Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Knowing My Own Mind

There are times when I don’t know my own mind. Worse, there are times when I think I know my mind per­fect­ly well and then find an entire­ly dif­fer­ent mind on a lat­er vis­it to my opin­ions.

Which feels almost as though I have no mind at all.

Some time ago one of my favorite writ­ers came out with a new nov­el. I had been wait­ing for her next book for years, so, of course, I signed up to have it pop into my elec­tron­ic read­er at the first oppor­tu­ni­ty. It did, and I read it eager­ly.

I was dis­ap­point­ed. Pro­found­ly.

It wasn’t that the nov­el was bad­ly writ­ten. This author isn’t capa­ble of bad writ­ing. It was just that I didn’t care about the peo­ple she explored so deeply. And even know­ing their com­plex­i­ties, one lay­er exposed after anoth­er, didn’t make me want to spend time with them.

I didn’t have to wait near­ly so long for her next book. This time, though, I read it with cau­tion, with my new­ly acquired dis­con­tent. (Once burned.) This nov­el was … okay. But I wasn’t in love. I had been in love with her ear­ly nov­els. Besot­ted, real­ly.

Now anoth­er book is out. In a series of inter­wo­ven short sto­ries my once-favorite author explored many of the char­ac­ters from the pre­vi­ous nov­el, the one I didn’t dis­like but that had nev­er quite cap­tured me.

And before I had quite decid­ed to do so, I had fin­ished the lat­est offer­ing and gone back to reread the pre­vi­ous nov­el. The okay one. And I found myself reread­ing the book I had been so tepid about with new respect, even full-blown appre­ci­a­tion. Obvi­ous­ly, the book hadn’t changed on the page.

Next I intend to return to the first book that dis­ap­point­ed me. Will the change in me, what­ev­er caused it, now make room for that one, too?

As some­one who has for many years men­tored my fel­low writ­ers, I find myself won­der­ing. Is my opin­ion any more reli­able, any less emo­tion­al­ly based when I am eval­u­at­ing a man­u­script than it is when I approach a pub­lished nov­el?

When I cri­tique a man­u­script I always try, if I pos­si­bly can, to read it twice. Some­times a strong­ly held opin­ion from my first read­ing dis­solves on the sec­ond. When that hap­pens, I usu­al­ly trust the sec­ond read­ing. And, espe­cial­ly if it’s a long man­u­script, I rarely risk a third.

Is noth­ing in my mind sol­id, cer­tain? Are my opin­ions based on any­thing except emo­tion? Is all the log­ic in the world sim­ply some­thing I pile around me to jus­ti­fy my mood?

When I’m respond­ing to pub­lished work and the opin­ions I hold are only my own, the ques­tion is mere­ly a mat­ter of curios­i­ty. Some­thing to take out and won­der at in won­der­ing moments. How sol­id is this thing I think of as self with all its sup­port­ing frame­work of opin­ion?

When I’m respond­ing to a man­u­script-in-process, the ques­tion is one of pro­found respon­si­bil­i­ty. My opin­ion will impact anoth­er person’s work. And what if my response is, indeed, a prod­uct of my mood? What harm might I do to a piece of writ­ing in the name of help­ing?

The ques­tion is even more dis­con­cert­ing when I face my own work. Some days I am utter­ly con­fi­dent of this new nov­el I’m peck­ing away at. Oth­ers I’m equal­ly con­vinced that my entire premise is bogus.

I have long known that noth­ing impacts my writ­ing out­put more than my con­fi­dence. If I’m cer­tain that this piece I’m work­ing on is tru­ly good and I’m lov­ing writ­ing it, the words flow. (The true val­ue of what I pro­duce is a mat­ter for lat­er dis­cern­ment, my own and oth­ers.) When I doubt myself, each word arrives after a slog through mud.

How I wish there were a reli­able way to keep my writ­ing flow­ing, to keep my soul brim­ming with con­fi­dence.

Emo­tions are slip­pery, often hard to rec­og­nize and name, cer­tain­ly impos­si­ble to keep march­ing in a straight line, and yet I’m con­vinced this sup­pos­ed­ly log­ic-dri­ven world is more accu­rate­ly an emo­tion-dri­ven one.

It’s a scary thought!


License Plate 007

Writing Road Trip: License Plate 007

When I was a kid, my career ambi­tions wavered between detec­tive, mad sci­en­tist, shoe sales­per­son, teacher, and spy. For­tu­itous­ly, most of them have become crit­i­cal facets of my grown-up job as a writer.

My prac­tice as a spy came in handy just recent­ly when I need­ed to cre­ate authen­tic-sound­ing dia­logue for char­ac­ters who are young teenagers. In oth­er words, I eaves­dropped like crazy on my teenage nephews and their friends— vol­un­teer­ing to dri­ve car­pool for a few out­ings proved to be a gold­mine — but I also lurked via social media and posi­tioned myself strate­gi­cal­ly near ran­dom teenagers in pub­lic. It may be that their Adult Detec­tion Sys­tems alert­ed them to my inter­est, and there­fore skewed my results. But seri­ous­ly, dude, I doubt it: I’m like, 1 gr8 spy.

Eaves­drop­ping was a great reminder of the way that all of us, not just teenagers, real­ly talk: there are dif­fer­ent rhythms to dif­fer­ent people’s speech, we use cur­rent slang and off-col­or terms, we pre­fer con­trac­tions and oth­er short­cuts. I was remind­ed all over again how much less for­mal spo­ken lan­guage is. Real con­ver­sa­tions are com­posed more of inter­rup­tions, frag­ment­ed speech, rep­e­ti­tions for empha­sis, grunts of acknowl­edg­ment, body lan­guage, and silences than they are of for­mal­ly struc­tured sen­tences.

You can rarely, on the oth­er hand, just recre­ate an actu­al word-for-word chat in a sto­ry: your writ­ing would too quick­ly be weighed down by the out­right jib­ber-jab­ber and the sheer num­ber of con­ver­sa­tion­al “dudes” (or what­ev­er term is cur­rent­ly in vogue in mid­dle schools near you). Mak­ing your char­ac­ters sound authen­tic is impor­tant, but the way I explain it to my adult writ­ing stu­dents is, if you’re try­ing to estab­lish that a char­ac­ter has a Scot­tish brogue, you get only one “Nay, Lassie,” per 25,000 words.

