Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
home
browse button
blog button
about us button
FAQ button
Follow and Share
Twitter Icon
Facebook Icon
Pinterest Icon
RSS Icon


Our Blog

Archive for May, 2011

Summer reading, pure and simple.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Only two more weeks until school gets out in our neck of the woods. Are you ready? I’m not—I’ve just gotten my school day routine down! I am however getting excited about the thought of some fabulous reading time though.  At StorySnoops, we’ve been working on making some lists for summer reading for kids and we got into a good discussion about what exactly makes a good summer book.  Bottom line?  There seem to be two schools of thought.  There is the image of the summer book as a light, purely escapist read—something you wouldn’t be caught dead carrying into English class!  Then there is also the idea that you have lots of nice reading time, why not take on something a little meatier?  Something you can stretch a little bit to read at your own pace, without having to worry that someone is going to ask you to write a paper on it!  Regardless of which school of thought your kids fall into, we’ve got them covered.  My kids haven’t noticed yet, but I’ve been quietly making a little pile of books that I hope will entice them on one of these lovely summer days that are not so far away!

For my daughter: (finishing up 7th grade, voracious reader—newly interested in Dystopian lit, but equally happy with vampires or realistic fiction.  Has a very definite stated preference for a neatly wrapped up ending!)

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen—my daughter runs too, and I think she’ll enjoy this emotional and inspirational story.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis—I personally loved this one—great fantasy concept with an entire self-sufficient community aboard a spaceship for years and years.  It’s told from alternating male/female points of view and I can’t wait to find a boy to read it too.  I always wonder if boys enjoy those changing POV’s as much as girls do.

The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter—I think these could be her summer speed reads.  Smart girls at an elite boarding school for spies? PERFECT summer fare!

*

*

*

*

For my son: (finishing up 5th grade, likes the idea of reading a good book more than he likes actually sitting down and reading that good book.  Has a definite preference for fantasy or just flat out boy comedy)

Dark Life by Kat Falls—this one is a compulsively readable combination of SciFi, Thriller and Dystopian lit.  He’s been curious about Dystopian books, so this page-turner might be a good introduction.

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford—what could be better than three friends having zany adventures in outer space with aliens that look strangely like people from Earth? This one fits his humor bill.

Horton Halfpott: Or, the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, the Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger–my son was majorly sucked in to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, so neither of us wants to miss this next release from a new favorite author!

So that’s what I’ve set aside so far for the kids.  The way this weather is going so far, we’ll probably be reading these by the fire, sipping hot chocolate in the middle of July!  What’s in your summer reading pile so far?

-Eden, StorySnoop

If you need some ideas for your kids, here are the StorySnoops summer reading suggestions: Summer Reading for Tween Boys, Summer Reading for Tween Girls, Summer Reading for Teen Guys, Summer Reading for Teen Gals. Enjoy!

It’s Super Scoop Friday – Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

It’s not often that I find myself laughing out loud when reading a book.  It happens even less frequently when reading books for younger readers.  However, I recently had the good fortune to pick up Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and found myself getting strange looks from my family due to my frequent guffaws.

In Cosmic, twelve-year-old Liam is completely horrified that he is mistaken for an adult on a regular basis. For one thing he’s tall, really tall. He even has facial hair. The worst part–even worse than being called names like “freak” and “wolverine”–is that people expect him to behave like an adult, just because he looks like one. But things change when Liam figures out that he can have a bit of fun pretending to be a grown-up, like taking a Porsche out for a test drive and claiming to be a teacher on the first day of school. He even manages to talk his way into chaperoning the first group of children to travel into outer space. When things go wrong, can Liam do the “dadly thing” and get them all home safe?

Often hilarious and sometimes poignant, Cosmic is an extremely engaging read for tweens. Anyone who feels out of place for one reason or another will relate to Liam, who feels awkward in his prematurely mature body and judged by his appearance. He takes solace playing video games because other players don’t know how tall or short or fat or thin you are–they just accept you for who you are.

Liam’s observations about “dadly” behavior are perceptive, and his own attempts at “dadliness” are comical.  After he wins a contest for dads, Liam winds up in outer space with his “daughter” by way of China. The other four contest winners are pushy fathers who pressure their sons to be brilliant or perfect. Although he is only pretending to be a dad, Liam helps these boys see what they are missing from their childhood and becomes an unlikely role model. Through his adventure, Liam learns to appreciate his own father and to value being a kid.

