Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writers Wednesday

Welcome! You're in for a treat if you enjoy middle grade fiction, are a fan of humor, or just love an entertaining story. Today's featured author is David Zeltser, author of LUG Dawn of the Ice Age and its sequel Lug Blast from the North

Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for LUG?
When my daughter was born, I started to think about her future and the world she would inherit. I was also inspired to write something that would make my entire family laugh.

Why did you choose prehistoric times to set your story?
When I began to write about how cavemen might react to major climate change in their world, it put a smile on my face. I felt that the irony of the situation would not be lost on readers, and they would enjoy it. Children are drawn to that era, and by placing the story in prehistoric times, I had the freedom to explore important topics in an entertaining manner.

There is a lot of humor in this book. Where does that come from?
Funny books have always been my favorites. Before I wrote LUG, I wrote comic plays, screenplays, and humor pieces. Coming from humble beginnings, humor has been a constant in my own life. Kids, and their parents, can learn how to handle tough situations through humor. And LUG does exactly that.

The book also touches upon some modern day issues such as bullying and climate change. What key message(s) do you expect kids will take away from your book?
Lug is a small kid in a clan dominated by bullies. Rather than fighting them physically, his journey is to find a way to stand up for what he believes in and thus become a leader in his own right. While there is action in the book around a ferocious pride of saber-toothed tigers, I tried to avoid the typical macho approach when it came to the main conflict. Despite what kids see in movies, the important conflicts they’ll face won’t be resolved by physical violence. The powers that be in this story are defeated through all kinds of other interesting means. I wanted kids who don’t think of themselves as leaders to see what is possible when you really care about something important. It isn’t easy, but by believing in yourself and sticking to your beliefs, the rewards are great.

Who are your favorite characters in LUG?
The two main characters—Lug and Echo. If you think growing up was tough, you should try it as a short artistic boy in the Stone Age. Lug is surrounded by uber-macho cavemen who think the coming Ice Age is “just a little weather.”

Echo is a girl from the rival Boar Riders clan. She is also an animal-lover and the world’s first vegetarian. Both she and Lug have faced tough issues in their young lives, and I’ve tried to capture their determination, as individuals and as a team.

Can you give us an idea of what happens in the next book?
The sequel is called Lug: Blast from the North. All I can say is that there’s a hilarious new character called Blast, and something big, surprising and mysterious coming from the north. The book will be out in Fall 2016.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Nonfiction Monday

For other Nonfiction Monday posts click HERE

For Nonfiction Monday: "Baseball Then to WOW!" by Mark Bechtel.


Did you know that there was a time when batters could request the height at which they wanted a pitch to be thrown? Or that pitchers had the option of throwing overhand or underhand?

Bechtel's new title from Sports Illustrated Kids offers an entertaining and educational exploration of baseball's evolution from the early 1800s to present day. Four well-defined chapters keep the material organized. Colorful illustrations, timelines, and action photographs provide eye-catching compliments to the text and make this 80 page book a treasure of information.

The Basics -  Traces the rules, teams, uniforms, gloves, catcher's masks, and stadiums from 1845 to 2014 thought cleverly illustrated timelines and photographs.

The Players -  counts down the decades with statistic-rich notes on names familiar to fans from Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Miguel Cabrera.  Hitters, basemen, outfielders, pitchers, and catchers are highlighted along with players such as Billy Hamilton (famous for stealing bases), pioneers in the game like Jackie Robinson and familiar characters from Dizzy Dean to Mike Scioscia.

Playball - takes readers though managers, pitching staff, strategies, umpires, and leagues.

Fan-tastic - explores the relationship between baseball and fans with topics such as baseball cards, amateur play from stickball on city streets to the Little League World Series, game day promotions, and of course...ball park foods.

Fingerless gloves, catchers working without face masks, and livestock giveaways at games are just a few of the surprises you'll discover in this comprehensive look at America's pastime.            

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writers Wednesday

Meet Carolyn Cohagen, author of the new YA novel, Time Zero which has received excellent reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Elizabeth Banks, star of The Hunger Games, and Tim O'Brien, National Book Award winning author of The Things They Carried, to mention just a few.  

Fans of YA fiction will find plenty to celebrate in this powerful social commentary, woven into an imaginative thriller. Mina's strength and courage is challenged time and again as she struggles to overcome the fanaticism that ensnares her and threatens her very existence. 

