Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #11: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This weeks topics is Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2013

Picking my Top Ten in any category is usually hard for me.  Either I can't come up with ten things or I end up with way too many.  But this weeks Top Ten list took me no time at all to figure out.  And it was NOT what I was expecting.  Some are old, some are new, all are favorites.

They are listed in no particular order of favoritism.

1-  Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng
      Cheng has imagined the life of this quiet rebel who lived in the 19th centur in a unique and
      informative way in this free verse YA novel.

2-  Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
     This year's Carnegie medal winner, it is a YA story set in an oppressive dystopian 1950s England about a severely dyslexic boy who finds the courage to rebel.

3-  Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
     I loved this MG book set in a metaphoric world of children's play and watching the main character as he comes of age in the course of one symbolic day.

4-  The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne
     In this MG novel, Barnaby's boringly normal parents, clearly Australian relatives of the Dursley's,can't stand that Barnaby refuses to be normal and continues to float.  When his mother does the unspeakable and lets him go, Barnaby floats into all kinds of experiences with different people who accept who they are and teach Barnably to embrace who he is.

5-  Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
     An MG quest story about an unlikely friendship between two boys and the journey they take to find out who they are as they follow the twists and turns of the Appalachian Trail and Early, who is anumber savant, narrates a parallel quest story about Pi (yes, 3.14 Pi) that takes them all full circle.

6-  Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco (To Be Reviewed)
     I just finished this wonderful MG story about 12 year old Bee, born with a diamond shaped birthmark on one side of her face, who just wants a home and family and the two aunts who help her, even though she and her little dog Peabody are the only ones who can see them.

7-  Tamar, a Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal by Mal Peet
     A YA novel set in 1945 and 1995, this is a delicious story that is about identity - finding out who you are or even inventing who you are. Oh yes, it is also about spies, codes, love, betrayal and intrigue and one of the best of its kind.

8-  After by Morris Gleitzman
     This is the 4th novel about young Felix and his flight from the Nazis and takes the reader back to 1945 and Felix's life as a 13 year old partisan, finally able to fight the Nazis rather than just running from them.  If you have already read Once, Then and Now, After will give you the sense of closure that you might need if you have been following Felix from the beginning.

9-  The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
     In this MG novel, Marlee Nesbit, so shy she can't speak to anyone outside her family, finally does find her own voice in 1957 Little Rock, Arkansas in a fight against discrimination and segregation.

10- Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
      This wordless picture book tells the poignant story of a young girl's compassion towards a run away slave by silently giving him food and helping him avoid capture one night.

I really needed a Top Eleven this week because my other favorite was:

 Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

A young girl repeatedly rebuffs the proffered friendship of a poor girl in her class, but when the girl doesn't come back one day, she recalls her own unkindness and how she could have done things differently.  A nice look at bullying from the perspective of the bullier.
These are my favorites so far this year, what are yours?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Funnies #11: Leapin' Lizards! June 1942 Little Orphan Annie Gets in the Scrap

 "What are you doin' to help win the war, mister?"
When the country went to war, so did America's "strippers" that is, the author's and illustrator's of the comic strips already enjoyed by millions of fans young and old.  Little Orphan Annie was no exception.  The gangster stories of the 1930s that had entertained readers were out and war service stories were in as Annie became a home front sweetheart.

And it didn't take Annie long to organize the Junior Commandos with her friends.  And the idea caught on - before long there were thousands and thousands of real Junior Commandos all over the country, 20,000 in Boston alone.  And even Dottie's little brother Burk in the novel Crystal City Lights embodied the Junior Commando spirit, despite being interned by the country he was helping.  So, what is a Junior Commando?  I think Dottie explains it best:
"Little Orphan Annie is organizing groups of kids all over the country to collect newspapers, scrap metal, and all kinds of stuff that can be reused for the war effort.  They sell the scrap and then buy war stamps and bonds.  Burk even made himself a special armband with "JC" written on it so everyone will know he's a Junior Commando just like Annie." (page 135)
The Junior Commandos came into being on June 15, 1942 when Annie and her friend Loretta tell the other girls they have no time to play - they are busy doing war work and the rest is, as they say, history.  And Annie and the Junior Commandos returned to the comic strip on and off as needed in the various storylines that ran throughout the war.  But for now, I hope you enjoy the beginning of this pop culture phenomena:

