Book Review: Hot Ticket by Tracy Marchini

Title: Hot Ticket
Author: Tracy Marchini
Publisher: Squirrel Books

Summary

“Hot tickets could be awarded for doing something cool, saying something funny, or sometimes even just wearing something the ticket dispenser liked. All authentic hot tickets were two inch by six inch rectangles made from this orange cardboard material, with “HOT TICKET” written in big bold letters at the top. Hot tickets first started becoming popular about a month after school started. Then there was this rash of copycat tickets on regular paper, but people just tossed those in the trash. Everybody could figure out it was one of their friends that made it anyway. But an authentic ticket – that was something you kept. Some people had their lockers decorated in hot and shame tickets. Some people kept their hot tickets at home to prevent theft. If I got a hot ticket, I would definitely keep it taped on the inside door of my locker. Right now my locker only had a locker mirror, a picture of Lucy and I from my birthday party at Six Flags and these annoying cat stickers from the person who had my locker before me. Fifth grade did not prepare me for this at all.” Juliet Robinson is the only sixth grader in John Jay Jr. High who hasn’t received a “hot ticket” from the mysterious ticket dispenser. When one of the dorkiest kids in school – Crammit Gibson – receives a ticket before she does, Juliet decides that the ticketing system has to stop. With the help of her best friend Lucy, a Daria-esque Madeline and her almost-crush Crammit, Juliet is determined to climb a few rungs on the middle school social ladder and catch the ticket dispenser once and for all!

My Review 


This past year I watched Silly Bandz take over during the fall.  Kids would crowd around my desk and show off theirs and trade.  The more you had the cooler it was.  That soooooo reminded me of the hot tickets in this book.  All the kids wanted them, and the more you had the “cooler” you were, and if you didn’t have any you didn’t want anyone knowing.  I could completely see students getting caught up in these hot tickets and trying to figure out how to get some.

Juliet doesn’t have any.  None.  And she is bugged by it.  At first you can tell she’s just a little bugged, but as the story goes on she gets hyper-focused on these tickets and either getting one or, more importantly, figuring out the sender.  This becomes such an obsession with her that she almost looses her best friend!  This may be been a little over dramatic for the the purpose of the book, and as a grown up I was rolling my eyes a bit about her whole obsession BUT I knew it was completely realistic for a kid that age.

The whole mystery of who the sender of the hot tickets is was well done.  Just as Juliet’s clues and evidence kept her changing who she thought it was, the reader is kept uncertain as well.  If I had thought a little more instead of just enjoying the story, I might have figured it out before Juliet, but I chose to just enjoy.  It wasn’t really obvious, so that was great.  If I had known sooner, or figured it out sooner, the book wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.

My only slight concern with the story was the reaction of the teachers.  It seemed to take them a while to step in, especially with all the poster hanging.  I know that in my building the posters for sure would not have gotten that far before someone stopped them.  It’s only a minor thing, and I think that my being a teacher is the only reason why I noticed it.  A kid reading the book wouldn’t care!

For the Guys?  The cover is very gender neutral so I could for sure get them to at least check it out!  Not so sure they’d get Juliet’s obsession though!

Final Thought:  Popularity Fad like Hot Tickets are completely believable!
Best stick-with-you image: When Juliet figures the whole thing out!
Best for readers who are: 6th graders
Best for ages: 9-12

Make sure to read the guest post by the author when she talks about an experience she had as a 6th grader.  Fun memory that I know added to the fantastic feel of the story.

Guest Post: Tracy Marchini Author of Hot Ticket

Today for Tween Tuesday I have a fantastic guest posts from Tracy Marchini, the author of Hot Ticket – a super fun tween book that I’ll be reviewing later today.

