Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pick of the Month: January 2012

I have a confession to make...this post is almost a month late.  My oh-so-wonderful-plan was to choose my favorite books I've read, as part of the 75 Book Challenge, and write a lovely post about them each month.  I still love the idea and intend on following through with it.  So, without further ado, here are my top picks for January 2012.  It was a hard decision, as I read a number of 'curl up with a cup of cocoa and eagerly read me' kind of stories last month.  Wait -- that's every month!

Picture Book: Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

Sharks and Trains! I think I hear those words at least once or twice a day at work.  Kids loves sharks and trains! What a great idea to pair the two in a picture book!  In Shark vs. Train the two characters challenge each other in the ultimate competition to see who can 'out-do' the other.

In some cases Train has the advantage, like marshmallow roasting.
In others it's Shark, like trick-or-treating.
Who will win? Check out this fun book to find out!

Novel - Middle Grade: The Giver by Lois Lowry

How did I get this far in life without having read this beautifully written dystopian novel, which also happens to be a Newberry Honor Book?  Looking back at my teen years it was probably because I was too busy reading Sweet Valley High Books, while also sneaking Dean Koontz and Stephen King books from my mother's bookshelves.  I also remember having a habit of 'judging a book by its cover'. I probably glanced at it and decided not to give it a chance (silly me!)

What I loved about the book most was Jonah's voice throughout the story.  Lowry pulled you in his world so quickly and seamlessly that you literally lived and experienced Jonas's world as he did.  I suspected from the beginning that the utopian society he was living in was in fact a dystopian one, but nonetheless delighted in how Jonas discovered it.  It was like slowly unwrapping a candy wrapped in several layers of foil, only to find that the once you reach the center it has melted.

If you are a fan of Dystopian fiction and have not read The Giver I highly, highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Getting out of my bubble -- My SDSU Writer's Conference Experience

I love attending writer's conferences, workshops, and critique groups with fellow children's and young adult writers.  I get to spend time with like-minded, spirited individuals who love children's books as much as I do.  And, I don't get people looking at me funny for enjoying them either!

This past summer, I received a wonderful piece of advice while attending a Children's Writers Schmooze -- 'Expand your horizons.  Don't limit yourself to events just for children's writers. Branch out! Explore events for other genres as well.'

I percolated over the idea for some time and finally decided to take the plunge.  I signed up for the SDSU Writer's Conference in San Diego, and will be posting recaps of it very soon! Writers from all genres were present at this event -- and I was very nervous to attend.  I am so happy I did! Most sessions didn't address my genre specifically, but nonetheless I was able to pick out information relevant to me and soak it all in. I was also exposed to many ideas about the new digital and technological world of publishing (more on that soon too.)

One of my favorite sessions was put on by author, Angela Hunt, entitled Evoking Emotion.  It was wonderful!  She had a box of tissues on the counter for all of us -- just in case.  I didn't think I would need them, but oh how wrong I was about that!  She used various videos as discussion points in discovering how they evoked such a strong emotional response.  Take a look at the video below about Christian the Lion Cub and see what I mean.  (The singer featured in the video is the Late Whitney Houston.  May she rest in peace.  My heart goes out to her family and friends.)