I have not asked for a visit fee. That’s a great way to get a foot in the door. Most teachers will jump at a chance to bring in an author to speak to kids. If you’re charging little or nothing to speak, they’ll be happy to generate some buzz with parents and send pre-order forms home with kids in advance of your visit. The kids take home a flyer so they are anticipating something cool is coming up. They are ready and looking forward to the event. Create the order form and email it to your teachers. Make it easy for them to sell your book and kids’ parents to buy it.

What’s the best parting advice you can give us about creating a successful book launch event?

It’s all about preparation. With the agent advice I mentioned earlier, I say spend time on creating and testing out activity ideas that enhance your story and make the entire event memorable. These are things you’ll be able to use again and again once you’ve got them in your pocket.

The best thing I did was to get into a smaller environment first to learn some lessons. I suggest you incorporate as many senses as possible, especially movement. There is so much research indicating how cross-body movements create cross-brain activity and connectivity in children.


Thank you so much for your time, Todd!

If you would like to set up a virtual visit or live with Todd, please visit his blog at:  http://www.toddtuell.com/

Todd Tuell is the co-regional adviser to the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). NINJA NINJA NEVER STOP is his debut book.

If you are in the Denver area and would like to bring your child to Todd’s next event, please join him at Tattered Cover Book Store in Highlands Ranch at 10:30am.
Location: 9315 Dorchester Street in the new Highlands Ranch Town Center on Highlands Ranch Parkway between Broadway and Lucent Boulevards. A parking lot is conveniently located in the front of the store. The zipcode is 80129.

Or you can find him at Barnes and Noble in Boulder in June, 2999 Pearl Street, Boulder CO 80301


Don’t miss Todd at the 95th ANNIVERSARY CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK CELEBRATIONS!!

MG/YA Author Panel

Wednesday, May 14th, 6:30p.m.
Tattered Cover Colfax, Denver
Join Melanie Crowder, Lindsay Eland, Claudia Mills, Ellen Mahoney, Christine Liu-Perkins and Barbara Wright as they present their recently published novels and participate in a panel Q&A. There will be door prizes and a drawing for a Young Author manuscript critique!

Picture Book Group Story Time
Saturday, May 17th, 10:30a.m.
Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch
Celebrate the beauty and wonder of picture books written by Libby Martinez, Jean Reidy, Todd Tuell and Nicole Weaver. There will be readings by each author as well as door prizes and fun activities for all attendees!

ABOUT CHILDREN'S BOOK WEEK
Children's Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading.
Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes -- wherever young readers and books connect! 
Children's Book Week is administered by Every Child A Reader, a 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. The Children's Book Council, the national non-profit trade association for children's book publishers, is an anchor sponsor.
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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Children's Book Week in Colorado Celebrates its 95th Anniversary

Don’t miss the 95th ANNIVERSARY CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK CELEBRATIONS in Colorado!!



MG/YA Author Panel

Wednesday, May 14th, 6:30p.m.
Tattered Cover Colfax, Denver
Join Melanie Crowder, Lindsay Eland, Claudia Mills, Ellen Mahoney, Christine Liu-Perkins and Barbara Wright as they present their recently published novels and participate in a panel Q&A. There will be door prizes and

drawing for a Young Author manuscript critique!


Picture Book Group Story Time
Saturday, May 17th, 10:30a.m.
Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch
Celebrate the beauty and wonder of picture books written by Libby Martinez, Jean Reidy, Todd Tuell and Nicole Weaver. There will be readings by each author as well as door prizes and fun activities for all attendees!

ABOUT CHILDREN'S BOOK WEEK
Children's Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading.

Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes -- wherever young readers and books connect! 
Children's Book Week is administered by Every Child A Reader, a 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. The Children's Book Council, the national non-profit trade association for children's book publishers, is an anchor sponsor.

 Show message history



Friday, February 7, 2014

A Smattering of Advice: How Writers Can Prevent Hours of Rewriting

A SMATTERING OF FIVE-MINUTE ADVICE that can save you hours of rewrite time:

I’m a big SAVE THE CAT groupie and the book's author Blake Snyder often quotes sources of inspiration. One of these sources is Robert McKee and his book, STORY. Of course I had to read it. 


The full title is STORY: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.  Screenwriting translates to story writing or books in my mind, and McKee is brilliant on the subject—talk about having Ah-ha moments! Sometimes ideas are simple, but we as writers get lost either in language, ideas, humor, etc, and we forget to focus on the structure.

McKee says every scene in your story must have a value at stake. 


At The beginning of each scene ask yourself what value is at stake in my characters life. A value could be love, life, acceptance, a belief system, family foundation, friendships, etc. Determine the value at stake in the scene and then ask: How is the value charge at the beginning of the scene different from that value changed by the end of the scene. Think of these charges as positive or negative charges. 

Different scenes can have different values at stake, but the charge always has to change in every single scene or the scene has no place in your story.

TAKE AWAY:
********If the value condition does not change from the beginning of the scene to the end of the scene then nothing meaningful in the scene took place.********** If that's the case, delete or rewrite the scene.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Thirteen Books of 2013 for Kid Lit Fans



Top Thirteen of 2013
What would a Bookshelf Detective be without a neatly compiled list of best-of-the-year books? Lame. So please enjoy my favorite (mostly kid lit) picks of 2013. Some books listed here debuted in 2013; others I simply discovered in 2013.  In this list you’ll find out why I picked the book; what you won’t find are jacket flap descriptions, however I've provided a hyperlink to jacket copy if any of my hype grabs your interest.