And remem­ber that dia­logue is also charged with the large task of help­ing to tell the sto­ry: it reveals char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, advances the plot, and pro­vides action. That’s a lot for those lassies and dudes to have to car­ry — no won­der it’s a strug­gle for young writ­ers to write good dia­logue!

Remind­ing your stu­dents to ration out their slang and elim­i­nate excess is crit­i­cal, but more impor­tant, I’ve found, is to remem­ber to give them per­mis­sion to make their dia­logue infor­mal. If you don’t, they too often end up writ­ing stilt­ed con­ver­sa­tions where every­one sounds like a nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry British but­ler or a walk­ing research paper.

Effec­tive dia­logue lands some­where in the mid­dle between the way peo­ple real­ly talk and the way we’ve all been taught to write prose. Effec­tive dia­logue is less redun­dant and more expres­sive than real speech; it’s less for­mal and more frag­ment­ed than the rest of the sto­ry text sur­round­ing it.

A page of well-writ­ten dia­logue isn’t exact­ly what you might hear from the back of the van while you’re car­pool­ing — but it’s close enough that any good spy could decode it.


Skinny Dip with Cathy Camper

Cathy Camper

Are you fans of the Lowrid­ers graph­ic nov­els? We are! And we can’t wait for the next one. The author who thinks up those great sto­ries is Cathy Camper. We invit­ed her to Skin­ny Dip with the Bookol­o­gist … and she said yes! When we asked her point­ed ques­tions, here’s what she had to say.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

Eat­ing cake for break­fast just like Two Bits in The Out­siders.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Mak­ing my stu­pid lunch. I work full-time and it’s nev­er-end­ing! I make my lunch, go to bed, go to work, eat my lunch, go home, and have to make my stu­pid lunch all over again.

When are you your most cre­ative?

When I have a lit­tle bit of some­thing with caf­feine, prefer­ably dark choco­late, maybe a small gulp of cof­fee, then go for a run or walk, or some mind­less activ­i­ty that allows me to day­dream. When the ideas start to come, I write them down imme­di­ate­ly.

Raul III, Jon Scieszka

Raul III, win­ner of the 2017 Pura Bel­pre award for illus­tra­tion, with Jon Sci­esz­ka and Cathy Camper at the Chron­i­cle Books booth at ALA in Chica­go, 2017

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Indoor plumb­ing and clean water, in par­tic­u­lar, hot water WHENEVER you want a bath or show­er, and clean water when­ev­er you want a drink. I give great thanks for being born in a time and soci­ety where we have that lux­u­ry.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

I nev­er had kids. One less human.


Babies and Puppies

Mary Casanova's granddaughterWhat, real­ly, can be more life-affirm­ing than a beau­ti­ful baby or cud­dly pup­pies? On June 26th, both arrived in our lives. One baby — our first grand­child, Olivia — born to our son and Kore­an daugh­ter-in-law. We received the news via Face­Time from Seoul, South Korea. Though they had Broad­way relat­ed jobs in NYC, they opt­ed to move to Korea for awhile where they would have more time to work at becom­ing a fam­i­ly.

Hours after we received the news about our rose­bud grand­ba­by, two 8 month old pup­pies arrived on our doorstep. Lit­er­al­ly. The own­ers drove them to us, just to see if they might inter­est us and pos­si­bly work out. But how can you say “no” to plead­ing pup­py eyes? Though their own­ers loved these pups, their two sons with autism were not treat­ing them well. They urgent­ly need­ed to be re-homed. Could we refuse? We couldn’t. And didn’t.

Not long ago, we had three dogs, but lost two of them to old age at 14 and 16. We were down to one dog, Mat­tie, who is 10½. I had been keep­ing my eyes open for one pup­py. I wasn’t plan­ning on two.

Mary Casanova's new puppies

So here we are, our lives enriched with pho­tos, updates, and knowl­edge of our pre­cious grand­ba­by. At some point we will board a plane, go vis­it, and hold her in our arms. In the mean­time, two new pup­pies keep ask­ing for atten­tion — and I’m more than will­ing to cud­dle and snug­gle. After all, what’s life about, if not babies and pup­pies?


Capitulate vs Conquer

Students readingAs I eager­ly gath­ered up my ideas and insights for a fol­low-up arti­cle about last month’s “Mys­tery Read­er” top­ic, I found myself try­ing to nego­ti­ate two seem­ing­ly incom­pat­i­ble schools of thought regard­ing effec­tive lit­er­a­cy teach­ing and learn­ing. I am a huge pro­po­nent of stu­dent choice and voice (instead of teacher- or cur­ricu­lum-dic­tat­ed text selec­tions), teacher exper­tise (instead of reliance on script­ed pro­grams), and fos­ter­ing a life­long love and moti­va­tion for read­ing (instead of seek­ing the holy grail of high test scores). How­ev­er, late­ly I find myself grap­pling with the ide­al world of what lit­er­a­cy teach­ing and learn­ing could and should look like and the real­i­ty of the world most teach­ers live in, one filled with con­stant pres­sure to meet the stan­dards and pro­duce read­ers who show what they know by pass­ing high stakes tests. Search­ing my the­saurus for just the right words to describe this mixed feel­ing, I set­tled on “capit­u­late” and “con­quer.” Allow me to elab­o­rate.

Capit­u­late, in the strongest sense of the word is to say some­one is cav­ing in. A milder form of the word means to come to terms with some­thing that is per­ceived as unset­tling. It rep­re­sents the neg­a­tive side of the coin. Con­quer, on the oth­er hand, rep­re­sents vic­to­ry. It describes the abil­i­ty to over­come or avoid defeat. Def­i­nite­ly the pre­ferred side of the coin for most folks.

So what do these two oppos­ing words have to do with pro­mot­ing reflec­tion and enhanc­ing com­pre­hen­sion through ana­lyz­ing mis­cues of stu­dents’ oral read­ing (the essence of Mys­tery Read­er)? In shar­ing my enthu­si­asm for such a tech­ni­cal aspect to lit­er­a­cy instruc­tion, I must con­fess that I expect some excep­tion­al edu­ca­tors to dis­miss it because it sounds too dry, too focused on judg­ment of a reader’s per­for­mance, with not near­ly enough empha­sis on ignit­ing a pas­sion or pro­mot­ing read­ing joy. To those who might ques­tion the Mys­tery Read­er approach, it just might feel a bit like capit­u­lat­ing, like accept­ing a prac­tice that tries to quan­ti­fy a process that shouldn’t be used for any kind of mea­sure­ment, espe­cial­ly that of chil­dren.

