Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Avi

Capers and Cons

When you (or your stu­dents) want a book that keeps you turn­ing the pages for your week­night and week­end read­ing, here are some sug­ges­tions for books with that nim­ble pac­ing and what-are-they-up-to plots. Many of them are just right for mid­dle grade or avid younger-than-that read­ers, with a cou­ple of teen titles added. (And, of course, all are suit­able for read­ing by adults.)

Adam Canfield of the Slash  

Adam Can­field of the Slash
writ­ten by Michael Winer­ip
Can­dlewick Press, 2005

This book is by turns fun­ny and seri­ous, but Adam Can­field is always inter­est­ed in dis­cov­er­ing the truth. Writ­ten by a New York Times colum­nist (on edu­ca­tion) who won a Pulitzer Prize, Winer­ip knows what his read­ers will find inter­est­ing. Adam reluc­tant­ly accepts the posi­tion of co-edi­tor of their school paper. He’s skep­ti­cal when a third-grad­er uncov­ers a pos­si­ble scan­dal. Adam and his co-edi­tor, Jen­nifer, take the sto­ry to the prin­ci­pal, who for­bids them to inves­ti­gate. Adam and Jen­nifer can’t help them­selves and they’re soon uncov­er­ing secrets.  Even though school papers are most­ly dig­i­tal now, this book will moti­vate read­ers to be truth seek­ers.

Con Academy  

Con Acad­e­my
writ­ten by Joe Schreiber
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2015

For teen read­ers: Senior Michael Shea has conned his way into one of the country’s élite prep schools. He’s an old hand at cons, but he’s unpre­pared to meet Andrea, his com­pe­ti­tion. When the two of them set up a com­pe­ti­tion to con the school’s Big Man on Cam­pus out of $50,000, the stakes are high. One twist after anoth­er, a full crew of grifters brought in to effect the con … this book reads cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly and moves along quick­ly.

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb  

Eddie Red Under­cov­er: Doom at Grant’s Tomb
writ­ten by Mar­cia Wells, illus­trat­ed by Mar­cos Calo
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2016

Hav­ing just fin­ished the third book in the series, I’m a fan of the youngest inves­ti­ga­tor work­ing for the NYPD. There’s a back sto­ry for that, of course, but Eddie has an eidet­ic mem­o­ry and a quick­sil­ver mind … he’s good at solv­ing crimes. The police are always reluc­tant to involve Eddie because he’s only 12 years old, but the kid’s good at what he does. In this install­ment, it appears that Eddie is being tar­get­ed for seri­ous con­se­quences by inter­na­tion­al art thieves whom he’s foiled before. The thieves are steal­ing valu­able items from well-known land­marks. Can Eddie psych them out before they catch up with him?




writ­ten by James Pon­ti
Aladdin, 2016

Jess Aarons has been prac­tic­ing all sum­mer so he can be the fastest run­ner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, out­paces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchant­ed land called Ter­abithia. One morn­ing, Leslie goes to Ter­abithia with­out Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his fam­i­ly and the strength that Leslie has giv­en him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

Illyrian Adventure  

Illyr­i­an Adven­tures
writ­ten by Lloyd Alexan­der
Dut­ton Books, 1987

This is the first of six books about 16-year-old Ves­per Hol­ly who, in 1872, in the com­pa­ny of her guardian, Bin­nie, trav­els to Illyr­ia on the Adri­at­ic Sea to prove one of her late father’s the­o­ries. She’s a girl with mod­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties set against Binnie’s con­ser­v­a­tive con­cerns. Ves­per gets caught up in fast-paced intrigue with a rebel­lion against the king, all the while man­ag­ing to search for the leg­endary trea­sure. With Mr. Alexander’s char­ac­ter­is­tic humor, and a touch of romance, this series is fun to read and def­i­nite­ly qual­i­fies as a turn-the-page adven­ture.

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush  

Jack Lon­don and the Klondike Gold Rush
writ­ten by Peter Lourie, illus­trat­ed by Wen­dell Minor
Hen­ry Holt, 2017

Teens will enjoy this one. When Jack Lon­don turns 21, the Gold Rush of 1897 com­pels trea­sure seek­ers from around the world to trek through life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions to get to the gold fields in the Yukon Ter­ri­to­ry of Cana­da. Jack is swept up in the excite­ment, assem­bling a team of adven­tur­ers and sup­plies to with­stand the cru­el jour­ney. That some­one this young could com­mand respect and cama­raderie speaks loud­ly about his char­ac­ter. This true sto­ry serves as an excel­lent com­pan­ion books for Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London’s Klondike sto­ries. A real page-turn­er.

Magic Misfits  

Mag­ic Mis­fits
writ­ten by Neill Patrick Har­ris, illus by Lis­sy Mar­lin
Lit­tle, Brown Books, 2017

This thor­ough­ly enjoy­able book fol­lows Carter when he runs away from his crooked, thiev­ing uncle to the New Eng­land town of Min­er­al Wells, a sur­pris­ing­ly wel­com­ing place. Con­vinced that mag­ic isn’t real, and yet a tal­ent­ed street magi­cian, Carter is soon befriend­ed by a group of Mag­ic Mis­fits who set out to expose a cir­cus that’s a front for a well-orches­trat­ed, and dan­ger­ous, team of grifters. Adven­tur­ous, fun­ny, heart­warm­ing, this will cap­ture read­ers’ imag­i­na­tions. 

Mighty Jack  

Mighty Jack
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ben Hatke
First Sec­ond, 2016

Mighty Jack and the Gob­lin King
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ben Hatke
First Sec­ond, 2017

In the first book, Jack’s sis­ter Mad­dy per­suades him to trade their Mom’s car for a box of mys­te­ri­ous seeds … and the adven­ture begins. These are not, of course, ordi­nary seeds. They grow strange, oth­er­world­ly crea­tures and the kids, includ­ing next-door-neigh­bor Lil­ly, are chal­lenged to deal with crea­tures run amok.

In the sec­ond book, an ogre snatch­es Mad­dy into anoth­er world with Jack and Lil­ly deter­mined to res­cue her. Along the way, we meet gob­lins (good) and ogres (bad) and Lil­ly ful­fills a prophe­cy. It’s all very excit­ing and well-told with vibrant, engross­ing illus­tra­tions.

Parker Inheritance  

Park­er Inher­i­tance
writ­ten by Var­i­an John­son
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholas­tic, 2018

In mod­ern-day Lam­bert, Can­dice dis­cov­ers a mys­tery in her grandmother’s let­ters. In the 1950s, her grand­moth­er left Lam­bert in shame, but it’s soon appar­ent to Can­dice and her friend Bran­don that racism was behind those events … and they reflect that things haven’t changed that much. Read­ing this book will bring your cre­ative prob­lem-solv­ing skills into play. There’s intrigue, humor, and a lot to think about in this sto­ry. 

Player King  

Play­er King
writ­ten by Avi
Atheneum, 2017

In 1846, young Lam­bert Sim­nel slaves away in a Lon­don tav­ern, com­plete­ly unaware of the pol­i­tics of the land.  When he’s pur­chased in the mid­dle of the night by a fri­ar, he’s astound­ed when the man reveals, “You, Lam­bert, are actu­al­ly Prince Edward, the true King of Eng­land!” King Hen­ry VII has just claimed the throne of Eng­land, but only after Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, dis­ap­pears. Could Lam­bert be the real prince? How could he not remem­ber this? Based on a blip in his­to­ry, this is a fas­ci­nat­ing look at a con­fi­dence job planned by politi­cians whose lives are at stake.

Riddle in Ruby  

Rid­dle in Ruby
writ­ten by Kent Davis
Green­wil­low Books, 2015

In an alter­nate his­to­ry colo­nial Philadel­phia, Ruby Teach is train­ing to be a thief and a guardian of secrets. It isn’t until she meets young Lord Athen that she begins to under­stand that her entire life has been kept secret from the pow­ers that be. In this world, those pow­ers use alche­my to fuel the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion. It’s a fast-paced, fun­ny, and com­pelling book, the first of a tril­o­gy, with The Changer’s Key and The Great Unrav­el pro­vid­ing the rest of the sto­ry.

Supernatural Sleuthing Service  

Super­nor­mal Sleuthing Ser­vice
writ­ten by Gwen­da Bond and Christo­pher Rowe,
illus­trat­ed by Glenn Thomas
Green­wil­low Books, 2017

Stephen and his dad are mov­ing cross-coun­try so Dad can be the new exec­u­tive chef at the New Har­mo­nia, a New York City hotel for super­nor­mals (read: mon­sters!) It isn’t long before Stephen dis­cov­ers he’s part super­nor­mal him­self! When Stephen is framed for steal­ing a valu­able heir­loom, he teams up with two new friends to prove his inno­cence. It’s a spooky sto­ry, filled with humor and hijinks, and there’s a sec­ond book, The Sphinx’s Secret. You know the right read­er for these books!


