Monday, May 13, 2013

Kid Lit Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to my entry in the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop! This blog hop is a celebration of Children's Book Week, and it's brought to you by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews.

Scroll down to enter the Ebenezer's Locker Giveaway. But first, some thoughts on writing for the upper-middle-grade crowd:

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The Joy and Challenge of Tween Lit

The middle-grade market presents a particularly wonderful opportunity for creativity in the fiction writer. Tweens are, as that colloquialism implies, between stages. Kids of 8-12 years are developmentally very different from younger children, yet just as different from teens.

They’re more sophisticated than tots but not as surly as teens. And they’re ready for anything, while they haven’t yet seen enough to be cynical. It’s a kind of emotional and intellectual twilight that I find very rewarding to write for.

I gave some thought to why this age group is so special to me, and offer a list of suggestions for other writers who aspire to write middle-grade novels or stories.

Use your imagination. Tweens crave new experiences, even imaginary ones. So take them someplace fabulous you’ve invented, or some fabulous time you’ve researched. And twist that plot! Under no circumstances should the story be ordinary or predictable.

Make it fast. There should be plenty of action. It needn’t be violence, but things need to happen.

It’s more than “show, don’t tell.” Of course, as in all lit, scenes should be described in such a way that the reader feels s/he’s there. I’m talking about physical activity. And the characters should be the agents, the ones causing things to happen or change. If the world simply changes around your characters and they just stand there and take it, your young reader will close your book and start playing a video game, where s/he can have the illusions that s/he’s actually doing something.

I’ve recently been re-reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door. One thing that strikes me is the amount of time characters stand around talking about ideas. Do not try this at home! No publisher would stand for it, and no kid either. L’Engle’s book was published in 1973, long before kids had tablets, gaming devices, and smartphones growing out of their fingertips. It was a slower-moving (and generally better-educated) populace. And let’s be honest: Even L’Engle might not have gotten away with it if she didn’t already have a Newbery for A Wrinkle in Time.

Make it smart. The tween brain is an awesome machine. These kids absorb vocabulary, scientific concepts, and all types of minutiae at a rate they’ll never match later in life. They’re hungry to know stuff. Give them unusual details. Give them new words. There’s little they can’t handle if it’s presented right.

Make it funny. All good teachers know that one of the ways to make new information go down more easily is to slip it in during laughter. Tween audiences can handle a fun combination of silly and clever, pratfalls and puns, wedgies and witticisms. So make that dialog snappy and make those situations wacky. And maybe a little bit gross.

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Author bio:

Drawing on an eclectic background that includes degrees in classical languages and musicology, Anne E. Johnson has published in a wide variety of topics and genres. She's written feature articles about music in serials such as The New York Times and Stagebill Magazine, and seven non-fiction books for kids with the Rosen Group.  Her short stories, in various genres and for both children and adults, can be found in Underneath the Juniper Tree, Spaceports & Spidersilk , Shelter of Daylight, and elsewhere.
Ebenezer’s Locker is her first published novel, and she has two more due out this summer:  a humorous, noir-inspired science fiction novel, Green Light Delivery (Candlemark & Gleam, June 19), and a tween medieval mystery, Trouble at the Scriptorium (Royal Fireworks Press, August).
Anne lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch.

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Ebenezer's Locker Synopsis:

A hundred years ago, Corbin Elementary School's building housed Dr. Ebenezer Corbin's School for Psychical Research. It seems that a couple of old spirits are still wandering the halls. It's up to Rhonda Zymler to find out what they want.

Ebenezer's Locker follows the adventures of Rhonda, a sassy sixth-grader who's having trouble finding her place and identity. Getting to know these spirits becomes Rhonda's quest. The more she digs, the more perilous her task becomes, and to complete it she must take two trips back in time. This story blends the realities of an economically-challenged modern American town with supernatural elements. What Rhonda finds not only gives her life a sense of purpose, but changes the fortunes of her entire town. 

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To learn more about my work, please visit my website.

You can win an e-copy of Ebenezer's Locker in PRC (Kindle) or ePub formats. Giveaway is open May 13-19, 2013. Enter simply by leaving a comment about your favorite children's book.

Remember to keep hopping around, learning about more great kid lit authors and entering to win their books!

Don't want to wait for the raffle? You can buy Ebenezer's Locker in any ebook format through MuseItUp Publishing, or at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and other vendors.


  1. My favourite children's book is probably Diary of a Wimpy Kid

  2. You just reminded me that I need to read more MG fiction. Ebeneezer's Locker sounds like it could be my NEXT favorite children's book. ;)

  3. My favorite children's book is either Fablehaven by Brandon Mull or The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen.

  4. Your book sounds awesome. Loved your comments about the difference in how books would be tolerated today. I am yet to read A wrinkle in time but I think one day I will just for comparison. My favourite books are Harry Potter. Great to meet you on the hop

  5. My favorite children's book? That is almost impossible for me to choose! I would say it's a picture book called The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot. It's perfect!

  6. My favorite children's book is HARRIET THE SPY. Thanks for participating in the book hop!

  7. That is an awesome post - it really helps focus my mind on the capacity of my audience. Thanks so much!
    I read Wrinkle in Time recently and was impressed, but I'm going to give a special mention to Sally Harris's Diary of a Penguin-Napper as I think it has all the elements you discuss.
    Jemima at the Princleings website

  8. my favorite books were the sweet valley high series :)

    qtksjkmommy at gmail dot com

  9. I love everything Madeline L'Engle! Sorry! :)

  10. I am really impressed by the thoughts you shared about the middle grade audience. I was just telling the ladies from my book club that I am really enjoying reading middle grade books at the moment. I've recently read Wonder by RJ Palacio and I was very moved by that book. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Be sure to check out our Kid Lit Question of the Day. This week we are talking about the category of books, YA.

  11. This is a tough question, because the range of kids' ages is so huge. For he littlest ones, I love Jamberry. My 8 yo thinks The Magic Tree House books are the best, and my 12 yo reads anything and everything with magic, dragons and/or sword he can get his hands on. (Harry Potter, The Last Dragon Chronicles, the Inheritance series, etc) As a kid myself, I loved Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague....