Friday, September 30, 2011

Sleepin' With The Fishes? The Don's Reaction To My News

(MGMafioso enters the room. The Don is eating cannoli. MGM is upset to see another person in the room: internet-fiend, Luca Brasi Jr. This can only mean trouble.)

MGM: You wanted to see me, Godfather?

The Don: (licking his fingers) Ahh, Michele. Good of you to make time to see your old Godfather. How is the blogging going?

MGM: Great, Godfather. We have 56 Mafiosi following us, and a bunch of comments, and...

The Don: (Holding up a hand) Luca here intercepted an e-mail meant for you.

MGM: (thinking "uhoh") Hey Luca. You enjoying Twitter?

Luca crosses to Don Corleone and slides a paper in front of him, then gives MGM a smug smile. The Don picks up the paper and makes a show of reading it.

The Don: Michele, what does 'mayhem' mean?

Luca: I can answer that, Godfather. "Crazy fun."

The Don, pressing his fingertips together: "So, you two-timing us, Michele? After all we've done for you, this is how you repay us?

Luca: Can I have his job now, Boss?

The Don: Luca, Luca. Haven't I always told you, patience? Let's hear what Michele has to say first."

MGM: You know, Godfather. If Luca here intercepted an e-mail, I didn't see it. Capice? I don't know what any of this means.

The Don: You've always been a clever one, Michele. That why those Project Crazy Fun people want you?

MGM: Project Mayhem, boss. Other top-grade writers. We're all in this together.

They're all in this together, ya know

Luca: Don't ya be getting all High School Musical in front of the Boss.

MGM, ignoring Luca: It's just another family, Godfather. Think; together we can rule the blogosphere.

Luca: The Godfather don't like no other familes, capice. The Godfather..."

The Don, holding up a hand: Quiet, Luca. Michele, you think these guys can do business with the famiglia?

MGM: Do business? They are the business. And another thing, Godfather... (MGM hands the Godfather another piece of paper. The Don studies it for a moment.)

The Don: Who's this Cybil dame? She got any money?

MGM: I dunno, Godfather. But I'm a round one judge of the top-grade novels this year. We'll be famous.

Luca: NO!!!!!!

The Don, giving Luca "the eye": You mean, these writers will be coming to us...

MGM: ...Cap in hand.

The Don: Any of these guys rich?

MGM: Rich in words.

The Don calls out to someone outside the room: "Clemenza. Come in here. You need to take Luca fishin' this morning."

Luca (screams): No, Boss. Please. I was only trying to protect your interests. Give me the Twitter account. I'll make it up to you.

The Don watches as several burly men enter the room and drag Luca away: Ah, that Luca Jr. Nothin' like his old dad. I miss the good old days, Michele."

MGM: But these are the good new days, Godfather. (He lugs a bag containing a pile of middle grade novels out from behind him.) Look, new books.

The Don: Any more from the Yak guy?

MGM:  Signore London? We have to wait for November 15th for him.

The Don nods, making a note in his planner: Okay, what you waitin' for? Let's get readin'.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Rat Brain Fiasco

The Rat Brain Fiasco (Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys #1) by Julie Gardner Berry and Sally Faye Gardner (Grosset and Dunlap 2010)
The Story (thanks to Goodreads copywriters):
When Cody Mack is called to the principal's office yet again, he finds something far worse than detention awaiting him: Splurch Academy, a frightfully sinister boarding school for disobedient children run by a group of monstrous teachers.

Wonderful Things About This Book: This would be a great read for a "reluctant reader." (Or an unreluctant one, come to that!) It sprang to mind when my wife told me about a conversation she recently had with a woman at church.  The woman's grandson, who is ten, is struggling with reading. What would a Middle Grade Mafioso's wife suggest? (The Mafioso himself must have been at the doughnut table and giving off unapproachable vibes.)

The great thing about this book and its ilk is the way it marries text with cartoon-style illustrations. And the plot is super fun: there are the disruptive boys and their various shenanigans, and a staff of monsters who are trying to tame the boys through a hideous experiment. Cody Mack is spunky, yet the antagonists have plenty of tricks up their vampire sleeves too. Plus, there's a spectacular car-bursting-through-a-garage-door scene!!

