Friday, March 28, 2014

No Perfect Picture Book Friday today - March Madness

    There is no perfect picture book Friday review today. Susanna Leonard Hill, our fearless Friday leader, is awash with the March Madness fractured fairy tale contest.
    There were a LOT of great stories in the bunch. If you get a chance, stop by Susanna's blog to read and vote for your favorite! The greatest joy for me as a writer is hearing that someone enjoyed what I wrote.  That's really what it's all about. :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014


     Springtime is here!
     How do I know? I don't need to listen to the weather forecast. Susanna Leonard Hill told me it's here!
     If you don't follow Perfect Picture Book Fridays, you should. Not just for the great picture book reviews, but also because Susanna shares fun writing contests for pitches and short stories. Today is the kick-off (I know, imagery for the wrong season)--okay today is the first pitch (but that could be confused with a writing pitch)--today a new challenge SPRINGS forth, hosted on Susanna's blog. Can you tell I'm giddy with excitement?
public domain image by Vera Kratochvil
     The challenge was to write a fractured fairy tale of less than 400 words, post it on our blogs and link to Susanna's. I chose to incorporate the theme of Springtime in my story. It's based on TWO fairy tales. Can you guess which two?
     So here is, drum roll please: THE THREE WIGGLY WORMS BLUFF


“Melting snow is swamping the soil! Time to head to higher ground,” said Papa Worm.

Papa, Mama and Baby Worm squirmed to the surface and wiggled up the grassy slope to face—
the dreaded sidewalk.

“Ow! It’s rough,” said Baby.
“Go as fast as you can.” Mama gave him a pat. “And keep a lookout for birds.”

Baby wiggled as fast as he could.
But he was only halfway across when a robin swooped down.

“I’m going to gobble you up and take you to my babies!” the robin squawked.

“I’m a baby myself. Barely a bite, and not worth your flight. Mama is coming, she’s more than a morsel. Why don’t you wait for her?” said Baby.
The robin thanked Baby and sent him on his way.

When the coast looked clear, Mama wiggled as fast as she could.
But she was barely halfway across when the robin hopped out from a bush.
“I’m going to gobble you up and take you to my babies!” the robin squawked.

“I’d make an adequate dinner, but if you want to treat your babies to a feast you might want to wait for Papa worm. He’s coming next,” said Mama.
The robin thanked Mama and sent her on her way.

Papa did calisthenics, warming up his wiggle. Between the birds and the pavement heating up, He needed to be fast!

Papa wasn’t halfway across when the robin landed in his path.
“I’m going to gobble you up and take you to my babies!” the robin squawked. “You are plump perfection!”

“Is it true that the early bird gets the worm?” asked Papa.
“That’s true.” The robin opened wide.

“Stop! How do I know you’re the early bird? Maybe someone else is supposed to eat me,” said Papa.
A second bird saw its chance. “I was here first.”
“No, you weren’t!” the robin screeched.
“I’m the early bird!” they both insisted.
The two birds went beak to beak, pecking and pulling feathers.

While the birds quarreled, Papa wiggled,
across the concrete and—Ploop!—down a hole in the grass.

“No worm for the early bird today.” Papa hugged his family.
They wiggled down to enjoy their damp, but not flooded, springtime home. . .

until summer heat baked the soil and they had to return across the sidewalk again.

For those of you who are counting-that's 383 words! Welcome to Spring. :))

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Snicker of Magic - Book review

     When I read this book, I wondered if the author ever took her manuscript to a First Pages session. I imagined the faces of everyone in attendance and the quiet that would have fallen over the room during the reading, followed by the chaos at the end as the editors and agents vied in hand to hand combat to secure the rights to be associated with the project.
     Yes, it's that good.
     As a writer, it simultaneously makes you want to put your pencils away and leave writing to the masters, and inspires you to work that much harder to make your own voice come alive on the page. Because for me, the book wasn't so much about the plot (although that worked too!) as it was about the voice. The glorious voice.

Title: A Snicker of Magic
Author: Natalie Lloyd
Publisher: Scholastic, February 25, 2014
Audience: 8-12
Themes: Home, Confidence, Finding magic in your heart and mind
    "They say all the magic is gone up out of this place," said Mama.

Synopsis: This is a VERY condensed synopsis. No spoilers. If you want to read a more complete synopsis of the book I suggest you head to the reviews already posted on Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly.
Twelve year-old Felicity Juniper Pickle arrives in Midnight Gulch in a broken down van with her mother, younger sister and their dog. Although it's Mom's hometown, there's no logical reason for the connection that Felicity feels for the town. But then this book isn't about logic. It's about magic! And for a girl who has traveled across the country in moves propelled by Mama's wandering heart, the magical feeling of belonging is something worth hanging onto and fighting for.

What I like about this book: The book transported me to Midnight Gulch. The lyrical small-town voice of all the characters brought the town alive. And Felicity's sense of longing was palpable. The magical realism worked especially well because it was interesting, but not essential to the plot. At first, it felt a bit coincidental that a girl who "sees" words around people meets a boy in a wheelchair who "sees" colors in music. But the story teller voice was so strong I found myself saying "why not?" The book explores the possibilities and potentials in places and people. Felicity has had more than a few setbacks in life but at her core she's definitely a glass half-full person. (and if there's magic in ice cream, I'm ready to volunteer for the research!)
     My only gripe? I wish Aunt Cleo wasn't a chain-smoker. Or maybe she could have given the cigs up as part of her transformation. In a book about the power of optimism, the death sticks made my nose wrinkle every time they appeared.
     My favorite quote? There's a lot to like here but this message of empowerment was a winner.
     "Maybe sometimes the words I say are as magical as the words I see."

Resources: Scholastic has an 8 page activity booklet for A Snicker of Magic. I especially like the prompt to invent your own ice cream flavor and name its characteristics!
 Look at photos of strangers and "pretend" you have Felicity's power. What words do you see above them? Start a Beedle club and do an anonymous good deed for someone (or some organization).
If you want to learn more about the author, there's a super interview with Natalie Lloyd on Literary Rambles.

I was fortunate to snag an ARC of this title from Shelf Awareness. My review is based on that uncorrected proof. I was not required to provide a review in exchange for the copy. The opinions in this review are my own.