January 2019 Archives

The Rudolph Effect

christmas-928328_1280.pngI know the holiday season is over, but I'm sure you remember this story. Santa's reindeer won't let poor Rudolph play any reindeer games. "Then one foggy Christmas eve..." those hypocrite reindeer suddenly liked Rudolph because he was useful. (Summary my own.)

I often see this theme in bully short stories in my student lessons. The picked upon main character saves the bullies, saves the day, or does something so great that now the bullies like him. Have you had that happen in real life? Me? Not so much. Neither have children. What's that phrase? Haters will hate.

Bullies usually pick on isolated kids--the new kid, the different kid, the loner. Why is that? Because those isolated kids don't have others to stand up for them. No support group in this situation. It's like a pack of wolves against a lone rabbit. Scary! And because those bullies have issues of their own. Though sometimes mob mentality is in play too.

Good bully stories focus on how the main character deals with being bullied. (Without immediately going to parents or teachers. Even though we tell kids to go for help, we also know that bullies often plan retribution.)

-Some are tough and don't react no matter what.

-Others fight back.

-Some run.

And what else?

New bully stories need to have something fresh about them.

There are lots of bully stories out there. Look at this one library's Pinterest board of titles for young readers. Here's a list aimed at tween and teen girls from a mighty girl. I'm sure we could find tons more.

Resources for writing about bullies:
"Advice & Tips On Creating & Writing Bullies"
"How do I write a believable, violent, and manipulative school bully?"
"Avoiding the avoid the cliched bully"
"Character Type: Bully"

Do you have other thoughts on this issue? Share them in the comments section.

Ill keep at it stubbornly

I'll keep at it stubbornly and gladly until the job is finished.
Joe Fassler

Just Under the Clouds

JustUndertheClouds.jpgI loved Just Under the Clouds (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) by Melissa Sarno. It's such a good book. And has a gorgeous cover.

Twelve-year-old Cora and her family, consisting of her mother and her sister Adare, have been moving from place to place for six years since Daddy died. Now they're homeless. Cora gets comfort from knowing and climbing trees in Brooklyn, just like her father taught her. But with watching her "different" sister while Mom works, and struggling with algebra in school, Cora worries they'll never belong anywhere.

Just Under the Clouds is the author's debut novel. Read about the birth of the story here. Her next book, A Swirl of Ocean, comes out in late summer and I'm really looking forward to it. Read more about Melissa here.


Squirm.jpgSquirm (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) by Carl Hiaasen is an intriguing book involving snakes, eagles, grizzlies, panthers, and drones (the man-made kind). I love the cover!

Thirteen-year-old Billy Dicken's is one tough kid. He makes the kids at school leave his locker alone by putting a live rattlesnake inside, stands up to bullies, and is determined to meet the father who left when Billy was four. Billy doesn't know where his dad lives or what he does for a living, but he's determined to find out. His mom and sister won't help, so Billy will do whatever it takes to find his father. His journey takes him from Florida to Montana and back again.

Author Carl Hiaasen has five other books out for young readers. Read about them here. His book Hoot was a Newbery honor book and was made into a movie. You can listen to an interview with Carl on Mike Lupica's podcast.

The Fandom

fandom.jpgThe YA novel The Fandom (Chicken House/Scholastic, 2018) by Anna Day reminds me a bit of The Inn Between for middle grade readers--things are not always what you think. It was a compelling read, too.

Seventeen-year-old Violet, two girlfriends, and her fourteen-year-old brother are at Comic-Con to meet the actors from The Gallows Dance. A strange accident transports them into the universe where the real people from the story live. Was the book (and movie) based on this universe, or birthed out of the book? They don't know, but all their lives are in danger. Especially if they can't get back home.

This is the author's debut book and was first published in the UK. If you don't want to read the whole long version "About Anna," definitely read the last paragraph.

Don't Get Caught

don'tgetcaught.jpgDon't Get Caught (Sourcebooks Fire, 2016) by Kurt Dinan was a compelling read.

When Max gets a note from the prank pulling Chaos Club to show up at the school at 10 pm, he's suspicious why they chose him. But since he's tired of being "Just Max," he shows up. Along with four others who get busted by the campus "cop" and blamed for the graffiti they found. Max and his newfound friends decide to get payback.

I loved Max's voice, the humor, how characters changed, and the heist movie references.

You can get a bit of the author's sense of humor by reading his bio. I hope we see more books from Kurt.

Writing is hard publishing is

Writing is hard; publishing is even harder.
Jennifer March Soloway

Amal Unbound

Amal-Unbound.jpgAmal Unbound (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018) by Aisha Saeed is SO Good! I'd been hearing a lot about this New York Times bestseller and am really glad I've now read it.

Twelve-year-old Amal loves school, but now she has to stay home and watch her little sisters while her mother recovers from the birth of another baby. Amal wants to be a teacher herself someday, so missing this much school is worrying. Her dreams are shattered one day when she is rude to the wrong man--a member of the ruling family in their Pakistani village. For her effrontery, she is taken away from home to be Jawad Sahib's servant. How can she survive the intrigue among the Khan's servants? Will she ever be allowed to return home?

This book would make a fantastic movie. As my previous recommendation, I wish kids all over America could read it.

Previously, I've recommended Aisha's YA novel, Written in the Stars. You can read about it here.

I love this list of Fourteen Things about the author.

Front Desk

Front Desk.pngFront Desk (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018) by Kelly Yang is a book I wish everyone could read. (Especially those who take what they have for granted...)

Mia Tang's parents told her that America was this amazing place. But so far, no house, no dog, and very little money. Ten-year-old Mia doesn't want the kids at school to know where she lives--a motel, but better than when they lived in their car. She does like working the front desk. And making new friends Although she wishes she could speak native English. And write it, too.

But Mr. Yao, the motel owner, is making it harder and harder on her parents. Will they all have to move and find jobs yet again?

Front Desk was named a "Best Book" many times over. See them all here.

Read the real story behind this wonderful story.

Besides being a children's author, Kelly is a journalist and educator. Read more here.

A book might not sell

A book might not sell, but that doesn't mean the writer wasted time on it, not as long as the writer is learning and growing.
Laurel Gale