Mouse Books

We have mice. Hope­ful­ly just one, but it’s a brash one, scut­tling around the kitchen dur­ing break­fast this morn­ing.

This hap­pens in the fall at our house. We’ve cer­tain­ly tried to find where they might be get­ting in, but they say a mouse only needs a dime-sized hole, and we obvi­ous­ly haven’t found it. Caught two a cou­ple of weeks ago.

They’re small. Cute, even. Which is good, because oth­er­wise I’d have the hee­bie-jee­bies. And I (most­ly) don’t. It’s just a To-Do on the list—and I’m not the one who To-Do’s it even.

But it has me think­ing…. We might not want them in our hous­es, but mice are beloved char­ac­ters in kids’ books. Cer­tain­ly at our house they have been. Ralph S. MouseThe Mouse and the Motor­cy­cle…all of Kevin Henke’s won­der­ful mice pic­ture books…The Bram­bly Hedge Col­lec­tionMrs. Fris­by and the Rats of NIMHA Mouse Called WolfStu­art Lit­tleThe Tale of Des­pereaux…Bri­an Jacques’ Red­wall Series…Avi’s Pop­py and Rag­weed books…Bless This Mouse…. And these are just some of the books in which mice play the star­ring role. Plen­ty more have mousy “minor char­ac­ters.” (Think Tem­ple­ton in Charlotte’s Web, or Mouse in the Bear books by Bon­nie Beck­er.)

I’ve writ­ten many Red Read­ing Boots columns about our favorite mice books. (I just looked back—many!) I look at the shelves in my office, which have been stocked with all of the fam­i­ly favorites I’m allowed to take from the #1 Son’s and Dar­ling Daughter’s shelves, and good­ness! It would appear we’ve raised them on mice! #1 Son had imag­i­nary mice friends who accom­pa­nied through the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of ear­ly childhood—and no won­der! Did we read any­thing else?!

What is it about mice that are so appeal­ing for sto­ry­telling? Is it that they’re the pre­sumed under­dog because of their size? Yet in sto­ry after sto­ry, they prove them­selves to be intel­li­gent, resource­ful, and courageous—their size even advan­ta­geous. Cer­tain­ly this is a theme wor­thy of putting before chil­dren.

Is it because they are so wee and dear (fic­tion­al­ly!) and lend them­selves to illus­tra­tions? Some of my most favorite illus­tra­tions have mice in them (see the above list for starters!) Their lit­tle clothes! 

Or is it because we like to imag­ine par­al­lel uni­vers­es in which the small­est ani­mals cre­ate homes and vil­lages and worlds from our bits and bobs? Hid­den away in the hedgerows, the rafters, beneath the floorboards…all these sto­ries run­ning along beside use.

It might be this last thing for me. When I’m on walks I often see tiny hol­lows, small pock­ets, and invit­ing dime sized (and larg­er) holes in the walls and hedges and trees. When I see these, I’m imme­di­ate­ly fur­nish­ing a home for tiny ones inside—scraps art­ful­ly repur­posed, cozy built-ins, wind­ing pas­sages….

I’m ful­ly aware that oth­er rodents could star in such scenes, but it’s always a bit­ty mouse with large ears and eyes and flick­er­ing whiskers that comes to mind. Per­haps it’s because of what I’ve read over the years? Cer­tain­ly could be. There’s some­thing about mice that fire our imag­i­na­tions, I think.

I’m on the hunt for new mouse books. What do you have to rec­om­mend?







The Delight of Reading Older Books

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?

One of my favorite types of read­ing is to go back and read books I’ve missed from years ago. I once spent an entire sum­mer read­ing books that were pub­lished in the 1950s. I had such a strong feel­ing of the decade after read­ing those books that I felt more con­nect­ed to peo­ple who lived then. That feel­ing of con­nec­tion is very sat­is­fy­ing to me.

Do you do a sim­i­lar kind of read­ing?

This last hol­i­day sea­son, I did anoth­er dive into books pub­lished in decades past. There’s some­thing very com­fort­ing about read­ing these books. I fre­quent­ly scout out arti­cles where peo­ple talk about the books they’ve loved from their child­hood. If I haven’t read them, they go on a list and I seek them out. Some­times I have to scout used book stores but the books are all eas­i­ly obtain­able.

My most recent delight was Who Stole the Wiz­ard of Oz? by Avi. It was first pub­lished in 1981. I hadn’t read it before. It holds up well today. In fact, I would read­i­ly put this book in the hands of any child, aged 7 and old­er, who enjoys a mys­tery. Set in a small town, twin sib­lings Becky and Toby set out to solve a crime that’s pre­sent­ed on page one and is wrapped up neat­ly 115 pages lat­er.

The crime takes place in a library and so does much of the action. Becky and Toby solve the crime on their own, with­out help from grown-ups. They ques­tion adults. They apply their brains. They dis­cuss (and bick­er) and ulti­mate­ly end up on a stake-out.

To arrive at the solu­tion, they read five clas­sic books: Through the Look­ing Glass, The Wind in the Wil­lows, The Wiz­ard of Oz, Win­nie-the-Pooh, and Trea­sure Island. By the time they’re done dis­cussing what they’ve read, I knew I’d have to re-read each of those books myself! (I’ve nev­er read Win­nie-the-Pooh. I know. Gasp!)

What do each of those books have in com­mon? That’s the deli­cious part of the sto­ry so I won’t spoil it for you. Read this book!

We focus on new books because peo­ple love to guess which books will win awards.  We for­get that there are thou­sands (mil­lions?) of kids who are read­ing these books for the first time. Draw­ing books off the shelf from the rich canon of children’s lit­er­a­ture is a gift we can keep giv­ing again and again.

Stay tuned. I’ll share more of my read­ing-of-books-past in upcom­ing columns.

Who Stole the Wiz­ard of Oz?
Alfred A. Knopf, 1981
(I read a Year­ling paper­back.)
ISBN 978–0394849928, $6.99


My Work-Study Internship

World Telegram photo by Al Aumuller, Library of Congress, Creative Commons

World Telegram pho­to by Al Aumuller, Library of Con­gress, Cre­ative Com­mons

The first col­lege I attend­ed was Anti­och Col­lege in Yel­low Springs, Ohio. It had a work-study cur­ricu­lum in which half your year was spent work­ing off-cam­pus on some job relat­ing to your pro­fes­sion­al aspi­ra­tions. At that time, being inter­est­ed in the the­atre, I was offered and took a job at a Cleve­land tele­vi­sion sta­tion. A few days before the job began it was can­celed. I was offered a job at a book­store, but decid­ed to find a job on my own.

A fam­i­ly friend was Lee Hays, the bari­tone singer for the pop­u­lar folk group, The Weavers. Lee also was a men­tor to me and my would-be writ­ing career. I don’t recall the cir­cum­stances but hav­ing learned that I was look­ing for a job, he sent me to Harold Lev­en­thal, who man­aged The Weavers. Lev­en­thal offered me a job.

It appeared that Mr. Lev­en­thal was involved in some way with the estate of the late Woody Guthrie. What was the job? Guthrie was not just a famous per­former, and a song writer, he was a writer. In 1943, he had pub­lished a “par­tial­ly fic­tion­al­ized” auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Indeed, he left box­es of man­u­scripts. What job was I offered? Read through all those box­es and let Mr. Lev­en­thal know if any­thing was worth pub­lish­ing. I was next inter­viewed by Pete Seeger who was also involved in the Guthrie estate.

I got what I thought was a glam­orous job. If this seems an odd job to be giv­en to a nineteen-year-old—I would, in ret­ro­spect, agree The many box­es arrived.

I held myself to work­ing an eight-hour day.

The prob­lem was that Guthrie had Huntington’s dis­ease, which is “a fatal genet­ic dis­or­der that caus­es the pro­gres­sive break­down of nerve cells in the brain. It dete­ri­o­rates a person’s phys­i­cal and men­tal abil­i­ties dur­ing their prime work­ing years and has no cure.”

Thus the Guthrie writ­ing I had to read—from his late years—was at best errat­ic, and often dis­turb­ing. What­ev­er hero wor­ship I might have had about this vital, huge­ly cre­ative and impor­tant man, rapid­ly dis­in­te­grat­ed. But being the age I was, I dogged­ly read on, eight hours a day for three months.

When, after the three months were up and I came in to report to Mr. Lev­en­thal, he asked, “Is there any­thing worth pub­lish­ing?” To which I replied, “Noth­ing.”

Why these folks trust­ed my judgment—or even if they did trust my judgment—I nev­er learned. But I am per­haps one of the few peo­ple who—ever since—cannot bear to lis­ten to the dis­tinc­tive voice of Woody Guthrie. I had got­ten too much into his ill mind.


Wolf Sighting


Our house in the Rocky Moun­tains. This is a pho­to, even though it looks like a paint­ing. And that’s our dog McKin­ley, not a wolf. He’s no longer with us but he was the inspi­ra­tion for The Good Dog.

It is not often that I get a call such as I just did. The call came Lar­ry McCoy, who holds a doc­tor­ate in the­ol­o­gy, and teach­es phi­los­o­phy at the Steam­boat, Col­orado Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege. He also builds log hous­es and has a dog named “Helen.” That’s the way folks are here in Routt Coun­ty.  He is one of our near neigh­bors, liv­ing about a mile and a half away.

Now my wife and I live on a high ridge (9500 feet up) right on the edge of Rout Nation­al For­est. We own forty-five acres, which may seem like a lot if you do not live in Col­orado. In fact, while the deed says we own this land, we do noth­ing with it, save live on it (in a log house) and wan­der about on snow­shoes, or look at the wild­flow­ers. Sea­son depend­ing.

Now the fact that we live on the edge of the nation­al for­est might explain what hap­pened and why Lar­ry called me.

Avi,” said Lar­ry, “I just thought you’d want to know that there have been three sightings—including by me—of a wolf on your land. I saw him, or her, down by your pond.”

In the fif­teen or so years that we have lived here, no such sight­ings in all of Col­orado has been report­ed. And this wolf was a few yards from our home.

Rocky Mountains view

the view from our front win­dow

Some­thing to be fright­ened about? No. There is NO record­ed account of a wolf ever attack­ing peo­ple. Cat­tle is a whole dif­fer­ent ques­tion. 

Where did he/she come from? There are wolves to the far north of us, in Wyoming, at Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park. There is plen­ty of for­est between us and that spot. Maybe he came from that­away.

But why?

Is he/she part of a pack? Wolves are intense­ly social crea­tures, with fas­ci­nat­ing fam­i­ly exis­tences.

A lone wolf?

An old wolf? A young­ster seek­ing new ter­ri­to­ry?

Not like­ly we’ll ever know. Or maybe nev­er even see the crea­ture.

But as my wife said, “Oh, Avi!  Our own wolf!  I’ve always want­ed that!” 

She real­ly said that, which was news to me.


Middle Kingdom: Denver, Colorado

The books that most delight mid­dle school and junior high read­ers often strad­dle a “Mid­dle King­dom” rang­ing from upper mid­dle grade to YA. Each month, Bookol­o­gy colum­nist Lisa Bullard will vis­it the Mid­dle King­dom by view­ing it through the eyes of a teacher or librar­i­an. Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to cel­e­brate the work of these edu­ca­tors who have built vital book encamp­ments in the tran­si­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry of ear­ly ado­les­cence.

This month we’re vis­it­ing Den­ver Acad­e­my in Den­ver, Col­orado, where Lisa talks with librar­i­an Jolene Gutiér­rez.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog read­ers should know about your com­mu­ni­ty, school, or library/media cen­ter?

Jolene GutierrezJolene: I’m the librar­i­an at Den­ver Acad­e­my, a school for diverse learn­ers from ele­men­tary through high school.

  • Our school is locat­ed on 22 acres and we use the cam­pus as a learn­ing tool, from study­ing wildlife in our small pond to work­ing out math prob­lems in chalk on our side­walks.
  • Our cam­pus start­ed as a tuber­cu­lo­sis hos­pi­tal in the ear­ly 1900s, so we have some beau­ti­ful his­toric build­ings, includ­ing the Chapel where my main library is housed (I also run a small High School Media Cen­ter in anoth­er build­ing). The Chapel is 90 years old this year and is des­ig­nat­ed as an his­toric land­mark in the city of Den­ver. We’re work­ing on a grant appli­ca­tion that will help us to pre­serve and restore cer­tain parts of the build­ing, includ­ing the cop­per cupo­la and the zinc-camed win­dows. I’ve done a lot of research over the past few years and have pulled that infor­ma­tion togeth­er into a web­site that my stu­dents use to cre­ate pre­sen­ta­tions and tours of the Chapel for their par­ents.

Denver Academy Chapel

  • Our school is com­prised of diverse learn­ers, which can mean lots of things. Some of our stu­dents are diag­nosed with things like dyslex­ia or ADHD, and some have no diag­noses but do bet­ter with small­er class sizes. Either way, many of our stu­dents have strug­gled before com­ing to Den­ver Acad­e­my, and I think that their strug­gles and some of the pain they’ve expe­ri­enced make them some of the most com­pas­sion­ate, respect­ful kids I’ve ever met. There’s very lit­tle bul­ly­ing on our cam­pus because most of the stu­dents know the pain of being bul­lied or feel­ing “less than,” and they don’t want oth­ers to feel that way.
  • Our stu­dents are some of the most cre­ative peo­ple I’ve ever met. All of our stu­dents are bril­liant, and that bril­liance includes phe­nom­e­nal artists, gift­ed musi­cians, cre­ative writ­ers, and won­der­ful actors. Many of our alum­ni have gone on to make a liv­ing as actors, sculp­tors, and musi­cians.
  • Some peo­ple say our library and oth­er parts of our cam­pus are haunt­ed. A group of our teach­ers lead a “Haunt­ed Den­ver” class each year, and the ambiance of our Chapel library cou­pled with those ghost tales have inspired many stu­dent movies and sto­ries.

Denver Academy

Lisa: What recent changes or new ele­ments are affect­ing the work you do with stu­dents?

Jolene: I start­ed work­ing in my library over 20 years ago when we weren’t auto­mat­ed and I was writ­ing out over­due notices by hand. The tech­no­log­i­cal changes in the last 20 years have trans­formed both the way I man­age my library and the skills my stu­dents need to have when they grad­u­ate from our school. I do my best to keep up with teach­ing them what they need to know today as well as giv­ing them the crit­i­cal think­ing skills they’ll need in the future (because I have no idea where we’ll be in anoth­er 20 years)!

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your mid­dle school stu­dents?

Jolene: Dystopi­an fic­tion (espe­cial­ly that which has been made into movies like The Hunger Games, The Maze Run­ner, and The 5th Wave) has been very pop­u­lar this year, as have books by authors who’ve vis­it­ed our school recent­ly, includ­ing Avi’s Old Wolf and Bob­bie Pyron’s books Lucky Strike and The Dogs of Win­ter. And I know that’s six books, but I became a librar­i­an because I like words bet­ter than num­bers.

Denver Academy is reading

Lisa: What book(s) do you per­son­al­ly love to place into mid­dle school stu­dents’ hands?

Jolene: No spe­cif­ic titles; just the right book for each kid, includ­ing books that stu­dents love because they make the task of read­ing a lit­tle eas­i­er to tack­le:

  • Graph­ic nov­els are great for kids who have a tough time visu­al­iz­ing as they read because the pic­tures are pre-sup­plied. I also sug­gest graph­ic nov­els for the stu­dents who always ask for the nov­el­iza­tions of movies or books that movies are based on—these stu­dents may have issues with visu­al­iz­ing and pic­tur­ing things and might want to read about some­thing that they’ve seen visu­al­ly, like a movie. Movies are Cliff­s­Notes for kids who strug­gle with visu­al­iza­tion, and they often want to read some­thing they’ve already seen because they now have the images that go with the sto­ry.
  • Choose Your Own Adven­ture and sim­i­lar books are won­der­ful for reluc­tant read­ers because they get to feel like they’re cheat­ing at read­ing (so are graph­ic nov­els and non­fic­tion books with lots of pho­tos). Now that there are so many CYOA-ish book series out there, stu­dents can find both non­fic­tion and fic­tion books, and when I show stu­dents that they can skip around and not real­ly read the entire book, they get real­ly excit­ed and a lot of them actu­al­ly end up read­ing most of the book because they try to get a pos­i­tive end­ing to their sto­ry.
  • Series books give anx­ious stu­dents the answer to “What do I read next?” and help them to grow as a read­er as they work their way through each book in the series.
  • Audio books and/or large print books allow stu­dents who strug­gle with print oth­er options for access­ing books. If stu­dents have a learn­ing dif­fer­ence, they can work on grow­ing their read­ing and com­pre­hen­sion skills in a less intim­i­dat­ing man­ner with these resources.