Cosmic would make a lovely Father’s Day gift for a dad to read aloud to his son.  Or, the CD version, impeccably narrated by Kirby Heyborne, would provide hours of entertainment for the whole family on a summer road trip.  Happy reading!

-Jen, StorySnoop

It’s so hard not to judge a book by its cover!

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Everyone knows the old saying – “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. And since it’s kind of part of our tagline and philosophy at StorySnoops, we kind of have to pay attention to it! But what a great little lesson this has turned out to be at my house. Here are some books my kids balked at, based on the cover and the size of the books. But…they will be the first to admit that they misjudged these gems, and now count these books amongst their favorites. And just for some added fun, I tossed in a couple that my fellow StorySnoops raised an eyebrow at too :-)  

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Initial Opinion: Odd cover, too thick, what’s with all the drawings?

Turned out to be: A beautiful story that my kids will read over and over, and never tire of.

The City of Ember

Initial opinion: Daughter groaned when this sci-fi/dystopian “boy” book was choosen for her book club.

Turned out to be: A book that both genders will like equally, and was completely engaging. She went on to read the entire series.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Initial opinion: Teen son rejected it. Assumed it was a Western. Was turned off by the toys on the cover.

Turned out to be: A book he liked enough to finish in a week and do a report on. And that is saying a lot for a sixteen year old boy!

Bras & Broomsticks

Initial opinion: What?! What are witches and undergarments doing in the same story? Must be pretty stupid.

Turned out to be: A compulsively readable and hilarious story about friendship and typical teens topics, with a little magic thrown in. Daughter has read and reread all of the books in the series and is praying that a fifth book will be written.

Dreamland

Initial opinion: Huh? SO not like any other Sarah Dessen cover. StorySnoop Tiffany was not so sure what to expect.

Turned out to be: A powerful story with a great message. She liked it!

Grounded

Initial opinion: This is a book for kids?  What’s up with the coffin? Kinda don’t feel so much like diving in (so says Eden, fellow StorySnoop).

Turned out to be: Eden loved this book! Found it to be a bit dark, but heartwarming and humorous.  It has a nice mother-daughter storyline, and she added it to her daughter’s “to be read” pile, with fingers crossed that daughter will enjoy it as much as she did.

Cosmic

Initial opinion: Something for kids who like outer space perhaps?  Looks a bit young to be StorySnoop Jen’s cup of tea.

Turned out to be: One of Jen’s favorites! She found herself laughing out loud at this poignant story story about twelve-year-old boy who is often mistaken for an adult.  His observations about “dadly” behavior are perceptive and his own attempts at “dadliness” are hysterical!

Moral of the story today: We are all guilty of judging book by their covers. But, sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by what’s inside!  We have enjoyed this little exercise–which books had covers that left you cold, but then turned out to be something special for you?

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Super Scoop Friday–Perry Moore’s Hero

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I could go on and on about this book, though I will try to show some restraint : ) I love it for everything that it is. Hero is an incredibly poignant and brave story about tolerance, coming out and coming of age. The writing is excellent, the message is important and it is action packed as well. I have read hundreds of books for this website, and Hero has continued to stand out as a unique and special one.

Main character Thom is a gay teen superhero who must come out and save the world. Thom is vilified at school, at home, and in his new group of probationary superheroes when it is discovered that he is gay. His father is openly prejudiced and hostile towards homosexuals.  The road to self-acceptance is not an easy one for Thom, and he has both internal and external struggles. He must come to terms with many things in order to find happiness and peace. He also must stop a rogue hero and save the world. The misfit heroes that Tom is teamed up with teach him many things, and a positive sense of camaraderie and acceptance is ultimately found in this unlikely group. A powerful message resounds regarding the struggle to come to terms with who we really are and not being afraid to be that person. Hero is also a love story, a beautiful one at that, where the boy gets the boy in the end.

