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Monday, May 1, 2017

National Pet Week: 5 Unconventional Pets in Picture Books

Celebrate National Pet Week this week with picture books featuring unconventional pets. From a lonely shark dog to a charming, laid-back sloth, find stories of pets that are sure to delight below.

Shark Dog!
Ged Adamson

Shark Dog is a curious mix of shark and dog, which often leaves him feeling out of place. Adamson's illustrations and story are both funny and heartfelt; readers will feel for the lonely little shark dog. The story's resolution is sweetly hopeful and will leave readers wishing for a shark dog of their own.

Charlotte and the Rock
Stephen W. Martin / Samantha Cotterill

Charlotte didn't have a rock in mind when she asked for a pet, but she decides to look for the positive. Rocks don't cuddle or play fetch or any of the normal pet activities, but Charlotte comes to love her rock just the same. If only the rock could love her back...

Izzy & Oscar
Allison Estes / Dan Stark / Tracy Dockray

Captain Izzy is seeking a pet when an octopus wiggles into town. Oscar isn't a conventional pet, so he falls short as Izzy tries to train him, but it turns out Oscar has skills only an octopus can have. This sweet story about tackling fears and acceptance will win many fans.
How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth
Michelle Robinson / Kate Hindley
  How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth is a helpful step-by-step guide to giving your woolly mammoth a bath, a tricky task for anyone with a pet woolly mammoth. Utilizing spare text, hilarious illustrations, a rather expressive mammoth, this handy guide will have your mammoth squeaky clean and ready to cuddle in no time!

Jenny Offill / Chris Appelhans
IndieBound / Amazon

The little girl in Sparky! is promised a pet - "as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." The helpful local librarian introduces the girl to the sloth, which in addition to being the laziest animal in the world, fulfills all of her mother's requirements. When the sloth arrives, she names him Sparky and, once delivered to his tree in the back yard, he doesn't wake for two whole days. Sparky might not be like most pets - he doesn't fetch or roll over, though he is really quite good at playing statue - but she loves him all the same. 

Do you have favorite picture books about unconventional pets
Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

An Interview with John David Anderson, author of Posted

John David Anderson is one of my go-to authors when making book recommendations for two reasons: all of his books are fantastic and I truly believe everyone can find an JDA book to love. From fantasy worlds to superheros to relateable modern kids, readers will find something different and memorable in each of Anderson's books!  I'm thrilled to have him at The Hiding Spot today to talk about his newest novel, Posted.

As a person who has sticky notes everywhere on my desk with reminders and words of inspiration, I was drawn to the premise of Posted, which features a sticky note war resulting from a cell phone ban. Can you share your inspiration for this premise? 
This is going to sound like a load of malarkey, but this book really was a kind of gift from the muses. I woke up one day with an image in my head of a locker covered in Post-it notes all saying pretty much the same thing: “I’m sorry.” From there I started asking questions: Whose locker was it? Who all left these notes? What are they sorry about? Why sticky notes to begin with? 

As I answered these questions (and asked and answered the hundreds more that followed) the central conflict of the novel took shape, giving me a kind of skeleton to build around. Essentially I had a war; what I needed were soldiers to fight it. Much of my writing, then, became an exploration of the five main characters and the impact this event has on their friendships and personal growth. 
As a lifelong Michigander, I love books set in Michigan! In fact, one of the characters in Posted visits a Barnes & Noble that I used to visit weekly while in college. How do you choose your setting when writing a realistic fiction novel? 
I’m reluctant to write about actual places because I’m a space cadet, flightier than waterfowl. Unlike most authors, I’m not very aware of my surroundings, so when I travel somewhere, instead of the details of a place, I just get impressions. I’ve been to several towns in Michigan, and I’ve lived all of my life in the Midwest, so I feel comfortable writing about the region. Even then, however, I’d prefer to make up my own fictional town with its own quirks and history and just stick it on the map near some actual places to give it some authenticity. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
I’m what you call an “organic” writer. I just sit at the keyboard and watch a story grow, reading what I wrote the day before and picking up right where I left off. No planning. No outlines (if you’re a kid reading this, don’t tell your teacher I said that). Just wild tendrils sprouting from fertile imaginative fields. Of course, those tendrils always get out of control or stretch to impossible places, and then they have to carefully pruned, or in some cases chopped off completely (which hurts) and replanted. 

Because of this approach, I can actually draft a novel fairly quickly, but it’s a weedy, thorny, overgrown mess that will require months of careful editing to be readable. Part of me wishes I wasn’t such a pantser. Unfortunately I often don’t know what my characters are going to say or do ahead of time, not until I see it on the screen. They surprise me. And I kinda like it that way. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity.
My kids, because they take an interest in things I would not even think once about. They open my eyes. 

Movies, because they’ve taught me just as much about the art of storytelling as any book, and they do it in about two hours. 

Lego, because building with Lego is a lot like building a narrative. So many familiar pieces that fit together without fail, and yet an infinite number of combinations. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
As a kid I was an escapist. I wanted to hide in a book that was as far from the world I knew as possible. Naturally I gravitated to speculative fiction, and I remember hiding out with Taran the pig farmer in Prydain a lot (Lloyd Alexander for those readers who are not sporting streaks of silver in their hair and grew up on Harry Potter instead). Nowadays finding that 20-30 minutes every day to read any book is its own kind of comfort, no matter the author or subject. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
The invention of fat-free chocolate that actually tastes good, I hope. 

As for me, after Bixby and Posted, I felt like lightening up a little, so I wrote a book about fairies. And talking dogs. And obnoxious geese. And donuts. It’s called Granted and it’s all about the lengths one might go to to make a wish come true. Look for it at the end of the year from Walden Pond Press.

More About the Book
From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.

In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.
 Purchase a copy of Posted via the links below:
 IndieBound / Amazon