Yearly Archives: 2012

Happy New Year!

Here we are on the last day of 2012. What an amazing year for middle grade books! There were so many memorable, heart-stopping books published this year — sci fi and fantasy, humor and history, graphic novels and nonfiction, love and death and everything in between. Join me on a poetic journey through some of the fantastic middle grade novels of 2012…

Once Upon a Toad there was a young reader

Who devoured stories like a fearless leader.

This year was no different, she read book after book,

Fantasy, reality, historical; whatever it took.

She cried over Ivan, witnessed some Drama, and cheered for Wonder(ful) Auggie,

Had a Laugh With the Moon, wore a Fake Mustache, and looked In a Glass Grimmly.

Next on her list was Glory Be, May B, Stealing Air, and The Marble Queen,

Followed by Jake and Lily, The Templeton Twins, not to mention Ivy and Bean.

She raced through The Fire Chronicle and Liar & Spy,

Then got Caught in The Genius Files and Starry River of the Sky.

No time to spare, there were still lots more books,

about Dorks who keep Diaries, one Wimpy Kid, and The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook.

She discovered The Upside of Ordinary, A Hero for WondLa, then poured over Son,

Just in time to See You at Harry’s, be A Whole Lot of Lucky, and try Flying the Dragon.

Next she figured out The 39 Clues while Stealing Popular and loving The Mighty Miss Malone,

But wait, Amber Brown was back, and while on Will Sparrow’s Road, she was never alone.

Then it was a Summer of the Gypsy Moths; the year was just flying by,

Three Times Lucky, Mr. Terupt Falls Again, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, oh my!

As the leaves began to fall, she curled up in her room,

With The Fault in Our Stars, The False Prince, and Gustav Gloom.

She raced through True Legend, Unstoppable, and Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities,

Made sure to read The Great Unexpected, Joshua Dread, and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee.

Who Could That Be at This Hour? she thought, when she heard a knock,

She was Almost Home when she looked at the clock.

2013 was at the door; it’s practically next year,

She had to hurry up and finish Double Dog Dare.

And now that she’s done, there’s only one thing to do,

Start all over again with books that are new!

 

A very happy new year from all of us at From the Mixed-Up Files! Keep reading and keep writing!

 

 

Michele Weber Hurwitz, the author of Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2011) and an upcoming middle grade novel in spring 2014, can’t wait to see what books are in store for 2013.

The Writers’ TOP TEN

Top-10-ListI LOVE end of year top ten lists…the best and worst dressed..the most embarrassing political moments….the best/worst movies, books, etc… They are everywhere!

Which means we need one, too.

So here it is! To inspire you for a great writing year in 2013…..MY top ten list:

THE BEST ADVICE I’VE RECEIVED (and often given), 2012 EDITION!

(feel free to take it, or not!)

10. Don’t hold back that revelation! This is a big one for me. What I mean: Instead of saving it for the end of the book, USE IT NOW…and see what happens next. What you find out will ALWAYS be more interesting than what you need to fill the pages, waiting to spill that revelation.

9. TRY EVERYTHING! Do I need to explain? In my writers.com class, the writers that are getting agents/getting into MFA programs/having great years are the ones who take advice and try!!!! Even if you end up deleting the writing, you learn something new about your character!

8. Don’t write when you don’t feel safe.  This is a tough one. And very personal. Writing can be a very dangerous activity….and it can be scary. So if the kids are sick or your hubby/wife needs attention or life is hard, that comes first.

7. Plot logically. Find the easy answer. Over and over, ask yourself: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Think: action/reaction.

6. Know what your book is about. Know what you want to say. Think about this as you write. Believe in yourself.

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5. An essential aspect of creativity is NOT being afraid to fail. (Actually, you have to embrace failure!!! It’s an essential part of the process. My bad drafts teach me so much!!!! Then REVISE.) Remember: if you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great will ever happen.

4. Before you work on VOICE, know what your characters want and why. Know your plot. Foundation first. Otherwise, you’re probably just making darlings. Okay?

3. Take the time to figure out what your characters have in common with you on an emotional level. It’s there! I promise!

2. Two pages a day. Every day. Make the commitment.

And the most important piece of advice I have EVER RECEIVED…and continue to give it over and over again…….

celebrate 2

CELEBRATE every step! Chocolate and flowers, writers! Every milestone. Every correspondence. My kids know when I have hit 100 pages, because that’s when I make Thai Seafood Soup! This may sound silly, but when I’m on page 70, just thinking about that soup helps me write.

Happy New Year!!!!!

Sarah Aronson keeps a scrapbook  of great quotes, great writing advice, and occasional writing prompts on her blog, Beyond Revision. It has YET to get a comment. Come check it out in 2013!

Indie Spotlight: The Reading Reptile, Books and Tapes for Young Mammals

It’s our delightful task in these Indie Spotlights to feature an Independent children’s bookstore each month and to share the well-kept secret that children’s bookstores aren’t going away.  In fact they are thriving all over the country because we love them and support them and because no on-line or chain store can match the things children’s bookstores do best.

screenshot_508This month we’re talking with Debbie Pettid, founder/owner of The Reading Reptile—Books and Tapes for Young Mammals in Kansas City MO (www.readingreptile.com)

Sue Cowing for Mixed-Up Files: There’s nothing like a great bookstore name/logo to make us want to visit, and Reading Reptile doesn’t disappoint.  How did the name, and the store, come about?screenshot_501

Debbie Pettid: The name came about brainstorming with friends long ago. The idea for a store began after working at Eeyore’s in NYC. The staff was hardworking and knowledgeable and my time there inspired me to open my own store. I was young, naive and determined so went for it.

