Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dark Trends Teen Lit.

The New York Times had quite an interesting article on the trend toward dystopian writing in teen fiction.  It's worth checking out, including the various comments after the article.  Then follow up with the discussion on agent Suzie Townsend's Confessions of a Wandering Heart blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This John Green clip is too funny to resist

I've already declared my away status, but I couldn't resist this too funny John Green video. Green just happens to be one of my fav. YA authors...and he was on Jeopardy (well sort of)...and he does an awesome happy dance.  

What more can you want from an author?  Good books you say...Ya, he's got those too.

An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska are both sooo good.

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WGSS Teacher Skit Flash Mob - Don't Stop Believin' (Glee) - Christmas Sk...

Advertisement from December 1922 issue of the ...Image via Wikipedia
Wishing everyone out there a fabulous holiday season.  Here's a little Xmas present from Walnut Grove High School Teachers and Admin.  I wish my high school staff had been this much fun...Back Soon.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bull's Eye by Sarah Harvey

I love Sarah Harvey.  For one thing, she's an amazing writer, and for another, she's incredibly prolific.  In fact, I can't seem to keep up with her.  I thought I'd read most of her books, and then the other day I came across Bull's Eye, a young adult high interest novel for reluctant readers that I couldn't put down.  Harvey has a hook-you-from-the-get-go style that doesn't let up.  Listen to the opening line..."I'm the only one home when the UPS guy delivers the package that blows up my life."

See what I mean!  And, the package in question has nothing to do with real bombs, at least not of the 9/11 sort.  The explosion that rocks Emily's world is an emotional one; and once it goes off, it sends both her and her mother reeling.  The package contains the truth about Emily's real mother, now dead of a drug overdose.  Everything the "un-mom" has told Emily is a lie.  Emily has to get away.  She has to find out who her father is.  It doesn't take long to track him down, but she's too late by a year having been killed by a drunk driver.  Emily returns home but finds herself lashing out but she gets caught before things escalate too far.  She's fortunate enough to be sentenced under the restorative justice model; counseling once a week and community service twice a week at an after school daycare.  This is where she meets a 7-year-old April who helps her discover that family isn't all about biology.

Bulls Eye is a quick read, but like most of the other books from The Sounding Series, it's well worth the 100 or so pages and hour or two of your time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Smell of Paint

Air Productions Co. did this book trailer for The Smell of Paint. I realize that I forgot to post this trailer.  Better late than not at all!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Opportunities for Young Authors

Hey if you are a keen young writer and you're 15 or older, check out this They do weekend workshops during the winter, but a longer writing camp during the summer, so even if you don't live near Edmonton, Alberta, you should check them out.  They offer one-on-one blue pencil cafes, authors/teachers who are some of the best in their field including TV script writers, and they've even started a Spoken Word Youth Choir.  Here's one of their performances written by Gail Sidonie Sobat.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

So last week one of my daughters and I spent a rainy afternoon watching the new Harry Potter movie.  I admit, that I went in with attitude; I loved the books...all of them.  Would the movie be as good?  But, as a serious fan, it's hard to stay away.  Just like the previous two Potter films, my attitude was swept away within the first few minutes  The movie was totally absorbing.  In fact, when the lights went on I wasn't ready to let go of Harry, Hermione and Ron. 
 The film is centered around the fast-paced race for our three heroes to find and destroy the evil Horcruxes before the Dark Lord can get his hands on them.  Unfortunately, it seems the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School of Magic have already been infiltrated by said evil so our three heroes are on their own.  While they do get help from an unexpected quarter, the movie ends with a chilling scene that will leave you on the edge.

There were so many scary scenes though, that I wouldn't recommend this one for kids.  I mean there were times when I found myself either closing my eyes or biting my nails or both.  And if the truth be known, more than one involuntary gasp escaped my clenched jaw...resulting in a hissed "shhhh" from my daughter. 
So what I want to know is...When is Part 2 out! Since I can't wait, I'll probably be rereading the whole book sometime very very soon.  I did notice that a game for The Deathly Hallows Part 1...but, you probably already knew that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Today I'm going to see the new Harry Potter

Off to see Harry Potter this afternoon.  I know...I know.  You've probably already seen it.  But, I refuse to line up in the rain, which is what I would have had to do to see it sooner.  I hear it's quite dark, which would be in keeping with the novel.  Will report back.

Also have another review coming up of one of Sarah Harvey's books, but probably won't get to that until my daughter, who is visiting, heads back home to Vancouver.

In the meantime, here are some virtual cookies for you to munch.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CBC Books - The Book Club - YA Death Match final round

Anne of Green Gables (1985 film)Image via Wikipedia
If you're a fan of Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, you better come to her defense because she's about to get smacked down in the CBC Books - The Book Club - YA Death Match final round against Harry Potter and Clary Fray. Clary calls Anne "more suitable for tourists looking for a photo than for battle". She doesn't consider Harry Potter a serious contender either and recommends throwing Potter pity party given that he's had it so tough going to a private school and all. So, get on over to the CBC - YA Book Club and vote if you don't want Anne to be history!
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Writer's Digest 11th Annual Short Story Competition

For anyone out there who happens to be crazy enough to want to get into the writing business, Writer's Digest is having a short story writing contest with some seriously sweet prizes.  They're looking for bold and brilliant stories under 1500 words.  You don't have much time.  Contest submission closes December 1, 2010.  So get writing, and once you've got a completed manuscript, edit, edit, and edit some more.
101 Best TC ClipImage by yeah but via Flickr
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 Governor General's Award for young adult lit.

Children’s Literature – Text

Wendy Phillips, Richmond (British Columbia), Fishtailing(Coteau Books; distributed by Publishers Group of Canada)
In this highly-inventive, poetic narrative, four compelling characters take the reader on a wild ride through the dangerous terrain of friendships threatened by manipulative acts. Deftly switching voices,
Wendy Phillips creates a powerful momentum in Fishtailing that leaves the reader breathless.

Monday, November 15, 2010

CBC Books - The Book Club - YA Death Match, round two bonus showdown: Boy Sherlock Holmes takes on Alanna

In more news, Boy Sherlock Holmes needs your votes in CBC's Book Club's "YA Death Match".

Which is your favorite sleuth? My colleague Shane Peacock (author of the Boy Sherlock Holmes series) is counting on your votes as his character takes on Alanna from the Song of the Lioness series. Follow the link to vote NOW. CBC Books - The Book Club - YA Death Match, round two bonus showdown: Boy Sherlock Holmes takes on Alanna.

Interesting Interview with Suzanne Collins

The hunger games by suzanne collins free giveaway
The "Where do you get your ideas from?" may be one of the most common questions asked of authors, but it is often a very complex one to answer.  I came across an excellent interview with Suzanne Collins, author of The Huger Games Triology in the Huffington Post.  It's well word reading.  What I found most interesting was how bits and pieces of things came together to inspire her...the desensitizing influence of television, the Greek  Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in which 14 children are sacrificed to keep Athens safe, and Spartacus (a classic film starring Kirk Douglas as a rebellious Roman slave which just happens to be one of my all time favorites).  The magic of writing is in taking all these threads of inspiration and ideas and weaving them together into a compelling story.  No question that Suzanne Collins has done just that.
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Salt by Maurice Gee

I recently read Salt by New Zealander, Maurice Gee while on a road trip to the American Southwest and couldn't put it down.  Set in a dystopian world on the brink of destruction, it it is a world that shares similarities with our own.  Salt is the classic story of a boy and a girl from opposite social classes who find themselves dependent upon each other for their struggle to survive.

Hari lives in Blood Burrow, the decaying remains of a city that lies in ruins.  The inhabitants of Blood Burrow must fend for themselves against packs of starving dogs, rats, and the "Company Whips" who come in search of forced labour.  Hari's father Tarl is captured by the Company Whips, but his resistance earns him a place in Deep Salt, a terrible mine from which no one has ever returned.  Hari has no choice but to try to save his father.  Along the way he meets Pearl, a privileged girl from the city where Company operates.  The fact that she is fleeing her former life as well as an arranged marriage, doesn't endear her to Hari.  But, he needs her help, and the help of her extraordinary maid, Tealeaf to save his father from Deep Salt.  And, the three share the same unusual ability to communicate telepathically.

The fact that Gee's pacing is impeccable, that his descriptions are easy to visualize, and that his characters are compelling, makes this a story worth reading.  Still, Salt offers much more.  The world Gee has built is one you'll want to know more of because it shares so much with our own.  It is a place where greed prospers alongside unselfish sacrifice.  It's a world with potential for greatness, and equal potential for senseless violence.  It is a world that teeters on the brink, and you'll want to know how it fares in the future.  And guess what! The second installment of this planned trilogy is available, so I'm off to buy book two, Cool.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest we forget

Poppies Field in FlandersImage via Wikipedia
Today's post is a poem written by John Gillespie Magee, a young Canadian  pilot who did not survive World War II.  He wrote this at age 19 a few months before he died.

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft thro' footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
*Thanks to my friend Linda Granfield for the reminder.  She's one of those special people in the world who has been able to lead the way in helping us celebrate fallen soldiers without glorifying war itself.  Thanks for all your work Linda.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Vow of Silence

I confess that I'm a community activist from way back...When I was in high school, I protested the Vietnam War, became a vegetarian in my staunchly meat-eating house, and helped get a recycling centre going.  So, when I came across The Vow of Silence sponsored by Free The Children as a way to raise funds to support Children's Rights, I decided I'd better post a link in case you haven't heard about it.  It's backyard activism at it's best.  Check it out and see if you agree, and if you do, get a friend or two to join in.                 The money you raise will make a difference to another kid or teen somewhere in the world we share.
Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the ChildrenImage by iomarch via Flickr

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The next travel installment

Here's the next travel installment...