Lisa: If you had a new staffer start­ing tomor­row, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Jolene: Some of our stu­dents don’t love books or read­ing, and that’s okay. We’re here to help them at least learn to like libraries and trust librar­i­ans. Teach­ing stu­dents to access libraries teach­es them a life skill. And once stu­dents begin to trust you, they may become more open to explor­ing books with you. There’s noth­ing more ful­fill­ing than find­ing the right book for a reluc­tant read­er. Often­times, there is that one mag­i­cal book that will unlock the world of read­ing for kids, and that is one of the most reward­ing parts of being a librar­i­an. If you can find that per­fect book, you can help change a life for­ev­er.

Denver Academy

Lisa: What do you want your stu­dents to remem­ber about your library in ten years?

Jolene: I want them to remem­ber the mag­ic of this space and the fun we’ve had here! I hope our library teach­es stu­dents the joy of learn­ing and books. I want our library to pro­vide some warm fuzzy mem­o­ries for stu­dents once they’re grown, and I hope my stu­dents’ good mem­o­ries of their library will cause them to be life­long library users.


Avi: Bags of Cement

ph_CementBagsFor rea­sons both bor­ing and com­plex, I cur­rent­ly find myself under oblig­a­tion to deliv­er four nov­els before the next twelve months are out. Two are writ­ten, but under­go­ing revi­sions. A third has start­ed. The fourth has noth­ing on paper; only in my mind. Is it an acci­dent that my shoul­ders have been aching, as if I had been car­ry­ing bags of cement up a lad­der? 

When friends hear of this they ask, “How you going to do that?” The answer is, by sit­ting in front of my com­put­er and work­ing from about sev­en AM until sev­en PM. I’ll take Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas off. Joke.

There is some­thing to be said for dead­line writ­ing, espe­cial­ly when you make your liv­ing that way. Yet, I sus­pect the term “dead­line” came about because when you reach the fin­ish­ing line, you are dead. Then again, one of my sons is a jour­nal­ist, and he has dai­ly, some­times hourly dead­lines. I admire that, from a dis­tance. He con­sid­ers my pace “leisure­ly.”

That said, work­ing obses­sive­ly has its own rewards. You do not put up with your own non­sense. Pro­lix­i­ty means more work. Rep­e­ti­tion is to be dread­ed, and cut. Lean, sharp writ­ing flows. Bad writ­ing is a like a wash-board road. You become so immersed in your sto­ry you think about it all the time, which can be very pro­duc­tive. (Wait! What if she does this? Shouldn’t he say that?)

ph_WashboardRoad_smYou can, if you write a lot, move quick­ly on to the next project because you have no choice. You can’t fall in love with your work because you are not engaged in a life-long rela­tion­ship. Hon­est­ly, when I read about the writ­ers who spend ten years (or more) on a nov­el, my heart goes out to them. Ground­hog Day was a fun­ny, clever movie, but I for one would not like to live my writ­ing life that way.

More­over, if you are always writ­ing, it is hard to feel riv­et­ed to the out­come of your just-pub­lished work. Sure, it’s fun to read the reviews (the good ones that is), but by the time that book is being pub­lished, I am so involved in the next book, it is not so very impor­tant. I feel sor­ry for the writer who can­not move on until the full cycle (writ­ing-revi­sion-pub­lish­ing-response) is com­plete.

And yet … and yet, I have the respon­si­bil­i­ty (to my read­ers, my pub­lish­ers, and myself) to make each book good, as good as I can. This is dif­fi­cult because no book is ever tru­ly done. I can always find ways to make it bet­ter. Not so long ago I picked up a just-pub­lished book (I had worked on it for more than a year) and read the first para­graph. Instant­ly I real­ized I should have added an ele­ment to the plot that would have made it a much bet­ter book. Too late.

Would I rather work on one book at a time, work on it from start to fin­ish, before mov­ing on to the next? Sure. 

But no mat­ter how you do it, writ­ing is rather like car­ry­ing bags of cement up a lad­der. The real prob­lem is—I love doing it.


Skinny Dip with Vicki Palmquist

Rice Lake Carnegie Library

Rice Lake Carnegie Library

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

A good many things, but most emphat­i­cal­ly I would tell myself to not lis­ten to the com­ments about being too smart or show­ing off by using big words or being too curi­ous. I have always enjoyed learn­ing about new things and shar­ing what I’ve learned. I love dis­cussing ideas and unknown-to-me cor­ners of the world and peo­ple who have accom­plished great things and shown great imag­i­na­tion. In hind­sight, my 10-year-old self would have found more joy in school and in life with­out accept­ing those lim­i­ta­tions. “To thine own self be true” is some­thing I’ve learned to live by, but it’s tak­en many years.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Start my own busi­ness in part­ner­ship with my hus­band. There’s the work­ing-with-your-hus­band aspect twen­ty-four/­sev­en, which I’m hap­py to say has been reward­ing and enliven­ing. Being in busi­ness (which was always anath­e­ma to me when I was in my teens and twenties—I may have coined the term “suits”) has been a process of con­tin­u­al­ly rein­vent­ing our­selves, keep­ing ahead of the changes in a rapid­ly glob­al­iz­ing world, and learn­ing every sin­gle day. Most of all, it’s been the kind of chal­lenge I’ve need­ed for the past 27 years.

From what pub­lic library did you get your first card?

The Rice Lake Pub­lic Library in Rice Lake, Wis­con­sin. I was ten. I could ride my bike there dur­ing the sum­mers when I vis­it­ed my grand­par­ents. They gave me a wick­er bike bas­ket for my birth­day in June. I rode to the library every oth­er day and filled up that bas­ket with new trea­sures. It was a Carnegie library, upon a hill, with the adult col­lec­tion upstairs and the children’s col­lec­tion down­stairs. We weren’t allowed to go upstairs. Who knows what trou­ble we might have got­ten into!

Did your ele­men­tary school have a librar­i­an?

I adored my ele­men­tary school librar­i­an at Ethel Bas­ton in Saint Louis Park, Min­neso­ta. I don’t think I ever knew her name. Is that pos­si­ble? She always had a new book to rec­om­mend when I ran out of steam. I remem­ber read­ing the Box­car Chil­dren books, rac­ing through the mys­ter­ies, and the Land­mark His­to­ry books. When I’d fin­ished all of them, she had won­der­ful new sug­ges­tions. In sixth grade, our librar­i­an and my teacher, Mr. Gor­don Rausch, cooked up a scav­enger hunt in the library, ask­ing us all kinds of ques­tions that could only be found in spe­cif­ic books in that library. It was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever par­tic­i­pat­ed in. Then and there, I decid­ed that I would become a librar­i­an, too. I’m not but I do have a minor in library sci­ence.

What’s on your night­stand?

My Kin­dle. A clock radio that plays inter­net sta­tions. It’s on all night, play­ing jazz or clas­si­cal music. A beau­ti­ful coral rose that a friend brought me today.  Samu­rai Ris­ing, a new book by Pamela S. Turn­er and Gareth Hinds. The Most Impor­tant Thing by Avi. Grayling’s Song by Karen Cush­man. I’m a very lucky woman—I have to read for my job!



From the Editor

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

Wel­come to Bookol­o­gy.

Thank you for com­ing back, or check­ing us out for a first look, or for paus­ing if you land­ed here by acci­dent.

Chasing FreedomReturn­ing read­ers know that each month much of our con­tent is con­nect­ed to the magazine’s month­ly cen­ter­piece: the Book­storm™, a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books and web­sites com­piled and writ­ten by our chief Bookol­o­gist, Vic­ki Palmquist, which has at its start­ing point a sin­gle book. This month that book is Chas­ing Free­dom by Nik­ki Grimes, in which the author imag­ines a con­ver­sa­tion that might have occurred had Susan B. Antho­ny and Har­ri­et Tub­man sat down for tea. Susan B. Antho­ny and Har­ri­et Tubman’s “paths fre­quent­ly crossed one another’s,” Grimes says in our inter­view with her, but she could find no doc­u­men­ta­tion of an actu­al shared tea.  Still, “[t]he fact that these his­tor­i­cal pow­er­hous­es knew one anoth­er was excit­ing.”

The Sep­tem­ber Book­storm™ focus­es on the 19th cen­tu­ry and the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry and the polit­i­cal and social envi­ron­ments and insti­tu­tions in which Susan B. Antho­ny and Har­ri­et Tub­man lived and worked: slav­ery, war, Recon­struc­tion, the advent and dawn of Jim Crow, the new cen­tu­ry.  If you don’t have time now to look over the bib­li­og­ra­phy, our Bul­let Point Book Talks offers a quick look at some of the books in the ‘storm.

