Category Archives: Blog Post

May 2002 – Recent Reading

Book of the month

(Um, technically ‘book of the past three months’-but it’s so good that I am recklessly predicting that it will end up being my book of the year!): The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban. A wind-up toy-a mouse who lifts his child into the air-is discarded; father and son must make their own way in the world. Remarkable characterization of the pair as they travel through harrowing adventures in search of a home. First published in 1967 and recently reissued. You may have noticed that I give no genre or age indication. For one thing, it is a fantasy unlike any other. Also, many believe this is not a story for children; certainly there are parts of the story that young children might find disturbing. But any thoughtful reader over the age of about ten will find true wonder in this book: It instantly became one of my all-time favorites.

  • The School Story, by Andrew Clements. Contemporary MG. An elementary-school student writes a novel, and her best friend acts as a literary agent to get it published. Unbelievable maybe, but whether you’re a kid or an adult, if you’re hoping to have a book published someday, you’ll find this story a down-to-earth look at how a book gets made-as useful in its way as the market guides!
  • Breathing Underwater, by Alex Flinn. Contemporary YA. Many well-deserved plaudits for this first novel about an abusive teen relationship. Nick narrates his story in first person, alternating flashbacks with current journal entries. A strong voice and a well-sketched setting contribute to the tough, realistic feel.
  • Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath. Contemporary midgrade. 2002 Newbery Honor title. How can you not love a book whose main character’s name is Primrose Squarp? A small town on the west coast of Canada raises Primrose when her parents are lost at sea. The local cafe’s gimmick: everything is served on-you guess it-a waffle; even waffles come on a waffle! An odd and endearing humor suffuses the pages of Primrose’s story-with bonus recipes at the end of each chapter.
  • Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. Contemporary YA. Wildly successful British import with-hurrah!-no changes to the dialect. Instead, there’s a glossary of Britishisms at the back of the book. 14-year-old Georgia Nicolson’s diary documents her school year with a navel-gazing intensity I found hilarious and irritating by turns-which is probably an indication of how closely the book hews to its adolescent viewpoint! Sequel (On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of A Sex God) published here last year, with book # 3 due out any minute now.

April 2002

Wow! A new look to my website, thanks to my genius nephew Alex Dobbin who does freelance web design and animation. Hope you enjoy looking around here.

  • Two months now since the Newbery announcement! I’ve finally gotten some photos together and wanted to share them.

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On the set of NBC’s Today Show, with (from left) John Berry, president of the American Library Association; David Weisner, winner of the 2002 Caldecott Medal; and Katie Couric.

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Celebrating at Clarion Books the day after the award announcement. From left: (partially hidden) Kate Chilko, marketing; the legendary Virginia Buckley (Katherine Paterson’s editor!); editor Michele Coppola; me; Managing Editor Jim Armstrong; designer Debora Smith; Deb Shapiro, marketing; my goddess of an editor Dinah Stevenson; editor Jennifer Greene; associate editor Lynne Polvino.


SCBWI President Stephen Mooser and me at the Midyear Conference in NYC.


My niece and nephew, Emma and Craig Park, in front of the wonderful sign their school (Rocky Mount Academy in NC) put up for me when I visited there.


Signing books with the fifth grade book club during a school visit to Rocky Mount Academy in North Carolina. From left: Michael McLaughlin, Catherine Hood, me, my nephew Craig Park, and Jordan Rackley.

  • I’m delighted to share that my new book, When My Name Was Keoko, has received another starred review from School Library Journal. Click on the title to learn more about this book.
  • At the end of March, I visited Fitzhugh Park School, Kingsford Park School, and Minetto Elementary in Oswego, NY and had a great time meeting the students and faculty at all three schools. Also, if you’re ever in Oswego, don’t miss the River’s End Bookstore; I had a wonderful signing there!
  • There have been additions and changes to my appearance schedule on the Author Presentations page.

March 2002

So much has happened in the last few weeks that it’s hard to know where to begin! But I’ll start with the news that A Single Shard is back in stock. If your local bookstore doesn’t have copies, you can place an order; the book is also available now through online booksellers.

Many readers have written to ask about bookplates. To receive a signed bookplate, send an SASE to:

Debra Shapiro
Clarion Books
215 Park Avenue South
New York NY 10003
Please don’t forget to include that SASE!

The Author Presentations page has the schedule of my upcoming appearances. This is being added to constantly (!), so if you’re interested in learning when I’ll be in your area, check this page often!

I have received HUNDREDS of congratulatory messages via e-mails, phone calls, letters, posts in my guestbook–I keep expecting a Pony Express rider to stop by any day now! Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have contacted me. In the way of more concrete thanks, I plan to list highlights of my ‘Newbery experience’ every month on this page. So here’s the first installment:

  • The ‘Today Show’ on January 22nd, and no, I did NOT get to meet Richard Gere! But as a result of my appearance, several long-lost friends ‘found’ me, which was a wonderful bonus.
  • Invitations to speak IN KOREA!
  • A beautiful letter from Lee Hee-ho—Korea’s First Lady!
  • The chance to reunite with many old friends and make some new ones at the SCBWI Midyear Conference in New York City.

