Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site packed with tricks and tips for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting!
Kim Tomsic

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Awards Announced

2012 Newbery, Caldecott and Prinz

And the 2012 Newbery goes to...

2012 Newbery Medal Winner

The 2012 Newbery Medal winner is Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, published by Farrar Straus Giroux.
"The importance of history and reading (so you don’t do the same “stupid stuff” again) is at the heart of this achingly funny romp through a dying New Deal town. While mopping up epic nose bleeds, Jack narrates this screw-ball mystery in an endearing and believable voice."

Honor Books include:
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, published by HarperCollins Children's Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers
"Hà and her family flee war-torn Vietnam for the American South. In spare yet vivid verse, she chronicles her year-long struggle to find her place in a new and shifting world. "

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
"On the eve of his induction into the Young Pioneers, Sasha’s world is overturned when his father is arrested by Stalin’s guard. Yelchin deftly crafts a stark and compelling story of a child’s lost idealism."

2012 Newbery Honor

2012 Newbery Honor

And the 2012 Printz Award goes to...

Printz Award Winner
Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:
WINNER: "Where Things Come Back," written by John Corey Whaley, is the 2012 Printz Award winner. The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

Why We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

"In this beautiful piece of bookmaking, heartbroken movie obsessive Min Green dumps a box of relationship ephemera on ex-love Ed Slaterton’s porch, each item attached to a raging, loving, insecure and regretful letter explaining how each memento contributed to their breakup."

Printz Honor
The Returning, written by Christine Hinwood and published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group Young Readers Group USA.

"A large cast of characters from two fictional kingdoms recover from a drawn-out, brutal war in a portrait both sweeping and specific as it explores the ramifications of the conflict on Cam, the only one who lives to return to his village."

Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

"Spurred by the mysterious death of a schoolmate, Charlie confronts racism and his fears as he learns about family, friendship and love in the oppressive heat of small-town 1960s Australia. Silvey weaves themes of freedom and loyalty with moments of humor in this wrenching novel."

Printz Honor Book
The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

"A bloody, intoxicating horse race on the Island of Thisby is the backdrop for this atmospheric novel. The heart-pounding story pits two teens against death – to win is to survive."

And the 2012 Caldecott goes to...

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

2012 Caldecott Medal winner
"A Ball for Daisy," illustrated and written by Chris Raschka, is the 2012 Caldecott Medal winner. The book is published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Three Caldecott Honor Books:
"Blackout," illustrated and written by John Rocco, and published by Disney - Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney; "Grandpa Green" illustrated and written by Lane Smith, and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership; 

"Me . . . Jane," illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell, and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

2011 National Book Award For Young People's Literature Winner and Nominees:

WINNER: Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) - Interview
- Video of acceptance speech and from Finalists Reading

FINALISTS:Franny Billingsley, Chime
(Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. ) - Interview
- Video from Finalists Reading

Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy
(Marshall Cavendish) - Interview
- Video from Finalists Reading

Albert Marrin, Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books) - Interview
- Video from Finalists Reading

Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now
(Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) - Interview
- Video from Finalists Reading

Young People’s Literature Judges: Marc Aronson (Panel Chair),
Ann Brashares, Matt de la Peña, Nikki Grimes, Will Weaver

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dispelling the Rumors and Myths about Pitches, Queries and Synopsizes

Pitches, Queries, Synopsizes, Oh My!

Twitter is an amazing social networking tool that offers the opportunity to engage people with whom you wouldn’t meet unless traveling to a conference.   #Kidlitchat moderators Bonnie Adamson and Greg Pincus host a weekly forum for those interested in children’s literature. Authors (both published and unpublished), agents and editors show up online at 6 p.m. Pacific Time to discuss a weekly topic. In order to view the conversation a person need only login to Twitter and search #kidlitchat. To participate, type your tweet and add #kidlitchat to the end of your post. Because of the hashtag, both followers and non-followers will see your post if they are participating in the forum.  

Last night’s #kidlitchat covered a topic that often keeps writers up at night. Pitches, queries and synopsizes, oh my! The conversation covered the daunting question of what to include in your pitch to adequately express the essence of your 50,000 word manuscript while using only a few lines.  Here are highlights from the discussion:


“Focus on major plot points. Clearly define character conflicts.” Debbie Ohi writes, draws kidlit/YA. Illus I'M BORED (@SimonKidsYA, 2012). Rep: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. 

“You always need a pitch. Even when your neighbor asks you "what's the book about?" Pitch=30-second commercial.” Kristine C. Asseline Author of contemporary YA & MG fiction & non-fiction. Organizer of Central MA Kid Lit Gatherings. Repped by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management.

“One thing my crit group has joked about is writing each other's pitches. should do it!” Amber Keyser. Amber is the Go-to-girl & YA novelist for action-adventure transmedia saga, Angel Punk. Rep'd by Stephen Fraser. Wielding pen & pitchfork from Portland, OR.

“I have a 60-word limit on the summary reviews I write for publications. I try to write one before and after I finish a project.”  Also “Synopses = plot; queries = plot + emotion; pitches = hook + plot + emotion crammed on the back of a matchbook (or in a tweet!)”  David Elzey  David is a writer and reviewer of books for children and young adults, currently unagented, working on a YA comedy set in the 1970s called THE EROSION PROJECT.

“Synopsis is about the emotional arc: what the MC wants, the struggle to get it and the resolution.” Shevi Arnold. She also said, “Plot is this happened, then that happened. Emotional arc is about the meaning behind actions.”  Shevi is an Author and illustrator of the literary fantasy, Toren the Teller's Tale, and the humorous middle-grade novel, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey

“My wisdom on pitches is here. press Kurtis Kurtis Scaletta is a kid lit author, online ed manager at @loftliterary, baseball fan, dad. Rumors that I'm building an army of robots to take over the world are unconfirmed.

“Great resource from Georgia McBride - head to http://YALITCHAT.org to see real pitches and responses from Agents and Editors.” Greg Pincus Greg Pincus writes poetry, novels, and screenplays, blog kidlit at gottabook.blogspot.com. He also talks social media strategy at the Happy Accident.· http://www.thehappyaccident.net

“Leave out all extraneous detail. Make sure you focus on what's at stake for your protagonist.” Danielle Rumore Danielle is a PR exec by day. Aspiring YA novelist by night. Part-time runner. Defender of boy books. Repped by John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

“1st tip is to remember queries and synopses are different things. Queries should not try to tell "the whole story." And “For the pitch in your query letter, just the tease, not the resolution.” E.M. Kokie E.M. Kokie’s  debut YA novel PERSONAL EFFECTS to be published by Candlewick in 2012. Represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow.

“Agree with E.M. Kokie - queries are meant to "hook" someone. Get them interested enough to request MS - but don't tell too much!” Danielle Rumore

“For pitch-make sure you have something in there about what is interesting/different about either character or situation” Dee Garretson  Dee is the author of WILDFIRE RUN & WOLF STORM HarperCollins teacher's/bookclub guide http://bit.ly/gaYWr9 GARGOYLE IN THE SEINE, his. mystery, repped by Michele Rubin Writers House

“It's all about....who is this character? What do they love (and fear) more than anything?” Crissa Chappell Crissa is the author of TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER (HarperTeen). Next up is NARC (Flux summer 2012).

“Pitch=what is your book about? Synopsis=tell me the plot, who is the book about and what happens, including  the ending.” Jill Corcoran Jill Corcoran is a Literary Agent with Herman Agency. Editor of DARE TO DREAM...CHANGE THE WORLD, Kane Miller Books, Fall 2012.

“Even when I don't need official synopsis, I always write a pitch during process to keep writing on track.” Jody Feldman Author of books even boys will read. Thanks AZ and GA for making The Gollywhopper Games your winner! And look for The Seventh Level, now in paperback.

My favorite tweets of the night include advice for writing a one page, three paragraph query letter:
“@mimicross: @crissachappell my fav query formula is, The Hook, The Book, & The Cook, basically 3 paragraphs”
The three paragraphs of a query are: 1)Why this agent 2)the book's hook 3)Why you” Shevi Arnold.


Q: “I've been told not to ask questions in the pitch/hook. Agents/editors please weigh in on that.” Julie F Hedlund, Julie is Author of Children's Picture Books + Freelance Writer, Essay Writer, Travel Writer.  

A: “Don’t ask questions in your pitch/hook” Jill Corcoran.

Q: “How about questions in the query? Questions like, "Will Susie make it to the palace in time to catch her prince?" Been told it's a no-no.” Julie Hedlund

Q: “Why is that a no-no?” Katie Davis  Katie writes books. Draws pictures. Records podcasts. Makes movies. Has webinars. Gives speeches. http://www.katiedavis.com

A: “It isn't, if it is at the end.” Jill Corcoran

Q: “Some say PITCHES aren't for kid lit and only queries and synopsizes are used to land an agent. Is it true that PITCHES are for adult lit only?? True or False? #kidlitchat” Kim Tomsic @bkshelfdetectiv (that’s me!)

A: “False.” Jill Corcoran

A: “Don't know who told you that. I've been to pitch sessions at SCBWI conferences.” Shevi Arnold.

Q: “Jill, have you moved next step with someone (now a client) based on starting with an elevator pitch or only w/ queries?” Kim Tomsic

A: “Oh yes, I have been moved to action by an elevator pitch, but the ms has to stand on its own.” Jill Corcoran

Q: “Hi, Tommy Greenwald. Did you personally Pitch Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading to agent or Nancy Mercardo or did you query?” Kim Tomsic

A: “I pitched CJJ to agent as PB called THE BOY WHO HATED READING, her advice was to make it MG.” and also “then I sent her new title (CCJ's GUIDE etc) and first couple chapters and she was interested... “Tommy Greenwald Tommy is the author of Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading (Roaring Brook Press). He is also an ad guy and kids book writer, father of charlie, joe, jack and charlie joe jackson.