Ckick to enlarge and read
Click to enlarge and read
Click to enlarge and read
Click to enlarge and read
From: Arf! The Life and Hard Time of Little Orphan Annie 1935-1945 by Harold Gray

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crystal City Lights by Holly Moulder

Internment camps in the US during WWII are usually associated with the detainment of Japanese Americans.  But they actually were not the only group to be classified as enemy aliens.  People who had been born in Germany or Italy were also sent to internment camps, despite having lived in the US for a considerable length of time and had strong ties to this country.  Often, they were sent to these camps based on very flimsy evidence.

Which is exactly what happens in Holly Moulder's novel Crystal City Lights.  Dottie Zorn, 12, has comfortably and happily lived her whole life with her parents and younger brother Burk in Audubon, NJ.  So when her best friend Liesel Siegfried says she is distressed about her father's support of Germany and then shows Dottie a pro-Hitler flyer she found in her house, Dottie knows she shouldn't keep it but instead she hides it in her closet.

After Liesel's father is taken into custody by the FBI, it isn't long before they show up at the Zorn's house and take Dottie's father into custody as well.  The next day while the family is out of the house, the FBI ransack their home, destroying loved family heirlooms and furnishings.  Still, the Zorns think they are OK, after all there is nothing about supporting the Nazis or Hitler in their home.  Except for that flyer, but Dottie is scared and keeps her mouth shut, hoping for the best.

The flyer is used against Mr. Zorn, and the family finds themselves traveling to the family internment camp in Crystal City, Texas carrying whatever they could in one suitcase each.

Now, instead of comfort, they live in a two room hut in a place surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by men carrying machine guns.   But Dottie makes the best of it and is happy to find her friend Liesel in a hut not far away.  Only now, Liesel must go to the German school instead of the American one because her father plans to take the family back to Germany.  And in fact, Mr. Siegfried even goes so far as to forbid Liesel from hanging out with Dottie.

To make matters worst, he has begun drinking all the time.  But where does he get the alcohol?  When Dottie discovers Mr. Siegfried's secret, once again, she keeps the information to herself.  And just like the flyer did, Dottie's silence again leads to trouble and this time, it might cost someone their life.

I came by Crystal City Lights at BEA this year and it was totally serendipitous.  I saw the sign as I was walking by the autographing area.  How I missed knowing that Holly Moulder's new book is beyond me, but I find that happens sometimes with BEA, no matter how careful I am.  So, I am so glad that the stars aligned at just the right moment for me to find this "killer diller" middle grade historical fiction story (killer diller is Burk's favorite expression).

This is a very nice coming of age story in which Dottie must learn the hard way and more than once that withholding information that her parents need to know can have serious consequences - it doesn't protect them or make bad things go away.

But Dottie also has the fierce loyalty of a girl her age to her best friend despite everything that happens.  And she loves to read - Nancy Drew, of course, gets packed in her single allowable suitcase.

Crystal City Lights is thought provoking middle grade historical fiction novel that not only provides a very readable story, but also gives the reader an inside look at a German internment camp and at the way German Americans were treated by others no matter how loyal they were to the United States.  It is a book that resonates even in today's world.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was received from the author at BEA 2013

A photo of Crystal City Detention Center
A hand drawn map of Crystal City Detention Center *

If you would like to have more information about the Crystal City Internment Camp that detained Germans, Italians and Japanese at the same time, though in separate areas, you can find it HERE

*"en-denshopd-p64-00005-1." Densho Encyclopedia. 10 Jul 2012, 09:29 PDT. 20 Jun 2013, 04:49 <http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-p64-00005-1/>.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman

When 9 year old Karl is forced to go to work on weekends at a Canadian nursing home with his mother, a nurse, he finds himself drawn to an elderly patient name Lizzie.  And the attraction is mutual.  Karl is the only person there who believes Lizzie when she says that she once had an elephant in her garden.  Slowly, Lizzie tell her story to Karl and his mother.

