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Two brother books are haunting me today.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley and Stick by Andrew Smith are each their own story and yet, having read them one after the other, they are getting kind of wrapped up in my head with each other.

Each one is very much its own self – there is no confusing or blending the two – but I would think they’d appeal to the same readers. Anyone looking for beautifully written realistic fiction with interesting formats and written about, and for, teen boys should check these books out.

Where Things Come Back, the 2012 Printz Award winner is primarily Cullen Witter’s story, focusing on the sudden disappearance of his younger brother Gabriel. The anxiety, worry and grief are deftly handled so that we feel Cullen’s pain, but it never sinks into unbearable angst and is never melodramatic. (Incidentally, Cullen’s friend, Lucas Cader, is of a Samwise Gamgee calliber). A second part of the story twists and intertwines around Cullen’s summer on a seemingly unrelated path told through the eyes of various other characters. Cullen often drifts into reveries… but I do hope the ending was real.

 

Stick is told by Stark McClellan, aka Stick. He is missing an ear – altering his hearing and perception of the world shown by effective spacing and pauses in the text. Stick and his brother Bosten lean on each other to survive the vicious abuse they suffer at the hands of their parents. Each boy is learning about love in his own way – Stick with Emily, and Bosten with Paul. A visit with their aunt Delia in southern California provides a taste of what life without fear could be and opens their eyes to options. When the beatings get worse and Bosten runs away, Stick steals his father’s car to follow him and to search for a brighter future.

In both these books, the relationship between the brothers is quite moving, and crucial to the plot.

It makes sense that a brother is significant person to a boy. Brothers often measure themselves against each other. They expect to always know each other. Brothers share a common history. They share intimate moments – both good and bad – and share secrets. A boy can feel secure in loving his brother whole-heartedly.

And, as both of these books show, a brother leaves a big hole when he’s gone.

Sarah Wones Tomp

WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK

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Our friends Alyson and Alethea at Bridge to Books are presenting another great event in October and it’s not too late to purchase tickets. 

The Why Chromosome is an author event and book signing for readers, writers, bloggers, and educators interested in middle grade and young adult literature. Our special focus will be on boys and encouraging their love of reading.

Do boys love books? Meet authors Andrew Smith(Stick), Peter Auxier (Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes), G. Neri (Ghetto Cowboy), **Greg Van Eekhout (The Boy at the End of the World), John Stephens (The Emerald Atlas), and Allen Zadoff (My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies) who will talk about how and why boys DO love reading! 

Here are the important details:

When: Sunday, October 30, 2011 – 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Where: Mrs. Nelson’s Toy & Book Shop, 1030 Bonita Avenue, La Verne, CA 91750 | MAP
TEL (909) 599-4558 // email for info: bridgetobooks@gmail.com
What: $12.50 will provide one person food/drink and a swag bag. Excess funds will be donated to Book by Book.
How: Purchase your ticket here before October 16 to get the Early Bird price of $12.50.

This sounds like a great event, so if you are a boy or know a boy or love a boy (and who doesn’t) be sure to sign up for this event. Nice job Alyson and Alethea.

Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

**I’m happy to see that Greg VanEekhout who we featured on a recent Author Spotlight will be in attendance.

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The SoCal Independent Booksellers Award finalists have been announced – congratulations!

Children’s Novel:

  • The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith (Feiwel & Friends)
  • The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Random House)
  • Summer According to Humphrey by Betty Birney (Putnam)
  • One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin (Amulet)

Children’s Picture Book:

  • When I Grow Up by Weird Al Yankovic (HarperCollins)
  • Me, Frida illustrated by David Diaz (Abrams)
  • Otis & Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever by Laura Numeroff (Abrams)
  • Bear With Me by Max Kornell (Putnam)

The complete list of finalists is here. Winners to be announced October 22, 2011.

Always to good to have more books to read – the only ones I’ve read from the above lists are The Marbury Lens and One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, but I’ve read other Humphrey books…  it’s obvious the award committee doesn’t have a certain type of book in mind!

Be sure to get your copies from your favorite indpendent book store!

Sarah Wones Tomp

WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK

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If you look at stories as a combination of characters, plot, and setting mixed in with style, voice and point of view; setting is definitely the least interesting to me. It’s usually the last thing I consider – if I consider it at all.

Maybe that can be okay for picture books – after all, it leaves more room for the illustrator. But I’m realizing more and more that setting can be a huge part of writing a novel. My current obsession is very dependent on the setting. And I’m finding lots of perks in that! I just might be a setting convert.

Beyond an opportunity for playing with language to create visual images, setting can:

  • Make your story real – details help the reader to believe your words and world
  • Subtly- or not so subtly – setting sets the mood
  • Creates organic tension through landscape or weather. Mother Nature is beyond our (and our characters’) control
  • Trigger plot events that work for your story world
  • Work as an objective correllative: a symbolic way to evoke emotion or other intangible concepts

My middle grade WIP which I’ve left in the slow cooker drawer for awhile has a very vague setting. This was a deliberate decision.  I thought this lack of defining would make the story more universal – that more readers would relate and imagine themselves in the story. But now I realize – to be honest because of a very helpful comment by an editor – that it’s the specificity that makes a story real – and in that way it becomes more universal and true.

Just started reading Andrew Smith’s In the Path of Falling Objects last night. Oooo, the setting here has me worried! Two brothers are stranded in the harsh barren desert of New Mexico – survival is going to be tough. Can not wait to read more.

For more articulate and thoughtful tips on the use of setting in stories, check out the latest issue of the Horn Book Magazine. Julie Larios has written an article on literary maps and how they are tied into the idea of setting. I heard a version of this during the VCFA day in San Francisco. It’s sure to get your brain a-wandering.

Sarah Wones Tomp

WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK

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