Tag Archives: children’s lit

5-Q Interview with Author D. Robert Pease

Today I interview D. Robert Pease, author of the uniquely fun MG book, Noah Zarc.  If you missed my review yesterday, go back and read it! This story ranks high among of my favorites this year, and at 2.99, it’s a steal.  And now, Mr. Pease…

1.  This is your first book.  What road led you to writing, and more specifically, to writing for kids?  Share with us some of the events that got you here.

I’ve loved reading since since I was a kid, and I love story telling, so it was only natural I’d become a writer. But it wasn’t something I jumped into until later in life. I tried my hand at it in college, but frankly it was awful. Then life got in the way, jobs, marriage, kids. Then about ten years ago I read a biography of Tolkien, and I just fell in love with the idea again. I was so impressed by how he just immersed himself in his world to the point where he was practically “discovering” the story instead of telling it. This idea blew me away, so I sat down at my keyboard and started discovering worlds of my own. The first book I wrote was an epic fantasy. My ode to Tolkien. Not really a kid’s book. I actually think it has some good aspects to it, but have realized it just may be a little TOO Tolkienish. About this time my son had become a voracious reader. My wife was having a difficult time keeping him in books. I thought it’d be cool to write something he’d enjoy so I started writing Noah Zarc. I actually wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) A crazy challenge in the month of November which simply says write a whole book in one month. So I took the challenge and wrote the first draft in thirty days. The most enjoyable part was every evening, my son would read what I wrote that day. So I literally wrote it for him. As I wrote I thought: “What would he like?” “Would he think this is funny? and so on. And it was so rewarding to hear him snicker, or worry when things got hairy. I was hooked. I’ve just come to think that there is no greater audience than this age group. Just imagining kids smiling, or laughing, or reading parts out loud to their parents, gets me through the tough spots when the words won’t flow.

2.  Every major culture group has its own version of a Flood story.  I even ran across one in the research for the Civil War book I’m currently writing (who’da thought?) and included it in my story.  But you have created a very unique spin.  You start with Noah’s Ark, which most people relate to Sunday school class, and finish with Star Wars!  How did you ever arrive at such an unlikely idea?

The idea for the book simply came from the name, Noah Zarc (which in actuality came from a friend of mine, I think.) It was a fun play on words, and brought up all kinds of cool, science fictiony images. I loved the idea of a look at the Noah account in space. It’s funny though, since I wrote Noah Zarc I’ve actually started thinking about this kind of story in an even broader sense. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Rick Riordan’s new spin on old Greek mythologies in his Percy Jackson series. I love this concept and began to think, why couldn’t I do the same thing with stories from the Bible. All these great stories I grew up listening to in Sunday school could make fantastic fodder for new stories. I’ve got the first draft of a book based (very loosely) on Joseph and the coat of many colors. And I just finished a short story based on the book of Job. The story ideas are almost limitless.

3.  Every author writes a book with some take away value in mind.  It may be simple entertainment or, in my case, a hope to teach a little history along with the adventure.  What do you hope kids will take away from Noah?

Well, first and foremost I did just want to write a book that kids would have fun reading. But, I also wanted it to be a story with some “meat” in it. At its core, Noah Zarc is about family, and everything they do to show their love for each other. And since this was a story I wrote to my son, I really wanted to give a little glimpse into how much I love him and would do to protect him. I hope that comes across to kids. Of course it is impossible for them to really know how much their parents love them until they have kids of their own, but maybe this’ll give them a little glimpse. I also am a huge believer in being good stewards of the world we have been given, but approaching that stewardship in a balanced fashion. I think too many people today go to the extremes, either believing that above all else the earth’s resources should be protected over the rights of humans, or should be exploited do the detriment of Earth. I hope kids take away from Noah Zarc that somewhere in between is the best approach.

4.  And now, in an effort to spice up interviews that can get a little routine, I’m going to start throwing in a totally random question.  Here’s my first-ever:  Describe for us your perfect sandwich.  (Guess that wasn’t technically a question, was it?  Ah, but that was!)  Oh, and no synthburgers, please.

I do love a good hamburger, I’m not sure I’d be too happy with synthburgers either. But I’m not sure hamburgers count as sandwiches. So my perfect sandwich would be turkey, lettuce, swiss cheese, sweet pickles, green peppers Miracle Whip, and mustard on homemade bread. Tasty, but maybe a little hard to fit in my mouth. 

5.  And now the request I always end with, please share with us some of your favorite books and authors.

Number one for me is The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was the master when it comes to creating worlds that you are convinced must exist somewhere. Others would be: Dune, by Frank Herbert, The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny and The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffery. More recently, I’ve really enjoyed Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. He just cracks me up.

Thanks so much, D. Robert, for stopping by and chatting with us!

You can find Mr. Pease at his website (which includes his blog).  He’s a cool guy, so stop over and say hello. Or find him on Facebook or Twitter. And if you haven’t done it yet, get your fanny over to Amazon and buy Noah Zarc!!!  It’s available in paperback and Kindle editions.  

Anabar’s Run, by Will Granger, 2010, Book Review

anabarThis marks the first time I’ve actually solicited an author for a book to review on my blog. The title intrigued me. I just love the name Anabar. But I have to admit, it took me a little time to warm to the story.

Anabar’s Run starts out slowly, with a wide, panoramic view of the valley and a lengthy description of its inhabitants. The prose is very straightforward, often repetitive, and not particularly artful. It has the narrated, old-fashioned feel a fairy tale, and I didn’t really care for the style. I had requested the book, however, so I felt obligated to press on. I am glad I did.

Once Anabar makes the choice to leave home and train with Omalof to be a Scout, the story becomes much more intriguing. Anabar fills out into a real character as he struggles to measure up to his teacher’s expectations. I found myself cheering him on as he undertook his training. Very thorough training, I might add. Granger obviously has some experience in survival basics to be able to relay it so realistically. Anabar is taught to fight with a sword, to move silently, to fish, to eavesdrop without being noticed, and a hundred other skills I never would have thought to include. By his final test, I was fully in Anabar’s court and thoroughly drawn into the story. It ends a little bluntly, but it ends right.

Now a note on content. The language is clean. There is some violence, but it’s easily within the bounds of child-appropriate. The main character is sixteen, but I wouldn’t hesitate to let young middle graders read it. In fact, I think they might be more suited to the writing style than teens. They’ll surely love the adventure. I’d judge the book’s best audience in the 8-14 age range and particularly – but not exclusively – boys.

In conclusion, Anabar’s Run didn’t make my favorites list, but the story ended up being pretty solid. If you have an adventurous boy OR girl, I’d definitely say it’s worth picking up for its bargain price of 2.99.

Mr. Granger has a really cool website dedicated to the series that I think kids will enjoy.

Anabar’s Run is the first book of the Anabar Trilogy.  Book two, Anabar Rises, is also complete.  Mr. Granger has just begun work on book three.

Anabar’s Run is available as an ebook only.  Find it at:

Tomorrow:  5-Q Interview with Anabar author, Will Granger.

Savvy, by Ingrid Law, 2009, Book Review

savvySavvy is a uniquely-styled book that won Newbery honors last year. Its most outstanding feature is the rhythmic nonsense words that flood the prose, creating a style all its own  “Fibertygibbity,” “a fizz and a zing,” “jump and jive,” “razzmatazz,” “bumping, jumping,” “stumbled and tumbled,” “gewgaws,” and “…loosening his lip-lock.” Ms. Law has a very distinctive and catchy way of saying everything, which makes her book quite unforgettable.

So how’s the story, you ask? Fabulous! Every member of the Beaumont family is gifted with some kind of savvy that shows up on their thirteenth birthday. Grandpa stretches and manipulates the earth, Rocket’s sparks with electricity, Fish creates tropical storms, Grandma catches and cans radio waves, and Mibs? She’s about to find out. But just before her birthday, her father is in a terrible accident. In an attempt to get to him, she stows away on a pink Bible delivery bus and drags a lot of people into trouble with her. In the process, she learns that turning thirteen signals a lot more changes than just a savvy.

The cast of characters contains some gritty, down-to-reality kinds of folks. The pastor, for one, is decidedly human. And Miss Rosemary, the preacher’s wife, is well-meaning but someone you can’t wait to wave good-bye to.  Lester, the not-so-bright Bible deliveryman finds that confidence and a good woman sometimes go hand-in-hand. The kids, Will and Fish and Bobbi and Mibs, squabble and fight and end up better friends. And the Beaumonts?  Even a savvy doesn’t make you perfect, even when perfection is your savvy. By the end, you love them all.

On top of a great story and great characters, Savvy is sprinkled with little life lessons that make the book all the tastier. Like “you can’t get rid of part of what makes you you and be happy.” Or “I realized that good and bad are always there and always mixed up together in a tangle.” Or my favorite, “when something like that comes along, whether it’s an accident or a savvy or a very first kiss, life takes a turn and you can’t step back. All you can do is keep moving forward and remember what you’ve learned.”

While the gibberish words sometimes wore me down, and I imagine they might be challenging for a reader unfamiliar with them, they also add to the book’s charm. And Savvy definitely has a lot of charm. Two thumbs way up!

 

5-Q Interview with Author Elise Stokes

If you missed yesterday’s post, click here to see my review for Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula then zip on  back here for a few questions and answers with author Elise Stokes.  By the way, Ms. Stokes donated some Kindle editions of her book.  Click here for giveaway details.

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?  How did it come about?

Trixie Belden gave me the writing bug. I devoured that series in fifth grade, and then decided to write a mystery series of my own. I still have the first book, written on lined paper in pencil, a proud 150 pages front and back. I wrote a couple short stories for my high school newspaper and a couple more my freshman year of college, but then got caught up in the busyness of life and put my passion to write on the back burner. Twenty years and four kids later, I read an article about Stephenie Meyer and learned that she had written Twilight with three little boys underfoot.  Right then and there, I decided if Stephenie could find the time so could I. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula is the result of that decision. It’s amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.

What inspired the Cassidy Jones Adventures?

My husband lit that spark. After determining to write again, I couldn’t come up with any solid storylines, so he suggested we brainstorm. While throwing ideas back and forth, one of his struck me: a boy superhero whose senses, strength, and speed are radically enhanced. Needless to say, I loved the idea, with one stipulation: the superhero had to be a girl. Once the seed was planted, the story quickly unfolded.

You were once an elementary school teacher.  What was your favorite part of that job?  Was writing a natural outgrowth?

Though I adored my students, my favorite part of teaching–believe it or not–was writing lesson plans.  I taught at a small Christian school that had a very loose curriculum, which was wonderful for me since it allowed room to really let my creative juices flow and build a fun literature-based curriculum. Those years of teaching were a blast!

I wouldn’t say writing per se is a natural outgrowth of having been an educator, however, my desire to produce quality, age-appropriate literature is. My children are also a huge motivating factor in this regard.

When can we expect the sequel, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift?

Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift will be released this fall and I can hardly wait! In book two, I develop one of my most favorite characters: Jason Crenshaw, Cassidy’s twenty-five-year-old neighbor who had decided that he never wanted to grow up. Plus the new super villain is awesome!

Thanks, Elise, for your time and for creating such a great series.  And also thanks for donating a few Kindle copies to my readers!

Click here to buy your own copy of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula.

Check out Elise’s website:  http://www.cassidyjonesadventures.com

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), by Rick Riordan, 2005, Book Review

the lightning thief“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.

If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. 

Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.”

Percy Jackson is a troubled twelve-year-old who’s been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD and been kicked out of every school he’s ever attended. Then in sixth grade, his life really starts to tank. Particularly when his pre-algebra teacher turns into a bat-winged monster and tries to kill him. Things go from bad to worse until he learns he’s only half human. Then the fun really begins.

Rick Riordan’s imagination is astounding. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a quest among the ancient Greek gods, a fresh and unique setting for tween readers. He kept me on the edge of my seat all the way to the end of the book with a great mix of suspense, action and a hilarious writing style. Consider some of my favorite moments:

“Mr. Brunner was this middle-aged guy in a motorized wheelchair. He had thinning hair and a scruffy beard and a frayed tweed jacket, which always smelled like coffee.”

“He looked like a cherub who’d turned middle-aged in a trailer park.”

“Standing behind us was a guy who looked like a raptor in a leisure suit.”

The one drawback to using the ancient gods in a book for kids is their legendary tendency toward promiscuity. In Camp Half-Blood, where Percy goes for the summer, a cabin is built for each god to collect all the cast-off children he or she has created with mortals. In a book for kids, this background of complete social dysfunction makes me cringe. But Riordan’s handling of it never crosses any bounds of propriety, never prompts kids to start asking questions that demand uncomfortable answers. It’s simply a pitfall of featuring gods. I greatly appreciate the restraint Riordan uses concerning inappropriate language. It’s nice to make a recommendation without having to include that post script.

One of my favorite things about The Lightning Thief is the way it becomes personal immediately. Warning kids right off that they might share Percy’s half-blood condition, that they too might be in danger, lends his predicament authenticity and sends a thrill of danger through the reader. It sure caught me right away. Riordan also makes effective use of his chapter titles. With headings like “I Accidentally Vaporize my Pre-algebra Teacher” and “Grover Unexpectedly Loses his Pants,” what kid isn’t going to keep reading?

I know I’m coming to this series extremely late, but there may be others even more behind the times than me. On the chance that you, reader, happen to be one of the twenty-five Americans left who haven’t read it yet, let me encourage you to look up Percy Jackson. I give this book my enthusiastic, whole-hearted approval. Be assured, I will be looking up the sequels. They are: