Mike Lupica, The Zach & Zoe Mysteries

Mike Lupica sharing stories of his own children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by Sports

Mike Lupica, a prominent sports writer, syndicated columnist, and author, visited Words Bookstore to talk about his middle grade chapterbooks. In the Zach and Zoe Mysteries, a twin brother-sister duo solve sports-related mysteries. Lupica “always loved mysteries that made you want to sleep with the light on.”

Lupica said writing for young readers was not in his thought process, but that his young adult novel Travel Team changed his life. Zach and Zoe are the kids of Travel Team’s main character and, in a way, his kids. Lupica shared many stories of his own children, particularly how his life as a writer changed when his son was cut from a team.” A big part of the appeal of his books, Lupica said, is that “sports is a memory-making business.”

I loved what he had to say about writing kidlit.

Page one, chapter one is more magical and powerful than all the electronics.

Characters get knocked down. It’s how you get back that tells the world all about you.

My books are about loyalty, friendship and teamwork.

Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.

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Keynote Speaker Tami Charles’ Words of Wisdom

Author Tami Charles
Charles delivering her keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference.

Inspiration for Everyone

Tami Charles, whose middle grade novel Like Vanessa debuted in March, delivered a keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference this past weekend.

She talked about the value of hope. “Somewhere between no and yes lies hope.”

She talked about rejections. “The word no has empowered me, broken me, and put me back together again.”

She talked about persistence. “You keep writing. You don’t stop.”

And she said, “Step into your greatness.”

Thanks, Tami, for words of wisdom that ring true for me as a writer and also for anyone trying to reach a seemingly insurmountable goal.

Click here to watch a short video about Charles and Like Vanessa. Take one guess which book I’m buying as gifts for some important tween girls in my life.

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty. Goodreads

The One and Only Ivan, Book Review

When you read a story, how does it make you feel? 

THE ONE and ONLY IVAN, a middle grade novel written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, and named the 2013 winner of the Newbery Medal made me curious (Will Ivan and his friends ever live a different life?), chagrined (“I was born in a place humans call central Africa, in a dense rain forest so beautiful, no crayons could ever do it justice.”), and introspective (“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”). The story is layered and poignant. I cried.

“The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” (from The One And Only Ivan website.)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.   Goodreads.

Have you read this book? How did it make you feel?

Kwame Alexander and the Rebound Bus

Kwame Alexander at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ.

Lucky me! I got to see Kwame Alexander in action.

Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ was Kwame’s second stop on The Official Rebound Bus Tour. REBOUND is the follow-up to his, Newbery-medal winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. It was standing room only to see this celebrity of Kidlit, but we were told his bus hadn’t arrived. Bus? Who takes the bus when the train station is right in town? I didn’t realize this was the bus…

Wow! Before Kwame read from his new book, he talked about what was in his bus–beds, bathroom, kitchen–the whole shebang!

Then he asked if there was a kid in the audience who could beatbox, and he, the musician who travels with him, and the kid performed an excerpt from REBOUND. Awesome! He said, “Sports are the hook, but the books are really about life.”

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshipping, basketball star his sons look up to.   Goodreads.

Not only did Kwame talk about his new book, he spoke about reading, writing, rejection and perseverance. I wanted to cry.

Kwame said,

If you say something twelve times, your heart catches up.

Books are like amusement parks. You have to let kids choose the rides.

The hardest part of writing a book is actually writing the book.

All the kids need all the books.

Words are the great connector. (Love, love, love this!)

Want to see Kwame in action, too? Click here to see a video of him reading excerpts from The Crossover.

Hello Universe, Book Review

Middle Grade Novel for Kids and Adults

Really!

When I finished reading winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal,  Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, it felt like my heart squeezed in happiness and I said, “That was SUCH a good book!” The more I think about it, the more I recognize how much I cared for the characters, how poignant Virgil and Valencia’s struggles were, and how every detail in the book played a part in the outcome of the characters’ fateful day.

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends — at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. Goodreads.

Quotes from Hello Universe 

“Crying is good for the soul. It means something needs to be released. And if you don’t release the something, it just weighs you down until you can hardly move.”“People don’t want to listen to their thoughts, so they fill the world with noise.”

“Sometimes life calls on you even when you don’t raise your hand.”

“It’s not being brave if you aren’t scared.”

“Bayani, of all the things you ever tell yourself in life, never say, ‘There’s no chance.‘”  (love, love, love this quote!)

While looking up trailers for this wonderful book, I came across a treat–a video by Kelly on how to make a homemade kaleidoscope.

DIY: Homemade Kaleidoscope with Erin Entrada Kelly

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Sources:Goodreads, You Tube

Spring Bouquets

Who doesn’t love a bouquet?

We were at an event where every table had a different bouquet and, of course, I had to absorb the colors and combinations. The two arrangements below are nestled in DIY Woodsy Centerpieces. Bendable twigs, vines and branches are wrapped around glass vases. The branches-wrapped-vases sit on thick slabs of wood. Simple. Woodsy. Pretty.

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Top Ten Cool Facts About The Shape of Water

I love going to the movies, so you might find it strange that I’ve never reviewed a movie on Bmore Energy before. Well, hon, I’m starting a new category because I loved The Shape of Water so much! It’s a modern fairy tale by director Guillermo del Toro who also directed the devastating but beautiful movie Pan’s Labyrinth. The Shape of Water, starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug JonesMichael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg is atmospheric, interesting, captivating, cruel, and different than anything I’ve ever watched. One of my daughters and I loved it so much that, after we saw it, we spent the rest of the evening on the computer searching for information about the story, characters, costumes, set, and how the movie was filmed.
And that was before it was nominated for an Oscar.
At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
The Shape of Water is a $20-million Cold War-era fairytale about a mute cleaning lady, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who stumbles upon a top-secret tank where a team led by the brutal Col. Strickland (Michael Shannon) experiment upon a mysterious Amazonian fish-man. As Eliza falls for the fish-man, aka the Asset, del Toro delivers his twist on Beauty and the Beast, one where the beast need not be a prince to be loved.
Top Ten Cool Facts About the Movie The Shape of Water:
  1. Some of the underwater Scenes were filmed using “dry for wet,” a technique where actors and props are suspended on wires and smoke is blown onstage. Bubbles and debris were added digitally to make the scenes look more realistic.
  2. It took three hours for Doug Jones to get into the Amphibian Man’s costume. Once he was in the suit, Doug Jones said, “I can’t see as well, I can’t hear much, I can’t feel much, and I got these webbed fingers on—I can’t do anything for myself.”
  3. The Amphibian Man’s gills were operated remotely by a mechanism tucked into the back of the suit.
  4. The Amphibian Man’s eyes were lenses created out of acrylic resin which snapped magnetically into a housing on Jones’ face. “For extreme close-ups, I had eyes that I couldn’t see anything out of,” Jones said. “I had to know the geography of the room pretty well before we put those eyes in. We had other versions of the eyes I could see a little bit more through — the pupils had been cut out for wide shots where I’d have to move across a room or swim around underwater.” Eye blinks, along with other “micro-expressions” such as the furrowing of the brow, were added digitally in post-production. Each shot, however, was based on scans of Jones’ own expressions.

  5. Green is the movie’s dominant color. Production designer Paul Austerberry said “everything inside [Elisa’s] home hinted at water or the ocean.” Her “world is water surrounded with cyan, blues, aged texture and furniture shaped with curves, while [Gile’s] place is bounded by gold and mustard colors to signify warmth and empathy.”
  6.  Green is carried further. It’s the color of the antagonist’s candies, Giles’ pie, and the lab’s interior, creating an unsettling mood and grimy and steamy feel. “The color teal is spread methodically throughout the hallways and detailed in the tile of the lab to signify the future. It even shows up when Strickland purchases his new Cadillac, ‘the car of the future.’ Strickland’s office is also tied into the theme, with greenish-blue tiles creating the backdrop to the glass-enclosed command center that sits high above the floor.”
  7. The main character is mute. “Elisa only communicates through sign language and body movement – the flick of an eyebrow, a shrug, a tender smile. To prep, Hawkins honed in on the role’s physicality, taking ASL lesson.”
  8. The antagonist, Richard Strickland’s bathroom routine shows how strict and scheduled he is with the world and himself.
  9. Of  his character Strickland, Michael Shannon said, “The only thing with the candies, I kept trying to add it to more and more scenes. I thought if we were going to do the candy, we should do it wholeheartedly. And the candy really is insightful in terms of knowing where Strickland is at psychologically. His relation to the candy tells you kind of what’s going on in his head.”
  10. The movie was shot in 45 days.

Did you see The Shape of Water? What did you think?

 Click here to watch a “Making of” Featurette on You Tube.