On the lighter side, today we also cel­e­brate the back-to-school sea­son with a Quirky Book List of books involv­ing class­room pets. Cau­tion­ary read­ing for our teacher friends? Per­haps.

Catch You Later, TraitorDon’t for­get to return after today, because, as usu­al, through­out the month you can join us for some skin­ny dip­ping and read what our reg­u­lar book-lov­ing con­trib­u­tors have to say about their lat­est for­ays into children’s lit­er­a­ture. Want to be alert­ed to Bookol­o­gy updates? Please sub­scribe.

And final­ly: We have a win­ner. Last month we encour­aged our read­ers to com­ment on our arti­cles, and we offered a signed copy of that month’s Book­storm™ book, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor by Avi as the prize for a draw­ing for which all com­menters would be eli­gi­ble. Lin­da B. from Col­orado took a moment to com­ment on our August Lit­er­ary Madeleine, and it was her name we pulled out of the Bookol­o­gist Hat. Con­grats to Lin­da, and thank you to all who com­ment­ed.

That’s enough. Time to explore Bookol­o­gy. Thanks for stop­ping.


Skinny Dip with Avi

bk_OldWolfWhat keeps you up at night?

Meet­ing dead­lines.

What is your proud­est career moment?

When, after four­teen years of try­ing to write, I pub­lished my first book, Things that Some­times Hap­pen (1970).

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

I don’t know if the game of Squash is part of the Olympics, but if so, that would be it.

bk_ThingsWhat’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Becom­ing a step-par­ent.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

Otto the Giant Dog.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I don’t turn any show on.



Bookstorm: Catch You Later, Traitor

Catch You Later Traitor Bookstorm

In this Bookstorm™:

Catch You Later, TraitorCatch You Later, Traitor

writ­ten by Avi
Algo­nquin Books for Young Read­ers, 2015

The ear­ly 1950s in the Unit­ed States was a time when sol­diers and med­ical per­son­nel had returned home from the two the­aters of World War II, Com­mu­nism was talked about as some­thing to be feared, and col­leagues and neigh­bors were asked to tes­ti­fy against peo­ple who were sus­pect­ed to be Com­mu­nists in Amer­i­ca. The nation was caught up in reports from the House Un-Amer­i­can Activ­i­ties Com­mit­tee and Sen­a­tor Joseph McCarthy. The Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tions was con­cerned about cit­i­zens who were dis­loy­al to Amer­i­ca. The air was heavy with sus­pi­cion and peo­ple were encour­aged to fear intel­lec­tu­als, immi­grants, and Hol­ly­wood.

It was a time when base­ball soared. The Brook­lyn Dodgers, the New York Giants, and the New York Yan­kees were the most famous teams of the day. Radio was the pri­ma­ry source for news and enter­tain­ment. Tele­vi­sions weren’t yet a part of every house­hold. 

In Avi’s nov­el, 12-year-old Pete Col­li­son is a reg­u­lar kid who loves Sam Spade detec­tive books and radio crime dra­mas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accus­ing his father of being a Com­mu­nist, Pete finds him­self caught in a real-life mys­tery. Could there real­ly be Com­mies in Pete’s fam­i­ly? This look at what it felt like to be an aver­age fam­i­ly caught in the wide net of the Red Scare has pow­er­ful rel­e­vance to con­tem­po­rary ques­tions of democ­ra­cy and indi­vid­ual free­dom.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties. Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor will be com­fort­ably read by ages 10 through adult. We’ve includ­ed pic­ture books, nov­els, and non­fic­tion for the pletho­ra of pur­pos­es you might have. This Book­storm™ has a few more books for adults than usu­al, believ­ing that a back­ground in the era will be help­ful for edu­ca­tors who weren’t alive dur­ing, or wish to brush up on, the time in which this book takes place.

McCarthy Era, also known as the Red Scare. Sur­pris­ing­ly, there aren’t very many books writ­ten for young read­ers about this intense time in his­to­ry, but we’ve select­ed a few that will align well with Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor.

Non­fic­tion. There are a greater num­ber of non­fic­tion books avail­able about the ear­ly 1950s, includ­ing lifestyle books, the Cold War, fash­ion, the Hol­ly­wood Ten, and spies.

Com­mu­nism, Social­ism in the Unit­ed States. Were you aware that a group of Finnish-Amer­i­cans moved to Rus­sia to set up a Utopi­an com­mu­ni­ty based on promis­es from Russ­ian leader Joseph Stal­in?

Witch Hunts. A clas­sic book, a clas­sic play, and a fas­ci­nat­ing look at an inci­dent of the “Red Scare” in children’s books.

Mid-Cen­tu­ry Unit­ed States. Superb rec­om­men­da­tions for books, both fic­tion and non­fic­tion, set in the 1950s. Read­ing sev­er­al of these along with Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor will give stu­dents an excel­lent fla­vor of the time, which offers a mir­ror for oth­er peri­ods in his­to­ry as well as the present.

Base­ball in the 1950s. It was the most talked-about sport in the coun­try, claim­ing head­lines and tun­ing radios in to lis­ten to “the game.” We’ve gath­ered a wide-rang­ing set of books that will include some­thing for every read­er, from pic­ture books to books for adults.

Noir Detec­tive Fic­tion. We men­tioned Sam Spade, but what exact­ly does “noir” mean? Here are good exam­ples, span­ning ear­ly chap­ter books such as Chet Gecko to a graph­ic nov­el like City of Spies to Dashiell Hammett’s Mal­tese Fal­con.

Old-Time Radio. There are whole radio pro­grams online to be shared with your class­room, along with a series on YouTube that depicts the work­ings of a radio stu­dio, and Avi’s own nov­el about the hey­day of radio seri­als.

Tech­niques for using each book:



From the Editor

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

Catch You Later, TraitorWel­come to the sixth issue of Bookol­o­gy.

This month’s Book­storm™ Book is Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, the lat­est nov­el by New­bery medal­ist Avi. Set in the 1950s in New York City dur­ing the era of com­mu­nist-hunt­ing, the nov­el explores the long and fright­en­ing reach of gov­ern­ment into pri­vate lives under the guise of secu­ri­ty and patri­o­tism and how a point­ed and accus­ing fin­ger can cause so much dam­age.  Accom­pa­ny­ing the Book­storm™ is a con­ver­sa­tion between Avi and New­bery Hon­or author Gary D. Schmidt and our usu­al bul­let point book talks for some of the Book­storm™ com­pan­ion books.

After prep­ping and read­ing for this month’s 1950s-influ­enced Bookol­o­gy, I’m ready to claim the podi­um and assert that the most impor­tant year in Amer­i­can Children’s pub­lish­ing was 1957. Thanks to two of that year’s events, every­thing changed.

  1. bk_cat-hatThe pub­li­ca­tion of The Cat and the Hat. In one fell swoop, read­ing instruc­tion and the type of books ear­ly read­ers could encounter would nev­er be the same. Dick and Jane would hold on for a few years, but not much longer.
  2. The launch of Sput­nik. Accord­ing to author and children’s lit­er­a­ture schol­ar Ani­ta Sil­vey, after this sal­vo in the space race the “school mar­ket for children’s books surged into the fore­front of children’s pub­lish­ing” (Children’s Books and Their Cre­ators, p. 5 43). This surge was strength­ened a year lat­er with a tremen­dous increase in the fed­er­al funds avail­able for pur­chas­ing school books—texts and gen­er­al read­ing mate­r­i­al.
Sputnik 1

Sput­nik 1

Every­thing changed.

Well, that’s a bit of hyper­bole, isn’t it? It’s also quick­ly refut­ed because one big thing that didn’t change was the white­ness of Amer­i­can children’s lit­er­a­ture.

The world of children’s book writ­ing and pub­lish­ing is now engaged in a need­ed and won­der­ful cam­paign for diver­si­ty in the top­ics and sub­jects of the books and in the voic­es cre­at­ing, pub­lish­ing, and pro­mot­ing those books.

A won­der­ful cam­paign, but not a new one, though the def­i­n­i­tion of diver­si­ty has expand­ed in ways the ear­ly pro­po­nents might nev­er have imag­ined. One of those pro­po­nents was Nan­cy Lar­rick, whose 1965 Sat­ur­day Review arti­cle “The All-White World of Children’s Books” brought the top­ic to the gen­er­al public’s eye, much like Wal­ter Dean Myers’s 2014 arti­cle in the New York Times short­ly before his death.

