Monday, September 22, 2014

MMGM: RORY'S PROMISE by Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols

RORY'S PROMISE (by Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols, Calkins Creek, September 1st, 2014)

You know a novel's good when the first words out of the Don's mouth on a Monday morning are, "Get me this Rory girl, pronto. She'll be an asset to the famiglia."

Yup, those are the very words I heard this morning, and no surprise. Anyone who knows the Don (and me) knows that we are huge fans of Michaela MacColl. The Don went to Africa after reading Promise the Night, and he's been heard reciting Emily Dickinson (of course he thinks he's unobserved) after reading Nobody's Secret. Now, with Rory's Promise, he's inquiring about becoming a benefactor to nuns with their projects. As he said to me the other day, "Them Sisters! Che par di palle!" Which is to say, he thinks the good nuns have got chutzpah!

Michaela's latest project is with Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mill Press. With co-author Rosemary Nichols, she's kicking off a series called Hidden Histories. This particular book is about Irish orphans who are sent west on so-called Orphan Trains. We meet the orphans from "The Foundling Hospital," a foundation run by Catholic nuns, led by the redoubtable Sister Anna. They are well-cared for, compared to the children from the Children's Aid Society who are also traveling west.

What I Loved: Like the DonI was captivated by the character of Rory Fitzpatrick, who is one of the spunkiest characters (male or female) I've read in a long while. Determined not to be separated from her younger sister, Violet, Rory gets arrested, stows aboard first a carriage, and then the orphan train itself, and generally stands up for herself in many ways--unafraid to tackle adults, as well as stand up to the formidable Sister Anna herself.

The Cover: The cover perfectly captures my idea of Rory. Go Red!

The Pacing: This novel moves at a clip. In fact, the Don barely looked up from it to sip from his morning cappuchino.

A look into a part of history of which I was unaware: Yes, the orphan trains actually existed. There are notes in the back of the book which tell all about it, as well as a great educator's guide which came with my copy. By the way, teachers, this would be an awesome novel to study in Grades 4-7 as part of a Language Arts or Social Studies Curriculum.

There's a blog tour going on--and Middle Grade Mafioso is stop numero due! Here's a list of the rest of the tour--be sure to stop by because, just like today, you could win a copy of this fantastic novel. Hey, the Don might even bring it to your door. (Oh, I guess not. He's in meetings with the sisters all week--so you'll have to rely on the good folks at Boyd's Creek to ship you your winning copy. JUST LEAVE A COMMENT. (U.S. addresses only for the win.)

Fri 9/19                 KirbyLarson
Mon 9/22             Middle Grade Mafioso 
Tue 9/23               Mother/Daughter Book Club 
Wed 9/24             Middle Grade Minded 
Thu 9/25              KidLit Frenzy 
Fri 9/26                Unleashing Readers

Here's more on Michaela, plus her book trailer. Thanks for stopping by. CIAO!

Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring so far a young Emily Dickinson in Nobody’s Secret (2013) and the Bronte sisters in Always Emily (2014).  She has recently begun a new series with Boyd’s Mill/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past. The first entry in the series is Rory’s Promise and will be published in September 2014. She frequently visits high schools and has taught at the Graduate Institute in Bethel, CT. She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Winners!

It's no secret that the month of August was a particularly crazy one in Mafiosoville.

1. We went camping (I tell ya, do not roast marshmallows over a campfire with the Don. He's a pyromaniac!).

2. The kids started school *:) happy

3. The new guard dog has a penchant for chewing leather. (My poor boots!) *~X( at wits' end

And pens,

 And paper.

(In fact, I think she's secretly writing the Great American Canine Novel.)

And then there was the US Open Tennis. (The Don's favorite player is Fabio Fognini, but the guy's a basket case.)

Through all of this, blogging has taken a back seat. (Oh yeah, I also finished Book 5 in  the Game of Thrones series, and that was a marathon achievement. Winter is Coming!)

But, I have not forgotten my promise of sending books from two of my favorite writers--folks I know in real life--to my deserving readers.

So, here we go: The winner of the signed copy of the paperback edition of Rosanne Parry's Written in Stone is:

And the winner of the signed hardback of Robin Herrera's Hope is a Ferris Wheel is...

I'll be contacting you good people very soon.

Also, I am going to be part of the blog tour of Michaela MacColl's latest, Rory's Promise, which she co-wrote with Rosemary Nichols. Anyone who's been following this blog for a while will know that Ms. MacColl is yet another one of my favorite authors-- (Promise the Night; Nobody's Secret.) It's bound to be a goodie!!

See you next week, Ciao!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL by Robin Herrera (with Interview and Giveaway)

HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL by Robin Herrera (Amulet Books, March 2014)

What It's About (from Goodreads):
Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future.

Opening Lines: "Everyone at Pepperwood Elementary knows that I live in Treasure Trailers, in the pink-tinted trailer with the flamingo hot-glued to the roof. The problem is, I only told four girls, the ones who were standing by me the first time we lined up for recess."

Why I liked it: Well, the shocking thing is that I haven't blogged since early August (Don, forgive me!), and now that I'm back in business I'm featuring a novel by another Portland writer I know in real life. So, hooray for Portland!

Robin Herrera is a bona fide hoot, and her debut doesn't disappoint--from the fabulous cover, to the comedy woven through every chapter.

Star Mackie is an unforgettable character: honest, intelligent, and determined. Robin Herrera has given her a pitch-perfect middle grade voice, and the friendship she develops with some of the school's other oddballs is delightful. I also liked Star's "Vocabulary Sentences," which are sprinkled throughout and are very funny. (Star writes answers at length, but doesn't turn the work in to her teacher.)

Plus, Emily Dickinson is heavily featured, and there are poems mentioned throughout.

And don't forget donuts. They also make appearances, and in my experience any books with doughnuts is a true gem.

I shot Robin off my typical Mafioso questions, and she very kindly responded:

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?
Louis Sachar has been a favorite for a long time, along with Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler. They wrote some of the books that shaped my adolescence. More recent favorites include Rita Williams-Garcia, Linda Urban, and Katherine Paterson, among others.

2) What's on your nightstand now?
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, which is definitely not a middle grade novel! But I've also got a couple graphic novels I've been meaning to read, like Sing No Evil, Five Weapons, Bad Houses, and Bandette, and I just finished The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson.

3) Pick a favorite scene from your novel, and say why you like it
My favorite scene is in chapter 5, which I call "the Hot Dog scene." This was one of the first scenes I had plotted out in my mind when I wrote Hope Is a Ferris Wheel, and though it's changed quite a bit over all the drafts, the intent has always remained the same. I feel it encapsulates a very important theme in the novel - Star's mom and sister clashing and arguing, and Star being torn between the two of them.

4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at....
Writing silly songs and poems. I'm glad I got to write Star's poems in Hope Is a Ferris Wheel - those are pretty indicative of my poetic abilities. I also love writing sonnets.

5) My favorite breakfast is...
Eggs Benedict! But if I have to make my own breakfast, then it's a flatbread scrambled egg sandwich with sausage, cheese, and pesto.

6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?
I have a couple of favorite restaurants I always wish I were eating at. A sushi place in Berkeley, a tea shop in Eureka, a burger joint that serves bison burgers on highway 101... At different times, I'll crave one of these places and wish I could visit again.

About the Author: Robin's "About Me" page on her website says it all! (You'll get a great sense of her wit if you visit her there.)

I have a signed hardback copy waiting for anyone who cares to comment. U.S. and Canadian entries only, I'm afraid. And thanks for stopping by!