Category Archives: Genre

A Great Middle Grade Read for the New Year

I am completely infatuated with this book. It is outstanding in beauty and nearly biblical in its perceptions. It is a story of magic, of beginnings and endings infinite in their proportions; it is the story of love.

The Day of Sacrifice waits for no one. A child, the youngest within the Protectorate, must be surrendered for the well-being of all. Though hearts are heavy, eyes are dry. It is a sacrament old beyond memory. The witch demands it, and the people obey. Until one day, one woman doesn’t.

Her baby is stolen anyway, and she is locked in the Tower.

But the baby, left to die in the woods, lives.

Luna is rescued by an old, old woman. A witch, but not the witch of twisted legend. This witch feeds the infant starlight until she can be delivered to those who will care for her. But the witch grows careless. In a mindless moment, she gathers moonlight on her fingers, sweet and sticky with magic, and the child gorges herself. It is a moment heavy with consequence.

For evil prowls the Protectorate. Evil that walks on padded paws and beats with the heart of a tiger. Evil whose treachery reaches back to the time of wizards and dragons and now feeds off the sorrow of bondage. Evil threatened by a woman who loved. A boy who questioned. A child who lived.

Luna’s story entwines with a host of delightful (and some not-so-delightful) characters. Antain, a young boy with goodness in his heart and sorrow in his future; Fyrian, the faithful, innocent, Simply Enormous dragon who fits in Luna’s pocket; Xan, the witch whose five hundred years never prepared her for an enmagicked child; Grand Elder Gherland, who can’t abide the selfishness of the people whose children he steals; and Glerk, the Beast who is the Poet who is the Bog who is the World. “They are all the same thing, you know.”

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story of family, of destiny, of hope and goodness, wrapped around with tendrils of blue and silver magic. If you pick up no other book this year, read this one. My absolute highest recommendation.

Thank You, Teachers!

turkey-readingTeachers pour so much of their time and energy into preparing lessons for their students. Today, I want to treat you, our teachers! This Thursday-Sunday only (American Thanksgiving break), The Candle Star will be available as a free download right here on Emblazon. So grab your choice of file format, sit down, and relax for a few hours. You’ve earned it.

Mobi | Epub | Pdf
(It’s always available at Amazon, as well. It’s just not free.)

When you’re finished reading, keep those feet propped up on the coffee table a little longer and browse through these  related resources. I’ve done some of your work for you.

As it  features slavery and the Underground Railroad, The Candle Star has been my most popular classroom-seller. I’ve used my background as an educator to design a companion booklet to help teachers get full mileage out of the novel. It includes chapter-by-chapter vocab and discussion questions, social studies extension ideas, and primary sources. It’s also aligned with Common Core standards. And it costs money everywhere but here!

The Candle Star: Classroom Resources pdf download

I’m not done yet. Encouraged by one of my colleagues, I also wrote out three full lesson plans designed to help students explore some of the novel’s historical context. (I especially like the mapping one. I LOVE old maps!) These pdf downloads are free for the taking.

Anticipation Guide (pre-reading activity) for The Candle Star
The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Civil War Era

Map Skills–Using Primary Resources with The Candle Star

Happy Thanksgiving, teachers! Enjoy your well-deserved break.

(Non-teachers, feel free to take advantage of this limited time offer, as well. Just be sure to thank the great folks who mentor your kids so faithfully. And point them to this post!)

World War Reads for Tweens…

November is a month of change, remembering, and gratitude. Beginning with leaves departing from their branches to leave the skeletal remains of the tree behind, to celebrating All Saints Day on November 1st, followed by Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day on November 11th, and ending with American families giving thanks for food, family, and football on Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday of November. What prompted me to write this post was the fact that many of the war veterans from the two World Wars have passed on. Oh, there’s plenty of movies out there depicting the hell our soldiers and the civilians went through during those horrific wars, but many are not that kid friendly. This got me to thinking: What books have been written to teach our children about what people went through during those two world wars? So, I did a little digging and came up with these six gems for tweens:

charlie-wilcoxCharlie Wilcox by Sharon E. McKay

Charlie Wilcox, a Newfoundlander, is interested in one thing only: going to sea, just like his father and uncles. He’ll make his family proud. His parents have different plans for him, however: they want him to go to university. Humiliated, Charlie sets out to prove he can measure up to the men in his family, and stows away on a sealing ship. It’s only when they are far out to sea, and he is discovered, that he realizes he’s on a troopship bound for France!