Here’s the book summary, so you know what it’s all about:

“Hot tickets could be awarded for doing something cool, saying something funny, or sometimes even just wearing something the ticket dispenser liked. All authentic hot tickets were two inch by six inch rectangles made from this orange cardboard material, with “HOT TICKET” written in big bold letters at the top. Hot tickets first started becoming popular about a month after school started. Then there was this rash of copycat tickets on regular paper, but people just tossed those in the trash. Everybody could figure out it was one of their friends that made it anyway. But an authentic ticket – that was something you kept. Some people had their lockers decorated in hot and shame tickets. Some people kept their hot tickets at home to prevent theft. If I got a hot ticket, I would definitely keep it taped on the inside door of my locker. Right now my locker only had a locker mirror, a picture of Lucy and I from my birthday party at Six Flags and these annoying cat stickers from the person who had my locker before me. Fifth grade did not prepare me for this at all.” Juliet Robinson is the only sixth grader in John Jay Jr. High who hasn’t received a “hot ticket” from the mysterious ticket dispenser. When one of the dorkiest kids in school – Crammit Gibson – receives a ticket before she does, Juliet decides that the ticketing system has to stop. With the help of her best friend Lucy, a Daria-esque Madeline and her almost-crush Crammit, Juliet is determined to climb a few rungs on the middle school social ladder and catch the ticket dispenser once and for all!

One of the things my students always wonder about is what were authors like when they were in middle school.  They can relate to that!  Tracy fantastically gave us a look at her 6th grade self!  Oh can I see 6th graders doing this!
Welcome Tracy to The O.W.L.!
When I was in sixth grade…

My character, Juliet, is very concerned about changing her sixth grade reputation.  And if I was somebody who was known for ruining school dances, vomiting during assemblies and being incapable of completing the school cheer, I’d be concerned about changing my middle school reputation, too!
My sixth grade experience was completely different from Juliet’s, though.  I based John Jay Jr. High (aka Triple J) on the public junior high that my little sister went to.  She had a pretty large sixth grade class, who mostly followed her up through eighth grade and into the high school.  I went to a parochial school, and we stayed with our homeroom teacher for most of the day.  Like Juliet, I wasn’t the most popular girl in sixth grade, but unlike Juliet, my class had only twelve people in it.  So if Hot Tickets were introduced in my class, it’d probably take less than a recess period to figure out who was handing them out!  
To be honest, my little class of twelve caused a lot of trouble.  I was pretty quiet in sixth grade, but if the whole class was throwing their spelling books on top of the closet or declaring an impromptu ‘health class,’ then I joined in, too.  I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office nearly as much as Juliet does, but we had many classroom… incidents.  Here’s one of my tamer stories from sixth grade:

Our school had a lab for the science classes, which was also at one point the art room.  (When it was the art room, and our former art teacher had a headache, we were told to draw our shoe.  I happen to be an excellent drawer of Sketchers brown oxfords.  We then got a new art teacher, who did all sorts of great things – none of which involved our feet.)  
Anyway, one day there was a cage with a live rabbit in the science lab.  The girl’s room was right next to the lab, and I happened to take a peek into it on the way to the bathroom.
The rabbit was not in the cage.
I put my nose up to the door’s window.  The rabbit was loose, and there were droppings everywhere.  On the long wooden tables, on the floor, on the wet sink — it looked like someone took a ten pound bag of brown M&Ms and shot them out of a cannon in the middle of the room.
I ran back to the classroom, threw open the door and announced, “There’s a rabbit loose in the lab!”  Immediately, eleven hysterical sixth graders went rushing out of the classroom.
Our teacher was shouting, “Sit down!  Just leave it alone!”
“But it’s pooping everywhere!” I replied.
“It’s going to get hurt!” one of my classmates said, as they left the classroom.
We gathered around the lab door, and after the class had spent a sufficient period of time gawking at the rabbit, the janitor was called to catch it.  We eventually shuffled back to the classroom, though nobody ever explained why there was a rabbit in the lab to begin with.
Over the course of our junior high career, our janitor would also be called to clean up a dead bird (not our doing), wipe the baking soda from the lab-room-floor-turned-slip-n-slide (that was us) and figure out what, exactly, was causing that disgusting smell in the coat closet.  (It turned out to be a whole carton of eggs, which had clearly gone bad months before.  I think there may have also been a bad grapefruit.)  
In a major clean-up, we also discovered a ten-year-old jar of chicken fat, which was dumped down the girl’s bathroom sink.  (A word to the wise – should you discover a jar of old chicken fat and decide to dump it down the sink, there will be a smell so foul, so raunchy, so indescribably stomach-turning, that you still will not be able to think about it without going a little green fifteen or so years later.  Also, that room will become uninhabitable for the next three days.)