More news: March 18 is the publication date for When My Name Was Keoko, my new upper-midgrade novel set in World War II Korea. I’m delighted to share that it has already received two starred reviews—from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Click here to learn more about the book.

The paperback edition of The Kite Fighters is now available from Random House/Dell Yearling—with a new cover! Order from your local bookstore or online.

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Winners of the February book drawing!


January 2002

As many of you know by now, A Single Shard has been awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal! Thanks to all the readers and friends who have written with congratulations; every single message has been deeply appreciated.

My updates to the site will be a little late this month (except for the winners of the book drawing, which will be posted February 1), but please check back for more news in a few weeks.

Please note: Copies of A Single Shard will be available in mid-February. They can be ordered from your local bookstore, or call Clarion Books: 1-800-225-3362.


January 2002 – Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
Here’s to a great year of reading
and writing to all!

News times two from the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine: an article I wrote about how my reading as a child influences my work today, and a lovely honor for Shard: named a Booklist Editor’s Choice title.

Winners of the December drawing for a free copy of Seesaw Girl. Sign my guestbook for a chance to win next month’s drawing!

Recent reading: What I read in December


December 2001 – Recent Reading

Book of the month:

Zazoo, by Richard Mosher.

YA set in France. Zazoo is a 14-year-old Vietnamese orphan adopted by a French soldier, Grand-Pierre. They run a canal lock from their home in an old mill. Who is the enigmatic boy-on-a-bicycle, and how is he connected with the village pharmacist and Grand-Pierre? A coming-of-age/first love/mystery/war story that lyrically evokes the French countryside– what more could you want in a book?

  • The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson. MG fantasy. Many of the titles recommended for readers who ‘loved Harry Potter’ are off-kilter, in my opinion; Philip Pullman’s trilogy and even Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series are older and very different in tone. Instead, try this one–Ibbotson is well loved in her native England and deserves to be better known here.

    Platform 13 is a light witty story with a fairy-tale feel, complete with a Dursley-esque family and an appealing heroine. Also recommended for the ‘if you loved Harry’ crowd: Diana Wynne-Jones Chrestomanci quartet, and Bruce Coville’s Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.

  • Three Days, by Donna Jo Napoli. MG suspense. A fascinating premise: A girl on vacation is kidnapped and held by a family in the remote hills of Italy. But all is definitely not what it seems here… My first Napoli read, but it won’t be my last.

A pretty measly list for this month, partly because of the holiday madness, but also because I’m luxuriating in a huge adult read: Anna Karenina, the Russian classic by Leo Tolstoy. Unlike my usual m.o., I’m reading this one slowly…savoring is the word. I absolutely love it. Those classics you’ve never gotten around to reading? It’s never too late!


December 2001

A Single Shard has been named to School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year list (one of 60 titles), and also to the New York Public Library’s annual best list, “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.” Also, The Kite Fighters has been named one of 25 “Notable Books for a Global Society” by the Children’s Literature Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association. Given the number of terrific books that come out every year, I’m truly thrilled and honored by such recognition.

The 2002 edition of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (Writer’s Digest Books) is now available. In it you’ll find an article I wrote about the importance of reading for those who want to write and get published, and an ‘Insider Report’ on me and my work. Plus LOTS of other helpful articles and those invaluable market listings.

The good people at Clarion Books have just sent me a proof of the jacket for my next book, due out in April–and I really like it a lot. When My Name Was Keoko is the story of a girl and her brother set in Korea during World War II, when the country was under Japanese occupation. Much of the story is based on my parents’ experiences. April is still a ways off, but receiving the jacket proof makes it seem closer. A sneak peek:

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WINNERS of the November drawing for a free copy of Seesaw Girl—FOUR winners this month, to help celebrate the holidays! Enter the new contest for December, and check out my guestbook’s new feature: A question of the month for you to answer.

Q&A: a few tips for beginning writers wondering where to submit their work.

Recent reading: What I read in November.


November 2001 – Recent Reading

Periodical of the month:

Granta: The magazine of new writing.