Alone in Europe, he manages as best he can. He finds a regiment of fellow Newfoundlanders, and because he’s too young to fight he works as a stretcher bearer instead. The trenches along the front lines of the Somme are no place for anyone, but especially for a kid, and it’s very hard not to be afraid. Especially on the morning of July 1, 1916, when Charlie’s friends are ordered out of their trenches and over the top, and the German guns are waiting for them…

War Horse by Michael Morpurgowar_horse

In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

nightflyersNight Flyers (Mysteries Through Time) by Elizabeth McDavid Jones

In 1918, caring for her family’s homing pigeons while her father is away fighting in World War I, twelve-year-old Pam comes to suspect that a mysterious stranger in her small North Carolina town is a German spy.

 

 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boynebook_cover

Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

hero-on-a-bicycleHero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes

Florence, Italy, 1944: The city is under heavy Nazi occupation, but for thirteen-year-old Paolo, war is a long and boring wait. Too young to fight for the resistance, yet desperate for action and adventure, he sneaks out each night to ride his bicycle along the darkened city streets. For Paolo, the risk is thrilling.

But when he is accosted by Partisans―covert members of the anti-Nazi movement―thrilling quickly becomes dangerous as Paolo and his family are thrust into a terrifying and impossible situation. Finally at the center of the action, Paolo must figure out once and for all whether he has what it takes to truly be a hero.

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s the-diary-of-anne-frankremarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.

In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Those are only a smattering of what books are out there on World War One and World War Two for tweens. Some of these books I’ve heard of, others I haven’t. Some have even been made into movies. I don’t think this generation will ever know what the veterans and victims of the two world wars went through, but by creating an emotional response in a young reader, it’s a step in the right direction to connect them with the brave men and women who served and sacrificed during those terrible wars.

tkdscover500Here’s a peek at the newest book in my young adult time travel adventure series, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, set in Amsterdam during World War Two…

Fourteen year-old Jordan Jensen always considered himself a team player on and off the field, until the second Timekeeper mission lands him in Amsterdam during World War Two. Pulled into the world of espionage, torture, and intolerance, Jordan and the rest of the Timekeepers have no choice but to do whatever they can to stay one step ahead of the Nazis in order to find and protect a mysterious book.

With the help of the Dutch Resistance, an eccentric baron, Nordic runes, and an ancient volume originating from Atlantis, Jordan must learn that it takes true teamwork, trust, and sacrifice to keep time safe from the evils of fascism. Can Jordan find the hero within to conquer the darkness surrounding the Timekeepers? If he doesn’t, then the terrible truth of what the Nazis did will never see the light of day.

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel adventure series, THE Sharon Ledwith HeadshotLAST TIMEKEEPERS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercise, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

How Well Do You Know the Dogs of Harry Potter?

In honor of Rowling’s latest release and National Dog Day this Friday, let’s see how many dogs of the Wizarding World you can name….

A pair of adorable pups probably come to mind right away: Fang and Fluffy.

Fang is described as a BoaTitles for HP dog blogpostrhound, but that is actually another name for a Great Dane, so yes indeedy, Fang is an enormous, black, Great Dane. I imagine him like the tallest Great Dane in the world, George, who was 7’3” long from his rubbery nose to the end of his ouch-my-face-is-not-a-windshield tail. Sadly, George passed away in 2013, but he will forever live on in the scratches he left at the top of his family’s refrigerator. It doesn’t seem fair, but large dogs do not live as long as smaller ones. I hate to think how many raw steaks Hagrid will need to hold over his swollen eyes when Fang must leave him.

Titles for HP dog blogpostFluffy is the large, vicious, three-headed dog that guards the Philosopher’s Stone and can only be tamed through music. I love the idea of a three-headed dog. You get three times the adorable, loving stares and only one part of the . . . you know. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid explains that he got Fluffy from “a Greek chappie.” Rowling is showing off her impressive knowledge of ancient myths and legends with this off-hand remark, as Greek mythology is replete with three–headed canines, also known as hellhounds. The most famous of the pack, Cerberus, guarded the entrance to the Underworld.Herakles_Kerberos_Louvre_F204

This 2,500 year old Greek amphora shows  Hercules taming a two-headed Cerberus. I’m not sure what happened to head #3, but I guess you can afford to lose your head when you’ve got a couple of spares.

 

Titles for HP dog blogpost

Remember him? Maybe not, because despite his impressive name, he is a decidedly non-magical creature. Ripper is the favorite of Harry’s Aunt Marge’s twelve bulldogs. He once chased Harry into a tree, which wasn’t very nice, but he also sunk his teeth into Vernon’s leg, so there’s that.

 

Titles for HP dog blogpostWhat? You didn’t think of Crups? That’s okay, they only get one quick mention in The Order of the Phoenix, as creatFlying Jack Russellures studied in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class. Crups are wizard-bred dogs that look like Jack Russell terriers, except that they have forked tails. This Jack Russell may or may not have a forked tail, but he sure looks magical.   Accio Crup!!

 

Titles for HP dog blogpostThat’s right, Ron’s patronus, his alter-self, is a dog—a loyal if not altogether bright creature, AND a Jack Russell. The choice of a Jack Russell for Ron was a sentimental one, because Rowling once had one for a pet. I would have picked an Irish Setter, but that was probably too obvious. So obvious, in fact, that my patronus is probably a dog . . .

Titles for HP dog blogpostThe Grim is the omen of death in the form of aGrim image giant, shaggy black dog. Harry doesn’t actually see the Grim, but no spoilers.  Several dogs could be the source of Rowling’s Grim, including the Black Shuck of English folklore and the Cu Sith of Scottish mythology, both of which signal imminent death. There’s also the Church Grim of Scandinavian and English folklore, a guardian spirit that guards churchyards after being buried alive there for that purpose. Shudder. This description of the appearance of the Black Shuck at a church in Suffolk, England in 1577 begins with, ” A Straunge and Terrible Wunder wrought very late…” Gotta say though, looks more like a friendly sheep to me.

 

 

Finally, there is mention of two dogs owned by Hermione’s parents after she modified their memories and sent them to live in nice, safe Australia (and I’m going to pretend they were dingos), and Hagrid compares baby Aragog to a Pekingese in size. How sweet. Additional dog mentions occur in the Harry Potter films, video games, companion books, and on Pottermore. Learn about them here: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Dogs

 

It’s no surprise that dogs sniff their way into Rowling’s books. If humans cannot live Dinky tailwithout the furry, tail wagging wonderfulness that is dogs, why would wizards want to do so? Only problem is, Dinky, the Great Dane at the center of my literary world, can’t stop drooling over the fact that Fang is a fellow Dane. Talk about a Fang Fandog! Down, Dinky, down!  I will get you a Fang poster for your doghouse, but in the meantime, my face is not a windshield!

Ouch!

The Middle Grade Hero or Heroine

This week I have the opportunity to attend LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) and participate in panels. One of the panels I’ll be on is discussing why we love eleven to fifteen-year-old protagonists. From Harry Potter to Kendra and Seth Sorensen in Fablehaven, we follow the adventures of pre-teens who go about trying to save the world.

I still remember when I turned ten and then eleven. I felt an empowerment, like I could do anything. I was this small farm girl in Idaho, but my dreams were huge. If Gandalf had shown up at my doorstep, I would have gone on a thousand adventures with him if he’d asked.

It’s the time right between being a child where anything is possible, and adulthood, where we sometimes forget that we can do what we set out to do. This age group is ready to go out and save the day, and not fear those things that adults or children fear, because they have something to prove.

When I began writing my book in the Gates of Atlantis series, I quickly fell in love with the characters and how they interacted with those around them. They worried a little less about getting the girl or boy and a lot more about finding a place to fit in while fighting for the world they loved so much.

I believe one of the reasons both adults and children love these characters so much is because it’s an age that everyone can relate to. We’ve all been through that stage, and we’ve felt those torn emotions ourselves.

Back in 2010, I owned a bookstore where we sold books of all genres. The Young Adult and Middle Grade sections outsold anything else by far, and not just to kids. Most adults who came in bought those books as an escape. They told me that they had enough of the adult world all day every day, and they wanted to get away. By going back to these characters, they were able to forget the cares of the world and go fight dragons, trolls, or evil wizards. They could become someone else.

So who is your favorite middle grade protagonist, and why?