Happy Holidays/Winter Break

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Area Wide Book Battle Committee would like to wish you all Happy Holidays

The Feature Book of the Week will resume after Winter Break.

Also look for the question of the week which will begin late January.

~ The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. ~ 
Elizabeth Hardwick 

Featured Book of the Week/A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Tree-ear, an orphan, lives under a bridge in Chulpo, a potters village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potters craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Mins irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Mins work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

The winner of the 2001 Newbery Medal is now in paperback. Set in 12th-century Korea, "A Single Shard" is the story of an orphan boy who dreams of making beautiful pottery at the King's Court. An ALA Notable Book and ALA Best Book for Young Adults.


Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read. 

This is the first thing she ever published—a haiku in a children's magazine when she was nine years old:

In the green forest
A sparkling, bright blue pond hides.
And animals drink.
For this poem she was paid one whole dollar. She gave the check to her dad for Christmas. About a year later the company wrote to her asking her to cash the check! Linda Sue wrote back explaining that it was now framed and hung above her dad's desk and was it okay if he kept it? The magazine said it was fine, and her dad still has that check.

During elementary school and high school, Linda Sue had several more poems published in magazines for children and young people. She went to Stanford University, competed for the gymnastics team, and graduated with a degree in English. Then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating (well, almost any subject ...).

In 1983, after two years with the oil company, Linda Sue left her job and moved to Dublin when a handsome Irishman swept her off her feet. She studied literature, moved to London, worked for an advertising agency, married that Irishman, had a baby, taught English as a second language to college students, worked as a food journalist, and had another baby. It was a busy time, and she never even thought about writing children's books.

In 1990, she and her family moved back to the U.S.  because of her husband's job. Linda Sue continued teaching English to foreign students. It took her quite a while, but she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was to write books for children. In 1997, she started writing her first book, Seesaw Girl. It was accepted that same year and published in 1999. 

The Kite Fighters came out in 2000. This book was especially exciting because the chapter-heading illustrations were done by Linda Sue's dad. 

A Single Shard was published in March 2001 and was awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal. Since then, Linda Sue has published several other novels, as well as picture books, poems and short stories.
Linda Sue now lives in upstate New York with the Irishman, their two children, and a dog. The dog is a Border Terrier named Fergus.
Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzles (daily and Sunday). She enjoys baseball and soccer (watching); board games (playing—Scrabble and trivia games are her favorites); and video games like Tetris and Dr. Mario.(Biography retrieved from author website)

Linda Sue Park  has new book, A Long Walk to Water  that was released November 15, 2010. The book trailer has Ms Park discussing the book and its real life characters.

Featured Book of the Week
Morpheus Road: The Light
by DJ McHale

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Marshall Seaver is being haunted. In the first installment of this chillingly compelling trilogy, sixteen-year-old Marshall discovers that something beyond our world is after him. The eerie clues pile up quickly, and when people start dying, it’s clear whatever this isit’s huge.

Marshall has no idea what’s happening to him, but he’s soon convinced that it has something to do with his best friend Cooper, who’s been missing for over a week. Together with Coop’s sister, Marsh searches for the truth about what happened to his friend, ultimately uncovering something bigger than he could ever have imagined


I’m very psyched to hear that my book Morpheus Road:  The Light has been chosen to be a part of your book battle.  A book battle.  I’m picturing books with arms and legs holding swords fighting each other.  I guess the big books would win.  Or the smart books, though I guess all books are smart.  So maybe the scariest book would win, and in that category, I’ve got a shot.

I love scary stories.  That’s why I’m writing the Morpheus Road trilogy.  I’m the kind of reader who loves to get lost in a book and be taken to another place.  Certainly fantasy books do that, and so do scary books.  There’s something exciting about seeing a world where supernatural events become “natural” and anything can happen.  (It’s also great to know that it isn’t true and that once you close the book, you’re safe)  I also love the mystery of a scary story.  There’s always something going on that the heroes have to try and figure out in order to solve the puzzle.
Or save their lives.
The main character in The Light, Marshall Seaver, has to deal with a couple of mysteries.  His best friend has disappeared and he must try and find out what happened to him.  But stranger than that, he is being haunted by a frightening character that he himself created, a ghoul named Gravedigger.  Working through the clues and trying to solve the mysteries along with Marsh is what the story is all about.  I hope you have as much reading it, and experiencing it along with Marsh, as I had in writing it.
D.J. MacHale

D.J. MacHale is a writer, director, executive producer and creator of several popular television series and movies.  As an author, his ten-volume book series:  PENDRAGON – JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE became a New York Times #1 bestseller.
He was raised in Greenwich, CT and graduated from Greenwich High School. While in school, he had several jobs including collecting eggs at a poultry farm, engraving trophies and washing dishes in a steakhouse…in between playing football and running track. D.J. attended New York University where he received a BFA in film production.

