Monday, December 21, 2009



Everyone’s heard the rumors. Call on Tall Jake and he’ll take you to MALICE, a world that exists inside a terrifying comic book. A place most kids never leave.

Seth and Kady think it’s all a silly myth. But then their friend disappears, and suddenly the rumors don’t seem so silly anymore…

Part thriller, part ground-breaking graphic novel … get into this story, and you may never get out!

Chris Wooding, a British SF/Fantasy/YA writer lives in London and is the author of MALICE. This hard to classify comic is about a horrifying world of tricks and traps, overseen by the sinister master of ceremonies, Tall Jake.Click here to learn more about Chris.

Click here for the book. For a chance to win a FREE copy of MALICE, send us an email from our "Win a Free Book" link on the home page of our website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Winter Duty

E.E. Knight's cover of Winter Duty recently caught my attention in a local library. I'm swamped with reading other books, but this one looks worthy of investigation. Click here for a link to Winter Duty. Vampire Earth is E. E. Knight's dark fantasy series. To learn more about Vampire Earth, click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Border Crossing

BORDER CROSSING is narrated by fifteen-year-old Manz, a mixed-race son of migrant apple pickers who lives in the dusty town of Rockhill, Texas. Manz takes a summer job rebuilding a fence at a cattle ranch, working alongside his friend Jed. As the days wear on, he begins to suffer from an uncontrollable paranoia and becomes convinced that "Operation Wetback," a brutal postwar relocation program, is being put back into effect. This taut coming of age novel explores mental illness and border issues in an honest and clear voice. This unique story was written by Jessica Lee Anderson. Be sure to visit her website by clicking here.

Reviews to date have been good:

"Compelling . . . . A fast read, this book will provoke discussion and, perhaps, further research." - Booklist, Oct 2009
"Poignant." Kirkus, Oct 1, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Upon Secrecy

Selene Castrovilla brings a fascinating story from American history to life in Upon Secrecy, a suspenseful new picture book published by Calkins Creek Books/Boyds Mills Press. Set during the Revolutionary War, it shows how members of the Culper Spy Ring eavesdropped on the British, wrote secret messages, and fended off highway robbers to deliver crucial information to George Washington. This gripping narrative of the spies' most important mission keeps the tension alive, while period details and illustrations add to the drama. Extensively researched, the book includes a timeline, bibliography, places to visit, and even an explanation of the invisible ink, or "sympathetic stain," that enabled the spy ring to send messages undetected by the enemy.

Castrovilla's previous picture book for Calkins Creek, By the Sword: A Young Man Meets War also has a connection to the Culper Spy Ring. The book paints a suspenseful portrait of a young Benjamin Tallmadge as he and his beloved horse, Highlander, fight to defend New York against the British. As George Washington's chief of secret service, Tallmadge later organized and ran the Culper Spy Ring. By the Sword tells the harrowing dual stories of how Washington manages to save his men-and the American cause-by stealthily retreating across the East River, and how Tallmadge risks death by returning to save Highlander. Castrovilla found this account in Tallmadge's memoir, and knew it revealed an important human side of the revolution-one not usually addressed. By the Sword was a 2008 IRA Notable Book, a 2010 New York State Charlotte Award recommended intermediate reading selection, a Kansas Reading Circle recommended title, and a 2009 Moonbeam Children's Book Award gold medalist.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Boy Who Went Ape

THE BOY WHO WENT APE was illustrated by a prolific artist, Richard Jesse Watson. This is a very interesting book because the author is Richard's son, Benjamin. I hate to say this, but boys will go ape over this book. The plot is dead on target for boys with clever and punchy prose. It all perfectly comes together with Richard's magical illustrations. I had a chance to speak with Richard about his book. Below is what he told me:

"My wife, Susi, and I went to the Portland Zoo to sketch and photograph chimpanzees. We took about a thousand photos over a couple of days, and I did bunches of sketches. At first the chimps ignored us as just another gawker, but the longer we hung around, the curiouser they became. I would show the chimps my drawings, and they nodded or sniffed their evaluation.