But here’s the thing, with more than twen­ty-five years of expe­ri­ence as an edu­ca­tor, I can still vivid­ly recall just about every sin­gle for­mer stu­dent who need­ed more than his or her peers to dis­cov­er what it means to be a read­er and to find plea­sure in that expe­ri­ence. For some kids, con­nect­ing them with the right book is para­mount but equal­ly impor­tant is pro­vid­ing effec­tive instruc­tion that builds nec­es­sary foun­da­tion­al skills and strate­gies. Skills and strate­gies that won’t mate­ri­al­ize hap­haz­ard­ly. And that’s why I encour­age you to con­sid­er shar­ing this activ­i­ty with your stu­dents, enabling them to learn and under­stand the ben­e­fits of a pow­er­ful form of feed­back. Flip the coin, choose to con­quer the bar­ri­ers that keep some kids from know­ing what it feels like to get lost and found in a great sto­ry. And while it’s true that not all things that are mea­sured real­ly mat­ter and not all things that mat­ter are always mea­sured, I am con­vinced that run­ning records and mis­cue analy­sis deserve a place in our lit­er­a­cy teach­ing and learn­ing.

As promised in the first install­ment of Mys­tery Read­er, I have a few sug­ges­tions for col­lect­ing audio record­ings of anony­mous stu­dent read­ers to share with your mis­cue ana­lyz­ers. The first is a free app I’ve used exten­sive­ly, called VoiceRe­cord­Pro. With just a bit of explor­ing, I found the app to be user-friend­ly and per­fect for col­lect­ing oral read­ing sam­ples. Once record­ings have been cap­tured, it is easy to rename them, add notes and share them via drop­box, google dri­ve, or email. These options make it pos­si­ble to quick­ly swap record­ings with col­leagues in oth­er grades and schools to ensure anonymi­ty when shar­ing Mys­tery Read­ers with stu­dents.  VoiceRe­cord­Pro can also be used for all sorts of mul­ti­me­dia projects. My stu­dents first uti­lized it when illus­trat­ing and per­form­ing the poem, “If You Give a Child a Book” by Dr. Pam Far­ris. Check out our YouTube video here.

Anoth­er option for col­lect­ing oral read­ing sam­ples is using the “run­ning record” assign­ment tool from Read­ing A‑Z/Raz-Plus. Though I am not one to plug com­mer­cial, for-prof­it sites, I have to say I am a huge fan of this fea­ture and how it lends itself to Mys­tery Read­er. A free two-week tri­al is offered for the Read­ing A‑Z/Raz-Plus site that may be best known for its vast col­lec­tion of ebooks and print­able black­line mas­ter books. The annu­al cost for an indi­vid­ual teacher is close to $200, which is pricey, though dis­counts are offered to schools or dis­tricts sign­ing up for 10 or more sub­scrip­tions. The run­ning record fea­ture on the site allows teach­ers to access a pow­er­ful way to record and ana­lyze run­ning records as well as col­lect oral retellings. Stu­dent record­ings can be saved and shared with par­ents to demon­strate stu­dent growth over the year or they can be used with stu­dents dur­ing read­ing con­fer­ences or inter­ven­tion ses­sions.

I invite you to sub­mit ques­tions or con­tact me for more infor­ma­tion about how to use either method, VoiceRe­cord­Pro and Read­ing A‑Z/Raz-Plus to imple­ment Mys­tery Read­er.

A third col­umn relat­ed to Mys­tery Read­er will be shared in Teach it For­ward next month, with a focus on expand­ing the activ­i­ty to include reflec­tions and con­ver­sa­tions with stu­dents about read­ing con­fer­ences.


Pinkerton & Friends

I had a “Why in the world….?” moment the oth­er day. It was unex­pect­ed and a lit­tle strange and it was this: When I imag­ine pic­ture books that I am writ­ing and/or think­ing about writ­ing, I imag­ine very spe­cif­ic illus­tra­tions. From a very spe­cif­ic illus­tra­tor. Even though I admire the work of many illus­tra­tors. (I admire this one, too, of course.) But always, always, in my first imag­in­ing, I “pic­ture” the illus­tra­tions by Steven Kel­logg.

I love Mr. Kellogg’s work. But I love the work of a lot of illus­tra­tors and would aspire and hope for many (very dif­fer­ent) illus­tra­tors to make art to help tell my sto­ries. I can switch my imag­i­na­tion to oth­er illus­tra­tors if I think about it, but with­out think­ing about it…it’s Steven Kellogg’s art. When this real­iza­tion came to me I pulled some of his books off the shelves in my office with the ques­tion: Why is Kel­logg my default, the first one whose work I imag­ine?

All I can think is that the years 1999 – 2002 were what I think of as The Pinker­ton Years. You might think it strange that I can pin­point the years, but I know we were less involved with Pinker­ton (and by that I mean not read­ing Pinker­ton sto­ries on a dai­ly basis) by the time Dar­ling Daugh­ter came along late in 2002. Pri­or to that, we could hard­ly leave the house with­out a Pinker­ton sto­ry with us.

These were also the first of the allergy/asthma years — #1 Son was crit­i­cal­ly ill too much of the time, and with his doc­tors we were strug­gling to fig­ure out what was caus­ing such severe reac­tions. The only clear aller­gens were pets, and he came to under­stand first that he could not be around pup­pies or kit­ties, or any­thing else fur­ry and cud­dly and fun. A ter­ri­ble sen­tence, of course, when you are three and wheezy.

So we read a lot of books about pets, and before we read Rib­sy and Because of Winn-Dix­ie we read Pinker­ton sto­ries. A lot of Pinker­ton sto­ries. #1 Son adored Pinker­ton. Pinker­ton, a Great Dane, is pos­si­bly the most hilar­i­ous dog to ever be fea­tured in a book — he is huge and ungain­ly and always get­ting him­self in a fix. His expres­sions, his “knees and elbows,” his giant flop­pi­ness, and his curios­i­ty and giant heart make him quite a char­ac­ter.

Very quick­ly we learned to spot Kel­logg illus­tra­tions from across the library/bookstore, and pret­ty much wher­ev­er there are Kel­logg pic­tures, there are ani­mals. Not just great danes, but boa con­stric­tors, mice, cats, pigs, ducks in a row, hors­es, spaniels….. And wher­ev­er there are ani­mals, there’s a fair amount of chaos — at least in a Kel­logg book. (Arti­cles and inter­views sug­gest he has lived the fun and chaos in a home we could not have entered and lived to breathe — lots of pets!)

The detail in Kellogg’s illus­tra­tions is tremen­dous, the hilar­i­ty apt­ly con­veyed, and the sweet­ness and roller­coast­er high emo­tions of kids and Great Danes alike comes alive on the page. I could read stacks of the books in one sit­ting to my wheez­ing boy. We used them to get through neb­u­liz­er treat­ments, and to “push flu­ids,” and to encour­age rest for a kid all amped up on steroids. They were mag­i­cal and we poured over the illus­tra­tions long after the read­ing of the sto­ry was done. The med­i­cine could go down with­out much fuss as long as Pinker­ton was along.

Those were exhaust­ing, wor­ried years, and all I can think is that I some­how absorbed Steven Kellogg’s art in my sleep-deprived anx­ious state…and it’s now in my bones. Thank you, Mr. Kel­logg, for your sto­ries, your art, and your pres­ence in our family’s life. You are the default in my imag­i­na­tion and I’m grate­ful.



Me, All Alone, Reading This Book

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World

Some­times, the illus­tra­tions are won­der­ful but the lan­guage is cap­ti­vat­ing. You know how you read a pic­ture book and you can’t decide which part to focus on? Should you look at the pic­ture first? Should you read the sto­ry because it’s the thread that’s pulling you through?

Well, when you read “He was a long-leggedy man with a wide, wide hat and a beard in a cir­cle around his head. His glass­es reflect­ed the clouds,” the impe­tus is strong to read the sto­ry first and come back to look at the illus­tra­tions lat­er.

But then you peek at the illus­tra­tions and you real­ize there is always some­thing extra-ordi­nary going on in them. A branch is real­ly a worm-like crea­ture about to devour a pot of gold.

There is being alone, and there is lone­ly, and there is being busy, and there is a world of daz­zle and FUN. This is a book that explores each of those parts of life. The noise and the qui­et. The rau­cous gai­ety and the art of lis­ten­ing. The fun you sign up for and the joy you find and the nev­er-before-noticed amaze­ments you explore.

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World

This is a sto­ry book. It has a longer text which I believe is just right for read­ing out loud. The lan­guage is a rev­e­la­tion. It’s a para­ble of our mod­ern world. And then you real­ize, the sto­ry and the illus­tra­tions are vital to each oth­er. You can read this book again and again to notice a new phrase in Mr. Anderson’s writ­ing, a small ele­ment of won­der in Mr. Hawke’s art. This is a book that tells a sto­ry that means some­thing. It’s a trea­sure.

I missed this book when it was first pub­lished in 2005. Can­dlewick has reis­sued it. Don’t you miss it now.

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World
writ­ten by M.T. Ander­son
illus­trat­ed by Kevin Hawkes
Can­dlewick Press, 2005; reis­sued, 2017


Next Exit: Adventure

Writing Road Trip | Next Exit: AdventureSome­times just a town’s name is enough to entice you. Who could dri­ve past the exit for Last Chance, Ida­ho — or Hell, Michi­gan — or Hap­py­land, Okla­homa — with­out at least con­tem­plat­ing how your life might be changed if you took that unex­pect­ed detour?

All on their own, names tell a sto­ry. That’s why I often do an online search to learn as much as I can about a char­ac­ter name that I’m con­sid­er­ing for my writ­ing — look­ing up eth­nic­i­ty, vari­a­tions, mean­ing — because many times, it opens up new insights into that char­ac­ter for me (or proves to be the wrong choice). Have your stu­dents try an online search into the names of the char­ac­ters in the cur­rent sto­ry they’re either read­ing or writ­ing — it’s a fun lit­tle research side trip.

The “nam­ing” that I strug­gle with is in com­ing up with a title. This is usu­al­ly a labored effort for me, as it is for some stu­dents. Here are the sug­ges­tions I share with those who strug­gle to find a good “name” for their sto­ry:

  • Remem­ber that the read­er will look at the title first. You want it to grab the reader’s atten­tion.
  • Think about the kind of sto­ry you have writ­ten. The title can tell the read­er what kind of sto­ry it is: mys­tery, adven­ture, romance.
  • Look at all your sto­ry ingre­di­ents. Which ones do you think are the most inter­est­ing? How could you use them in a title?
  • Think about the most unex­pect­ed or sur­pris­ing thing in your sto­ry. Can you hint at that in the title, mak­ing the read­er feel like they need to read the sto­ry to fig­ure out a rid­dle?
  • Con­sid­er slang, word play, and if appro­pri­ate to the book, humor­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties.
  • What is the book about? What theme, or mes­sage, is at its heart? Is there a title that hints at that?

Final­ly, for a fun writ­ing warm-up for your class­room, ask your stu­dents to spend a cou­ple of min­utes com­ing up with an intrigu­ing title for a sto­ry they have not yet writ­ten. Then when they’re ready, have them trade titles with some­body near­by, and begin the sto­ry that fits the new title they have now been hand­ed. When writ­ing time is up, they can share what they have so far with the stu­dent who orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed the title.

An evoca­tive name (or title) is just the start of a grand adven­ture….


The Best Wish of All

World PizzaOnce in awhile I find a book on my read­ing pile that I’ve passed by a few times. It might be that the cov­er doesn’t make sense to me and I shuf­fle through to choose anoth­er title. Or the title might be sil­ly (in my mind) and I don’t open the book because some­thing else catch­es my inter­est. And then one day I open that book and I dis­cov­er that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cov­er. (Is there a truer tru­ism?)

This time that book is World Piz­za. It’s going to be about the dif­fer­ent kinds of piz­za around the world, right? It is not. There’s a clever play on words in the title which I wouldn’t have dis­cov­ered if I hadn’t opened the book and read it. (Note to self: open the book and read it!)