His filmmaking career began in New York where he worked as a freelance writer/director making corporate videos and television commercials. He also taught photography and film production.
D.J. broke into the entertainment business by writing several ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS. As co-creator of the popular Nickelodeon series: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?, he produced all 91 episodes over 8 years.  D.J. also wrote and directed the movie TOWER OF TERROR for ABC’s WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY which starred Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg. The Showtime series CHRIS CROSS was co-created, written and produced by D.J. It received the CableAce award for Best Youth Series.

D.J. co-created and produced the Discovery Kids/NBC television series FLIGHT 29 DOWN.  He wrote every episode and directed several. His work on FLIGHT 29 DOWN earned him the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Children’s Script” and a Directors Guild of America award nomination.

Other notable writing credits include the ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL titled SEASONAL DIFFERENCES; the pilot for the long-running PBS/CBS series GHOSTWRITER; and the HBO series ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN, BOY DETECTIVE for which he received a CableAce nomination for writing.
In print, D.J. has co-written the book THE TALE OF THE NIGHTLY NEIGHBORS, based on his own teleplay and penned the poetic adaptation of the classic Norwegian folk tale EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON.  He is currently writing three new book series.  MORPHEUS ROAD, a spooky trilogy; THE EQUINOX CURIOSITY SHOP, a fantasy adventure and THE MONSTER PRINCESS, a picture book.

D.J. lives in Southern California with his wife Evangeline and daughter Keaton. They are avid backpackers, scuba divers and skiers. Rounding out the household are a Golden Retriever, Maggie; and a Kitten, Kaboodle.

A very special thanks to DJ McHale for providing a guest post. If you enjoyed Morpheus Road: The Light, then make sure you check out the sequel Morpheus Road: The Dark which will be release in April 2011. I know I cannot wait to find out what happens next!

Featured Book of the Week/Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C O'Brien

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service. (Publishers Summary from Powell's Books)

In real life, Robert C. O'Brien was Robert Leslie Conly. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, attended Williams College and graduated from the Universtiy of Rochester. While there he studied piano at Eastman School of Music, and at one time considered being a musician. Instead, he became an editor and writer for Newsweek magazine from 1941 to 1944, and for Pathfinder from 1946 to 1951. From 1951 until the time of his death in 1973 he was employed as a writer and editor by the National Geographic Magazine. He made his home in New York City before 1944 and in Washington, D.C. after that. He also had a home in Morgan County, West Virginia, after 1965, a place he loved and visited as often as he could. He was married and the father of one son and three daughters. His books include The Silver Crown, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which won the Newbery Award, and A Report From Group 17. His last book, Z is for Zachariah was nearly completed at the time of his death; the last few chapters were written from notes by this wife and one of his daughters. (Author biography from Powell's Books)

Featured Book of the Week/Middleworld by J & P Voelkel

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.
Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice! (Summary from Powell's Books)


Jon and I would like to thank you very much for choosing Middleworld for your Battle of the Books.  We had a blast writing it and, for me in particular, being an author is a dream that I never thought would come true.

The problem was that I got bad advice early on.  A teacher told me that great writers always write about what they know. For me, as a kid, that was like a door slamming in my face. I hated the world I knew. I had an unhappy childhood because my mother was very ill for most of it and I had no desire to write about it, ever.

Some people find that writing about their problems helps them feel better. I found it just made everything more real and more painful. I wanted to pretend that none of it was happening and I escaped by reading books. Adventure stories, boarding school stories, anything where kids lived in worlds without parents. (In those days, at my school anyway, they didn't have books about unhappy families - no Laurie Halse Anderson or Ellen Hopkins to reassure me that other kids’ lives weren’t perfect either.)

When I left college, I looked for jobs with writer in the title.  For twenty-five years I wrote catalog captions, book reviews, and advertising copy. I was resigned to never writing a book because I didn't want to write about what I knew. Then my husband, who was not a writer by trade, became obsessed with the idea of us writing a book based on his childhood.  He'd had a wildly adventurous time growing up in Latin America and had always kept our children entranced with his action-packed bedtime stories. 

It was the perfect solution! I would get to know his world! And now, thanks to the many trips we've taken down to Central America to research the rainforest and the Maya, it’s become my world too. (And that of our three children.) We’ve tracked howler monkeys in the jungle, made our own tortillas, and sailed down the mighty Usumacinta river with crocodiles watching from the bank. We've got to know many famous archaeologists, and made friends with teachers, librarians and booksellers all over America.

I wish I could go back to that unhappy little kid I used to be and tell her that it would all work out.  That one day she'd have exciting adventures, and a happy family, and finally get to write books.  But the funny thing is that The Jaguar Stones trilogy is about a lonely boy and a girl who’s had to grow up too quickly. Okay, so he’s from Boston and she’s a Maya, but – guess what? – in some ways, they’re both me. 

So my advice to students who want to be writers is this: remember that the story of your childhood is not the story of your life. But whether you’re having an interesting youth like Jon’s or a miserable one like mine, remember how you feel right now - because one day you’ll want to write about someone who feels the same way.  And if you’re brave enough to follow where your new story leads you, you’ll find yourself in places that you never dreamed existed.

Enjoy the adventure!


