Tag Archives: Middle Grade Books

A Lesson in Narrative Voice

I have survived another holiday season. I apologize for my self-imposed blogging silence. I have tons of posts to write and have not settled down to write them.  Until now.

I finished a book, way back in December, called, The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (I have to look up how to spell Pseudonymous every single time I write it).  The book is quite enjoyable (a great first book to the series). It follows two  precocious children, Cass and Max-Ernest. The book (I will refer to it as “the book” because it has a long title) is about kids solving a mystery and saving the day but it is also about the existence and even intrusion of narrative voice.

In general, the narrator in a book can blend so perfectly into the storytelling that you have to remind yourself someone or something is telling the story and it is NOT the author.  Sometimes the narrator is a character, well the narrator is always a character, but sometimes it is a character in which the action is happening directly to.  And sometimes the narrator is just there, hovering and watching the characters from above.  Understanding the importance of the narrator was key in my literature education. The Name of This Books is Secret is a wonderful example of narrative voice and specifically unreliable/ridiculous narration. The narrator is simply hilarious (even when s/he does not mean to be).

Cassandra (also known as Cass), the survivalist enthusiast, and Max-Ernest, the non-stop talker, join forces to discover the secret hidden in a box called The Symphony of Smells, or at least they try to discover the secret. The box leads them to discover the evil workings and diabolical plans of Ms. Mauvais and Dr. L. The book is filled with adventure, intrigue, and a great sense of humor. Read it and be prepared to get hooked.

Age Group: 8/9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy / Mystery
Themes: Magic, Friendship, Discovery, Secrets
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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Adventure, Fantasy & Jim Dale = The Emerald Atlas

 

I love listening to audiobooks (as you may have discovered from a previous post, Listening to Words). When I found out that Jim Dale, the reader for the Harry Potter audio series, narrated a new book called The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, I practically squealed with excitement. I had heard great things about The Emerald Atlas (especially from Erin at Random Acts of Reading). I was excited to read the book, but learning of the audiobook I became even more excited. I was not disappointed.

The Emerald Atlas is delightful. Maybe delightful is not quite the right adjective. “Delightful” makes it sound unassuming and “nice.” The Emerald Atlas is exciting, intriguing and wonderfully written.

The Emerald Atlas is about three precocious siblings who are whisked away from their parents at a very young age to protect them from a merciless evil. Kate, the oldest, is the only one to remember their parents. Michael, the middle, is quite nerdy and loves everything that has to do with dwarves. Emma, the youngest, will be the first to bully her brother and the last–if anyone else tries to bully him then they will have to talk to her fists. The three kids are passed from orphanage to orphanage until finally landing in a mysterious town called Cambridge Falls. There they find an enchanted book, a kind of emerald atlas. This book transports them to a past time in Cambridge Falls where they must defeat a wicked Countess. The world of The Emerald Atlas involves dwarves, giants, wizards, and witches. It is a great fantasy book and if you have enjoyed the Harry Potter books then you must pick this one up. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Non and I had the privilege of meeting John Stephens at The Why Chromosome Event, hosted by Bridge to Books. Stephens was delightful; and this time “delightful” is exactly the right adjective. I told him that the audiobook is fantastic (as if he needed my validation). We spoke briefly about how amazing Jim Dale is as a reader. Stephens described a dinner outing with Jim Dale in which Dale would order food using various Harry Potter character voices. I only wish I could hear Dolores Umbridge order a burger with fries (I’m sure this is not what Jim Dale ordered).

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy
Themes: Family, Siblings, Time, Magic, Dwarves
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House

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Side note: Audiobooks in general are amazing. If you haven’t tried listening to one then get some recommendations from friends or myself so that you start the experience out right. There have been times when a reader has not captured the world or voices correctly (or at least in my opinion). Neil Gaiman has started an amazing audiobook production called Neil Gaiman Presents, which can be downloaded/purchased from Audible.com.  He matches readers with books and understands the importance of a well-read audiobook. See a review of one of the adult titles, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel (from Bookriot.com).

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Another side note:

Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway! Win a signed Andrew Smith book! The giveaway ends December 10th at midnight, PST.

   

Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.

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The Why Chromosome and Books

Post by Non T. Wels

I, along with Jessica of Read Schmead, went to the ‘Why Chromosome’ event that was held at Mrs. Nelson’s Toy & Bookshop and put together by Bridge to Books, a cool non-profit organization run by Alethea, whose blog is Read Now Sleep Later, and Alyson, whose blog is Kid Lit Frenzy. The event (full title: The Why Chromosome: Why Boys Do Love Books) was delightful. Despite my meager standing amongst the crowd of prolific bloggers and literacy heroines, I felt right at home, welcome, part of the troupe. I mean, I am a simple bibliophile. I don’t manage a book-related blog, like this one or like the blogs from Tessa or Kristen (although I do occasionally contribute to Read Schmead). I don’t teach kids the wonders of reading books, like Alyson and others. And I don’t write books, like the group of “boys” who spoke at the event.

These boys, or authors, were Jonathan Auxier (Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes), John Stephens (The Emerald Atlas), G. Neri (Ghetto Cowboy), Greg Van Eekhout (Kid vs. Squid and The Boy at the End of the World), Allen Zadoff (Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have) and Andrew Smith (Stick); all of which seemed to be just as gleeful about this event as us book bloggers, educators and, to be inclusive of my own standing, simple book junkies.

The impetus for the event was—and is—the culture of reading as it pertains to young boys. And the intent of the event itself was to be a rousing defense of boys and their evident (to us) love of reading. It was decidedly successful. Boys do love to read. They do. The hole in my blanket from the lamp I pulled under there to finish those last few chapters of the Choose Your Own Adventure series is a testament to that.

Here is a great group shot of the authors with some of us bibliophiles - Photo Courtesy of From The Bookshelf of TB, http://www.ftbotbblog.blogspot.com

Here’s some video from the event:

Jessica cut off the beginning of this next video.  The question was asked, “What kind of literary character do you most associate with?”

For more information on boys and their love for reading (as a pairing; she doesn’t blog necessarily about boys solely. That would be weird) take a gander at Kristen Pelfrey’s blog Kristen Pelfrey Writes. She does it right.

And, of course, the authors are doing it right. Support them by reading their blogs, commenting, and buying their books! Jonathan Auxier
John Stephens
G. Neri
Greg Van Eekhout
Allen Zadoff
Andrew Smith

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Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway –  SIGNED copy of Oliver Jeffers’ book, The Way Back Home!!!

Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.

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Silly Rabbit Kids Books are for Adults Too, You Know

I received this photo from the amazing Penguin Rep., Nicole.  It is very true.

Not Just For Kids

Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway –  SIGNED copy of Oliver Jeffers’ book, The Way Back Home!!!

Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.

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Wonderstruck & The Giveaway

I read Brian Selznick’s newest book, Wonderstruck, in a matter of days.  I could have read it in a sitting but I happened to have a lot on my plate that weekend.  Selznick creates a wonderful new book.  This time he experiments with the idea of telling two different (but in many ways parallel) stories: one in text and one in pictures.  The story told in all words is set in 1977 and is about a young boy, Ben, searching for his father.  The story told in all illustrations follows a young deaf girl named Rose, set in 1927.  The two kids, at different times, runaway to The Museum of Natural History in search of meaning, answers, and most importantly, family.  The illustrations are amazing and captivating.  Reading/understanding a story in illustration about a deaf girl forced me to listen to the silence.  I don’t know if that makes sense so let me try to explain:

When I read I tend to listen to words being said in my head.  This might be why I read so slow, but I can’t help it – I just read that way.  When I look at images, specifically ones that come together to tell a story, I hear nothing in my head.  There is silence.  I discovered this to be the case with the amazing illustrative story The Arrival by Shaun Tan.  By reading a story through illustration, completely void of words, I was able to inhabit the mind and world of the deaf, specifically of one deaf girl, Rose.  I saw the museum and the city the way she did and it was quiet.

Rose and Ben’s stories merge together in an unforeseeable twist that speaks of family, redemption, and love.  I really enjoyed this book.  Brian Selznick is a gifted illustrator and his research into Deaf Culture created a realistic story.  I only have one concern when it comes to Brian Selznick and his storytelling, specifically in Wonderstruck, and that is with his text.  I love the parallel stories in this book, but I did gravitate towards the illustrative story.  I felt quite sympathetic towards Ben, but looking back I felt Ben and the characters (literally) written fell a little flat.  Just a little!  I wanted more character from these characters.  I already cared about their story and so I wanted Ben to have a bit more personality.  Sometimes I felt like I wanted to rush to Rose’s story and perhaps Selznick wanted to rush to her story as well.  I actually would have loved an entire book about her life and about Deaf Culture all told in illustrations.  I am being a little hard on Wonderstruck, but that is only because I did enjoy it so much and, therefore, I scrutinized the parts I wanted more from.