You see, World Piz­za is a love­ly book. It’s a tiny bit sil­ly, enough to keep those being read to smil­ing, but it’s real­ly a book about peace (I can’t fig­ure out how to rec­om­mend this book with­out giv­ing that away). A moth­er makes a wish and sneezes, result­ing in piz­zas for every­one, every­where. It’s a book about what we have in com­mon and how that brings us togeth­er and how that’s more impor­tant than what keeps us apart.

Cece Meng’s sto­ry is told with the right kind of words, words that tell the sto­ry as it should be told, which are words that get the read­er think­ing. And smil­ing. They are not preachy words. Not at all. It’s a hap­py book and we all need hap­py books.

Ellen Shi’s illus­tra­tions of a diverse pop­u­la­tion of char­ac­ters around the world eat­ing and cel­e­brat­ing piz­za, as well as piz­za com­bi­na­tions you’ve nev­er con­sid­ered before, open the reader’s mind to all the pos­si­bil­i­ties of World Piz­za. They are some­times fun­ny and some­times gen­tle in all the right ways, cre­at­ing a sto­ry that leaves an impres­sion. And her col­or palette is yum­my.

I can eas­i­ly see this book being asked for again and again. Who doesn’t want to hear a sto­ry about piz­za for every­one? And who doesn’t want to be reas­sured about the good­ness in this world we live in?

World Piz­za
writ­ten by Cece Meng
illus­trat­ed by Ellen Shi
Ster­ling’s Chil­dren’s Books, 2017


Skinny Dip with Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Cost­ner

We’re thrilled to Skin­ny Dip with out­stand­ing edu­ca­tor Suzanne Cost­ner, Thanks to Suzanne for answer our ques­tions dur­ing her very busy end-of-the-school-year hours.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K‑7 and why?

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Hill in 4th grade. She read to us every day after lunch: Stu­art Lit­tle, Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach. She intro­duced us to so many awe­some writ­ers that I still go back and reread.

When did you first start read­ing books?

I can’t remem­ber a time that I didn’t read. I still have my first lit­tle cloth book that I chewed on as a baby. My grand­moth­er had a set of Dr. Seuss books on the shelf and read them to me when­ev­er I stayed with her. I was read­ing on my own before I start­ed kinder­garten.

Suzan­ne’s first book, a Real Cloth book.

Your favorite day­dream?

In my day­dream, I am liv­ing in a lit­tle cab­in in the woods with my dogs and my books. There is a lit­tle stream gur­gling along near­by and sun­light fil­ter­ing through the trees.

Din­ner par­ty at your favorite restau­rant with peo­ple liv­ing or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

The Restau­rant at the End of the Uni­verse with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursu­la K. Le Guin, Anne McCaf­frey, Andre Nor­ton, Isaac Asi­mov, and Lloyd Alexan­der. My sis­ter and my nieces would have to be there, too.

All-time favorite book?

The Princess Bride—chas­es, escapes, sword­fights, tor­ture, pirates, giants, mag­ic, true love…

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

My favorite lunch was a peanut but­ter sand­wich, and I always asked for “a lid on it,” because I didn’t like open-faced sand­wich­es.

What’s your least favorite chore?

It’s prob­a­bly laun­dry, because the wash­ing machine is in the base­ment and it means mul­ti­ple trips up and down the stairs.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

Bounc­ing my ideas off my friends and hav­ing them sug­gest ways to make things even bet­ter.

Bare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Bare­foot, and either read­ing a book or lis­ten­ing to an audio book.

Toy RocketWhen are you your most cre­ative?

When I am writ­ing grant appli­ca­tions to fund more STEM activ­i­ties for my stu­dents. I can think of all sorts of ways to tie rock­ets, robots, and gad­gets into lit­er­a­cy instruc­tion.

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

I was a library aide in mid­dle school and loved being in the library and help­ing to get the new books ready for the shelf. That “new book” smell when the box was opened should be a sig­na­ture per­fume or cologne.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

O’Charley’s Caramel Pie ice cream from May­field Dairies (the best of both worlds)

What I'm reading nowBook on your bed­side table right now?

Astro­physics for Peo­ple in a Hur­ry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and The Unbreak­able Code by Jen­nifer Cham­b­liss Bert­man.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I have a brain that holds onto triv­ia, so I can come up with a song or movie quote for almost any occa­sion. Some­times at fam­i­ly din­ners we all just speak in movie quotes.

CowgirlYour favorite toy as a child …

I had a lit­tle wood­en rid­ing toy that looked like a giraffe. I rode it up and down the walk behind my grand­par­ents’ house. I also had a cow­girl out­fit, com­plete with boots and hat that I loved to wear.

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Dig­i­tal books so that I can go on vaca­tion with­out tak­ing a sec­ond suit­case just for all my read­ing mate­r­i­al.

Favorite artist? Why?

I love space and stars, so Van Gogh’s Star­ry Night is my favorite paint­ing. I don’t real­ly have one favorite artist.

Which is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

Spi­ders — because my sis­ter Jamie hates them and I have to res­cue her from them.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

Recy­cling. espe­cial­ly trad­ing in books at the used book­store, or using CFL bulbs in my read­ing lamps.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Because kids still fall in love with books. If they can lose them­selves in char­ac­ters and set­tings that are dif­fer­ent from their every­day world, then they can learn tol­er­ance and kind­ness.


Skinny Dip with Aimée Bissonette

Aimée Bis­sonette

We’re thrilled to Skin­ny Dip with Aimée Bis­sonette, who is the author of two acclaimed pic­ture books so far, North Woods Girl (Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Press) and Miss Col­fax’s Light (Sleep­ing Bear Press). Thanks to Aor tak­ing time away from writ­ing and work to answer Bookol­o­gy’s ques­tions!

When did you first start read­ing books?

My best friend, Lyn, taught me to read when I was 5 years old.

Fun with Dick and JaneLyn was a year old­er so she went to first grade the year before I did. When she got home from school, she would bring her read­ing books (the “Fun with Dick and Jane” series) over to my house. We’d sit on my front steps and Lyn would teach me every­thing she’d learned in school that day. I am sure I read with mem­bers of my fam­i­ly, too, but Lyn was the one who real­ly taught me to love read­ing.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

I always loved Sun­day break­fast grow­ing up. It was the one time of the week we were all guar­an­teed to be in one spot togeth­er. I have six broth­ers and sis­ters, so it was a bit of a chal­lenge to get enough food ready at the right time to feed every­one. (Remem­ber, this was before microwave ovens!) And it was pret­ty chaot­ic. My mom used to joke that when she wrote the sto­ry of her life, she would title it “Raw Eggs and Burnt Bacon.” Maybe I’ll write a book about her some­day with that title.