Blacklist coverThe white­ness of children’s lit­er­a­ture came into sharp relief as I was read­ing and read­ing about books includ­ed in this month’s storm.  We include sev­er­al Red Scare nov­els on the list, but they are cen­tered on white lives; I’d love to hear about books that explore what a child or teen of col­or expe­ri­enced. In the ter­rif­ic book The Oth­er Black List, author Mary Helen Wash­ing­ton writes “Because J. Edgar Hoover sus­pect­ed that any­one work­ing against seg­re­ga­tion or in the field of civ­il rights also had com­mu­nist ties, the FBI (in league with Joseph McCarthy’s Per­ma­nent Sub­com­mit­tee on Inves­ti­ga­tions and the House Un-Amer­i­can Activ­i­ties com­mit­tee) per­sis­tent­ly tar­get­ed the black intel­lec­tu­al and cul­tur­al com­mu­ni­ty of the 1950s” (pp. 22–23). At least some of those tar­get­ed adults must have had young peo­ple in their lives who were affect­ed.  I want to read their sto­ries.

bk_FreeWithinIn her excel­lent book Free With­in Our­selves: The Devel­op­ment of African Amer­i­can Children’s Lit­er­a­ture, Rudine Sims Bish­op, Pro­fes­sor Emeri­ta at Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty, states there is a sur­pris­ing dearth of children’s nov­els about the orga­nized civ­il rights events of the fifties (and by exten­sion, I sup­pose, the Red Scare).

Which brings me back to 1957 and yet anoth­er momen­tous event: the deseg­re­ga­tion of Cen­tral High School in Lit­tle Rock. At the cen­ter of that were nine teenagers:  Ernest Green, Eliz­a­beth Eck­ford, Jef­fer­son Thomas, Ter­rence Roberts, Car­lot­ta Walls, Min­ni­jean Brown, Glo­ria Ray, Thel­ma Moth­er­shed, and Mel­ba Pat­til­lo. Per­haps one rea­son there are so few fic­tion­al explo­rations of the 1950s civ­il rights peri­od is that the real sto­ries and peo­ple involved tend to blow every­thing else out of the water. Still, deseg­re­ga­tion is one civ­il rights era expe­ri­ence that many authors HAVE tack­led in nov­els, and our time­line this month shares some of those.

The upheavals of the 1960s, on the oth­er hand, have inspired many writ­ers, and lat­er this month we’ll have an inter­view, “Writ­ing His­to­ry,” with Kekla Magoon, author of How it Went Down, Fire in the Streets, The Rock and the Riv­er, and many more books for teens and mid­dle grade read­ers.

And of course through­out the month we will run our reg­u­lar fea­tures and columns, begin­ning today with a Knock Knock col­umn: “Being Ten” by Can­dace Ran­som.

We also have a con­test! Any­one who com­ments (on any arti­cle in Bookol­o­gy) dur­ing the month will be entered into a ran­dom draw­ing to win a signed hard­cov­er of Avi’s book, and our fea­tured Book­storm, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor.

And by all means…if you dis­agree with me about the year 1957, tell me why. In a com­ment, please. You might be a win­ner.

Thanks for vis­it­ing Bookol­o­gy.





A Conversation Between Avi and Gary D. Schmidt

Avi and Gary D. SchmidtWhen Avi pub­lished his 1950s’ era nov­el, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, he ded­i­cat­ed the book to Gary D. Schmidt, fel­low author, fel­low read­er, fel­low con­nois­seur of noir detec­tive nov­els and his­to­ry. The Bookol­o­gist is priv­i­leged to lis­ten in on this con­ver­sa­tion between two authors who are so great­ly admired for the depth and tex­ture with­in their books. Enjoy!

Gary D. Schmidt:
Ray Brad­bury once wrote a short arti­cle enti­tled “Mem­o­ries Shape the Voice” in which he talked about the pow­er­ful ways that his child­hood mem­o­ries affect­ed the mak­ing of his Green­town, Illi­nois. It wasn’t just the details that would come back to him as he cre­at­ed the world of his short stories—it was how he felt about those details: the beau­ty (to him) of the town’s fac­to­ries, the ter­ror (to him) of the gul­lies. It seems to me that this is true also of your evo­ca­tion of 1951 Brook­lyn. Is that fair to say?

It is fair. It’s been many years since I’ve lived in NYC, but I con­fess I still think of myself as a New York­er. I’ve writ­ten more about the city than any oth­er place, from City of Light, City of Darka dystopi­an graph­ic novel—to Sophia’s Wara tale of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. It’s not just “home” in a phys­i­cal sense, it’s my emo­tion­al home. And yet, I now live in the Rocky Moun­tains, nine thou­sand feet up, in a com­mu­ni­ty of thir­teen, the near­est neigh­bor a mile away.

When writ­ing Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, which is set, for the most part, in my boy­hood neigh­bor­hood, it was easy for me to walk home from school, play stoop­ball, go to the local movie the­ater. I eas­i­ly recall sit­ting on the front stoop read­ing com­ic books with my friends—even which com­ic books.

Gary D. Schmidt:
One part of that world is the phys­i­cal set­ting: Pete’s apart­ment, the streets, the nurs­ing home, the school. Though I sus­pect that being in these set­tings brought a great deal of nos­tal­gic plea­sure, how did these set­tings play a part in the plot­ting of the book?

I think all writ­ers depend on sen­so­ry mem­o­ry. Con­sid­er Ritman’s Books where, in the book, Pete hangs out. There was such a book­store in my neigh­bor­hood, which I loved to go to. The same for that movie the­ater where I would go for the Sat­ur­day morn­ing kids’ shows. My Brook­lyn was very much a small town. There was every­thing I need­ed, and all I need­ed to con­struct the book. Even when I had to go beyond, by subway—I love the city subways—it gave me great plea­sure to write about them.

Brooklyn Heights SchoolGary D. Schmidt:
The school is par­tic­u­lar­ly intrigu­ing to me, since it seems to me to be act­ing in inter­est­ing the­mat­ic ways. School, for Pete, is a place of mono­lith­ic pow­er: the teacher. There is one point of view, one way of respond­ing to Amer­i­ca, one way of sit­ting and respond­ing and behav­ing. Toward the end of the book, Pete calls his teacher, Mr. Don­a­van, a bully—and it seems at that point that Mr. Don­a­van rep­re­sents all of the school. But does it seem to you as well that the school, with its insis­tent pow­er, also rep­re­sents the way the coun­try was act­ing toward dis­sent at this time?

Mr. Don­a­van is based on a teacher I did have. I describe him as I remem­ber him. But don’t for­get Mr. Malakows­ki, who is also real, and a nice guy. He was, in fact, my favorite teacher. Par­ents think they know about their children’s schools, but I think in some way schools con­sti­tute a par­al­lel uni­verse to home life. They don’t always inter­sect. Pete’s par­ents don’t real­ly know what’s going on there, and Pete doesn’t want them to get involved. That, I think, is typ­i­cal. In today’s world, the old­er a kid gets the less he/she wants par­ents to be involved in school. Yes, the school does rep­re­sent the coun­try at that time, but it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that it was not the whole coun­try.

Gary D. Schmidt:
And of course, there are the char­ac­ters that are so vivid—an Avi trade­mark. I think espe­cial­ly of Mr. Ord­son, the blind man to whom Peter reads. He reads the news­pa­per, because Mr. Ord­son wants to keep up with cur­rent events. And he is a wise and good friend to Pete. You’ve writ­ten that Mr. Ord­son is based on a real per­son to whom you, as a young ado­les­cent, read. Are there oth­er char­ac­ters based on folks from your past? Per­haps Pete’s father, a noble char­ac­ter? Have you, as William Faulkn­er once advised, cut up your rel­a­tives to use them in your plot?

How can I say this? Pete’s father is based on what my father was not. My father was not a nice man. Very hard on me. Abu­sive. Don’t get me going. Any­way, I think Pete’s father is what I would have liked my father to be. I bet you’ve worked from that kind of oppo­site, too. Cathar­tic, per­haps. On the oth­er hand, Pete’s old­er broth­er is some­what based on my own old­er broth­er who, like many old­er broth­ers, can be patron­iz­ing to younger broth­ers. That said, a major part of the sto­ry is not about fam­i­lies that pull apart—there is some of that—but how fam­i­lies stay togeth­er. And Kat—a key fic­tion­al char­ac­ter in the book—is drawn to Pete’s fam­i­ly as much as she is to Pete.

Gary D. Schmidt:
One oth­er ele­ment from the past: the noir voic­es, the sounds of the hard-boiled detec­tive fic­tion that you read, that I read, that we both still read. At times, Pete leaves the first-per­son nar­ra­tive to go into that hard-boiled voice. I think you prob­a­bly had a lot of fun with that, right?

