Wednesday, November 30, 2011


"Why is that shady-looking character lurking in the dark alley? What's he doing with that crowbar? Is that something in his other hand? What is he doing? What has he done?

That is the mystery.

I'll bet the kid who just spotted him knows what he's up to.

There's not enough light from the street or the full moon to see the guy's face clearly. What if he turns? The kid will see his face. But he will see the kid. And then what?

That is the thriller."

Yowzers. Jon Scieszka's introduction (above) to GUYS READ: THRILLER (Walden Pond Press, 2011) fairly sets my teeth on edge and my heart to pounding. And that's only the introduction, people. The book itself features stories from such thrilling types as M.T. Anderson, Gennifer Choldenko, Margaret Peterson Haddix,and Anthony Horowitz. Jon Scieszka again: "these writer have delivered with the wildest mix of detectives, spooks, cryptids, snakes, pirates, smugglers, a body on the tracks, and one terribly powerful serving of fried pudding."

This is all in the service of getting the guys to read. Scieszka's been at it for over ten years on his website, recommending books for that difficult demographic. It's a great website, chock full of recommendations of books that might appeal to the guy in your life. Because, as Scieszka says, "boys will read if they're given reading that interests them." (I can attest he's right. I have three guys. They read. But not usually books that have pink covers.)

Here's yet more good news. Recently, I was fortunate via Twitter to win from the good folks at Walden Pond Press a signed (by Jon Scieszka) copy of GUYS READ: THRILLER. Hooray for me! However, I already have a copy... so, if you become a follower of Project Mayhem, leave a comment, and choose a number from 3 to 272 (I got that bright idea from Marissa Burt earlier this month) I will enter you in a drawing, as well as feed you a line from the page of your choice.

What could be more thrilling than that?!

(Other writers in this volume are Patrick Carman, Matt de la Pena, Bruce Hale, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, James Patterson, and Walter Dean Myers. Illustrations are by Brett Helquist)

(The contest will run until Monday December 5th at 23:59 PST  GOOD LUCK!!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sports, Kids, and Books

I have to apologize for these terrible photos, but I only recently upgraded to a phone with a decent camera, and I don't have the steadiest hand. Anyway, this is my daughter, Madison, and my nephew, Bryce, at their very first NFL game.

We live in Atlanta, so it's a Falcons game, but we're from Minnesota (well, sort of) so we're Vikings fans. It was a pretty good game, but that's not really my point.

The point I want to make, is that I think sports, whether professional, collegiate, intramural, or just community organized, are a great way for kids to get exposed to many important things in life. Things like teamwork, respect, sportsmanship, pushing ourselves to succeed in spite of pain and/or fatigue. There are a lot of great lessons to be had from sports.

And the great thing is that sports, especially if the kids are participating, but even if they're just watching a game, don't beat you over the head with those lessons like ... some other venues for education.

I love that sports give kids an opportunity to learn things for themselves, without someone having to tell them anything. Showing is always better, right?

So anyway, after the game, it got me to thinking: what are some great young adult and middle grade books about or with sports in them, that maybe aren't exactly sports books?

I suppose I'm not the most widely read when it comes to these kind of books, but I couldn't think of many, so I figured I'd come to you guys. I mean I really enjoyed My Dog Skip (both the book and the film) and I suppose there is some mention of sports in both, but it's not really the kind of book I'm thinking of. The film The Sandlot would be a great example, but I don't think that story is also a novel, or at least I've never read it.

I did find a decent list, which you can read: here, but I was hoping our wonderful Project Mayhem readers would be able to recommend some books they'd actually read. Do any of you have a young adult or middle grave novel you can recommend that has sports in it?

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Here's one more photo, just for fun:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Everyday Heroes

Yep, that pretty much sums up a cold snap.

A couple weeks ago the temperature dipped to 40 below. Yeah, our first cold snap of the season came early and broke a bunch of low temperature records.

I love exercising outside. I’ve been running and biking at forty below and colder, but sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to get out the door when it is that cold. I had to do something, so I decided to go for a short walk.

I’d been walking for about ten minutes when I heard footsteps behind me. It was my neighbor. My eighty-two year-old neighbor. Running.

He doesn’t run fast, and he’s always a little hunched over, but he runs every day. It doesn’t matter how hot or cold or snowy or rainy it is—he runs.

We’ve exchanged a few words over the eleven years I’ve lived in the neighborhood, but mostly we just wave at each other. I know he started running relatively late in life, after being very ill.