Lizzie had lived with her mother, a zookeeper, and her young brother Karli in Dresden, Germany during World War II.  Though very much against Hitler, their dad is off fighting on the Russian front.  But when the Allies begin to bomb Germany, it is decided that the animals in the zoo would need to be put down if things got really dire.  Rather than see that happen, Lizzie's mother decides to bring a still young elephant home from the zoo and to care for her in the garden.  The elephant is named Marlene, after the famous German singer Marlene Dietrich, now living and working in America.  But in 1945, RAF planes literally firebomb Dresden, destroying most of the city center and causing residents to flee the city westward to avoid the Russian soldiers approaching from the east.  Among those refugees are Lizzie, Karli, their mother and Marlene.

It is mid-winter when the refugees head out with their pachyderm, hoping to find safety at the rural farm of some relatives who haven't spoken to Lizzie's family since the war began because they were Hitler supporters.  But when they arrive, the farm is almost completely deserted - in the barn they discover a wounded Canadian airman named Peter hiding out.  At first, their mother treats him terribly, but after he saves Karli's life, that changes.  And when the police show up at the farm looking for Peter, the family decides it is time to move on, west towards the Allies, with Peter, and of course, Marlene, who now carries 16 year old Lizzie's secret - she is madly in love with Peter.

As they head west again, the family has many more adventures and many more interesting encounters, but will they make it to safety with their elephant and their enemy soldier?

An Elephant in the Garden is based on a real story that Morpurgo and his wife heard on the BBC at 3 in the morning about a woman zookeeper in Belfast who took an elephant home each night with her When the Germans started bombing Ireland.  Naturally, Morpurgo gave the story his own special twist.  The result in an interesting narrative, though perhaps no one of his best.

Almost from the start, my interest flagged each time I picked up the book.  It was too slow moving and too full of explanation and short on action.  It did get better in the middle, after Peter was discovered and the family went on the run again, but I am afraid most young readers might have given up on the book by them.

I also found the idea that a modern listener is named Karl just like the Karli of the past, and that he resembles him in so many other ways, to be one of those coincidental conceits that Morpurgo so often uses and that I don't much care for.  It's a little to pat for my taste.

I did, however, like the metaphor of the compass - the one Peter carries as an airman and how it becomes a red thread through the story as a guide for finding one's way both physically and morally.

As always in a Morpurgo story, An Elephant in the Garden is told in simple, well-crafted prose.  The past and present settings are differentiated using different fonts to avoid any confusion.  And because it is by Michael Morpurgo, you know the end will be OK ever for the most sensitive reader, making it a good introductory narrative for kids who are just beginning to learn about war and its consequences.  And he does make Marlene sound like such a gentle, patient pachyderm, it almost makes you want to get an elephant of your own.  ALMOST being the operative word in that sentence.

Morpurgo has teamed up once again with Michael Foreman, one of my favorite children's book authors/illustrators, and the accompanying black and white ink and wash illustrations he has created for An Elephant in the Garden just complete the story perfectly.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Scholastic/UK has a short but lovely 2 page PFD guide for An Elephant in the Garden that can be downloaded HERE

And if you would like to read more about the real story that inspired Michael Morpurgo to write An Elephant in the Garden, you can find the story HERE

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Adventures of Superman: it's Man of Steel Day!

Today is Man of Steel Day because supposedly if you visit your local comic book retailer you can get a free copy of the All Star Superman @1 Special Edition comic book and maybe if you are lucky, free Man of Steel posters and bags.   It's all really just promo for the Man of Steel movie which opens on Friday.

This is a rather glamed up Superman and I know lots of people are looking forward to the new Man of Steel movie, including my own Kiddo.  But I'm just an old fashioned girl who still likes the old Superman comics books and newspaper strips.  Superman, as you probably know, was the brain child of Jerry Siegle and Joe Schuster in the 1930s.  In June 1938, Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, and by 1939, the Man of Steel had his own comic book.  Once World War II broke out, it didn't take Superman long to become a hero and a defender to "truth, justice and the American way" for kids (and grownups) who were already hooked on both the comic book and the 15 minute radio show that aired almost everyday.

Action #1 June 1938 and Superman #1 1939
Superman ran as a serial on radio from February 12, 1940, syndicated on NYC's WOR, and later, it was on the Mutual Network, where it was broadcast from August 31, 1942 to February 4, 1949.  Called The Adventures of Superman, the 15 minute show usually ran late in the afternoon so kids could listen after school.  And kids loved it.

Superman is 75 years old now and over 1000 episodes of his radio show, The Adventures of Superman, is now in the public domain, which means you, too, can listen to this downloadable bit of pop culture history either on ITunes or the Internet Archive and best of all, it's all free.

Here, for your listening pleasure, is the very first episode called, appropriately enough, The Baby from Krypton.

And well, OK, I will probably go see the new movie Man of Steel, too.  Meanwhile,

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes

The events in Italy during WWII aren't often written about in kidlit.  To date, I have only written about two books where the action takes place in Italy.  The first was Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli, an MG story about an Italian boy rounded up in the cinema while watching an American cowboy movie and sent to work in a labor camp in Germany.  The second was the excellent picture book I Will Come Back for You by Marisabina Russo, about how a young Jewish girl and her family were helped to survive in hiding in Italy despite the strict anti-Semitic laws.

Well, now, thanks to the prolific British children's author Shirley Hughes, another story set in Italy had been told.  Hero on a Bicycle begins in 1944 in Florence.  Paolo Crivelli, 13, lives with his British mother Rosemary, older sister Constanza, 16, his now very old beloved dog Guido and his bicycle.  His Italian father is an outspoken anti-Fascist, forced into hiding so no one, not even his family, knows his whereabouts.

Now, with nothing to do since the schools are closed and his friends have all left Florence, Paolo sneaks out of the house every night and rides his bicycle around the city despite the curfew.  Meanwhile, his mother lies in bed worrying about whether he will make it home.

One night, Paolo is stopped by some rough looking men with rifles.  They have a message for his mother and want him to give it to her: they are in the area and will be getting in touch - tomorrow night if they can - the usual way.  The next night Paolo follows his mother as she heads to her meeting with the strangers.  As he watches, he realizes they are partisans and they want his mother to shelter two Allied airmen -a Brit and a Canadian - until they can get them to safety.

But there are rumors about Rosemary Crivelli and one Sunday, the Gestapo shows up and searches the house from top to bottom.  Luckily, the Crivelli's had a warning this was going to happen and were able to hide the airmen.  In fact, as the war in and around Florence heats up and the Allied forces get closer, the occupying German get more and more desperate and cruel.  And Paolo, who had earlier tried to join the partisans but was embarrassingly rejected, finally gets his wish do something for them when it is decided that he will be their guide to a safe house in the center of Florence.  But is a 13 year old boy up to the task of a grown man in order to save the lives of these two Allied airmen?

Hero on a Bicycle is a real coming of age novel, but I can't say it totally grabbed me.  I just didn't connect with any of the characters.  I actually found them to be flat. forced and quite frankly, unbelievable.    What was believable, however, were the descriptions of Florence and its surroundings, and the deprivations that the ordinary citizens suffered - for example, the Crivelli's were always hungry like everyone in WWII, while the best food went to the occupiers and it is interesting to read how careful Paolo was about protecting his bicycle tires, since there were no replacements if they got ruined.  Although, by 1944, I am surprised they were still OK given Paolo's heavy duty riding all the time.

And I am usually fond of books about partisans, but not this one.   I found Hughes' portrayal of them to be just plain of mean at time, especially towards a family and child of a man who is probably a fellow resistance fighter, as the family suspects he is.  And I thought they were a little to easy for Paolo to find, but not the Germans, which didn't make sense.

There are some pleasant surprises, though, and certainly some very heart-pounding moments, as when the German lieutenant, attracted to Constanza, finds a discarded Lucky Strike packet during his search of the house.  Or when Paolo must help the airmen and everything goes wrong.  This is a first novel for the 85 year old Hughes and I would still recommend Hero on a Bicycle in part because of its lovely Italian setting but with reservations as far as the plot goes.

A word about the illustrations at the head of every chapter:  Hughes is an artist and she had done these illustrations herself.  They are wonderful black and white pencil drawing, as you can see from this one of Paolo taking one of his nighttime excursions:

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Be sure to check out the website dedicated to Hero on a Bicycle for more on this interesting novel, including some of the drawings she did during her post war trip to Italy and which she utilized for this novel.

This is book 7 of my 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


The 69th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and invasion on Normandy Beach in France, a operation that turned the tide of the entire war, has come and gone.

My apologies for this last D-Day post.  I had a wonderful post planned for D-Day thanks to the generosity of a reader who sent me a wonderful poster that was distributed to newspapers across the county.  The poster is of the five daily Peanuts comic stripes by Charles Schulz commemorating D-Day in 1994.  I had the poster framed and promptly broke the glass, so it is back at the framer.  So I am reposting the strips I used in 2011 again until I get my poster back:

Click to Enlarge and Read

You can also still follow the D-Day landings and invasion through the experience of 7 people who were there thanks to England's Channel 4, an experiment in real-time which should prove to be interesting. You can find it HERE 

Lastly, a documentary has been produced by Rick Beyer and has been showing on various PBS stations around the country called The Ghost Army.  This sounds like the stuff of YA WWII fiction, but it was the real deal.  This was a unit of hand picked artists, designers, ever a fashion designer - you remember Bill Blass, don't you?  These guys landed in France with rubber tanks and jeeps, sound effect records and all the other tricks they had dreamed up to fool the enemy.  And they did - more than 20 times throughout France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.  

Check your local PBS stations to see if The Ghost Army is scheduled to be on TV.   If not, hopefully PBS will run it again online or on TV, it is so well worth watchers to see how their deceptions were created and utilized, as you can see from this trailer:

You can also read an interesting article in The Atlantic about the Ghost Army HERE  Those of you who read Connie Willis's brillant Blackout and All Clear, you might remember that she included bits about the rubber camaflogue tanks and trucks.

Please take a moment to remember those who landed in France on D-Day, those who survived and as well as those who didn't.   Each person played their own important role in the success of that invasion.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ausländer by Paul Dowswell

People of German descent, were considered to be Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans living outside of Germany) by the Nazis, who wanted to bring these 'misguided wanderers' heim ins Reich (home to the Reich).

And that is almost exactly what Piotr Bruck is - a blond hair, blue eyed 13 year old Volksdeutscher, living in Poland, not far from the Russian border.  I say almost, because Piotr had a grandparent who was Polish, not German.  Left orphaned in June 1941 when his parents car got in the way of the German invasion of Russia, Piotr was put in an orphanage when the Nazis took over his family's farm.

But Piotr's luck changed in August 1941 when he was picked out to be adopted by a prominent German family from Berlin, mostly because of his perfect Aryan looks.  The Kaltenbach's already had three children - cold, distant Elsbeth, 20, Traudle, 13 and Charlotte, 8.  Professor Kaltenbach accepted Piotr, now Germanized to Peter, immediately, but the rest of the family was not so welcoming.  Nevertheless, Peter is enrolled in the Hitler Youth, and in school and even thinks about becoming a Luftwaffe pilot.  But it doesn't take long for Peter to become disenchanted with his new life.  

He begins to spend time in the library instead of home.  At the library, Peter meets Anna Reiter there and soon the two begin to spend a lot of time together.  At first, the Kaltenbachs are thrilled - Anna comes from a good Nazi family and has the right looks.  But, as Peter discovers, all is not as it seems with Anna.  She and Peter begin to listen to the forbidden BBC  broadcasts.  Then he discovers that the Reiters are part of the resistance.  And before Peter knows it, he is also involved the resistance and helping Jews who are in hiding.   And to make matter worse, Peter discovers that Professor Kaltenbach, head of the Institute of Racial Studies, is involved with experiments being conducted on Jews. 

