Christmas in July Book Swap Reveal!

Some of you may recall that I was going to participate in the Christmas in July Book Swap, hosted by The Book Monsters. I’m happy to say I was paired with Kate, who actually blogs at The Book Monsters, and she sent me a book that I have wanted to read for many years.

It’s the first in a trilogy by Nancy Farmer, and I just have never gotten around to reading it.

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I love The House of the Scorpion by Farmer (and have used it in teaching 8th grade English), and have read wonderful reviews about The Sea of Trolls. Kate also sent me two beautiful bookmarks, which I always need more of!christmas in july

This was a wonderful swap for the middle of the summer, and I look forward to reading and reviewing The Sea of Trolls trilogy in the near future!

 

The Vanishing Season (2014) by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (2014)

Suggested age range: 13 and up (Harper Collins, 256 pages)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Paranormal

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The Book: At first glance, this might seem like a ghost story. In some ways it is. In some ways, it isn’t. It’s about Maggie, who moves to Door County, Wisconsin where a bitterly cold winter ushers in a dangerous season for girls. They start disappearing. Having moved from Chicago, Maggie and her parents slowly start to make a home for themselves in this bleak and yet beautiful landscape, and Maggie develops connections with neighbors Pauline, and Pauline’s good friend, Liam. The friendship between these three teens is the central focus of the book, but woven within that narrative is a mystery—including a mystery about the narrator of the story—who is telling us what happened and what role did he/she have to play in the events that transpired that tragic winter?

Spirituality in The Vanishing Season: Anderson touches on some interesting topics that illuminate issues of spirituality—what happens when we die, if we are tied in some profound way to another person, and the power of relationships to bring healing and forgiveness.

Though I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s depiction of what happens when someone dies, the story definitely would provide an opportunity for some fascinating discussion. The question of uncertainty about the narrator brings up the idea that different people see the same events in various ways—it seems that when we come to that awareness, it may be  easier to understand others.

Who Should Read This Book: If you loved We Were Liars, you should read Anderson’s new book. Those of you that love Tiger Lily, yes, I would recommend you read The Vanishing Season, but I wouldn’t say this is at the same level as Tiger Lily. It’s a different kind of book, and, as you might have read on GoodReads, opinions were widely varied. I didn’t have the problems with this story that some other reviewers did, but I can see their frustration with the idea that not much happened in the story. However, I found myself gripped and turning the pages, wanting to know what was going on with these vanishing girls, but also wondering how the connections between Maggie, Pauline, and Liam were going to work out.

The Final Word: This book gave me a hangover when I finished it. I will eventually re-read it though. I want to comb through the story, look for clues, and appreciate again Anderson’s rich and atmospheric language. I enjoyed the book (as much as you can when you get to the end of a book and just want to sit and stare into space) but I struggled with the ending a bit. I wanted something different for the central characters, but I could understand where Anderson was going with the narrative. Point of discussion—compare the ending of this story with Tiger Lily. Could be an interesting talk!

 

The Stuff of Dreams: Dream Boy Interview with Madelyn Rosenberg & Giveaway!

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What if your dreams were real? What if someone you only knew in a dream showed up in your life one day? That is exactly what happens to Annabelle, the protagonist in Dream Boy by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg. Today, I’m very excited to have Madelyn stop by the blog for an interview about a myriad of subjects including dreams, the book, what she’s reading, and of course as is a tradition on the blog: Donuts!

First, a little about Dream Boy:

“If dreams can come true…then so can nightmares.

One night Annabelle dreams of the perfect boy: tall and handsome with impossible blue eyes. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he’s gone…until he walks into her science class the next day. Perfect and REAL. The boy of her dreams. And when he brushes past her, he whispers “Annabelle.” Suddenly, Annabelle’s got the perfect boyfriend and a date to homecoming. Her life is like a dream come true…until her dreams stop and the nightmares begin.”

