Book Review

The Velveteen Rabbit Wears Converse?

I have such a daunting “to-do list” that I really shouldn’t be blogging today, but life has tapped me on the shoulder. So, here I am. On the one week birthday of One for the Murphys.

Shortly after ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (and Converse-wearing Carley Connors) went under contract, my big brother, Rick, asked me what I hoped for in terms of being a children’s author. I suppose he expected the typical answer—big sales or major awards. I thought for a second and said, “I hope my books will make a difference to kids. I want them to carry them in their backpacks and make a mess of them with marked passages, bent covers, and dog-eared pages.” (Velveteen Rabbit kinds of books, I now call them.) Ricky got that wry smile that we share and said, “You know, you sound just like Mum?” We laughed. Because I really did.

A series of things has occurred lately that have given me an idea of the stunning power behind this author thing. Not power as in control—power as in the human connection. The ability to make a difference. I have been so moved by some of it that I have not shared anything online until today.

First of all, while attending a recent big children’s literature event, I met an author that I have admired for years. She has earned a handful of major awards and that’s cool—SO cool! But it is her writing, her gift for story-telling and her voice—a voice that reverberates and characters that long linger that really floors me. She stood in front of my table, holding my ARC of Murphys and you know what? It was a mess. Bent cover, dog-eared pages. It was fantastic!

Turns out that her daughter has read it three times and has carried it in her backpack. I was so touched by this—and touched that she would bring it to show me. In terms of who she is, I admit that I gushed a bit more than was socially acceptable (okay–it wasn’t *that* bad!) over this author; she is such a gifted writer and a super, down-to-earth person. Loved meeting her! I Promise to keep my feet on the floor and speak in complete sentences the next time we meet.

~
Recently, I also had a school visit that dreams are made of for someone who wants to help children with her writing. It was supposed to be 45-minutes but ran two hours. When I finally left, a group of about seven kids followed me into the hallway, asking me light-hearted questions. However, when they were called back,  one child lingered and the conversation that followed gives me chills as I type this now. I’ll never forget that child’s words—or the tone of them. A braid of resilience and weariness and pleading. How we talked about how letting people help you is part of being strong. About seeing yourself as a conqueror rather than a victim.

This visit was followed by the arrival of the most thoughtful, detailed, pensive, creative, funny batch of letters ever. True. It’s the first batch I have received, but I can’t imagine ever receiving a better stack of letters. I responded by telling those kids I’d keep them forever and ever—and I will.

And so today I woke up to a blog post of a fellow writer and friend. I won’t paraphrase because she told the story better than I could. But, I hope you’ll read it.

http://nancytandon.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-bravo-one-for-murphys.html?spref=fb

Upon reading this, the awesome Brian Lies wrote, “I think you’ve just been touched by the magic of WRITING books, Lynda (as compared to being a reader of them). When you send one out into the world, it travels to places you’d never find, and meets people you might never encounter—including people who embrace your work the way you’ve embraced YOUR very favorite books.”

I guess I knew in my head what this would be like—but I never imagined how it would feel in my heart.

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Categories: Be Someone's Hero, Book Review, courage, inspiring, One for the Murphys, teaching, writing | 9 Comments

One for the Murphys Blog Tour Schedule

I am delighted that my BLOG TOUR for ONE FOR THE MURPHYS has begun this week!

I have gotten to know so many fantastic readers and bloggers out there in setting this up. I am SO grateful to all of these wonderful and generous people who

have agreed to be a stop on the tour.  Man, there is nothing better than the kid lit community, is there?