Weather has been fabulous...we're so lucky.  Went to Arches National Park and had a really hard time leaving.  It's one of those magical places in the world, especially with so few tourists visiting during the late fall. Having stayed in nearby Moab, Utah, we were able to get there quite early.  The sky was crystal clear, and we definitely need our toques, gloves and down jackets.  We did several short hikes which added up since the elevation was between 3900 and 5800 feet.  One of the hikes we took was led by a young volunteer and his theme was survival of the park.  This is a place whose survival is in our hands.  These parks are such a treasure.  This is a place I want to go back to...

Down the road in another canyon cut by this lovely sedate river, we discovered some amazing petroglyphs.  There were dozens of panels that stretched about 125 feet along a rock face.  I'm including one of the panels.

We left these amazing petroglyphs just as the sun was setting and drove some long hours through two mountain passes that had me white knuckling the steering wheel so that we could be close to Zion National Park the next morning.  It was worth the drive even though it was probably the most developed of the parks we'd been to, complete with shuttle busses.  See for yourself.

The road out of Zion to Bryce is seriously scary with 1000 foot drops and no rail guards and a series of tunnels blasted through the sandstone during the depression.  One of the tunnels was over a mile long.

We stayed just outside of Bryce National Park that night and it's a good thing we did.  Although we woke up to sunny clear skies, by 2 pm, the first snow storm of the season hit. The altitude made for hard hiking.  We started out at 6500 feet and topped out at 9100 feet.  The last time I was there (30 years ago) I hiked the entire way up to Rainbow Ridge, but this time, we drove most of the way.  Still, it was beautiful.

After Bryce, we did a lot of driving...and driving...and driving until we hit the Columbia River Valley.  We decided to go to the top of the ridge for the views and discovered wind, and power in the form of 500 + wind turbines (soon to be 1000) in high ranch country.  I was kind of excited about the whole renewable energy in action concept until we had lunch in the tiny town of Bickleton (population 90) where a man by the name of Bob, the County Highways Supervisor informed us that most of the power produced in the area goes to California...go figure!

At least Bickleton is getting a new school out of the deal, although not much else seems to have changed there in the last fifty years.

The last place on our list to see was Mount St. Helens National Volcano Park.  On the way there the rain was coming down so hard that we could hardly see the road.  We were almost ready to cancel the Mount St. Helens portion of the trip, but decided to hang around to see if the weather cleared.  Lucky did. The views were stunning.  I remember when this volcano blew back in 1980.  The blast snapped trees as if they were matchsticks, and ash filled the air for months.  It changed the face of the valley, and the pacific northwest.  It reminded us that nothing is permanent.  After a few hours of fog, and a climb of a few thousand feet (by car, not foot), this was our reward...

We've only a few days left before crossing the border and taking the ferry home.  It's been a wonderful adventure.  Glad to have shared a little of it with you...


Sunday, October 31, 2010

The trip so far

Apologies.  It's been ages since my last post, but between driving, hiking, visiting, and reading natural history material in preparation for our next stop, I have been slack with posting.  But, we've been having a wonderful time so far and I do promise to post of  couple of reviews of books I've read soon.  In the meantime here's a bit of a travel log.

After a few days of visiting my mom, we went to Bodie, California, an abandoned mining town which sits at nearly 9000 feet.  It was fascinating.

Then onto Manzanar, California, the home of a US Japanese internment camp in the middle of Owens Valley (the place where water was taken from to feed LA; it's the basis of ChinaTown, a movie about how corruption let to 95% of the Valley's water being sucked dry).  Apparently it used to boast being fertile orchard country.

After another long drive, that included a tour through Death Valley before we visited the Grand Canyon.  These photos don't come close to the grandeur...

Then onto my brother Bart's  in Phoenix.  We cruised around Canyon Lake, which I hadn't been to since I was a kid (it's one of the nearby lakes where we used to camp when I was a kid).  We also went to the Museum of Music which is world class, and so well done; it was amazing and well worth a visit if you're in the area.  

When we left Phoenix we headed for more Canyon Country.  The first stop was Monument Valley where a lot of the westerns were filmed.  We also visited Gooseneck State Park.
We've been covering a lot of miles, but every day seems to be a highlight.  We visited Mesa Verde, one of the homes of the Anasazi (a word no longer in use by the way) which totally blew me away.  The drive up and down just about did me away, with hairpin turns and steep cliffs, it sits atop the very high dessert mesa pictured here.

I thought Mesa Verde was amazing.  Then we went to Chaco, New Mexico, another home of the "Ancient Ones" ( 850-1100 AD).  It was desolate and beautiful and amazing.  It's been called the North American equivalent to Stonehenge since the building site is aligned such that light shines through corner openings at specific times of the year to capture solar and lunar cycles.  It was a major cultural centre for the Pueblo peoples and comprised the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century.  It's mainly quarried sandstone, but the Chacoans hauled wood for roofing from as far as 50 miles away... without the aid of the wheel!

Next installment in our Four Corners visit is Arches National Park and  then Bryce Canyon and points north.