The series is written and illustrated by a couple of sisters. Three other books have already been pubbed: #2 Curse of the Bizarro Beetle; #3 The Collosal Fossil Freakout; and #4 The Trouble with Squids. More about the books and their authors can be found at their Splurch Academy website

Recommended for readers 8 and above.

(The winners of last week's We Are Not Eaten By Yaks are revealed in the post below this one.)

And the WINNERS Are....

Through the magic of, the winner of the signed copy is...

Mrs. Duff

and the winner of my copy is...

Lisa Ricard Claro

I'll be in touch for your addresses.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. The Don and I love you all.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Don's Goin' All-Out

The Boss has never been accused of subtlety. And he's become pretty obsessed with our blog stats, muttering things like "gotta rub out the competition." I tell him that we're all middle "top" grade friends, but old gangster habits die hard, I guess.

The latest: Don Vito's opened the petty cash box and sent me off to the local indie, Annie Bloom's, where I snagged the last copy of We Are Not Eaten by Yaks.
Youse gotta read this!

I've been instructed that if we hit 26 comments or over (lucky number 13 times 2), there will be a

second lucky winner.

So tell your friends. (Or not. 'Cos if we fail, I get to keep the copy.)

Here's what you must do: Comment at the original post. Multiple comments are welcome; just don't froth at the mouth. Contest will close on Sunday September 25 at midnight, PST. Ciao!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: We Are Not Eaten By Yaks--and a GIVEAWAY

Greetings! The Don is still basking in all the attention we received for featuring Chris Rylander and The Fourth Stall a while back. He’s even promised me my own gondola when we visit Venice, although there was some subsequent muttering about my predecessor (a “doity rat”) whose gondola developed a mysterious and rapid leak and who is now sleeping with the Venetian fishes. Oh well, that guy never had a blog with which to entertain the Boss!

Onwards. It is with great pleasure that I want to introduce you now to the insanely adventurous and hugely talented C. Alexander London. I read his debut, We are Not Eaten By Yaks, to the Don’s grandson, as a cautionary tale about watching too much TV. I caught Grandpa Vito listening in and laughing uproariously.
What is this fantastic book about? Here's the Goodreads blurb: Eleven-year-old twins Oliver and Celia Navel live on the 4-1/2th floor of the Explorers Club with their father, Dr. Navel. Their mother, Dr. Navel, has been missing for years. So when an explorer shows up with a clue as to where his wife could be, Dr. Navel drags Oliver and Celia to Tibet to find her. Once there, the twins fall out of airplanes, encounter Yetis, travel through waterfalls, and end up in the Demon Fortress of the Warrior King where they - just possibly - might find their mother and save their father from the Poison Witches. Thing is, they would much rather be watching television. And if their trip doesn't work out as planned, the twins could end up as slaves to Sir Edmund Thitheltorpe III, an evil explorer with breath that smells like boiled carrots, who has it in for the whole Navel family.

Mr. London has kindly agreed to answer a few questions (and there could be a GIVEAWAY!) So, here we go:

Friday, September 16, 2011

What Makes A Bestseller?

What makes a bestseller? The Don and I want to know.

The Don on a fact-finding mission
(We do a lot of whispering in his ear)

I started pondering this question after my 5-year-old steered me into the book section of Fred Meyer (a store in the Kroger stable for those of you not in the Pacific Northwest.)

"Freddy's" prides itself on being a "one-stop shopping" kind of place. Most of the square footage is taken up by groceries, but there's also an Electronics section, toys, and clothing. As for books, it features the kind of books that make the New York Times bestseller list (as well as books about Superman, Toy Story, and Thomas the Tank Engine--which were on the shelves my youngest was casing.)

While youngest tried to convince me to buy him a Toy Story Goldenbook, I did a quick perusal of the MG/YA shelves. The Freddy's book buyer must love The Ranger's Apprentice, because there were a number of those in stock. Also something by James Patterson (I believe he's cloned himself and now writes several books a day.) Then, to my delight, I saw my recently reviewed Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm. As well as Moon Over Manifest (which I haven't read yet, but I bet is at Freddy's because it won some little prize, like the Newbery.)

Then there was this novel which has lately been getting a lot of press:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So Excited!!!!!!!

Have you ever had a boss from whose good side you dared not stray? A boss whose motto was "don't get mad, get even?"

