Author Archives: Jacqueline Houtman

Chilly books to beat the heat

It’s been a warm hot steamy beastly hellish summer.  They say books can transport you, so here are some books to take you to cool brisk cold icy frigid places.  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, snuggle under a comforter, and enjoy.

(Descriptions from IndieBound)

Arctic CodeThe Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby

(Balzer & Bray/Harperteen  2015)

It is the near future, and the earth has entered a new ice age. Eleanor Perry lives in Tucson, one of the most popular destinations for refugees of the Freeze. She is the daughter of a climatologist who is trying to find new ways to preserve human life on the planet. Dr. Perry believes that a series of oil deposits she has found in the Arctic may hold the key to our survival. That’s when she disappears but not before sending Eleanor a series of cryptic messages that point to a significant and mysterious discovery. Now it’s up to Eleanor to go find her.

BlizzardBlizzard: Colorado, 1886 by Kathleen Duey and Karen A. Bale

 (Aladdin Paperbacks  2014)

Maggie Rose’s trick on her spoiled cousin Haydn Sinclair backfires when he disappears on a hike, and it’s up to Maggie to rescue him in a sudden blizzard in Estes Park, Colorado, in 1886.

BreadcrumbsBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

(Walden Pond Press  2013)

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it’s up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Breadcrumbs is a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.

Brian's WinterBrian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen

 (Delacorte Books for Young Readers 1996)

In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. He was rescued at the end of the summer. Brian’s Winter begins where Hatchet might have ended: Brian is not rescued, but must build on his survival skills to face his deadliest enemy–a northern winter.

Call of the Klondike

Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure

by David Meissner and Kim Richardson (Calkins Creek Books  2013)

As thousands head north in search of gold, Marshall Bond and Stanley Pearce join them, booking passage on a steamship bound for the Klondike goldfields. The journey is life threatening, but the two friends make it to Dawson City, in Canada, build a cabin, and meet Jack London, all the while searching for the ultimate reward: gold

Daughter of WinterDaughter of Winter by Pat Lowery Collins

(Candlewick Press 2010)

It’s 1849, and twelve-year-old Addie lives in the shipbuilding town of Essex, Massachusetts. Her father has left the family to seek gold on the West Coast, and now the flux has taken the lives of her mother and baby brother, leaving Addie all alone. Her fear of living as a servant in some other home drives her into the snowy woods, where she survives on her own for several weeks before a nomadic, silver-haired Wampanoag woman takes her in. Slowly, the startling truth of Addie’s past unfolds. Through an intense ancient ceremony, and by force of her own wits and will, Addie unravels the mystery of her identity and finds the courage to build a future unlike any she could ever have imagined.

First LightFirst Light by Rebecca Stead

(Wendy Lamb Books 2007)

Peter is thrilled to join his parents on an expedition to Greenland, where his father studies global warming. Peter will get to skip school, drive a dogsled, and finally share in his dad’s adventures. But on the ice cap, Peter struggles to understand a series of visions that both frighten and entice him.
Thea has never seen the sun. Her extraordinary people, suspected of witchcraft and nearly driven to extinction, have retreated to a secret world they’ve built deep inside the arctic ice. As Thea dreams of a path to Earth’s surface, Peter’s search for answers brings him ever closer to her hidden home.
Rebecca Stead’s fascinating debut novel is a dazzling tale of mystery, science and adventure at the top of the world.

Ice dogsIce Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

(Hmh Books for Young Readers 2014)

Victoria Secord, a fourteen-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer, loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods is entirely up to her.

Ice StoryIce Story: Shackleton’s Lost Expedition 

bElizabeth Cody Kimmel (Clarion Books 1999)

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and a twenty-seven-man crew set off on an expedition to reach and cross Antarctica. Just a month and a half into the voyage, their ship, the Endurance, was caught fast in heavy pack ice. The men had no radio contact, and no one knew where they were or even that they were in trouble. None of them should have survived the ordeal that followed-unstable ice floes, treacherous waters, freezing temperatures, and starvation. Only the extraordinary leadership, courage, and strength of Shackleton brought the whole team safely through.

Impossible RescueThe Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by  Martin W. Sandler (Candlewick Press 2012)

In 1897, whaling in the Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast was as dangerous as it was lucrative. And in that particular year, winter blasted early, bringing storms and ice packs that caught eight American whale ships and three hundred sailors off guard. Their ships locked in ice, with no means of escape, the whalers had limited provisions on board, and little hope of surviving until warmer temperatures arrived many months later. Here is the incredible story of three men sent by President McKinley to rescue them. The mission? A perilous trek over 1,500 miles of nearly impassable Alaskan terrain, in the bone-chilling months of winter, to secure two herds of reindeer (for food) and find a way to guide them to the whalers before they starve.

Surviving AntarcticaSurviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083

by Andrea White (Eos 2006)

Five fourteen year olds face this desperate situation on a deadly journey in Antarctica. It is 2083. They are contestants on a reality TV show, Antarctic Survivor, which is set up to re create Robert F. Scott’s 1912 doomed attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole.But in 2083 reality TV is not just an act. Contestants literally relive or die during the simulations of events. Robert Scott and his team were experienced explorers and scientists, but their attempt to reach the Pole proved fatal. What chance does the Antarctic Survivor team have?

TrappedTrapped by Michael Northrop

(Scholastic Press,  2011)

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive.

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision.

WinterfrostWinterfrost by Michelle Houts

 (Candlewick Press   2014)

Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost over the countryside. But twelve-year-old Bettina’s parents have been called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia. In all the confusion, Bettina’s family neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse who are rumored to look after the family and their livestock. No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears during a nap, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous folk.

