Monday, April 30, 2012

The Year 17 A.W.

Back in the day, I used to use something like this.
Not too long ago, I did an extensive revision on a manuscript. When I finished, I realized I was lucky to be living (and writing) in modern times. I thought of how much it would slow down everything if not for Microsoft Word, and my mind traveled back to my early days. I guess you'd call it B.W. (Before Word).

I remember when I was a wee lad and I used a typewriter. I thought it was so great to be able to type things--seemed to make it so official. I even had a typewriter that could correct an error using a white-out key (yeah, that was pretty big-time!). Then I upgraded to the newfangled word processor that had this little window above the keyboard that would show the text before it was set on paper (seemed so super-advanced at the time).

Then computers popped up and things advanced even more...and then WHAM!, in 1995 Microsoft Word (Works actually came out first) came along and everything changed. In fact, the amount of unique features on Word that help writers with the revision process can't be discussed in a single blog post. Heck, I consider myself an expert with Word and even I seem to learn something new now and then when using Word.

So, then, I'll just discuss a couple features I use a lot. First, the find/replace feature. All writers know about these beauties, and if they don't, these are probably the writers who are still using typewriters. How helpful is it to be able to see the frequency with which you use "just" or "I mean" by using these features? And how cool is it that you can decide to change a character's name toward the end of your first draft and use the find/replace feature to do it in one quick minute. Second, I really love the track-changes that help when writers revise with crit partners or agents or editors. Invaluable.

How about you? What Microsoft Word features do you like to use here in the year 17 A.W.?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Learning through Author Events!

I just finished my first round of author signings on The Words of Wonder  Book Tour and thought to share what I learned and pick your brains on what you, as readers, hope to encounter when going to an author event.

My shortlist of lessons learned:

1.  Team up with other authors if you can!  I joined forces with J. Anderson Coats, author of THE WICKED AND THE JUST and Anne Nesbet, author of THE CABINET OF EARTHS.  (If you haven't already, these are fabulous books, so mark them on your to-read list!)

Having a team event relieved the pressure of all-eyes-on-me that I would have dreaded.  Besides that, it was incredibly FUN to meet these ladies and talk writing, publishing, and all the rest with them.

2.  Invite family and friends.  Given that we are all debut authors, it was wonderful to have some friendly faces show up at our signings.  Event numbers can be hit or miss, so knowing that you're guaranteed a few enthusiastic readers is a plus.

3.  Have a giveaway.  We put together a little basket with some swag, candy, and some of our absent tour-member's books to give out.  Not only was it fun to put together, but having the giveaway in the middle of the event gave some variety to our presentation.

4.  Figure out a creative way to do readings.  While your attendees may be expecting to hear a passage from you book, expect that they will (or have) read it.  I've been to signings where authors read from new or old projects (something I've always appreciated).  We decided to do a popcorn style reading where audience members called out a page number and we each read a sentence from our book in a beautiful, poetic, mashup.

5.  Have a general idea of talking points, but keep it flexible.  We found that this varied a great deal depending on our audience.  One signing was very interactive, with lots of reader-generated Q&A.  Other times, it was up to us to carry the flow of the conversation, so it was nice to have some things we knew we wanted to share.

6.  Have fun!  In the end, the numbers don't matter too much (though we all cringe at the thought of the two-people-show-up signing), but the opportunity to get together with other like-minded folks who love books and writing is a gift.  Enjoy it!

Okay, now it's your turn.  What do you love or hate at author signings?  What do you (or would you) do at a signing?  For readers, what are some memorable moments of signings you've attended?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rock of Ivanore Winner!

With my student teacher as a witness, I chose a random name from the comments on last Friday's post.

The lucky winner is . . .



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest post with E.J. Patten and Critique Giveaway! Beards Rule! Return To Exile Blog Tour

Everyone, please give a warm welcome to guest blogger, E.J. Patten, author of the fantastic middle-grade novel RETURN TO EXILE! E.J. has given us a great post on beards (because facial hair is cool, though I prefer lamb chops myself)  and is also generously giving away one query critique or ten page manuscript critique to one lucky reader! Rules to enter at the bottom of the post. Now, take it away, E.J!!!

First off, a big thank you to Project Middle Grade Mayhem for inviting me (E.J. Patten) to contribute to this blog as part of the Return to Exile blog tour. Since this is my first post here, I want to discuss one of the biggest issues facing authors and publishers today. No, I’m not talking about the role of ebooks, Pottermore, or the DOJ lawsuit against Apple. I’m talking about beards.What is the proper amount of facial hair for an author? Is a lot too much? A little, not enough? Look at this guy:

His beard is, like, eleven feet long. Could he be an author? How about this woman?

Perhaps you recognize this early picture of Jane Austen? No? How about this young man, could he grow up to be an author?

He’s obviously cool enough: sunglasses on in school, blurry girl high-fiving him, and just look at how that geeky guy on the left worships him—see the jutting jaw, the sparkling eyes, the slightly parted mouth? This hairy guy is definitely writer material. He can also spell the letter “B,” which is a good start for any aspiring writer and leads to all kinds of words like “banana” and “balderdash” and “boom goes the dynamite”—important words, especially for middle grade writers.
Clearly, there’s a link between facial hair and genius. The reason for the link is equally as obvious: if the hairs are on your face, then they aren’t poking you in the brain!
Conclusion: author beards = good.
Now, enough about that subject, even though those pictures are pretty sweet.
This post isn’t about facial hair, or Teen Wolf, or Jane Austen’s early experiments with Rogaine. It isn’t about Return to Exile, either, even though this post is for my blog tour, and you should all buy one or two thousand copies for everyone you’ve ever met.
So what is this post about? Honestly, I have no idea. I was really just looking for an excuse to post those pictures.
Let’s say it’s about a writer’s voice, shall we—that indefinable something that agents and editors are always looking for, but can seldom explain before I grow bored and wander over to the hors d'oeuvres in search of crab cakes.
Let me give you a few examples of voice:
  1. Basic sentence: The hungry man stood on the field looking down at a flock of geese.
  2. Horror: The hungry geese flew over the field, looking down at the lone man.
  3. Overdone Literary: The man stalked fallen bits of forgotten troves across the fields—bags of flesh and garlic, whistling winds, bottled, and sacks filled with fading corpulence. I found a way beside him, a way of cloth and tin and broken black cloves, peppercorn, and anise. I walked without moving, dragging decaying oleander and an iron carapace of my own making that stretched out around me, but offered no protection. Behind me, I trail; in front, I walk. Me of me, a million billion miles long, from dirty ridges, I fall to the waiting geese, who pluck and devour my bones.
  4. Hemingway Literary: The man watched the geese.
  5. Shakespeare: Forsooth! The geese a play do make of man. To spy, to see, to eat with one accord, and thereby impugn no false intent. Oh wretched beast! Oh fowl delight! Depart, and by my mouth return to earth!
  6. Middle-grade: “Don’t miss or we’ll eat you for dinner,” said the man as he looked over the flock of geese nesting in the nearby junipers. The boy beside him exhaled slowly, knowing the threat was said in jest, and at the same time, knowing it wasn’t. The boy squeezed the trigger and the gun bucked, knocking him backward into a ditch. He scrambled to his feet and the man jerked the gun from his hands. “It’s a good thing you’re an orphan, Boy,” said the man, licking his lips, “no one will miss you when you’re gone.” And then the boy did magic, and everything got really cool and better.
Anyway, you get the idea. Voice is about saying the same thing in different ways. When people say, “find your voice as an author,” I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m an author. That means I’m inherently deranged. My head is full of voices and I pick the one I need in the moment. In fact, right now, a voice in my head is telling me that this post is stretching on and growing rather boring. At the same time, another voice is telling me to burn things, and still another is asking if there are any pudding tarts left. Since I haven’t had pudding tarts in years, I’m going to assume the answer is “I hope not.” If you’re looking for a challenge, pick a few genres from the following list and rewrite the sentence below using a different voice each time.
Sentence: The sad woman lost her hat soon after the child appeared.
  1. Return to Exile (It’s my blog tour, I can do what I want!)
  2. Middle-grade
  3. Fantasy
  4. Sci-fi
  5. Mystery
  6. Thriller
  7. Romance
  8. Horror
  9. YA
  10. Any of the above + funny
  11. Something else
Leave your rewritten versions and crazy voices in the comments for all to enjoy, along with your favorite beard picture (can you leave pictures in comments? I have no idea. Leave a link, maybe?). And buy my book, Return to Exile, Book 1 in The Hunter Chronicles, by me, E.J. Patten. Seriously. It’s cooler than Teen Wolf.
You can visit the other stops on the Return to Exile blog tour, and find cool giveaways including books and Hunter’s Bracelets (from the book) by visiting the blog tour calendar.
Happy writing!

To enter the critique giveaway from EJ:
  1. Please follow Project Mayhem if you don't already
  2. Leave a comment on beards, Return to Exile, or pudding tarts! (Really, just say something nice to E.J.!)
  3. Share the love, this is optional, but always appreciated! ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012


A woman in my book club claims she has finished every book she has ever started.  It's a personality tick of hers. She has to know what happens. It doesn't matter how bad the writing is or how uninteresting the story, she will slog through hundreds of tedious pages until she gets to the very end.

I must confess: I don't have that type of dedication. If a book doesn't grab me within the first four or five chapters
okay, sometimes even within the first one or twoI'm outta there. Often it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Sometimes I just don't like or connect with the main character early on. Sometimes the storyline just isn't my cup of tea. And, okay, sometimes it is the writing. Let's face it, we all have certain writing styles we like better than others.

I recently started a new release that came highly recommended by friends and had strong online reviews. But it was a genre I don't typically read
science fictionand I really struggled through the first fifty pages or so. Several times I nearly walked away from the book altogether. Generally, I don't believe in sticking with a book you're not enjoying. Time is precious. We all have other things we could be doingspending time with family, working on books of our own, reading something we actually do like. Why waste your time on a book that just isn't speaking to you?

As writers, I think we need to keep in mind that the first several chapters are crucial. A slow or uninteresting beginning or a story that takes too long to take off can be a deal breaker. I've heard some people describe a book by saying, "Well, it gets really good if you stick with it about ten chapters" or "about a hundred pages or so." In my mind, that's a problem. Because let's face it, many readers (and editors and agents) aren't going to hang around that long. And especially in middle grade, where attention spans can be a bit tenuous, a story needs to snag readers pretty quickly. This, of course, is the reasoning behind the often-heard advice that a book should start as close in time as possible to the main action of the plot, to avoid overly long beginnings or unnecessary tangents. Other good techniques for those early pages: start with a bang (or a shock), offer up a particularly colorful or intriguing or amusing character or voice, raise a mystery or question that compels the audience to read onward for answers. The goal is to create a story that the reader will find it very hard to walk away from.

Of course, sometimes I have to eat my own words. That book I was struggling through? Around page 65, it gets really good. Some characters come together who have wonderful interaction and chemistry, and the action picks up considerably. I flipped page after page and flew through the rest of the book.

Okay, I guess some books are worth sticking with until the end :)

At what point do you walk away from a book? And what makes you do so?

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Rock of Ivanore - Review + Giveaway

Expected publication: May 15th 2012 
by Tanglewood Press

The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn’t tell them what the Rock is exactly or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. If he succeeds, he will live a life of honor; if he fails, he will live a life of menial labor in shame. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is at it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.

Middle readers will find that The Rock of Ivanore fits nicely among the traditional fantasies they so enjoy. They will also appreciate its fresh and inventive take on the genre.

I especially enjoyed the character and plot development of this book. It is the perfect "epic" story for MG readers: awesome storyline and set-up for following books, but not so long as to be intimidating to middle readers. If we could take the tone of Lord of the Rings and make it 10-year-old friendly, we'd have The Rock of Ivanore.

The characters are what totally make this story shine--especially Xerxes, the talking, walking-stick. Love him! Every one of the boys is individual and likable, with unique traits that add something to the overall storyline. I love the pacing and world building and easy readability. 

This is the perfect choice for middle grade fantasy lovers!

To help spread the fun of this new adventure, I will randomly choose one winner from the comments (must be a follower of this blog) to win my ARC. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Navigating the Waters - Middle Grade Books on Friendships and the Mystery of Boys

Imagine this scenario-a grade school recess and sixth grade girls who inhabit a particular spot that has been their traditional hangout, where they act out plays they write, have drawing contests, or just sit and talk. Enter sixth grade boys, who for reasons unknown have decided they now want the spot. What do the girls do? Their first strategy is to try to talk about boring things to drive the boys away. Some of these girls have been caught up in the urban farming trend that has hit the city, raising chickens, so they are wildly interested in all things poultry. Lots of chicken talk ensues about the cuteness of baby chicks and what to name them. Boys respond by telling disgusting stories about chickens and ways they can die. The situation devolves until leaf and mulch throwing at each other draws teachers. All are sent inside.

These kids are only months away from 7th grade and new schools, and there is a lot to learn about how to get along in that new world. This is an actual scenario that happened yesterday at my daughter’s school. (My) Nook is now filled with middle grade books about boys and friendships, because that’s what my daughter wants to read. She has picked them herself based on recommendations from her friends, because I am the clueless mom when it comes to these sorts of books. None of them deal with any of the serious issues Michael G-G talked about in his last post on Project Mayhem, but there’s a need for these lighter books as well, especially for those kids whose geeky parents *cough* are little help in giving advice on navigating a tween social scene.

BOYS ARE DOGS (Annabelle Unleashed series) by Leslie Margolis

Sixth grader Annabelle has moved from an all-girls Catholic school to a public middle school where the boys run through the halls like wild animals. It’s all bewildering and overwhelming to her, and she dreads going to school. She also has a new puppy, and in reading the book on training it, she decides that just maybe boys can be trained with the same techniques.

Now I know some of our male readers may be insulted by this premise, but the second book in the series is titled GIRLS ACTING CATTY, so females don’t escape completely. I remember an old 1960s movie based on the idea of dog training and romance, but I can’t remember the title. If anyone else does, please leave it in the comments. There is also a third book coming out in May in the Annabelle series, EVERYBODY BUGS OUT, and I'm sure it will appear on my ereader the day it does.

THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB series by Heather Vogel Frederick.

Four sixth grade girls with very different personalities become friends after their mothers form a book club to read classic books. LITTLE WOMEN is the choice in the first book, and details about it and Louisa May Alcott’s life are woven in to the story. There are five books in the series so far, and in each, the book club is the backdrop for the stories about the girls and their families, and their lives at school. These books remind me a little of some of the old English village life stories, like those by Miss Read, and could be the kid version of AND THE LADIES OF THE CLUB by Helen Hooven Santmyer.

If anyone has recommendations for other books like these, please let me know. And here’s a question-Did you read these sorts of books when you were that age? Did you learn anything about boys (or girls) from those books?

~ Dee Garretson

Monday, April 16, 2012

What Are the Middle Grade Taboos?

Late last year, I was one of the first round judges for the Cybils' Awards and consequently read a slew of middle grade novels. (I was on the non-fantasy panel, so I didn't get to read any novels with wand-wielding wizards or even talking animals.) After it was over, I started to see various similarities in plot. For example, many times adults were absent through death or divorce. Or, if parents were present, they were  preoccupied. In a number of novels, children were bullied and often lonely. There were a number of main characters who were self-described nerds.

Being middle grade, there were stirrings of romantic love (first crushes), rather than all-out attraction. There was no smoking, drinking, or swearing--which for anyone who's spent any time around middle school students is a rather idyllic picture.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we middle grade writers people our novels with kids who curse or who otherwise have run off the rails. (After all, much of the middle grade audience is still in elementary school.) But it did get me to thinking whether middle grade novels represent the world as we want it to be, rather than the world as it is.

Here's a starter list of subjects which Middle Grade fiction deals with, and subjects which--at least to me--seem underrepresented. Can you lead me to novels which deal with underrepresented topics? Or conversely, can you add to either column on my list?

Subjects permissible in MG
Subjects Largely Unrepresented in MG

Death (especially parents/grandparents)
Life-threatening illness
Autism, dyslexia, ADHD
Physical disabilities

Supernatural, incl. ghosts and witches
Characters religiously observant
Being bullied


Dealing with Racism

Friday, April 13, 2012

Getting Your Hands Dirty

 Sometimes opportunity presents itself and you get to experience something unique, and other times you have make those experiences happen.

A couple years ago a forest fire broke out about a half mile from our house while we were away on a canoe trip over the weekend. It wasn’t a big fire and luckily no houses burned.
At the time I was writing a story set in a place that has recently burned.

So, I hiked out to the burn and stomped around, watching the way the ash puffed up from my shoes.

Then I inhaled deeply through my nose trying to experience the smell, and ended up in a sneezing fit.

 I put my hand in the ash. It was still a little warm, and was neither as dirty nor as fine as the ash from my wood stove.

In doing research for another story, I tried to set a space blanket on fire but all it did was crinkle and melt. 

Don't try this at home. Oh, wait. That's where I tried it.  

Anyway, I had to change that little detail in my story. I was hoping the space blanket would burst into flames. I mean, the label said, "flammable." And to me flammable means fire.

Have you done hands-on research for your stories? Did you find out anything unusual? Did you have to change your story based on your findings?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How literate are your characters?

Every character in every novel is different. They're people, composed of different traits and personality quirks to make them real and authentic. We have smart boys, athletic gals, tech geniuses, sports fans... the list of character traits goes on and on.

Something I haven't noticed much of, though, is bibliophiles.

bibliophile (n): a lover of books; a collector of books.

Oh, you'll have the aspiring journalist/novelist/writer-in-general. And maybe the character will even come with a little description saying "he/she loved to read." And yet the actual books, the role that reading plays in the character's life, will have little to do with the actual story.

There is the worry that mentioning any titles will date your book right off the bat. The potential is high that mentioning any middle-grade book that's popular nowadays will decrease the longevity of your own book. I mean, if a reader picks up your novel a few years from now, chances are low they'll know exactly which book you're talking about, seeing how quickly times change.

...Unless you're talking classics like Harry Potter, of course. See page 336 (paperback) of Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief: "He was reading a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front. I wasn't much into fantasy, but the book must've been good, because the guard took a while to look up."

Okay, so we don't want to date our books. Let's focus on the ways in which reading affects your character, shall we?
As a writer, you (hopefully) know the impact that books have on an average person's life. To me, it's magical that a few hundred pages of black-text-on-white-paper can make me cry, make me laugh, make my heart twinge and pound and ache in turn. Books are such precious things; stories take on their own lives, and no one knows this better than writers themselves.

So write it out. If your character is literate, show it to us. Make it part of your character's growth, or part of your character's past. Show how your character curls up with a new book on a rainy (or sunny) day, or turns to a well-worn title for a surefire pick-me-up when they need one.

Because if your character is literate... then I want to know. Because it means that I might just like them that much more. :)


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Hello everyone!

Project Mayhem is up for a blog award on Goodreads for the IBBA Independent Book Blogger Awards! 

Please show your support for all things middle-grade and give us your vote! The bigger we are, the more great middle-grade giveaways and posts we can do for YOU!

And look at all our red, white, and blue! I think that's a sure sign that we are patriotic to middle-grade writing, or maybe we just liked that background the best....hmm.
Voting opens today - April 23rd!

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for PROJECT MAYHEM for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Please Pass the Poetry: 6 New Poetry Books for Middle Graders

silly poetry...

April is National Poetry Month, but, unfortunately, tell that to a bunch of middle graders, and you just might get a groan or two (or is this only the students at the school where I work as a school librarian?). Anyway, I've found the key to poetry and middle graders is to jump right in. Don't talk about it--start reading! After all, poetry is meant to be heard, not just seen.

Here are some new poetry collections that I am looking forward to ambushing my middle graders with this month.

by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Will Terry (Illustrations). Dial, 2012.
ISBN 0803737165 (ISBN13: 9780803737167)

Bugs and poems! From ticks to bed bugs to lice, the creepy and the crawly are sure to drawn in the middle graders who love the yuck factor. By a slew of illustrious poets such as Marilyn Singer and Lee Bennett Hopkins.

by Douglas Florian, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
ISBN 0547688385 (ISBN13: 9780547688381)

Baseball--the other big April event, right? This book of baseball-themed poems, complete with Douglas Florian's great illustrations will appeal to anyone who's ever spent any time at all at the ball field.

by Susan Katz, Robert Neubecker (Illustrator),  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
ISBN 054718221X (ISBN13: 9780547182216)

