Tuesday, January 24, 2012


First of all, I want to thank everyone who entered this contest. Reading your comments made me smile. I felt like I could relate to each of you, whether you wanted to design your own fabric or learn to draw or play a musical instrument or slam dunk a basketball. I let Daxton pick the winner out of a bowl this time, and he chose Pica (who wants to learn a new language). So, Pica, please e-mail me your address, and I'll order your copy. Hopefully it will get there by the release date.

Thanks again, everyone! I really hope that you go after the dreams you listed in your comments. And I hope you get your hands on a copy of Shannon Hale's MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND. It's wonderful. :o)

Monday, January 23, 2012


I'm cutting back to one Marvelous Middle Grade Monday a month (on the fourth Monday), this year, mostly because I felt like, last year, they took over my blog.

This week, I am (respectfully) disagreeing with those reviewers who didn't like Tom Angleberger's DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK as much as they liked his THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA. If you haven't read the first one, you can click here for my review.

Darth Paper Strikes Back (Origami Yoda #2)
I put off reading this one because I didn't want to be disappointed (sequels are often disappointing), but this one is delightful. Seriously, if my middle-school-aged self had gone to school with Dwight, there's a good chance I'd have been crushing on him. I thought the ending even more brilliant than the first book's. The way Angleberger portrayed the student interaction with the various teachers and administrators reminded me of E. L. Konigsburg's THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY (my favorite Konigsburg novel). Angleberger captures the emerging independence (problem solving), the cruelty, the awkward compassion, and the defiant loyalty that set this age group apart. And he does it with humor.

I highly recommend this one, especially for Star Wars geeks. It even includes a 5-Fold Origami Yoda that converts into a 10-Fold Darth Paper. But . . . read THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA, first, you must.

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades, the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Happiness is curling up with a new Shannon Hale novel. Really. One of my blogging friends shared her ARC of MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND, by Shannon Hale, and I totally loved it. Not as frothy as AUSTENLAND, this one still made me laugh out loud. A lot.

Midnight in Austenland

I hate spoilers, so I'll keep the description short. Set in Pembrook Park, a place where women can go for a "Jane Austen experience," MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND is part murder mystery (though whether the murder happened or not is part of the mystery), part romance, and part satire. If you're a fan of Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY, I think you will especially love it. But I also think this one is more likely (than AUSTENLAND) to appeal to someone who's never read anything by Jane Austen. Charlotte was just so easy for me to relate to.

Reading the novel made me think about how it can be hard for us to say "no" to other people, and yet we tell ourselves "no" all the time. For instance, I've been wanting to take piano lessons for most of my life, but I'd always told myself that I didn't have the time or money. Well, for the most part, we determine what we have time and money for. I already had a piano, and I was signing my son up for lessons. So, I started taking lessons in August, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. I'm not a prodigy, but I love it. Also, when I was in college, I really liked latin dancing (one of those Spanish major things), so when one of my friends started teaching a Zumba class, I wanted to try it. But I told myself "no." Why? I'm not really sure. I started going last week, and it is seriously fun. I come out of the class humming and dancing and in a much better mood than I was when I went in.

Now, I'm not advocating debt or sugar comas, but . . . just try it. Take something you've been putting off, something that will enrich your life, and work towards it. You're worth it.

Oh, and I'm giving away a pre-order for MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND. You don't have to be a follower. To enter, just tell me (in the comments) something you'd really like to do. And if you leave a link in the comments, I'll give you an extra entry for sharing. That's two possible entries per person. The contest is open internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to your location), and it ends Monday, January 23rd (Chinese New Year), at midnight.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

More or Less

Amy Sonnichsen won the picture books! Congrats, Amy! You can thank Gwenyth for choosing your number. :o)

So, 2012 just happens to be the year of the dragon, and I just happen to be . . . a monkey.

Okay, not really. I am a dragon (What are you?), but by Larry's reasoning, a dragon could be a monkey. So far, this year is looking better than 2011. Dragons make everything better. Nope. I'm not prejudiced. It's true. ;o)

At the beginning of the year (or the month, week, or day) I usually make a to-do list to give me direction. I don't beat myself up for not crossing everything off. It helps me prioritize and evaluate how different areas in my life are going. For instance, last year, I crossed off nearly all of my writing goals, but I didn't do so well in the health area. Because of this, I'm taking a more aggressive stance on exercise (which apparently I can't spell when I'm tired), diet, hydration, and especially sleep. Not getting enough sleep is my worst bad health habit. I'm something of an insomniac (with kids and a day job).

I started brainstorming and came up with something I've never had as part of my "New Year's Resolutions" before. It reminded me a bit of playing "What if?" Only, I kept it simple. I compiled a "More or Less" list, and it looked something like this (but longer):

More music
More poetry
More reading aloud
More gardening
More playing with my kids
More exercising
More sleeping
Less internet
Less sugar

You get the idea. I could write whole posts explaining each of those, but I won't (not this month). I won't be on the internet as much this year (if I'm sticking to my resolutions). I'll still be around. I'll still post, but I may schedule a month in advance to let myself play hooky. My writing brain (especially the part that writes poetry) and my blogging brain don't always get along. Also, I've noticed that my kids all want more Mom Time than they're getting, and I need to do something about it. Internet time isn't essential. It just feels that way, especially when I'm tired.

You might not even notice a difference (other than I'll only be posting MMGMs once a month), but hopefully I will.

May your 2012 be filled with More (whatever yours might be).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Picture Book Giveaway!

To celebrate the fact that I wrote (finished drafts of) TWO shiny picture books in December, I'm giving away three picture books I'm loving at the moment (plus a paperback).
A Cold Winter's Good Knight 

I love all of Shelley Moore Thomas's GOOD KNIGHT books, but I just gave A COLD WINTER'S GOOD KNIGHT to my four-year-old for Christmas. I've been reading it a lot. However, it isn't the first book in the series, not that it matters if you read them out of order. If you'd like to see the first book, though, here's a video of the author reading it.

Okay, I'll include a paperback of GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT in the giveaway.

Good Night, Good Knight (Penguin Young Readers, L2)

You're welcome. :o)

Hop! Plop!

HOP! PLOP! is Corey Rosen Schwartz's first picture book, but I'm already looking forward to her second, THE THREE NINJA PIGS, coming out later this year.

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))

LEONARDO THE TERRIBLE MONSTER, by Mo Willems, has been around for a while, but it's such a great one. I'm using it in my classes, later this week. 

If you already own one or more of these, I might be willing to make substitutions, BUT you only have until the end of Wednesday, January 4th, to enter. This one isn't international. I'm sorry, but the shipping for that many hardbacks would be painful. To enter, tell me one of your favorite picture books. That is all.