Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Olivia by Julie Wright

Olivia by Julie Wright

Olivia finds herself frustrated with her marriage after she worked herself to exhaustion to make the perfect anniversary dinner for her husband and he forgets to show up. When he neglects to even apologize to her she realizes how frayed and weak her home and family life has become. She realizes that in order to please those around her she has forgotten how to be true to herself, and as she makes small changes to make more time for herself, she begins to fight for what will bring the family closer together instead of what will make things the most comfortable for everyone. Her small changes include her deciding to rekindle her old love of reading and join a book club.

While Olivia realizes she loves and wants to take care of all the children in her family including her step-children something is preventing her husband from doing the same. The harder she tries to reconcile her husband with his children the farther he pushes her away, until finally he decides to leave her. She is only able to hold together with the help and kindness of those she has met in the book club. At first it is awkward to reach out to these women she only just met, but they quickly become a support structure for one another as each one of them is put through a refiner’s fire.

I empathized with Olivia’s character straightaway in this book, as a woman who tries to always look on the bright side and do the right thing, I felt like we had much in common. It was rewarding to see her make friends and reach out and help those around her. I really liked her character and how she felt like a real everyday person you would meet at church or at work.

I feel like the author’s writing has improved even more from the last time I read one of her books. I loved Cross My Heart, but sometimes felt that several portions of the book felt awkward or were less polished. The writing in this book never took me out of the story, I always wanted to come back and read more whenever I had to put it down. The characters are strong, the conflicts relatable, and the personalities involved were interesting and felt realistic. I am so excited to read the rest of this series and see how these wonderful authors portray the book club from different points of view.

Find out more information about the series and the next book Daisy by Josi Kilpack at the Newport Ladies Book Club Blog.
You can learn more about Julie Wright at her author's website.

Friday, February 17, 2012

LDSPBP:Interview with Sharlee Glenn

Gamila: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work.

Sharlee:I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.  I came from a family of readers.  My mom used to claim that she must have had an extensive library stashed away somewhere in her womb--otherwise, there's no way under heaven her three girls would have consented to stay there for nine months!  I started writing stories and poems almost as soon as I could form my letters, and I began my first novel at age 11.  While in college and then later during my Master's program, I focused mostly on academic writing.  I was teaching at BYU and busy raising my family when an idea for a middle-grade novel grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go.  I had no choice but to write the novel!  It was published in 1998 by Bookcraft (which later became part of Deseret Book).  My life was pretty crazy at that point.  I was teaching at BYU, had just given birth to my fifth child, and was helping care for my mother who was dying of cancer.  I flat-out didn't have the time or focus to be able to even think about trying to write another novel, so I decided to write picture books instead!  I've now published three picture books:  One in a Billion (Cornerstone), Keeping Up with Roo (G. P. Putnam's Sons), and Just What Mama Needs (Harcourt).  Just What Mama Needs was recently featured on the EMMY award-winning PBS children's show, Between the Lions.

Gamila: What made you decide to publish picture books?

Sharlee:  See above. :-)

Gamila: What authors in your field do you admire? Which of their strengths so you strive to emulate in your own work?

The authors I most admire include Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, and Marilynne Robinson.  My favorite middle-grade/YA authors are Patricia MacLachlan, Sharon Creech, Lois Lowry, Katherine Patterson, and Gary Schmidt.  As far a picture book writers go, I love Kevin Henkes, David Wiesner, and, of course, Maurice Sendak.

Gamila: The brevity of text in the picture book requires unique storytelling skills. What process did you take to learn this art?

Sharlee:Learning how to craft an effective picture book is a brutal process.  It took me a long time to figure out the difference between magazine-type stories and picture books.  I think it helped that I had written a lot of poetry.  There are a lot of similarities between a poem and a picture book--rhythm, brevity, imagery, compression, etc.

Gamila: what is the most rewarding thing about being a picture book author? What is the most discouraging?

Sharlee:The most rewarding thing is hearing that kids love your book--that they beg their parents to read it over and over and over.  The most discouraging thing is that the picture book market is so flat right now. 

Gamila: I love the subtle way that you convey your characters in Keeping up with Roo. What experiences inspired you to tackle the topic of special needs adults?

Sharlee: Keeping Up with Roo is a very special book to me.  The best way to describe my connection to the characters in the book would probably be to direct you to my acceptance speech when the book was given the Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award.  To read the full speech, go here:

Gamila:  Before we end tell us about your most current writing project or most recent release.

Sharlee: My life has actually settled down a bit since I first started writing, so I'm returning to my first love--the middle-grade novel.  I have a work in progress that I'm quite excited about, but I don't want to give away too many details!  I'll just tell you this much:  it's tentatively titled Spitting in Space. :-)

Spitting in Space? That sound like so much fun! Thanks so much for taking the time to interview with me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LDSPBP: Sharlee Glenn

Sharlee Glenn
Sharlee Glenn is a graduate of BYU where she ultimately earned an MA with a dual emphasis in Art History and English. She taught at BYU for a number of years and then decided to quit shortly after her fifth child was born. She then decided to pursue her interest in writing for children. In addition to writing picture books she has published stories in the cricket and ladybug magazine.

Keeping Up With Roo
Gracie has always been friends with her aunt Roo since she was born. They always played and had great adventures together. Though Roo is as old as her Mom she still loves to play like a child. As Gracie grows older and becomes more busy with school and friends she doesn’t play with Roo as often as she used to. In fact, she is a little bit embarrassed at how Roo acts in front of her friends, but realizes that her aunt Roo has taught her much about how to play and have fun. She learns to appreciate Roo's differences instead of being  embarrassed by them.
 This is a charming story about true friendship and acceptance. I love how the issues of the story are subtly conveyed for the reader to discover as the story continues. Lovable characters and a tender portrayal of family relationships.
Just What Mamma Needs
This is a cute little story about Abby the dog who likes to play pretend. On Monday she pretends to be a pirate and her mom cleverly suggests that all pirates swab the decks. Together they clean the kitchen floor. Each day of the week presents a new game and a new challenge for this mother and daughter duo.  An ordinary day becomes an adventure and every house hold chore a game.
I really enjoyed this sweet little book, and the mother daughter relationship in the book. It was fun to watch the character work, play, and pretend together.
Other picture books not reviewed:

Monday, February 6, 2012

LDSPBP: Interview with Kristyn Crow

I hope you enjoy the interview with Kristyn Crow below. She was so kind to take the time to participate in this project even though she was insanely busy preparing for the Writing For Charity Event taking place this year in Provo, Utah on St. Patrick's Day. Hopefully those attending the conference have something nice to wear in the shade of green!

Gamila: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work.

Kristyn:  I am a mother of seven from Layton, Utah, who loves Beatles music, chocolate, and looking at the planets through a telescope.  I write snappy, rhythmic picture books with a musical vibe.  Most of my children sing, play piano, guitar, and a few write music, so music is a constant influence in our home. 

I have four picture books currently available for purchase, and two in production.  COOL DADDY RAT (G.P. Putnam's Sons), illustrated by Mike Lester, was released in 2009.  A few months later, BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP (HarperCollins), illustrated by Macky Pamintuan, was released.  In 2010, THE MIDDLE-CHILD BLUES (G.P. Putnam's Sons), illustrated by David Catrow became available, followed by THE REALLY GROOVY STORY OF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE (Albert Whitman, Inc.), illustrated by Christina Forshay.

This fall, SKELETON CAT (Scholastic) is due to be released, and it's illustrated by the incredible Dan Krall.  And I have a new picture book from Walker Books which will follow in 2013.

Gamila: What made you decide to publish picture books?


I have been writing stories since I was five years old, when I announced to my parents that I wanted to be an author when I grew up.  Writing has been a lifelong passion.  I had a mother who read me stories like, ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO-GOOD, VERY BAD DAY, and a father who could recite THE JABBERWOCKY from memory.  I was mesmerized by Dr. Suess books and  loved movies like THE JUNGLE BOOK with jazzy musical elements.   So there wasn't really a decision on my part to write picture books but a lifelong gnawing desire to create more of the literature I already loved.

Gamila: What authors in your field do you admire? Which oftheir strengths so you strive to emulate in your own work?

Kristyn:  Rick Walton is a Utah Children's Book Author who is one of my heroes.  He has not only been a mentor to me in my writing, but also has connected the Utah writing community in such a way that we are ALL able to mentor, cheerlead, befriend, and serve each other.  Writing is a lonely, solitary profession.  Rick was able to link all of us together and unite us in great causes.  For example, the Writing for Charity Event which takes place this coming March 17th.  Over 25 Utah authors will be in attendance to give manuscript advice to aspiring writers.  The proceeds will put books in the hands of underprivileged children! 

Gamila: The brevity of text in the picture book requires unique storytelling skills. What process did you take to learn this art?

Kristyn:  It took me a long time to learn how to do this.When I first tried to break into the picture book market Iwanted to write lovely sentences on a flat page that told a story from start to finish.I wanted to describe the scenery and characters in detail.This was my comfort zone--the kind of writing I'd learned in high school and college.I hoped to absorb the reader in my well-crafted prose and sweep him or her away in the scenes I was describing.I imagined that an illustrator would later read my text and paint the things I'd written--blue skies, yellow daffodils, and freckle-faced kids-- just as I described them.   I envisioned the illustrator as someone who decorated my words, not as a partner in the storytelling.  I had a lot to learn.
To "undo" this thinking I had to dissect picture books and see how they functioned.  I had to change my thinking from 2-D to 3-D.  And I had to learn to leave room for the illustrator to do some of the storytelling.  It's hard to do this.   Especially because the pictures aren't there yet.   You have to imagine what the pictures will likely show and then pare back the text to go along with the imaginary art. 

Gamila: what is the most rewarding thing about being a picture book author? What is the most discouraging?

Kristyn:  The most rewarding thing is seeing a child respond positively to one of my books.  I do assemblies where I bring 75 instruments.  Watching that many kids play along with the refrain of BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP, wiggling their hips, is pure joy. 

And the most discouraging thing is the waiting.  Waiting to hear back from agents and editors can take weeks, even months, even many months.  That's hard. 

Gamila: Your picture books often imitate and incorporate therhythm of strong music traditions like Jazz or Blues. What originally lead youto experiment with this and do you have plans to adapt more of your picturebook prose to imitate other musical genres?
Author:  What's interesting is that I do write picture books that aren't in rhyme, but those haven't sold for me yet.  I have a great love for music and lived in New York City for a time.  I loved hearing the musicians playing on the street and wafting out of the little bars on the corner.  Those beats and sounds flow out from my writing because they make me so happy.

Gamila:  Before we endtell us about your most current writing project or most recent release.

Kristyn:  This July, SKELETON CAT (Scholastic) will be released.  I'm thrilled with this book.  It's rhythmic and fun...full of bright, neon colors and the whimsical art of Dan Krall, who illustrated BEING A PIG IS NICE: A Childs-Eye View of Manners, and wrote/illustrated ABSOLUTELY BEASTLY CHILDREN, a hilarious alphabet book.  Honestly, I can't wait for people to see what he's done with SKELETON CAT.    It's coming out in paperback which I'm excited about because the book will be affordable for everyone.  I hate seeing those kids with pouty faces at the book fairs, who can't afford to buy a book.

Gamila: Thanks for the interview! I am totally going to check out Skeleton Cat.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

LDSPBP: Kristyn Crow

Author Kristyn Crow

The bio on Kristyn's website explains that she wanted to be a children's book author from a young age, a desire that she expressed to her teacher as early as Kindergarten. She loved to match words and rhythm as a child. She took all the creative writing classes during her schooling in high school and college. She continued to attend writer's conferences and work on her craft until one of the instructors recommended an agent to her. She sent in several manuscripts and received and offer of representation. She has published five picture books all which have are heavily influenced by word play and rhythm.

Cool Daddy Rat
 Ace’s dad plays the best jazz around town, and one day he follows him to work by hiding in his instrument case. Ace watches his day play around town all day and gets a chance to show his dad some of his own groove.
This is a fun Jazz inspired romp. The text is full of fun scat rhythms, which makes it fun to read aloud.
Bedtime at the swamp
This was my favorite of Crow’s books. A little boy is out in the woods during the evening and he hears a monster splashing through the swamp. He runs to safety in the branches of a nearby tree. Soon his mother sends out his sister to call him into bed, but she too hears the monster splashing through the swamp and joins him in the tree. How can they go home where there is a monster out there?
This scary bedtime story has a humorous twist, and text full of clever rhythm.

Middle Child Blues
Lee has the low-down, big-frown mid-kid blues. Life as a middle child isn’t very easy and so he expresses his troubles through this twangy picture book that reads like a blues song. There is so much he can’t do being a middle child, but as he sings out his soul on stage he finds that others listen and understand his situation.
This is a fun book that will have you expressing a little groove in your tone as you read. It has the rhythm and pattern of delightful song lyrics that you love to sing over and over again.

The Really Groovy Story of the Tortoise and the Hare

Didn't make the connection that this retelling of Aesop's classic tale was inspired from hip-hop rhythms until I read another review. I find it delightful that the Crow keeps finding new traditions to inspire her word-smithing.
The text and pictures have a wonderful modern and upbeat feel that makes this retelling feel fresh.

Note: I checked these books out at my local library and read them in order to write reviews. Also, pretend like this was posted yesterday, as I was supposed to do one of these during the month of January. I hope to post an interview with the author soon, so keep an eye out for that. Hope you enjoyed reading about Kristyn's work.