Most “Important” Story of the Year: YAQUIDELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS by Meg Medina (March, 2013 Candlewick). Medina delivers this story in a way that keeps pages turning swiftly. This is the kind of book we all look for—a face-paced story that makes us laugh and cry. YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS is important, relevant and well written; so much so that YALSA has it listed as one of the top 100 books of the year. I predict that it will receive a Printz nomination (The American Library Association will release the nominations as well as the winner in late January 2014).  

Best Couples Story: ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell (Feb. 26, 2013 St. Martin Press). I loved this story for the sheer spit and fire of the characters. This is the book I bought as a gift for all my friends. Yep. It’s that good. It also received a YALSA nomination, and it is my second prediction for a Printz nomination.

Sweetest Book for the Middle Grade Reader who is an Animal Lover: THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK by Joanne Rocklin (Amulet, 2012) winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite Award.    


Cleverest Picture Books: Two of the following books take the hilarious approach regarding what happens when a pencil or crayon take on the protagonist role. If you love one, you’ll definitely love the other. The third book has a cover that simply calls you to read the story.
·        LITTLE RED WRITING by Joan Holub and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet (September 2013 Chronicle Books).  
·        THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (June 2013 Philomel).
·     
   MUSTACHE BABY by Bridget Heos illustrated by Joy Ang (May 2013 by Clarion Books).

Best Book for Authors: SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder (January 2005 Michael Wiese
Productions). Yep. I’m a little late at jumping in on the Save the Cat craze, but I swear this is the best book for plotting and structure I’ve ever come across. After reading this you’ll know why movies are satisfying, or you’ll know why a movie you wanted to love failed to deliver. Writers should read this to find holes in their plot, or missing structure elements. A few simple fixes can transform a story experience.

Best Book for High School Boys: ROCK ON by Denise Vega (March 2012 Little, Brown
Books for Young Readers). ROCK ON (nominated for the Colorado Book Award) has great page turns; characters you want to follow and a compelling plot. And it has the bonus of a cool cover, one a boy can carry on the bus or in class. That said, girls will love this story, too.

Picture Book that Keeps Me Returning: STUCK by Oliver Jeffers (September 2011 Philomel). This author/illustrator cracks me up. And by the way, he’s the same guy who illustrated The Day the Crayons Quit.

Five-Year-Old Nephew’s Favorite Book of the Year: GUESS AGAIN by Mac Barnett (September 2009 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers). This book is like shampoo instructions—read, giggle, repeat. Every time my nephew and I arrive on the last page, he flips the book back to page one. Author Mac Barnett is also the author of one of my favorite books that appeared on last year’s award circuit—EXTRA YARN…such a cute book. If you read, I can’t wait for you to discover Little Louis.

Books I Bought for my Ten-Year-Old Niece: I can’t mention my nephew without a shout-out to my niece. Here are the must reads I purchased for her this year:


·        A SUMMER OF SUNDAYS by Lindsay Eland(July 2013 Egmont). Sweet story with a fun mystery, and also it’s the best book for a middle child!

·        DESTINY REWRITTEN by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (February 2013 Katherine Tegen Books). A book that somehow connects Danielle Steel with Emily Dickinson—certainly a laugh for parents. But eight to twelve-year-olds will love this book because the main character takes the reader on a fun adventure.

·        SAVVY by Ingrid Law (May 2008 Dial Books). Not only did this book receive a Newbery Honor in 2009, but it was also one of the books my son read and loved when he was in fifth grade.

Best Self-Help Book: A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS by Donald Miller (Thomas Nelson 2009) Read this book! If you’re lucky it will transform the way you think. Parents who are reading this blog looking for great books for your kids must stop here and get this book as their own personal read.


Most Out-of-the-Box Middle Grade Book of the Year: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (September 2013 Candlewick Press). This book is nothing if it’s not fun to read—I mean who doesn’t love a cynic, a squirrel that reads and writes, and a boy who claims blindness? Put it in front of your reluctant reader and they will definitely give up the “reluctant” part of their title.


Most Out-of the Box YA I Read This Year: EVERY DAY by David Levithan (August 2012 Knopf Books) same author of this year’s buzz book, Two Boys Kissing. Although EVERY DAY isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, I’m always of fan of David Levithan’s writing, and I was a huge fan of his unique approach to delivering a story—the sixteen-year-old protagonist wakes up in a different body every single day. It’s a little TIME TRAVELERS WIFE meets GROUND HOG DAY, and yet it’s completely different.

Best Book I found via Tweet: DAIRY QUEEN by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (2006 HMH Books for Young Readers). Word of mouth is one of the most influential marketing tools, so I’m here to confess I buy books when I hear Twitter buzz (it’s how I found PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ).



And here’s a bonus!




Book I’m Most Looking Forward to This Year: NINJA, NINJA, NEVER STOP! by Todd Tuell (Spring 2014 by Abrams, Appleseed).