Monday, June 16, 2014

MMGM: The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher


Ask me to list my top five authors, and any day of the week the names will generally change. Except for one. Mark Twain.

Probably the most influential book I ever read as a kid was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, followed by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and then (because I believe in reading thoroughly, doggone it) Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective.

So when I heard that there was going to be a book from the yet-untold-perspective of Becky Thatcher, I hopped on that like a frog from Calaveras County. (See what I did there?) I immediately voiced how much I wanted an ARC on the Twittersphere. And Jessica Lawson, author of the coveted tome, responded and we exchanged ARCs.

Before I read it, however, Jessica felt the need to make me aware that this book was not a retelling of the Tom Sawyer tale from Becky's perspective. Nor was it a "story-behind-the-story" sort of non-fiction documentary book. It is, instead, something very, very different. And she didn't want me to be disappointed

She didn't need to worry.

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is a story Mark Twain himself would be proud to write. Imagine visiting St. Petersburg, MO (Tom Sawyer's hometown) in a parallel universe to the Tom & Huck world. In a universe where Tom Sawyer isn't the scalawag we all know and love, but is instead a sniveling, whiny kid who tattles on everyone. Imagine a universe where Mark Twain isn't the absent narrator, giving voice to the characters born from his memory, but is instead Samuel Clemens, sitting on a porch, watching the adventures play out in front of his eyes.

And imagine a world where Becky isn't the straight-laced, proper, object of Tom's affection, but is instead the seed-spitting, marble playing, midnight-cemetery-raiding hero of her own adventure, an adventure that puts her and her new best friend in a world of danger. The kind of danger you only find in St. Petersburg.

Yeah, that's the world Jessica has created. And that's the world readers get to visit in this fantastic book that is a great read for kids and for grown-kids. Plus S&S is releasing a box set of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher, which is just the perfect thing to do with a book like this.

It's coming out on July 1. You should go preorder the mess out of this book. Trust me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Middle Grade Book Suggestions for #TheSixtiesCNN


Well, isn't this a fine kettle of fish?

Here I am, three weeks late on posting about the amazing series that's hit CNN, simply titled, "The Sixties." Way to drop the ball, Isaiah!

Anyway, I know a lot of people are excited about this series, as am I. And, with the raised interest in the decade that changed the world (I know it's true cause it's right up there under CNN's title, so that proves it), I thought it'd be cool to highlight some books, written for the Middle Grade audience, that are PERFECT for those interested in the sixties:

REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles
This is the second in Deborah's Sixties trilogy (the first was the incredible COUNTDOWN, pubbed in 2010) and it kicks the intensity and the beauty of the first book up to a whole different level. It takes place during the summer of 1964, Freedom Summer, in a small Mississippi town, when the southern ideals Sunny grew up with are challenged at every turn. Everything hits the fan when she and her brother sneak into the city pool, and I'm going to leave it at that.

It's the sequel to Rita's ONE CRAZY SUMMER (Which was a Newbery Honor book and a NYTimes Bestseller), and it's a fantastic novel in its own right. It deals with the societal change that took place in the late sixties, with Vietnam and returning, war-torn soldiers, and with, well, being eleven in a world that expects you to be a lot older. It's heart-warming, touching, and if you don't shed a tear by the end, you aren't human.

Set in the early sixties, this Newbery winner tells the story of a young boy (it's semi-autobiographical except for the parts that are complete lies) who has to get in touch with the past in order to make sense of the present and prepare for the highly uncertain (especially in the sixties) future. It all starts when Jack shoots a gun, a relic from WW2. And then it's all obituaries and Eleanor Roosevelt from there. Which may not SOUND very interesting, but trust me, it's fantastic.

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is the oldest book on this list (pubbed in 1995) but you simply can't have a list like this without Christopher Paul Curtis' game-changing, award winning tale of a family that chooses probably the worst possible time to send their son to stay with grandma, right when the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing happened. Which just so happened to be grandma's church. I really don't need to say anything more than that. Read this book!

Ok, my agent and editor would probably skin me alive if I didn't include my book on this list. It's set in 1961 Alabama, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In it, a comic-book-obsessed twelve-year-old has to dodge the CIA, face the Klan, and escape from Cuba to prove his pa didn't sabotage the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In the early days of the sixties, there is the faint rumblings of the changes to come, and in this story, you get a real idea of what life was like before the changes, why those changes needed to happen, and just how difficult the change of the sixties was destined to be.

Did I miss any books? Leave them in the comments and (maybe) I'll add them to the list!