Sock basketBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Socks! I love socks! In fact, my moth­er-in-law used to laugh at the size of the sock bas­ket in my laun­dry room — you know, the place where you throw all those clean socks from the dry­er so you can pair them lat­er while watch­ing TV? My sock bas­ket is huge.

When are you your most cre­ative?

I am at my cre­ative best when I am out in nature. I love to hike, bike, and snow­shoe.  I walk every day — rain or shine, pud­dles or snow. I need to get away from my desk, smell out­door smells, lis­ten to bird­song. Nature always finds its way into my books.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Mint choco­late chip. Hands down.


Theater Geeks!

If your chil­dren (or you) are cap­ti­vat­ed by tal­ent shows on TV, or dreams of act­ing on the stage, or the next the­ater pro­duc­tion at school, there are a cho­rus line of books just wait­ing to audi­tion for your next favorite. Here’s a mix­ture of clas­sic and new sto­ries, rang­ing in inter­est from grades 3 through 7.

All the World's a Stage  

All the World’s a Stage
writ­ten by Gretchen Woelfle, illus by Thomas Cox
Hol­i­day House, 2011

Twelve-year-old Kit Buck­les has come to Lon­don to make his for­tune. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he’s caught up in crime to stay alive. Imme­di­ate­ly caught in his first pick­pock­et­ing assign­ment, Kit is enthralled by the Lord Cham­ber­lain’s Men to do odd jobs for their The­ater Play­house. When the act­ing troupe is evict­ed, Kit is caught up in the plot to steal the the­ater! William Shake­speare is a char­ac­ter is this sto­ry and the well-researched his­to­ry that defines this nov­el is excit­ing. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


The Best Christ­mas Pageant Ever
writ­ten by Bar­bara Robin­son
Harper­Collins, 1971

It can be argued that this is one of the fun­ni­est books ever pub­lished for chil­dren. When the Herd­man chil­dren learn that there are free snacks at the church in their neigh­bor­hood, they attend Sun­day School even though they haven’t heard of Jesus and the Christ­mas sto­ry before. When they’re cast in the Christ­mas pageant, the sto­ry of Jesus’ birth takes unusu­al — and eye-open­ing — turns. It’s a laugh-out-loud book with a heart-tug­ging end­ing. Many fam­i­lies read this out loud each year as part of their hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions but it’s a well-writ­ten book that works well any time of year.

Better Nate Than Never  

Bet­ter Nate Than Ever
writ­ten by Tim Fed­er­le
Simon & Schus­ter, 2013

Thir­teen-year-old Nate Fos­ter has been grow­ing up in small-town Penn­syl­va­nia in a school and town that does­n’t appre­ci­ate his show­man­ship. His dream is to be on Broad­way, a life plan he and his best friend Lib­by have been rehears­ing for for­ev­er. When an open cast­ing call is adver­tised for E.T. The Musi­cal, Nate is deter­mined to be there. By turns fun­ny and heart-rend­ing, Nate’s sto­ry will strike a chord with every kid who wants to be a per­former on the spotlit stage.

Sequel: Five, Six, Sev­en, Nate!, Tim Fed­er­le, S&S, 2014


writ­ten by Raina Tel­ge­meier
Gold­en Books, 1947

In this book for ear­ly teens, Cal­lie gives up her ambi­tion to be in her school’s musi­cal when an audi­tion fails to impress the cast­ing com­mit­tee. She isn’t a singer. Instead, Cal­lie becomes a part of the back­stage crew, a cir­cum­stance many dis­ap­point­ed kids can relate with. But Cal­lie dis­cov­ers that she likes work­ing on the set. She does­n’t know what she’s doing but she’s enthu­si­as­tic. And there’s as much dra­ma back­stage as there is onstage. Cal­lie goes from one crush to anoth­er, main­tain­ing sus­pense with humor. This graph­ic nov­el is a big hit with read­ers.

Forget-Me-Not Summer  

For­get-Me-Not Sum­mer
writ­ten by Leila How­land
Harper­Collins, 2015

Marigold, Zin­nie, and Lily Sil­ver have their LA sum­mer all planned out — until their dad and mom, both work­ing for the film indus­try, get jobs out of town. The girls are sent to a small, coastal, Mass­a­chu­setts town to live with their aunt. They’re not hap­py because Marigold, twelve, had plans to audi­tion for a movie being made of her favorite book. And life in Pruet, MA, is unplugged. No cell phone recep­tion. Then Marigold dis­cov­ers the movie’s pro­duc­er has a sum­mer home near­by. Zin­nie writes a play to fea­ture Marigold’s tal­ents and the girls cre­ate a tal­ent show in a com­mu­ni­ty that is accept­ing and friend­ly. A heart-warm­ing book.

Goblin Secrets  

Gob­lin Secrets
writ­ten by William Alexan­der
Atheneum, Simon & Schus­ter, 2012

Rown­ie’s old­er broth­er, Rowan, his only liv­ing rel­a­tive, has dis­ap­peared. Rowan is an actor in a city that has out­lawed act­ing. To find Rowan, Rown­ie joins a Gob­lin the­ater troupe that per­forms in Zom­bay, man­ag­ing to get around the law. They’re up to more than is appar­ent and soon Rown­ie is caught up in the dra­ma of life. There are touch­es of steam­punk in this fan­ta­sy world. Rown­ie is tak­en in by Gra­ba, a woman with mech­a­nized chick­en legs. Yes, the books is that inven­tive! Nation­al Book Award for this debut nov­el.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!  

Good Mas­ters! Sweet Ladies!
Voic­es from a Medieval Vil­lage
writ­ten by Lau­ra Amy Schlitz, illus­trat­ed by Robert Byrd
Can­dlewick Press, 2007

Set in 1255, this engag­ing set of mono­logues cre­ate medieval vignettes that trans­port the read­er, or per­former, to a well-researched, involv­ing era. From the singing shep­herdess to the town’s “half-wit,” to the peas­an­t’s daugh­ter, we learn the sto­ries of 22 peo­ple in this com­mu­ni­ty. This book isn’t about the­ater, it is the­ater, offer­ing a dra­mat­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty for under­stand­ing of a time long past. Win­ner of the New­bery Medal.

