Friday, December 18, 2009


So yesterday I discussed the green-eyed monster of the children's literature world. Me. And jealousy.

Today, I'm going to call attention to some of my fellow writers who I hope have much success. (Although if they do, I'm going to be really GREEN!)

These are writers of solid books I've read in the last few years. None have won the Newbery or the National Book Award. (Yet) But some have gotten starred reviews, been named to ALA lists, and are the favorites of readers around the country. Each has succeeded in one way or another. But success in one area does not mean bringing home the bacon. In the writing world, only a few books at the top earn a living for their authors.

In the midlist of books are some gems more people should be buying.

So here in no special order except what my image browser finds first, I give you:

I spent a few hours driving to a writer conference with award winning Author, Lisa Williams Kline. (And another hour or so getting lost at the very end.) Lisa spoke eloquently at the conference about realistic books that have one magic element. Fascinating topic! Then I came home and read WRITE BEFORE YOUR EYES to see how Lisa incorporated this concept into her writng. This is a fun, contemporary read that tackles some weighty questions. Highly readable fiction!
I met Kathy Erskine in 2003 when we carpooled to a writing workshop. At the time, Kathy was a twinkle in Philomel's eye. But at our workshop with Patti Gauch, she found her dream editor who later published QUAKING. Continuing on the theme of jealousy here, there is a paragraph in this book, that I totally wish I'd written. And the rest of the book? Well, I wouldn't mind if my name were on the cover too.

Or of the forthcoming Mockingbird which is already getting terrific reviews. But back to that great book another time.
The NIGHT OF THE BURNING won the Sydney Taylor manuscript award. I quote from this book often when I speak on writing historical fiction. Author, Linda Press Wolf took the snippet of info she had about her mother-in-law's childhood experience and turned it into a novel. I love this book as I do so many eastern European stories. But it's the storytelling that makes it work.

HUGGING THE ROCK by Susan Taylor Brown is a quiet little verse novel that struggles with the loss of one parent and celebrates an unexpected connection with the other. It is profoundly spare in the telling. The page I am most jealous of in this book, has no text other than a title - Mother's Day. Would I be brilliant enough to let a blank page speak for itself? Probably not.

I've never met Susan Taylor Brown but she's one the best virtual friends any writer could have because she 's so internet savvy and consistently shares her info and encouragement with the rest of us.
DRIVE by Nathan Clement surprises us with unexpected perspectives - both in the art but also in the characterization of a truck-driving dad - a man who peeks in on his sleeping son before going to work, who works hard and well all day long, and who comes home at the end of the day to play with his kid. If you know a preschooler with a dad who drives truck (or works at any job) this is such a great gift!

I met Nathan at a writer event and since then, he designed my webpage! (And bookmarks. And postcards of my books.) Nathan totally lives up to the sensitivity and work ethic exemplified in DRIVE. So, if you need some design work, hire him!
CAMPING WITH THE PRESIDENT is history in a picture book. A slice of Theodore Roosevelt's life. A look at a National Park in the making. Lively language. A lot of info told in an engaging style with lovely pics. I've never met author Ginger Wadsworth but we swapped some emails, shared some LOLs, and really connected. I adore this book.
I also never met Jeannine Atkins but we're LiveJournal friends AND, get this; she noticed from my blog posts that I am working on a story that takes place in a mental hospital. Turns out she had a book on her shelf she thought I might need. So she packaged it up, sent it to me and told me to keep it for awhile. Very risky move! That was back in the summer and I still have it. (But I prrrromise to return it!)

ANNE HUTCHINSON'S WAY tells the story of a puritan woman who was imprisoned because she insisting on teaching a compassionate view of God. I love that Jeannine reminded me of this great historical character and I've even used the book in my junior youth Sunday School class.

I haven't read UP CLOSE; HARPER LEE by Kerry Madden but it's gotten great reviews and I've read much about Kerry's sensitive research in her blog posts. And I will eventually read it.
I did read Kerry's Maggie Valley Trilogy which takes place in North Carolina's mountains. I met Kerry a few years ago when she spoke to NC teachers. She's lovely and has many friends in the writing world who would agree with me. Her website and the feeling you get when you visit it, tell you a lot about Kerry! And these great southern books do, too.
Last September I was lucky enough to sign books beside Emily Smith Pearce at an event that connects North Carolina authors with teachers and librarians. So, I bought ISABEL AND THE MIRACLE BABY, a small story that gets right into the head of a child who feels crowded out by her mother's illness and a new baby. Great voice going on in this book!
And finally, there's WILD THINGS. Author Clay Carmichael and I connected frequently via Twitter and email this year. She was so good to inform me of award lists we'd both been nominated for and she introduced me to others. Wild Things is getting great reviews - from Kirkus to Fuse 8 and is showing up on Best of the Year lists, mock newbery discussions, and ALA lists! So watch out - things could get wild for this author!

To all of these writer friends, Congratulations and Good Luck!

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of books or authors I love and cheer for. More to come on another day.


  1. Wow, thanks, Joyce! And I hope people have already bought yours! For myself, I'm going to run right out and find the books you mentioned here that I haven't already read -- thanks!

  2. And, I say thank you too! Didn't expect to see myself popping up, but I consider you to be the successful author. Now, I see, more books to add to my reading list.

  3. Oh Joyce, thank you so much for the shout-out and the kind words.

    And for the list of some new books to read.

  4. I so appreciate your enthusiasm, Joyce! And what an honor to be with such awesome authors, including my friend, Susan Taylor Brown. Thanks!!

  5. Kathy, Nathan, Susan, Ginger - so honored to occupy the kid lit world with the likes of you!

  6. Joyce, thank you for the kind words, and I'm so pleased to be in this good company. I, too, often have that feeling -- oh, I wish I'd written that! I guess it's reading like a writer.

    And my memory being what it is, I'd forgotten about the book I lent. As I told you, no hurry! We were just looking around for my college copy of Bleak House, but I think I passed it on in one of those make-some-space rounds, thinking I'd never again read it, which I think is true: but didn't foresee my husband would go one a read-all-Dickens kick. Fortunately, that's not a hard book to find.

    Merry Christmas, Joyce!

  7. Jeannine, I can relate to getting rid of things and then realizing I need them after all. But hey, we can't keep everything! Can we?