Q: Should your query represent/show your main characters voice or even be written in the main character’s voice?

A: “Voice is like salt in a query = a little goes a long way. Get the flavor of the MC's voice, but don't overpower.” E.M. Kokie. E.M. Kokie’s  debut YA novel PERSONAL EFFECTS to be published by Candlewick in 2012. Represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow.

General Thoughts:

“Pitch sessions are like speed dating--harrowing concept, IMO :-).” Bonnie Adamson Children's writer/illustrator, represented by Marietta B. Zacker; ARA/IC, SCBWI-Carolinas; co-host of #kidlitchat and #kidlitart.

“Pitches are not hard unless you don't have a clear understanding of what your book is about. If you do, just answer that question.” Jill Corcoran

“Weird to (1) write novel ~80K (2) distill to 1 page synop (3) 1 paragraph hook/pitch (4) 1 sentence for elevator. Whew!” Amber Keyser.


Jane Friedman's blog includes a fantastic article called  "The Basic Pitch Formula for Novelists" Here she provides step by step instructions for crafting a perfect pitch.

My wisdom on pitches is here. press Kurtis Kurtis Scaletta is a kid lit author, online ed manager at @loftliterary, baseball fan, dad. Rumors that I'm building an army of robots to take over the world are unconfirmed.

“Great resource from Georgia McBride - head to http://YALITCHAT.org to see real pitches and responses from Agents and Editors.” Greg Pincus Greg Pincus writes poetry, novels, and screenplays, blog kidlit at gottabook.blogspot.com. He also talks social media strategy at the Happy Accident.· http://www.thehappyaccident.net

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yoga Poses to Ward Off the Evils of Writer's Block

Yoga Poses to Ward Off Evils such as Writer’s Block

by Kim Tomsic          

As I bowed forward in a yoga pose meant to flush my lymphatic system, the yoga teacher announced that we were “loosening the noose of our judgmental mind.” It was an “Ah ha” moment that reminded me that yoga is a fantastic tool to dissipate the dreaded writer’s block. With the proper hold, move, twist and asana there are several opportunities to have the body work to dissolve that metaphorical noose that may lay siege to the imagination.

The inspiring pose:

Eagle: Eagle requires the student to wrap their right elbow under their left elbow, followed by twisting the right forearm around the left forearm until the hands connect above the twisted arms; the second part of the pose requires balancing on the left foot while placing the right thigh over the left thigh and then hooking the right foot behind the left calf. Hold and squeeze. Repeat on the other side.

What’s in it for the writer: This pose squeezes the lymphatic system causing it to flush and refresh. What’s the benefit? The lymphatic system not only helps the immune system by removing excess fluid, waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, cancer cells and toxins from your body, but it also works with the circulatory system to deliver oxygen, nutrients and hormones. To me that’s a recipe for a fresh batch of creativity.

In addition to Eagle, there are several poses to loosen the noose of the mind. Down dog is known to improve focus and stimulate the mind. Rabbit is a pose that nourishes the brain and is great for memory, focus and relieving mental fatigue. Standing Leg Stretch increases circulation to the brain and adrenal glands. And Kundalini Yoga is an entire class that can create an internal center of creative energy.

Why am I not describing exactly how to achieve these positions? Because I think it is important to learn from a teacher, to be safe, and to tweak your pose to achieve proper alignment. Please know that not all teachers are created equally. I am a fan of CorePower studios and Bikram Yoga because of the level of training and education their teachers possess. I’m also a fan of listening to your body and trusting (not exceeding) your comfort zone.

On a closing note, I'd like to say that even with the recent hoopla in the New York Times about yoga, I continue to show up on my mat and accept that all sports are not meant for all individuals. That is the beauty of a gift called choice.
Please take the time to answer a question. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Do you have a favorite pose to stimulate creativity?
What are your thoughts on the New York Times article?
What other yoga studios require their employees to go under rigorous training before allowing them to teach? 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Sisters Brothers: A Macabre Poetical Comedy

Book Review by Kim Tomsic

When The Sisters Brothers popped up as Amazon's must-read book of the year, I happily succumbed to marketing pressures and downloaded the book. I can now report that Amazon's plug was not mere smoke and mirrors, but instead a genuine enthusiastic recommendation.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt involves two brothers who work as hired killers during the time of the gold rush. Elie Sisters, the lovable younger brother, attempts manners and big-hearted gestures. Charlie Sisters, the older brother, comes off callous, soulless, and yet somewhat reasonable. These hired killers aren't cardboard cutouts of the black hat wearing villains who typically appear in westerns. Sometimes they're lovable, charming and full of charisma. Their bizarre back and forth banter is a combination enough to create a macabre poetical comedy. For anyone who watched Pulp Fiction, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Jacket flap

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
In a word or two: Original, hilarious, riveting

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062041266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062041265
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches

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