I would tell you more about my sixth grade experience, but I’m trying to protect the innocent… and not-so-innocent.  Besides, who knows what part I’ll use of it in the next book!

OMGosh that is super funny, and its those kind of memories that I could tell Tracy brought into the feel of Hot Ticket making it so fun and real!


Hot Ticket is available at Amazon US (UK or DE), Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  More information about Tracy can be found at www.tracymarchini.com or on Twitter as @TracyMarchini.

Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen.

Review: Letters to Juniper

Title: Letters to Juniper
Author: Peggy Tibbitts

Summary

Twelve-year old Sarah Smith remembers when she was six years old her mother died and she moved to northern Idaho with her brother and father. Their lives changed drastically. The only vivid memory she has of her early childhood is her best friend Juniper Holland. In her letters to Juniper, Sarah reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings about her reclusive life with three younger brothers under the rigid oppression of her father and stepmother who call themselves Separatists. Their lives are turned upside down by an FBI investigation into her father’s association with members of the Aryan Nation. As the tension and violence escalate, Sarah faces life and death decisions in order to survive.

My Review

The topic of this book is not one you typically see for middle grade books, but that only added to my interest in the book.  I grew up when things like Ruby Ridge and Wacco happened, so the idea of a book written from the perspective of a child within the walls was one I wanted to read.

The book is written in a series of letters from the main character Sarah to a friend she remembers from when she was six and living in Florida – before she started living with her father deep within the wood isolated from much of the world.  These  letters, from the start, were over-layed with a thin veil of sadness.  Sarah never said she was sad or lonely or longed completely for her old life, but you could feel it in her words.  You could tell she loved her dad and her brother, but did she love the life they lived – that was the question I wanted answered.  The style of writing was really easy to read.  I moved through the book very quickly.  Because it’s in the voice of a 12 year old girl it keeps some of what could be deep (like her father’s beliefs) from becoming too much.  Sarah’s voice is well done and easy to “listen” to.

Reading from an adult I felt so bad for some of the things Sarah had to go through.  Her father had some different ideas about what was sinful and not, and that really affected how Sarah had to live.  She had to hid her letters to Juniper because he saw them as sinful mainly because if referred back to Florida where Sarah lived with her mother.  Her father said over and over that Florida was a place of sin.  How hard for Sarah! This was a place she remembered filled with happiness.  She struggles with how to put those two thing together.  She loves her father and wants to believe in him, but yet it seems off what he’s saying.

Speaking of her father – the story focuses around her father’s illegal gun selling and how the feds have put our a warrant out for his arrest.  Of course because of his beliefs he refuses.  A group called The Order is involved in his defense as well.  But throughout it all it’s hard to decide who to trust or not.  I think that mirrored Sarah’s life.  Because of her father’s beliefs it was hard to figure out who to trust.  She knew she should trust The Order, but she’s hearing things that make that confusing.  That confusing kept a lot of the tension in the story because you always felt a little on edge – uncertain.  Plus, I didn’t like her father, and I didn’t trust him so all this tension built around the whole situation.

The ending – I was shocked at how it all ended.  Lots I didn’t expect.  It isn’t the easiest ending, and because of it I would be a little careful what students I recommend the book to.  I think some kids might not be able to deal with it as well.  It’s a realistic ending, but difficult. I liked it and felt it fit though – although I would’ve liked more reaction out of Sarah.  My only thought was that she was in shock and couldn’t react stronger.

Final though:  Tough subject handled well.
Best stick-with-you image: The Birthing Shed.  That whole part was hard for me.
Best for reader who: are MG but more mature
Best for ages: 11+

For the Boys?  I’d like to say yes, but the book deals with some “girl” issues that boys but not feel comfortable about.

Check out my interview with the author HERE.

Author Interview: Peggy Tibbetts – Letters to Juniper

Today for Tween Tuesday I’m very excited to welcome Peggy Tibbetts author of Letters to Juniper.  I just finished reading the book, and I’ll be reviewing it later today.  Peggy was kind enough to answer some questions about the book and her writing.

