Monday, April 23, 2012

The Ted Hipple Young Adult Literature Collection

On Sunday, I went on a field trip, practically in my own backyard, to the University of South Florida. The fearless leader of our expedition was Dr. Joan Kaywell, founder of The Ted Hipple Young Adult Literature Collection.

Dr. Kaywell started the collection in memory of her mentor, Dr. Ted Hipple. The collection houses autographed first editions of YA literature in addition to manuscripts and ARCS. My favorite part of the tour was looking at the papers donated by YA author, Greg Neri. Greg is also a talented illustrator and his drawings are more interesting than a typed manuscript.

 I was like a kid in a candy store, surrounded by the works of S.E. Hinton, Richard Peck, Alex Flinn, Jacqueline Woodson, and many, many more. When my debut novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, is published in the winter of 2013, I plan to donate my working papers, editor's notes, manuscript, and a signed copy to the library.

If more middle grade and YA novelists were aware of this collection, it would grow even faster. So spread the word, spread the love of YA literature! To find out more about the Ted Hipple Young Adult Literature Collection, watch this video on YouTube.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

WAITING TO FORGET by Sheila Kelly Welch

I always read the Author's Note of a book first because I want to know why an author chose this particular story. The note at the end of WAITING TO FORGET says, "She, (Ms. Welch), and her husband live in Illinois, where they raised five sons and two daughters. Four of the children were adopted when they were of school age." That kind of emotional truth resonates in the story of two children, Angela and T.J. who suffer because their mother is too immature to take care of them.

The mother's primary sin is neglect. She can't be bothered to make sure her children are clean, fed, and safe. But neglect turns to emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their mother's boyfriend.

The turning point in this novel happens when T.J. and Angela are left alone for the weekend. Their only link to their mother is a cell phone that she never bothers to answer.

The story is told in alternating sections between "Then" and "Now." Now takes place in the hospital waiting room where T.J. is waiting for news of Angela. Then tells the story of the abuse and neglect that culminated in her accident. The reader doesn't find out what happened to Angela until near the end of the book. I couldn't put it down until I knew.

WAITING TO FORGET packs an emotional punch. It will leave you thinking long after you finish it.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


ONE FOR THE MURPHYS grabbed my heart and never let go! When we first meet twelve-year-old Carley Connors, she's in a social worker's car on her way to foster care. We quickly learn that Carley and her mother have been beaten by her stepfather. Carley has just been released from the hospital and her mother is still unconscious.

The first shocker of this book happens in a flashback. Carly remembers how the beating started. Her mother caught her by the foot and yelled at her stepfather. "Honey, I got her! I got her by the foot!" Carly was betrayed by her own mother.

Carley has a hard time trusting the Murphys, but Mrs. Murphy and her two youngest sons finally work their way into her heart. Just as she is hoping to be adopted by them, the social worker takes Carley to see her mother. What happens next is unexpected, but inevitable.

What sets this novel apart is it's not depressing. Carley is quick-witted, sarcastic, and kind. I found myself, rather than feeling sorry for her, rooting for her to overcome her circumstances.

Kirkus just gave ONE FOR THE MURPHYS a starred review, and for good reason. If you like books that will make you cry, make you laugh, and ultimately make you cheer, then this book is for you.