I adored writ­ing those sec­tions. I think there is some­thing unique­ly Amer­i­can in that noir voice. The tough love. The sar­casm. The wit. The truth-telling. The very care­ful lit­er­ary con­struc­tion, all of which masks a deep-root­ed sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty, an embar­rassed, if you will, search­ing for love. Very com­plex. The thought that I can share that—introduce it—to my read­ers gives me great plea­sure.

Gary D. Schmidt:
In this McCarthy–era nov­el, Pete is thrown into a world in which fear inspires hatred. As news spreads that his father does not accept an easy vision of a per­fect Amer­i­ca but believes that the sto­ries of work­ers and African Amer­i­cans also need full play in tales of the devel­op­ment of the coun­try, Pete is ostra­cized, since it is assumed that his father must be a Com­mie! Since all his­tor­i­cal fic­tion is writ­ten both about a time in the past and for read­ers in the present, it seems to me that your nov­el is a pow­er­ful warn­ing against assum­ing that any nar­ra­tive about our coun­try is sim­ple and uncom­pli­cat­ed.

One of my favorite notions about his­tor­i­cal fic­tion is expressed in the open­ing lines of L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between. “The past is a for­eign coun­try: they do things dif­fer­ent­ly there.” I find that a fas­ci­nat­ing idea because I don’t entire­ly agree with it. What I mean is, yes, the past is a dif­fer­ent coun­try, but they do not always do things dif­fer­ent­ly there. I know, from what I’ve read of what you’ve writ­ten, you under­stand this. Our goal is to make the past mean­ing­ful to the present, right? To give it life. Amer­i­ca has such a com­plex and fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry. But how lit­tle peo­ple know of it! How many great sto­ries there are yet to tell!

Gary D. Schmidt:
Pete must deal with some hard truths: in the nov­el, he devel­ops strong anger toward both his broth­er and his great-uncle, anger which does not get resolved in the nar­ra­tive. At the same time, he comes to under­stand that his father lives a life that is larg­er and per­haps more noble and hon­or­able than he had imag­ined. Is it fair to say that in one way, this nov­el is about the lim­its of knowledge—that we can­not tru­ly know some­one else com­plete­ly?

Pete’s father tells Pete: “Noth­ing is sim­ple. Know that and you know half the world’s wis­dom.” Oh, how I believe that! Bet you do, too. Some­where I read, “Poor writ­ing makes what you know sim­ple. Good writ­ing makes it com­plex.” Right?

Gary D. Schmidt:
Per­haps this is the hubris of the McCarthy era as well—the assump­tion that I have the right to know every­thing about some­one else. I note this in the con­text of a world in which it seems to be the grow­ing assump­tion that we do have the right to know what we want to know about anoth­er person—something that Pete’s father insists is not true at all.

Hey! Pri­va­cy, the last fron­tier! It’s one of the most impor­tant things about book read­ing. It’s tru­ly pri­vate. Far more so than even dig­i­tal read­ing! The oth­er day—in San Francisco—I passed a used book store. Out front was a box labeled “Free Books.” Think of it! No one would know if I picked up a book. Or read it. Or thought about it. Or what I thought. No one. And yet, and yet—and I know you believe this, too—nothing is more inti­mate than shar­ing thoughts. That said, one of the most pow­er­ful things a per­son can have—for good or ill—is a secret. As a kid I recall play­ing a game we called Secrets. The idea being that you and your friend each shared a real secret. A dan­ger­ous game, when you think about it.

You Never Heard of Willie Mays?Gary D. Schmidt:
Pete decides that he will be a Giants fan, going against Brooklyn’s fanat­ic loy­al­ty to the Dodgers—who, we know, will one day betray that loy­al­ty. I know this is, on one lev­el, sim­ply Pete’s desire to get back at the oth­ers around him for their hatred. But it also seems to me that Pete is assert­ing his right to be different—exactly what McCarthy­ists feared and pros­e­cut­ed, and, per­haps, exact­ly what our own cul­ture seems to fear: the per­son who does not buy into the cur­rent vision of the Amer­i­can dream: to acquire. This is not a mes­sage nov­el; it first does what E. M. Forster claims the writer must do: make the read­er turn the page. But at the same time, you are mak­ing some pow­er­ful sug­ges­tions that warn against a too easy accep­tance of the culture’s claims upon us.

Being loy­al to a false ide­al can be very destruc­tive. Being loy­al to high ide­al can be very dan­ger­ous. Pete’s shift from being a Brook­lyn Dodger fan to a New York Giants fan is some­thing that came right out of my life—and, yes, in 1951 when the Giants won the Nation­al Pen­nant just as I recount it in the book. It was my first step in becom­ing inde­pen­dent from my fam­i­ly. But when you become inde­pen­dent of your family—or your culture—you pay a price. More often than not you are reject­ed, told that you have aban­doned them, who­ev­er or what­ev­er them might be. But being dif­fer­ent, being inde­pen­dent, is lib­er­at­ing. In Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, the word trai­tor becomes a code word for “being dif­fer­ent.” In the sto­ry being dif­fer­ent enrich­es Pete’s life. The sto­ry begins by his no longer being a kid. It ends by his becom­ing a kid again—but far deep­er in expe­ri­ence. Hey, that’s why I ded­i­cat­ed the book to you. You’ve lived your life that way. Right?

Thank you both for this inter­view. It opens many paths to explore and ideas to con­sid­er, but we expect­ed no less from the two of you.


Catherine, Called Birdy Companion Booktalks

A baker’s dozen to get you start­ed on the April Book­storm™  books …

Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction ManualAviary Won­ders Inc. Spring Cat­a­log and Instruc­tion Man­u­al, Kate Sam­worth. Clar­i­on Books, 2014

  • Win­ner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Young Read­ers’ Lit­er­a­ture
  • Fan­tas­tic illus­tra­tions of fan­tas­ti­cal crea­tures
  • Build your own birds!


Backyard BirdsBack­yard Birds by Karen Stray Nolt­ing, Jonathan Latimer, and Roger Tory Peter­son. Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 1999

  • Col­or pho­tographs and draw­ings
  • Easy guides on how-to-iden­ti­fy com­mon birds
  • Great sup­ple­men­tary mate­r­i­al for reports 


Blood Red HorseBlood Red Horse by K.M. Grant. Walk­er, 2006 (Book 1 of a tril­o­gy)

  • 13 year old rides a beloved horse into bat­tle dur­ing the cru­sades
  • Nar­ra­tive fol­lows both Chris­t­ian and Mus­lim char­ac­ters
  • What does it take to become a knight? 


CastleCas­tle, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by David Macaulay. Can­dlewick Press, 2005 edi­tion

  • Calde­cott Hon­or book
  • Step-by-step con­struc­tion of fic­tion­al 13th Cen­tu­ry cas­tle
  • Easy Read­er ver­sion avail­able 

Castle DiaryCas­tle Diary: the Jour­nal of Tobias Burgess by Richard Platt, illus­trat­ed by Chris Ridell. Can­dlewick Press, 2003

  • Dai­ly life in a cas­tle from an 11-year-old servant’s point of view
  • Joust­ing, sword fight­ing, archery, horse-back rid­ing
  • What was it like to live in a cas­tle? 

FleasCreepy Crea­tures: Fleas by Valerie Bod­den. Cre­ative Paper­backs, 2014

  • Under-the-micro­scope pho­tographs with amaz­ing details
  • Great back mat­ter for report writ­ing
  • One in a set of Creepy Crea­tures books 

Crispin: The Cross of LeadCrispin: Cross of Lead by Avi. Pen­guin, 2002

  • New­bery win­ner
  • Page-turn­ing action
  • False­ly-accused boy goes on the run in 14th cen­tu­ry Eng­land


Doodle StitchingDoo­dle Stitch­ing: Fresh and Fun Embroi­dery for Begin­ners by Aimee Ray. Ster­ling Pub­lish­ing, 2007

  • Easy-to-fol­low pat­terns for a vari­ety of projects (book cov­ers!)
  • Doo­dles” appeal­ing to boys and girls
  • Many designs that even begin­ners could fin­ish in a short block of time 

Good masters, Sweet LadiesGood Mas­ters! Sweet Ladies! Voic­es from a Medieval Vil­lage by Lau­ra Amy Schlitz, illus­trat­ed by Robert Byrd. Can­dlewick Press, 2011

  • Linked sto­ries told through mono­logues, per­fect for read­ers the­ater or solo read­ing
  • New­bery win­ner
  • Vil­lage map and oth­er illus­tra­tions by Robert Byrd and Lau­ra Amy Schlitz’s author notes pro­vide a wealth of detail to sup­port the sto­ries

