AchUKa: Children’s Books Web Site

Louder by Peni Griffin, an opinion column, from AchUKa children’s books. Peni is the author of numerous novels for young readers, most recently 11,000 Years Lost (Abrams, 2004), which is a middle grade time-travel adventure set in Texas. Involves very cool mammoths. By the way, Peni is also the person who first turned me on to The X-Files. She lives in nearby San Antonio.

AchUKa also offers a blog from editor Michael Thorn, featuring much news about the children’s/YA book world. An article caught my eye…

“Chick lit” for teen readers comes of age by Kristin Finan from the Feb. 9 Houston Chronicle (emphasis on mass market; no mention of literary YA).

Writer Internet Lists, Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest

Writer e-lists are a great professional boon and/or distraction from one’s work.

I’m a fast reader, so it doesn’t take much of my time to skim my lists and respond to those topics of particular interest. They’ve introduced me to many of my favorite fellow authors, and I’ve learned a great deal about the publishing side of children’s/YA literature.

If participating doesn’t distract you from your writing, I recommend joining. My only caution is the same one that applies to industry functions called “dinners” or “receptions” or “luncheons” or “conferences.”

You may be out with your friends and you should be having fun, but you’re still in a professional context. Children’s/YA publishing is a small community. To the extent possible, sidestep flame wars. Stay professional. It can be too easy when sitting in front of a computer screen to forget there’s a person (or 1,000) on the other end.

Nifty Links

Children’s Writer: an open-membership e-list. Children’s Writer was the first writing e-list I ever joined. It was through this list that I met a number of my friends, including one of my early mentors Jane Kurtz. Jane later invited me to join an invitation-only list of more established writers and it was there that I first met my agent.

Children’s Writing Biz: an e-list moderated by author Anastasia Suen.

Nancy Miller Illustrator: a portfolio site. I received an email from Nancy requesting a link from my site, but she’s not (yet) published. However, her work is great. Especially if you’re an illustrator, editor, or art director, surf over and see what I’m talking about.

Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest: sponsored by HarperCollins and “open to U.S. writers over the age of 21 who have not been previously published. One winner will receive a book contract for a hardcover edition, a $7,500 advance, and a $1,500 cash award.” Submission dates are March 15 to April 15. The award will be announced June 15. See link for rules and more information.

2005 Texas 2 X 2 List

Congratulations to debut author Varsha Bajaj on her picture book, How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight?, illustrated by Ivan Bates, (Little Brown, 2004), making the 2005 Texas 2 X 2 reading list for great books for ages two through second grade.

Cheers also to author Lisa Wheeler, whose Te Amo Bebe/Little One, illustated by Maribel Suarez (Little Brown, 2004) also made the list.

Varsha was a star student in a children’s writing class I taught with authors Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland. Lisa is a friend from an e-list serv. See also: Interview with humorous picture book writer Lisa Wheeler from Debbi Michiko Florence’s Web site.

Nifty Links

The Sixteenth Annual Celebration of Children’s Literature will be held Sat., April 16 from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at Montgomery College in Germantown. Speakers will include: author/illustrator Jerry Pinkney; author Gloria Pinkney; editorial director and Philomel VP Patricia Lee Gauch; and author Joseph Lekuton (author of Facing The Lion, “an autobiography that details his life from Maasi warrior in Kenya to middle school social studies teacher in Virginia.” Writer and illustrator critiques are available for an additional fee. See also: Interview With Jerry and Gloria Pinkney (BookPage, 1992).

Note: when I was a newbie author, I signed simultaneously with Jerry Pinkney. He was across the booth at NCTE, and I was too star struck to know what to do. Should I go introduce myself? What do I say? What if I lose all power of speech? He looks up, beams a bright smile, and then bustles over to me! Hand outstretched. “So nice to meet you!” Lovely man.

Starting Your Own Critique Group by Margot Finke (part three of three) from The Purple Crayon.

Take Our Word For It: The Only Weekly Word-origin Webzine from the Institute for Etymological Research.