Jon Voelkel grew up in Peru, Costa Rica and Colombia. He was not a natural-born adventurer and found life in the jungle difficult, to say the least. Having survived monkey stew, an attack by giant rats, and a plane crash in the middle of the rainforest, he escaped to college in Minneapolis and went on to business school in Barcelona. After working in advertising agencies in Spain, Holland and England, he started his own agency in London with four other partners - one of whom would be his future wife. In 2001, the London Financial Times named him one of the top fifty creative minds in Britain.

While Jon was battling the daily perils of the jungle, Pamela Craik Voelkel was dreaming of adventure in a sedate seaside town in the north of England where nothing ever happened.  After graduating from Leeds University in English Language and Literature, she fled to London to take any job with “writer” in the title.  After stints reviewing books, writing catalogs and penning speech bubbles for photo-romances, she became an advertising copywriter. As Creative Director of Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, she helped the agency win literally hundreds of creative awards.

In 2001, the Voelkels moved to rural Vermont and began work on ‘Middleworld’, the first book they have written together. In an interesting male/female collaboration, Jon plots out the action (much of it based on his own childhood memories and the bedtime stories he tells their three children), then Pamela fleshes out the characters and decides how they feel about things. (Author Bio from authors website)

I want to thank J & P Voelkel for being a part of the featured book of the week and encourage all you book battlers to visit their wonderful website to learn more about their lives and books. 

I am also very excited to tell you that the next book in this exciting series is due to be released in December, so you will have a chance to go on another thrilling adventure with Max and Lola.

Featured Book of the Week/The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.


Bestselling author Suzanne Collins first made her mark in children’s literature with the New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles series for middle grade readers. Her debut for readers aged 12 and up, The Hunger Games (September 2008), immediately became a New York Times bestseller, appealing to both teen readers and adults. It was called “addictive” by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, and “amazing” by Stephenie Meyer on her website, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2008 and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.
Catching Fire (September 2009), the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, debuted at #1 on the USA Today bestseller list and simultaneously appeared at #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. It was named a Time Magazine Top Ten Fiction Book of 2009, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and a People Magazine (Top 10) Best Book of 2009. 

Foreign rights for The Hunger Games and its sequels have been sold in 39 countries to date. Movie rights for The Hunger Games have been optioned by Lionsgate, and Nina Jacobson’s Color Force production company will produce the film with Suzanne Collins set to write the screenplay. In April 2010, Suzanne Collins was named to the TIME 100 list of “the world’s most influential people.” The publication of Mockingjay, the thrilling final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy, was released August 24, 2010. 

Suzanne Collins has also had a successful and prolific career writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains It All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. She received a Writers Guild of America nomination in animation for co-writing the critically acclaimed Christmas special, Santa, Baby!
Suzanne Collins lives with her family in Connecticut. For more information about her, please visit www.suzannecollinsbooks.com .
(Biography retrieved from Scholastic)

While many of you will be unable to view this terrific interview with Suzanne Collins talking about her inspiration for The Hunger Games  (due to firewalls blocking You Tube), I have included it hoping that you will take a look at it at home. It is fascinating to hear how Collins took a Greek myth and turned it into on one the best books of 2009.

Feature Book of the Week/Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight... for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.


Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. (Author information from author's website The Mad Woman in the Forest)

Unfortunately, Laurie Halse Anderson, was too busy with her current book tour of Forge, the sequel to Chains, which was released last month, to participate in the Featured Book of the Week event.

Feature Book of the Week/Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


What would you do?
As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse not to be decent...Especially when you're responsible for a kid. 

It just figures that fifteen-year old Victoria's dad fails once again to be at the train station like he's promised. Fuming, Victoria watches as a teen mom stashes her bruised little boy in the train's bathroom. When the mom gets off the train alone, Victoria decides she has had it with all the poor excuses who call them selves parents. Making a split-second decision, Victoria boards the next train out of town-taking the little boy with her. 

No, really, what would you do? Victoria's staying on the run until everyone responsible starts keeping their promises. This kid's not falling through the cracks. Not on her watch. (Publisher's summary from Powell's Books)


One of the best things about having a book published is hearing from readers. The question I’m asked most often about Jump the Cracks is: “What happens after the book ends?”

At first this question surprised me, and I wasn’t sure how to answer it, because (of course) I think the ending is perfect the way it is. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that it’s a great question, because it means you got so wrapped up in the story that you kept thinking about it after you finished reading. I like that.

But I suppose, since so many of you have asked, you deserve an answer. What DOES happen after the pages of the book close? Does Wills grow up happy? Who raises him? Will Victoria ever see him again?

I have a confession to make: Originally, I wrote a different ending. An ending that answers all of those questions, without any doubt. I tied the story up in a neat little bow.

And then I changed it.

Because the thing is, when you’re writing a story for readers who are smart enough to think about what they’re reading, it’s not fair to do the thinking for them. So I changed the ending for a couple of reason

1. A “neat” ending wouldn’t have fit the story. After all, Jump the Cracks is about a bunch of imperfect people trying hard to do their best (well, most of them, anyway). It wouldn’t have made sense to end the story with everyone suddenly perfect and doing all the right things.