Sadly, the author of this award-winning and important book recently passed away. Perry Moore, 39, died February 17, 2011. Not only did the YA literary world lose a brilliant and creative mind, but the sequel to Hero that he had been writing will never be completed. Moore was also a producer of the Narnia films and was in talks to turn Hero into a movie and/or tv series. I was so saddened to read Moore’s obituary. Thankfully, he left behind a gem in Hero that I hope will be read by many for generations to come.

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

Meet Cynthia Lord–she’s on the StorySnoops Summer Reading List!

Monday, May 16th, 2011

To kick off the summer reading season, StorySnoops is hosting interviews with some of the authors whose books are on our Summer Reading lists for tweens and teens.

Our guest today is Newbery Honor Medal-winning author Cynthia Lord, who kicked off her career at the tender age of four with a song-writing collaboration with her sister.  In high school, Cynthia began writing fiction, starting with a ghost story.  She quickly moved away from that genre after scaring herself half to death with her own tale!  Following a teaching career in elementary and middle school, Cynthia returned to writing.  Both of her novels, Touch Blue and Rules, offer beautifully written and thoughtful stories featuring tween girl characters worth reading about.

Welcome Cynthia!  Thank you so much for joining us.

Your protagonists are authentic and relatable while also being positive role models.  Where do these characters come from and how do you strike such an artful balance?

Thank you so much.  My characters are always a mix of myself as a child and the children I’ve met.  Most middle-graders have a wonderful sense of justice and a great capacity to care about others. But no one is perfect, and I also give my characters some flaws. Those flaws allow me to put the characters into hard situations where they will grow in the story.

One of the reasons readers may identify with Catherine in Rules is that she makes mistakes.  But as she learns from these mistakes, the reader is shown what it means to do the right thing.  Have you used this technique with your own children?

I tell my children that everyone makes mistakes and falls short sometimes. It’s what you do after the mistake that shows what kind of person you truly are.

In Rules, an autistic character is based on your son.  Does writing about something so close to home ever feel too personal?

Rules was both easy and hard to write. It’s a world I’m very familiar with, but I had to explore things I don’t like to admit and think about.  As a mom, I want everyone to be kind to my son and to give him a chance.  As an author, I had to be honest and show that not all people do that.

You tackle some heavy issues (foster care in Touch Blue, autism in Rules) without being maudlin, and in an age-appropriate manner.  How do you go about creating just the right tone?

I care deeply about the real people who are living lives similar to my characters. So I try to be honest in every direction.  No important experience is only one emotion.  Most people think it’s a tragedy having a child with a disability, for example. There are tragic moments, but there are also hilarious moments.  Touching moments. Frustrating moments. Inspiring moments. In stretching the experience into wider and deeper emotions, the reader (and the author!) is stretched also.

The setting in Touch Blue, a small island off the coast of Maine, is a huge part of the book.  You describe it so vividly–was it inspired by a real place?

The island in Touch Blue is a fictional place, but it was inspired by several real Maine islands. I was a teacher before I became an author, and one school where I taught was a tiny school on a Maine island.  On another Maine island, many years ago, the islanders really did take in foster children to save their school.  So there are bits and pieces of several Maine islands in Touch Blue.

In what ways do you draw on your teaching experience when you are writing?

As a teacher, I read aloud to my students every day. The books that were very successful classroom reads had some humor, but they were also thoughtful and led to good discussions.  In practical terms, it helped if the books had shorter chapters, because I was often squeezing read-aloud time into odd moments when we were waiting for something.  So those are some of the things I think about as a writer.

What would you suggest as the first question to kick of a book club discussion about Rules?  How about Touch Blue?

For Rules, I’d ask for some examples of rules in a specific situation (at school, on the bus, at the dinner table, about your possessions for your brothers or sisters, etc). How are rules important to us?  Can they ever be a bad thing?

For Touch Blue, both Tess and Aaron are thinking about where they belong and what it means to lose that. I’d ask kids to describe themselves using ten sentences–five things on the inside (I’m smart) and five on the outside (where they live, who their family is, where they go to school, etc).  What would  happen if you lost something in the outside column?  What would change?  What would you miss?   Would it also change who you are?

What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I also write picture books, and my next book is a picture book called Happy Birthday, Hamster. It comes out August 1st, and it’s a companion book to my first picture book, Hot Rod Hamster. Both books are illustrated by the amazing Derek Anderson.  I also have the first draft done for a new novel, but I know I have many drafts ahead, so that one will be awhile. I will tell you that it’s set in New Hampshire, which is where I grew up.