The First Lady Of Wisconsin

I received an email yesterday from the office of the First Lady of Wisconsin, Jessica Doyle, saying that my short-story chapter book, Indian Shoes (Harper, 2002)(ages 7-up), will be a featured intermediate title for Read On Wisconsin! (an online statewide book club).

Why not surf on over and learn about their featured titles from February and before?

A few of my favorites include: Did You Hear The Wind Sing Your Name: An Oneida Song of Spring by Sandra De Coteau Orie (featured this month for preschool); Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell (featured in September for infants); Toddler Two/Dos Anos by Anastasia Suen (featured in October for infants); Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo (featured in October for primary); Wings by Christopher A. Myers (featured in December/January for primary); Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki (featured in November for intermediate); When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (featured in October for middle school); The Heart Of A Chief by Joseph Bruchac (featured in December/January for middle school); and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (featured in September for high school).


The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature offers the exhibit “Paul O. Zelinksy: Angels to Ogres” through February 19. The works of N.C. Wyeth will debut March 5.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today I was supposed to go to lunch with author Dianna Hutts Aston at Green Pastures, but I had to cancel because of being sick. Sigh.

In any case, Dianna’s recent titles include When You Were Born, illustrated by Caldecott-honor-winner E.B. Lewis (Candlewick, 2004)–my favorite birthday picture book. By the way, both author and illustrator have these cool swish movie things as their sites open.

Thanks to everyone for all their get-well wishes. You’ll be happy to know I’m indulging in much television and became misty-eyed at a re-run of the episode of “A Different World” wherein Whitley and Dwayne get married. Yes, I’m a giant cheeseball.

Nifty Links

Judy and Ronald Culp: a husband-wife writing team I met while speaking for the League of Texas Writers. Judy has a very promising YA novel in progress, and I wish her the best with it!

Chinese American Librarians Association: an affiliate of the American Library Association.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Chinese New Year from Find out your classroom’s Chinese Zodiac sign. Get storytime suggestions and more!

See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney

See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004). Bridget has been raised a Traveler, leading the life in trailer after trailer, city after city, with her friends and family–no roots, little school, running scams, casing pigeons, hearing the pros and cons of a really big score. At 16, she’s already engaged, and her older brother Jimmy is enamored with the idea of following in Big Jim’s footsteps to pull in huge money. It’s a culture within the culture, with its own rules and (sometimes sexist) norms. It’s the life. But is it the life for Bridget? Ages 12-up.

My Thoughts

The voice is engaging and intriguing, the characters fully realized. Given her point of view, I understood Bridget’s choices, even when I didn’t agree with them. A wonderful, compelling read.

I’ve been wanting to read this title for some time. It was a winner of the 2001 SCBWI Judy Blume/Work-In-Progress Grant for a Contemporary Novel for Young People and the 2002 PEN/New England Children’s Book Caucus Discovery Award. More recently it was named to the 2005 BBYA list.

Nifty Links

Author Jacqueline Davies now offers teacher guides for her award-winning books, Where The Ground Meets The Sky (Cavendish) and The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story Of John James Audubon (Houghton Mifflin).

Where The Ground Meets The Sky (ages 10-14) was an NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, an IRA/CBC Children’s Award Notable Book For Fiction/Intermediate, and named to the Bank Street Best Children’s Books list among other honors.

The Boy Who Drew Birds was a Junior Library Guild selection and an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 in 2005. It also has been selected for the New York Public Library’s Best Books for 2004 list.

Adria’s Book Nook: Adria recommends books she’s loved and read with her little sister Louisa. How charming is that? By the way, these girls are the daughters of author Haemi Balgassi. As in apple. Tree. Not far falling.

Sick Leave

FYI: I’ve got a bad flu and am (mostly) taking a few days off blogging.

Today, though, I’m feeling a little better. Among other things, I’m able to handle the vertical position. Thanks to everyone who sent get-well wishes!