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EXCERPT from Dream Boy:

I’ve always been a dreamer. Daydreams. Night dreams. Dreams of grandeur and dreams of escape. If I were an onion and you peeled back the papery outside, you’d find layer after layer of eye- watering dreams. And in the center, where there’s that little curlicue of onion heart? There’d be a puff of smoke from the dreams that burned away.

It was all just brain waves, I thought— disconnected, like the notebook that my friend Talon keeps. She draws a line down the middle of the page; on the right she writes everything she remembers about a dream, and on the left she puts notes about the stuff that’s happening in real life, things that might trigger her subconscious. Reality on one side, dreams on the other—a  clear line between the two.

But it turns out there are no clear lines, just a jumble of what is and what might be. And all of it is real.

“Dream Boy explores the mysterious world of dreams, where we access our deepest desires…the authors expertly weave fantasy and the real world in a perfect blend.” — Erica Orloff, author of In Dreams

Preorder Your Copy of Dream Boy: INDIE BOUND, AMAZON, B&N

And now for the interview!

The cover is beautiful and intriguing. Is it similar to anything you had in your minds about what the front image would look like for your novel?

We’d wanted a wild-looking tree, though I don’t think we pictured it looking quite as fantastic or with this (perfect) color scheme. I think at one time Mary and I had talked about the back of a boy’s head being on there, which, of course, is why we don’t design book covers. We loved what the team (Shane Rebenshied and Eileen Carey along with Adrienne Krogh) came up with. Here’s a link if you want to see the art without the words: http://blot.com/post/74092861177/dream-boy

Lovely! Thank you for the link—it’s brilliant to see the artwork on its own.

As a blogger, I am very interested in the spirituality of a story. As authors, do you think your spirituality affects your writing?

In part, it might depend on what you mean by spirituality – people define it so many ways, inside religion, outside of it, upside down. But whatever the definition, I suppose the answer should be a resounding yes because everything that is a part of me defines my writing – experiences that I had as a kid, the way I feel about the earth and the need to protect it, my thoughts about religion (mine and everyone else’s). Dream Boy is actually one of my few books where there hasn’t been a prominent Jewish character in some way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects in there, too – from foods they eat to the way the mountains and landscape are described. Mary and I explored some creation theories with dreams v. Adam and Eve, and it was interesting to go there. I do a lot of questioning, which seems to be built into Judaism. So any characters I help create are going to do a lot of questioning, too. Theme-wise certain subjects — family, the environment, good. v. evil — creep into most things I write. As does humor. I think I might believe in laughter above all else.  

I asked Mary to chime in on this one. She says: My spiritual side is connected to my subconscious – much the way my writing is connected to my subconscious. I tune into that undercurrent when I sit down to write.

I can understand that, Mary. I can certainly see how you explored the dream theories and the narrative of Adam & Eve in the story—very interesting!

Dreams and their significance are mentioned often in your novel—how important do you think our dreams are?

Very? Extremely? Undeniably? And that goes for the dreams we dream when we’re asleep and the dreams we dream when we’re awake. They propel us forward. They hold us back. They allow us to become our best selves. They destroy the world. They save the world. They wake us up.

Yes! I think dreams can be so important. Do you ever write down your dreams and look up definitions of symbols?

For awhile I kept a dream notebook where I would wake myself up, write down what I’d dreamed, and try to interpret the dream the next day. When you get in the habit of remembering all of your dreams, it makes you remember more of them. As a result, I went through a time period where I really did feel – like Annabelle – that I was awake all of the time. It was exhausting, so I stopped. Also, it turned out my subconscious was more disturbing than I thought.

I do agree with you that when you make a conscious decision to remember your dreams, it can be the case that there are too many to write down! Now onto reading: What’s on your summer reading list?

Lots of things. Testament, a photo book with essays about Chris Hondros, a photojournalist who was killed on assignment in Libya. In YA world, it’s Tabula Rasa (Kristen Lippert-Martin) and Sweet Unrest (Lisa Maxwell), which were written by two women who live near me in Arlington. (I haven’t met them but I’m a huge advocate of reading local.) Also the Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, When We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. I’m sure I’ll be primarily reading middle-grade, as that’s an area where I do a lot of writing and I also like to read what my kids are reading. (Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord. Angie Sage has a new book coming out, as do John Scieszka, Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell.)