2. The open ending allows each reader to imagine his or her own perfect ending—whatever that might be.

Think of it as one of those “You decide” stories.

Are you a sucker for a happy ending? The possibilities are there, at the end of Jump the Cracks, for a perfect, storybook ending. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Or maybe you like your stories gritty and more true-to-life. The possibilities for that type of ending are also there, in the story. Just fill in the blanks.

It’s completely up to you. You are free to imagine what happens after the book ends. And whatever you imagine, that is the right ending.


As a teenager, I was not incredibly popular or unpopular. I was one of that vast group of invisible, semi-geeky (i.e. normal) people. I wore braces. Twice. I did not make the cut for cheerleader. I warmed the bench for my softball team. Which was probably just as well, since I liked the library better anyway.

Even though I am now Grown Up, I still feel pretty much like the semi-geeky teenager I used to be.

Except when I write. When I write I feel beautiful and graceful. (Authos Bio from Stacy De Keyser's Blog)

I want to thank Stacy for sharing more about her book Jump the Cracks with us.

Feature Book of the Week/Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


 Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school — but no one knows it. Most people — her teachers and doctors included — don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows...but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind — that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice...but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

Sharon graciously agreed to answer some questions about her book Out of My Mind and her life shortly after Out of My Mind was first released.  This is a re-post of that interview.

Out of My Mind is about a brilliant young girl who does not speak or write.  Can you explain how you came up with this character and provide some insights into what made you want to write a book about her?

I’ve often wondered about what’s really going on in the mind of a person who cannot share their thoughts.  I have a pretty good idea, because I have a daughter who is disabled.  I’m pretty sure she’s really smart, but I’m her mom—of course I’d want to believe that.   So I created Melody—not as a portrait of my daughter, but as a character who is truly her own being.  Melody has spunk and determination, and a great sense of humor.  I tried very hard to make her memorable—someone you would never dare feel sorry for.
Kids with disabilities are just like their peers.  They want to be accepted, to have friends, to be included in the social life of the school.  Melody understands the pain of being ignored and overlooked, and I've given her a voice to show her humanity.  She represents all those young people, who have feelings as well as dreams.   I wanted to give those kids, who are often treated as if they are invisible, a chance to be heard, to be seen as the individuals they are, not the machines they ride in, or the disability that defines them.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? What part gives you fits?

I love getting up early in the morning (4 AM!) and sitting down to a quiet house and a fresh computer screen.  I love listening to the birds outside, and watching the sun warm the trees, or watching a rain or snow storm.  All of this helps my writing.  I need complete silence and focused concentration so I can “live” in the world of the characters I’m creating.  The worst part?  I’ve done this work of love and beauty and I have to chop it up to work on the edits my editor suggests.  She is very good at what she does and we usually agree on most changes, but it’s hard to change one single word, let alone whole chapters.  But I do it and the result is always better than the original.

All of your books except for Copper Sun and Fire From the Rock are set in the present. Why do you primarily write about the here and now with characters that face modern issues affecting middle and high school students?

Teens and tweens live in the world of today—a modern, techo-friendly world of current problems and issues.  I want to speak to them, to create characters they can relate to, so I write about the world they know right now.  I want to address their issues and create a forum so they can talk about them.  I try my best to make it real for them.

All of your covers accurately portray your characters. Can you explain the process you have had working with your publishers when picking a cover?

Some covers I like.  Some I think could have been better.  Authors rarely have much say about what ends up on the cover, but I do get some input occasionally.  I REALLY like the cover of Out of my Mind.  It really captures the frustration of the main character in the book.  When a fish leaps to freedom, the result is probably not what he expected when he made that jump.  The same is true for Melody in the book.

You have a very successful career, not only are you a writer, and an educator, but you just recently completed a Doctors of Law degree. What made you go back to school to get this degree? What plans do you have for using this degree and how will it affect your writing?

You want to hear a funny codicil to getting a Doctorate?  I now get all kinds of junk mail for medical supplies and lab coats and magazines on surgical techniques.  And lots more respect when getting seats on a plane.  I just chuckle and hope no one asks, “Is there a doctor on board?”  But seriously, a doctorate is simply another means to gaining more knowledge, to being better prepared to face the world.  There is so much to know, and never enough time to absorb it all.

When you taught school, what were some of your favorite books to teach and why?

I used to love to teach Shakespeare (Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet) and Beowulf.  I always wanted to make a movie of Beowulf, and someone has done so—in 3-D no less!  It’s a powerful story of heroism and honor.  I used bits of that story in Just Another Hero.  The teacher in that novel is teaching the story to a group of students who, of course, need a hero before the end of the book.

Your bio on your website states that you travel extensively. What have been some of your favorite destinations and why?

I’ve been to England and Germany and Russia.  And Guam and Bermuda and Jamaica.  But the place I loved the most was Africa.  I loved the warmth of the air, the grace of the people, and the power of the history there.  It was during my first trip there that I knew I had to write Copper Sun.  I went back twice more for research.  I learned more and loved it more each time I visited.  The last time I went I took a group of American students with me, and we met up with a group of African students, and all of us share the book together.  Now that was a powerful experience. 

