Thursday, May 24, 2018

Cover Reveal - MarcyKate Connolly

Today we're thrilled to share the cover of MarcyKate Connolly's upcoming middle grade novel, COMET RISING, with you! And -- to make this even more exciting -- she's offering two signed ARCs of the book. Read through to enter the giveaway.

Without further ado, let's hear what MarcyKate has to say . . .

I’m so thrilled that today I get to share the cover for COMET RISING with the world – thank you so much to Kidliterati for hosting it!

This is the conclusion to the duology that began with SHADOW WEAVER, so it’s a little sad to say goodbye to characters I love and have spent the last couple of years writing. There’s always a little piece of me in my characters, and Emmeline and her shadow Dar were partially inspired by my own imaginary friend when I was very young (mine was nowhere near as devious as Dar, fortunately). In essence, this series is about a lonely girl who just wants to find where she belongs. And in the second book, she’ll do anything she can to keep that new family together. I adore these characters and sometimes I just want to give them all a big hug!

There’s always a strange mix of anticipation and dread that comes when I know a new cover will be landing in my inbox soon. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had some amazing ones and COMET RISING’s is no exception! There is so much I love about this cover: The colors! That comet! The addition of Lucas, Emmeline’s best friend! The “I” in Rising, floating up above the other letters! Art director Nicole Hower and artist Zdenko Basic did a fabulous job crafting a sequel cover that’s a perfect match to the first book, and a lovely package in which to send Emmeline and her friends out into the world on January 1, 2019.

And here's the gorgeous cover . . .


More about COMET RISING:

Something is very wrong with the sky...

Emmeline and Lucas are safe from Lady Aisling and her soldiers for the time being. The only thing that mars their peaceful life is Emmeline's former shadow, Dar. Still shut in her cage, she constantly tries to manipulate Emmeline to set her free.

Then one night the Cerelia Comet, the reason for their magical abilities, returns... Twelve years too early. The return of the comet can only mean one thing, Lady Aisling has a sky shaker under her control and is hoping for a new batch of talented children to add to her collection.

Emmeline and Lucas journey to find other talented children who can help in the fight against Lady Aisling. But when Dar escapes, and the two friends realize many of the children they seek have already been taken, it's clear the sky shaker might be the least of their worries.

The thrilling conclusion to MarcyKate Connolly's Shadow Weaver duology follows Emmeline and Lucas as they face the darkness that has shadowed their lives.

This sounds SO good! And that cover is stunning. Mark your calendars for January 1st, 2019, when COMET RISING arrives from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

More about MarcyKate:

MarcyKate Connolly is a New York Times bestselling children's book author who lives in New England with her family and a grumble of pugs. Like the main character in her Shadow Weaver duology, she once had an imaginary friend who did very naughty things like eating directly from the sugar bowl and playing hide-and-seek with her parents—without telling them—whenever they went to department stores. Later in life, she graduated from Hampshire College (a magical place where they don't give you grades) where she wrote an opera sequel to Hamlet as the equivalent of senior thesis. It was also there that she first fell in love with plotting and has been dreaming up new ways to make life difficult for her characters ever since.  You can visit her online and learn more about her stories at www.marcykate.com.

You can also find her at:
Twitter: @marcykate
Instagram: /marcykateconnolly

And here's the giveaway! It's open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Secrets of Kidlit: Renew Your Writer's Soul




Every other year, the kids and I shove our camping gear into the car, and head north. My husband thinks I’m slightly crazy because the words vacation and tent have no business hanging out together. And while I’m not overly fond of tents either, that’s not what that matters. What does matter is being there. It is always homecoming of sorts - as my family has been coming to this area for more than fifty years and it is home to some of my earliest memories.


I go because it's where my soul renews itself. And where my inner child is set free to play - in the woods, or the grasslands, or along the beaches of Lake Michigan. It's where I get to spend a week with many members of my extended family. In this area of Michigan, there isn't a single stop light. There are no fast food restaurants. You can't even find a Starbucks. Up there, everything is indie. And nature is valued more than industry.


Last year, as I was getting ready to go, I realized that there were things that I, as a person and as a writer, needed to address. It had been a very stressful year and not only was my spirit drained, but my writing was suffering. I’d only had little pockets of time here and there to spend on my work and because I’d been so stressed, what little writing I got done was more venting in my journal than anything else.

I needed to renew.

I shoved a new notebook into my pack (along with a few novels, of course!) and made the long
drive north. On that drive, I decided that I wasn’t going to focus on my current manuscript, but only on creativity. 

The first day, after yoga on the beach, I closed my eyes and wrote down everything I heard. Then, I refocused and wrote about what it looked like from memory (after all I’d been coming to this beach for over thirty years). And wrote a bad poem.

Another day, I wrote about what it’s like to walk into the camp store and how it sparked strong memories of my grandmother. I could almost see her sorting through the toys on the wooden shelves and pulling out the yellow inflatable ring for me to play with.


Mid-week, I wrote a quick short story based on the time my cousins forced me to run through the pine forest after midnight. (It. Was. Terrifying!) 

By the end of our trip, I had filled more than twenty pages of my notebook and felt ready to return to my desk and my current work-in-progress. While the stresses I was facing didn’t let up by very much, I did get more done. And when I started to slump again, I put aside my project and allowed myself a few days to write whatever I wanted.
  
As we head into summer, check in with yourself. How is your writing and creativity doing after these busy months of winter and spring? If you need to renew your creativity, consider taking a trip to the park, or a coffee shop, or maybe the pool. Bring your pen and a few blank pages and see what happens!







Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres


Stef Soto, Taco QueenStef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tía Perla, the jewel of the family Soto –Not. Smelling of jalapenos and cooking oil that “clings to your hair and crawls under your fingernails.” The Tía Perla was fine when Estefania, “Stef” was younger, it meant corn chips and sodas for all her friends and being playground royalty. But she’s had enough of the truck taking over her life.

She’s in middle school now, and her parent’s drop her off with the taco truck. No one gets picked up by their parents anymore. Stef wants a little independence and not constantly associated with the taco truck and to walk alone to school. She’s been negotiating for months. Mami and Papi wouldn’t even think of leaving her alone, and once again, she’s scooped into another taco truck adventure with her Papi, picking up friends along the way, creating recipes, and bringing people together.

When Papi fires up his grill, the Banda music plays, and the mouth-watering flavors sizzle off the page. Lexi has mixed feeling about the Tía Perla. But she helps her father, while her mother works at the 24-hour grocery, and when he needs her to help him save the family business, Lexi must find her voice and she discovers just how much the taco truck means to her.


A heartwarming book that brings the strength of family, first-generation immigrants, and finding your voice together in this delightful middle grade, while also learning a little Spanish, but be warned: You will become unbearably hungry while reading this book!



View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reaching Readers: Dominic's Review of PRISONER B-3087

Here at Kidliterati, we have done a long series called Reaching Readers. We've talked about ways to engage with young book lovers. The ideas are wide ranging, but the simplest and most direct way we engage readers is through books themselves. It's a remarkable thing -- words on the page create an environment in which a young mind grows.

Miriam Spitzer Franklin reached out to us to share a special book review by Dominic, one of her 7th grade students. She wanted to tell us how Dominic has grown as a reader and writer this year. "He is an avid reader of historical fiction, especially about World War II. He's also a talented creative writer. Perhaps he'll have his own books published someday!"

We hope you will enjoy Dominic's review of Prisoner B-3087 as much as we do:

Prisoner B-3087, by Alan Gratz, is about a teenage Polish Jew in the 1940’s during World Two who is sent to a death camp during the Nazi occupation. The main problem that Yanek faces is SURVIVAL. His daily struggle is to survive, from gas chambers to being shot, to malnourishment to disease and sickness as it spreads through the camp like wildfire. Survival is Yanek’s only option even though it seems impossible to fifteen-year-old Yanek.

I really like Yanek in this book as it explains his daily struggle in a Nazi occupation concentration camp. This character is fearless by standing up to a Nazi monster like SS Conrod Goeth. He is so strong as he tries to fight with every little strength he has left in his body, through days that feel like he's stuck in a horror movie. But sadly, Yanek faces lots of problems. He loses his family early on in the book to the Nazis. That has been very hard for Yanek to face and recover. Another problem is when Yanek loses his Uncle Moshe in a concentration camp. Yanek shows many emotions, fearless being one and being scared and horrified are others. And of course, he faces sadness as Yanek loses pretty much his whole family.

What I like most about the main character is how brave and strong he is. This book is so powerful in emotion and sadness. This book is so interesting and exciting and leaves you on a bunch of cliffhangers. That is why I kept turning the pages. It always made me want to skip ahead and see what will happen to Yanek.

"Survival is my only option. " -- Page 93

I chose this quote from the book because of how important it is for 15-year-old Yanek to survive under Nazi control. Yanek has to survive. He’s already come this far. I give this book a great rating of five stars. This was for sure the best I’ve ever read. If you really want a feel for what the Jews actually went through in World War Two, you will love this book.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Review - Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

Book Uncle and MeBook Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bookworm Yasmin is pretty content with her life and well on her way to reading a book a day for the rest of her life. One day Book Uncle doesn't set up shop at his usual corner of the street and Yasmin soon learns it's up to her and her friends to bring Book Uncle back in business.

I originally picked up this chapter book for my daughter because the main character LOVES reading. Imagine my delight when it turns out that Yasmin isn't just an avid reader but a budding social activist as well. I appreciate how her passion for reading translates into standing up for what she believes in and using the laws in place to change things.

The feeling of community is very strong as well and it makes the setting (of the story) into a character in its own right. It was all done so seamlessly I'm in awe of the writing style.

Not once does the story sound preachy. In fact by the time you reach the end, the way everything comes together will make you tear up (or at the very least a tiny bit emotional). This is a book I absolutely want to have around so my daughter can revisit Yasmin's world whenever she wishes to.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Guest Post with Veera Hiranandani, author of The Night Diary

Today we are thrilled to host Veera Hiranandani, author of The Night Diary, a middle grade novel published March 6, 2018 by Dial Books. Today, Veera is here to answer our questions about writing for middle grade and to tell us a little bit more about the Night Diary! Our questions are in bold, and Veera's answers are in blue.

Interview with Veera Hiranandani



The Night Diary is the story of twelve-year-old Nisha, whose family undertakes a dangerous journey from Pakistan into India as refugees. What do you hope readers come to understand about the plight of refugees?

My father was also a refugee and had to leave his home during the Partition of India in 1947, which is what inspired me to write this story. To me, of course, my father is an individual human being with many experiences, one of them being a refugee. This is true for every refugee. I attempted to create a specific human experience in the book, so perhaps when people hear certain labels, like the term “refugee,” they not only have respect and empathy for what that label represents, but also remember that each person who carries this label is a person with their own story. We all have our own unique stories under whatever labels we carry.

In 1947, India separated into two countries—Pakistan and India. The divide created tension between Hindus and Muslims, and half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs. Did you share her sense of displacement in your middle school years?

I definitely shared her sense of trying to bridge her multiple identities. My mother was born in this country and is Jewish. My father was born in India and is Hindu. I grew up in Connecticut in the 70’s and 80’s and often felt confused about my identity and the only person “like” me. But Nisha feels this confusion on a much greater scale with life-threatening stakes attached to it. She is also literally displaced. I could only do my best to imagine what that might have felt like. I wanted her to have a connection with both identities that were suddenly pitted against each other and ask the question--if I’m connected to both “sides” and my country is being split in half, where do I belong?

The Night Diary is in epistolary format—meaning, written in letters. What inspired this narrative structure?

I like to give myself some boundaries as a writer which helps me think more carefully about my choices as I write. I knew that Nisha was extremely shy, and I felt excited by the idea of the reader getting to know a very intimate side of her through the diary format that no one else in her life would see. But an epistolary format has limitations regarding how a writer maintains the narrative flow and how one builds scenes or includes dialogue. At times, I decided to create more expansive scenes for the reader than an actual twelve-year old might do in real diary, but I hoped that readers would want to take a leap with me for the sake of the story.

I love books with maps. How excited were you to see a map in The Night Diary?

I was VERY excited. It is so beautifully done! Designer and cover artist, Kelly Brady at Dial (and the rest of the design team) did a phenomenal job. I showed it to my father and he was really moved. I think the map made it very concrete for him. He got quiet and then said, “that’s the same journey we took.” I got a little choked up. Also, for young readers, I think it’s helpful and rewarding to have a visual guide, and a gorgeous one at that!

What is one aspect of The Night Diary that you wish readers were more aware of?

Well, Partition and India’s independence is such a huge part of our global history and it is surprising that so many people growing up in this country do not learn much about it, if anything at all. But there are many events in world history which we don’t learn about as Americans. So I hope my book can create more of a global awareness. I also hope people can learn from some of the mistakes that were made, for example, how dividing people into groups based on religion or ethnicity creates fear and xenophobia. Inevitably hatred grows towards the other “side.” Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs lived together peacefully in most communities all over India. Then when Partition happened, and Muslims were supposed to live in Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs were supposed to live in India, these same communities attacked each other. 1-2 million people died during Partition and it was meant to be a triumphant time for India, since they had just gained independence after decades of British rule.

According to your bio on your website, you love arcades. What are your favorite arcade games?

Ha! That was a long time ago, but I was all about Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Pac Man.

Have you read any great middle grade stories lately? What books should we move to the top of our TBR piles?

It is an exciting time for middle grade—so many amazing options. A great pair with The Night Diary is Supriya Kelkar’s Ahimsa, which covers India’s freedom movement a few years before Independence and Partition. I also love Sheela Chari’s Finding Mighty and Sayantani Das Gupta’s The Serpent’s Secret.


You mentioned that food is an important part of your personal narrative. What foods should readers keep an eye out for in The Night Diary?

There are many, but mostly I mention simple, everyday foods based on what my father remembers eating as a child. A typical breakfast for him would be chapati (a flat, round bread) and yogurt or dal. His favorite snack and one of mine is pakora--delicious vegetable fritters. One of my most loved desserts is gulab jamun, which are fried milk balls in rosewater syrup. I highly recommend them if you have a sweet tooth like I do. Actually, I have an everything tooth.

Can you give us a hint about what you are working on now?

I’m working on another historical middle grade novel, but focusing on a different time in history, inspired again by my family but in a another way. I’m also working on a YA novel, my first attempt at something speculative. There, of course, will be many mentions of food in both! Thanks for asking such great questions! I enjoyed it!




Veera Hiranandani is the author of The Night Diary (Dial), which was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition and is a New York Times Editor's Choice Pick, The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Yearling), which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist, and the chapter book series, Phoebe G. Green (Grosset & Dunlap). She earned her MFA in fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College's Writing Institute and is working on her next novel.




Monday, May 7, 2018

Review: An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder

An Uninterrupted View of the SkyAn Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Francisco can’t decide whether to finish high school or to start a business with his best friend in the lively marketplace of Cochabamba, Bolivia. But his lower-middle class life is turned upside-down when his father is imprisoned by a corrupt and unfair legal system that targets the indigenous population. A domino effect topples his family’s station in life, and gut-wrenching factors force Francisco and his little sister Pilar to move into the prison with their father. The danger of the streets that they had tried to avoid before now surrounds them.

This moving contemporary young adult novel is a wake-up call to American teenagers, who may take for granted the luxury of our high standard of living and the rule of law. Crowder's powerful narrative delivers an injection of gratitude for the things we might feel entitled to in a prosperous democratic society. Beyond an impression that life in the Third World is tough, readers will discover on an emotional level just how difficult it is for teenagers to survive elsewhere. And An Uninterrupted View of the Sky does this through the dramatic plight of complex but sympathetic characters in spellbinding fashion.

In addition, readers who deal with challenging circumstances at home will relate to the semblance of security and normalcy that schools can provide otherwise chaotic lives. Likewise, Francisco and Pilar are permitted to leave the prison in the mornings to go to school, but they must return to brutal conditions before curfew at dinnertime each evening. Francisco’s previous annoyance with all the rules, social codes, and demands of teachers in high school pales next to the imminent danger faced daily in prison. He is obliged to re-evaluate his priorities and the importance of an education when confronted with these riveting turns of events.

All the best, Chris Brandon Whitaker
View all my reviews

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