A LONG WALK TO WATER

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

August’s theme: Survivor Stories

NameplateKristisGemI

A LONG WALK TO WATER
Text & Illustrations © 2010, Linda Sue Park

ALONGWALKTOWATER450Middle
Grade

Fiction

Age
Range:
10-12
years

Grade
Level:
Fifth-
Seventh

Clarion
Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

New York Times Bestseller

Booklist Starred Review

Awards:

  • 2011 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award (NY)
  • 2012 Black-Eyed Susan Award Nominee (MA)
  • 2012 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (ND)
  • 2012 Great Lakes Book Award Nominee (MI)
  • 2012 Kentucky Blue Grass Award Nominee
  • 2012 Maine Student Book Award Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Sower Award Nominee (NE)
  • 2013 South Carolina Association of School Librarians Award Nominee
  • 2013 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)

Later, he would learn that at least a thousand people had died trying to cross the river that day, drowned or shot or attacked by crocodiles.

How was it that he was not one of the thousand? Why was he one of the lucky ones?
A LONG WALK TO WATER

A Long Walk to Water cleverly alternates two points of view in the third person, as both main characters, “walk to water” in Southern Sudan. Tween readers’ will anxiously flip to the next chapter as Nya endures her daily routine and Salva faces lions, soldiers and travels abroad. Both Nya and Salva are BRAVE warriors, the kind that keep going when faced with adversity. Park herself bravely narrated this true story about Salva’s Dut of Lou-Ariik’s experience during Sudan’s civil war using objective tone, simplistic vocabulary and a rich setting. I can’t wait for my children to join Salva on his journey from Southern Sudan to America, and to learn what hope and generosity can accomplish.

~ Kristi
____________________________________________________________________

The walking began again. Walking–but to where?

No one knew anything for sure. Where was Salva supposed to go?

Not home. There is still war everywhere in Sudan. Not back to Ethiopia. The soldiers would shoot us. Kenya. There are supposed to be refugee camps in Kenya.
A LONG WALK TO WATER

Nothing stops Salva Dut. Not starvation. Not lions. Not crocodiles. Not bullets. In A Long Walk to Water, based on Dut’s experience as the leader of almost 1500 “Lost Boys of Sudan,” Linda Sue Park shares Dut’s story of perseverance and triumph through two sets of adolescent eyes, over a decade apart. Salva, an 11-year-old boy from 1985 Sudan walks to escape death. Nya, an 11-year-old girl from 2008 Sudan walks to find life. The two converge at the base of what Nya calls “the iron giraffe”–a life-giving deep-water well. United by hardship, Salva’s hardship brings empathy. Nya’s hardship brings gratitude.

This well will quench more than thirst. It will bring forth new crops and opportunities for education and work. This gut-wrenching and significant account makes me want to grow up to be like Salva. Or, more fittingly, like Linda Sue Park, telling the stories of other Salva Duts so more people, like me, can be inspired to greater heights of empathy, gratitude, and giving.

~ Anna

How we can help: Water For South Sudan

KEM Sapphire

Watch for Lou’s gem next week!

We want to hear from you!
What is your favorite survivor story for youth?

CALPURNIA TATE

Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Planting Seeds

NameplateKristisGemITHE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE
Text © 2009, Jacqueline Kelly

CALPURNIACover460Middle
Grade

Historical Fiction

Age Range:
9-12 years

Grade Level:
4-7

Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Macmillan Publishers

AWARDS

2010 Newbery Honor Award

2010 Bank Street – Josette Frank Award

The IRA Children’s Book Award
North Carolina Young Adult Book Award
Virginia M. Law Award
Judy Lopez Book Award

We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. ~ The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

In The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate the beloved Callie Vee’s independent and curious nature takes the reader on an adventure into the lives of a spirited, small town Texas family. Kelly’s rich settings and attention to detail aptly fits the scientific investigations that 11-year old Callie and her cantankerous Granddaddy explore.  And like Darwinism, the strong survive! The question is, will Callie endure, or will she be like the green grasshoppers that get eaten before they fully mature? I found myself rooting for Callie to evolve beyond the southern ladylike conventions of “housewifery” so she could follow her intellectual inquisitiveness..
~ Kristi
____________________________________________________________________

Great. I could see the newspaper: Girl Scientist Thwarted for all Time by Stupid Sewing Projects. Loss to Society Immeasurable. Entire Scientific Community in Mourning.  ~The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The book cover reveals that its author, Jacqueline Kelly, is not only a Newbery-winning novelist; she’s also a practicing physician and lawyer. For Dr. Kelly, Esquire, I apologize, but this cosmically lopsided distribution of brilliance made me swear in my Yosemite Sam voice, “Oooooo. I hate that woman.”

Luckily, southern charm and dry humor won me over. Calpurnia made me laugh out loud when she compared unpleasant thoughts to “a bothersome, bad smelling dog demanding attention” and wondered why dogs have eyebrows. I’m convinced that Calpurnia earned her doctorate in the sciences–and maybe a law degree and a Newbery, too. By page 340, I vicariously celebrated the victories of Calpurnia and Jacqueline. You might say I evolved.
~ Anna
_____________________________________________________________________

CALPURNIABackCover

Watch for The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Expected publication date: July 7, 2015.

KEM Sapphire

Watch for Lou’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s books plant seeds of wisdom or wonder in you?

MAY’S THEME – KIDLIT GEMS FOR MOM

EVERY SOUL A STAR

Did you know that some people call the total solar eclipse Nature’s Greatest Coincidence? During this phenomena, the moon and the sun look the same size from the earth. But the moon is 400 time smaller. Coincidentally, (or not), the sun circles the earth 400 times as far away as the moon. That’s why they seem the same size to us. If the moon were even a few miles smaller in circumference, it wouldn’t hide the face of the sun.

EVERY SOUL A STARMiddle Grade Fiction
Age Range: 8-12 years
Grade Level: 3-7
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette Book Group
Text copyright © 2008 Wendy Mass
Cover photo copyright © 2008 Pat La Croix/The Image Bank/Getty Images

 AWARDS

California Young Reader Medal
First Annual Homeschool Book Award


WHY EVERY SOUL A STAR IS A KEM GEM

KKRISTI’S TAKE
EVERY SOUL A STAR took me on a stellar journey where I learned about individuality, friendship and astronomy. Wendy Mass weaves together three points-of-views to show us how it feels to be an outsider. Ally, the alpha girl, Bree, the beauty and Jack, who wants to hide in a box, learn that their uniqueness is what makes them radiate from the shadows of ordinary life. Wendy has channeled the mesmerizing energy of a solar eclipse into a fairy-tale ball, only there’s no magic or evil, just truth and hope that connects us universally. This is one of those books that I didn’t want to end because I had met three very dear friends, and without them, there was a void.

Favorite line
“And as streams of light fan out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly, I realize that I never saw real beauty until now.”

KEM Sapphire
EELISE’S TAKE
The collision of celestial paths in a solar eclipse is a perfect backdrop for the meeting of three very different lives. In EVERY SOUL A STAR, Mass masterfully alternates between Ally, Bree, and Jack’s first-person perspectives and elicits a sympathetic response from her readers towards each. By the end of the story, I was invested in all three kids, their flaws, their insecurities, and their personal growth.

Mass’ description of the solar eclipse was also a highlight. My only opportunity to see a solar eclipse for myself was during second grade. We were forbidden to look outside (under threat of certain blindness!), so I was thrilled to “see” the big moment through this novel.

Tip: For extra glory, read Ally’s chapter 7 while listening to MPR showcase a very dramatic Buffalo Philharmonic.

KEM Diamond
MGrayMARRAS’ TAKE
In EVERY SOUL A STAR, Wendy Mass treads where few writers dare to go–into the galaxies of three fictional adolescent minds, in first person, and in present tense. What a brave soul. She shines as a psychological  genius–a prerequisite for anyone who loves teenagers.