King of Shadows  

King of Shad­ows
writ­ten by Susan Coop­er
Mar­garet McElder­ry Books, Simon & Schus­ter, 1999

One of the best time-trav­el nov­els ever writ­ten, this is the sto­ry of Nat Field, a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Com­pa­ny of Boys, an act­ing troupe. An orphan, this oppor­tu­ni­ty pro­vides a home for Nat, who trav­els with them to Lon­don to star at the new Globe The­ater as Puck in A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream. When he goes to sleep, he dis­cov­ers he has been whisked back to 1599 where he becomes the pro­tégé of William Shake­speare with a time-trav­el­er’s abil­i­ty to save the Bard’s life. Replete with his­tor­i­cal detail, an excit­ing plot, and mem­o­rable char­ac­ters, this is a book to beck­on read­ers toward mod­ern-day excite­ment about Shake­speare’s plays. 

The Life Fantastic  

The Life Fan­tas­tic
writ­ten by Liza Ketchum
Simon Pulse, 2017

Fif­teen-year-old Tere­sa is drawn to the vaude­ville stage. She feels the need to sing, to per­form. Her par­ents were vaude­vil­lians, but they chose a con­ven­tion­al life of 9‑to‑5 jobs and stay­ing in one town to take care of their two chil­dren. Tere­sa wants to try her own career on the stage but her father is vehe­ment­ly against it. She sneaks away from home to New York City where she even­tu­al­ly ends up with a nation­al vaude­ville troupe. There are fas­ci­nat­ing, well-researched details of vaude­ville, racism in the the­ater and 1910 Amer­i­ca, and life as a dar­ing girl before women had any rights. A very good sto­ry for mid­dle grade and old­er, includ­ing adults.

Okay for Now  

Okay for Now
writ­ten by Gary D. Schmidt
Clar­i­on Books, 2011

For­mer­ly cast as the bul­ly in The Wednes­day Wars, Doug Swi­eteck is start­ing over in a new town. His father is abu­sive, his moth­er does­n’t stand up against his father, and his old­er, unkind broth­er is off fight­ing in Viet­nam. Doug real­izes he has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make him­self over into some­one with a dif­fer­ent rep­u­ta­tion. He makes friends with Lil Spicer, becomes spell­bound by a library book with plates of Audubon’s birds, and sets off on a grand adven­ture with Lil to appear on a Broad­way stage. Fun­ny, heart-wrench­ing, and absorb­ing, this book is not be missed.


writ­ten by Sharon Creech
Harper­Collins, 2005

Leonar­do is the mid­dle child in a loud, chaot­ic Ital­ian fam­i­ly. He’s a dream­er, a thinker, and per­haps an actor. He is cast in the dis­ap­point­ing role of the Old Crone in Rompopo’s Porch, a play his teacher wrote. At home, he dis­cov­ers the jour­nal his father wrote when he was thir­teen years old, the same age Leo is now. These two dis­parate occur­rences will give him more con­fi­dence, solve a fam­i­ly mys­tery, and change his life. The full text of the play is includ­ed in the book so cre­ative thes­pi­ans can put on their own show.

Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive) At Last  

Romeo and Juli­et Togeth­er (and Alive) At Last
writ­ten by Avi
Scholas­tic, 1987

A light­heart­ed ren­di­tion of Romeo and Juli­et is writ­ten and pro­duced by a class of eighth-graders whose true goal is to get shy Peter Saltz and shy Anabell Stack­pole to real­ize they’re just right for each oth­er. The match­mak­ing attempts, the earnest but laugh-out-loud fun­ny pro­duc­tion of Shake­speare’s clas­sic play (often taught in eighth grade), and the ring­ing-true think­ing, plan­ning, and mis­steps of this group of kids make this one of my favorite of Avi’s books.

The Shakespeare Stealer  

The Shake­speare Steal­er
writ­ten by Gary Black­wood
Harper­Collins, 2005

Ordered by his nefar­i­ous “own­er,” and Shake­speare’s com­peti­tor, to steal the unpub­lished “Ham­let” from the Bard him­self, the orphaned Widge is bound to obey. The only prob­lem is that once he’s clev­er­ly insert­ed him­self into the troupe at the Globe The­ater, he finds real friends for the first time in his life. How will he avoid the reper­cus­sions of dis­obey­ing his own­er? How can Widge find a way not to dis­ap­point his new friends? The plot twists, turns, and ulti­mate­ly pro­vides a riv­et­ing read­ing expe­ri­ence.

Snow White  

Snow White
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Matt Phe­lan
Can­dlewick Press, 2016

You may be think­ing Snow White and the the­ater? What’s the con­nec­tion? In Matt Phe­lan’s com­pelling re-imag­in­ing of the fairy tale, Saman­tha White (called Snow by her dying moth­er) is the daugh­ter of the King of Wall Street. It’s the late 1920s and life is gid­dy. Her father mar­ries the Queen of the Fol­lies (as in Zieg­field, our minds sup­ply), who turns out to have very evil inten­tions. She sends Saman­tha off to board­ing school and some­how Saman­tha’s hale and hearty father dies. Sev­en street urchins and Detec­tive Prince round out the cast in this high­ly read­able and dis­cus­sion-wor­thy graph­ic nov­el. 

The Cruisers A Star is Born  

A Star is Born, The Cruis­ers series
writ­ten by Wal­ter Dean Myers
Scholas­tic Press, 2012

Eighth graders Zan­der, LaShon­da, Kam­bui, and Bob­bi run an alter­na­tive news­pa­per, The Cruis­er, at their high school for gift­ed and tal­ent­ed stu­dents in Harlem, New York. In this third book in the series, LaShon­da earns a schol­ar­ship to the Vir­ginia Woolf Soci­ety Pro­gram for Young Ladies, hon­or­ing the cos­tumes she designed for a play the Cruis­ers pro­duced. Once she’s com­plet­ed the pro­gram, she’ll be eli­gi­ble for finan­cial assis­tance for col­lege. But there’s a wrin­kle. LaShon­da will have to move to be a part of the pro­gram and she’s hes­i­tant to leave her autis­tic broth­er behind. The friends work to solve this conun­drum in a real­is­tic way. A great friend­ship sto­ry told with Wal­ter Dean Myers’ deft and sure touch, using inter­ject­ed poems, essays, and arti­cles that are pub­lished in The Cruis­er.


writ­ten by Rachel Shuk­ert
Dela­corte Press, 2013

For read­ers most­ly aged 16 and old­er, this 1930s Hol­ly­wood nov­el tells the tale of Mar­garet Fro­bish­er, who is lit­er­al­ly dis­cov­ered in a drug­store. Because she looks like a movie star who’s gone miss­ing, she is swept into the stu­dio sys­tem, renamed Mar­go Ster­ling, and is sud­den­ly star­ring in a movie. It’s a lot for a young woman to han­dle and it turns out that Hol­ly­wood isn’t all glam­our and bright lights. Evil and dark­ness are a part of this new world and so are heartache and stark real­i­ty. The details are good, the char­ac­ters are well-drawn … it’s a good book to read if you’re hun­gry for Hol­ly­wood as it was in its Gold­en Age.  


writ­ten by Ally Condie
Dut­ton Books, 2016

Cedar could be for­giv­en for mop­ing around in her new sum­mer home. Her father and younger broth­er Ben were just killed in an acci­dent. And yet she’s intrigued when she sees a boy in a cos­tume rid­ing past her house on a bicy­cle. She fol­lows him and dis­cov­ers the Sum­mer­lost the­ater fes­ti­val. Soon Cedar is work­ing con­ces­sions at the fes­ti­val and she’s caught up in the mys­tery of a ghost and mys­te­ri­ous gifts that show up in sur­pris­ing ways. Edgar Award nom­i­nee. It’s a good mid­dle grade nov­el that reads with great warmth and under­stand­ing of loss.

Surviving the Applewhites  

Sur­viv­ing the Apple­whites
writ­ten by Stephanie S. Tolan
Harper­Collins, 2002

Thir­teen-year-old Jake Sem­ple is a tough nut. He’s been kicked out of schools until there are no options left. That is until a home­school­ing fam­i­ly, the Apple­whites, offer to let him attend their Cre­ative Acad­e­my. Every­one in the fam­i­ly has an artis­tic tal­ent. Dad’s pro­duc­ing The Sound of Music at their local the­ater. Mom is a mys­tery writer who’s tak­ing a break to write the Great Amer­i­can Nov­el. Uncle is a wood­carv­er and Aunt is a poet. Even Cordelia and Des­tiny have their unique tal­ents. All except for E.D., who is quite pos­si­bly the only Apple­white who is orga­nized enough to keep the fam­i­ly run­ning. The book is told from Jake’s and E.D.‘s alter­nate view­points. And it turns out that Jake might not be as impen­e­tra­bly tough as he believes.

Swish of the Curtain  

Swish of the Cur­tain
writ­ten by Pamela Brown
Long­wa­ter Books (reprint­ed edi­tion), orig. 1941

Most Sev­en chil­dren from three fam­i­lies orga­nize The Blue Door The­ater Com­pa­ny, ren­o­vat­ing an old chapel and pro­duc­ing their own plays. They write, direct, stage, sew cos­tumes, design scenery, and rehearse on their own. Their goal is to com­pete in the dra­ma con­test at the end of the sum­mer, the prize for which is a schol­ar­ship to attend dra­ma school. The group has the goal to be in the pro­fes­sion­al the­ater. Pamela Brown began writ­ing this book when she was 14, but it was­n’t pub­lished until she was 17! She was a UK author, and her series of books about this dra­ma troupe was immense­ly pop­u­lar, being trans­lat­ed to radio, tele­vi­sion, and movies. A true clas­sic. 

Theater Shoes  

The­ater Shoes
writ­ten by Noël Streat­field
Year­ling, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1946

The three Forbes sib­lings are orphaned. Their grand­moth­er, a famous actress, forces them to go to a the­ater school. They can’t afford the tuition but the Fos­sil Sis­ters (yes, the sis­ters from Bal­let Shoes) spon­sor them with a schol­ar­ship. They don’t believe they have any tal­ents but they’re deter­mined to live up to their spon­sors’ expec­ta­tions so they make their best effort. And they dis­cov­er that they are tal­ent­ed indeed. The “Shoes” books were favorites for read­ers who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. They still read well today. Many chil­dren of those years pur­sued careers in the arts because of Noël Streat­field­’s sto­ries!

The Wednesday Wars  

Wednes­day Wars
writ­ten by Gary D. Schmidt
Clar­i­on Books, 2007

Holling Hood­hood, sev­enth-grad­er, has a lot of chal­lenges. He’s the only Pres­by­ter­ian in his Catholic and Jew­ish school. He’s being forced to read Shake­speare by his teacher, Mrs. Bak­er. His father is demand­ing that Holling and his sis­ter are always on their best behav­ior so his busi­ness can suc­ceed. There’s a bul­ly that won’t leave Holling alone. And Holling’s base­ball heroes are com­ing to town to sign auto­graphs on the same day he has to put on yel­low tights and appear in a play. If that weren’t enough, the anx­i­ety of the Viet­nam War sur­rounds Holling’s life. A book that’s thor­ough­ly enjoy­able to read and unfor­get­table. It received a New­bery Hon­or.

Will Sparrow's Road  

Will Spar­row’s Road
writ­ten by Karen Cush­man
Clar­i­on Books, 2012

Will Spar­row’s father sells him to an innkeep­er in exchange for a dai­ly sup­ply of ale. The innkeep­er is cru­el so 13-year-old Will runs away … to a world that is not kind. Steal­ing food to eat, lying, Will thinks of him­self as a bad per­son. When he meets Grace and her trav­el­ing the­ater troupe of “odd­i­ties,” he dis­cov­ers an assem­bled fam­i­ly that cares for one anoth­er. Wills learns the per­form­ing skills nec­es­sary and he real­izes that he is some­body with worth in his Eliz­a­bethan Eng­land world. Filled with Karen’s Cush­man’s ele­gant and fun­ny lan­guage, the era comes alive because of her care­ful research.

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