A little twist this month: Instead of a book, I’m recommending a magazine. Granta comes out four times a year, themed issues in the form of a paperback book. Mostly nonfiction– essays and memoirs–but sometimes fiction too, adult literature, not children’s. I’ve been reading Granta for about twenty years now and I find the consistently high quality of its contents very impressive: writers like Paul Theroux, Lorrie Moore, Simon Winchester, Ved Mehta, Penelope Fitzgerald, Ryszard Kapuscinski, to name just a few. The website is www.granta.com

  • Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. MG fantasy. It is with reluctance that I put this book on a list of ‘recommended’ reads. However, as the book has received quite a bit of hype, I thought people might like to gather opinions about it. The plot: 12-year-old boy- genius takes on the fairy kingdom. The latter is by far the most interesting part of the story, and two characters, one female fairy and one male, are engaging and well realized. Artemis himself is poorly developed, certainly not well enough for me to empathize with him. ‘Gamers’ might like the complex technological hardware described in the book, and the comic-book violence. Otherwise, I have to say there are dozens of fantasy titles I’d choose for myself or a child before this one.
  • The Doll People, by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illus. by Brian Selznick. MG fantasy. Annabelle Doll and her 100-year-old Victorian doll family get new neighbors–the pink plastic Funcrafts. Sort of a modern-day ‘Borrowers’ tale. Annabelle is a terrific character, and there’s a mystery for her to solve: What happened to Auntie Sarah? Selznick’s black-and-white illustrations add to the fun of this novel–including wonderful endpapers. A perfect choice for younger midgrade readers looking to try a ‘bigger’ book. A Texas Bluebonnet Master List selection for this year.
  • Goin’ Someplace Special, by Patricia McKissack, illus. by Jerry Pinkney. PB. ‘Tricia Ann makes her first trip on her own across town through a maze of Jim Crow laws in 1950s segregated Nashville to get to a very special place. The quiet, moving story gains light and depth from the gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Where is ‘Tricia Ann going? Read this wonderful book and find out–the ending brought tears to my eyes.
  • Moonpie and Ivy, by Barbara O’Connor. MG coming of age. A seamless story– characters, setting, plot. A girl is abandoned by her mother and makes friends with the strange boy next door. Not a pretty picture, but one rendered with such care as to be beautiful. What I most admire here is the author’s courage with the plot, particularly the ending: Pearl experiences despair and hope in nearly the same breath. A real book for real life.
  • Stop Pretending, by Sonya Sones

and

  • What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones. YA. Fiction written in free verse, and well written too. Pretending is the story of a family whose oldest daughter ‘goes crazy,’ in the words of the protagonist, the younger sister. The second title is a first-love story. Both worth reading, but if you’re picking between them, I preferred Pretending for its more unusual storyline.
  • Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart, by Vera B. Williams. MG. Another free-verse book, not so much ‘novel’ as ‘portrait’ of a family: Two sisters who cope with being latchkey children. Indeed, Williams includes portraits of the girls at the beginning and end of the book. The book has been much lauded by reviewers and deservedly so (it’s one of my picks for the Newbery). Most of the reviews have praised the book for its vivid depiction of both girls, but here I have to disagree: This is Amber’s story.
  • Behind the Wheel: Poems About Driving, by Janet S. Wong. YA poetry collection. Terrific topic with the writing to match it. Titles like “Insurance for Teen-age Drivers: A New Plan” and “Lessons in Braking.” A great gift for a kid who’s just gotten his or her license.

Food book: Comfort Me with Apples, by Ruth Reichl. In the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher, autobiography via food. This is a sequel, so read Tender at the Bone first–both funny and well-written, with one of those voices that makes you think, ‘I wish she were my best friend.’


November 2001

The Kite Fighters is now available in a Braille edition! According to the Braille Book Review, this edition can be ordered through cooperating libraries. And A Single Shard is a Parent’s Choice “Memorable New Title” for 10-13-year-olds.

Bedazzled: John Thorne has long been one of my favorite writers. Recently he posted a review of A Single Shard at his website. To say I’m thrilled is a considerable understatement. Read the review (scroll to the bottom of the page) and while you’re there, check out the rest of his wonderful site: www.outlawcook.com

A new article in the Getting Published section: “The Give and Take of Critique.” Get the most out of your critique group or partner!

WINNERS of the October drawing for a free copy of Seesaw Girl. Enter the new contest for November!

Recent reading: Some wonderful books this month. And don’t forget that I’m still interested in hearing from visitors about their five ‘most memorable’ titles. I wrote about my five a few months ago, and since then have received several lists. Post yours in my guestbook and I’ll add it to the page.


October 2001

Nice news: Seesaw Girl has been named to the West Virginia children’s book award master list for 2001-2002. Plus another lovely review for A Single Shard, from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin. Check out their website, full of terrific information about children’s books!

Winners of the September book drawing! Sign my guestbook for a chance to win the next drawing at the end of the month.

I’m thrilled that Julie Downing will be illustrating my first picture book, The Fire-keeper’s Son (Clarion Books, 2003). Julie has illustrated many lovely books and is also an author. Watch this space for further updates!

The “School Visits” page has been retitled and is now called “Author Presentations.” New to the page: my appearance schedule.

Recent reading: Notes on the books I’ve enjoyed lately.

Q & A: How you can get autographed copies of my books.