Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Spotlight/Giveaway for PAPERTOY GLOWBOTS by Brian Castleforte!

Did someone say glowing robots? Why yes, yes I did.

But these are the kind that, not only do you get to play with/display, but also build! And... all from a beyond nifty book by Brian Castleforte (who creates all sorts of amazing things, by the way!)!

Origami meets amazing creatures in a book of paper craft fun!

Papertoy Glowbots introduces 46 robots that have the added cool factor of lighting up, whether using glow-in-the-dark stickers that come with the book or light sources like flashlights, Christmas tree lights, and electric tea lights.

The 46 die-cut paper robots are created by Brian Castleforte, author of Papertoy Monsters, along with the hottest papertoy designers from around the world. Meet the robots and read about their entertaining backstories in the front, then turn to the card stock section in the back to build them. The templates are die-cut and ready to pop out, fold, and glue. Bold, colorful graphics ensure the robots look as amazing in the daytime as they do with the lights off.

Now, we all know how these things can sometimes go (I'm, ahem, looking at you Pinterist)... The super shiny, perfect picture of the finished product makes your sad attempt look like a plate of garbage? Yeah, that. But, we found this IS NOT the case with these projects, quite the contrary. 

Fun thing is, with Papertoy Glowbots you get to build on your skills or stick to the level where you're most comfortable. My girls (ages 10 and 12) had no problems building and had way more fun than I'd have ever guessed! Honestly, I was expecting a corner full of crumpled up, gluey, robot parts and instead we have a quickly crowding shelf of completed, uber awesome bots! Along with their simple step-by-step construction, I think what really pulled my kids in was that each bot has a backstory and a purpose, which is VERY cool and adds to all of that wonderful imaginative play. Check out some of our favorite Glowbots (I attempted glow-in-the-dark photos, but it wasn't meant to be. Though, trust me, they DO NOT disappoint!)...

PAPERTOY GLOWBOTS by Brian Castleforte is hot off the press and available in all of the usual bookish places. And... be sure to try your chance at the GIVEAWAY!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: THE SEVENTH WISH by Kate Messner

When Charlie Brennan goes ice fishing on her town’s cold winter lake, she’s hoping the perch she reels in will help pay for a fancy Irish dancing solo dress. But when Carlie’s first catch of the day offers her a wish in exchange for its freedom, her world turn upside down.

Charlie catches the fish again and again, but each time, her wishes go terribly and hilariously wrong. Just when things are starting to turn around, a family crisis with her older sister forces Charlie to accept to the fact that some of the toughest challenges in life can’t be fixed by wishing. 

In The Seventh Wish, Charlie feels what we all feel at that age. Invisible. Always coming in last behind everything else. So, when she gets the power to grant wishes, she thinks she can solve all of her problems easily and quickly. Only to find out, life doesn’t always work that way.

Kate Messner is one of my very favorite middle grade authors. So, when this book was released, I bought it as soon as I could. And she knocked it out of the park again with this modern day fairy tale. 

I love how realistically she portrays her middle grade characters. Giving them the perfect voice and giving them life and meaning. In this book she tackles the difficult subject of addiction and handles it with grace and finesse.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Writer Gap & Imposter Syndrome: Are You Stuck In The Writer Closet?

Pssst… I have a secret I’m going to share. The thing is, I think you have the same one.

Everyone loves labels: If you live in New York, you’re a New Yorker. If you love to plant flowers in your garden, you’re a gardener. If you bike or run, you’re a biker or runner.

If you write, you’re a writer.

Oh, wait! It’s not that easy, is it? The doubt creeps in! Have I truly earned that label? Have I lived there long enough? Have I biked far enough? Do I run fast enough? Do I write well enough?

Whether you train for marathons or only run a few miles several times a week, you can call yourself a runner. Who cares if you’re just doing it for the exercise and never enter a race? Does it really matter if it takes you 6 minutes or 14 minutes to finish a mile? Either way, you’ve gone the same distance. You’re a runner.

It seems simple. But for a bunch of people who are skilled at—required to, really—overthink and overanalyze every single word they put down on paper, whether or not to call themselves a writer is par for the course.

“I think I can finally call myself a "real" writer if/when I'm published and my book is on display somewhere,” says Dana Edwards. But even accomplishing the huge feat of getting a book on a bookstore shelf doesn’t make it easier. “I’m still trying to convince myself I should tell people I'm a writer,” says Brooks Benjamin. “A bit of me still feels like I haven't earned the title yet. My book just came out and I've only been writing professionally for a couple of years.”

Maybe it’s because many writers are introverts. We think things over so much before saying them instead of just blurting words out, like our extroverted friends. Or maybe it’s a protection mechanism, sheltering us until we’re really, really, really sure of our writing skills.

In my head, I know I’m a writer. I have the ability, and even the credibility, to back it up. I just don’t talk about it.

