Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BREADCRUMBS, by Anne Ursu - Available today

One of my very favorite books comes out today!

Last fall, I had the pleasure of reading BREADCRUMBS, the newest book by children's author Anne Ursu. Asked to give a blurb, I read the story of Jack and Hazel in loose, letter-sized pages; a thick stack balanced on my lap, or on the pillows next to me in bed. As I read it late into the night, pages slipped to the floor as I finished them, as unheeded as falling leaves. The story had me entranced.

Once I finished Jack and Hazel's tale, it was torture knowing that the world would have to wait almost a year for the actual book to come out. But today's the day! And the book launches with multiple starred reviews. Hoorah!

Here's a brief description I found online:

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.

For a longer review and description, click HERE to be directed to School Library Journal's feature. Or read below for some other reviews (my blurb is at the very bottom). Or, if you're like me, just dive in without reading all the reviews and enjoy the story completely fresh... that's what I always prefer to do.

Like a fairy-tale heroine, Hazel traverses the woods without a breadcrumb trail to save a boy who may not want to be saved in this multi-layered, artfully crafted, transforming testament to the power of friendship. - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The evocative magical landscape, superbly developed characters (particularly dreamy, self-doubting, determined Hazel and lost Jack), and the piercing sadness of a faltering childhood friendship give this delicately written fantasy wide and lingering appeal. - Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

The creepy fantasyland that Hazel traverses uses bits from other Andersen tales to create a story that...is beautifully written and wholly original. It’s certainly the only children’s fantasy around where Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer figures into the plot. - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This is a lyrical book, a lovely book, and a smart book; it dares us to see stories as spreading more widely, and running more deeply, than we had imagined.” - Gary Schmidt, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Wednesday Wars

"Devastatingly brilliant and beautiful throughout, Anne Ursu’s BREADCRUMBS shines like a gem. Ursu has sculpted a rich and poignant adventure that brings her readers deep into the mysterious, magical, and sometimes frightening forests of childhood and change. This is storytelling graced with depth and filled with wonder. BREADCRUMBS is one of those rare novels that turned me on my head then sat on my heart and refused to budge." - Me, Ingrid Law

I hope you all enjoy BREADCRUMBS. Read deeply. There's good stuff here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Exciting update from Hollywood Reporter on a potential SAVVY feature film

Elizabeth Chandler, who has co-written the screenplays for A Little Princess, What a Girl Wants and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and has written the scripts for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Someone Like You... and the ABC TV movie Eloise at Christmastime has been hired to work on the script for the adaptation of Savvy for Walden Media.

Click on this link for the full story. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/risky-business/writer-elizabeth-chandler-working-savvy-239311

*NOTE added 9/26/11... just a quick heads-up warning to teachers and parents, I've been told that some of the rotating advertisements at the above link may be not always be kid-friendly. Please review the site first before opening it with a classroom or with children to make sure the content has no unexpected, or unfortunate surprises.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hound Dog True - and Chatting with the Wonderful Linda Urban

After reading A Crooked Kind of Perfect several years ago, I immediately decided that Linda Urban is one of my very favorite children's book authors. I was thrilled to find out that Linda has a new book coming out this fall (This week! September 20!) called Hound Dog True. I was even more thrilled when she kindly offered to mail me an advanced copy. Then, I was over the moon when she let me interview her for my blog!

In Hound Dog True, Linda "...traces a highly self-conscious child's cautious emergence from her shell in this tender novel about new beginnings and "small brave" acts... Urban's understated, borderline naïf narrative gives voice to Mattie's many uncertainties ("Always Mattie has been shy. Always school had made her feel skittish and small") while expressing the quiet yet significant moments in her day-to-day life. Mattie's growing trust of others and her attempts to be "bold and friendly" lead to gratifying rewards for Mattie and poignant moments for readers.."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Now, for the interview!!


Q: When you were a child, what did you like to ‘pretend’ most? How much of a role did your imagination play in your life?

A: I pretended all the time. Even when I was a kid in school at my desk, I seemed to be pretending to be a kid at school at my desk – sometimes I’d pretend I was smarter or prettier or more outgoing than I was, just to see what that felt like. Good training for being a writer, I think. And yeah, sometimes I still pretend I’m a better, more effortless, more confident writer than I am. It’s amazing what a little pretend can do.

Q: Do you have a favorite word, words, or quote?

A: I don’t know if it is all-time favorite, but lately I have been ruminating on two quotes from my hero Fred Rogers. Here’s one:

"The connections we make in the course of a life--maybe that's what heaven is."

And here’s another:

"Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone."

I try to think about this when I write. And I want to mail it to every scared parent or school board that wants to ban a book for its content.

Q: When you were growing up, was there a specific book (or books) that changed you somehow—a book that you feel is responsible for a little (or big) piece of who you are today?

A: Little Women. I blazed through the reading of it and I don’t think I paid attention to some of the plot bits, but I was laser-focused on Jo. Oh, how I wanted to write in a garret in the cold like Jo did. I was certain that would make me a brilliant author. We lived in a semi-finished house at the time, and the room above the garage had plywood floors and no insulation. It was winter in Michigan and I was wearing layers of sweaters and scarves, but I sat at that card table and I wrote. It was brilliant. (Not the writing, but the experience.)

Q: If you could pick any book to live inside for a day, what book would it be and why?

A: Feels like I do live inside the books I read. But okay, I suppose I’d like to be a student at Hogwarts for a day – provided I could be a Gryffindor. (I suspect I’m more the Hufflepuff type – though I might be able to convince the sorting hat to sneak me into Ravenclaw.) How cool would it be to fly on a broomstick, to turn pincushions into hedgehogs, and to pal around with Fred and George Weasley? Let’s just not schedule this for a Dark Lord Returns day, okay?

Q: What do you do when you have a tough writing day? How do you get through it?

A: My biggest writing challenge is staying focused. When things get hard, I often shop for boots on Zappos. (Shop, not buy, mind you.)

But I think a better strategy – and one I employ on my best days -- is to shift the framework of the day. So, instead of staring at the same paragraph on my computer screen, what would happen if I drew a picture of the scene? What would happen if I wrote the scene longhand from the point of view of some inanimate object in the room? What would happen if I made a list of all the many things my character might be thinking about over the course of the scene (from the obvious to the way the tag on the neck of her sweater is itchy) Anything to sink me into the scene and to distance my awareness from the fact that I am writing it.

Q: How do you like to celebrate when you finish writing a book?

A: I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever felt really DONE with writing a book. You know, you send it in, then there are line edits and then the tiny details. By then, I’m trying to work on something else. I do celebrate when the books come out, though. (This year, I’m actually going to buy a pair of those Zappos boots, I think.)

Q: What’s up? Tell us about where you are in your writing process right now. What’s out? What’s coming? What are you currently working on?

A: So, HOUND DOG TRUE is out on September 20 and I’ll be doing a bit of touring and meeting readers.

I’m also finishing a draft of my third novel which features a young girl, a regret, a wish, a parade, and donuts. (Research – yum!) That book has no real title yet, but I refer to by the main character’s name, Ruby Pepperdine. It will be out in Spring 2013.

Thank you, Linda! Now I can't wait until next spring.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fridays should be fun...

I typically go for a long walk every morning after bringing my daughter to school, and before I start to write. When I walk, I listen to an assortment of up-beat, good-to-stride-to music (think People are People by Depeche Mode, Savage Garden's I Want You (Chica Cherry Cola), Pink's Raise Your Glass, etc). But on Fridays I like to get a little sillier.

Today I tromped through a fabulously thick, early morning fog wearing my daughter's fox hat (as modeled here for you) and listening to my "Silly" playlist on shuffle. These things keep me from thinking thoughts that are far too serious for a Friday. Today, I walked to my 2nd favorite alphabet song, African Alphabet, sung by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kermit the Frog (see link to the video at the end of this post); The Naked Mole Rap (from Kim Possible); The Lonely Goatherd (from The Sound of Music); Spiderpig (from the Simpsons); The Stuff Mart Suite, from VeggieTales; Annette Funicello singing The Monkey's Uncle; and my #1 favorite alphabet song--maybe even the best alphabet song EVER--Crazy ABC's by Barenaked Ladies. (Seriously... N's for neumonic, M is for mdomo, O is for ouija board, and P is for pneumonia, pterodactyl, and psychosis). Alphabet songs are good for writers... even when we're in our 40's. After all, letters and words are the tools of the trade.

Now the fog is burning off and it's time for me to write. But I feel cheerful, more than a little silly, and ready to dive in. Maybe I'll keep the hat on today while I work! :)

Click here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl8pxaxxReo - for the Sesame Street African Alphabet video.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scumble in Poland...

...is called Demolition Boy.

I don't have this version in hand yet, and this is the biggest digital image I have right now. I'm trying to figure out what all of the flying objects on the cover are. Could that be a toilet near the top?