I think not.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, May 2:

READING AWAY THE DAYS  http://readingawaythedays.blogspot.com/2012/05/author-interview-lynda-hunt-author-of.html?spref=tw

Monday, May 7:   

I READ BANNED BOOKS BLOG http://www.jenbigheart.com/2012/05/review-one-for-muphys-by-lynda-mullaly.html

Tuesday, May 8: 

STORY SIREN BLOG http://www.thestorysiren.com/2012/05/one-for-the-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt.html

Wednesday, May 9:  

KRAZY BOOK LADY  http://krazybooklady.blogspot.com/2012/05/one-for-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt.html

ADVENTURES IN YA AND CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING  http://childrenspublishing.blogspot.com/2012/05/wow-wednesday-lynda-mullaly-hunt-on.html

Thursday, May 10:

CLASS OF 2k12–DUBUT AUTHORS   http://classof2k12.com/?page_id=15

KISSING THE EARTH (Trees as Metaphors)  http://smithwright.blogspot.com/2012/05/lynda-mullaly-hunts-debut-one-for.html

GREAT KIDS BOOKS (Book Review)  http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com/2012/05/one-for-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt.html

I AM A READER NOT A WRITER   http://iamareadernotawriter.blogspot.com/2012/05/author-interview-book-giveaway-one-for.html

Friday, May 11:

GREAT KIDS BOOKS (Post re: Encouraging Kids to Read)  http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com/2012/05/reading-with-our-children-guest-post-by.html

SHELF ELF: READ, WRITE, RAVE    http://shelfelf.wordpress.com/

Monday, May 14:

EMUSDEBUTS (5 day launch party)  http://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/one-for-the-murphys-launch-week-is-here/   (interviews with Nancy Paulsen and Erin Murphy)

WICKED AWESOME BOOKS (3 Words Post) http://www.wickedawesomebooks.com/2012/05/author-interview-giveaway-lynda-mullaly.html

A GOOD ADDICTION  http://agoodaddiction.blogspot.com/2012/05/author-interview-lynda-mullaly-hunt.html

Tuesday, May 15: 

THERE’S A BOOK  http://www.theresabook.com/2012/05/book-review-and-giveaway-one-for-the-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=tumblr&utm_campaign=book-review-and-giveaway-one-for-the-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt

EMUSDEBUTS (5 day launch party)  http://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/wicked-wonderful-and-flying-high/  (Broadway’s WICKED connection!)

Wednesday, May 16: 

THE MOD PODGE BOOKSHELF  http://themodpodgebookshelf.blogspot.com/2012/05/character-of-names-with-lynda-mullaly.html

KIDLITERATE  http://www.kidliterate.com/

EMUSDEBUTS (Social worker’s take on The Murphys)  http://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/she-doesnt-need-it-but-theres-help-for-kids-like-carley/

Thursday, May 17:

CARI’S BOOK  BLOG   http://cariblogs.blogspot.com/2012/05/interview-with-lynda-mullaly-hunt.html

EMUSDEBUTS (Real life kid-heroes & “Famous Murphys” VLOG) http://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/finding-the-hero-in-you/

OUT TO PLAY (The Universe  Speaks) http://nancytandon.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-bravo-one-for-murphys.html

Friday, May 18:

WICKED AWESOME BOOKS (Review)  http://www.wickedawesomebooks.com/2012/05/book-review-one-for-murphys-by-lynda.html

THE ELLIOTT REVIEW    http://elliottreview.blogspot.com/2012/05/review-one-for-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly.html

EMUSDEBUTS (Library/teacher connections)   http://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/an-a-for-one-for-the-murphys-and-a-skype-author-visit-give-away/

Monday, May 21:

WICKED GOOD BOOKS   http://wickedgoodbooks.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 22:

MY FIVE MONKEYS  http://wickedgoodbooks.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 23:

MOONLIGHT GLEAM    http://www.moonlightgleam.com/2012/05/one-for-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt.html?showComment=1337782900486#c3174526370973635761

Thursday, May 24:

WILLA’S RAMBLINGS   http://willasramblings.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/one-for-the-murphys-blog-tour/

GALLEY SMITH  http://www.galleysmith.com/2012/04/24/lynda-mallaly-hunt-one-for-the-murphys/

Friday, May 25:

MINT TEA & A GOOD BOOK   http://mintteaandagoodbook.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 29: 

KID LIT FRENZY  http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/

GREEN BEAN TEEN QUEEN  http://www.greenbeanteenqueen.com/2012/05/tween-tuesday-one-for-murphys-by-lynda.html

Wednesday, May 30:

PRAGMATIC MOM  http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2012/05/blog-tour-murphys/

YA AUTHOR KIMBERLY SABATINI’S BLOG   http://kimberlysabatini.com/blog/2012/05/class-of-2k12-in-the-spotlight-one-for-the-murphys-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt/

Thursday, May 31 

MILK AND COOKIES ~ COMFORT READING   http://janasbooklist.blogspot.com/2012/04/tween-tuesday-one-for-murphys-by-lynda.html

Sunday, June 3

WORD SPELUNKING   http://wordspelunking.blogspot.com/2012/06/arc-review-one-for-murphys-by-lynda.html

Thursday, June 7

CYNSATIONS   http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2012/06/new-voice-linda-mullaly-hunt-on-one-for.html

Monday, June 18

LITERARY RAMBLES   http://www.literaryrambles.com/

Tuesday, July 17

NERDY BOOKS CLUB BLOG:  http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/?s=Lynda+Mullaly+Hunt&submit=Search

Date TBD:

CYNSATIONS   http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2012/06/new-voice-linda-mullaly-hunt-on-one-for.html

WORD SPELUNKING   http://wordspelunking.blogspot.com/2012/06/arc-review-one-for-murphys-by-lynda.html

LUPINE SEEDS  http://lcbrennan.blogspot.com/

Categories: Blog Tour, Book Review, interview, Marketing, Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), One for the Murphys | 5 Comments

Be Someone’s Hero: The Children of Birmingham, 1963

Today, it is my honor and pleasure to help launch Cynthia Levinson’s new Book, WE’VE GOT A JOB—THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH. How appropo that this be my first “Be someone’s hero” post–this book is ALL about no capes being required. These heroes are not just ordinary people–but children as well.

If you ask a child to name a hero, most will cite a cape-wearing one with a secret lair. A die-hard sports fan may give the name of a MLB slugger or a quarterback with a cannon for a throwing arm. A music enthusiast may offer up the name of a pop star. It is the rare child that would offer up the name of a real hero.

Thinking about the cartoon champions that children usually associate the word “hero” with, brought me to Spiderman comic’s quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I have always liked this quote for both its simplicity and depth.

So, why do I bring it up here? Because I’m thinking about heroes and how these children of a volatile 1963 Birmingham turned this well-known quote on its head. How they stared down fear—not to say they weren’t awash in it, but they stepped forward regardless. When met with opposition (which you’ll see is an understatement when you read the book) they pushed forward, even with the threat of personal peril. These children knew that the reverse of the above quote is true as well: “With great responsibility, comes great power.”

Cynthia Levinson’s book, WE’VE GOT A JOB—THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH is a stunning work. Her writing is magnificent, yes, but it is the material that floored me. Yes, I knew of some of the events in Birmingham surrounding the “separate but equal laws” but I did not realize how pervasive it really was. I did not know that every message for a black person in Birmingham at this time hammered the idea that they had no value. I mean none.

In fact, black people were not considered human. Details like the white doctors referring to black patients as “Bo” (all men) and “Bessie” (all women)—that learning black patients’ names was considered unnecessary. How Thursday nights at the State Fair were reserved for “niggers and dogs.” How the tower of the Protective Life Building (ironic name) played “Dixie” every day at noon—just in case any black people forgot who was in charge. These are just a few of many, many examples that make you track back to reread to make sure you read it corectly.

Who? Who could possibly step forward to turn such a massive tide? Who could keep hope in the face of such hopelessness?

The children.

When Martin Luther King asked for volunteers, the children stepped up. He said no; it was too dangerous. But, they showed up anyway. A dozen, perhaps? A few hundred would be pretty amazing. How about 4,000? That’s right. About four thousand children as young as nine years old. Cynthia focuses on the true stories of four children that were there: Arnetta, Audrey, James, and Wash. Her research was exhaustive, including extensive interviews of these people as adults.