Before we get to that, here’s a bit about the book:

Twelve-year old Sarah Smith remembers when she was six years old her mother died and she moved to northern Idaho with her brother and father. Their lives changed drastically. The only vivid memory she has of her early childhood is her best friend Juniper Holland. In her letters to Juniper, Sarah reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings about her reclusive life with three younger brothers under the rigid oppression of her father and stepmother who call themselves Separatists. Their lives are turned upside down by an FBI investigation into her father’s association with members of the Aryan Nation. As the tension and violence escalate, Sarah faces life and death decisions in order to survive.

Welcome Peggy to The O.W.L.!


For your Letters to Juniper – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
The unexpected ending of “Letters to Juniper” has been described by reviewers as “shocking”, “mind-numbing”, “brilliant”, and “similar to the surprise kick in the movie ‘Sixth Sense’”. I can appreciate the readers’ astonishment. It surprised me, too.

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write Letters from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision if you can!
I wrote “Letters to Juniper” in less time than it took me to write my other novels. It took about six months to write it. Usually I spend a couple months researching and outlining my books. But in this case, the story came to me so quickly I had to do the research as I wrote it. Then I spent another two months editing and revising. Revision is my favorite part of the process because I have a story to work with instead of a blank page.

During the revision process I use this list of questions to improve my story:
 1) Can you summarize the story in a sentence or two?
 2) Have you checked spelling, grammar and formatting?
 3) Does your main character have flaws? Is she/he someone readers will be interested in?
 4) Does the beginning draw the reader in?
 5) Did your main character change throughout the story?
 6) Have you chosen the best point of view?
 7) Does your dialogue move the story forward, as in no idle conversations? Does everyone sound alike? Or can readers tell who’s talking without dialogue tags?
 8) Is there tension in this story?
 9) Is there unanswered conflict until the end?
10) Is every character necessary to this story?
11) Does each chapter offer information that moves the story forward?
12) Does every scene?
13) Does the story end where it’s supposed to?
14) Do you like this story?

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
“Letters to Juniper” isn’t based on anything or anyone in my own life. However during the 90s, I was as horrified as everyone else at news stories about the Montana Freemen, Ruby Ridge, and the Waco Siege. In all three cases, children were living inside the compounds during the standoff. I asked the question: “What would it be like to be a child, yet old enough to be aware of what was happening?” The skeleton for the story is based on the events at Ruby Ridge in 1992, which involved a standoff between federal agents and the Randy Weaver family at their home in northern Idaho.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
I trust the cover design to my publisher, although I do have final approval and I’m allowed to make changes. Big publishers with big budgets use artists and cover designers and original design and artwork. I work with a very small publisher who uses stock photos and Photoshop to create eye-catching covers that pop. By “pop” I mean in today’s digital world the cover needs to stand out not only in full color paperback but even when it shows up as a tiny thumbnail image in black-&-white on an ereader screen.

Now something not related to your book or writing!  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
When I was in first grade, every morning our teacher, Miss Knight helped the class compose a “Today” story, which she wrote on the blackboard. Then we had to copy it on blue-lined manuscript paper. Through that daily exercise I grew to love writing and learned how to tell a story. I still write my first drafts in long hand, only now I use yellow legal pads. In school I enjoyed English and History equally and I was definitely a good student. Actually I was kind of a nerd with glasses and my nose always stuck in a book. But it was a good background for a writer because I spend a lot of time reading and a lot of time doing research.

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
L’Engle. She was a great writer and a great teacher. She taught me how to write fiction in two weeks. I have been practicing ever since.

As a child my favorite authors were Madeleine L’Engle, Beverly Cleary, Albert Payson Terhune, Jack London, and Phyllis Whitney.  As an adult, and probably because I am also a writer, my favorites have changed over the years. These days in young adult authors I also admire the works of M.T. Anderson, Cynthia Voight, Louis Sachar, S.E. Hinton, Philip Pullman, and Gary Paulsen, to name a few. For me favorite authors tend to be about what I’m into at the time. So currently I like Natalie Collins for her edgy mysteries that give readers a glimpse behind the veil of Mormon life – and for her friendship. I like Bruce Cameron and Sara Gruen’s amazing animal stories. And because I am currently writing a dogoir – a memoir about a dog – I have been reading lots of nonfiction dog stories. My favorite so far is Jon Katz because he really delves into understanding animal behavior.


 Thank you Peggy! And please stay tuned because later today my review for Letters to Juniper will be posted! 
And if you want to learn more about Peggy check out her website 
and follow her on Twitter.

Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Interview with Taylor Morris and GIVEAWAY

Yesterday I was able to review the tween book BFF Break up by Taylor Morris.  A good book about that dreaded fear of losing your BFF.  Today I get the pleasure of sharing her answers to some questions I was able to ask.  Make sure to look below the interview for a two SIGNED book giveaway!

Welcome Taylor Morris to The O.W.L.!!

For BFF Breakup – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
In BFF BREAKUP, I’m proud of how I handled the actual fight that led to Brooke and Madeline’s breakup. I wanted to write something that the reader could empathize with from both sides. I didn’t want there to be a hero and a villain. Or even so, perhaps one reader was on Brooke’s side and another was on Madeline’s. I just didn’t want it to be obvious which character was at fault because in the end they both were, in their own ways.


Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write BFF Breakup from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!
I started thinking about BFF BREAKUP months before I began writing, which is usually the case. I start with an initial idea—like, How about a story about best friends who get in a huge fight and break up?—and then start thinking about who the characters are, who their friends and family are, what lead them to the fight, what exactly the fight was about, what happens afterward, etc. All that plotting and planning will hopefully make for a better book and an easier write. I thought about BFF BREAKUP for about nine months before I started writing it, and then it took about three months to write. That’s a pretty short writing time but I was on a steep deadline with a series I was about to begin.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Sadly, yes. My best friend and I had into a huge, ginormous, awful fight that had us not speaking for three years. I assumed we would never talk again. In the meantime, an acquaintance friend of mine got angry at me for something I did and sort of wrote me off and I started to think, What is it about me and girlfriends? Am I a bad friend? Or do I choose bad friends? I looked back on all my friendships and really started to think about it. Then, my best friend and I started talking again—very slowly and tentatively—and I thought that the story of best friends was so simple and yet complex, not to mention relatable that it would be a good story to tell. BFF BREAKUP is not the story of me and my friend, although I can certainly understand the emotions my characters, Brooke and Madeline, experience.

I really think this is something most girls and women can relate to!

Why MG instead of any other grade level?
I have sharp memories from that time in my life so I started from there. When I wrote my first novel, CLASS FAVORITE, I had the main character as 16 but my agent felt like she acted a bit young and asked if I’d consider changing her to 13. And like that, I became a middle grade writer and have had five novels published with more on the way. I’ve written two other books for young adults—one that will never see the light of day, and another that I will edit and resubmit to agents. I’d like to have a hardcover YA book but beyond that, I love writing for and about teenagers and have no plans to stop writing middle grade books. I have no desire to write for adults. 

Ok once the story was done – How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Absolutely zero say whatsoever. They did email me and ask me what I thought about it but I’m pretty sure it was just a courtesy. For my series, Hello, Gorgeous!, I didn’t even see the cover until it was finalized. Generally speaking, unless you’re some big-selling, fancy author you usually don’t have much say in your book cover. Sometimes the editor will ask if you have an idea for a concept before they begin designing and they might take that into consideration. But the ultimate decision is with the publisher’s art and marketing departments. That’s their job and their strength. Leave the writing to me. (For more on covers, got to Melissa Walker’s blog for Cover Stories where she has authors talk about their experiences with this.)

Now for a nonwriting question that my students are always curious about- What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
I was a completely average student! Truly, there was nothing special or outstanding about me. I made average grades, had an average amount of friends, was of average popularity. I did some writing when I was in elementary school (including a 12 page handwritten novel called Love At First Sight, starring two of my classmates) but after that I didn’t do much writing until college. English was definitely my favorite subject—I always liked stories but also I always got As so of course I liked it!

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
I read shockingly little growing up. Some Judy Blume in elementary school. In junior high I read the Flowers in the Attic series and for some reason, Drew Barrymore’s autobiography Little Girl Lost. By high school I was reading Gone With the Wind. Other than that, it’s strange to say I wasn’t much of a reader. I loved reading, but I never knew what books to buy or get at the library.

As for authors from today who I admire, I love Maureen Johnson’s wit and Meg Cabot’s humor. Barbara Dee’s middle grade books are adorable and full of heart. The Harry Potter series will always be in my top five—what an incredible writer and storyteller J.K. Rowling is!

Thanks for hanging out with us today!

Now for the giveaway.  
Taylor Morris has provide the first two books in the Hello Gorgeous series: Blowout and Foiled
Now that she’s had her thirteenth birthday, Mickey’s finally old enough to work at her mother’s super glam hair salon-Hello, Gorgeous! And true to the old cliche about people confiding in their hair stylists, Mickey starts getting an earful right off the bat. Customers love talking to her because she’s so empathetic, but what happens when she starts getting overly involved in their dramas?

To Enter
Must be US resident
Must FILL OUT FORM
+1 for commenting on REVIEW
+1 for commenting on INTERVIEW
Ends Aug 3rd





Tween Tuesday: Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Tween Tuesday was started at GreenBeanTeenQueen.  In this post we highlight/review books that would be perfect for the tween set. 
Today I’m highlighting a book I found because of Brandon Dorman’s blog.  He does cover work on some books.  The book he did the cover for that I think would be great for tween (especially tween boys!) is:
Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Summary

The magical, secretive society of JANITORS will sweep the country in the fall of 2011. Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelveyear- old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book 1 in a new children s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You ll never look at a mop the same way again.

Why I Like the Sound of It

I’m a teacher, and I know more than anyone how important the janitors are in our building.  We could not function without them!  The students know this too.  They know all the janitors and treat them with such respect.  I think they would love a book that brings these guys and gals into the lead.  What a fun and unique concept!!!  Also,  it kinda reminds me of The Call by Michael Grant. 

Check out the trailer for it:

Book/Magazine Review and GIVEAWAY: Discovery Girls

Today I have something a bit different.  Instead of reviewing a book, I’m reviewing a magazine.  That magazine would be Discovery Girls.  The publishers of Discovery Girls asked if I would be interested in reviewing the magazine and hosting a giveaway.  At first I was hesitant, but then I realized that my goal is to get kids reading.  And if I can get them reading a magazine that’s awesome!!!! So I said yes.  A bit later I got some copies of issues to look at.  I realized that I knew this magazine from our school library, but I had never really looked at it before.  I wish I had!

What is Discovery Girls?
Discovery Girls, an award-winning magazine aimed at tween girls, has produced four books packed with real-world practical advice. The books deliver their best strategies so girls can successfully deal with friendship troubles, embarrassing moments, life’s toughest problems (like death and divorce), body issues, crushes on buys, school pressures and more. The set includes: Friendship Hardships – Making friends who respect and understand you. Sticky Situations – How to bounce back from almost anything. Getting Through Tough Times – Handling life’s toughest challenges. Getting Your Questions Answered – Advice on family, friendships, boys and more. All of the books reinforce the power of girls to overcome disappointment, develop postive images about themselves, seek the right kind of help, talk to their parents and learn how to grow from failures.

What I Thought:

Discovery Girls is a great magazine for the tween set because it shows REAL girls.  Even the covers are read girls of all shapes and sizes.  I love that!  I’m not saying other magazines are bad, but it’s frustrating to have all these teen magazine staring at you covered with “perfect” actresses, singers etc.  I have a daughter, and I’ve worried about her comparing herself to those images.  What a great relief to see a magazine that shows what real girls look like, and they really do look like real girls.  I teach in a middle school with almost 900 students grades 5-8.  I know what girls this age look like!  This cover is a mirror to what a typical girl would see around them.  Love it!

Ok, so that’s the cover, but we all know we can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Upon looking through the pages I learned that what you see on the cover is just what you’ll see inside.  Real girls, real issues, real problems.  Loved that too! In the issues I saw there were pieces about zits, baking cupcakes, lying to parents, envy and cell phones in schools.  My favorite though was a whole piece from older girls telling what they wish they had known when they were younger.  They were all things I would tell my daughter, but because they came from mom she didn’t want to hear them!  Maybe she’ll listen to older girls. 

I wish I had know about this magazine when my daughter was younger.  She’s 12 now, and pretty much on the upper end of the target audience.  Although I will say she nabbed my copies and pretty much read them cover to cover 🙂

Now to go with the magazine, they also sent me a book titled Fab Girls Guide to Getting Through Tough Times.  This book presented a bunch of tough situations a young girl might find herself in, and advice on how to deal with it.  Some topics included: cyber bullying, admitting being wrong, being “left” by friends, being part of different culture, parent losing a job and many more.  The advice was very sound and well done.  I could see a young girl turning to this book to get some advice when she’s a bit to scared to ask a parent.  Very well done.

For the Guys?  Nope.  It’s Discovery Girls 🙂

Final thought:  A great way to get girls reading and not putting unrealistic expectations in front of them

Best for readers:  Who aren’t readers and are intimidated by books

Best for ages: 8-11

Now for the giveaway
Discovery Girls is giving away two copies of their 10 Year Collector’s Edition.  They sent me a copy and it’s great!
To enter:
Must be a US Resident
Must be at least 13 or is younger supply a parent email
Must fill out the form
Ends June 30

Tween Tuesday: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland +GIVEAWAY!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen.  In it we celebrate, review and share books perfect for the tween set. 

Today I’d like to share a bit about the book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. (wow that’s a long title!)  This book look just adorable and perfect for tween readers. 

Here’s a bit about it:

“Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn?t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.”

Now check out the trailer!

I’ve heard some good things!

Some other links for the book:

Macmillan page for the book & author:
http://us.macmillan.com/thegirlwhocircumnavigatedfairylandinashipofherownmaking

Author’s website & blog:
http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/
http://blog.catherynnemvalente.com/

Now for the giveaway.
To enter:
Must be a US or Canadian resident
Must be 13
Must fill out the form
Ends June 28th

Tween Tuesday Book Review: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

Title: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Book Summary

Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially Bollywood movies. But when her mother tells her some big news, it does not at all jive with the script of her life she has in mind. Her family is moving to India…and, not even to Bombay, which is the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly. No, Dini is moving to a teeny, tiny village she can’t even find on a map. Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain and it only looks like a word that’s hard to pronounce. But to that open-minded person who sounds the name out, one letter at a time, it falls quite handily into place: S-w-a-p-n-a-g-i-r-i. An honest sort of name, with no surprise letters waiting to leap out and ambush the unwary. That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises in Swapnagiri like mischievous monkeys and a girl who chirps like a bird—and the biggest surprise of all: Dolly.

My Review

I’ll be honest – I don’t know much about India and Bollywood, so I went into this book a bit clueless as to what to expect.  I was very pleasently suprised at what I found.

The Characters:  The main character is 11 year old Dini (Nandini).   In the very first chapter we learn two things – Dini loves a very famous Bollywood actress, Dolly Singh and she is moving to India for two years.  As this would anyone, it throws her and her best friend Maddie into a spiral.  They only way they have out of it is to focus on the fact that something seems wrong with Dolly since her last movie had no happy songs in it, and that Dini is moving to the same country as Dolly.  So instead of focusing on the fact she is moving, her and Maddie focus on how to “fix” Dolly.

Dini seemed liked any other 11 year old I know who is completely obsessed with a certain actor/actress or singer.  She knows everything about Dolly, about her movies and about her life.  I know girls that could tell me everything about whoever famous they “love”.  It’s through this obsession that Dini’s personality comes through.  She’s determined and refuses to acknowledge that, even with her plan to fix whatever is wrong with Dolly, it may not happen.  All she sees is what she can do – yes getting frustrated at times, but always finding a way around it.  I don’t think, if I was 11 like her, if I would’ve felt as confident in my ability to carry out my plan!

