Saturday, June 25, 2016

Allen County Young Authors 2016

Soon after the Bentonville Youth Literature Festival, my mother's school district in Iola, Kansas, celebrated their Allen County Young Authors' event...a program that has been going strong for 17 years. Authors Deborah Hopkinson and Obert Skye were invited to present their books and past writing experiences to the kids. It was another successful year thanks to these authors, the Young Author committee, the volunteers, and the kids who wrote some awesome books!

Now, I talked in more detail about how the Young Authors' program works in last year's post, but I wanted to show you what one student's book looks like. This particular book was written by my nephew...a very gifted writer. His Young Author book was twelve chapters long and he's only in 5th grade! With the help of his teacher and parents, he typed up, edited, and illustrated this book, The A.C.E. Competitions. It's hard not to see why his book was an award winner! Great job!

The celebration begins on Friday evening with a dinner hosted at Iola's Bowlus Fine Arts Center. For all 17 years, a special local grant from the Sleeper Family Trust (which is distributed by the Bowlus) has funded this amazing program. Their investments have paid off because even though Young Authors has been around for so long, it's response by teachers and students has grown exponentially! At many schools 100% of teachers participated in supporting their students to write books. And this year showed the highest number of student submissions within all 17 years. Quite an accomplishment!

Saturday morning, bright and early, Young Author winning students flock to Iola High School to be recognized for their outstanding books. They got to see personalized presentations from Deborah and Obert and then share their books with their peers and Young Author volunteers. I have been volunteering since my mom started up the program. So here I am sitting with a group of kids as they each read aloud and show off their books. After they read aloud, we have a short question and answer period to better understand how they created their award-winning reads.

So here we are after another successful Young Authors' Celebration with both authors.

I met Deborah Hopkinson at last year's Warrensburg Children's Literature Festival (see last year's blog post). She is a gifted non-fiction and historical fiction author of both chapter books and picture books.  She loves to write books about insightful and influential people who don't always get acknowledged by society. Like her historical fiction, The Great Trouble, talks about Dr. John Snow, the doctor who discovered how cholera was really being spread in 1850s London. A fascinating read!

I have known Obert Skye for several years, again thanks to the Warrensburg Children's Literature Festival. He has become a fast friend ever since meeting him. In the near future, I'll showcase Obert's work and writing experience when I post reviews for his Pillage and Creature In My Closest series. He mainly focuses on middle-grade fantasy, but he will be publishing some teen fantasy reads soon.

Thanks for checking out my blog and PLEASE check out these authors and their books!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Gwendolyn Allister has reluctantly moved to London with her paranoid mother. However, Gwen’s best friend, Olivia, has come to help ease Gwen’s transition. Things go supernaturally wrong when the girls are kidnapped by flying shadow creatures—known as the Dark Ones—and taken to Neverland. The girls get separated but Gwen is rescued from the Dark Ones by the handsome, metal-handed Captain Rowan. Peter Pan sneaks onto Rowan’s ship, takes Gwen, and reunites her with Olivia. But this Peter Pan is a seductive teenage leader who magically brainwashes anyone to get his way.

Unhooked is a gothic yet modern twist to Barrie’s Peter Pan tale. Gwendolyn is tied to the sporadic, unstable whims of her anxious mother. If she leaves, her mother will fall apart. But if she stays, her social future is doomed. Her one glimmering hope is Olivia, a strong-willed girl who looks past Gwen’s flawed mother and sees a friend. But when Gwen is reunited with Olivia after their kidnapping, Olivia’s resilient mind is lost to Pan’s seductions. Losing Olivia spurs Gwen to accept her destiny and face Neverland’s terrors and temptations head on. Alongside Gwen’s story, Maxwell adds snap-shots of Rowan’s service in WWI. This WWI storyline is unique, but is an anachronism. For example, Rowan mentions Barrie being inspired by Neverland. But Barrie didn’t write his Peter Pan play until 1904 and WWI didn’t begin until 1914. How could Barrie write a Hook/Captain Rowan character before Rowan even arrived in Neverland? Putting these inconsistencies aside, Unhooked is an addictive, mature reimagining of the Peter Pan story that teens will devour.