Mass camouflages astrophysics amidst entertaining character dialog and reflections. The subliminal lessons work so well, I’ve reserved August 21, 2017, the next mainland total eclipse, to camp in the middle of nowhere with a red flashlight and a telescope. If EVERY SOUL A STAR can ignite a late-in-life star-gazing passion in me, imagine the astronomically bright potential for a 13-year-old reader.

Favorite line
“I sure as heck won’t tell them that it used to belong to my dad when he was a baby and that he left it in my crib when he took off. And I definitely won’t tell them that I say good night to it every night before I go to sleep.

It’s just too pathetic.”GEMrub

Every Soul a Star Book trailers by Maria M.


Every Soul a Star Book trailer by Sarah Simmons

EVERY SOUL A STAR Resources

Please share your Every Soul A Star comments, too!

2013 Iowa SCBWI Conference-Part III

MichellePoploff“Write about your histories!”

During her presentation, “The Write Place at the Write Time”, Michelle Poploff urged Iowa SCBWI Conference attendees to put  historical fiction on our to-write lists. She motivated us by sharing the process toward publication of successful  Delacorte Press’ historical fiction novels; among them, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard, Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy (to be published in 2014).

Finding Your Voice

IA SCBWI 2013

Later Poploff emceed the “Finding Your Voice” portion where attendees whose names were drawn read the first 500 words of their manuscript and provide on-line elevator pitch synopses. This was my favorite part of the conference because it gave writers the opportunity to shine. They shared their words with the rhythm and inflections they envisioned. Most of them had wrung these words out of their minds onto paper through blood, sweat, and tears. Now they were able to share their bounty with other sweaty, bloody, teary-eyed writers. The exercise enabled writers to be heard. That’s what all writers want.

 Publication Teamwork

Jan Blazanin and Allison Remcheck

Jan Blazanin and Allison Remcheck

JanBlazaninAllisonRemcheck


Christine Kettner, Art Director, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt, walked us through the journey of making  middle grade novel The Adventures of A Southpole Pig. On the other end of the spectrum, Allison Remcheck, Assistant to Rosemary Stimola, and Jan Blazanin, Iowa author and Young Adult Mentor, gave us an inside look at Blazanin’s successful query letter to the Stimola Literary Studio, how she snagged the agency to represent her, and how Stimola, Remcheck, and Blazanin became an effective team.

I’m the poster child for the artistically-challenged, but both road-to-publication re-enactments were equally fascinating. Unless you know a published author, illustrator, agent, or editor personally, you can’t get this inside information without attending a conference. I’ll share some choice tidbits:

  • Directors, agents, and editors’ inboxes are swamped, so make your email query subject line stand out.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one manuscript. Your first manuscript may not be the manuscript that gets published.
  • Read as many books as possible in your intended genre.
  • Never pay someone to read your work for representation.
  • Self-publishing may sabotage your chances of being published later.

The Story Only You Can Tell

Joanna Cardenas, Assistant Editor, Viking, Penguin Group, USA, presented “Mastering the Deceptively Simple Art of the Picture Book” and “Author as Self-Promoter”. In picture books, she looks for humor, clever dialog, a memorable plot, and a distinct point of view. She wants to read the story that only you can tell. She quoted Leonard Marcus: “Picture books are stories told in two languages–text and art.”

A sampling of Cardenas’ self-promoting tips:

  • Publishers rarely can afford to offer book tours anymore, so you will need to do a lot of footwork yourself.
  • A website is key, but starting social media and not keeping up can hurt you. (Now she tells me.)
  • Teachers can help others discover your book.
  • Pool your efforts with other authors.
  • Offer workshops for kids that pertain to your work.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post-view of the 2013 IA SCBWI Conference. Maybe I’ll meet you there in person next year. (Remind me to take more pictures in 2014.)

2013 Iowa SCBWI Conference Photos