A day rarely passes when I don’t think about him. He’s an everyday hero who inspires me to keep pushing myself in all areas of my life. I’ve told all my friends and family, near and far, about him.

Even though I barely know him, I am thankful that he's in my life. 

Do you have any everyday heroes in your life who rock your world?

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's all subjective anyway!

(Continuing in the vein of Hilary's post last week!)

There's a reason why Twilight is in the top five of both the "Best YA Books" list and "Worst YA Books" list on Goodreads. (In fact, it's #1 of the "Books You Wish You Could Forget" list.) There's a reason why no book with more than four reviews has an exact five-star rating.

It's because taste is subjective.
(Of course, there's also that matter of no book being perfect.)

Look at Picasso. Some people thought his art was marvelously avant-garde, while some people thought he just couldn't paint right. You might even say this is a curse of being too well-known: with every batch of fans come a slew of haters as well.

Art? Or just an inability to colour right?

Take comfort if negative reviews are getting you down, be they for your own books or a personal favourite. As a reviewer, there will be times when personal biases or frustration with trends will get the better of one and result in a less-than-professional review. (Personally, I can't stand inauthentic interior dialogue.) As a reader, I end up covering up the computer screen and going, "Lalalala, I can't hear -- er, read you!"

Just remember -- it's all subjective. Have heart, friends.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Hi Everyone!

I'm delighted to announce that Deb A. Marshall is the winner of the Storybound ARC giveaway. Shoot me an e-mail with your postal address, Deb, and I'll pop it into the mail for you.

Thanks for playing, y'all! And, for you new followers, welcome to Project Mayhem!


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Meaning Of A Year

My son A.J. turns one on November 26th!

My son A.J. will be a one-year-old this Saturday, 11/26! My wife actually went into labor last year on Thanksgiving Day, believe it or not. I’m so excited to celebrate the special day with my little big boy.

And my son’s first birthday gets me thinking about what was going on in my life one year ago. A month before A.J. came into the world things had really been busy for me. In early October of last year I ended up with eight offers of representation from agents and had a tough time deciding between the eight of them. I ended up signing with the agent that seemed to be the right choice, at the time. We then revised my book for a few weeks and submitted it in early November. I was so nervous and antsy—and obsessed—when the book went out that it took my mind off the fact that A.J. could come at any time. I thought of my book way too much and it wasn’t healthy at all. But when A.J. arrived, everything changed. And that’s the true purpose of this blog post. How priorities, stressors, and life in general can change so quickly, and how important it is to remember what truly matters. 

Sandra Boynton is my son's favorite author.

Think about it this way. That book, the one that had been so sought-after by those eight agents, didn’t end up selling when we went out with it. It was shocking to me, but it didn’t seem to matter as much whenever I would hold A.J. and look at his smiling face. Or when I’d rock him to sleep. Forget “didn’t seem to matter as much”…heck, it didn’t matter at all. That’s why it was so much easier to decide to pull the book (so as not to burn any future submission possibilities for the book and save it for later), part ways with my agent (it was a tough decision, but it was the best thing for both of us), write something new (which ended up working out so well), and query new agents (that was a pretty quick search, actually). I did all this with the mindset that, while it matters to me because I value my writing and my writing career, I don’t place the value of my writing above my family. Not even close. You parents out there realize this, and those expecting will soon realize it, too.

Now, a year later, I have another book that will soon be submitted by a new agent (who I really think is the right match for me). But the thing is: When this book goes out I won’t stress like I did when my book went out last year because I have such a different perspective on things. Sure, I’ll be anxious to have my work find a great home, and I’ll look at my cell phone a bit more when the book goes out, but will I focus on it like I did last year? No way!

With Thanksgiving on its way, I wanted to post this on Project Mayhem because I hope to remind you all that writing is important, and so is reading. It’s a passion for most of us. I don't mean to devalue literature in any way, whether it's reading or writing.

Everything I live for is found in this picture.
But please remember how important it is to value your family more than anything. To take time away from them with your writing as little as possible. I shudder at the possibility of missing a “first” of any kind with A.J. and that helps to remind me how important it is for me to make sure my writing time doesn’t replace our time together as a family. Oh, and as a little announcement, my wife and I are expecting our second child in May of 2012. Kind of teary as I type that because it makes me so happy to think of having a second child.

Happy Birthday, A.J.! And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Do Reviews Impact What You Read?

Before I even thought of actually dipping my size 9/10 feet (I know, Sasquatch) into the publishing pond, I read a lot of books. I rarely bought anything without reading at least a few reviews, unless I picked it up on a whim at the bookstore--I'm a sucker for a good cover! It got me to thinking of how reviews impact what we read and don't read. I have a few favorite authors, who, even if they receive a hailstorm of bad reviews on their latest endeavor, I'm still buying it! Generally, I'll be disappointed in the book overall, but there are always those special gems held within that makes me believe it was a worthwhile purchase.

A book can't please everyone and every book is going to get a few negative reviews, even the ones who garner gobs of awards. So, if a premise of an author's book intrigues you will you still buy it, in spite of a high number of negative write-ups or do you prefer to pass on that one?

I think with the dawn of e-books, it's a little easier to bite the bullet and buy a book you're unsure of, since in many cases the e-book price is lower, but I'm wondering what you think. Is it worth it? Do you take the risk and buy, get it from the library, or pass it up all together?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Giveaway - ARC of STORYBOUND

Hello Mayhemers!

I'd love to give away an ARC of my upcoming middle-grade fantasy STORYBOUND! Here's a little bit about the book:

In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.

But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself....

With the timeless appeal of books like A Wrinkle in Time and the breathtaking action of Inkheart, Storybound has all the makings of a new classic. Brimming with fantastical creatures, magical adventure, and heart-stopping twists, Storybound will leave readers wishing they too could jump through the pages into this enchanting fairy-tale world.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway, follow Project Mayhem if you don't already, leave a comment with a page number from 1-403, and I'll reply with a line from that page of STORYBOUND. (Thanks to Sarah Prineas for the page number inspiration!)

Comments will be open until midnight on 11/21, with the randomly-selected winner announced on 11/22. Thanks for playing!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Making Tangents Work—An Ivy-Inspired Recipe

Recently, friend and fellow SCBWIer Bethanie Humphreys invited me to be interviewed on her blog to celebrate the release of Ivy and the Meanstalk. I was thrilled to be asked—but a little surprised. You see, Bethanie runs a food blog, and what did Ivy have to do with food? But Bethanie made it work. “Since you mention a lot of neat and interesting foods in your books, I’m going to do an Ivy-inspired recipe,” she said. Her interview had a lot of food-related questions as well. And the result was really, really incredible and lots of fun. Bethanie has been kind enough to let me share her recipe and an abbreviated version of her interview below. I hope you’ll check out the full interview and Bethanie’s blog, Kitchen Tangents, at this link. I’ve long admired her amazingly creative recipes, and she has a special interest in kid-friendly food. Bethanie even had the recent honor of being named a finalist in America’s Test Kitchen’s Boston Blogger Cookie Challenge back in May. America’s Test Kitchen actually gave her a private tour of their set!

I also think Bethanie’s recipe is a great reminder of how there are unique and wonderful ways for authors to market their work out there, even in unexpected places, with a little creative tweaking to make their books relevant to the target audience. After all, isn’t being creative what writers do best? Thanks, Bethanie, for this wonderful tangent.

Oh, and if anyone makes her incredibly easy microwavable (yes, microwavable!) Chocolate Fairy Cakes, please let us know how they turn out.

Interview with Middle Grade Author Dawn Lairamore, and "Chocolate Fairy Cakes,"
An Ivy-Inspired Recipe
by Bethanie Humphreys

I am very honored to share with you my conversation with middle grade (books for 8-12 year olds) author, Dawn Lairamore. Dawn’s debut novel, Ivy’s Ever After, was released in 2010, and named A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year in 2011. 

Her follow-up book, Ivy and the Meanstalk, was just released. She describes her books as fractured fairy tales. (I just love the imagery in that expression.) They are fun, spirited stories that whisk you away with Ivy, a fourteen-year-old princess whose love of books and the outdoors inspire high adventure with the most unlikely of friends, Elridge, a rather un-ferocious and smaller than average dragon. Together, they find their fire to help save their kingdom (and themselves from conventions that just don't fit).

Isabella, my 8 year old, liked Ivy’s Ever After so much we read it twice. We had recently started reading the Harry Potter series, but she insisted on taking a break from it when I brought home Ivy and the Meanstalk.

Also, to give you a little background on this latest tangent, i.e. how a food blog comes to interview a children’s author whose books are completely unrelated to food: I met Dawn through SCBWI, a wonderful organization for children’s book authors and illustrators. They organize fantastic conferences and networking opportunities locally, on up to the international level.