You once stated that you would love to have dinner with Zora Neale Hurston if she was still alive. What would you most like to talk with Zora about?

Zora grew up in a place where women didn’t write or express themselves much at all.  She grew up in a place where African-Americans weren’t expected to do much or accomplish much.  But she became the spokesperson of her generation, one of the members of those literate few of the Harlem Renaissance.  She was so creative and literate and powerful.  She was like a flower that bloomed in spite of where it had been planted.  Not only did she bloom, she still continues to influence writers and readers today.  Because of Zora Neal Hurston, I am able to write and publish and be respected for my art and creativity.  She set the path for me and many others.  I’d just like to tell her thanks and let her know that she made a difference in the lives of many.

Thank you Sharon for taking the time to be intereviewed, and for being so accessible. I have enjoyed getting to know you and wish you continued success.


Dr. Sharon M. Draper is a professional educator as well as an accomplished writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scot King Literary Award, and is a New York Times bestselling author. She was selected as Ohio's Outstanding High School Language Arts Educator, Ohio Teacher of the Year, and was chosen as a NCNW Excellence in Teaching Award winner. She is a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award winner, and was the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence for the Taft Museum. She is a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement, and is the recipient of the Dean's Award from Howard University School of Education, the Pepperdine University Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Marva Collins Education Excellence Award, and the Governor's Educational Leadership Award. Last year she was named Ohio Pioneer in Education by the Ohio State Department of Education, and in 2008 she received the Beacon of Light Humanitarian award. In 2009 she received the Doctor of Laws Degree from Pepperdine University.
She has been honored at the White House six times, and was chosen as one of only four authors in the country to speak at the National Book Festival Gala in Washington, D.C, and to represent the United States in Moscow at their Book Festival. Her book Copper Sun has been selected by the US State Department and the International Reading Association as the United States novel for the international reading project called Reading Across Continents. Students in the US, Nigeria, and Ghana are reading the book and sharing ideas-a true intercontinental, cross-cultural experience.

Actively involved in encouraging and motivating all teachers and their students as well, she has worked all over the United States, as well as in Russia, Ghana, Togo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Bermuda, and Guam, spreading the word about the power of accomplished teaching and excellence in education.

Her literary recognition began when, as a challenge from one of her students, she entered and won first prize in a literary contest, for which she was awarded $5000 and the publication of her short story, "One Small Torch." She has published numerous poems, articles, and short stories in a variety of literary journals. She is the published author of numerous articles, stories, and poems, as well as. (Author Bio retrieved from author's website)


Featured Book of the Week # 4 The Youngest Templar: The Keeper of the Grail by Michael Spradlin

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

 Featured Book of The Week

1191 A.D. The orphan Tristan has joined the Knights Templar as a squire, journeying with Richard the Lionheart on his crusade to free the Holy Land from the Saracens. As defeat looms near, Tristan is entrusted with the most sacred of Christian relics, the Holy Grail. He must return it safely to Britain, but he must also keep it secret, because the Grailas power will drive men to madness, and even his fellow Knights Templar will kill for it.

Tristan teams up with the fiery Robard Hodea returning to his home in Sherwood after serving with the Kingas Archersaand Maryam, an equally fierce girl and a member of the dreaded Hashshashin. Together they must escape the Holy Land, dodging bandits, the forces of the Saladin, and unscrupulous knights who will stop at nothing to possess the Grail. (Publishers summary from Powell's Books)

Guest Post From Michael Spradlin

Hello Book Battlers!

This is celebrated author Michael P. Spradlin, coming to you live, from a secret, hidden location somewhere in Michigan, not too far from Detroit but nowhere near Canada. (I cannot reveal my exact location, because, HELLO! We’re in a Book Battle!) I am the author of The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail and many other spectacular books that you should all read because they are fun, will make you smarter and are guaranteed to grow hair on your heads.

Who makes me a celebrated author you might ask? Well, my mother for one. And my sisters. And my wife sometimes. Even my children. But in truth, it is you the readers who enjoy my books so much and write to me telling me how much you love them. I have received your letters from the United States and other countries, so my sincerest thanks to both of you.

Why am I writing to you today? As you are in the middle of a Book Battle and probably don’t have time to read this, what with the books flying around? By the way, here comes The Complete Works of Shakespeare! DUCK! Whew! That was close.

I am here because I think any activity promoting reading, even if it is a Battle With Books is a great idea and I hope most, if not all of you, will choose to read my book The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail during the quieter times of the battle. I think you will find it to be a fast-paced, full of action and adventure read, with lots of action and adventure and fast pacing. There are sword fights, dungeons, a really handsome archer, an incredibly beautiful warrior girl, narrow escapes, evil Knights, good Knights, a small dog, stuff blowing up, a small dog, good Knights, Evil Knights, narrow escapes, an incredibly beautiful warrior girl, a handsome archer, dungeons, and sword fights. Plus there is a hidden pie. And anyone who finds the hidden pie and emails me with the correct location of said hidden pie will get a thank you email back, after I find and eat the pie.

I think a Book Battle is a great idea. And that is because I once heard somewhere that Reading is Fundamental and you know what? It is. Kids like you who read more books will do better in school, have better cafeteria food, and get better deals at the mall.  Scientists have proven that kids, who read, spend less time watching television and video games because they are busy reading.

If you’re a boy, let me tell you a secret: hundreds of studies have shown that girls your age think guys who read (The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail) at least 50 books a year are much ‘dreamier’ than guys who don’t read. If you’re a girl, let me tell you another secret: hundreds of studies have shown that guys your age think girls who read (The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail) 50 books a year are 97,467% cuter than girls who don’t read. So there you have it. And you can’t argue with me because, you know: Science.

Enjoy your book battle. It’s much more fun than a cotton ball battle. But wear a helmet. With all the books flying around while the battle rages you can never be too careful. And bring a light jacket because it can get cool this time of year. But battle hard. Read lots of books, and start with The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you should happen to get a paper cut, because those things can really sting.

Have a good battle!
Michael P. Spradlin
The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail

More About Michael Spradlin

Michael P. Spradlin is the author of more than a dozen books for children, some of which have actually been published. He grew up in a small town in Michigan not far from the Indiana border, which may explain his irrational fear of Hoosiers. (Both the inhabitants of the state of Indiana and the movie starring Gene Hackman).

Surrounded by books in his formative years, he grew up loving to read, imagining himself the hero of numerous epic battles and indulging in his favorite pastime, which was smuggling fireworks across the Ohio border so that he could blow up his collection of Plastic Green Army Men and Matchbox Cars.

His first book for children, The Legend of Blue Jacket, was called by School Library Journal "a well-researched labor of love." His first novel, Spy Goddess: Live and Let Shop, was a 2006 Edgar Award nominee by the Mystery Writers of America for Best Young Adult Mystery. The second book in the series, Spy Goddess: To Hawaii, With Love, was given a starred review by VOYA. His newest project is The Youngest Templar Trilogy. The first book The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail was published by G.P. Putnam Sons in September 2008. An international sensation, rights to The Youngest Templar have sold in ten countries, and it is also available as an audio edition from Listening Library. The second book in the trilogy The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate was released in October, 2009 and called by School Library Journal 'brilliant' and 'riveting'. The third book The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny will be released in fall 2010.

Michael's first book for grownups It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Zombies, was a five week New York Times Bestseller. Published in fall 2009, the book recieved raves from The New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and many other media outlets.
Michael is also the author of several picture books including the award-winning Daniel Boone’s Great Escape. Check the Coming Soon page for all of the latest updates on his new books including Baseball From A to Z and Off Like the Wind: The First Ride Of The Pony Express, both of which will be published in spring 2010.
Upcoming projects include a novel called The Raven's Shadow which will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 2011. The Raven's Shadow is set in Washington DC in 1825 and features a teen age Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Edgar Allan Poe who must band together to defeat an evil the modern world will come to know as Count Dracula. Teaming up with illustrator Ard Hoyt again, Michael will publish The Inch High Samurai, a retelling of a Japanese Folk Tale which will also be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 2012.

When not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, spending time with his family and worrying over the fact that he really should be writing instead of doing other stuff. He lives in Michigan with his wife Kelly, son Michael, daughter Rachel and two dogs Willow and Apollo. 
(author bio and picture from Author's website www.michaelspradlin.com)
Thanks so much Michael for taking time out of your busy schedule to pay us a visit.

Fetured Book of the Week/# 3 The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Featured Book of the Week

Eli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and theyve become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy. No amount of luxury can stifle the dull routine of living in the same place, with only his two sisters, only his father and mother, doing the same thing day after day after day. As problems with their carefully planned existence threaten to destroy their sanctuary—and their sanity—Eli cant help but wonder if hed rather take his chances outside. Elis father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—really? (Publisher's Comments from Powell's Books)

Guest Post from S.A. Bodeen

            The Idea Behind The Compound
                By S.A. Bodeen

    In the late 70’s, early 80’s, I was in middle school and junior high. The world was a different place than it is now; a safer place, for the most part, with the absence of many of today’s fears. But one that seemed to loom over our heads was our lousy relationship with the USSR, as it was called then. Supposedly the President of the United States walked around with the codes to set off our stash of nuclear weapons in case the USSR aimed their weapons at us. And my school had drills for just such an event.
    Knowing what we know now about the actual result of a nuclear explosion, it seems silly that, when our fire alarm rang, we all headed downstairs to the smelly wrestling room and crouched crowded together, waiting for the bell to ring again, signaling an all-clear. Some kids laughed, of course, until our teachers told them to be quiet and take it seriously. After all, nuclear war was a real possibility. (Not that we would survive an attack in that wrestling room.)
    I was a very imaginative child and no one ever had to tell me to take it seriously. I did. I had nightmares about a nuclear war, and wondered what would happen if an attack did happen while we were at school. I wondered how long we’d have to stay down there in the wrestling room, and if I would end up with my friends, and what would happen to my parents, who were at home with no fallout shelter.
    For the most part, the imminent danger of a nuclear attack has passed, although it stays in the back of my mind. Which is probably what led me to write The Compound. I did want to find out what happened in that fallout shelter. And although the one I created is much fancier, and better smelling, our wrestling room fallout shelter is still there in my mind, and probably always will be.

More About S.A. Bodeen

S.A. Bodeen is the author of several acclaimed picture books, including Elizabeti’s Doll, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award. A native of Wisconsin, she and her husband, both Peace Corps workers, along with their two daughters, have traveled the world. Most recently, Stephanie lived in the Pacific Northwest, where she wrote The Compound and taught fiction workshops for adult education programs. Her last book, The Gardener,  was this summer. (Biography from Macmillan Photo retrieved from author website)

I want to thank Stephanie for taking time to share with us the idea behind The Compound.

Featured Book of The Week #2/Seer of Shadows by Avi PLUS AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Week's Featured Book of the Week

The Seer of ShadowsNewberry Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales--about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge.

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.
Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora.
Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her.
Rich in detail, full of the magic of early photography, here is a story about the shadows, visible and invisible, that are always lurking near. (Publisher's Summary from Powell's Books)

A Guest Post From Avi

Seer of Shadows

 If you own a camera these days the chances are, it is a digital one. That said, I think it is worth remembering that like many high-tech devices, photography has a long history, in this case a history that goes back to 1826!  
So it was that before I owned a digital camera, I used film, chemistry and light to make my pictures.  Moreover, I used what was called a darkroom. 
It was never easy to make pictures this way—good pictures were harder--but if you have only used digital photography, you just do not know how much wonderful fun you have missed. There is something magical, even mystical about working in a tiny gloomy room bathed in dim light, while using special lenses, projected light, chemical potions, photographic paper, and the sheer play of all of these things to create images from—well, from right out of the air.  I could and did spend hours in my darkroom. Loved every minute of it.
Moreover, the pictures I made were not in color, but in black and white, which added a whole other shadowy dimension to the images I tried to create.
If all this sounds interesting—how I hope you try film photography!—you should enjoy the book I wrote called The Seer of Shadows.  It is about early photography to be sure, but it is mostly an exciting and adventurous ghost story.  If it is a little creepy, maybe even a little scary, well, good! 
My story tells the story of Horace Carpetine, who, in 1874, was apprenticed to a professional photographer. No question, Horace did not believe in ghosts.  However, something very strange begins to happen when he starts taking his own pictures.  It turns out he is a “seer of shadows,” and some of those shadows . . .
No--I do not think I want to give away the story.  You will have to read it for yourself.
I will tell you, however, that when Horace teams up with the servant girl Pegg, some very strange things happen, dangerous things.  It takes all their wits, courage and cleverness—and a knowledge of photography--to know what to do, and save their lives.
I for one, do not believe in ghosts.  But guess what?  I really do believe in ghost stories!
So Seer of Shadows is the kind of ghost story I believe in.  I hope you will believe it, too, even as you enjoy it.  And I hope that when you read it you will see things a little differently. 
Perhaps you have heard the expression, “One picture is worth a thousand words.”  Wait until you read about the pictures developed here!  They might just get you into a darkroom.  And if you do, who know what kind of images you might conjure up?
You know, shadows are everywhere.  You just need to know how to see them.  
Your friend,

First, I want to thank Avi for agreeing to write a guest post especially for The Area Wide Book Battle. And I have some very exciting news, are you ready?

This year thanks to our good friends at Scholastic Book Fairs, Avi will be joining us at the 
2011 Area Wide Book Battle.

Now More About Avi

 I was born in New York City, along with a twin sister. I am five minutes older than Emily. It was Emily, for reasons no one knows — she certainly doesn't — who called me Avi. It stuck. It's the only name I use now.

My father was a doctor, and my mother, later on, became a social worker. Every night I was read to. Every Friday we were taken to the library. I always received at least one book for my birthday. I have a few of them yet. Early on, I had my own collection of books. I loved to read. Still do.

I came from a family of writers, artists, and musicians. And today we have all that, plus filmmakers, actors, and theater and TV directors. (Two of my sons are in the rock music world. The third is a journalist.) When we get together there is much talk, disagreement, and laughter.

Growing up in Brooklyn, I went to a public school, and sat in the same class with my sister until eighth grade. I hated that. My older brother was considered a genius. He isn't, but he did go to college at the age of 15. My sister was very smart too. Guess who wasn't thought to be that smart?

When I went to high school I wanted to be a designer of airplanes. But flunking out of the science high school brought me to a small private school that provided some of the attention I needed. I got it when an English teacher insisted I get some help with my writing.

I did get help, and that help led me to think that I might become a writer. I made up my mind to focus on this when I was 17 and a senior in high school.

I began by writing plays, and wrote a lot of bad ones. It was only when my eldest son, Shaun, was born, that I took to writing for kids. Since then, I've never written anything else. My first book was published in 1970. I've published over 30 books since then.