Now, if you’re thinking that the children merely stepped forward to go sit in a jail cell and wait, well it was much more daunting than that. The Birmingham police, led by Bull Connors, were dangerous. I don’t want to give too many details from the book away, but those kids had to be brave and determined to do what they did. And their parents had to be as well to let them go.

Like with Anne Frank’s story, adults are moved by children in peril. And the actions of these brave children—and the actions of the cowardly local police department—could not be ignored nationally. President Kennedy had to act. Something needed to be done. The children succeeded where adults could not.

As Cynthia’s friend and blog mate, I know that she worked tirelessly with Peachtree to collect just the right pictures. In this case, each is worth so much more than a thousand words. All in black and white and simply stunning. Pictures of KKK members, smiling. Standing with their young children, also dressed in kind as if they’re at a picnic in the park, yet draped with these ugly white robes—ugly because we known the insidiousness that they stood for. Yes, I knew of the KKK, but the pictures…Wow. And the hope in the faces of the children marching is so poignant. The cover is worth a good, long look. I’ll never forget those pictures.

It’s a coincidence that I have been preparing to launch this new part of this blog, “Be someone’s hero. No cape required” at the same time that Cynthia’s book is to be set free into the world, but it is not a coincidence that I waited a couple of weeks so that these children could be my first post. I dedicate it to Cynthia for her tireless search for the facts surrounding these little known (and also little) heroes that made such a monumental difference; I wanted this post on Cynthia’s book to be my first entry.

And now it is.

Way back in 2009, I heard an excerpt of Cynthia Levinson’s book, WE’VE GOT A JOB and I knew it was a winner. It had a special quality that non-fiction doesn’t often possess. I guess you could say that it reads like a novel—with mental images and emotions. A lack of merely delivering the facts. The words linger as images in the mind long after reading. I was not surprised when I heard it had gone under contract, and I stood and danced behind my desk at hearing the news. Today, I dance again!

I couldn’t be happier for Cynthia and her future readers. This book will make a difference and I think that’s probably the primary wish of most children’s authors. It will enhance knowledge. It will deepen understanding. It will arouse compassion. And I believe it will teach kids in a very poignant way that they, too, can be heroes.

Bravo, Cynthia. You are…*wait for it*…my hero.

Your story breathes. The reader never forgets that this all really happened. I admit to tracking back to reread portions of the book as the truth washed over me. These children were not like my characters, born of imagination.

These Birmingham children were real. No capes. No secret lairs. No utility belts. Just guts and grit and determination.

Real heroes.

Categories: Be Someone's Hero, Book Review, writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

Interview with WATER BALLOON author, Audrey Vernick


Drop everything you’re doing (well, except for reading this!) and get thee to a bookstore! Today is the official release day of Audrey Vernick’s WATER BALLOON, a young adult novel that made me laugh out loud one moment and brush away tears the next.

Marley Baird is dealing with a lot. The book chronicles a summer of juggling losses—her parents are newly separated, her best friends are peeling away, she must live with her dad for the summer in a new place, and she is saddled with a summer babysitting job that she doesn’t want. However, with all of the losses, there are gains for her, as she navigates change, learns to trust her instincts and be honest with herself. Also, meeting Jack, a cute boy who loves dogs as much as she does doesn’t hurt either.

In a word, this book is authentic. The characters are rich and layered, drawn like real people with many sides. I loved Marley Baird immediately and the more I got into the book, the more I loved her. She is a real kid. An honest kid. A kid who thinks and feels and acts authentically. Does she always make the right decisions? No. But, Marley Baird is so real and I love that.

One of the subplots I loved was Marley’s dad-imposed babysitting job. The twins in Marley’s charge are hilarious and Marley’s take on them is equally so. Not chuckle funny—laugh out loud funny.

Another impressive facet of this book was the friendship triangle. Vernick does a masterful job of setting up a situation where the reader knows that Marley will commit social suicide. As a reader, you want to yell, “No! Don’t do it!” but I love this subplot for so many reasons. Yes, my heart broke for Marley, but I love how she is socially naïve because there are so many kids like that and they aren’t often drawn in books. Television, especially, tends to depict the kids who’d rather grow up overnight. A book like this would be wonderful for those *many* kids out there who’d rather take their time.