It doesn't take long for the Gestapo to become suspicious of Peter and Anna's activities and when they inform Ptofessor Kaltenbach his Polish grandparent, he realizes he must give Peter up.  But Peter and Anna also realize they must get away.  But escape from Nazi Germany isn't easy for anyone, especially when the Gestapo is after you.  Can Peter, Anna and the Reiter's succeed in getting to neutral Switzerland?

Once I picked Ausländer up to read, I couldn't put it down.  It is a compelling, exciting, well written look at one boy's experience of Nazi Germany.  Though Peter's story is fiction, much of what he experiences is based on reality.  And because he is a Volksdeutscher Peter's story gives the reader a unique perspective, that of an outsider looking in.  After all, one of the translations of the word Ausländer is outsider.  Peter never fit in while he lived in Poland because he was of German descent, but he never fit in while living in Berlin either since he was always considered Polish.  Even though his German father was happy to see the Nazis arrival in Poland, Peter's half German mother didn't share her husband's enthusiasm.   And Peter wasn't brought up being fed Nazi dogma from a young age as the Kaltenbach girls were.  He had already begun to think for himself before going to Germany leaving him more open to seeing and assessing things from a different perspective.  Ironically, this began when he was disappointed by the constant physical activity demanded of HJ boys leaving little time for school and studying.

Paul Dowswell knows his history and has produced a fascinating, informed novel that offers an appealing protagonist and story at the same time as exploring a little known National Socialist policy.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library

This is book 7 of my 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Thank You!

Thank You to everyone who answered my appeal and signed the petition to keep the Sandy Hook crime scene information private.  At 2:00 AM, the Connecticut State Legislature voted 33-2 in the state Senate and 130-2 in the state House of Representatives to prevent the release of any victim photos, videos and some audiotapes.  Some of the 911 calls will still be released, but hopefully there will be some discretion used.

Monday, June 3, 2013

An Appeal

This is Daniel Barden.  He was the 7 year old son of my cousin Mark.  Daniel was one of the 20 children killed on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Daniel was a sweet, kind, life-loving little boy.  Our last very in-depth conversation, two weeks before the shooting, was about those two missing front teeth and what a kid can do if the tooth fairy might forget to drop by when a kid has just lost a tooth or two (I am experienced in this matter, thanks to my own Kiddo).

It has been 6 months since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  And now the crime scene information, including graphic photographs of the victims, is due to be released.  But I want to remember Daniel as he was before December 14, 2012.  And so do the families of the other children and adults who lost their lives that terrible day.

A petition to the Governor of Connecticut has been started to not make the crime scene information available to the public by the families, including Mark and Jackie Barden, Daniel's parents.   About 1,000 signatures are still needed and so I am appealing to the blogging community for support.  The petition, Keep Sandy Hook crime scene information private: Urge the CT legislature to pass HB 6426, can be found at HERE

I hope you can find it in your hearts to sign this petition to support the Sandy Hook families.  You do not have to have you name displayed when you sign.  And this petition has nothing to do with gun control issues, nor with any political party or agenda.

I want to remember Daniel as the happy little boy he was in the photo I took last summer laughing with his brother James, sister Natalie, cousin L'naya and my Kiddo watching Happy Chinese around one tiny IPad.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Recap: What I did at BEA 2013

It is early Sunday morning and another Book Expo America has come and gone, so naturally I went back to my Top Ten Tuesday post to see if I had actually accomplished the goals I had set out for myself.

Wednesday: The BEA Bloggers Conference:
I did have fun at the Book Blogger Conference, but can't say I learned anything new, which is most likely due to my having gained trial and error experience over time more than anything else.

