Ten: For Young Writers Part 3 — Stories about Young Writers

This last For Young Writers post leaves advice (mostly) behind in favour of story. The writers described in these stories may approach the task with eagerness or doubt, teacher expectations, or a deep need of their own to write. What they have in common is a growing understanding of the potential of their own words.

Once Upon an Ordinary School Day written by Colin McNaughton and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
On a perfectly ordinary, ho hum day, a new teacher arrives who challenges his students to open their imaginations to music and story. In bare handfuls of words, McNaughton captures a multitude of approaches to creativity, as well as the effects that creativity can have on those willing to give it a try. Continue reading


The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave coverIn a post-apocalyptic world, Cassie feels like she is the last human alive. When the alien mothership loomed closer towards Earth, no one could have predicted what was to happen. The first wave took away their lives, the second took away hope of reconciliation, the third left only the few (both lucky and unlucky) survivors, and the fourth is killing off most of those who have outlived the other waves. Now, on the brink of the fifth wave, anything could happen — nothing and no one can be trusted.

Among Cassie’s possessions is her M-16, a first aid kit, water, a diary, some tins of sardines, pictures and a stuffed toy bear. Though worn and ragged from years of being loved, the bear represents the promise that she made to her brother, and the reason she fights so hard to survive. Little does she know that she is being stalked by someone in the shadows.

Elsewhere is another survivor who, through a miracle, has also somehow survived through all four waves. Dubbed Zombie by his rescuers, he is ushered to the barracks amongst the other surviving children to become trained “military style” to fight the enemies: you either make it or you die trying. When his regiment succeeds in bumping up its ranking and finally takes action outside camp, they are in for a surprise when they learn who their real enemies are.

Suspenseful, mysterious and with hints of romance throughout, Yancey does a stellar job of interweaving the lives and stories of its characters. He leaves the reader speculating about the realities within our day to day lives; what if the world that we live in really isn’t what we think it is? What would you do if your life was endangered by another species?

See more reviews by: Wired, the New York Times, and Mrs. ReaderPants.

Read the interview between Entertainment Weekly and Rick Yancey.

Here I Am story by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Here I Am coverMoving to a new place is never easy, and when the language and customs don’t make any sense, feeling at home there seems almost impossible.

Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez’s wordless picture book brings a little boy and his family to the United States. While the rest of his family is a little more open to making a go of this new life, the boy is frustrated and intimidated by the strangeness of everything. He retreats into himself, watching the world from behind (safe) apartment windows and longing for home.

This desire for “home” is at first centred in a red seed that the boy has brought with him. Gradually, though, the meaning of the seed changes, from a reminder of another place to simply the possibility of growth. When the boy loses his seed, he sets off after it, and quickly discovers, as he wanders his new neighbourhood, that this place is full of interesting things and friendly people. While he does eventually find the seed, the boy has by that time grown confident enough to be friendly himself. He and the little girl who found the seed plant it, and as it grows, so does their friendship, including first his sister, then her brother, and eventually both children’s parents as well.

Here I Am is a lovely, contemplative story. The images do a wonderful job of helping the reader to feel the strangeness of a new place for themselves, in particular through the spoken and written language that surrounds the boy, depicted in “bla-bla-blas” and mingled letters and symbols from a variety of alphabets. The book is as valuable for young readers welcoming new immigrants into their classroom or community as for new immigrants themselves, with its focus on understanding, courage, and finding universal means of communication.

Read more reviews from Book Egg and A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall.

Ever wonder how an author composes a wordless book when she/he is not the illustrator? Check out this interview on Capstone Connect to find out how Patti Kim did it!

Watch the official trailer:

Releases September 2, 2013. Thanks to Capstone Kids and NetGalley for the review copy!

Books Get their Second Wind on the Big Screen

Young adult book-to-movie adaptations have shifted the way in which young adults read novels. Despite the fact that film adaptations are certainly not a new concept, movie adaptations play an increasingly integral role in the book industry. The growth of this highly lucrative phenomenon can be attributed to the explosive success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, to name a few. Over the past year alone, there have been several novels that reached much wider audiences through the film industry, such as Life of Pi and The Hunger Games.

Although there is ongoing criticism from readers that movie versions are not as good as their literary counterparts, teachers and librarians face a more pressing issue. If students prefer to watch the films rather than focus on the assigned readings, what does the proliferation of movie adaptations mean for young adults’ reading practices?

In fact, however, the things that make films attractive to younger viewers may encourage the very same movie goers to read the original novels. Harold M. Foster suggests that the power and popularity of films lie in their emotional immediacy. The difference between stories told through books or through films depends largely on the language with which they are told. According to Foster, film stories are told in the language of dreams — they encompasses images, color, movement, sound, and light. Unlike the written word, this medium produces immediate feedback for the senses. Films are therefore “very powerful and emotional; they are potentially ‘extra-rational’ experiences capable of exerting a great deal of subconscious influence upon untrained viewers.”

