Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Theme's The Thing

Of course, I read for enjoyment, but I also read with a writer's eye. My favorite middle grade novels tell a compelling story, with a theme so expertly woven in, it's like adding the perfect spice to a hearty stew. In WING NUT by MJ Auch, birds, called purple martins, return to their homes year after year. The birds are in contrast to our protagonist, twelve-year-old Grady Flood who is homeless.

"These martins will go through a lot to get here," Charlie said. "I guess home is a pretty powerful magnet."

Those words hit Grady right in the gut. "I wouldn't know about that. I never really had a home."

The importance of this theme, enriches MJ Auch's novel, and subtly conveys a message about the need to belong. In my opinion, a strong theme is an inherent reason that books are selected for state reading lists, and a critical part of crafting a middle grade novel.

What's Your Inspiration?

As a writer, I'm always intrigued by where other writers find their inspiration. In the book, WING NUT, MJ Auch writes about the migratory pattern of purple martins. Our protagonist, twelve-year-old Grady Flood, watches for the birds to land in rural Pennsylvania. He helps ready gourds, in which the birds will make their nests.

Searching the acknowledgments, I found out there's a Purple Martin Conservation Association, and a magazine called Purple Martin Update. But, the most intriguing thing I discovered, is that MJ Auch is starting a purple martin colony of her own!

In my recently completed MG novel, the inspiration came from an accident that happened to my sister. She was struck by a car and spent the summer trapped in a body cast.

What's your inspiration? It's one of my favorite questions, and I'd love to know your story!


The first book on The Florida Sunshine list is WING NUT. This is from the bookjacket:

Grady couldn't help smiling about the name--wing nut. That was the perfect description of Charlie Fernwald and his crazy attraction to birds.

Twelve-year-old Grady Flood and his mom, Lila, have been on the road ever since Grady's dad died seven years ago. When their old car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in rural Pennsylvania where Lila gets work as a cook and caretaker. There's nothing out of the ordinary in that, unless you factor in her new boss. Old Charlie Fernwald, a skilled mechanic and bird enthusiast, is definitely out of the ordinary. In fact, if Grady's not mistaken, Charlie is a certifiable "Wing Nut." For the time being, Grad figures, he can help Charlie with his birds and maybe even learn how to fix a car engine. But before he can do either, something goes terribly wrong.

I just finished this book, and I highly recommend it. In my opinion, the book is on the state list because:

1. It's a great story.

2. The book has something to say about protecting wildlife, and the dangers of introducing non-native anmals into a new environment.

3. The protagonist is not from a traditional family, and many children can relate to that.

4. The book has a hopeful ending.

If you're intrigued enough to read WING NUT, I'd love to hear your opinion. I will be posting more about the book and its author.

I'm Shannon...Who Makes Up The Band?

At the moment, it's just me, but I hope to post information that will be useful to librarians and students, who are participating in the Sunshine State Young Readers Award program. I plan to research the Sunshine authors, and post a profile of each of them. Maybe...I can even entice some of them to be interviewed.

So, teachers, students, librarians, and lovers of middle grade fiction, grab an instrument, join the band!

What Will Our MG Book Club Read?

Our book club follows the Sunshine State Young Reader's book list. This Florida statewide program was, "designed to entice students to read high interest, contemporary literature for personal enjoyment." I love hearing which books the students like, which ones weren't so enjoyable, and WHY. Coming up will be:

1. Wing Nut by M.J. Auch
2. The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis
3. Into The Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
4. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman
5. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
6. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
7. All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
8. Airball: My Life in Briefs by Lisa Harkrader
9. Gabriel's Horses by Alison Hart
10. Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs
11. La Linea by Ann Jaramillo
12. Schooled by Gordon Korman
13. Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith
14. First Light by Rebecca Stead
15. Runaway by Wendy Van Draanen