Yes, It’s True … I Met Judith Viorst *Does Happy Dance*

I love the month of September. For me, it represents a chance to learn and gain more experiences, a chance to break out my beloved hooded sweatshirts, and a weekend trip to Washington D.C. for the annual National Book Festival.

Last year I attended the event for the first time and was hooked. I vowed then and there that (as long as I was able, and there were authors I want to see and/or meet) I would go every year, no matter what. Last year I had the chance to meet Mo Willems, David Shannon, and Jon Scieszka. I also had the chance to see Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black talk about their experiences illustrating/writing The Spiderwick Chronicles, listened to Mo Willems read two of his Elephant and Piggie books (which I adore!), and had the chance to see why Megan McDonald created a series around Stink, a popular character featured in her ever-so-popular Judy Moody series.

No matter what, I knew I wanted to go this year. And finding out that Judith Viorst was going to be there, signing and presenting, I too would be there. (Anyone who knows me knows my love for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day … it’s borderline obsessive)

And that’s exactly where I was this past weekend.

Even though it was ridiculously hot outside, and not a shaded area to be seen, I was one of many to waited on signing lines and squeezed into packed tents to hear my favorite authors speak. The day (or at least, my day) started out trying to cram my four-foot, eleven inch self into a tent where Suzanne Collins was speaking.  There wasn’t an empty space available, so standing on the outskirts for 15/20 minutes I had the chance to hear Collins state why, as someone who appears so peace-loving, she could write such violent war like scenarios.

I knew I wouldn’t find much success at the presentations, so I decided that my focus for the day would be to try to get all the author signatures I was there for – which included Suzanne Collins, M.T. Anderson, Katherine Paterson, Katherine Peterson Haddix, and Judith Viorst  (yes, I had a moment of silent gushing!). Of all those, I was able to get all signatures with the exception of Katherine Peterson Haddix. 

Even though I managed to meet the authors I set out to meet, I did not manage to squeeze into any of the author presentations I had planned on attending. It was unfortunate, but by the time I made it to Judith Viorst’s signing line, I realized that due to the heat (it was 90 degrees … literally) I was starting to feel sick and sluggish, and no amount of liquid was quenching my thirst. Even though it was unseasonably hot out, I still managed to have a good time. I even walked right past Jeff Smith (of Bone fame) as well as Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (Italian cook, who my mother and grandmother love).

I couldn’t possibly bring the whole festival home with me, but I did bring a piece of it home – the official National Book Festival Poster.

Just for fun, I am giving away this very poster*. And if that wasn’t enough, this poster was signed by Katherine Paterson, author of such books as: The Great Gilly Hopkins, The Bridge to Terabitha, and her latest The Day of the Pelican. Along with the signed poster, the winner will receive some extra goodies (bookmarks, etc.) I picked up at the Book Festival.

Since I had the chance to meet some of my favorite authors, to enter comment on this post telling me what author you would like to meet and why? Contest is open until October 15th at midnight and to U.S. residents only, winner will be selected and announced October 16th. 

Good Luck, and happy commenting!

* Due to traveling with the poster is mildly crumpled, but it is fully in tact. At this very moment, the poster is laid out and is being flattened. The signature is 100 % authentic (I waited on-line for 30 minutes) and is legible.  To the winner, the poster will be shipped to you in a tube to prevent any further crumpling.

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Book of the Week: Presenting Tallulah

Presenting Tallulah by Tori Spelling

Published: Aladdin 2010

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

The illustrations are beautiful, fun, and most of all – charming.

Tallulah isn’t what she appears to be. I like how it shows that people are different, on the outside and on the inside.

It’s a good example to show children how others feel when they are singled out, or just don’t fit in.

Tallulah, ruffled dress and all, has a big heart, and isn’t afraid to follow it

Tallulah is brave. She puts aside her own fears to help someone else in need.

She’s set a good example.

The writing captures the authenticity of Tallulah’s voice. It’s strong.

It’s colorful.

I loved how this book is so full of emotions – from the characters to how the readers reading it will feel.

It’s a feel good story for all, with a really great message.

Book of the Week: A Balloon for Isabel

A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood

Published: Greenwillow Books 2010

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Even though I don’t particularly love where animals, as characters, are fully dressed, I thought these characters were lovable and charming, not weird or disturbing.

The book is full of charm and wit – from the story to the featured characters (especially Walter and Isabel)

It could show children that everyone is different. Can also show that just because they are different on the outside does not me they should be excluded from doing something.

Isabel is daring, she thinks outside of the box, and is an all around lovable character.

Isabel sets an example of how to be persistent, and how to work hard towards earning what you want.

It’s funny – I found myself laughing at loud, especially when Walter and Isabel decided to wrap pillows around their quills (they porcupines) and end up poking holes in them.

It’s colorful, and attention grabbing.

Even though the characters are small, child-like animals the story is realistic.

It’s relatable – not only to the children who feel different or left out, but to all readers big, small, animal, or human.

If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Life is full of difficult decisions. But for Mia, she’s faced with the hardest decision of them all. After a devastating car accident Mia learns that her cool, quirky, punk rock parents have died instantly. She’s the only one left until she finds what appears to be her younger brother Teddy’s hand sticking out in the nearby ditch. Upon closer examination, Mia finds its her hand – and her body blood soaked and sprawled out in the ditch. Teddy’s nowhere to be found. But wait – if her body’s there, how is she seeing this? How is she seeing her mother being zipped up in a body bag? How is she searching for poor Teddy? How can she hear the paramedics diagnosis?