For more from Cynthia Lord, check out her website where you can find goodies like discussion guides for her books, tips for young writers, and her blog. In the meantime, happy reading! Look here for the rest of our Summer Reading list for Tween Girls.

-The Snoops

Nerd Alert!

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Nerd Alert - This blog post makes me look like a total book nerd and I don’t care.

One of the cool things about working on a site like this is the people I get to meet. In the real world, my passion for books, well, it’s not always understood, you know? My grandma used to tell me that if I kept reading so much, I was sure to go blind. I have answered to the nickname “bookworm”. Nowadays, I get weird looks from the other moms at Tae Kwon Do because I always seem to my nose buried in a “kid” book – and enjoying it.

However, since I have been introduced to the bliss that is social networking through StorySnoops, I have found many like-minded souls. There are book bloggers, dads who champion literacy, and librarian tweeters (actually, they are called “tweeps”). It’s a book-world bonanza out there!

It’s my safe place where I can never be a nerd, or at least, I am comforted by the fact that I have found people far nerdier than I am – in the best way possible. On Twitter, I can exclaim my love for the latest Laurie Halse Anderson book and immediately get validation: “I hear that!” and “You know it, sister”. Many times, I have heard from the authors themselves. When I tweeted about the ornaments my book club exchanged based on Matthew Quick’s novel Sorta Like A Rock Star, he tweeted me asking to see pictures. I was excited to share the pictures and he was happy to see how we represented parts of his story with ornaments. It was a full geek-fest, enjoyed by all.

I have had moments of being an awestruck schoolgirl when we have heard from authors we know, and in some cases, have been fans for years. Meg Cabot is one of those ladies who is more generous, down to earth, and just more hilarious than you could imagine. Her tell-it-like-it-is-blog always makes me laugh. I can speak for all four Snoops and say we adore this new gal pal, and can’t wait to get to finally meet her, have drinks, and talk shoes (and books, of course!).

But the highlight of this whole literary adventure for me has been, hands down, receiving an email from the REAL. LIVE. JUDY. BLUME. in my email box. I’m embarrassed to tell you that it took me ten minutes just to open her email. I was THAT excited. I may have even shed a happy tear, but I’m not confirming that. I will admit to running around the house screaming and trying to make my family understand the magnitude of the moment. She had agreed to let us interview her for our Banned Books Week series. I tried to restrain myself and reel it in a bit, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to tell her what an influence her books have had on my life. I’ll spare you the details but I didn’t spare Judy. I guess I didn’t scare her away because she STILL let us interview her. Easily – one of the high points of my life. (I TOLD you this post would make me look like a nerd!)

Souls can come together and share their passions. It’s a lot like the morals to the stories I read for the site. Being true to yourself, and finding people who share your passions – it’s a healthy, great, and satisfying thing.

-Shannon, StorySnoop

It’s Children’s Book Week–Meet Richard Newsome!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

In celebration of Children’s Book Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with our friends in the literary world. Children’s Book Week is the national celebration of books and reading for youth. We hope you enjoy reading about some of our favorite authors. We really enjoyed putting this series together!

Our guest today is Richard Newsome, award-winning Australian author of The Billionaire’s Curse and The Emerald Casket, the first two titles in The Archer Legacy trilogy about a teen boy who not only inherits $30 billion from his long-lost great aunt, but also an accompanying murder mystery with a pack of villains ready to do him in.

Thank you for joining us Richard!

It sounds like as a child, you were a fan of the fantasy genre, reading The Hobbit (and the presumably the rest of The Lord of the Rings too?) and the Narnia books.  What brought you in the direction of adventure mysteries?

I’ve never really been conscious of reading to a specific genre. As a child, I just loved being swept away by a great story. I read across a huge variety of categories without really falling in love with one. But I do recall a few Christmas holidays at my grandparent’s place in New Zealand where the only thing on the bookshelves that attracted me was the faded Agatha Christie murder mysteries. So I do have a soft spot for a good whodunit. I think the blustering Major Pilkington in The Billionaire’s Curse owes more than a little to a few crusty Christie characters.

