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.
Kim Tomsic

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrable: Entertainment, Adventure, and Diversity!

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrable

"Twelve-year-old Caleb is shorter, frailer, and more protected than most kids his age. That's because he has cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis meaning lungs that fill with mucus and a shortened lifespan. Caleb tries not to let his disorder define him, but it can be hard with an overprotective mom and a perfect big brother.
Then Caleb meets Kit--a vibrant, independent, and free girl--and his world changes instantly. Kit reads Caleb's palm and tells him they are destined to become friends. She calls birds down from the sky and turns every day into an adventure. Her magic is contagious, making Caleb question the rules and order in his life. But being Kit's friend means embracing deception and danger, and soon Caleb will have to decide if his friendship with Kit is really what's best for him--or her."

If Caleb and Kit were a recipe, the instructions would say: mix up a heaping bowl of heart, humor, and adventure, plus add a dash of Because of Winn Dixie and Bridge to Terabithia. This book is a must read not only for the entertainment value, but also for the diversity of introducing a character with cystic fibrosis without reducing the protagonist to being defined by his disease. Author Beth Vrable delivers a cast of interesting and complicated characters and readers will most definitely want to follow Caleb and Kit page after page.

Comparable titles include The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Don't take my word for it. Look at these fantastic reviews:
"A realistic story with strong, recognizable characters that doesn't reduce cystic fibrosis to a tragedy."
-Kirkus Reviews

"Filled with smart, witty, and magical writing, Kit and Caleb, and those around them, come to vibrant life in this heartbreaking story about the ties that bring people together, and the difficulties of facing the truth."

"A compelling story of two struggling kids making their own safe haven."
- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

💙💙💙👦 from Caleb:

“I wanted to be like Kit, to see stories everywhere. I wanted to make up a new world, one where I wasn’t sick and she was magic. I wanted that more than anything.”

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (September 12, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076246223X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762462230

Suggestions on places where you can buy a copy:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Interview with Literary Agent Hilary Harwell KT Literary Agency

Hello, Readers!
Today, I have the privilege of giving you a look inside KT Literary Agency with an interview
featuring Associate Literary Agent Hilary Harwell. Hilary was an anthropology major, a jewelry artist, and a Cash Management Analyst until she interned at several literary agencies and found her calling—kid lit! Finally, she joined the team at KT Literary on August 2, 2016 where she is said to bring an editorial eye to the KT Literary slush pile. Hilary is also a writer of dark, whimsical fantasy and atmospheric horror for kids and teens. As a fellow writer, you can trust Hilary as an editorial agent. She is open to queries (instruction at the end of this interview) and her MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) can be found here . Hilary is on Twitter at: @HilaryHarwell 

KT (Kim Tomsic): Hi, Hilary! Thank you for e-meeting with me and for agreeing to answer my “fast five” questions. 
HH (Hilary Harwell): You bet! I’m happy to share. Thanks so much for having me.

KT:  Question number one, the oh-so-important ice breaker: Imagine it’s Saturday night and you MUST sing karaoke. There’s no backing out—the very life of your agency depends upon it; the life of your pet waiting at home depends upon it! What are you going to sing? (and by the way, what kind of pet is waiting/or do you wish was waiting at home?)
HH: Oh boy, I think I’d have to sing (rap?) some old school hip hop – a little Biggie or De La Soul perhaps? If I was forced to actually sing (for my cats’ lives), many of you would be in tears but I’d be yowling to the Lumineers. Their song Angela, specifically.

KT:  Yes! I love that you chose a Denver-based band!  Okay, moving on--luckily for querying authors, KT Literary’s website features query tips and the opportunity for authors to submit their query for public review and feedback. Examples make the rest of us wiser! (Readers, if you’d like to climb inside Hilary’s mind, you can read her very specific feedback  AT THIS LINK)  Since we have no query as part of this interview, what are the fast-five pieces of advice you can offer authors about successful querying? 
HH: 1. Make it concise and clear –edit and pare it down as much as possible 2. Make sure you give enough plot for the reader to understand what your story is about without giving the ending away 3. Personalize if you can – and by this I don’t mean, ‘I see from your website you’re open to YA.’ I get this too often and it doesn’t add to the query. I’d prefer to see you’ve done a little homework and that you have a specific reason for querying me. Otherwise, just skip it.  4. Choose 2 good comps – show me where your project will sit on the shelf and that you understand the industry.  5. Hook me! Make me care enough about your protagonist’s plight to want to read the opening pages. This includes what’s at stake if your protagonist fails. It’s a challenge, but if you can execute and provide a solid query and good opening pages, I’ll definitely be requesting more!
KT: Amazing advice found above!!!
KT Question three: I am a huge fan of Freaky Friday and any Freaky Friday-type book (like The Swap by Megan Schull). If you could have a Freaky Friday moment with any literary character, whose shoes would you step in and why?
HH: Honestly? Kaz Brekker aka Dirtyhands. I adore him and would love to crawl inside his shady little mind.

KT Question four: How do you divide your time between wearing your two hats—writer and agent? Also, it seems I opened this interview boldly claiming that you are an editorial agent, is that true? Lastly, what are books on craft that you recommend? (Yes, I’m sneaky—I just asked three questions, but who’s counting?)
HH: I am an editorial agent – I love partnering with authors to develop their projects as much as possible. I try to provide open-ended feedback (lots of questions and what ifs) that help authors engage and come up with their own solutions to the suggestions I make. After all, it’s your baby.
Craft books? Definitely The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. Another favorite is Stephen King’s On Writing. Oh, and Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit.
As far as managing my time, at the current moment my own writing has taken a bit of a back seat while I build my list at the agency. It’s not something I’ll ever let go of completely, but my passion for representing the work of others has my full attention.

KT Question five: What’s the difference between an agent and an associate agent AND what do you hope to find in your slush pile?
HH: An associate agent is basically the same as a junior agent. It’s the title given to a person who’s just getting started at an agency. A full agent is someone who has a longer tenure, but specific titles and the weight they carry can vary from one agency to the next.
Right now, I’d love to see some original dark fantasy – a la Leigh Bardugo and Maggie Stiefvater’s THE SCORPIO RACES. I love atmospheric horror and thrillers – please, please make me sleep with the light on. Beyond that, I’m always looking for stories told from diverse perspectives, am LGBTQ-friendly, and am hungry for these types of projects.

KT: Hilary, thank you so much for taking time for this interview!  
Hilary’s blog can be found at: https://haharwell.wordpress.com/
“I’m now open to queries, so please send me all your lovely middle grade and young adult projects. I have a penchant for fully-developed characters who leap off the page and into my heart (even if they’re not always the most lovable), for tightly plotted stories that show me new ways to look at the world, and for elegant prose. It is incredibly important to me to find stories told from diverse perspectives so that more children and young people can find themselves inside the pages of the books we help create.”
Hilary’s query guidelines can be found here.
I love when agents list books they love. Here’s Hilary’s reading list:
Books she loves: The Hate U Give, Exit Pursued by a Bear, Frost Blood, Caraval, The Diviners, The Blackthorn Key, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Out of My Mind, The Thickety, Anna and The French Kiss (and ISLA and LOLA), Open Road Summer, The Duff, We Were Liars, The Night Gardener, Rules for Stealing Stars, Salt to the Sea, The Wrath and The Dawn, The Scorpio Races, A Curious Tale of the In-Between, Seraphina and the Black Cloak, The Grisha Trilogy, I’ll Give You The Sun, Splendors and Glooms, A Snicker of Magic, The Graveyard Book, The Mysterious Benedict Society, An Untamed State, The Bourbon Thief, The Girl on The Train, Crank (anything by Ellen Hopkins)
Old Books she loves: Bridge to Terabithia, The Hobbit, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion series, Hatchet, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Westing Game, James and the Giant Peach, THE BFG, IT, A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden
Picture Books she loves: The Giving Tree, Dragons Love Tacos, The Day The Crayons Quit, Sir Pancake and Lady French Toast, Journey, What Do You Do With A Problem, The Secret Staircase, The Three Questions
Movies she loves: The Neverending Story, Willow, The Princess Bride, Usual Suspects, Reservoir Dogs, Silence of the Lambs, Tommy Boy, Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, Braveheart

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:
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
Length:272 pages
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
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.


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

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

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