Mia’s spirit has seemed to detach itself from her body, allowing her to see, to hear, to almost feel the chaos that’s going on around her. What started out as a normal family drive turned out to be life changing. Not only did it leave her nearly dead, but it left her orphaned. No mom or dad, and she’s quickly facing the possibility that there may be no more Teddy either.

Following her body wherever it is taken, Mia has the chance to see, from the outside in, what’s going on with her. She has the chance to see her family, Gram and Gramps, and how they are all waiting, coping, grieving, praying for her. She can see her best friend Kim curse out her own mother, she can see Adam, her boyfriend crumble to his knees. She can see all of this, but she’s physically in a coma – she shouldn’t be seeing, hearing, almost feeling anything.

Not sure of what’s really happening, or why it is happening Mia relived various key moments in her life: her first date with Adam, the day she and best friend Kim duke it out in the school yard, her trip to the Julliard audition with Gramps instead of Gram, her father’s punk rock song, her mother being a bitch as if it were a bad thing. She relived these moments and more all  while struggling with the reality that she has to make a decision.  This is a decision only she could make…

Will she stay? Or will she leave?

Gayle Forman has done the unthinkable. As heartbreaking and tragic as If I Stay is, Forman has managed to smuggle in wit, charm, and humor – things readers will never suspect. 

The driving force isn’t just the storyline or the writing, it’s Mia. Mia has such a strong voice that when you’re reading If I Stay you can hear her voice resonating in your ear. Even though she’s in a life threatening position, she can’t help but be honest and full of raw emotion. 

Short and concise, If I Stay will engage any reader. Forman has created a situation that even though we as readers would never hope to find ourselves in,  we cannot seem to stop thinking about what would we do if we were in Mia’s shoes. 

If I Stay is a powerful eye opener that doesn’t only show the tragedies that often take place in life, but shows us how human we really are, and no matter what our age is we aren’t invincible.

Tis the Season…

… For some book giveaways.

Everyone loves free books, and a few of the blogs that I follow are currently giving away some great books.

My good friend and fellow blogger Miss Print is currently giving away an Advanced Copy of Halo by Alexandra Adornetto. The contest is open until September 18th, and is really quite simple: reply to Miss Print’s post sharing your favorite book cover.

YA Bookshelf (an awesome book review site) is currently offering some book giveaways, one of which is Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay. Check out  the reviews, and while you’re there enter the YA Bookshelf’s giveaways.

But wait, there’s more!

And still, there’s one of my favorite websites, Free Book Friday Teens! Every Friday they feature a YA book that they will offer as a book giveaway. As an added bonus, most of the Free Book Friday giveaways are signed books, always a plus!  

Enjoy! And GOOD LUCK!

Book of the Week: Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t)

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner

Published: 2010 Knopf Books for Young Readers

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose this book as Book of the Week:

It’s about librarians!

I fully understand and appreciate Miss Brooks’ love for books – all books (she doesn’t discriminate)

I was a lot like Missy when I was little. In some instances I still am.

It’s true there is a book for everyone.

Miss Brooks isn’t a typical librarian. She’s innovative, and thinks outside of the box. I hope to be like that someday!

Missy marches to the beat of her own drummer, and doesn’t apologize for it.

Underneath her daunting exterior she’s a lovable character.

The illustrations really bring the book to life.

The Chronicles of Vlad Tod: Eighth Grade Bites

The Chronicles of Vlad Tod: Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

To say Vlad Tod is different would be an understatement. For one thing he’s half human, half vampire. And for another Vlad doesn’t face the same kind of problems his fellow eighth grade peers face.

Sure he can barely form words when he’s in close proximity to girl-of-his-dreams Meredith. Sure he gets picked on, shoved around, and bullied … relentlessly. Sure he doesn’t quite fit in, but let’s be honest, what eight grader does?

No, those superficial “human” problems pale in comparison. His list of problems includes, but is not limited to, dealing with new-found vampire discoveries (he thought he could only read best friend Henry’s mind since he bit him when they were eight years old, but as it turns out, he can read other minds as well),  coping and accepting the untimely death of both his parents, making sure his razor-sharp fangs don’t protrude at the wrong time, and wondering what exactly happened to Mr. Craig, his friend and teacher who has been missing for several days.

As if Vlad’s list couldn’t get longer or more complicated Mr. Otis Otis (no, I didn’t stutter) suddenly appears in front of Mr. Craig’s classroom. And he knows more than just English, he knows Vlad, and know what he is. He’s out to get Vlad, but why?

Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vlad Tod: Eighth Grade Bites, hasn’t only written a witty mystery, but she has written a refreshing vampire story. In a world where everyone lusts after the vampire bite, Brewer has created Vlad – a relatively well-adjusted, traditional vampire. Even though he doesn’t sparkle in the sun there is still something alluring about Vlad. It’s not his charm, but his wit and his honesty.

Brewer’s writing is strong and solid, making it easy for readers to get a clear mental picture of the events that unfold within the pages. But what really drives Eighth Grade Bites are Brewer’s well crafted characters. Each feed off (figuratively speaking) one another, and each fit into each others lives like puzzle pieces. 

Take Henry, Vlad’s best friend.  Where Vlad is serious, Henry lightens the moon with his perfect comedic timing.  And even though Vlad’s a vampire, he’s not the bloodsucking fiend people may expect (though he does like the notion of being a fiend) him to be. He’s emotional, he’s deep thinking, and honest.

Eighth Grade Bites was a great read. It was original, well realized, and fun. And readers will be happy to know that this is just the start of The Chronicles of Vlad Tod. There are four more  titles in the series (the fourth being released September 21st) to satisfy readers thirst.