The Plot:  The interesting thing about how this story is written is that it’s not just from Dini’s view point.  It jumps around to several key players in the story including a very likable mail carrier.  At first I found this a bit confusing, but as the story progressed I had learned all the characters, so the jumping around was fine.  And by that time I was super curious how all these pieces were going to come together.  It was pretty cool to see how Uma Krishnaswami was able to take all those think story threads and bring them together to a very satisfying ending.  Sometime when you have that many pieces floating around, something gets left hanging.  I didn’t feel that happened in this story at all.  How the mail carrier’s story played out was really sweet to me.

I found this to be a sweet story filled with kismet.  Here’s how Lal (the mail carrier) talks about what kismet is.

There is is again, that thing that most people would call coincidence.  Lal prefers to think of it as kismet.  Some people would say kismet means fate but really it’s a far more beautiful idea – it is the idea that in spite of all the obstacles, some things are meant to be. (pg 118-9)

To me that was really what this story was about – that basic hope that things that are meant to be will work out in the end.

Final thought:  Filled with sweetness, color, sound and yes kismet
Best stick-with-you image:  The monkeys
Best for readers who: like a story where lots of pieces come together
Best for ages: 10-13

Be sure to come back tomorrow when I interview the author!

Tween Tuesday was started by The Green Bean Teen Queen.

Book Review: The Midnight Gate by Helen Stringer

Title: The Midnight Gate
Author: Helen Stringer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Book Summary

It’s been two months since Belladonna Johnson discovered she was the Spellbinder, and she’s full of questions about her powers. When a ghost finds Belladonna and her classmate, Steve, and gives them a mysterious map, the friends don’t know if they should be looking for or hiding from the one person who holds the answers to Belladonna’s powers: the Queen of the Abyss. Throw into the mix that Belladonna’s parents, who are ghosts, have disappeared and that her brand-new and maybe even sinister foster family seems to know more than they’ll let on, and you have a sequel made of high adventure and intrigue, seasoned with affecting characters and topped with a dollop of wit.

My Review
I love when I enjoy a sequel more than the first book.  That happened with The Midnight Gate!  Where has Spellbinder seem to have more action and a faster pace, The Midnight Gate was slower but more complex and brain twisting (yes brain twisting!)

The Characters:  I really enjoy Belladonna.  Here’s a girl that’s picked on, left out and basically a loner.  She has just “saved the world”, and now must slip back into her normal life – well as normal as seeing the ghosts of your dead parents can be! What a tough place to be. Here she’s suppose to be this amazing person capable of things others aren’t, but she can’t even stop the class bully from picking on her.  It just makes me like her that much more.  Then we things start to really unravel and everything she did get support from is gone you get to see her start to stand on her own two feet better.  When I think back to how she was at the start of Spellbinder until the end of this book it’s amazing to see how much stronger she has become. There are still times when her youth blinds her to things that me, as an adult, could see happening.  Realistic but at time a bit frustrating because I just wanted to see what I saw!

Steve – her Paladin (protector) is a bit frustrating in this book.  He definitely fulfilled his role as the Paladin, but he was struggling with changes in his own life, and the way he was dealing with it made him a little less likable.  As the story went along I grew to like him better again because he did redeem himself over and over, but it was frustrating how much he seemed to blame Belladonna.  It wasn’t her fault I wanted to yell at him! He is very brave and very smart and at times very very foolish! Although I do know a lot of twelve year boys and that is pretty typical.  I am very curious to see how his character will continue to play out and mature.

The Plot:  Like I said, this story moved slower than Spellbinder, but that allowed it to be more complex.  There were tons of twists and turns with a healthy dose action mixed in especially at the end.  Once I got hooked into the mystery of the map that Belladonna and Steve had been given plus the whole mistrust of the family Belladonna has to live with, I couldn’t put the book down.  The plot pulled me along – not like a raging storm, but like a steady strong current.  And just when I thought it was slowly something new would jump in and disturb everything!

I will say that sometimes the plot lost me with the description of who was doing what – especially when it came to the Shadow People that Belladonna was seeing.  I had to reread a bit to make sure I got it. 

Final thought:  Nice solid sequel
Best stick-with-you image: The shadow people while on the swing
Best for readers who: Like to watch a mystery slowly begin to unravel
Best for ages: 11+

CymLowell