Film adaptations promote their original titles, which often provides a great boost for book sales prior to and following a film’s launch. This trend will most likely continue in 2013, with several adaptations due to hit the silver screen, including Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

For those who look forward to the latest movie release dates of their favorite stories, there is an abundance of resources available:

Teachers and avid readers are divided when it comes to movie adaptations. What do you think: are film adaptations a great tool to promote literacy, or simply another distraction?

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky coverHattie Inez Brooks arrives in rural Montana in January, 1918. Behind her is a lifetime of being shuffled from one reluctant relative to another — whenever someone stops needing her help, on she goes. Before her are the remaining requirements for “proving up” the land claim her Uncle Chester has left her. Specifically, in the next 11 months, 16-year-old Hattie must plant 480 fence posts, farm 40 acres, and finish the season with enough money to pay her debts and cover the final fee that will make the land hers.

Hattie takes the challenge eagerly, thrilled to be working toward a home that’s truly her own. With advice from books and neighbours, determination, and especially the help of the Mueller family down the road, it looks like Hattie just might make it. But in 1918, hard work in the fields isn’t necessarily enough to earn the respect of the community. With WWI reaching its peak, patriotism is everything, and suspicion is everywhere. Though Hattie dutifully attends town events in support of the war, and promises far more than she can afford in the war bonds drive, her friendship with the part-German Mueller family means she shares their assumed guilt.

It’s a year full of challenges, some funny, others devastating. As Hattie struggles toward her November deadline, letters to a childhood friend on the front line and Wingfield-esque, “making a go of the farm” articles for a city newspaper in Iowa allow her to interpret and reinterpret her experiences, gradually drawing meaning from the senseless, and preparing to face an unknown future with grace and courage.

I grew up loving homesteading stories, and I’ve become increasingly fascinated by home front stories in the last few years. Hattie Big Sky does a fantastic job of exploring both in a period of overlap I didn’t know existed. If you haven’t yet, read this book — you won’t regret it!

Find more reviews at Nerdy Book Club and Slatebreakers.

Check out the publisher’s Reader’s Guide.

Catch a sample of one of the Wingfield plays:

Watch for a review of the sequel, Hattie Ever After this fall!

The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say

The Favorite Daughter coverYuriko is excited to bring a photo of herself to school for a class album project. Among the various photos that her dad has of her, she picks one of her younger self in a red kimono.  But when her new art teacher mispronounces her name, and classmates tease her for not looking Japanese, Yuriko is crushed and decides that she wants to be called Michelle instead.

Yuriko’s father respects “Michelle’s” decision, and takes her out to dinner to discuss things. They end up going for some sushi, and the next day, he takes her to visit “Japan” in Golden Gate Park. Her upset towards her original name begins to resolve when an artist draws an especially beautiful picture of a lily flower for Yuriko, since her name means “child of the lily” in Japanese.

Meanwhile, her new assignment for her art class is to create a rendition of the Golden Gate Bridge. She’s already drawn a picture of the bridge, but she wants to be unique in her work, and is stuck not knowing what to do. Furthermore, when Yuriko and her father get around to driving on the bridge, they find it in some dense fog. While a little flustered with how things have turned out, her dad’s suggestion to use her imagination sparks Yuriko’s creativity. She asks for cotton and a cardboard box, but will not let her father know what she is up to until her project is completed and her name has been written on it.

Say, best known for his picture book Grandfather’s Journey and Tea with Milk, does a marvellous job of depicting struggles that have the potential to run deep, such as self-esteem. Printed with photographs of a real “Yuriko,” it addresses some of the feelings and reactions one might have to being different, and shows the patience and understanding of a father who allows his child to work through her frustrations while being continually supportive.

See book reviews by Kirkus reviews, Publisher’s Weekly and BookDragon.

Take a look at the OPB PBS video on Allen Say, writer and illustrator

Ten: Saying Goodbye

Modern kids’ and YA fiction doesn’t go easy on its readers. Some of the best books out there look honestly at topics as real and raw as war, racial injustice, and poverty, giving readers a safe space to engage deeply with these topics, and guidance to help them understand and respond in healthy, constructive ways. This week’s Ten highlights stories about loss and grief. Though the stories are sometimes painful to read, they almost always end with hope: in friendship, memory, and new things to come.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Caitlin’s brother, Devon, used to help her understand how things worked and what she was supposed to do. A handy thing when you have Asperger’s, and a lot of what people do (and expect) really doesn’t make sense. But Devon was killed in a school shooting, and with their dad turning his back on the world in an attempt to cope, Caitlin’s left pretty much on her own to figure things out. A counselor at school helps some, and so does her friendship with a younger boy she meets at recess. But Caitlin wants closure, and she’s going to have to find it for herself. Continue reading