Oxford Dictionary of SaintsOxford Dic­tio­nary of Saints by David Farmer. Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 5th edi­tion, 2011

  • Easy-read­ing biogra­phies of 1300 saints, with empha­sis on most famil­iar and Eng­lish saints
  • Gives folk­lore asso­ci­at­ed with saints as well as his­to­ry
  • Just-the-facts approach—doesn’t judge or pros­e­ly­tize


A Proud Taste for Scarlet and MiniverProud Taste for Scar­let and Miniv­er, by E.L. Konigs­burg. 2001 reprint

  • His­tor­i­cal fic­tion from two-time New­bery-win­ning author
  • Meet one of the most pow­er­ful women in his­to­ry: Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • Fast-mov­ing, dia­logue-rich nar­ra­tive


SaladinSal­adin: Noble Prince of Islam by Diane Stan­ley. Harper­Collins, 2002

  • Biog­ra­phy of an Islam­ic hero and ruler dur­ing the Cru­sades
  • Beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions evoke medieval Islam­ic art
  • Great back mat­ter for report writ­ing 


Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13-3/4Secret Diary of Adri­an Mole, Aged 13−3÷4 by Sue Townsend. Harper­Teen, 2003

  • First crush, acne, a roy­al wed­ding, being broke—through the eyes of British teen
  • First in a series of humor­ous diaries
  • 1980s Britain—details of set­ting might be unfa­mil­iar to today’s read­ers but emo­tions won’t be 



Avi: We Need to Honor That

Catch You Later, TraitorEvery par­ent, teacher, and librar­i­an wants chil­dren to read. The rea­sons they wish for this are end­less­ly var­ied, rang­ing from edu­ca­tion­al skills, enter­tain­ment, to learn­ing a les­son. Some­times, how­ev­er, we need ask, what is it about read­ing that chil­dren like?

I’ve come to believe the answer lies in the dif­fer­ent way kids and adults read books. When adults read a book, they encounter a sit­u­a­tion, a char­ac­ter, a detail, which enables them to say, “That’s some­thing I have expe­ri­enced.” Or, “How inter­est­ing. I have seen that hap­pen.” “Oh, I’ve done that.” And so forth. That’s to say, they see the fic­tion as a con­fir­ma­tion of their own lives, some­thing they rec­og­nize as true.

When young peo­ple read fic­tion, they absorb the depict­ed expe­ri­ence as if it were about them. Just the oth­er day I asked a sev­enth grad­er why she liked fan­ta­sy so much. “Because I’m always in the clouds, dream­ing,” she said. “Those books are what I want to do.”

In oth­er words, young peo­ple engage with read­ing best when they can put them­selves into a book. The expe­ri­ence relat­ed in a sto­ry becomes their expe­ri­ence. Yes, lit­er­ary qual­i­ty can enhance that expe­ri­ence, but it’s most­ly what hap­pens in a sto­ry that engages kids.

When one writes for young peo­ple, you have to find a way to allow your read­er to con­nect to your sto­ry in this very per­son­al way. The young read­er must rec­og­nize himself/herself in the tale. The sto­ry must—ultimately—be about them, their world, even if they can­not artic­u­late that fact. Indeed, some­times what engages the young read­er is that they want the expe­ri­ence depict­ed in the sto­ry.

WouldbegoodsYears ago, for bed­time, I was read­ing E. Nesbit’s, The Would-Be-Goods (1899), a charm­ing British Edwar­dian nov­el, to my six-year-old boy. As far as I could tell, there was absolute­ly noth­ing in the book which was sim­i­lar to his life. All the same, he was enjoy­ing it immense­ly.

One night—having learned that kids wrote to authors, he said, “Can I write to the author (Nes­bit) and tell her how much I love this book?”

Me: “That would be nice, but I’m afraid she died many years ago.”

My boy sat bolt upright in bed. “That’s impos­si­ble!” he cried.


Because she knows so much about me!”

It was a great book—for him—because it was, in some way, about him.

I did not know that. I doubt if he could have explained it to me. I rather sus­pect he iden­ti­fied with the char­ac­ters in the book because they con­stant­ly got into some kind of mis­chief. It’s the kind of life he would have liked to have lived.

That’s why it’s so impor­tant to allow kids to choose the books they wish to read. Some­thing about the title, the image on the book, the open­ing para­graph, some­thing, has caught the atten­tion of the young read­er. They wish to con­nect to that. We need to hon­or that.





From the Editor: Welcome

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

Wel­come to Bookol­o­gy.

WelcomeWhat began almost a year ago as a con­ver­sa­tion among col­leagues has now tak­en shape and arrived on your vir­tu­al doorstep: an e-mag­a­zine ded­i­cat­ed to nur­tur­ing the essen­tial con­ver­sa­tion about the role of children’s books in the K-8 class­room.

That meet­ing was con­vened by Vic­ki and Steve Palmquist, own­ers and founders of Wind­ing Oak and per­haps more famil­iar to many of you as the founders and heart­beat of Children’s Lit­er­a­ture Net­work, an orga­ni­za­tion they rolled up last year after pro­vid­ing 12 years of lead­er­ship as well as an unpar­al­leled online plat­form for com­mu­ni­ca­tion between children’s book cre­ators and the adults who love those books.

Vic­ki and Steve want­ed to cre­ate a sim­i­lar online pres­ence, one that would not only high­light the work of Wind­ing Oak’s many clients, but which would also invite a larg­er net­work of read­ers, writ­ers, illus­tra­tors, teach­ers, and librar­i­ans into the con­ver­sa­tion.

A quick guide to what you’ll see each month:

A Book­storm ™.  Each “storm” begins with one book. From there we spin out a cross-cur­ricu­lum array of sub­jects and pro­vide titles for each cat­e­go­ry. Com­mon Core, STEM/STEAM, state standards—any cur­ricu­lum struc­ture will be served by the Book­storm™ bib­li­og­ra­phy. But we also go beyond a sim­ple list, and each month much of the Bookol­o­gy con­tent we present will emanate from the Book­storm™ titles.

Columns.  Whether writ­ten by one of our reg­u­lars or a guest writer, these posts are intend­ed to share the voic­es of peo­ple immersed in the world of children’s lit­er­a­ture. We are espe­cial­ly delight­ed to launch “Knock Knock,” a blog col­lec­tive from Wind­ing Oak’s many clients that will appear on alter­nate Tues­days. Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick game­ly accept­ed the assign­ment to write the inau­gur­al col­umn; she’ll be fol­lowed up lat­er this month by Melis­sa Stew­art and Avi.

Inter­views and arti­cles. We will be vis­it­ing with illus­tra­tors, writ­ers, teach­ers, librar­i­ans and oth­ers in order to expand what we all know and under­stand about children’s lit­er­a­ture. We’ll also be offer­ing a lighter, more humor­ous get­ting-to-know-you inter­view venue: Skin­ny Dips, in which we ask about almost any­thing except the cre­ative process.

We will scat­ter about the mag­a­zine fea­tures and inci­den­tals we hope will be of inter­est, such as Lit­er­ary Madeleines—dis­cov­er­ies that even the vet­er­an read­ers on the staff savored—and Time­lines, quick at-a-glance looks at sem­i­nal books in a genre or sub­ject. Con­test, quizzes, and book-give­aways will also appear through­out the month.

What you won’t see are book reviews. While many of our arti­cles and columns will of course dis­cuss and rec­om­mend books, those rec­om­men­da­tions will always be in con­text of a larg­er top­ic. There are plen­ty of book review forums avail­able, and we weren’t inter­est­ed in adding to those voic­es.

And for now you won’t see “Com­ments” sec­tions. This is iron­ic of course in view of our stat­ed mis­sion of nur­tur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion; we’ll open those, and soon. In the mean­time, should you have a com­ment or sug­ges­tion or request, send me a note.

Thanks for your time and inter­est. Now please go explore Bookol­o­gy.



When I Was Your Age

When I was a small child, I spent a lot of time around adults. Hav­ing no broth­ers or sis­ters, no cousins liv­ing near­by, and spend­ing sum­mers and vaca­tions with my grand­par­ents, I went where they vis­it­ed. Many of those peo­ple were their age. So I heard this phrase often: “When I was your age …” […]


Summer isn’t over yet, the next part …

For old­er read­ers, grades four through sev­en, there are great series choic­es. How many books do a series make? I’m think­ing three or more—I have no idea if there’s an offi­cial clas­si­fi­ca­tion. In July, I heard three excel­lent speak­ers on children’s lit­er­a­ture, Ani­ta Sil­vey, Judy Free­man, and Bar­bara Swan­son Sanders. They couldn’t get their book […]