Here's Bethanie!
I joined SCBWI because I’m developing a kid’s cookbook that encourages picky eaters to explore fruits and vegetables. My obsession with produce stems from my own pickiness. At 18 months old, my daughter started refusing to eat anything green. I challenged myself to find ways to prepare a greater variety of vegetables so that I actually like them as a way to provide a better example for her. It has been quite effective! She gets just as excited when I make artichokes as she does when I make cookies.

To celebrate Meanstalk’s release, I thought it would be fun to create a recipe inspired by Ivy. “Oh, fairy cakes!” is a charming little expression used throughout both books (in the same way as one would say, “Oh, darn it!”). My kid-friendly recipe for “Chocolate Fairy Cakes,” made in a magical, most unconventional way (in the microwave), will follow the interview.

Dawn’s books are not about food, but in true kitchentangents style, I couldn’t help but ask her about my favorite subjects: writing, food, and the little things that make life sweet.

On Writing:

kitchentangents: In both of your books, you’ve taken a familiar fairy tale and turned it on its ear. In Meanstalk, (a riff on Jack and the Beanstalk) rather than Jack being a lucky boy who gets his hands on some magic beans and treasure from a kingdom in the clouds, you tell the story with more sympathy towards the giant whose treasure was stolen. What inspired you to write this kind of story?

Dawn Lairamore: I love fairy tales, but I also love stories that do the unexpected or have some sort of twist, which is why I’m often drawn to retellings of traditional tales. A very common fairy tale motif features a princess being saved from a dragon or other monster by a handsome prince or courageous knight. I thought, what if the princess wasn’t so helpless and was perfectly capable of rescuing herself? What if the dragon wasn’t a ferocious beast but a timid creature with a heart? What if the handsome prince wasn’t a hero but a villain? And what if the princess and the dragon actually teamed up against him? And so, Ivy’s Ever After was born—a fairy tale about a princess seeking out her own “ever after,” rather than having one thrust upon her. 

Ivy and the Meanstalk continues that idea of twisting a traditional fairy tale. Jack and the Beanstalk has always been my least favorite fairy tale, because Jack never seemed like much of a hero to me. He seemed a lazy, thoughtless boy who stole and did some other not-so-nice things. So Meanstalk is my revisitation of the Jack and the Beanstalk tale with a rather dim view of Jack.

kt: Writing is very much about painting a picture in your reader’s mind with specific, meaningful details. Your stories are very easy to visualize, and yet move along at a nice clip (as a good adventure story should). Are there any editing secrets you can share that you use to strike a nice balance between action and detail?

DL: This is a tough one because some readers–like me–love detail, but some find a lot of detail distracting and would rather a story focus on more “urgent” components like action or dialogue. I think, as a writer, you have to do what feels right for the story. I felt that the Ivy books, being fantasy/fairy tales with some rather fantastical and magical settings, warranted special attention to setting and detail. But, yes, you have to be careful not to overdo it. Description and detail shouldn’t overpower other elements of the story.

As far as action, young readers often have a shorter attention span than adult readers, so I think stories for young readers especially need to move at a good pace. When writing for this age range, I think it does help to focus on the external (actions and events) over the internal (thoughts and emotions). Don’t get me wrong–the internal *has* to be there, emotions and conflict have to be part of the story, but perhaps not at same level as you’d expect in an adult book. Long internal monologues or scenes where characters reflect upon their feelings probably isn’t going to fly too well with a middle-grade audience.

On Food:

kt: There seem to be a fair number of pies, cakes, and giant gooseberry tarts in your stories. What was your inspiration for the food you describe?

DL: The Ivy stories are fairy tales at their core, so they’re not meant to take place in any real-world, historical time period. That being said, Ivy’s world felt very medieval to me, what with the castles and swords and suits of armor, so I researched medieval recipes and used a lot of what I found for inspiration. And, of course, I think food in a fairy tale should have an appropriately fantastical and feast-like quality to it.

kt: If you could try any of the food in your books, which would it be?

DL: I’ve never tried a gooseberry tart–or a gooseberry anything–so I’d go with that. I love experiencing new tastes! Elderberry is a flavor mentioned in the book as well, and I had never tried anything elderberry until recently, when a friend of mine brought me a bottle of English elderberry cordial back from her vacation. Delicious!

On The Little Things:

kt: What were your favorite stories or authors while you were growing up?

DL: The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Secret Garden and The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

kt: What smells or tastes remind you of childhood?

DL: My dad was in the military when I was growing up, so my family moved a lot and lived in a lot of different places. We moved to the Philippines when I was a year old, so my earliest memories are of our time there. I associate many tastes of that region with my childhood. I remember getting my face and fingers all sticky with mango and guava, and sucking on fresh, raw sugar cane.

And for our final course, Dessert!:

Fortunately for us topsiders, this dessert fit for the fairy realm is almost as easy to make as waving a magic wand. This bit of domestic magic is performed entirely in a microwave. It properly serves two princesses or princes. If a dragon guest comes to call, it may do to conjure up at least twenty.

It’s particularly important with this recipe to always level your measurements!

Chocolate Fairy Cake:
2 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon milk
3 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
3 Tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla

1) In an oversized teacup (or cereal bowl, but something with high sides is best), melt chocolate chips, butter, and milk in the microwave for 20 seconds. Don’t stir it quite yet, just let it cool while you work your magic.

Bethanie's beautiful daughter Isabella.
2) In a separate bowl swirl together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

3) In yet another bowl whisk egg first till uniformly yellow, then twirl in sugar & vanilla until golden brown.

4) Now stir melted chocolate chip mixture until dark and glossy. Add egg mixture to the chocolate (use a spatula to get all the eggy goodness out of the bowl), and stir till smooth. Sprinkle in dry ingredients and blend with a fork till there are no lumps in sight.

5) Microwave for 1 minute, possibly another 10-15 seconds, but stop once about half of the cake top is dry. Don’t worry if the edges are moist, it will continue to cook even once it’s removed from the microwave.

6) Immediately loosen the edges with a knife and turn the cake upside down onto a plate. Eat while still warm and steamy as the Isle of Mist. To make multiple cakes, just wash out the baking bowl and repeat.

The cake is delicious on its own, but if you wish to feast in true fairy style, top the warm cake with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to Win at NaNoWriMo Video :)

For those who are unfamilar with NaNo, it stands for National Novel-Writing Month and takes place in November. I was very confused about it when I first heard about it, though not as clueless as the character in the video. I don't participate in NaNo, but had a sudden inspiration to make a video about it.

I made the video the other night on a whim, and then couldn’t figure out why I had spent the time on it when I could have been doing something more worthwhile. The guilt only lasted a little while, until  I realized that when writing becomes a job, sometimes writers need to step away from it and find some other creative outlet just to relax and clear their minds. In my case, one of the things I do is make goofy videos.  The pressures to write something publishable, then get it sold and then hope people buy it can make you crazy if you don’t find a way to forget about it occasionally.  I’d be curious to know how other writers deal with the pressure. Please comment if you find yourself in the same situation, and tell us what you do to cope. Oh, and if you have never checked out Xtranormal, it is a terrifically easy way to make short videos, especially if you aren’t looking to make serious ones.

If you'd like to see my other extranormal videos, including "Punctuation Man-The Secret to Getting Published," they are on one of my blogs: videos
~ Dee Garretson

Friday, November 4, 2011

History Ain't Bunk, Mr. Ford

Poor Guy Fawkes
Ready for possibly the wackiest post ever to be posted on Project Mayhem? Good. Here goes:

Question: What event is celebrated in Great Britain on November 5th?
Answer: The discovery of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

If you got that right, you're probably either British or a history whiz. Yup, November 5th (tomorrow) is celebrated in my homeland as the day when Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were foiled. Fawkes was executed and for centuries now we've been whooping it up with bonfires, effigies, and fireworks.

Ain't history grand? (Mr. Henry Ford didn't think so; hence the title of this post. He thought history was more or less bunk--one of the only quotations I remember from my history classes. Good capitalist that he was, he thought everyone should live in the present.)

Which is a roundabout way of introducing what this post is really about: the wealth of historical fiction in middle grade. In my reading as a Cybils judge this year, I've read novels which take place in Ancient Rome (Most Wanted), 1880s Texas (Crosswire), The South African Boer War (Stones For My Father), and California in the 1940s (Sylvia and Aki).

But don't just take my word for it. I've asked (okay, begged) a few of my blogging buddies to add to my collection of historical titles.If you have a moment, pay a visit to these great bloggers and their blogs. (I met most of them through Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.)
First off, Natalie Aguirre of Literary Rambles: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. "He really did a good job nailing Bud's voice. And I loved that it was set in Michigan--Flint and Grand Rapids--since I live in Michigan. It was in the depression and I really enjoyed Bud's journey looking for who he thought was his dad."

