2011/2012 Feature Book of the Week #3
Girl Stolen by April Henry

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price? (Publisher's summary from Goodreads)

A Confession about Girl, Stolen

I have a confession to make.  In the course of writing Girl, Stolen, I killed myself and blinded my teenage daughter.

Not literally, of course.

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I were walking down an unlit road when she noticed something almost magical.  Each car that came up behind us would throw our shadows ahead of us.  At first the shadows were long and thin, but as the cars got closer, our shadows grew shorter and thicker.  But that wasn’t the only thing.  “Look!” She pointed.  “Our shadows are walking backward.” 

And it was true.  (If you are ever in a similar situation, watch what happens to your shadow.)

At the time my daughter showed me our backward-walking shadows, I already knew I wanted to write a thriller about a blind girl who is kidnapped.  The idea was sparked by a story on our local news. A blind girl, who had gone out to dinner with her step parents, decided to stay in the car while they did some Christmas shopping. Her mom left the keys in the ignition.  A man saw the keys, jumped into the car, and drove off - and then realized there was a girl in the back seat.  Three blocks later, he forced her out.

But I thought:

What if the thief had kept her? 

And what if he was a also a teenager?

And what if his dad was running a chop shop? 

And what if they thought about letting her go - until they learned her family was rich?

But how had the girl become blind? I considered making her blind since birth, but decided it would be too difficult to portray accurately.  So my character would have to have been blind for only a few years.  But how had she lost her sight? 

And when my daughter showed me our shadows, I thought - What if one of these cars hit us?  And killed me? And threw my daughter into a signpost, leaving her blind?  And so that’s what happened to my character and her mother.

Don’t worry, my daughter is fine with this. She’s used to have a writer for a mother - one who sees not what is, but what if.


I grew up in a small Oregon town, and I still remember my mom teaching me with alphabet flash cards. White with a picture of an object on one side and a letter on the other, those cards glowed with magic.
When I was 12, I sent Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a short story about a frog named Herman who loved peanut butter. The day he received it, Dahl had lunch with the editor of an international children's magazine and read her the story. She contacted me and asked to publish it.

But as I got older, even though I read all the time, I didn't even dream of being a writer. It would have been like thinking I could fly by flapping my arms really, really hard. Then I got a hospital job with lots of down time and started thinking maybe I could try to write a book about the life and death that surrounded me every day.
That first book I wrote attracted no interest from agents. My second book got me an agent (and we're still together many years and many books later) and nice rejection letters from editors. My third book didn't even get nice rejection letters from editors. My fourth book sold in two days. It was a four-year overnight success.

Since then, I've written nearly a dozen mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults. The first in the Triple Threat Club series, co-written with Lis Wiehl, was on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks. It was followed by Hand of Fate and Heart of Ice.

My first young adult novel, Shock Point was an ALA Quick Pick, a Top 10 Books for Teens nominee, a New York Library's Books for the Teen Age book, named to the Texas Tayshas list, and a finalist for Philadelphia's Young Readers Choice Award. It was followed by two more teen thrillers: Torched and Girl, Stolen. Girl, Stolen was an ALA Quick Pick and an ALA Best Books for Young Adults.
My books have been short-listed for the Agatha Award, the Anthony Award, and the Oregon Book Award, and chosen twice for Booksense by the independent booksellers of America. They have been translated into Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, German, Polish, and French.

Look for two new books 2012. In April, the fourth Triple Threat Club mystery, Eyes of Justice, will be out. And for teens, The Night She Disappeared, about a pizza delivery girl who goes out to make a delivery and doesn't come back, will be out in March. (Retrieved from author's web site)

2011/2012 Feature Book of the Week #2
Invisible Lines by Mary Amato

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Trevor is just plain funny, and he’s lucky, he is. Because this year he needs a sense of humor. Moving to Hedley Gardens is hard enough. The move to a fancy new school is even harder—all the kids from “Deadly Gardens” seem to be in the same classes and keep to themselves, but somehow Trevor’s ended up in an advanced science class with kids who seem to have everything and know everything, including how to please their strange new teacher.

But Trevor has plans. This is going to be his year. And he is going to do whatever it takes to make it at this new school. He may not have what these other kids have, but no one is better at juggling in soccer, and his drawing is so good that he’s called the Graffiti Guy.

Xander, a star in the classroom and on the soccer field, has other plans for Trevor. He doesn’t like anyone trespassing on his turf and sabotages Trevor at every opportunity. Who is going to believe Trevor over the school star? Is there any way that Trevor can achieve his goals against a guy who is as good at bullying as he is at everything else he does? (PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY FROM GOOD READS)

I am intrigued by the idea for a Battle of the Books and am excited to know that my book, Invisible Lines, is part of it. Often, I write because I am haunted by a character. It is as if the character is real, a person outside of my imagination, who is asking me to write his or her story. My main character for this story, Trevor Musgrove, haunted me for years before I finally wrote his story. While I am writing, I carry the characters in my head everywhere I go. I am almost constantly thinking about them. When I'm finished with all the writing and the many revisions and the book is finally in production, it is always a relief. I'll think about how exhausting it was and decide to take a break. But almost immediately, a new character will begin to haunt me and I find myself pulling out my little notebook and beginning the scribble down that new character's voice. To see my process and all my drafts, watch my video, Writing Invisible Lines: http://www.maryamato.com/new-3-minute-video-on-the-writing-process. Cheers...and remember to "rise above it." --Mary Amato
Mary Amato is an award-winning children’s book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter. Her books have been translated into foreign languages, optioned for television, produced onstage, and has won the children’s choice awards in several states.

I always wanted to be a writer, but it took me a long time to believe that I could actually become one. I started writing at the age of seven when my mother handed me a little spiral notebook and told me to keep a journal of our trip to California. I liked the fact that I could record something in my journal and then read it later. My favorite book as a child was Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh because Harriet was a terrific journal keeper.

I love to write. Not all writers enjoy writing, believe it or not. I especially love to write books for children. I think that’s because I needed books when I was a kid. I turned to books when I was lonely or sad or confused or bored. It is extremely fun to think that kids are reading my books.

I love to play music and write songs. I perform in the Maryland-Washington, D.C. area. I was a dancer and choreographer for many years and still work from time to time in the theater. Currently, I collaborate on ballets with my sister who was my inspiration to dance and is a ballet teacher and choreographer. I was also the co-founder of Firefly Shadow Theater, designed and made many puppets, and directed many shows.
In graduate school, I studied fiction writing and poetry at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. As an undergraduate, I studied special education and dance at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. (Retrieved from author's website)

I want to thank Mary Amato for the lovely post and for graciously agreeing to participate in this week's Feature Book of the Week.

2011/2012 Feature Book of the Week #1
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Welcome to the first Feature Book of the Week post for the 2011/2012 Area Wide Book Battle.

Every week I will feature one of the books on this year's list. Along with a summary about the book, many of the authors have graciously written a guest post especially for this year's book battle teams. Hopefully, their words will inspire you and entertain you just as much as their books. Feel free to add your thoughts about their books and posts in the comment section at the end of the post.


Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.
Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption. (Publisher's summary from Goodreads)


In looking over guest posts from last year, I see there are a variety of ways authors have done their posts.  Some were more biographical, others did an interview format.  I like the interview idea and figured who better to conduct the interview than my 11-year old daughter, Lucy, who will also be competing in her school’s Battle of the Books this year.  Moon Over Manifest is on her book list as well.   If your competition runs the same way, the answer always consists of the title of the book and the author's name, so we've been practicing her buzzing in and saying, "Moon Over Manifest" by Clare Vanderpool.  She hasn't been able to say it with a straight face yet.

So here is our interview.

Lucy:  One of my favorite parts of the book was when Lettie sings her sad train songs.  Did you make those up?

Clare/Mom:  Yes, I did make up the songs and rhymes in the book (all except the one about the Little Teddy Bear – I learned that from my grandmother).  I did a lot of research for the book and listened to lots of Depression-era train songs, hobo music, old-timey music.  I wanted to make up songs and rhymes that could have come from that time period.  I even have a melody in my head for how Lettie's song goes.  Do you want me to sing it for you?

Lucy:   No.  How has winning the Newbery changed your life?

Clare/Mom:  The Newbery has affected my life in a lot of wonderful ways.  I’ve had lots of opportunities to travel and speak at different places to children and adults.  Because of the Newbery, a lot more people are familiar with my book than before.  It does put a certain amount of pressure on the next book, however, so I’m working really hard on writing that next one.  But as we said in our family meeting right after the Newbery was announced, as a family, we want to keep things pretty normal.  We still shop at Target, everybody still has Saturday jobs (even though someone usually forgets to do her job of emptying the bathroom trash can… Lucy) and we just want to appreciate the opportunities that the Newbery has provided.

Lucy:  If you could jump into any book and be in the story, what book would you pick?

Clare/Mom:  Ooh, good question.  There are lots of books I’d love to jump into.  Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  There are lots of World War II spy novels that I would like to be in.  A Wrinkle In Time would be fun.  And probably A Long Way from Chicago.  I’d love to meet Grandma Dowdel!

Lucy:  Who is your favorite character in Moon Over Manifest?

Clare/Mom:  Hmm, I love them all, even the persnickety ones like Mrs. Larkin.  But if I had to pick favorites it would probably be Abilene and Shady.  Who is your favorite character?

Lucy:  I like Ned and Jinx because their story is interesting to read about.   Okay, last question.  What do you like about being a writer?

Clare/Mom:  I love writing because it allows me to create characters and get involved in their stories.  I kind of feel like writing is ½ making things up and ½ just going along for the ride!

Lucy:  Okay, that’s it.

Clare/Mom:  Wait, I have a question for you.  Why do you want to be in Battle of the Books?

Lucy:  Because I like reading.

Clare/Mom:  And what is your favorite book?

Lucy:  I have two… well, really six.  The five Percy Jackson books and your book.

Clare/Mom:  That’s nice, Lucy.  Thanks.


If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I have a very strong connection to place.  I live in Wichita, Kansas, about four blocks from where I grew up, in an old neighborhood called College Hill.  From my house I can walk to my parents' house, my sister's house, the school I went to and where my kids go now, the pool, the sledding hill, and two bookstores!

     I grew up reading many wonderful books in a lot of strange places.  Books like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Anne of Green Gables, and Island of the Blue Dolphins in places like dressing rooms, the bathroom, and church.  (Like you never read a book in church.)

     While I do have a college degree in English and Elementary Education, my best education has come from reading, listening to family stories, looking out the car window on road trips, pretending to be pirates with my brother, and just plain imagining.

     Besides writing I like to go to the pool with my kids, browse at the bookstore, have a neighbor over for tea, watch re-runs of Monk, have a lot of kids playing at our house, and go out for dinner with my husband.  Life is good. (Retrieved from author website)

I want to thank Clare Vanderpool for agreeing to provide a guest post and congratulate her on winning the 2011 Newbery Medal.

Welcome Back Are You Ready to READ?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Well, if you have not already started back to school yet, today should find all the students flooding the halls of schools and gearing up for another year. 

Once again The Area Wide Book Battle committee has been working hard to make sure that the 2011/2012  Book Battle is a success.

On this blog you will find all the forms to get your team registered, the official book list and important announcements about which authors will be on hand for the competition.

In addition the blog will once again post The Question of the Week (beginning in January) and 

The Feature Book of the Week (starting next Tuesday Sept. 19, 2011)

We hope you will encourage your students to take part in these posts. One way is to have students leave comments about the authors' posts, biographies, and their books, as each author takes time out of their writing schedules to personally write for our participants. 

The other is to have your team use The Question of the Week as a way to prepare for the battle in May. 

This year in addition to a awarding a prize for the school who has the most correct answers for The Question of the Week, we will also award a prize for the school who has the most comments on The Feature Book of the Week as well.

If you have any questions regarding the blog do not hesitate to contact Jan at areawidebb@gmail.com

You may also use this new email to leave comments if you run into difficulty with the comments

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