That's my boss.


The boss likes two things: middle-grade Italian authors and humor. Well, middle-grade Italian authors are in short supply (though I'm trying hard to convince him that America's greatest living middle-grade author's name is actually Ricardo Peckorini). But humor isn't.

Those of you who follow this blog know that last month I raved over Rylander. And now, I'm laughing loudly over London.

C. Alexander London, to be exact. Yes, the very same author of the hilarious new series, An Accidental Adventure.

I'll be interviewing Signore London next Monday for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. And he has very kindly offered a signed copy  (plus a "super secret surprise item") to one lucky blog commenter.

We go live on Monday the 19th. Hope to see you there.

Ciao from Michale Gettelini-Gilmartini

Monday, September 12, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Born Too Short

Born Too Short: The Confessions of an Eighth Grade Basket Case by Dan Elish (Atheneum, 2002)

What caught my eye first: The title. And man, who wasn't a basket case in 8th grade?!

The story (thanks to Amazon's copywriters):
What do you do if your best friend is Keith Livingston? Keith -- who practically needs a chart to keep track of his babes. Keith -- the stud/athlete/Adonis of Hannaford School in New York City.
Well, for starters, if you're like Matt Greene, a 5'1" nerd who has never made out, you suffer.
When Keith's eighth-grade musical, Star Crossed, is a smash, Matt can't take it anymore. Blowing off steam on the corner of Eighty-first Street and Columbus, he wishes his buddy's life would fall completely apart.
Sound serious? As Matt's story shows, the insane, gut-wrenching jealousy of a non-stud/non-athlete/non-Adonis basket case can be wildly funny.

Wonderful thing about this book: Elish does a great job with teen-speak. Also, I totally believed the feelings of jealousy Matt had for his best friend, Keith. After all, Matt wants to have all the girls adoring him. But with Keith around, it's not going to happen.

Caveat: I prefer my middle grade on the "upper/tween" side, and this one certainly fits the bill. Personally, I'm not a prude, and I know that teens are getting up to some devious stuff, but it might concern some readers that Matt drinks a couple of beers at a party (without too much of a consequence, I might add--the kid doesn't even seem to have much of a hangover), and that there are a couple of references to things like "whacking off" and other sexual stuff. I'd say this would be a good one for 7th-8th graders, and it wouldn't be a bad thing to read it with your child and use it to discuss views on teen drinking and sex.
If you want to learn more about Dan Elish, here's his website. He sounds like a multi-talented sort of fellow.

(I'll be making a mid-week announcement about a very exciting MMGM for next Monday--so keep your Google Reader in top working order!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Escaping the Giant Wave

Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret (Simon and Schuster, 2003)

What caught my eye first: The eyes, above the giant wave on the cover. Also, the title, given this year's horrendous tsunami in Japan, and the ever-present danger of tsunami on the Oregon coast. (After Turtle in Paradise, my last week's MMGM, with its hurricane, perhaps I'm in a bit of a natural disaster rut!)

The story (thanks to Goodreads copywriters): The Worst Vacation Ever! Thirteen year old Kyle thought spending a vacation on the Oregon coast with his family would be great. Kyle's perfect vacation becomes a nightmare while he's babysitting his sister, BeeBee. An earthquake hits the coast and starts a fire in their hotel. Can Kyle and BeeBee out wit and outrun nature's fury to save themselves from tsunami terror?

Wonderful things about this book: a) The disaster factor. Peg Kehret throws her characters into the most terrifying situations (an earthquake, a hotel fire, and then not one but TWO tsunami). If you want to see how to write this sort of action scene, in which the characters are faced with life-or-death situations, study how Kehret does it. She's a master.

b) Characterization. Kyle, the narrator, is dealing with bullying and, through his successful saving of himself and his sister, is able to face down the bully. His younger sister, BeeBee, is a financial wunderkind--and her characterization is done with a deft comic touch.

Verdict: This is another swift read. Both girls and boys (grades 4-6) would enjoy it--the kid reviewers on Goodreads were very complimentary. The only caveat is that it is very realistic, and might potentially frighten the more tender-hearted reader to the point of ocean aversion.

Hooray for Peg Kehret! I'll definitely seek out more of her books. You can find out more about her on her website and her blog.