You’ve said The Billionaire’s Curse started out as a bedtime story for your children.  How much of that original bedtime story remains?  Are any of the characters based on your children?

The story started out as a simple diamond heist from the British Museum. I started making it up one night to keep the kids entertained and it snowballed from there. I think it’s fair to say almost none of the original version made it to the final draft, apart from two characters: Sam and Ruby. That’s my two eldest kids and I had to put their names in to hold their attention and maintain domestic harmony. From that first night of story-telling to seeing the finished book on a bookstore shelf took 10 years.

You’ve had a few careers, some more exciting than others—does the adventure aspect of your books perhaps reflect a career you haven’t tried yet, but have been secretly thinking about for a while?

I’ve worked as a shopping trolley collector (not exciting), as a newspaper and TV reporter (quite exciting), as a strategy consultant (who was I kidding?) and as a corporate spin doctor (at which I was scarily proficient). In terms of adventure though, to me it represents complete freedom. If you’re in the middle of a hair-raising adventure, you’re not worrying about an English assignment due on Wednesday or whether you remembered to take out the trash. You are wholly focused on escape and survival. And that is what a good adventure book should do: transport you from the humdrum of everyday life and drop you in the middle of an all-consuming romp that makes everything else just fade away.

How much on-site research do you do for your books?

In short, heaps. It’s my old newspaper training coming through. For me to adequately describe a scene, I really need to have been there. I need to know what the late afternoon light looks like, what aromas float in the air, is the beach sand fine or gritty? For The Billionaire’s Curse I flew to England and checked out a half dozen sites that played important parts in the story. For The Emerald Casket, I knew the story was going to take place mostly in India so I packed the notebook and pencil and flew to New Delhi. The final book in the series, The Mask of Destiny, had me exploring France and Italy. Writing can be a lonely occupation, so you’ve got to spice things up where you can.

We American fans want to know why the lag between the Australian publication date and American publication date on your books?

I think it has something to do with the international date line and the fact Australia is a 14-hour flight from the west coast of the US. There is about a nine-month lag between the publication of my books in Australia and when they are published in the US. That just reflects the publishers’ schedules and the fact the first book was well advanced in the production process down here before it was sold to the great folks at Walden Pond Books in the USA. I haven’t quite reached the stage where there’s a global release date a la Harry Potter, but who knows, maybe one day.

We’ve heard that you just wrapped up some writing—was it The Mask of Destiny? Can you give us a “StorySnoops Exclusive” sneak preview of what we have to look forward to?

You bet. There’s this major twist at the very end. It turns out that the villain is actually the teen boy hero’s father! No one’s going to expect that. It’ll blow people’s minds. You promise not to tell? (StorySnoops: Our lips are sealed!)

Look for The Emerald Casket in bookstores in the U.S. this month. For more information about Richard and the rest of The Archer Legacy, visit his website.  We’ve had a great time putting together these Children’s Book Week interviews.  If you’ve missed any, we hope you’ll check out the entire series here, and let us know what you think!

It’s Children’s Book Week–Meet Wendy Mass!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

In celebration of Children’s Book Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with our friends in the literary world.Children’s Book Week is the national celebration of books and reading for youth. We hope you enjoy reading about some of our favorite authors.  We really enjoyed putting this series together!

Today’s post is a guest interview, conducted by StorySnoops’ favorite book club, the Green Oompa Loompas.

Hi! We’re a group of  fifth grade girls that are in a book club called the Green Oompa Loompas. Our names are: Holly, Hailey Anne, Julia, Avery, Hayley Kay, Gabby, Eva, and Maddy. We like to read books by different authors and all kinds of genres and talk about random things. This month, we read 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. We have also read another book of hers called The Candymakers. We love this author, so we decided to interview her to get to know her a little better.

Where did you come up with the idea for 11 Birthdays?

I wanted to write a lighthearted book about friendship and forgiveness and second chances. Somehow second chances turned into eleven chances! I was also really interested in writing a time travel book, but there seemed to be a bunch of those out, so instead I made them stuck in time. The same—but different. :o

What were you like when you were eleven, and if you could, what would you go back and say to the eleven year old you?