I did sneak in on spookycyn with a post today, and despite his nursing duties, Greg is still spreading book news. Go visit his blog to find out who won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

Again, more when I’m 100 percent. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and stay healthy!

Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone

Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005). It’s 1878, and young Eva, 13, has lost Daddy Walter to tetanus and Mama Kate to consumption. All she has left is a name and address that lead her to Holladay Street, a half sister, and a biological mother from a house of ill repute. Desperate and indebted, Eva tries to make due as a dance-hall girl, which is still better than working upstairs. But is this the life Daddy Walter and Mama Kate would’ve wanted? A tender, thoughtful story of perseverence and loyalty. Highly recommended. Ages 10-up.

My Thoughts

Last Dance On Holladay Street is a tremendously affecting read with a strong moral center, a story about doing what’s right and finding resources within yourself. It’s about the angels you meet, and how some folks find themselves in surroundings they would’ve never picked. To those concerned about how the author handled the subject of prostitution, I assure you that it’s with a careful hand, sidestepping any elicit-ness in favor of examining the dangers and indignities of such a life. Elisa Carbone’s old Denver is vivid and compelling. Last Dance also vaguely reminds me of an excellent book for a slightly younger audience, Dust From Old Bones by Sandra Forrester (Harper, 1999); they’re different, but I think Dust readers will grow into Last Dance fans.

Nifty Link

The YA Authors Cafe: interactive chats with the brightest voices for teens. Chat with Lisa Jahn-Clough on Feb. 8 about her first ‘tween novel, Country Girl, City Girl (Walter Lorraine Books, 2004) and with YA authors Libba Bray, A.M. Jenkins, Catherine Atkins, and Mary E. Pearson on Feb. 15 about point of view.

Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee

Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb Books, 2005). It’s 1978, and Indian-born Maya is the only middle schooler with brown skin in her small Manitoba town. A bully taunts her, Maya’s ultra-Indian cousin Pinky attracts Maya’s boyfriend, and Maya’s embarrassing parents want to move to California! Maybe the Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, can make all her wishes come true. But is that what she really wants? Ages 10-up.

My Thoughts

Wonderful debut! I was a kid in the 1970s, just a few years behind Maya, and Banerjee’s historical references absolutely boogie! I won’t give away too much of this page-turner, but it’s a welcome addition to those precious few multicultural titles with humor. Seamless integration of cultural info. Ganesh leads readers in unexpected and enchanting directions. The “exotic”-loving boyfriend is nicely offset by Pinky’s enthusiasm for all things American, er, Canadian. Both Indian and universal; who doesn’t think their family is weird? Excellent cautionary reference to Nair. When you’re ordering your copy of Maya Running, also be sure to pick up The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha (Linnet Books, 1996) by Uma Krishnaswami, which Banerjee references in her acknowledgements.

Nifty Links

Mary E. Pearson: author of A Room On Lorelei Street (Henry Holt, June 2005); Scribbler Of Dreams (Harcourt, 2001); and David V. God (Harcourt, 2000). Visit also Mary E. Pearson’s Journal.

The Scriptorium, Philip Pulman, Children’s Book Press

The Scriptorium offers all kinds of products and things nifty for writers including some worksheets, such as: submission record; character builders (sketch and biography); and world-builder worksheets for fantasy and science fiction.

Articles of note include: “Writing A Picture Story Book” by Gay Ingram.

Features include: Scriptorium Scribbles:the young writers resource WebZine.”

The site also links to “Voluntary Service” by Philip Pulman from The Guardian (2002). It’s an article about art, society, and the relationship and responsibilities of the artist to each.

Today’s mail includes a couple of news releases from Children’s Book Press. The latest titles are:

Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto Gonzalez, illustrated by Cecilia Concepcion Alvarez (CBP, February 2005), which is about a boy with two moms who’s worried about how his classmates will react to his family; and

Moony Luna/Luna, Lunita Lunera by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Elizabeth Gomez (CBP, February 2005), which is a first-day-of-school book.