At the Young Adult Editor Insight panel, YA editors talked about what they look for in the books they edit, which was pretty much the same characteristics bloggers look for in the books they review.  Things like primary sources in nonfiction; in novels, characters who have flaws, but are aspirational despite the flaws; contradictory characters that can act a foils for each other; characters who act, who do something;  day to day life of characters in YA and, finally, diversity in YA.

At the YA Book Blogging Pros: Successes, Struggles and Insider Secrets, the panel talked about how they started and what constituted success in blogging.  Of course, they did all the things most bloggers do - participate in memes, and have different features on their blogs.  These are all old, very successful blogs and I think hearing from a a newer blogging still finding their way in today's blogging world would have been a nice informative addition - sort of like experience helping inexperience.

I also went to Blogging Platforms, but that was mostly pushing Wordpress or buying your own domain. Also to remember that success in blogging isn't to be found in statistics, pageviews or the now nearly dysfunctional Google Friends Connect but in whether you make a difference.  I didn't get much out of this one because according to my notes my Kiddo texted me that she was on her way to China, but former boyfriend, now fiancé couldn't fly with her because his Chinese visa didn't include Canada and they had a layover.

Book Blogging and the "Big" Niches was the last panel I went to.  And basically their advice was to using your professional experience and always ask yourself the question Who is the book you are reviewing fit for?  And to make sure your blog has a unique perspective.

The absolute best thing about today was that I was given a ticket to the Children's Book and Author Breakfast - but not just any old ticket, but one the Reserved Premium Roundtable tickets. So Thank You so much, Lisa Tener, I loved sitting there.  And if anyone ever needs a Book Writing Coach, she is the lady to see.

The exhibit hall opened at 9:00, but somehow I managed to get there early enough to get tickets to two author signings - Walter Dean Myers signing Darius & Twig and Brandon Sanderson signing The Rithmatist.  I could have gotten more but I had other priorities.

I got to speak to lots of publishers who have books coming out that I was interested in and so have lots of promises of galleys in my future.  I was especially pleased to meet the representatives at Sleeping Bear Press, who are doing some wonder historical fiction for younger readers, for example Welcome to America, Champ! reviewed here.

I had to turn down an invitation from Scholastic which pained me no end to hear Suzanne Collins and Walter Dean Myers discuss Writing About War for Young People.  Back in 2011, Suzanne Collins wrote an interesting article in the New York Time Sunday Magazine about the same topic, an article which I cut out and saved.  But you can also read it HERE (if the link doesn't work the first time, try it again - it's a quirk with the NY Times)

Friday: a big day for me
Octavia Spencer, Mary Pope Osborne, Rick Riordan and Veronica Roth
The first big day event was The Children's Book and Author Breakfast.  It was great, except everyone thought they would be getting galleys of Allegiant by Veronica Roth and instead we were given copies of Divergent.  Apparently no one near me read her blog.  I gave my away to a girl later on since I already have a copy.  We also received a T-Shirt for Rick Riordan's new book The House of Hades (the cover of which was revealed during his talk), and a nice cup for the new 50th Magic Tree House book, Hurry Up Houdini by Mary Pope Osborne.  Our Master of Ceremonies was Octavia Spencer, the actress and now novelist, who did a great job.  We were give a copy of her book The Case of the Time -Capsule Bandit, which looks like a nice Middle Grade novel.

Elizabeth Wein (L)  and Amy Tan (R)
The next big day was meeting Elizabeth Wein and getting a signed copy of her new book Rose Under Fire.  What a nice lady!  Everyone on line was a Code Name Verity fan, so that even standing on line was fun.

Third big day event was sitting and listening to Amy Tan talk about her life and her writing for an hour. She is one of my favorite authors and I enjoyed listening to her so much.

Day 3 was an early day for me because I had things to take care of so I ended up leaving early, with a bag full of books to read and write about, including these:
Books about WWII (click to enlarge)
I can't believe this, but I decided to stay home.  There was nothing special I wanted to do and would have ended up with more books that I didn't have a real interest in, so I decided to sleep late and take it easy.  Besides, I pretty much did everything on my Top Ten list.

So here ends my BEA adventure for 2013.