I was pretty fearless back then. I remember riding down a hill on my skateboard as though nothing was wrong with that idea. Of course I wound up bloody and bruised at the bottom! I think I worried a lot too, though. That year (5th grade) was hard because none of my friends were in my class and I had to make all new ones. If I could talk to 11 year old me, I’d tell myself to pay more attention in class, wear a helmet when skateboarding, and not to care when no one picked me to be on their team in gym class! :o

We know that your book Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life is being made into a movie. Do you have plans to make any of your other books into movies?

Jeremy Fink is supposed to be out this summer, which is very exciting. I can’t wait to see it! None of the other books are headed to the screen any time soon, but hopefully in the future. I’d love to see 11 Birthdays made into a film, or The Candymakers.

What inspires the characters you write about? Where do you come up with them?

To create characters, I sit down and interview them. I ask a list of 20 questions and then the person comes to life through their answers. Things like, “What do you look like, what is your family like, your personality, strengths, weaknesses, etc.” That way each character is unique because I’ll pick different answers up front for them. I try to create people that the reader will care about, whether or not they completely identify with them.

Which character in all of your books is most like you?

Hmm…well, maybe Mia from my first novel, A Mango-Shaped Space. I think I put more of myself and my own experiences in the earlier books. But in a sense, every character (even the boys) has a part of me in them. I think that’s how it is with every writer, even when we try to avoid it.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That depends on how much research is involved. With real fact-based ones like A Mango-Shaped Space, or Every Soul a Star, which is about astronomy, or even The Candymakers, it took about a year or two. With the ones like 11 Birthdays or Finally, which require much less time reading other books or teaching myself new subjects, it’s closer to 8 months.

J.K. Rowling’s book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was rejected by publishers eleven times before it was finally accepted. How many times was your first book rejected, if any?

Hey, J.K. Rowling and I have something in common! Eleven sounds about right. I had many more than that (50!!)  if you include other attempts both before and after the first novel came out. The whole process really taught me about the importance of perseverance, and about not giving up on something if it’s really important to you.

What book are you working on right now, and when is your next book coming out?

My next book, 13 Gifts, is coming out in September, followed by a fairy tale series called Twice Upon a Time that will be out the following spring/summer, followed by my first attempt at science fiction, which I’m really excited about. Then I get to rest for like, a week, and then it starts back up again. :o

Thank you for your time, Ms. Mass! We love you!

I love you guys, too!! Keep reading!!

-wm

For more information on Wendy and her books, visit her website. Check back tomorrow to hear from award-winning Australian author Richard Newsome. We’ve had a great time putting together these Children’s Book Week interviews and hope you’ll check out the entire series here, and let us know what you think!

It’s Children’s Book Week–Meet Dave Barry!

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

In celebration of Children’s Book Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with our friends in the literary world. Children’s Book Week is the national celebration of books and reading for youth. We hope you enjoy reading about some of our favorite authors.  We really enjoyed putting this series together!

Our guest today is Dave Barry, humor columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner for commentary who, in his spare time, has written thirty books.  These include the hilarious Science Fair and one of our favorite series, Peter and the Starcatchers, all of which were written with co-author (and co-rock band member!) Ridley Pearson.

Has anything changed about your approach to writing since you won the Pulitzer Prize?

Nothing major, that I can think of. I still mainly try to be amusing, and I still worry a lot that I am failing.

Have you done a single interview since winning the Pulitzer Prize that has not included a question about winning the Pulitzer Prize?

Probably not. If the interviewer fails to mention it, I bring it up via some subtle statement such as, “By the way, I won a Pulitzer Prize.”

Your columns explore everything from politics to exploding toilets.  How did you decide to write books for children?

Ridley Pearson suggested it. He and I are in a terrible all-author rock band, and one year when we were playing in Miami he stayed at my house. We were having breakfast, and he said he’d been thinking about writing a prequel to Peter Pan, and asked if I’d be interested, and I said yes. And then I said, “By the way, I won a Pulitzer Prize.”

How is the process of writing with a partner different from writing on your own?

The main difference is you have to know ahead of time what you’re going to write. When I’m writing alone, I rarely know this. Sometimes I don’t even know it AFTER I’ve written.

How does one begin the task of creating the backstory for J. M. Barrie’s legendary character Peter Pan?

One spends a lot of time arguing with Ridley Pearson.

