Woot! Won @WriteOnCon Critique from @MindeeArnett

Have you heard of WriteOnCon? It is a writers’ conference for kidlit authors that anyone can attend because it is both online and so reasonably priced. What an opportunity for those of us with crazy lives! The next WriteOnCon will be will be February 8-10, 2019. Sign up today!

This week I found out I won a query letter + 25 page critique from YA author Mindee Arnett in the December Raffle. What an amazing opportunity.

Mindee Arnett’s newest is Onyx & Ivory, which has gotten some buzz in a number of the reader blogs I follow.

Now I have to quit blogging about it and go polish those 25 pages!





Beach Book Week: Beach Reads for Older Kids

Looking for beach-themed books, either to prepare children for a trip to the beach or for reading during down time at the seashore? Join us throughout the week as we celebrate sand between our toes with a series of posts highlighting children’s books about beaches!

This post contains affiliate links (see disclosure below).


Middle Grade:

Junonia by Kevin Henkes

Almost ten-year-old Alice Rice loves the family tradition of celebrating her birthdays in a cottage on the Florida beach. This year she has the faintest sense of foreboding, however, as the rental car passes over the bridge. Who will be able to come to her party? And will she finally find the rare and highly-prized junonia shell (featured on the cover)?

In this lovely book, Henkes has perfectly captured the conflicting feelings of a young girl caught between the immaturity of childhood and the growing maturity of adolescence. Front matter includes illustrations of some common Florida seashells.

Highly recommended!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0061964190
ISBN-13: 978-0061964190

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

When Turtle’s mother finds a much-needed job during the Great Depression, Turtle is sent to the Key West to stay with her aunt whom she has never met. Discover Florida as Turtle discovers herself.

This is a Newbery Honor Book.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Yearling; Dgs Rep edition (December 27, 2011)
ISBN-10: 037583690X
ISBN-13: 978-0375836909

Young Adult:


We Were Liarsby E. Lockhart

Cadence has gone to her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts every summer of her childhood. Something happened while she was there during the summer of her fifteenth year, however, and now she doesn’t remember much about it. Will going back help her figure out what happened?

For mature young adults, We Were Liars features a main character who is also an unreliable narrator.

Recommended in the 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (May 13, 2014)
ISBN-10: 038574126X
ISBN-13: 978-0385741262


beach-books-for-kids-weekCheck out related Beach Books Week posts with many more book and activity suggestions (active links will be added through the week):

What is your favorite beach read for older kids?

Disclosure: The books were either from the library or my personal copies. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

The Fault with The Fault in Our Stars

Before we discuss the book:

It’s a new year and I decided to participate in some reading challenges. As you might expect, I’d like to share what I think about what I read. The problem is that most of the books in the challenges are young adult and adult level. Since I have blogged about children’s books for so long, it feels a bit odd to change gears now. On the other hand, I haven’t been blogging as much here as I would like and adding in reviews of a variety of books might perk things up.

So, loyal readers, what do you think?


Challenge book #1 (Young Adult)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has a huge fault, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, its fault is that it is way too good.

Over the years, I have begun to realize that the used books in the bookstore are on the shelf because someone didn’t care enough about them to want to read them again or give them to a friend. Usually you can find at least one person, however, who didn’t like a book that is fairly good and so you, the inveterate bibliophile with a limited expense account, get to snag a cheaper copy.

The used bookstore rule did not work with The Fault in Our Stars. There was not a single used copy of this book in my favorite store. Not the first time. Not the second time. It is just too good. I had to pay full price. (If the used bookstore rule and the movie deal don’t convince you this book has garnered a lot of interest, check out Amazon:  34,120 Reviews as of today!)

The plot:  Hazel is a teen suffering from terminal cancer, depression, and from being forced to attend Cancer Kid Support Group. The support group pays off, however, when handsome Augustus Waters shows up and spends his time staring at her. Will this budding romance grow?

My comments:  The Fault in Our Stars has is all. Love, death (keep a tissue box on hand), deep thoughts, math (!) and empowerment for those with cancer. I have to admit reading the summary made me concerned that it might be sappy. It is the opposite of sappy in every way.

I did think that one scene was a bit awkward and felt out of place. Perhaps because the event was awkward? I can’t describe it here because it would be a spoiler, but if you read it, I think you know which scene I’m talking about.

In conclusion, if you are interested in literature then The Fault in Our Stars is a must read. If nothing else, maybe you can be the one disgruntled customer who will sell your copy back to the used bookstore. I doubt it, however.

So, did you find a used copy?

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (April 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 014242417X
ISBN-13: 978-0142424179

Melting a Cold Heart: The Ice Dragon

On Monday we had fiery nonfiction with Fire Birds, today we have some ice cold fiction with The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin and illustrated by Luis Royo.

Unless you have been under a rock (or the parent of a small child), you have probably heard of HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the books by George R.R. Martin. This man has serious fantasy cred and has won numerous writing awards.

The Ice Dragon is an older short story written by Martin and originally published in 1980 in the Dragons of  Light anthology edited by Orson Scott Card. It was illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert and published again in 2007. Now it has been lavishly illustrated by Luis Royo and re-released for the young adult market.

With that background, it is not surprising that this books is beautifully written. The reader wants to savor every word. The illustrations are even more moving, if possible. Done in cool blues and grays, they are fierce and delicate at the same time.

That is not to say there aren’t flaws. The main character is a young girl – for the main part of the story she is from four to seven years old – much younger than the teen readers of the target audience. At the same time, there is a strong undercurrent of violence and sadness that, although not as graphic as Game of Thrones, is not appropriate for younger readers. For the right reader, it will be marvelous. However, finding the right reader is not a given.

The plotting is also up for discussion. Without giving too much away, this story is like a delicate, beautiful snow crystal that forms, is gloriously beautiful, and then melts away to nothing. Did Martin intend it to be like a melting snowflake or was it simply an awkward ending? If you read it, I would love to hear what you think.

In any case, The Ice Dragon is a quick read that is going to thrill fantasy fans. Although published for young adults, it is likely to find a following amongst adults as well. It has just the right amount of haunting beauty to keep readers pondering it long after they’ve read it.

Age Range: 12 – 18 years
Grade Level: 7 – 12
Hardcover: 120 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (October 21, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765378779
ISBN-13: 978-0765378774


Disclosures: This book was my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.