Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Original Lipogram: SCRABBLE

A few weeks ago Lisa Chellman posted a fantastic lipogram on her blog. The following week she posted a "Scrabble" poem (trying for max. average points per letter). My original for this week is a lipogram about Scrabble (with no attempt at high points).


I play my word,
Replace each tile,
Look there's a Q,
Drawn from the pile.

Now Qs are good,
Except near game's end,
When I'm missing,
Q's best friend.

They all are played,
And both blanks too,
No sole mates for,
A lonely Q.

My spelling's fishy,
As yew can see,
With Q's friend gone,
I'm in a tree.

But I'll charge ahead,
A fearless ram,
I'll prove the player,
That I am.

And Q-A-T,
Will have to do,
Scrabble's not as good,
When there's no ewe.

Roundup is at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books . Thanks go out to Karen for hosting!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Deborah Hopkinson Blog Tour

I welcome Deborah Hopkinson to my blog as part of her blog tour. We will be discussing her recently released picture book Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek. I might point out that not only did I love the book, but it has been named an ALA Notable Book for 2009 and was a Cybil Award finalist.

Where did you first come across the story behind Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek ?

My editor, Anne Schwartz, had asked me to think about writing a book in honor of the Lincoln Bicentennial. I wanted to find a relatively untold story about Lincoln’s life, and to find a way to tell it that would get young readers excited about history.

When I came across this incident of Abe being rescued from Knob Creek by a childhood friend when he was seven, it seemed like the perfect match. I found the incident mentioned in several places, including the Lincoln birthplace site. There is also a historical marker honoring Austin Gollaher.

Do you think having an unknown historical hero like Austin Gollaher will help children feel closer to history?

I do think that children, like adults, are drawn to stories about people to whom they can relate. History is only before if it is reduced to memorizing the dates of battles and the names of presidents. Luckily, there are many more historical fiction and nonfiction books for young readers than there were when I was growing up.

In ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK I explore a specific incident in Lincoln’s childhood in which he was saved from drowning by his friend, Austin Gollaher. I wanted not just to introduce an unknown hero, but also to encourage children to ask questions about the role of ordinary people in history. I also hope the story reminds readers that our individual lives and choices matter, whether we’re famous or not.

Can you tell me a little about the research that went into the book?

While I wasn’t able to travel to Kentucky, I did try to read all the early biographies of Lincoln, as well as a “told to” autobiography by Austin Gollaher, who was apparently interviewed in his later years by a newspaper reporter. Of course, the book is historical fiction, so I fabricated all the dialogue.

Which is more fun: the research or the writing?

That’s easy: I love research! In fact, I sometimes have a hard time stopping the research to begin the writing process.

While I was reading Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, it felt like you and illustrator John Hendrix were in the same room, creating the finished book together. I'm guessing that isn't true, but was there any contact during the illustration process? Or have you met John after the book was completed?

You’re right. There was no contact during the illustration process and, in fact, the text in the book is exactly what John Hendrix received when he first was given the manuscript to illustrate. However, coincidentally I have been invited to speak in St. Louis this spring so we will have the chance to meet and autograph books together.

I loved the fact that the story felt whole and still prompted my imagination to wonder how Abe and Austin did on their journey back home that day. Have you ever daydreamed about it? I'm also curious if you've heard of any teachers challenging their students to speculate what might have happened?

The book is fairly new, so I haven’t met any teachers who have used it in their classrooms as yet.

Actually, I don’t think so much of Austin and Abe heading home that day. To me the bittersweet, lingering part of this story is the incident years later during the Civil War, when Lincoln remembers his childhood friend, apparently with great affection.

One can imagine him taking a moment to look back at some of his pranks – and perhaps that near drowning in the creek that day – and reflect just how far he had come from that simple frontier boyhood, wandering by Knob Creek with his good friend, Austin.


Thank you, Deborah, for taking the time to answer my questions and thanks to Michele at Provato Marketing for arranging the blog tour. Click here to see other tour stops.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anderson's Breakfast

Today was Anderson Bookstore's 7th annual Children's Literature Breakfast.

Guest speakers were:

Meg Cabot

Check out "Meg's Rules" #1 Never pass up a bathroom without going in (because you never know when you'll have another chance to go) #2 Treat other people the way you would want to be treated #3 Never give up

Steven Kellogg who drew this picture in about 27 seconds while talking.

Sharon Draper

And Peter Yarrow who invited a crowd of us on the stage to sing Puff the Magic Dragon with him. Among the writers up there were Trina Sotira, Adam Selzer, Alice McGintey (well she was just off to the side, but part of the group) and me. (Apologies to all I missed.)

If that wouldn't be enough, there were about 50 Illinois authors and illustrators who rotated from table to table (each table got to visit with four of them). My table was visited by

Kevin Luthardt

Andrea Beaty

Robert Burleigh

Laura Crawford (center with Trina on right and me on left)

(Stop by Trina's blog for a fantastic summary of the day.)

Chicago Tribune Young Readers Book Reviews -- Feb 21

Today, Mary Harris Russell reviews two books:

The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman Ages 11-15


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw By Jeff Kinney Ages 9-12

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Busy Writing Times Ahead

The next couple weeks are really packed with writing things. I mentioned a while back that I'll be attending a revision retreat run by Darcy Pattison. I'm on track with my prep, which is around 1000 pages of reading (two craft books and 3 mss.) and brief critiquing. I'm in the home stretch and getting excited.

This Saturday is the annual Anderson's Bookstore Literary Breakfast with guest speakers Meg Cabot, Sharon Draper, Steven Kellogg and Peter Yarrow. (I will refrain from asking what Puff the Magic Dragon is really about.) Oh, and I'm typing this with Princess Diaries on the Lifetime channel. Another Meg Cabot note: she was interviewed on ABC News midday.

A final note: Remember that Deborah Hopkinson will be here on blog tour this coming Monday to talk about her picture book ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK. Chicago Parent Magazine had an article this month mentioning her book. Okay...confession time....I haven't read that article, but the person sitting next to me on the train tonight did (I recognized the picture of the book cover)....and I will read it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chicago Tribune Young Readers Book Reviews are back online!

Mary Harris Russell is back online with this weeks two reviews.

This week she reviews:

Tales From Outer Suburbia By Shaun Tan Ages 11-15


Heroes of the Valley By Jonathan Stroud Ages 10-15

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chicago Tribune Young Readers Book Reviews -- Feb 7th Link MIA

The link for Mary Harris Russell's book reviews for yesterday is MIA.

I did buy the newspaper and she did review three books -- just no link. Hopefully this is a fluke and not a trend of things to come.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poetry Friday Scrabble Challange

Jenn Knoblock at Ink for Lit threw out the gauntlet to write Scrabble poems. The goal is to have the highest average letter score for your poem. Here's my entry:

An HP Ditty

Wizardly quizzes
Quidditch game flights
Phoenix quilled wand
JK's dazzling delights

Average letter score (title not included): 2.8194 (203 points; 72 letters)