In fact, let me just say that I loved this book so much, that I will find the space in my heart to forgive the dartboard with the Red Sox in the middle. And that’s really sayin’ something.

Okay. Enough from me! I’m thrilled to have Audrey Vernick here today to answer some questions about her debut novel, WATER BALLOON.

1) What were the initial seeds of WATER BALLOON?

I decided it was time to write a novel. I had no idea where to begin. No story. No character. Zip.

A family in our neighborhood was going through the early stages of divorce, and I thought a lot about the emotional cost of a family breaking apart. I didn’t know them well, but you could see the strain on the girl, the younger of two children. That was my starting point—a girl struggling with the dismantling of what had always been her daily world.

I wrote the first draft so long ago that I can’t remember where the rest came from. Oh, except for the two friends—Leah and Jane. The trauma of middle-grade friendship is something I remember very well.

2) How much of you is in Marley Baird?

A ton. That’s been the big difference for me between my picture books and this novel. It’s always felt like my picture books are…my books. And my novel is me.

3) The word that pops into my head about your book is “authentic.” For example, I feel like I’ve met real children in the twins and the friendship triangle with Leah and Jane is heartbreakingly real. Can you tell us about something in the book that was completely fictional and tell us why and how you created it?

First, this isn’t something I’ve thought about, but if I were asked what Water-Balloon-describing adjective would be the most satisfying and happy-making, I think I’d have said “authentic,” so thank you so very much for that. As a reader I am deeply put off by inauthentic moments in books and my greatest concern was avoiding such moments.

Second, to answer the opposite of your question, the only thing that’s really true in this book is Rig, who is based on my beloved dog, Rookie (with the one difference being that Rig never takes off when unleashed while Rookie’s greatest desire seems to be to get very far away from me as quickly as he is able).

Third, a real answer: I made up that Monopoly game. I wanted something that was unique and important to those three friends. Their version of the game, along with the water balloon blitz tradition, is meant to convey the weight and worth of their years of intense friendship.

4) Can you tell us about your own young life as a Yankee fan?

I wasn’t a young Yankee fan! I grew up in Queens, home of the Mets. I tried to love that team of misfits, but I just couldn’t.

I imagine the Yankees started to rub off on me when I was attending high school in the Bronx. But there was something about living in Boston in the late eighties that brought out the Bronx in me.

My great Yankee fan years have been adult years. I’ve been fortunate to be at some stadium-shaking games in the old stadium, and over at the new house with my son when Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit. That was an awesome, electric day. (Check this out, Red Sox fans: Hunt’s devoting time and space in her blog to great Yankee moments!)

5) Which relationship in the book did you find the most satisfying to write?

I thought a lot about how to answer this one. I think Marley grows a lot in almost all her relationships, even those that ultimately end. But I think the one I enjoyed writing the most was the one that was unchanging—Marley’s relationship with her dog, Rig.

Rig is just in the background a lot, but he’s always there, the way we can count on our pets to be when life’s too hard to talk about with other humans. He’s steady, that Rig. I’m glad Marley had him.

6) How did the book change during the revision process with your editor?

First with my agent, and then with my editor. The big change with the agent-revision was to strive to make it a less quiet book. All the water balloon material was added in this revision—which means the most painful scene, the one in which Marley pretty much commits social suicide, is new. While things were very difficult and complicated with her friends in earlier drafts, the addition of the balloon blitz tradition helped me raise the stakes in a way that was absent from earlier drafts.

I think what my revision with my editor achieved was to make Marley more likeable. She grows more in this version. It was so interesting to me—with a few light strokes, a self-pitying scene flipped into one that was more likely to evoke compassion in readers. My editor also suggested the addition of a couple of scenes that now feel like they have always been there, including the last scene.

Audrey, thanks so much for coming by today. And, a huge congratulations on this wonderful debut. Can’t wait to read the next one!

Categories: author, Book Review, books, inspiring, interview | Tags: | 2 Comments

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