How do you feel about the impact of the internet on journalism and newspapers?  Has it changed your job as a columnist in any way?

The Internet has badly hurt newspapers financially — there aren’t as many of them, and they have much less space, which means they publish fewer columns.

Can we look forward to a fifth book in the Peter and the Starcatchers series?

Yes you can, though it’s going to be quite different from the others — almost a whole new series. He said mysteriously.

For more of Dave Barry’s distinctive humor, check out his column in the Miami Herald and his website. Check back tomorrow to hear from Wendy Mass, award-winning author of  several children’s books, including Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life and A Mango-Shaped Space.  We’ve had a great time putting together these Children’s Book Week interviews and hope you’ll check out the entire series here, and let us know what you think!

It’s Children’s Book Week–Meet Stephanie Barden!

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

In celebration of Children’s Book Week, StorySnoops is hosting a series of interviews with our friends in the literary world. Children’s Book Week is the national celebration of books and reading for youth. We hope you enjoy reading about some of our favorite authors.  We really enjoyed putting this series together!

Our guest today is Stephanie Barden, a first time author from Seattle, who just recently released the first book in a new series for elementary aged girls called Cinderella Smith.

Thank you for joining us Stephanie!

Thank you for having me ~ it’s such an honor!

You got into writing on the sage advice of your then three-year-old son Joe! What was the journey from story-telling mom to published author like?

It was full of fits and starts, like so many things for a parent. In Joe’s elementary years I took several writing classes, started tons of stories, but never finished a one. During his middle school years I worked on completing what I started and learned the importance of revise~revise~revise. When Joe started high school I set a writing schedule for myself and tried to be more serious! Finally, somewhere between his sophomore and junior year, I decided I had something worth sharing. I sent Cinderella Smith off to 20 agents and got 18 “no thank you’s”, 1 “maybe” and 1 “yes”. (And luckily you only need one!) My agent found two publishers who were interested and I chose to work with Barbara Lalicki at HarperCollins. She’s Beverly Cleary’s editor too, so I knew Cinderella and I were in good hands.

As a first time author, you could choose any demographic as your audience.  What drew you to the elementary set?

I teach classes to school groups at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, so I spend lots of time with the elementary age group. Their enthusiasm and interest in the world around them is contagious. I love too their combination of sophistication and naivety. (While visiting a school today for example, I got both of these questions: 1) Do you like to use first- or third-person voice best? And 2) Do you think a bird could steal Cinderella’s shoe in the next book and drop it in a dumpster so she would have to dumpster-dive and get all gross?)

You have a high school aged son—about as opposite from Cinderella Smith as can be.  Where do you get your little girl insight?  Do you have a muse?

My first muses were my three nieces.  One of them left one of her shoes in my car when I was visiting and that gave me the idea for Cinderella Smith. They live in California though, and I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like, so I always keep my ears open for snippets of conversation and eyes open for funny interactions that I can use in my writing. (Airports and grocery stores are terrific places to “spy”.) And although it’s been quite a while, I do tap in to my own memories of my elementary years.

Do you have a plan in place for direction of the Cinderella Smith series, or do you take on each title as it comes?

I have a very loose plan for the series, but I’m quite willing to let the writing take me where it will. That’s one of my favorite things about the writing process ~ handing the story over to my characters and letting them do what feels right to them.

Which other children’s lit character do you think Cinderella Smith would enjoy hanging out with?

What a fun question! Let’s see… Fern in Charlotte’s Web, Claudia in From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and, of course, Ramona!

Can you give us StorySnoops-exclusive preview of what Cinderella Smith and the More the Merrier will be about?

Certainly ~ it’s in my illustrator, Diane Goode’s hands now, so I think the editing is finally finished and the story is set! In The More the Merrier, Cinderella’s aunt and her crazy cat are staying with the girls while their parents are away. The Rosemarys continue to create problems for Cinderella and Erin, especially in regards to the up-coming spelling bee. There are more escaped pets, lost shoes and tap dancing too. And I think Cinderella learns a little bit more about standing up for herself this time around.

Cinderella Smith is in stores now.  To learn more about Stephanie visit her website. Check back tomorrow to hear from columnist/author/funny guy Dave Barry! If you’ve missed any of our author interviews this week, check out the entire series here, and let us know what you think!