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

Monday, July 23, 2012

Free Writing Contest by Highlights

Here is a free contest sponsored by Highlights. Good luck!
Stories for beginning readers in 500 words or fewer. We welcome stories of any genre (mystery, historical fiction, sports, humor, holiday, friendship, etc.) as long as the stories are intended for kids ages 6–8.
Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Foundation Founders Workshop. (For a complete list of workshops, visithttp://www.highlightsfoundation.org.)
All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2013.
No entry form or fee is required.
Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.*
We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished.
Stories may be any length up to 500 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.
Include your name and the title of your story on your manuscript.
No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.
Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.
Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
The three winning entries will be purchased by Highlights and announced on Highlights.com in June 2013. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.
* We're sorry that we cannot consider contest entries from children under the age of 16. Young writers are welcome to submit their work for consideration elsewhere in the magazine. Guidelines are available on HighlightsKids.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thanks, Ruta Sepetys! You Gave me a Reader's Paradox

How many times have you read that “special" kind of book?  The one that you mourn when the last page is flipped. You know you're reading it when you feel the paradox growing; the paradox of not being able to put it down, yet attempting to read slowly so as to delay the end. You try to budget the number of pages you read per day just to make the story last longer. And when it's over, you have no other choice but to say goodbye to the characters. At least you get to pass the story on to others, and you feel excited about sharing, yet envious because your experience of discovery is finished.
There are many wonderful books in the market. I’ll never grow tired of reading. But a book of this caliber comes every once in a while. So here it is. I enviously share with you the title BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will budget your pages. You will not want to say goodbye to the exceptional characters in this captivating story.

Awards, Nominations and Discussions:
SCBWI Golden Kite Award
School Library Journal "Someday my Printz will Come"
YALSA Top Ten Books
Morris Award 

Jacket flap:
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

This powerful tale of heartbreak and hope is sure to haunt readers long after they finish the last page.
·         Reading level: Ages 12 and up
·         Paperback: 368 pages
·         Publisher: Speak (April 3, 2012)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 014242059X
·         ISBN-13: 978-0142420591

Monday, July 9, 2012

Myracle Comes out Shiny

When Cat’s best friend Patrick gets beat with a baseball bat, duck taped to a gas hose, and left for dead, Cat sets out to solve the mystery of who perpetrated this hate crime. She has to. She owes it to Patrick for how she treated him ever since they started high school; plus Patrick’s coma means he can’t speak for himself. Cat’s backwoods community is small enough to have everybody in everybody’s business. Sure, there’s lots of gossip and there’s lots of negative talk against Patrick’s choice to be open about being gays, but could one of their own have actually done this to Patrick? That’s what Cat wants to figure out in this YA mystery, SHINE (Abrams) by Lauren Myracle.

Lauren Myracle is a genius of craft. She perfectly paced the story along, and kept me guessing, speculating, and riveted on each page turn. Her characters are interesting, diverse, and real.

If I were in Cat’s small town, I’d probably gossip about what happened with Myracle and the National Book Awards. I’d tell you that when the National Book Awards were announced, the committee accidentally named Shine on the list of nominees for the award in Young People’s Literature. Myracle graciously removed her name from the list as soon as the error was revealed. I imagine she must have realized one of the worst possible nightmares an author can experience…and she came out Shine-y. Good things can come out of nightmares, and it did when it comes to Shine’s sales figures. Whenever I see Chime (the actual nominee) listed in Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I notice statistics show that those who purchased Chime also purchased Shine. It’s human nature to want to judge if the committee got it right, or if they should have stuck with Shine. I’m not going to do that here. But I will say that Shine was an amazing read, and had the error not occurred, it probably wouldn’t have registered on my book radar. I guess the saying is true: all press is good press.

What Lauren Myracle says about the goof in the Huffington Post:

Oh, it felt good! To hell with that--it felt frickin' glorious. This book, Shine, this book that my beloved editor and I had bled our souls into, had been declared--to the world--one of the best of the year.

And then, two hours later, came a concerned email from a journalist friend. "So what do you think of the Chime/Shine mix-up?" she asked.

"The..." My gut clenched. "Excuse me, what?"

"Oh dear," she wrote back. "Perhaps you should do some Googling. And Lauren? I am so sorry."

To read more of her own words, visit: Lauren’s article

In the New York Times it was written that: “At Ms. Myracle’s urging, the National Book Foundation will make a $5,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocates for gay youth, promoting dignity and acceptance.”

The Unwithdrawn Praise for Shine
“Cat eventually uncovers the truth in a cliffhanging climax in which she confronts fear, discovers that love is stronger than hate and truly ‘shines.’ Raw, realistic and compelling.” –Kirkus Reviews
“The page-turning mystery and Cat’s inspiring trajectory of self-realization will draw readers in and give them plenty to ponder.” –The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Dramatic in both content and presentation.” –Los Angeles Times

“Myracle captures well the regret that many feel for things in their past about which they are ashamed. Cat’s reflections on these moments are spot-on.” –School Library Journal
ISBN-10: 0810984172
ISBN-13: 9780810984172
Published: Harry N. Abrams, 04/01/2011
Pages: 376
Language: English
Recommended Reading Level
Minimum Age: 14
Maximum Age: UP
Minimum Grade Level: 9th Grade
Maximum Grade Level: Up
·        Hardcover (3/2011): $16.95
·        Paperback (4/2012): $7.95
·        MP3 CD (1/2012): $24.99
·        MP3 CD (1/2012): $39.97

Monday, July 2, 2012

OKAY FOR NOW and Mastering Voice

OKAY FOR NOW doesn't offer the kind of snappy title that pulls me forward and beckons me to buy or read. But I'm thankful the book cover displays something else--the name of the author, Gary D. Schmidt. Gary D. Schmidt is a writer I trust based on his creation of The Wednesday Wars (a fun and hilarious 2008 Newbery honor book). When I discovered he had written OKAY FOR NOW and it had received a nomination for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, I knew I was in for another fun and unusual adventure.  
The book is packed with layers of plot, fascinating characters, and voice. Ah, the voice. From dialogue to introspection, Schmidt captures the perfect tone and texture of the teenage boy. He truly nails voice.

If you’re a writer, and your critiquing group says, "Well, um, your story is interesting, but it's a little cardboard" that may be code for "Where's the voice?" Now hopefully you're working with an honest group, and they had the courage to ask this question of your work; and hopefully they sandwiched that hard to hear criticisim inbetween a couple of compliments. But let's get back to "cardboard" or "vanilla" and the issue of the missing voice. If your response is, "What the heck does that mean?" Pick up a copy of OKAY FOR NOW, and you'll get it right away (Matt de la Pena is another author who nails voice; so is Donna Gephart) .

If you’re a reader, and you want to be thoroughly entertained, read OKAY FOR NOW. If you are between the ages of nine and ninety-nine, read OKAY FORNOW. It's a five lollipopper.
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

5 out of 5 lollipops for OKAY FOR NOW
Author speaking at SCBWI conference August 2012
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; None edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547152604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547152608

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