 

wintersmithWintersmith by Terry Pratchett

(HarperCollins 2006)

At 9, Tiffany Aching defeated the cruel Queen of Fairyland.

At 11, she battled an ancient body-stealing evil.

At 13, Tiffany faces a new challenge: a boy. And boys can be a bit of a problem when you’re thirteen. . . .

But the Wintersmith isn’t “exactly” a boy.  He is Winter itself–snow, gales, icicles–“all of it.” When he has a crush on Tiffany, he may make her roses out of ice, but his nature is blizzards and avalanches. And he wants Tiffany to stay in his gleaming, frozen world. Forever.

Tiffany will need all her cunning to make it to Spring. She’ll also need her friends, from junior witches to the legendary Granny Weatherwax. Tiffany will need the Wee Free Men too. She’ll have the help of the bravest, toughest, smelliest pictsies ever to be banished from Fairyland–whether she wants it or not. It’s going to be a cold, cold season, because if Tiffany doesn’t survive until Spring–Spring won’t come.

 

Jacqueline Houtman is the author of the middle-grade novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010) and coauthor, with Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, of the biography for young (and not-so-young) readers, Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist (Quaker Press 2014).

10 Ways Writing a Middle-Grade Book is like ZUMBA®

I recently earned my Zumba Instructor certification and it occurred to me that writing middle-grade books has a lot in common with Zumba.

1.You’re never too old

I never understood why adults think that middle-grade books are beneath them. (Have you ever had anyone ask you when you are going to write a real book?) As for Zumba, you can work at whatever intensity you want. Don’t want to do that jumping move? Don’t. Just step instead. There are Zumba Gold classes especially for those with limited mobility, but if you can put one foot in front of the other, then you can do a regular Zumba class. As for teaching Zumba, suffice it to say that I have both a Zumba Instructor Certification and an AARP card.

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2.You can do it in the pool

There are Aqua  Zumba classes for those who enjoy that kind of thing. It’s especially easy on the joints. I don’t care for them, at least in an indoor pool, because the music echoes so much. As for writing, I do some of my best writing while swimming laps. I don’t bring a computer or notebook into the pool with me, but the meditative action of lap swimming can sometimes help me work out sticky plot points.

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3. Music helps

The Latin and International music is one of the major appeals of Zumba, at least for me. I often need music to write, and coincidentally, it is often International music, because the lyrics are not in English. English lyrics seem to short circuit the neural writing pathways. (Even though I understand French, those lyrics don’t bother me, because I’m writing in English. I haven’t tried the converse experiment—writing in French while listening to English lyrics.)

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(photo credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

4. Earplugs help, too

Several people I know use earplugs in Zumba classes, especially with some of the younger, more enthusiastic instructors. They like to crank the tunes. Some writers work better when it’s quiet. I know I resorted to earplugs when they tore up my street last summer.

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5.Working together has benefits

Some authors have writing retreats together, and the peer pressure to be writing while your fellow retreaters are writing can increase productivity. Some writers connect online and hold each other accountable. Word sprints are an online productivity tool. You each commit to writing without stopping for a set amount of time, say fifteen minutes, then you report your word count. Sure, you can lie about it, but you don’t. As for Zumba, research has shown that dancing in unison can have health benefits above and beyond simple exercise. Even more benefits than dancing independently to the same music.

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6. You can learn from each other

That’s what critique groups are for. That’s why you go to writers’ conferences. That’s why you read a lot. It’s how you figure out what works for you. Same with Zumba. You go to different classes with different instructors. You watch the choreography videos. To get ideas. To see how other people interpret the same music. That person next to you in class adds a turn or a flourish of the arms to the same step you are all doing. Hmm. What if…?

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7. A marathon session can be painful

The Zumba Instructor Training went from 7:30am to 4:00pm. It started with an hour-long master class, and although we didn’t dance the entire time, there were multiple sessions of learning the steps and variations, warm-ups and cool-downs, and practice putting together choreography. I learned that Zumba uses just about every muscle, because just about every muscle was sore for days. A marathon writing session can also leave me pretzel-like, because I find myself in the vulture position when I am really concentrating.

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8. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

We learn in elementary school language arts class that a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Zumba, we start with a warmup, to ease the body into the class, get the blood moving, and increase the heart rate. Then at the end, a cool down gradually decreases the heart rate, and stretching helps reduce muscle pain later on.

9. The middle is the hardest part.

In a Zumba class, the most strenuous, fastest songs fall between the warmup and the cool down. Authors refer to the “dreaded middle,” “sagging middle,” “middle muddle,” “sticky, icky middle,” and so on. You know where the book starts, and how you want it to end. The trick is to get your reader to the end without getting bored.

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10. There’s a supportive community

The children’s writing community is one of the most supportive groups I know. Whether it’s a hug at a conference, an email or Facebook post to show an author a photo of their book “in the wild,” or offering goods and services to online auctions to help pay another author’s medical bills, you can count on the kidlit community. There’s a lot of support among Zumba aficionados, too. The instructors sub for each other and get together to run charity Zumbathons. And if you are a regular participant in a class, you are definitely missed when you don’t show up.

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Whether it’s a publishable manuscript or a healthier body you’re after, you can’t just wish for it. You have to work at it. So get your butt in that chair or get your butt to the gym. You’ll feel better for having done it.

Jacqueline Houtman is the author of the middle-grade novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010) and coauthor, with Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, of the biography for young (and not-so-young) readers, Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist (Quaker Press 2014).

Museum Mystery Winner

The winner of signed copies of

The Case of the Stolen Spacesuit and The Case of the Missing Mom

by Steve Brezenoff is:

Ryan Swanson

Congratulations, Ryan.

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Thanks to all who commented.