Monday, May 20, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Devil's Backbone (with giveaway!)

Last fall Rae Ann Parker contacted me about editing a middle grade novel she was writing. She sent me her work, I gave feedback and ideas, she worked on it some more, and now what was once a draft I edited is Rae Ann's full-fledged book! A real, live, physical book titled The Devil's Backbone. And I have a copy to give away to one of you!

The premise: To save his friend from getting expelled, David Baxter takes full blame for the graffiti painted on the school. It's David's first strike, so he only gets suspended for three days. But David's juvenile judge dad forces David to take a roadtrip with him along the Natchez Trace Parkway--an old trail into Nashville used by postal riders and other travelers. What David keeps from his dad is that he meets a ghost on the trip--a 200 year-old, teen-aged ghost carrying the last letter of Meriwether Lewis. A letter that can solve a 200 year-old mystery. And maybe it can help David figure out his dad and forgive his mom, too.

What I loved: The ingenious blend of history and contemporary. Rae Ann Parker takes a fascinating setting--the Natchez Trace--and skillfully weaves it with legends of yesterday and tales of today. It's a historical novel set in the present. (Ingenious, like I said!) And the ghost in this story has a burden, a burden only a contemporary boy can lift. In addition, Rae Ann's mastery of middle grade voice cannot go unmentioned.

To enter the giveaway for a (signed!) copy of The Devil's Backbone simply comment on this post by 8pm CDT on June 2, 2013, and have a United States mailing address. Winner announced on June 3. Check other middle grade recommendations at Shannon Messenger's blog.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Over a year ago I found this hardcover beauty of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh at a thrift shop for the whopping price of one whole dollar. And surely you've heard me gush about how I adore hardcovers, so, of course, I purchased it. But usually I don't purchase books I haven't read because I need to know I love the book before I commit to it living in my house. Unbelievably I hadn't read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. Crazy, right? It's a Newbery winner (a famous and beloved Newbery winner at that) from 1972!

Most people, whether they love to read or not, have read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, but even though I had it in my house for over a  year, I didn't read it until last month when my daughter and I read it aloud together. Now I'm thrilled that this used-but-still-perfect hardcover lives in my bookcase.

Many times over the last year as I glanced at it, I wondered just who owned this book before me. Now I wonder if they loved the story as much as my daughter and I did. To me, it's one of those classic storylines that kids and adults, generation after generation, will continue to enjoy--as they have for over forty years already. The characters, the setting, the plot . . . they all stand the test of time, which is what "classic" means to me.

So, what about you? Have you read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh? Did you read it as a kid or as an adult? Do you love it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Great Gatsby: The Book and the Movie

There aren't too many movies based on books that I'll see. For me, the reasons are obvious . . . the books are always so much better and the movies usually disappoint. But there's also a deeper reason. As one who loves the way words flow and create a movie in my own mind, I don't like seeing someone else's version. I don't want the movie version to become my book version. So I steer clear of most movies made from books.

Even the Harry Potters. I did not see a single one -- nor will I -- even though I've heard how well they were made, how true to the books, and so on. But my mind's version of all the Harry Potters is so much better than any movie ever could be.

But . . . a new movie version of The Great Gatsby releases on May 10th. And I plan to see it. Shocking, I know. It is for me, too. I love the book. I've taught it quite a few times to high school juniors as part of an American Lit class, and it continues to be one of my favorite units. But the movie trailers have me intrigued. As does the remake of the song "Happy Together" performed by Filter. It's a perfect tone for this grim, haunting, tormented story. What's typically a happy, light-hearted song, Filter spins into a forboding drama full of soft, then loud, and at times, even half-screamed lyrics. It's just right for The Great Gatsby. And I can't wait to see the movie.

My thirteen-year-old daughter and I read the book aloud together. My fifteen-year-old son is reading it on his own. My husband is not reading the book (nor has he), but we're all going to the movie. Soon. And I can't wait. (I said that already, didn't I?)

What about you? Do movie versions of books bother you? Do you watch them anyway?