I'm looking forward to the sequel.

TIME ZERO will be available May 16, 2016. You can view the trailer HERE.

What inspired your passion for female empowerment that is so evident in Time Zero?
I have always been a feminist. I was lucky enough to be raised in a household in which I was told I could be whatever I wanted, and my gender was never an issue. Our country is currently moving backwards in terms of women’s rights (especially in Texas, where I live). I can’t believe we’re still marching about issues that I marched about in the 1980s. We need to inspire the next generation of girls to not only call themselves feminists but to take action.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing?
One of the best parts of being a writer is being able to put yourself in impossible situations and figure out how you would react to them. I got to imagine what it would be like to be denied an education and be forced to marry a boy I didn’t love. I had to face what my limits would be and what circumstances would make me follow through with my obligations when my entire soul might be screaming, “Don’t do it!”

How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice versa?

The research I did for Time Zero led me to found my creative writing organization Girls With Pens. After years of reading about the difficulties that girls face, I felt inspired to direct the focus of my teaching on girls during the difficult, sticky years of their lives – ages 9-17.

Briefly, what's your book about?
Fifteen-year-old Mina Clark lives in a future Manhattan that is ruled by extremists. Girls aren’t allowed to get an education, they need permission to speak to boys, and all marriages are negotiated by contract. But Mina’s grandmother has secretly been teaching her to read, leading Mina down a path of rebellion, romance, and danger that not only threatens to destroy her family’s reputation, it could get Mina killed.

What led you to write the book? 
I began writing Time Zero in 2010. I was disturbed by the news coming from Afghanistan concerning the Taliban and their unconscionable suppression of women’s rights. But I was also exasperated by the hypocrisy that I felt Americans displayed when they discussed “fundamentalism,” as if it were a problem that only occurred outside of the United States and only pertained to Islam.

What would you like readers to take from it? 
Besides enjoying a good story and connecting with the characters, I hope that readers will better appreciate what it is to have equal rights; I defy anyone to read Time Zero and not be a feminist by the end.

What are your current/future projects?
I am working on the sequel to Time Zero.

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
I try to write every day, but it can be difficult. I find that routine (the same time of day, the same location) is the best way for me to write on a regular basis.

Are there certain themes or ideas you prefer?
I seem to be drawn to coming-of-age stories, which is why I keep writing young adult and middle reader books.

What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Margaret Atwood, Philip K Dick. All of these authors are extraordinary at building worlds that are fantastic but completely believable. And Jane Austen because she continues to be the gold standard for family politics and great love stories.

What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you deal with that challenge?

I think getting your butt in the seat is the hardest part. I love to write and yet I still find it difficult to sit down and get started each day. As I mentioned before, I think routine is really the only way to defeat the beast of procrastination.

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book? 

The subject of Time Zero might sound serious, but it is a really fun, stay-up-all-night page-turner. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nonfiction Monday

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For Nonfiction Monday: "Animal Planet Polar Animals (Animal Bites Series)"

Here's a kid-friendly look at life in the polar habitat that is beautifully illustrated with photographs and packed full of interesting facts and accessible information.  The book offers up-close looks at various polar animals both wild and domestic ranging from polar bears, snowy owls, and narwhals to the Siberian husky and reindeer. The animal sections are interspersed with thematic units with specific tabs such as Where They Live, How They Live, Vista (showing animals in their environment), Big Data (facts and figures), Animal Gallery (highlighting similarities and differences) and so on. Short paragraphs, simple vocabulary, and  thoughtful organization make this book a great choice for every young animal lover. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Poetry For Children.

My selection is The Tree That Time Built: a celebration of nature, science and imagination.

This anthology of nature-inspired poems is collected by Mary Ann Hoberman, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate and Linda Winston, anthropologist and teacher. The book includes more that 100 poems and a CD of 44 poems with some of the poets reading their own work. 

The poetry is loosely sorted into thematic groups with a brief, thoughtful introduction to each collection. There is a wealth of talent here from early poets such as Blake and Emerson to Langston Hughes and Sylvia Plath along with contemporary writers Douglas Florian and Joyce Sidman.

The book concludes with a glossary and suggestions for further reading and research.

I recommend taking a moment to read the  introduction to the book as it offers readers important insights into Hoberman's and Winston's inspiration for this work, their thoughts on the selection process, and the interconnections between science and poetry.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer