Monday, July 30, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Circle of Secrets (with giveaway!)

First of all, the winner drawn for my signed copy of Nate Rocks the Boat is:
Rose Munevar! 
Yippee!! Email your mailing address to barbarawatson94 (at) gmail (dot) com.

And today's feature for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday . . .

Circle of Secrets by Kimberley Griffiths Little.

The very first thing you need to do with this book is gaze at its cover. For a long, long time. And then longer. Erin McGuire is the illustrator, and I adore her style. To gaze upon more of the loveliness she creates, here's Erin's blog: Erin McGuire. And . . . these two, Kimberley and Erin, have teamed up again for the 2013 release of When the Butterflies Came. If you haven't seen that cover, you must!

Now, if you're ready, let's move on to what is under this beautiful cover (if you aren't ready to move on, gaze a bit longer; I totally understand). Circle of Secrets by Kimberley Griffiths Little will steal you away to the Louisiana bayou, and the Spanish moss will wrap you in a mystery of discovery. It's a treasure of a story you won't want to miss. Read on, because at the end of this post, you have a chance to win a signed hardcover of this intriguing story.

The premise: Shelby Jayne's mom left her and her father, and Shelby wants nothing to do with her mamma ever again. But when her dad takes a job across the ocean, Shelby's only choice is to move to the Louisiana bayou . . . and live with her mom.

What keeps readers reading: A mystery that unwinds and untangles a bit more with each page turn. Shelby encounters bullying classmates, danger of the VERY dangerous variety, a girl named Gwen in a graveyard, and a blue bottle tree with mysterious messages inside the bottles. All of these things are tied to pieces of Shelby Jayne's life, pieces she needs to sort through and put back together.

What I loved: Ohhhhh. The setting in Circle of Secrets is so much more than simply a setting. This is one of those stories where the setting is truly a character--every bit as much as Shelby Jayne and her mom are. What a masterpiece of weaving setting with storyline.

Kimberley has offered one signed hardcover of Circle of Secrets for giveaway! Simply leave a comment on this post. Blog followers get their name in the drawing twice. Comment by Sunday, August 5th by 8pm CDT to enter. United States mailing addresses only for this one, please. Winner announced on Monday, August 6th.

Be sure to return on Thursday for an interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little!

For more middle grade recommendations, visit the links at Shannon Messenger's blog. 
Happy middle grade reading!  

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Yep, I'm here again, in Revision, the place most writers live for a much longer time than they do in actual Writing. (At least I think so. I do anyway.) After forcing myself to stay away for several months, I have permission (from myself) to enter back into the entire draft of my latest middle grade story. And I can't wait. I'm so ready to sit in the setting I can see so clearly, live with the characters who make me laugh, and enter the cadence of the plot.

Here I am, perched on the edge of this big, wide open thing--I'm standing on the shore of Revision! (Those really are my buried toes.)  Strangely, Revision is not something I have always loved, and I can't even pinpoint what changed, but now I adore Revision and will live here for . . . well . . . as long as it takes.

What about you? If you write, do you love Revision? If you don't write, where can you apply this love of growing something into what it should be and can be?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Nate Rocks the Boat (with giveaway!)

The winner of my ARC of The Secret Tree is:
Jessica Haight! 
Woohoo! Email your mailing address to barbarawatson94 (at) gmail (dot) com
and I'll get this special book to you.

Now, today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday selection . . . 

Nate Rocks the Boat by Karen Pokras Toz is the second book about Nathan Rockledge, aka Nate Rocks, but these books don't need to be read in order, so this one is perfect for summer because Nate is at summer camp! I won a signed copy from Pam Torres and would like to pass it along to one of you. Details on the giveaway are at the end of this post. 

The premise: Ten-year-old Nathan Rockledge isn't sure about spending his entire summer at camp, but his best friend Tommy will be there too, so things look okay. And because Nate has his sketch pad with him and can transform himself into Nate Rocks through his doodles, things will be more than okay. He thinks . . .

What keeps readers reading: The fun! Nate's voice is something readers (especially boys, even reluctant reader boys!) will love. When combined with Nate's imaginary adventures as Nate Rocks, the adventure in this book, well, ROCKS!

What I loved: When Nate transforms to his sketchpad, save-the-day self! Every time he transforms to this "other self," it takes readers a moment to figure it out because Karen Pokras Toz has so cleverly developed these parts of the story. It adds a super-hero Nate character and creates a story within a story.

To enter the giveaway for my signed copy, comment on this post by Sunday, July 29, 2012, by 8pm CDT. As usual, blog followers will get their names in the drawing twice! Winner will be announced Monday, July 30th.

For more middle grade recommendations, hop over to Shannon Messenger's links! 
Happy middle grade reading! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Finding a Blogging Fit

For many, many months my Thursday posts were alphabet-based ones as I marched through writing and reading topics with a middle grade focus. And then I had a few Thursday posts that just fell in my lap once the alphabet ones were finished.

But, dear and beloved Thursdays, now what?

*scratches head*

Every now and then, I find that a blog inventory is a good idea. This is where I ask myself, "What is it I do here anyway?" And since I see a blog as a living, changeable thing, my blogging fit changes from time to time, much like a seasonal change in clothing happens from those blistering hot summer days to the cooler autumn ones. So right now, my blog is in a seasonal wardrobe transition.

Never has my blog been an advice-to-writers blog or a writing-tips blog. There are WAY more people who know WAY more about that sort of thing than I do. But I am a mom, a wife, a teacher, a writer, a freelance editor, a middle grade book reader, and a dog lover. I also love summer and the ocean. Sounds just like my bio over there. *peeks at bio* Oh, and I love dark chocolate too. Man, chocolate could be the subject of many blog posts.

Spreading word about middle grade books each Monday (which I've been doing for quite some time) and blending the other areas of my life for my Thursday posts creates this little part of the internet that is simply me being me--blogging about what I love. So that's my new blogging fit. Because, you know, I need a plan. I love a plan. Even if it matters to no one but me.

What about you? If you blog, why do you? And how did you find a blogging fit? Do you allow your blogging fit to change if needed? If you don't blog, what interests you enough to read someone's blog and maybe even follow it?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Secret Tree (with ARC giveaway!)

Ahhhhh. Every now and again a quiet book meanders across your path. It doesn't scream or wave its arms at you, of course, or even whistle. It simply whispers its way into your heart. The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford is one such whispering book. Since I won an ARC from Rosi Hollinbeck, I'd like to pass it on to one of you. Giveaway details are at the end of this post.

The premise: Summer in Minty's neighborhood is full of the usual things: the Witch House across the woods, the Mean Boys, roller derby, and Minty's best friend Paz. But when Minty chases a flash in the woods, she discovers the Secret Tree. Its hollow trunk contains slips of paper with the secrets of Minty's neighbors written on them. And a new boy, Raymond, helps Minty unfold the mysteries of the secrets.

What keeps readers reading: Unraveling the secrets. There is no doubt about that. Minty and Raymond spend a chunk of their summer matching the secrets to each of their neighbors, and in the process they discover there is always more than meets the eye to any situation or any person.

What I loved: (Other than its quietness) --The friendships. There are ups and downs and discoveries about what makes a real friend and just what a real friend will do for you.

To enter the ARC giveaway for The Secret Tree simply comment on this post by Sunday, July 22, 2012, by 8pm CDT. As usual, blog followers will be entered in the drawing twice! Winner announced on Monday, July 23rd.

For more middle grade recommendations, visit the links at Shannon Messenger's blog. 
Happy middle grade reading! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Kindness Project: Walking

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month.

Almost every day I walk my dog. He needs the exercise and so do I. Some winter days (well, most winter days) I don't want to throw on all my winter gear and head out into the cold. But I do. Because my dog needs the exercise and so do I. Any other season and our walk is lovely. Quite honestly, my walking time has become my quiet time, my thinking time . . . and for my writing, it becomes my plotting time, developing character time, working through a writing snag time. Even in the winter. And maybe it's my way of being kind to myself and to my dog.

My Teddy and I meander a lovely path through a park and a quiet wood, emerging along a semi-busy road flanked by two lakes. Along this stretch of road, Teddy and I often see an older gentleman. His hair is white with age. He walks slightly bent at the waist. He treads quite slowly. And he always has a garbage sack tucked in his hand. He stoops every few steps, picking up trash that has flown out of cars or been thrown out of cars. He's out on blazing hot summer days and blasting cold winter ones.

This man's daily walks are so many different kinds of Kindness, and each time his aged body stoops and places someone else's trash in his sack, he makes such a Kindness mark on the world.

For more Kindness posts, here are links to everyone on The Kindness Project this month:

Alina Klein                             Katharine Owens 
Andrea Hannah                      Len Lambert
Barbara Watson                     Liza Kane
Carolina Valdez Miller            Lola Sharp
Christa Desir                          Lindsay Scott
Claire Hennessy                     Matthew MacNish (available Jul16)
Elana Johnson                        Michele Shaw
Elizabeth Davis                      Sarah Fine
Elizabeth Poole                      Sara Larson 
Erica Chapman                      Sara McClung
Jessica Corra                         Sophia Chang
Leigh Moore                          Tracey Neithercott

Monday, July 9, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Pie

Ever since I read Joanne Fritz's review of Pie by Sarah Weeks, I've been wanting to read it, and I knew it would be the type of book my daughter would love, so we read it aloud--together. She loved it! And so did I! But what's not to love about a book where each chapter begins with a very real and very yummy pie recipe? And when the pie recipes are woven into the very fabric of the story? Extra yummy.

The premise: There's no place Alice Anderson would rather be than with her Aunt Polly and in her aunt's pie shop. But when Aunt Polly suddenly dies, Alice is lost and lonely. Adding to that, Alice's aunt left her world-famous piecrust recipe to her fat, disagreeable cat Lardo, and Aunt Polly left Lardo to Alice. Nothing makes any sense anymore.

What keeps readers reading: The mystery. Pie is clever! And fun too. Someone is after Lardo, thinking he holds the key to the million dollar piecrust recipe. And everyone in town is suddenly baking pies, thinking they will be the next award-winning pie baker. But in the middle of it all is a girl who simply wants to set things right.

What I loved: The friendship that develops between Alice and a boy named Charlie. It lets readers know that even when we've lost someone dear, there are others who fill in our empty places.

For more middle grade recommendations, check Shannon Messenger's links. 
Happy middle grade reading!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blogging Break

This week I'm spending extra time with family and friends as we celebrate Independence Day here in the United States. I'll be back next Monday with a super fun middle grade book that takes
place in July of 1955 and contains lots of yummy recipes for one specific dessert.
Any guesses on the book?

Until next week,