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.
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Book Review: BFF Breakup by Taylor Morris

Title: BFF Breakup
Author: Taylor Morris
Publisher:  Aladdin Mix

Summary

Brooke and Madeline have been best friends since they first met. And now they’re going to be best friends in high school, then go to the same college where they’ll be roommates, date—and marry—boys who are also best friends. Finally they’ll live next door to each other and go on family vacations together. Nothing could possibly change that, right? 

Well not so fast. A new school year brings new challenges, and suddenly Brooke and Madeline’s friendship isn’t looking so solid. When the cracks in the relationship become chasms, is there anything worth salvaging at all? 

Taylor Morris has written a laugh out loud funny, touching, novel about what happens when “Best Friends Forever” becomes “Best Friends No More.”

Review

How many of us have gotten into fights with out best friends?  Fights so bad you aren’t sure that you’ll ever be friends again?  I know I have! And then throw into the mix a group of new friends seemingly taking your best friend away.  Isn’t that a lot of tween girls’ fear?  Well that’s what BFF Breakup is all about.  Having a best friend and losing her.  It’s such a realistic premise that many girls will be interested just because it’s something they can so completely relate to.  What’s great is that the story goes beyond just an interesting premise.  The story itself is well written, true to the age of the character and reader and it doesn’t sugar coat going through something like this.

I’ve said it before, but it needs to be said again.  One thing that I find wrong with some middle grade (tween) books I read is the voice of the characters.  They don’t sound like kids I see and hear everyday at school.  This wasn’t really an issue with Brooke and Madeline.  Their reactions (the cute boy you like sitting next to you), their language (deciding the word disco would  mean whatever you wanted it to) were spot on.  But what was more completely tween was how they reacted during the fight.  Avoiding each other, refusing to look at each other, blurting out things they have no clue where it came from, saying bad things about the other to new friends because of anger.  It was all there.  I think the most realistic was when Madeline sent Brooke and apology email thinking it was worded just perfect not at all realizing how it might sound to Brooke.  I’ve heard apologies like that!  Their reactions rang true to me.  Kids are really are really turned off by books that don’t represent them accurately.  I don’t think that would happen with this book.

A secondary story is Madeline’s parents separating.  I think this too is a situation that some tweens could relate to.  And I did believe Madeline’s reaction to it.  She was angry and confused which all seemed natural.  I did think the parents handled it a little dis-functionally, kind’ve letting the kids deal with in on their own, but it wasn’t bad enough to really bother me.  Having Madeline going through this crisis added another layer to the problems between her and Brooke.  Not only were they growing and changing, but now they had to figure out how to handle a crises with one of them.  It also set up nicely why Madeline thought her new friend Susanna was ‘better” than Brooke.  And it helped show some of Brooke’s naivety.  I wondered if this story line was really necessary – could it have just focused on the first – but I realized it was really needed.  It pushed along a lot of what happened and fueled the emotions both girls were feeling.

There were a few scenes that I did have a bit of a hard time believing.  They mostly involved Brooke and a boy named Christopher.  Christopher would be seen as a bit odd by most kids this age (he wears ties to school).  Brooke though thinks he’s cool.  Some of the scenes where she encourages his personality were a little harder for me to buy into just because I know how kids this age can have a hard time encouraging individuality because it could put the spotlight on them in a wrong way.  It know it was to help encourage being ok with who you are and letting others be who they are, but I also know the struggle with this at 7th grade. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it was the one point I wasn’t completely sure of.

I won’t say what happens in the end, but I was very pleased with how it was handled.  It wasn’t all perfection and sunshine and rainbows.  It was more realistic and I liked that.  I think a young reader would take more away from the book because it didn’t try to snowball them into believing something they know would be somewhat unrealistic.  Honesty with this age goes a long way and this book was honest.

Final Thought:  Good real look at losing your BFF
Best stick-with-you image:  When Madeline turns really mean to Brooke. Ouch!
Best for readers who: Have every had a fight with their BFF
Best for ages: 9-12

For the Boys?  Nope.  Pretty much a girl topic.

Stay tuned because tomorrow I have an interview with the author and a giveaway!!!

My Favs for Tween Tuesday

Tuesday is Tween Tuesday started over at GreenBeanTeenQueen. On Tuesdays we highlight/review books that are awesome for the tween set – or more commonly known at 9-12 year olds.

Lately I’ve seen a few bloggers with a post about their favorite middle grade or tween books, and that really got me thinking.  If I had to make a list of my favs what would I put on it???  Here are the ones that came to mind right away.

Savvy by Ingrid Law

I soooooo love this book.  It’s kinda different because of the idea that everyone in Mib’s (the main character) family has a savvy – or special “magical” gift.  But what I really like about it is her determination to get to her father and try to help him.  That just endured me to her.  I think it’s a great book for kids who have felt helpless in a situation because that’s how she feels.  Great book I highly recommend.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
I avoided this book for the longest time.  Everyone went on and on about how good it was, and sometimes when that happens I just can’t read it.  A few summers ago I decided to try it.  I LOVED it.  The journey that the Salamanca  goes on both physically and mentally is so heart breaking I felt put through the wringer.  BUT they hope mixed in gave me such at uplifting feeling.  I really think Sharon Creech was pure genius when she wrote it because it has so many layers that all fit together seamlessly.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Ok I know not everyone likes this book but a book that literally makes me gasp is going to forever be in my heart.  This book did that.  There isn’t a detail of this book that wasn’t perfectly placed.  I’m in awe of Rebecca Stead’s plotting – seriously! I would never be able to plot out a book out that well.  Complete winner!!