Thank you for sharing these—I’m going to have check out the book about the photojournalist. I’ll also be interested to know what you thought of We Were Liars. Now onto what you’re reading and your writing: Are there any books that inspired you in the writing of your novel?

Not specifically, but as with the spirituality question, I’d say that many things I’ve read – especially when I was a young kid – informed the kind of writer I’ve become.

I find that this is true of other writers as well, and I can say that the books I read as a child have really affected my own writing today and even how I view the world. It’s amazing how our childhood reading can be so impacting.

If you could have dinner with any author, which one would it be? Tell us why!

Norton Juster. He’s the first author I remember loving, because The Phantom Tollbooth taught me so much about words. In interviews/documentaries/speeches I’ve seen live and in person, he’s seemed funny and friendly and accessible. I am a pretty anxious person and a number of writers I admire would probably intimidate me to where I couldn’t speak. Or eat. I think I’d be able to manage a few bites with Norton Juster and I might even be able to talk back.

We like to ask all the authors we interview on the blog this question: Favorite doughnut?

That would be the Tres Leches doughnut, from the Doughnut Plant in New York’s Lower East Side. http://doughnutplant.com

I haven’t been there, though I’ve investigated a handful of dessert spots in NYC over the years. I’m going to have to hunt this one down the next time I’m in the city. Thank you for the heads up about the Doughnut Plant and thank you for visiting Spirit of Children’s Literature to talk about Dream Boy!

Dream Boy is out July 1st! But you can win a copy here on the blog—enter using the link to the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Mary Crockett likes turtles, licorice, and the Yankees. Madelyn Rosenberg likes cats, avocados, and the Red Sox. Luckily they both like the weirdness of dreams (and each other) enough to write novels together. The friendship has survived three moves, six kids and countless manuscript revisions. Madelyn lives just outside of Washington, D.C. Mary remains in the mountains near their hometowns in southwestern Virginia. You can find them on Twitter @marylovesbooks and @madrosenberg or their blogs at http://www.marycrockett.com and http://www.madelynrosenberg.com.

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You’ll find my review of Dream Boy on the blog later this week!

Happy Reading & Sweet Dreams!

Sacred Stories & Melted Ice Cream: A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie Lloyd

Suggested age range: 8 and up (Scholastic, 320 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Copy Won from Emily at Oh Magic Hour

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

 

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“Home isn’t just a house or a city or a place; home is what happens when you’re brave enough to love people.” (p. 302)

The Book: Felicity Pickle wants a home—but her family, which includes her mother, sister, and dog, Biscuit, has been prone to wander from town to town, until her mother gets the itch to pack up and move again. Settling in Felicity’s mom’s hometown for a bit, Midnight Gulch, means several things: Felicity finally has a best friend, she gets to live with her aunt Cleo, and her mom works in an ice cream factory that makes the town smell like waffle cones come evening time. Felicity has a magical way of seeing words and spinning them into poetry, but she fears public speaking; when her new best friend, Jonah, encourages her to enter the “Duel,” the town talent show, Felicity has to make a choice about whether she is going to face her fears or duck out. Will the town ever get rid of its curse? Will Felicity and her family finally settle down? A snicker of magic might be left in Midnight Gulch, and Felicity pursues that hope with everything she’s got in this delightful middle grade fantasy.

Spirituality in A Snicker of Magic: Where do I begin? This story reflects multiple spiritual dimensions, and certainly engaged my own spirituality as I was reading. Humans are built for relationship and authentic community with others, and this idea is woven throughout the narrative. Even Felicity’s longing for a home and community reflects an aspect of her spirituality—Jonah’s offering of friendship early in the story is almost impossible for Felicity to believe, but there’s a kind of “magic” still alive in Midnight Gulch. The mystery and role of “The Beedle,” for example, is another spiritual dimension of the book, which could certainly be discussed with readers more after the last page is turned. What about believing in people when they have given up on themselves? This is another valuable spiritual aspect of the story and could connect to readers in countless ways.