For some 25 years I worked as a librarian, first at the New York Public Library, then at Trenton State College in New Jersey. My life has always been with, around, and for books.

“I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read.”

Though the topics and the style of Avi's books range widely, one common thread unites them: They are all invitingly readable, even to the most reluctant readers. Avi explains, “I take a great deal of satisfaction in using popular forms — the adventure, the mystery, the thriller — so as to hold my reader with the sheer pleasure of a good story.”

Honored with the Newbery Medal for Crispin: Cross of Lead and a Newbery Honor for Nothing but the Truth, Avi is the acclaimed author of several works of historical fiction, including The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and The Man Who Was Poe. Avi faced and overcame many difficulties in his effort to become a writer. He suffers from dysgraphia, a dysfunction in his writing abilities that causes him to reverse letters or misspell words. “In a school environment,” Avi recalls, “I was perceived as being sloppy and erratic, and not paying attention.” Still, in the face of unending criticism, Avi persevered. “I became immune to it,” Avi says. “I liked what I wrote.”
(Biography from Scholastic.com)


Featured Book of the Week/ Stolen Children by Peg Kehret

Monday, September 27, 2010

This week's Feature Book of the Week

Stolen Children
Amy learned a lot in her babysitting course, but not what to do if two thugs show up, intent on kidnapping. Armed with misinformation and a weapon, the men take Amy and little Kendra to a remote cabin in the woods. There they make videos of the girls and mail them to Kendraas wealthy parents in an effort to get ransom money. After several of her escape attempts fail, Amy is forced to make one last, desperate move. Award winner Peg Kehret crafts a suspenseful thriller with a spunky heroine who uses her wits to save herself and the toddler. (Publisher's Summary from Powell's Books)

A Very Special Guest Post from Peg Kehret

The Idea for Stolen Children

I'm often asked how long it takes me to write a book, and my usual answer is, "Between six and nine months."  Stolen Children has a different answer.

When I first began writing,  many years ago, I published plays and short stories. I also wrote a novel, called The Ransom at Blackberry Bridge,  about a girl who was baby-sitting when the baby got kidnapped. I intended it for adults. When I sent it to an agent, she said, "I like the way you write, but your heroine seems awfully young. Have you ever considered writing for children?"  I had not, and, sadly, I didn't take her advice right away. The Ransom at Blackberry Bridge never got published.

Several years later, I did try writing for children, discovered that I loved it, and made that my life's work. One day, after I had published many novels for kids, I got out the manuscript of The Ransom at Blackberry Bridge to see if I could improve it enough to sell it. It was hopeless! I could see all sorts of things wrong with it, and I decided not to spend the time trying to salvage it.

However, I liked the basic idea of a girl who is baby-sitting when the baby gets kidnapped. Every time I began a new book, I considered that idea but then I always wrote something else. Still, I kept thinking about it until eventually – finally! -I wrote Stolen Children. It's totally different from that early first novel. The characters are not the same and neither is the plot but it was that long-ago idea that got me started.

So, if you ask me how long it took me to write Stolen Children, the answer is, "Thirty-five years."

Peg Kehret

Meet the author of Stolen Children

 Peg Kehret has always loved to write. As a child, she wanted to be either a writer or a veterinarian; now she includes animals in most of her books. She grew up in Austin, Minnesota, and had a happy and normal childhood except for a bout with polio which paralyzed her from the neck down and hospitalized her for nine months. However, she made nearly a complete recovery. She graduated from Austin High School and attended the University of Minnesota for one year.

She married Carl Kehret in 1955, and moved to California two years later. They adopted two children, Bob and Anne. As a young mother, Peg completed one more year of college. In 1970, Peg and Carl moved to Washington State where she still lives.

Before Peg began writing books for children, she wrote radio commercials, plays, and magazine stories. She also published two nonfiction adult books. Her first book for kids (Winning Monologs for Young Actors) was published in 1985. Since then she has published many popular books for young people.

Peg Kehret has won dozens of state Young Reader awards as well as the PEN Center Award in Children's Literature, the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Henry Bergh Award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA.)

For many years Peg and Carl traveled around the U.S. in their motorhome with their pets on board so that she could speak at schools, libraries, and children’s literature conferences.

Carl died in 2004. They were married for forty-eight happy years. Peg’s children are grown and married, and she has four grandchildren – Brett, Chelsea, Eric, and Mark – all of whom live in Washington State.

Peg is a long-time volunteer for animal welfare causes, working with the Humane Society and Pasado’s Safe Haven. She has a dog, Lucy, and two cats, Molly and Mr. Stray. All are rescued animals.

Peg’s home is a log house on a ten acre wildlife sanctuary near Mount Rainier National Park. She often sees deer and elk from her window. When she isn’t writing, Peg likes to read, watch baseball and gymnastics, play with her animals, and invite her grandkids to visit. (Biographical information from Peg Kehret's Website)

I want to thanks Peg Kehret for taking the time to write this guest post for us.
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