Mile: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
If you’ve ever lost a parent or know a tween who has – this book hits hard and close to home.  It starts out slow, and you aren’t sure how or where it’s going but when the momentum hits it takes you on a roller coaster ride you can’t get off.  I cried and cried at the end of this book both from sadness and the hope that flowed in behind it.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
This is still tween right – even tho people of all ages read it??? I love HP because it showed me that fantasy can be good 🙂 and because of all the children I know read because of it.  Nuff said 🙂

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan
Simple reason – my BOYS read it! I ❤ any author that gets my boys reading.

Ok there are tons more, but those are the first ones I thought of.  I take that to mean they are ones I really love for one reason or another.  This was fun. I may have to do a part two some time!

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:

WoW (early) & tween Tues: Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading

Due to other scheduled posts, today I’m combining my WoW (hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine) and Tween Tuesday (hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen).


Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not ReadingI’m Waiting On:
An awesome sounding Tween Book!

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading

by Tommy Greenwald
Release: July 5th

Summary

Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.This is the hilarious story of an avid non-reader and the extreme lengths to which he’ll go to get out of reading a book.

Why I Like the Sound of It
Why wouldn’t I be???? I’m a 7th grade English teacher that has to fight with kids to read.  I know tons of kids that could relate to this book!!! And maybe, just maybe I could get them to read it 🙂

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: Tween Books on My Summer Reading List

I Sunday posted a pic of my summer reading list, but today for Tween Tuesday I thought I’d share what tween (or MG) books I’m planning on reading.  
They are:

Reckless by Cornelia Funke
The Rivalry by John Feinstein
Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkey
Tomorrow Girls by Eva Gray
Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney

I’m mostly excited for Both Sides of Time. I read this a looooooong time ago and really enjoyed the time travel aspect of it. I want to read it again to see if it holds up.  It also has several books after it that I plan to reread if the first book goes good!

Tween Tuesday was started by the Green Bean Teen Queen!

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.

Tween Tuesday – the I So Don’t Do Series by Barrie Summy

Tween Tuesday was started over at GreenBeanTeenQueen.  Each Tuesday I highlight a book that is great for ages 9-12 or what is also known at the Tween Set.
Today I’m highlighting the:

I So Don’t Do series by Barrie Summy
They are:
This is just a super cute series about a girl Sherry (short for Sherlock) who is recruited by her ghost (yes I said ghost) mother to solve mysteries.  I’ve had several girls – including my daughter – read these books and really enjoy them.  They are just fun and it’s great to find a series like that.

I asked my daughter a quick thought on the books and she said, “Funny” and smiled.  I like that!

Here’s the book trailer for I So Don’t Do Make Up

Audio Review: The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1)

Today for Tween Tuesday I have an audio review.  Tween Tuesday was started over at GreenBeanTeenQueen.

Title: The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1)
Author: Jacqueline West

From Goodreads
 Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there’s something odd about the place—not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that’s strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets—and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper.
 
As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It’s up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.

My Review
When I saw the book trailer for this one I definitely wanted to read it.  I thought it looked really fun especially for the tween set.  So when I saw our library had it in the audio version I grabbed it.  After convincing my daughter that we should listen to it, I popped it into the CD player, and we began to listen.  In the end we all ended up enjoying it.

The Characters: Olive was a cute girl that I think a lot of tween girls could relate to.  She isn’t this “has it all together knows what she’s doing girl.” Most of the time she’s scared and uncertain.  She second guesses herself over and over.  That’s why I liked her! Teacher middle school – I see a lot of girls just like her.  Olive would be a girl I could easily imagine in my class.  At the same time though, she had this fantastic strength running through her.  As scared as the events in the story are for her, she doesn’t back down.  She pulls all her nerve together and steps up.  Olive always looked at what was going on, came up with a plan and carried it out. 

The characters that I really think stole the show were the three cats – Horatio, Harvey and Leopold.  Those cats were so funny! Without them the story would not have been as strong or fun.  We would laugh a lot at their actions and thoughts.  The reader did a great job with each of their voices bringing them even more alive.  I’m so glad they were a part of the story.  Not only did they help Olive, they also helped make the story fun.

The Plot – The story builds pretty quickly which it has to because it’s a pretty short book.  It isn’t long before Olive is pulled into the secrets of her new house.  From their it builds up nicely with some good twists and turns making you realize you can’t trust any of your first thoughts – or can you??? It has a healthy dose of mystery along with the spookiness, so that really keeps the reader guessing. The final climatic scene really builds the tension nicely.  You the scene is going to have a great conclusion, but you aren’t sure how Olive is going to pull it off.  The scariness of the plot was just right for the tween set.  Suspenseful, a bit spooky and lots of last minute escapes.

The reader:  She did a great job bringing the story to life – especially the cats like I said.  All the the voices were well done and different.  Her pacing was perfect and over all it was great.  I did occasionally get annoyed by the voice of Olive because at points it would be a little too little girlish.  Thankfully she didn’t keep that all the time.  It would just come and go.

Final thought:  Perfect spooky mystery for the tween set.
Best stick-with-you image: The final scene when Olive was being talked to in the dark
Best for readers who: Like a little spookiness
Best for ages: 8-11

The book trailer