Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday

I'm experimenting with a new series. Since my [as yet unpublished] book, THE SWEET SPOT, is about a girl golfer, I thought I'd devote Tuesdays to talking about the finer points of the game. I'm not limiting myself to terms or strategy, though I might go there. Just anything that comes to mind about the game...

If you have questions or ideas of things you'd like me to cover, please let me know!

So the general object of golf is to finish the game with the fewest strokes possible, right?

Easy Peasy.

Anyone ever use the phrase "par for the course"? Know what it means? Par is a term used for the number of strokes it should take to get the ball in the hole. It's not exactly the average--cause so many people aren't ever going to get par--but it's the score that you should be aiming for. When you say "par for the course"--it's the cumulative score of the full 18 holes.

Used in context, it means "eh, I expected that" or "that's what usually happens".

Par for the course.

And now you know.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I had the fantastic good fortune to win an ARC of this book a few weeks ago from the author, Jonathan Auxier. I also won a t-shirt (note to self, add t-shirts to marketing ideas).

First of all, do you not LOVE this cover? There are so many little details about the story on this cover. From Peter's blindfold, to his burgle-sack, to the ravens. It sort of reminds me of Peter Pan--and while the story is NOT at all like Peter Pan, it does have a really spectacular magical quality and je ne sais quoi. (Did I just use French in this review???)

This is Jonathan Auxier's first novel. Though, from what I've read of his background, he's a screenwriter and journalist. I think he's found his calling in Middle Grade novelist. 

The voice has a little bit of a Lemony Snicket snark (pulling the reader in through a second person "speaking to the camera" style). I also love that the setting is sort of a 19th century London, though the town is never specified.

From Goodreads:

Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door- be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle- at fifty paces. Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed;today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise. At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you've probably guessed, is Peter Nimble.

This synopsis from Goodreads gives you a little hint of the voice. 

As you can probably already guess, I loved this book. I loved the character of Peter, with the combination of awesome thieving talent and his little boy naivety. Peter's friend, Sir Tode, is the most unusual sidekick I've ever seen--he's part horse, part kitten, and part knight. It gives him some unusual skills as well as some very difficult challenges (try sailing a ship with hooves when you're the size of a kitten).

There are some relatively violent scenes--I'd put this book firmly in the 10+ Middle Grade range (or younger if you think your child can handle some warring apes, plucky ravens, and homicidal brainwashed adults. Be prepared, creatures die.) 

If you want something different, a great adventure, or a book for reluctant readers (boys and girls), I'd highly recommend PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier

I've had the pleasure of interviewing the author--stay tuned for that interview coming up this week or next.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Where ARE the gay parents in children's literature???

Thank you to everyone who tweeted or commented on the series that Jon Arnston and I have championed this week and last.

The good news is that there ARE gay parents present in children's literature. Just as there are gay children and teenagers. The bad news is there aren't nearly enough--it doesn't nearly reflect our actual society.

To me, it's important that middle grade and young adult books reflect the family structures of our target audience--of course that doesn't mean every book has to reflect every family. It's been good to find out that there are books out there who celebrate diverse family structures. I will continue to add to my reading list, and post reviews when I have them, under this banner (thanks to Jon for creating it!)

If you're interested in seeing the reading list, it's on this post, right here.

Please feel free to continue the dialogue!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

IN OUR MOTHERS’ HOUSE by Patricia Polacco

This is part of a series spotlighting gay parents in Children’s Literature. Please visit Jonathan Arnston’s blog for more.

From Goodreads:
Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like any other family on the block. In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don't accept them. They say they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad? But Marmee and Meema's house is full of love. And they teach their children that different doesn't mean wrong. And no matter how many moms or dads they have, they are everything a family is meant to be.

My review:
IN OUR MOTHERS’ HOUSE is wordy for a traditional picture book. It's always interesting to see how the "rules" can be broken. Author/illustrator Patricia Polacco does what she does best—tells a lovely story with words and pictures. The story is told in first person from the perspective of the oldest child. And it brings them full circle to when the children are grown and having their own children.

I totally thought it was a true story, but the jacket flap says that Patricia wanted to showcase the family structures of many of the children she was meeting at her author visits. I love that.

Philomel, 2009

Visit Patricia Polacco at her website.

Monday, August 22, 2011

EARTHSHINE by Theresa Nelson

This is part of a series spotlighting gay parents in YA and MG. Please visit Jonathan Arnston’s blog for more. See my posts from earlier this week.

From School Library Journal: Twelve-year-old Slim's father, Mack, is dying of AIDS, which seems incongruous for a man who brings life into a room just by walking into it. When she reluctantly joins a group of contemporaries who have relatives dying of the disease, she meets Isaiah, 11, whose optimism makes her sad and hopeful at the same time. Slim's first-person narrative concentrates on herself, her father, and Larry, his lover and devoted companion, and their relationship with Isaiah and his loving mother.

Nelson uses all her tools skillfully. The violent swings of weather and natural phenomena of the Los Angeles area- hard rains, brilliant sun, an earthquake with its unsettling aftershocks-reflect Slim's roller-coaster emotions. Major and minor characters are real people and never case studies. And the author's use of language expresses both the action and underlying feelings while remaining true to the voice of the narrator. The gripping story, which includes a healthy dose of humor, ends gently with Mack's death. This special book should find a wide audience. Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

My review:  
I almost can’t say it better than Ms. Kellman, though that review was written in 1994. In fact, my only criticism of the book is that it is less contemporary than the one I reviewed yesterday, which certainly isn’t the book’s fault. It had me marveling that we don’t hear about people dying of AIDS in the same way as the early 90’s. The way the book is written, however, any disease could be substituted and it would still ring true. It’s a book about how a girl comes to terms with her family. She realizes that sometimes people don’t have to be related by blood to be family.

In particular, I loved the character of Larry. He quietly helps his partner leave this earth, while caring for Slim. Yes, you’ll cry at the end. Have hankies handy

EARTHSHINE seems to be classified as YA, but I’d say upper MG. Published by Laurel Leaf, 1994