I discovered a paper from Sri Lanka, made out of elephant dung, which I used to paint the illustrations on. Since the book is a whacky book, it needed a different approach for the illustrations. For instance, instead of straight lines to border the illustrations, I used drippy paint lines to get a more organic feel. I wanted things to be more "viney" or "jungly".

Working with Ben was such a hoot, but hard too. We both had different ideas at times in our vision of the book. Usually the illustrator and author are working separately. Doing a book together is like two different archeologists digging from opposite sides of the world and meeting in the middle, then trying to figure out how to get out alive. "Wow! It's hot in here, my shovel 's worn out, I'm disoriented... are those dinosaur bones? How do we wrap this up & get back to the real world?"

Also working on a book is a long and at times stressful endeavor. Add to that two strong willed people, stir into the mix the fact that both apples fell from the same tree (does that make sense?) and voila! You have apples trying to write! No, seriously, you have different points of view: the word-centric author, and the image-centric illustrator. And with father and son, its, well, what can I say, father knows best. Yeah, right. I quickly realized that my son often (don't tell him I said so) had better ideas than me. Oy vey!

Over all, all this was a blast, and I want to do more books like this."

I highly recommend Richard's new book and his school visit program.
Click here for Richard's website.

If America Were A Village

America, with all its diversity, is not easily defined. David J. Smith's If America Were a Village takes a snapshot - past, present and future - to help define America for children. Using the same successful metaphor of the international bestseller If the World Were a Village, the book shrinks down America to a village of 100. The metaphor helps children easily understand American ethnic origins, religions, family profiles, occupations, wealth, belongings and more. Shelagh Armstrong's expansive illustrations imagine America as a classic, vibrant small town. Who are the people living in this vast and varied nation? Where did they come from? What are they like today? How do they compare with people in other countries? The book's simple statistical analysis provides a new way of learning about where people live in America, the state of their health, the shapes and sizes of families, what they use and more - forming a concise picture of a country.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Let Slip The Dogs Of Love

LET SLIP THE DOGS OF LOVE by Eugene Kachmarsky is one of the most unique anthology of short stories, I've seen in sometime. I believe theses stories will appeal to many YA readers. They're written from a variety of ethnic perspectives—including one exploring the North American Native POV—highlighting the experience of natives transplanted from their indigenous lands to North America. Racial, cultural, sexual prejudice, socioeconomic injustice and personal emotional struggle are common themes explored in a number of genres—ranging from straight fiction, to psychological suspense, to crime drama, to fantasy (urban and magical), and in cases, fusions of all the above—all with an accent on the hidden beneath the apparent, the extraordinary behind the ordinary, while attempting to discover the causes of many of the actions that we often affect.

Some of the characters whose stories are told include: a controlled-substance addict; a heartless, ruthless, misanthropic yet patently cowardly municipal communications empire mogul; a biker with a missing testicle; a young, gay, black, radical civil disobedient with a bent for vengeance with flair; a professional hit man and biker-gang rat with a tragic sense of timing; a grown-up spoiled brat who thinks managing a network of government assassins makes him one; an eight-year-old boy who dies at an airport and ends up correcting a grievous injustice committed over 250 years ago; a despondent writer who writes his own epitaph moments before being murdered; a skateboarding boy whose leg is broken by bullies and the 10 year-old Punjabi girl with a miraculous healing touch who befriends him; a professional hockey player from Eastern Europe facing extorting murderers and fighting back with his computer-hacking genius.

To Learn more about Eugene and his unique book, click here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Night Runner

NIGHT RUNNER tells the story of Zach Thomson, a teen who moves to the Nicholls Ward to deal with strange and severe allergies after the death of his parents. Life isn’t easy, but it isn’t bad either. And strangely enough, the institution becomes a sort of home to Zach. It never once crosses his mind to leave...until the night someone crashes through the front doors and tells him to run. Now he's on a race for answers--about his past, his parents, and his strange sickness--even as every step takes him closer to the darkest of truths.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Breakthrough

In THE BREAKTHROUGH, thirteen-year old Jack is plucked from the clutches of a riptide by his older brother, Michael. When Michael slides into a coma, Jack can’t live with the guilt. He wanders to a carnival and sneaks into a hot air balloon basket. Without warning, the balloon lifts into the air, transporting Jack to the fourth dimensional planet of Venus. When a Venusian gives Jack a magic crystal to heal his brother, Jack thinks his problems are solved—but they are just beginning! Soon, Jack finds himself trapped on Pluto, a planet controlled by the tyrant Danko. Danko learns of the crystal and will stop at nothing to seize it and ultimately control earth.

THE BREAKTHROUGH appeals to boys because it is a plot-driven story, with fantasy, mystery, a ruthless villain and plenty of “gross-out” scenes. Here’s an example of a scene where the main character, Jack, accidentally rolls into a nest of insects:

This unique novel was written by Ann Tufariello. Below is a little taste of Ann's wonderful prose:

"A hissing, buzzing sound nudged me out of the trance. What was that? Soon, a slight tickling sensation escalated to a pinching. Something was crawling all over me or, rather, thousands of creepy things were crawling all over my body, nipping me. The prickly bush must have been a nest of insects. Bugs marched across my face, down my neck and under my shirt. Each one feasted on my flesh as if I were a rotting corpse. The incredible itching and stinging was too much to bear. I screamed, jumping up and shaking my arms and legs. I tugged at the bugs, trying to pull them off of me, but it didn’t help. Instead, more and more bugs crawled up and down my body, sticking to my clammy skin and gnawing me. Then, the buzzing sound got louder and louder and I could feel bugs scampering in my ear canal. I jammed my finger in my ear and tried to yank them out, but I pushed them in further. I screamed for help but only the howling wind answered my call. Then, I remembered my crystal."

Visit Ann's site by clicking here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Storm In The Barn

I'm very excited to feature Matt Phelan's new graphic novel published by Candlewick, The Storm In The Barn (ISBN: 9780763636180). Matt's book will be available next month. The setting is Kansas, 1937. Eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father’s failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of "dust dementia" would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot’s abandoned barn -- a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it’s hard to trust what you see with your own eyes -- and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes. With phenomenal pacing, sensitivity, and a sure command of suspense, Matt Phelan ushers us into a world where desperation is transformed by unexpected courage.

I asked Matt why his book will appeal to boys. Below is his response; I couldn't agree with him more:

"I think that reading graphic novels (or comics or whatever you like calling them) is a different kind of reading and just as valid as reading a prose book. It involves a balance between the words or dialogue and the pictures, which are equally important (in fact, much of The Storm In The Barn is told through pictures alone). Reading graphic novels requires effort. I think boys are very adept at this kind of reading and my hope is that my book will reward their effort with a thrilling, satisfying story."

When I saw Matt's unique style for the first time, I said, "Wow! I see the ghost of Bill Peet here." When I was a boy, Bill Peet was my favorite writer and illustrator. I bought my daughter a copy of Farewell to Shady Glade before she was even born. During summer break when I was a boy one of my favorite things to do was go to the school library and checkout Bill Peet books. When I was about ten, I got to the checkout counter with my mom, and a very well-meaning librarian said, "He's too old for picture books." I'm still slightly wounded by this remark. Luckily, Mom replied, "He can read anything he want's to." Today, I'm thrilled to find Bill Peet's work on the shelves of bookstores across the US.

I had to ask Matt if Peet influenced his work. Below is Matt's reply to my question:

"I would definitely say Bill Peet was an influence. Not only his books (which I read as a kid) but also his storyboarding work with Disney. There's a great book called Paper Dreams which is all about the Disney story artists and Peet is all over it. His storyboard drawings for Dumbo, Dalmatians, and Jungle Book are amazing!"

Thanks again Matt for your very cool book. It's a tall tale, thriller. I'm sure it will resonate with young readers today and inspire them to seek out other books.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Trouble with Mark Hopper

The Trouble with Mark Hopper is a funny, quick read about two boys who are blessed and cursed with the same name. Mark Geoffrey Hopper is a top student but a less than pleasant person. Mark Geoffrey Hopper is a poor student but a grade-A friend. When both Mark Hoppers enter the sixth grade at the same middle school, it causes nothing but hilarious problems, confusion, and all-around trouble. When will people realize that there are two Mark Hoppers, and that even though they're very similar, they're actually very different?
Boys will enjoy keeping track of which Mark is which and following them both as they realize that perhaps sharing their name presents unique opportunities...especially when it comes to winning the statewide Mastermind trophy.

This hilarious middle grade comedy written by Elissa Weissman will appeal to fans of Andrew Clements and Louis Sachar, and to anyone who understands the importance of having a good name.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I And I

Jesse Watson, one of my favorite illustrators has once again displayed his amazing artistry in a new book about Bob Marley.  I and I, published by Lee and Low is a really cool book; boys and girls will love flipping through its wonderful pages.   Tony Medina, the author is a deep and soulful poet.  His verse appeals to older readers as well.  Below Jesse talks about a recent visit to NYC with G. Neri, the author of one of my favorite books for reluctant, inner-city readers, Chess Rumble.  


The author of Chess Rumble, Greg Neri, and I were recently in NYC talking about the importance and the power of Pawns in the game of Chess and how we can draw the same conclusions about those we consider Pawns in the game of life. We went to schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation and spoke to kids who had some serious obstacles to overcome, including poverty, violence, drugs, gangs... you name it! Many of these kids saw themselves as pawns; floundering in a sea of chaos, unable to affect any change in the world at all. Yet, from these conditions have come some of our greatest heroes. Bob Marley definitely qualifies. Born and raised in the poorest neighborhoods in the world, he overcame the lack of education and resources to become one of the most famous musicians we have ever known. Here is a man who, thirty years after his death, is still outselling current artists today. Here is a man whose music you will find in literally any country on the planet, from Iran to Singapore, Peru to Finland, rocking out of taxis, blasting through sound systems, and streaming over radio frequencies. This Pawn became a King and so can these kids, regardless of the obstacles they may face.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Parker Takes a Bullet

Below is information submitted by Lewis Hall about his new book, Parker Takes A Bullet.  This novel has an exciting plot and should appeal to both boys and girls.  Boy's typically prefer books with a male protagonist.  Mr. Hall's female protagonist book has enough edge that it should appeal to many boys.  One of my favorite novels of all time is The Golden Compass.  It too has a female protagonist.

A Mystery/Thriller with Heart

My dad a drug dealer?

At a time when she should have been thinking about what frothy dress to wear to the senior prom, Evelyn Parker, still reeling from her mother's suicide, has to face this troubling question. Worse, the fact that her father's incinerated body is found in her bombed-out home shortly after a huge cash deposit was made in his bank account leaves his colleagues in the Sheriff's Department convinced he was on the take.

But, growing up the daughter of a detective, Evelyn learned a few things about police work. When the investigation into her father's murder grinds to a halt, Evelyn decides to do some sleuthing of her own, determined to exonerate her dad. In the process she plays loose with the law, tails a too-charming suspect, uncovers a worldwide web of international crime, and learns that things are not always how they appear.

But wait a minute! Parker Takes a Bullet is about a girl. Why would a boy be interested in a girl protagonist? Because this girl is hot and exciting. I know, because I was once a boy and I know what a boy likes. I remember Saturday nights in my college days, gathered together with my male buddies in front of a television set and watching Purdey, a female secret agent on The New Avengers. Purdey was not girlie; she was cool. And today I, along with other men, like watching Beatrix Kiddo in the Kill Bill movies. She too is cool and exciting.

Evelyn Parker is eighteen-years-old. Boys like girls a little older than themselves. Yes, boys must have action and adventure, mystery and suspense in their stories, and this book has it all, non-stop; it’s a page-turner. But combine these elements with a story about an attractive, courageous girl and you have a book that will meet every boy's needs. It might not be hip for him to admit that he is reading such a book or that he likes it. But boys are reading Parker Takes a Bullet, and more than once!

Yes, girls can act feminine and silly, which is uncomfortable for most boys, but Evelyn Parker is a girl who has been thrown into an intense situation that forces her to act serious and brave. This is a book for mature teenagers as there are many edgy scenes. And in the midst of these scenes are some hard moral questions that deal with life and death, how to overcome grief, and how to face questions regarding sex and love.

Click here for Parker Takes a Bullet.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Brighton Elementary

Hello Kids,

Thank you for the pleasure of allowing me to read my story at your wonderful school.  You kids are terrific!  I had a great time visiting with all of you.  Please stay in touch with me.  I need your help in finishing my story.  I promise to work hard writing and revising my story this summer.  I also promise to return to Brighton in the fall for more author visits.   Sorry, fifth graders, we'll miss seeing you at Brighton.  However, if you follow this blog, you can write to me here (with your parents and teachers permission) and we can stay in touch.  I'll also post my story, PIPE PEOPLE on my website so that you can read it online and or print it out as PDF pages.  

Please read many, many books, write to me, and have a fun and safe summer!  Thank you again Mr. Raymond and Mr. Davis.  The world needs more men like you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

David Michael Slater's SELFLESS

SELFLESS is a comic-drama about identity and the many factors that shape it: family, friends; race; religion; social class; and the myriad fears and fascinations that afflict us all as we try to discover who we are. Jonathan Schwartz is the main character, and we spend a great deal of time with him and his three best friends (all boys) as they navigate through high school and college in the 1980's. The book depicts adolescent boys in a hysterically graphic but true-to-life way as they focus most of their time and energy on things like filling out charts for rating the girls at school (categories include, "Face, Chest, Butt, Legs, Eyes, Hair, Clothes, Sports Ability, and, lastly, for tie-breaking purposes, Personality"), or ticking items off on “The Purity Test,” a list of 100 questions that determined what was called one’s “Purity Rating” ("the point of a decent score was to confirm an adventurous nature, not to be disgusting.")

But in the midst of the boys' hilarious single-mindedness, we see and begin to worry about the fundamental lack of authenticity in their relationships, obviously with  girls, but also with each other. It takes the intrusions of family crises for all of them—most especially for Jon, whose family is positively overflowing with dysfunction—for them even to begin to rise above these limitations.

Folks who've read the book often remark that, as a long-time 7th grade teacher (nearly fifteen years), I am clearly in touch with the teenage boy. The truth is I remember my own teen years all too clearly (not that I did any of the things Jon, Jake, Cory and Milo do—I swear! Okay, not that I did most of them. Fine, not that I did some of them.). But, from what I see as a teacher, things are much the same among boys all these years later (I'm 39 now). In the larger picture, they always will be: we will all have to blunder our way down the perilous path that is growing up. All the characters in the book, including Jon's two challenging sisters, struggle to find a place in the world. For one of them, the struggle is a war.

Because of the graphic nature of the boys' language and some of the off-color scenarios they engineer, the book is appropriate only for older teens. Feedback as been very interesting in terms of gender. I’ve been told the book was “hilarious” and “addicting” by both boys and girls. Girls, though, report having shaken their heads continually as they read, muttering, “Boys,” the whole time (maybe with the word 'pathetic' thrown in every so often—okay, very often. Fine, pretty much every page). Boys report that they see themselves in Jon and his friends, often only too well. It's a book they say that did a rare thing: it made them laugh and think at the same time.

As an author, I can't hope for anything more.

David Michael Slater is the author of nine picture books, including CHEESE LOUISE; THE RING BEAR (an SSLI Honor Book); JACQUES & SPOCK (a Children's Book-of-the-Month Alternative Selection); and FLOUR GIRL (a 2008 Mom's Choice Award winner). Seven more titles are scheduled for '09; Slater's teen series, SACRED BOOKS, recently launched with THE BOOK OF NONSENSE (a finalist for the Associaion of Booksellers for Children's Best of 2008 list and Cybil Award nominee); Finally, he has a film in development, MOCHA COLA HIGH, with Right Angle Pictures.

Click here for SELFLESS 

Bull Rider - Speaking Out About the Consequences of War

Boys Read Blog:

Bull Rider - Speaking Out About the Consequences of War –

I started writing Bull Rider in 2004. It was a story for very young kids and in outlining Cam O’Mara’s family, I imagined his older brother in the Marines. That fit the setting and the situation. I didn’t have any intention to write about the Iraq War. But as the book changed to one for older readers and as the wars in the Middle East ground on, it seemed only honest for Ben O’Mara, the Marine, to be deployed to Iraq. And if he were deployed, he could be hurt. Badly. That’s a fact of war and that’s what moms and dads, sisters and brothers, and children think about when it gets dark and quiet at night. Lying in bed praying for someone you love to wake up again in the morning, that’s scary stuff. And I felt like someone needed to just say it out loud.

Personally, I didn’t want to go there. It’s easier to pretend that the war isn’t happening. And as a writer, it seemed invasive to ask people who already had enough problems – like life threatening injuries to themselves or their family – how they felt. I didn’t want to learn about war injuries. But that’s the story I had in my head and I was compelled to share it, honestly, with kids. So I did the research. I approached people who work with the war injured and interviewed them. I read injured soldiers blogs and blogs from their families. I visited the Palo Alto VA Hospital’s Polytrauma Unit (although the patients happened to be elsewhere that day.) I learned a lot. And I was overwhelmed with the nature and gravity of the sacrifice that some of our military men and women have made. Regardless of my own feelings about these wars and war in general, I was moved by the honor of what they did because they were asked. It was humbling and I wanted to share that too.

And then there was the question of politics. I have some definite opinions and they may not be the same as the O’Maras’. But I wanted to tell the brothers’ story about what can really happen when you go to war. It didn’t matter what their politics were and it certainly didn’t matter what mine are. The story would be the same. The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books said about Bull Rider, “The book isn’t overtly anti- or pro-war so much as pro the people who are struggling with this difficult change in their lives. This is therefore a gripping read for fans of family dramas, and it’s certainly high time that this aspect of the war’s consequences received a sensitive and compelling exploration.“ This is exactly the response I had hoped for. I hoped my book would help kids think about the consequences of war, and I believed dwelling on politics would stand in the way of that.

So Bull Rider became the story of Cam and Ben O’Mara, two regular brothers who competed with each other and bugged each other, until their relationship was changed permanently when Ben suffered a traumatic brain injury, the loss of an arm, and post traumatic stress disorder following an explosion in Iraq. Cam is a fourteen year old guy, so when his world is rocked, he acts out – takes his skateboard to the Grange parking lot, rides a bull, goofs off in school. That’s how he handles the emotions – until his brother needs more from him and in a move that is both dangerous and loyal, Cam risks a ride on the monster bull Ugly to help Ben.

Bull Rider is engaging boy readers. Book sellers say it is a nice alternative to the fantasy that is out there. Librarians and teachers tell me that boys who don’t read much at all are picking up Bull Rider. Initially skaters and rodeo fans are interested. But once they start reading, I believe it’s the openness about war captures their attention. . The circumstances are not white washed or skipped over. There is a real problem – one that any of the readers might face. Right now. Today. And last, I think boy readers are drawn in by the relationship between the brothers. It’s competitive, supportive, and loyal. No matter how much they annoy each other, Cam and Ben O’Mara have each others’ back. I think that’s what a lot of boys long for and in Bull Rider, that’s what they get.

Click here for, Bull Rider.

 Thank you Suzanne Morgan Williams for your wonderful book!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Emma's Picks

Below is wonderful feedback I received from a very astute reader, Emma.  Thank you Emma for your comments.  I'm adding a disclaimer to our Best Books page on your behalf.
Dear John, 
I am a girl and I have read all of these books:
Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl)
Anthony Horowitz (public enemy number two)
Harry Potter
series of unfortunate events
Roland Smith (elephant run)
C.S lewis (narnia)
Christopher Paiolini Eragon
Jules verne (journey to center of the earth)
gary pulsen 
diary of wimpy kid
thirtynine clues 
the homework machine 
 Norah Mcclintock  
jack london
rick  riordan again 
hardy boys
and some. I also read teen books (since 3rd grade)
and now I am ten. Do you say these are boys books, I like most of them except the reading level is very low for me? My friend reads some too. Some say they are grades 7 and up, I read them...... they aren't just for boys though.
I don't read romance books or pony books or high school musical books.... I read boys books. Great.
E. G
PS: please write at the top of the page: books for boys and good for girls too " or something.
Thank you!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Every Man Has A Story

One day this week, while sipping a latte outside of one of my favorite Seattle coffee shops, I watched a man search a curbside trash can in front of me.  Unsuccessful in his search, he sat down on a bench beside me.   I've been working on being more tolerant of all people, so I struck up a conversation with him.  I wanted to know his story.  He told me that he was a writer.   I was eager to learn more about his writing, but two of his buddies showed up.   They all decided to have a smoke.  So here I sat sipping my latte with three homeless guys smoking.  It didn't take long for an employee to come out and shoo the smokers away.  I went inside to get a refill.

When I returned, my writer friend was still outside.  I asked him to share his writing with me. He opened his backpack and retrieved a folder.  He pulled a faded and weathered certificate from the folder and explained to me that he writes numbers.   A matter of fact, he's the only man in the world, who's written a million numbers out by hand.   He asked me if I would buy a certificate with one of his million numbers written on it.  He was only asking for two dollars, but I declined.  However, I did get him a cup of coffee.  While drinking his coffee, he told me part of his story.  Years ago he was a fisherman based out of Seattle, but he left the trade after losing many of his friends at sea.  He returned to Utah where he was raised.  While in Utah, he decided he wanted to do something that no one had ever done before.  He decided to write a million numbers by hand.   At first, I didn't believe this far-fetched tale.  However, he decided to give me one of his numbers.  I picked the year I was born, 1962.   Very carefully, like an author signing a book, he wrote the number o19620.   I took my certificate and returned home. The first thing I did when I got in the house was Goggle this man's name in-conjunction with the state of Utah and the task of writing one million numbers by hand.  Lo and behold, I found a link to this man, Kris Wilson.   Kris does indeed have a really interesting story to tell.  I hope to see him again soon.  Kris' goal is to get his work listed in Guinnes World Records.  I hope Kris meets his goal.  Click here to see the link I came up with

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Freaked, set in 1993, is the story of fifteen year old Scotty Douglas Loveletter. Scotty lives in a haze of good intention, but due to his dope smoking  has very little motivation. His mother is a famous sex self-help therapist. His friends in his all boy boarding school only spend time with him to get close to her or his drug dealing roommate.   

Scotty's one salvation is the music of the Grateful Dead. He yearns to attend a show at Freedom Coliseum, and so he sets forth on a journey in the style of Tom Jones or Huckleberry Finn, leaving his familiar surroundings, to find himself in dark places. He encounters new and interesting people, and, in the end,  begins to understand the world around him in more significant way.

Jeanne Dutton is the author of Freaked.  Her hope is that her novel will speak to boys who have a passion for music and who also desire to live less fraudulently in a world full of mixed messages. 

Jeanne is a fan of Jack Keourac, Mark Twain, Ken Kesey, J.D Salinger, Barack Obama.  She believes that rebellion is a necessary and important phase in the making of strong, independent thinking men (and women).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Support Teen Library Day

What's the problem with these bad boys?  Today is a great day to ask a teen librarian.  Librarians all across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day on April 16th, 2009 by hosting events in their library or through their web site on that day. The purpose of this new celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today's teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase some award-winning authors and books in the genre as well as highlight librarians' expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials.

Monday, April 13, 2009

When The Whistle Blows

Not since S.E. Hinton has a female writer so perfectly captured a boy's voice the way Fran Cannon Slayton does in When The Whistle Blows.  This story is incredible and reminds me of David Almond's Kit's Wilderness.   Below is well-said praise for Fran's book:

“[When the Whistle Blows] is a growing up novel that includes scenes reminiscent of Richard Peck's Long Way from Chicago and has a classical mannerism that will steam its way on to state award lists all over the country. . . This novel is fresh, smart, witty, warm, well-written, funny. . . an amazing novel.”

      —School Library Journal’s Diane Chen, (American Library Association board member)        

“With wit and warmth Fran Cannon Slayton recounts a steam-driven coming of age story in the last of the real railroad days.”

      —Richard Peck, author of A Year Down Yonder

When the Whistle Blows is reminiscent of classic tales by Jack London, William Golding and Robert Louis Stevenson, yet carries the remarkable, fresh voice of its author. Fran Cannon Slayton should be extremely proud of this, her debut novel.”

      —Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank and Identical and National Book Award finalist

“I loved When the Whistle Blows.”

      —Barbara Keifer, Charlotte S. Huck Professor of Children’s Literature at Ohio State University and editor of Charlotte Huck’s on Children’s Literature college textbook.

“A highly engaging, well-written, really good read.”

      —Dr. Joel Taxel, University of Georgia, Department of Language and Literary Education

“From its whip-smart opening to its look at the complexity of father/son relationships, Slayton’s loving novel takes a long hard look at the death of people and that intangible idea of ‘home’ . . . ‘When the Whistle Blows’ stopped me in my tracks.”

            —Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse #8 Production (School Library Journal)

Watch a top-notch author interview by clicking here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Looking for an awesome nonfiction book for a reluctant reader?   Yesterday I received a very interesting book from Candlewick Press about the history of swords.  When I first heard about the book, I thought the cover looked enticing, but to be honest, my expectations were low. However, as soon as I saw the cover and ran my fingers over its exquisite raised letters, I couldn't wait to read it.  This is the coolest nonfiction book I've ever read.   Swords is nothing less than a work of art.    A deep warrior spirit is intricately woven into the story. 

One of the most amazing facts about this work of art is that it was written and illustrated by the same person, Ben Boos.   This is name you're going to hear again.  Here's praise for Ben's book:

“Boos’s treatment of his subject is reverential and his artwork is outstanding… It’s easy to get caught up in his enthusiasm, and the right reader will spend hours poring over every loving detail. Give this to fans of history, art, or swordplay.” – School Library Journal

“This breathtaking labor of love offers detailed and elegant illustrations of swords in every shape and size. From Beowulf to medieval knights to stealthy ninja and samurai, Swords provides a lavish and exquisite tour through the art of the sword. This book is a must-have for every true devotee of hand-held arms.” – Renaissance Magazine

“Illustrates the most amazing and historical swords, giving you a glimpse of history through the intricate and ornate carvings and the huge variety of sword shapes throughout the centuries.” – Newton’s Book News

“Exemplars of the smithy’s art are depicted close to life-size.” – New York Times Book Review

“The attention to detail and accuracy is really just astounding. There are also breathtaking full-page spreads between chapters done in full, vibrant color, and these are really the crown jewels that stand out even amongst the illustrations in the rest of the book. The book really feels like a love letter to all things sword-related.” –

“The dozens of almost absurdly detailed sword illustrations (along with tons of sketches) are the star of the show here, but Boos adds a bunch of cool historical details, too.” – GuysLitWire blog.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Best-Practice: Boys Book Club

Gretchen Sparks, and Theresa Back, both reading and language arts teachers at Scott Highlands Middle School in Minnesota, knew they had to do something to get boys reading.

Both attended a conference where they learned the warning signs of a potential high school drop out included a disconnect with core subjects in school.

Click here to read more about their unique success. Be sure and watch the video. This is a wonderful best-practice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Congrats to Neil Gaiman for winning the 2009 Newbery Medal.  This is a huge win for books that target boys.  Neil's prose appeals to kids and adults.  It's simply awesome writing.  He's right up there with Philip Pullman and David Almond.  Click here to visit Neil's website and watch the The Graveyard Book trailer.