Monthly Archives: February 2011

All Aboard the Fantasy Train!

Have you already read the Harry Potter series backward and forward? Then climb aboard the fantasy train for more great fantasy adventures. Okay, take one more ride on the Hogwarts Express first. We’ll wait.

Photo credit: Karen B. Schwartz, taken at Universal Studios

All good? Then check out these great fantasy adventures!

THE BOGGART by Susan Cooper

From IndieBound:  When Emily and Jess Volnik’s family inherits a remote, crumbling Scottish castle, they also inherit the Boggart — an invisible, mischievous spirit who’s been playing tricks on residents of Castle Keep for generations. Then the Boggart is trapped in a rolltop desk and inadvertently shipped to the Volniks’ home in Toronto, where nothing will ever be the same — for the Volniks or the Boggart.

In a world that doesn’t believe in magic, the Boggart’s pranks wreak havoc. And even the newfound joys of peanut butter and pizza and fudge sauce eventually wear thin for the Boggart. He wants to go home — but his only hope lies in a risky and daring blend of modern technology and ancient magic.

THE WARRIORS series by Erin Hunter

From IndieBound:  Fire alone can save our Clan…

For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by the powerful ancestors. But the warrior code is threatened, and the ThunderClan cats are in grave danger. The sinister ShadowClan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying — and some deaths are more mysterious than others.

In the midst of this turmoil appears an ordinary housecat named Rusty . . . Who may yet turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

THE HOUND OF ROWAN: Book One of the Tapestry by Henry H. Neff

From IndieBound: Max McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago, until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

But dark things are waiting, too. When Max learns that priceless artworks and gifted children are disappearing, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. To survive, he’ll have to rely on a network of agents and mystics, the genius of his roommate, and the frightening power awakening within him.

THE STEPS ACROSS THE WATER by Adam Gopnik

From IndieBound:  Ten-year-old Rose lives in New York, the city of bright lights and excitement, and a seemingly endless variety of people, architecture, and food–where extraordinary things happen every day on every block. But Rose wasn’t born in New York; she was adopted as an infant from a far-away country. Though Rose loves her home and her adopted family, sometimes she can’t help but feel different, like she’s meant to be somewhere else. Then one day in Central Park, Rose sees something truly extraordinary: a crystal staircase rising out of the lake, and two small figures climbing the shimmering steps before vanishing like a mirage. Only it’s wasn’t a mirage. Rose is being watched–recruited–by representatives of U Nork, a hidden city far more spectacular than its sister city New York. In U Nork, Dirigibles and zeppelins skirt dazzling skyscrapers that would dwarf the Crysler building. Impeccably dressed U Norkers glide along the sidewalks in roller skates. Rose can hardly take it all in. Then she learns the most astonishing thing about U Nork. Its citizens are in danger, and they need Rose’s help, and hers alone.

UNDER THE GREEN HILL by Laura L. Sullivan

From IndieBound:  Meg and her siblings have been sent to the English countryside for the summer to stay with elderly relatives. The children are looking forward to exploring the ancient mansion and perhaps discovering a musty old attic or two filled with treasure, but never in their wildest dreams did they expect to find themselves in the middle of a fairy war.

When Rowan pledges to fight for the beautiful fairy queen, Meg is desperate to save her brother. But the Midsummer War is far more than a battle between mythic creatures: Everything that lives depends on it. How can Meg choose between family and the fate of the very land itself?

And don’t forget the classics:

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle

THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien

THE ENCHANTED CASTLE by Edith Nesbit

HALF MAGIC by Edward Eager

Tell us your favorites in the comments!

Karen B. Schwartz had the good fortune to visit Harry Potter land at Universal Studios with a bunch of other Muggles. She’s got the magic wand and screaming yo-yo to show for it.

Middle-grade Book Club Guide

So, you want to start a book club! Cool! But, how do you begin?

I asked my pal and librarian extraordinaire, Deb Marshall, about what goes into making a successful middle-grade book club. She and her Backroom Kids Book Club members came up with some awesome advice to get you started:

Deb’s report on the kids’ thoughts as she went around the table :

SNACKS: since we meet right after school, the kids are hungry and have had NO FOOD since lunch. They really like having a chance to just sit around and chat about ‘whatever’ while they eat. In other words, we start with fifteen minutes or so of eating and chatting. 

FIRST GRABS: the book clubbers LOVE getting first dibs on new books that come into the library. It’s like Christmas every Thursday!  Some call this “first grabs”.  They also like that they get to read Advance Review Copies and do reviews on them.

NEW RELEASES ‘HEADS UP': they get to find out what new releases are coming out. We decided to make this a weekly feature of our book club.

NEW FRIENDS:  You never know who you will meet, but you all have one thing in common: you love to read! They really like that the book club feels like a social event. (Deb: this one surprised me, actually. That is one of the reasons I love book clubs too!)

OPEN REGISTRATION: they like the open registration and that they don’t have to come to every meeting (although they DO come to every one, lol). They like that we don’t have ‘required reading’ right now…we just go around the table and talk about what we are reading and why we like it. It’s like ‘show and tell’ for books!

Deb’s thoughts on book clubs:
 
OPEN DOOR POLICY: it’s important to make everyone feel welcome and on equal ground.  Book clubs are about a love of books and if you are reading the same book over and over again, that’s okay. I had a girl in a previous club who did just that; in fact she told me she didn’t really like to read. I told her that was okay–she could still come and join in–we’d find her something else she liked. And we did! She became one or our most voracious readers!

START SMALL AND GROW FROM THERE: if you start with small numbers, don’t get discouraged. Just keep going if your time and budget allows. Both book clubs I’ve been a part of started really small. In both cases, 2 kids. We ran all summer with just two kids, then fall arrived and they brought friends and so on–until that club was running with at least 10 kids per week.

Same with the one I have now–we started with two, now we’re up to 12! The key here (I think) was letting the kids know it is a social event. We get together and talk about books, laugh and have fun.  Even if you’re not a speed reader, have only read one book in your life but love that book to death—join us!

Wow! Thanks so much to Deb and the Backroom Kids Book Club for all these great tips! I  totally want to join your book club now (especially if you have SNACKS! ;-))

In fact, I’ll be joining them via SKYPE in the next little while and can’t wait. :-)

Your turn: Are you part of a middle-grade book club? Are you planning to start one? Please share your tips for success in the comments!

Hélène Boudreau is the author of the upper middle-grade novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky).  She offers FREE 30-minute Q & A sessions via SKYPE with REAL MERMAIDS book clubs. You can visit her at www.heleneboudreau.com

Ellie McDoodle Winners!

I’m thrilled to announce that the winners of a personalized Ellie McDoodle book with some surprise sketches added by the talented Ruth McNally Barshaw are




 

 

 

Marsha Ratzel and Natalie Aguirre

Congratulations, Marsha and Natalie!  You should receive an e-mail with more info.  Please contact msfishby@fromthemixedupfiles.com if you have any questions.

Thank you all again for your thoughtful comments!  So many of you enjoyed Ruth’s writing and illustrating exercise.  I’ll see if she has another wonderful exercise for you when she comes back to visit us again in May to share more of her secrets, tips, and a list of books that inspired her to become an author/illustrator.