A part of me wants to tell everyone I’m a writer, even though talking about it is hard. I become self-conscious, anxious, afraid of judgement. I hide what’s important to me—my writing—because it feels safer than finding out what people might really think. Or worse, to find out they don’t even care at all.

Since I’ve started this journey, I’ve wondered when I’d be ready to let people know I’m a writer. Maybe when I finished a manuscript? No. How about when I became a regular contributor for a writing blog? Not yet. Well, maybe when I had a writer website? Nope. When I had writing clients and was getting paid? Funny, but not even then….

The thing is, to not fully share what’s a very large and important part of my life is actually me being disingenuous to those I care about most. I want them to speak their truth, yet I hesitate to speak mine. Mutual confiding is the cornerstone of any relationship with our dear friends and family. By hiding in my writer closet, I’m closing people off.

So why are we not able to talk openly about our writing to those closest to us?

You might say there’s a million reasons why you’re not telling the people in your life you’re a writer. I’ll tell you there are probably only two.

One reason we’ll call the “The Writer Gap.” It’s the gap between where you are now and some future point where you see success and think you’ll officially and legitimately be a “writer.” It’s like Jon Naster's "Entrepreneurial Gap,” where successful business people are always chasing future goals to grow their business without fulling enjoying their current success. You accomplish one writing goal, but then set your sights on a bigger goal you decided will really make you a writer.

You think, “When I finish this manuscript, when I get an agent, when I get paid for that project….”

“I suppose I started feeling like a writer when I got an agent, but that didn't last very long,” says Ella Schwartz. “After the thrill of landing an agent passed, I went back to thinking I wasn't a real writer.”

However, the more likely reason you don’t tell people you’re a writer is the “Imposter Syndrome.” In fact, Dr. Pauline R. Clance, who coined the phrase, wishes she would have called it the “Imposter Experience” because it’s so common, affecting up to 80% of us.

Imposter Syndrome is when you’re unable to see your own accomplishments and have a fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” You see your success as just luck or because you deceived others into thinking you’re better, smarter, more competent then you believe yourself to really be.

It’s self-protective. You’re afraid you don’t really fit in or belong, so you shut down and remove yourself from situations where you might be “found out.” You come up with excuses as to why you’re not good enough. You create hoops to jump through or sky-high targets to meet, hoping that if you just do this ‘one more thing’, you’ll finally feel like you made it. But it only serves to make you feel more alone and isolated in your experience.

When we stay stuck in our writer closet, feeling like no one else understands, like we don’t measure up, it just keeps the Imposter Syndrome alive. The more we talk about it though, the less it will control us.

And that is why you need to get out of your writer closet. Open the door and let others know you’re writing. Tell people you’re a writer. Let them help and support you. Get feedback so you can continue to improve and move forward. Keep getting those words out. Chances are, you’re a better writer than you think.

Be ready to answer, “What do you write? Anything I may have read?” because you know that question is coming. And it’s okay to say your work is “in progress.” Just be ready to say it confidently. “When you start telling people, their first question is, ‘Where can I buy your book?’" warns Laurie Hager. “Or, ‘Why does it take so long?’ Or ‘When is your book coming out?’ They don't understand the time involved with every part of the writing process.”

Remember why you write. It’s not to just impress your brother or neighbor. You certainly don’t do it for the money. Don’t let negative responses take your joy from writing. You do it because you love getting perfect prose out on the page. You do it because you feel satisfied when you publish a fantastic blog post. You do it because you can make someone literally laugh out loud at just the right spot in your story. You do it because someone will read your words and say, “Yes, this is exactly how I feel, too. I thought I was the only one.”

Find your tribe. Find people to support you. “My husband and children are incredibly supportive and I'd have quit a hundred times if they weren't cheering me on,” says Jo Bankston. If you don’t have a supportive family, Twitter communities are amazing for this.

I know you worry some people will sneer, roll their eyes or make snide comments about you being a writer. I’m sorry, but some will.

You worry some people will just give you blank stares when you talk about your writing. Yes, some will.

I know you want people to be impressed and excited that you’re a writer. Some really will.

And I know you secretly hope people will read your words and be moved to laugh or cry, or maybe they’ll consider a point of view they never would’ve before, because of you. Trust me, some will.

As writers, we measure, weigh and judge every word we put down, but also every word we read and hear. Don’t let other people’s opinions define you. You can’t control how they’ll view you and your writing. It doesn’t matter. You define you. You are a writer.

So, I have a secret I need to share: I am a writer.

Did you enjoy this? Check out our conversation on Professional Jealousy and Envy here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American BoysAll American Boys by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Rashad is absent again today."

Simple misunderstandings are not always simple. Before heading out to join his friends, Rashad changes out of his ROTC uniform and stops at a convenience store. Another customer stumbles, Rashad drops a bag of chips, and then next thing he knows, Rashad is brutally beaten by the police officer who misread the whole situation.

Quinn sees the whole incident. He is horrified when he realizes that the officer is his best friend's brother. Quinn keeps what he has seen to himself. Besides, there is video tape of the incident. And Coach has made it clear that teamwork, not division, is the key to a winning basketball season and a college scholarship.

Rashad and Quinn. One black and one white. Both all American boys.

In a ripped from the headlines scenario, this book cuts to the heart of the issue of police brutality and the undercurrent of American prejudice that perpetuates it. Instead of an "us vs. them" approach, ALL AMERICAN BOYS explores the conflict through the lens of "we." Relationships are messy and fraught with contradictions. Motivations are fuzzy. Allegiances, whether to family or friends or a team, are challenged.

There are no easy answers here. What is present on every page is empathy, soul searching, and the desire to make the world a better place by doing the right thing. Especially when the right thing is hard to do.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


The Kidliterati Ten is an interview series with young readers. We ask them about a favorite book and hope you enjoy the answers.

Tell us a little about yourself: what is your first name, how old are you, and what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
My name is Bridget. I'm twelve years old and I love strawberry ice cream. If I went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I'd be a Slytherin.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?
I read HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD – PARTS ONE AND TWO by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne because the other Harry Potter books are my most favorite books ever and this book is a continuation of where they left off. It looked very good!

Can you describe this book in one word?

What's a good word for action-packed and very fast paced? I'll say adventurous!

What was your favorite part of this story?
Okay, I will try to say this with no spoilers (or as J.K. Rowling said, "Potter fans have always had each other's backs. Today I'm asking you to #KeepTheSecrets of #CursedChild). To avoid any information about the plot, please skip down to the next question. My favorite part would have to be either when Albus and Scorpius get a hold of the Time-Turner or when they jump off the train and the trolley lady grows destruction arms and tries to grab them.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?
Albus thinks he's an outsider trying to live up to his dad  who saved the world. It's hard to imagine having the same problem, but if I did, I would probably try to make more friends. If Albus had more friends, he would have more back up to help him solve his problem and stay out of danger. If I were Albus, I would act similarly, but not as extravagantly.

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?
All of my friends are Harry Potter fans and this book is a must read for any Harry Potter fan! The plot is complicated and it has so many twists and turns. There is never a dull moment! I would have read the book in one night – if my parents hadn't made me go to sleep.

What do you think about the book's cover?

I like the symbolism on the cover. It's Albus Potter in a nest with wings. He's alone and trying to break away from living up to his dad. I can't say what I think the wings mean without spoiling the book.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?
I would absolutely love to read more! It's another generation of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Albus Potter is kind of like Harry and Scorpius Malfoy is kind of like Ron. They have a similar friendship and I want to know where they will go on their adventures together. I would love to see what happens to these two friends at Hogwarts.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?
All seven of the other Harry Potter books because this book is a continuation of the characters and the original story. Also, MAGYK by Angie Sage. Both stories have wizards and witches running from an evil group. They both have thrilling plots.

If you could ask the author one question about this book, what would it be?
I would like to ask J.K. Rowling how she decided on the plot and why she wrote the book as a play and not as a novel?

J.K. Rowling hasn't answered these questions in interviews, but we hope she will in the future.

Additional recommendations from Bridget:
Of course, I would recommend any story related to Harry Potter! I also enjoy THE LAND OF STORIES series, HALF UPON A TIME, and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.

Thank you, Bridget!

by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown

The Wild RobotThe Wild Robot by Peter Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter Brown sets the tone early in his young MG debut THE WILD ROBOT: Nature doesn’t play nice. In fact, it doesn’t play at all. Nature just is.

A hurricane sinks a cargo ship carrying five hundred crated robots. Most sink to the bottom of the sea. Of the five remaining, only one crate lands safely on the shore of a remote island. The other four are dashed onto the rocks, their contents shattered and strewn about as playthings for otters. Roz, the titular wild robot, survives. What follows is a curious mixture of scientific investigation, Disney fairy tale, and cautionary story of a distant (or not so distant) climate-changed future.

When Roz first emerges on the island, she is a blank slate. She doesn’t know where she is, how she got there, or why. She does know one thing: She must adapt to life on her remote island or she will not survive. This is easily my favorite theme of THE WILD ROBOT. Roz is confronted with various threats to her existence and, through observation and investigation of the animals around her, she learns how to overcome the threats. Her matter-of-fact way of solving problems charmed me right away. The robot behaves like a robot and the animals she watches behave like animals.

I will admit to being less sold on what comes next, when Roz learns the language of the animals and begins to speak with them. From that point, the animals, though still retaining some of their true animal nature, began to act more like anthropomorphic Disney characters than the wild creatures Roz observed at the beginning. And I should note that, while this feature turned me off the story, it thoroughly energized my daughters who absolutely loved this turn of events.

And by the end, when the whole island must work together to defeat problems both natural and unnatural, even I was rooting for them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Author Spotlight on Carol Goodman

The spotlight series brings to light authors’ insights on writing for young readers and the secrets to their success. In this post, Carol Goodman will tell us her secrets to world building, creating young adult characters, writing with different voices, and working with a co-writer. Goodman writes both young adult and adult novels with great success in the mystery, fantasy, and contemporary genres. Her books have been nominated for IMPAC awards, the Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark award, and the Nero Wolfe Award; and The Seduction of Water won the Hammett Prize. Her work has also appeared in literary journals, such as The Greensboro Review, Literal Latt, The Midwest Quarterly, and Other Voices.
Welcome, Carol! It’s a treat to interview such a prolific author about the craft of writing for young adult readers. Your young adult Blythewood trilogy is a wonderful mixture of fantasy and historical fiction. Can you explain how the blend of these elements aided in the world building of Blythewood?
I had written an adult fantasy series set in the present at a fictional college for fairies and witches.  As I was writing that series I began to think of a sort of prequel set in the past at a boarding school.  The idea for Blythewood was born out of that.  I was drawn, particularly to the period around 1911 because my daughter, Maggie Vicknair, has a webcomic set in that period.  It was fun to use an historical period because I was able to re-imagine historical events, such as the sinking of the Titanic and World War I, through the lens of magic.  Plus I could imagine how creatures with wings might dress in the Edwardian era.  I also enjoyed researching the period and imagining what roles magical creatures might have played in world events.  There's something magical about that past that I think added to the creation of that fantasy world.   
You’ve written several adult mystery novels that received critical acclaim and won awards, such as The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water. Beyond the characters’ ages, what is the main distinction between writing adult and young adult fiction?
The biggest difference for me was remembering always how it feels to be a teenager.  Emotions are often heightened when we're young.  We don't have the perspective of time to know that we can get over heartbreak, that things will change.  For a teenager, a crisis can feel like the end of the world and first love feels like the only love.  In my adult fiction I often go for understating emotions, but in writing the Blythewood series I would always try to imagine what my teenage characters would be feeling.  Otherwise, there wasn't a tremendous difference.  I respect my young readers just as I respect my adult readers and I never want to talk down to them.  
You’ve also penned a paranormal gothic romance series known as the Fairwick Chronicles under the pseudonym Juliet Dark. What about these books required a different writer’s voice?
The Fairwick Chronicles are narrated by a woman in her early thirties.  She's more experienced and cynical than Ava is (in Blythewood), although when she discovers herself in a magical world, she is just as wonderstruck.  Then there's the issue of sex.  There's a lot more of it in the Fairwick Chronicles--the first book of which is called The Demon Lover.  While there is plenty of romance and passion in the Blythewood books (and, spoiler-alert, one pretty sexy scene) I wasn't going to write graphic sex scenes for teenaged readers.   
You co-wrote the YA paranormal Black Swan Rising series with your husband Lee Slonimsky under the name Lee Carroll. How did the collaboration work in terms of your roles as writers, and what is the secret to your success working together?
My husband, Lee, has always been my first reader of manuscripts (and I read his poetry), so our collaboration came out of us sharing our writing with each other for many years.  I had started asking him for poems in my books, and then we started talking about writing something together. We went about it much as we were used to going about sharing our work.
Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky
One of us would write something, then pass it on to the other, and the other one would continue, then pass it back ... etc.  Sometimes we would do some editing or rewriting of the other's work.  Although we often talked about the plot and characters, we never tried to write in the same room (actually we once tried and had to stop after ten minutes).  I think our secret to our success working together is always to respect each other's writing.

Is there some secret about you that our readers may be surprised to know?
I'm pretty much an open book (no pun intended) who spends most of her time writing, reading, and teaching (with some dog walking and yoga thrown in) so I don't have too many exciting secrets.  I've had some colorful ancestors, though, including a great-aunt who was a dancer in Vaudeville.
As a sneak preview for our readers, can you share with us any secrets about upcoming projects?
I've written a middle-grade novel called The Metropolitans, which will come out in March, 2017 (Viking Children's).  It's about a group of kids who meet at the Metropolitan Museum on the eve of WWII and discover they must find an ancient Arthurian book hidden in the museum in order to thwart an attack against New York City.  It combines my love of NYC (especially during the war years), the Metropolitan Museum (my favorite kids book is From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), and Arthurian legends.  It was great fun to write!
Thanks for such an interesting interview, Carol. We’ll keep an eye out for The Metropolitans next year. It sounds like an intriguing mix of historical periods and suspenseful settings. All the best, Chris BrandonWhitaker!


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