Who doesn't love quirky facts about famous people? Especially people as important (and, let's face it . . . stuffy) as the presidents. 43 poems highlight little known facts about all those leaders of the free world. With historical notes, too.

by J. Patrick Lewis, Michael Slack, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
ISBN 0547513380 (ISBN13: 9780547513386)

This is the perfect example of "read it, don't talk about it!" Because these are math riddles wrapped in parodies of classic poems. Yeah, don't say "huh?," just go read them. And you might want to have the originals on hand when you share them with kids because they'll be asking for them for sure. By Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis.

by Rick Lieder, Helen Frost, Candlewick Press, 2012.
ISBN 0763656011 (ISBN13: 9780763656010)

This one slows it down a little--instead of rowdy, funny poems, it's one poem, about stopping to really see what's around you in nature. Paired with stunning photographs that get even the most antsy middle grader looking closer.

by Ntozake Shange, Rod Brown, Amistad Press, 2012.
ISBN 0061337412 (ISBN13: 9780061337413)

An example of a picture book made for older kids. This one's free verse poems about the Underground Railroad. Their emotion puts readers (and listeners) right there in that world. Perfect for an immediate taste of history.

And finally,

by Laura Purdie Salas, Capstone Press, 2012.
ISBN 1429672099 (ISBN13: 9781429672092)

Okay, so this isn't a book of poems. But who doesn't share poems with kids without wanting to try some of their own? Laura Purdy Salas covers the basics while using pictures as inspiration.

Happy poetry reading! Do you have more ideas? Be sure to add your favorite middle grade poetry books in the comments.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Adults or Predults…We’re All Kids at Heart

Adults welcome!
There are some really amazing books that might very well be on the shelves disguised as adult fiction when, in fact, they would find themselves at home on any YA or MG bookshelf. Crossover books? Perhaps. More like shared books of interest.

Let us all remember that Harry Potter was not considered an MG book when it was written and first marketed. Once YA/MG readers discovered it, they loved it. The fact is that two covers were designed, one for adults and one for kids! I remember being in the UK in 2000 and noticing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the original title of the US-renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone which sadly overlooked the actual relevance of something called the philosopher’s stone in alchemical history) on the shelf kids’ shelf in  London bookshop. The artwork was not the same as it was in the US but it was a cute illustration with the same spirit as the American version. Perusing the shelves, I came to the adult fiction section. There was a book with a dark edge, an obscured photograph of a train, foggy and mysterious. And the name of that book was (wait for it…) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone! Could it be? Were there two books by the same name… and by the same author? I may be a little slow in the uptake, but I was quick to realize that it was, in fact, the very same book. Talk about not being able to tell a book by its cover.

Harry Potter is an excellent example of books that appeal beyond the confines of their designated shelf. But we cannot always rely on different covers to guide us. We need to share books with each other to know what can work. A book (or series) I’d love to share is Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. The first book, The Eyre Affair, knocked my socks off. I think there are few things as exciting as finding a book so unique and incomparable, that upon finishing it I had to immediately turn back and read it again! No blurb can do it justice, though on the cover I have,  the quote from the Wall Street Journal says that the book “combines elements of Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The hero is a literary detective in a 1980s world that is not quite the one we know. In this world cloning is hip and dodos are the ‘in’ pet. There is street warfare between gangs with different theories of who wrote the works of Shakespeare. Croquet is an extreme sport.  And protecting the integrity of a manuscript can be, well, murder. And you don’t have to know all the literary references to appreciate this book. Like so many kid shows and films and stories, there are meanings on many levels and pleasure for all. There’s nothing worrisome or dangerous in the language or action, probably tamer in some respects than some books labeled YA. But it is enormously fun.

The reason books like Harry Potter and Thursday Next work for different ages is that they were not written for any genre. They were just written by excellent storytellers who can spin a good yarn. There was no attempt to be naughty or attempts to be tame. The books were written to be read and enjoyed and they can be, by adults and YA readers, alike.

It is one of my greatest pleasures when a reader claims that the book is written for his or her own age. I get adults (never kids, other authors, teachers, or librarians) who say the Young Inventors Guild is too mature, too young for teens, too old for MG readers, or should be read by adults. It makes me feel like I’ve done something right.

Posted by Team Member Eden Unger