MUF: Take us inside your shop and describe the climate you’ve created “for young mammals.”screenshot_499
Debbie: The store itself is very organic and always changing. I never purposely set about trying to create a look or feeling, but had a general idea of wanting it to be the “best bookstore ever.” When I look at and read books they inspire me to create, so I do.  When you walk in the store, if you look back you realize you have walked through a large mouth (Zabajaba Jungle) The front left of the store is a George and Martha playroom and to the right is our in store bakery Le Petit Rouge which is designed to look like a fairy tale forest. Then depending which way you look you may see… up… a mural on the ceiling from Babar the king and all the vices, posters covering most of the ceiling, a U.S. map just like Scrambled States of America and lots of pieces hanging – Fortune from Fortune Cookies, the gorilla from Goodnight Gorilla, Max from Where the Wild Things Are, the Bear from Milos Hat Trick, Arnie the Doughnut, the boy from Meanwhile plus an assortment of origami, homemade paper, and miscellany. screenshot_500Each wall alcove has a scene from a book such as Go Dog Go, Dr. Desoto, My Father’s Dragon, Snowy Day and on top of shelves or tacked in different places you could find JLo from True Meaning of Smekday, Frances, Doll People, Fire Cat, Tin Tin, Moomins, Caps for Sale, Camille, Frog and Toad, Bill and Pete, Lily and Chester, David, plus others.   There are all sorts of stuff nailed, glued, and hung everywhere, crafts kids have made, some dioramas, (Wump World, etc.) some miniature scenes. Most everything is made large and in papermache. Our goal is to cover every surface!

I guess you could say I am obsessed, but I think it is great for kids and adults to recognize characters from their favorite books or want to read the book of the character they see.  Books are exciting, art is exciting and there are a million ways to enjoy both.  I’m in the store every day, as is my husband and five kids and I want them to be interested in the world around them and be open to possibilities and interpretations and so I have tried to create an interesting world. Mostly I like to make stuff.screenshot_504

MUF: You hold an annual writing contest for young writers ages 5-12, and the deadline is coming up on Monday, January 21st.   What role does this contestplay in your shop’s philosophy?
Debbie: With that event we have local illustrators who are nationally published judge the stories. They pick their favorite and illustrate a scene from the story which the child receives. The only rule is don’t plagiarize. The focus is creativity and uniqueness. We have upwards of 500 kids entered each year, and many amazing stories. It is one of our favorite events.

MUF: Tell us about your D.N.A. fest.  Curious title.  Looks like you’ve established a major annual literary event in Kansas City that engages the community, both kids and adults.screenshot_498
Debbie: The festival is hard work, expensive and definitely worth it. We do our best to make sure everyone involved, (presenters, kids, adults, volunteers, etc.) has a really great time, and are able to leave with lots to think about. We think it’s important to have an event where everyone involved with books from readers to creators can have a chance to exchange ideas and build off that excitement. We also enjoy bringing some of the best authors and illustrators and introduce them to new readers.

MUF:  One fan describes your books as “lovingly curated.” You seem to make it a point of pride to introduce readers to great books and authors that aren’t current best sellers but shouldn’t be forgotten. How do you do that?screenshot_497
Debbie: Our books are chosen after having experienced them. Reading them ourselves, reading them out loud, having others read them. We look at the artfulness of the book, the content, the language, the craft. I don’t feed my kids McDonalds so why would I want to hand them the equivalent in a book? Content does matter when you read. “At least my kid is reading” doesn’t cut it. Anyway, if it is something I like a lot, I get it for the store.

MUF: What makes your day as children’s booksellers?
Debbie: Having an inspiring conversation with a customer, making something cool, reading something interesting, eating a cupcake, not wiping up any bodily fluids.screenshot_495

MUF: If readers and their adults from out of town come to visit your shop, are there some favorite family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a snack or meal after browsing?
Debbie: Bella Napoli for lunch or Blue Grotto for dinner. Le Petit Rouge for a treat.  A little farther away, Aixois for lunch or Chai Shai for dinner.

MUF: And if they could stay in town for the weekend, can you recommend some unique sights and activities they shouldn’t miss while they’re there?
Debbie: Kemper Museum of Art, Little Freshie, Broadway Cafe Donna’s Dress Shop, Shop Girls, Local Pig, Artist and Craftsman, Loose Park Rose Garden, Kauffman Gardens, Berkeley Park for a bike ride.

 Readers please note:  A very special event coming right up on Reading Reptile’s calendar is an appearance by Minneapolis-based duo The Okee Dokee Brothers, playing songs from their Parents Choice Award-winning CD, Take it Outside,on Saturday, January 7 at 11 AM.  USA Today calls the Okee Dokee brother’s music “authentic bluegrass for your little brother.”screenshot_489

If you have been to Reading Reptile, or if reading about it here makes you think you’d like to go, please leave a comment here for Debbie.  And if you’ve never visited a real children’s bookstore, why not make it a 2013 resolution to give yourself and a child that unique experience?

Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda Books 2011 and Usborne UK 2013).