Robyn Campbell @ Putting Pen to Paper, Fever 1793: "This story grips me every time I read it. The weight of Laurie's descriptions makes me want to grab my germ-x to kill the yellow fever bacteria. The most striking aspect is watching how even family members abandon their loved ones at the first sign of the fever, going so far as to lock their doors to anyone at the mercy of this dreaded disease. Mattie isn't like that. She is super courageous. During the height of the epidemic she and others bring food to the sick and even go as far as to change their beds. From the swarming mosquitoes to yellow eyes Fever 1793 captivates you the entire time immersing you into Mattie's world. This book should be in everyone's TBR pile."

Joanne Fritz @ My Brain On Books: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. What's unusual about this book is the two very different storylines taking place in the same small town in Kansas, one in 1918 during World War I and one in 1936 during the Depression. The way the stories converge near the end will leave you in tears. This isn't just a story about a 12-year-old girl named Abilene Tucker. It's the story of an entire town and its people, people from many different ethnic backgrounds who learn to work together to avert a crisis. Why did I love it so much? As I said in my blog post about it from 2010 Moon Over Manifest is one of those rare novels that you want to start reading all over again the minute you finish it.

Barbara Ann Watson, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: I love it because it shows in a new way that the Revolutionary War was fought for the freedom of some but not all.

Brooke Favero @ Somewhere in the Middle Sounder by William H. Armstrong: "Sounder was my fave historical MG as a kid and the first book to make me cry (actual tears).

What a great bunch of historicals for a middle grade reader to sink his/her teeth into. Now it's your turn:
Come on, Project Mayhemites: What are your favorite historical MG novels, past or present?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review and Giveaway of THE DEATH OF YORIK MORTWELL!

Okay, so anyone who knows me or my writing knows I'm a huge fan of creepy, so when I was sent a copy of THE DEATH OF YORIK MORTWELL, by Stephen Messer, I was entirely thrilled! 

I've always been a fan of the "underdog", and well, you can't get more underdog than poor Yorik, a little servant boy whose life is taken when he's purposefully hit by a rock by a spoiled rich boy who lives in the manor he serves at. Even in death, poor Yorik doesn't have it good. Once again he's a servant to a Princess who wants him to spy on the manor. 

I'm not going to give too much away, but this story has many twists and turns, wonderfully fascinating characters, and let's just says our hero, Yorik, learns some important lessons about life (in death), and by the end of the book he realizes he doesn't need to serve anyone anymore. 

So you have this beautiful macabre story by Messer, along with the fantastic illustrations of the one and only Gris Grimly! All combined this makes for a fantastically creepy-rific novel and I'm a little sad to have to give away this lovely signed hardcover, but hopefully it will go to a good home. 

Things of note: This book is a quick read, coming in at 175 pages, so if you know any children daunted by huge books, this compact novel won't scare them away. The book takes place in the Victorian age, but never fear, the prose are very attainable to all levels of readers. Readers who like a touch of creepy (think Tim Burton, not Wes Craven) should really enjoy this book. 

Here is what the School Library Journal had to say about The Death of Yorik Mortwell:
Gr 5 8—When spoiled Master Thomas of Ravenby Manor throws a rock at orphaned servant Yorik Mortwell, the 12-year-old falls from a tree and dies. Now a ghost, Yorik quickly acquires a new master, the Princess of the Aviary Glade, who demands that he haunt Ravenby—"You're a ghost and you've got to haunt something"—and to spy on it. Upon returning to the estate, Yorik goes in search of his servant sister, Susan. He encounters a pack of demon-hounds, Master Thomas, and the Yglhfm, evil Dark Ones that sit on shoulders whispering and wreaking havoc. Yorik must find how to defeat them. Full-page, macabre illustrations appear throughout. Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and Neil Gaiman enthusiasts will appreciate this engaging, eccentric adventure.—Krista Welz, North Bergen Public Library, NJ 

To learn more about Stephen Messer and his books, please visit his website and check out the interview Team Member Dawn Lariamore had with Stephen last year, talking about his debut novel WINDBLOWNE, which garnered fantastic reviews! 

To enter the The Death of Yorik Mortwell giveaway:
1. Follow the Project Mayhem blog.
2. Leave a comment.
3. Take a midnight stroll around a graveyard (this rule is optional).

Congrats Stephen! Winner will be announced on Thursday of next week!