Exploring this Book with Readers: This book holds great potential for the upper elementary classroom and even beyond the classroom. It’s a pity I’m not teaching at the moment, for I know my 6th graders would have loved this story. The emphasis on playing with words and creating poetry in the narrative means that responses to this book could include the creation of poetry and other word inventing activities. For example, Felicity sees words over people—students could generate words for each other, and with those words, create poems or stories or artwork. The possibilities really are endless with the rich themes the book illuminates—I certainly intend to create some specific language arts curriculum with this book.

The Final Word: If you enjoy books like When You Reach Me, Hope is a Ferris Wheel, and When Audrey Met Alice, you will most likely enjoy A Snicker of Magic. This is a new favorite of mine! I first saw a review of the book on The Midnight Garden, and could tell this was a book for me. When I won a giveaway from my blogging friend, Emily, this was one of the books I picked. What a delightful surprise at such an enchanting and moving story! I had a kind of profound reaction to this book, that showed me even more strongly why spirituality and children’s literature is so fascinating to me. There is still so much I don’t know, but so many beautiful paths of exploration yet to discover.

Dorothy’s Back in Oz: Review–Dorothy Must Die (2014) by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (2014)

Suggested age range: 13 and up (Harper Collins, 452 pages)

Rating: 5/5 Stars [Loved it, Highly recommend it, and will read again.]

Source: Personal Copy

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

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The Book: Oz is not the place you remember. When Dorothy returns to Oz a second time (read No Place Like Oz, the prequel novella), the power of magic starts to go to her head. Eventually, this leads her to displace Ozma as ruler, and give powerful roles to the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion. Basically, Dorothy begins to do pretty bad things, and her supporting trio also joins in. They take part in horrible acts perpetuated against the citizens of Oz, and the land becomes a place that is slowly being sucked of its magic. All for Dorothy. So, when Amy Gumm arrives in Oz after a tornado hits her trailer park in Kansas, she’s surprised at what she discovers. She is also not expecting to be told that she may be the only one who can save Oz. She’ll just have to accomplish a few tasks: Steal the scarecrow’s brain. Get the tin woodman’s heart. Grab the lion’s courage. And then, kill Dorothy.

Spirituality in Dorothy Must Die: There is a spiritual dimension to some YA books that I recognized in this dark Oz retelling. It’s tied up in the way the protagonist reacts to injustice and strives to do the right thing, even under pressure. Even though Amy is told to stay focused on one thing, and one thing alone, she doesn’t hesitate to diverge from the course when she is offered the chance to save a life. I recognized a sensitivity in Amy, even under her hard shell, to the suffering going on around her. Certainly, there are consequences to Amy making decisions to diverge from the path when she is told differently, but I admired her compassion and her strength that is prevalent throughout the story.

Who Should Read This Book: Any Wizard of Oz fans out there? You must read this! It’s simple really. Just grab the book, open, and begin! If you enjoyed any of Gregoy Maguires books (Wicked, etc.), then there’s a good chance you will like this book. Be prepared, however—this is going to be a trilogy, and while Paige does provide a good conclusion, in my mind, you are certainly left wishing you could continue the journey in Oz.

The Final Word: Did I really just read this book right after it was published? Do I really have to probably wait a whole year for the sequel? The answer is yes and yes. I love all things Oz-related, so you can imagine my excitement at reading this twisted Oz reworking. Paige has really done it with this one—it has action, introspection, drama, mystery, and intrigue. You may never look at Oz the same way again. And that’s ok. But it really is a pity we have to wait a year for the sequel. One reassuring thought, however, is that you can sink your teeth into the prequel, No Place Like Oz, after reading Dorothy Must Die. No vampires included.