It could also have been because I was listening to an audiobook about two other museum runaway kids — From the Mixed-Up FIles of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  Oh, man, was this book fantastic!!  Konigsburg is a master storyteller and she creates some darn wonderful characters.  The kids in this book are smart, hilarious, and complicated.  The book came out in 1967 and, aside from some outdated references to the cost of goods, it has held the test of time.  I adored the brother, Jaime, and sister, Claudia, relationship.  The two were smarter beyond their years.  They run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they sleep in antique beds and bathe in the fountain.  If you have not read this book yet, then you really, really must!!  You should also read Wonderstruck!  Other than that one, tiny minor critique, I adored Selznick’s newest book.  I also can’t wait to see the movie Hugo.

Speaking of the movie, Hugo, it is time for me to announce the winner of my first Giveaway Schmiveaway!!!  All contestants were placed in a hat and then one lucky individual was chosen at random.

And the winner is………

Erik!  The blogger of This Kid Reviews Books!

Erik, please email me at readschmead@yahoo.com with your address so that I can send you the signed Hugo poster.

Thank you so much to everyone who left comments and subscribed!  Don’t worry if you didn’t win because I have a bunch of other goodies to giveaway for the next few months.  Giveaways to come in no particular order: an Oliver Jeffers book, signed copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s book The Scorpio Races, signed books by Andrew Smith, and many more!!

Wonderstruck:

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Family, Friendship, Loss, Deaf Culture
Publisher: Scholastic

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Family, Friendship, Discovery
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

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Brian Selznick and My First Giveaway Schmiveaway!

On Thursday, October 20th, I worked the Brian Selznick book event for A Whale of a Tale Children’s Bookshoppe.  Selznick was wonderful!  He gave a captivating presentation about his writing process, specifically in regards to his latest book Wonderstruck (review to come soon).  The entire event was loads of fun.  If Brian Selznick is EVER in your area and you have a chance to listen to him speak about books and writing then I INSIST you go!!  One audience member asked Selznick, “What is your favorite book?”  He answered, “Fortunately” by Remy Charlip.”  He then began quoting the book and the entire audience, including myself, could see why he loves this book — it sounds hilarious.  Here is an excerpt:

Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.

Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.

Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.

Unfortunately, the motor exploded.

Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.

Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.

Selznick also showed us a quick behind-the-scenes/trailer for the movie Hugo.  It looks so amazing.  It actually gives me chills.  I know.  I am a weirdo.  But just watch it and tell me you don’t get all tingly when that thematic song plays in the background and the images of Hugo Cabret come to life!  You are made of steel and cold-hearted if you don’t get chills.

I was able to have Brian Selznick sign both of my books along with a Hugo movie poster.  This leads me to my first GIVEAWAY!!!  I will be selecting one lucky individual to receive the Hugo movie poster signed by Brian Selznick!

I have already started accepting entries into the Giveaway.  You can enter by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments.  Basically every subscriber is automatically entered into the contest.  For every comment you post I will enter your name into the contest again.

Here are some more photos from the event:

Most the seats were full at The Murray Center in Mission Viejo, CA

Myself, Brian Selznick, and Alex

 

Also, don’t forget you can buy signed copies of Brian Selznick’s books at A Whale of a Tale Children’s Bookshoppe!  Call us at 949-854-8288!!

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Hilary Duff and Brian Selznick Events!

October is one great month for author events!  A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe is working overtime to host a ton of incredible authors this month!  I just finished working at the Rick Riordan event, which was amazing (blog post to come later).  Next we have Hilary Duff and Brian Selznick!

On October 15th at 1pm Hilary Duff will be signing her young adult novels, Elixir and Devoted, at A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe in Irvine, California.


Here’s a quick synopsis of her new book, Devoted:

Since Sage was kidnapped, Clea has no way of knowing if he is alive or dead. And even though she has only just discovered they were soulmates, she feels like a part of her is lost forever. What’s worse, she can’t even turn to her best friend Ben—because every time she looks at him, all she sees is his betrayal. But waiting for something to happen is not an option, so Clea is ready for action. Suffering through dreams of seeing Sage with another woman, she makes an uneasy alliance with Sage’s enemies and sets out to be reunited with Sage…in this life or the next.

Don’t miss Brian Selznick’s talk and book signing on October 20th at 7pm.  I love The Invention of Hugo Cabret and just started reading his newest book, Wonderstruck.

There is no one better to tell you a little more about Wonderstruck than Selznick himself so watch this video (Caution: you will definitely want to read this when you finish the video)

Brian Selznick will be at Norman P. Murray Community Center in Mission Viejo – 24932 Veterans Way.  Be there or be square.

NOTE:  If you can’t make it to the events then we can still get you a signed copy!  Pre-order your copy today by calling A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe, 949-854-8288!!!

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