Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Memoriam: RIP, Anne McCaffrey

I received the sad news in my inbox today that Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series, has passed away.

I was an avid reader and watcher of Sci-Fi as a kid - I lost myself in Star Trek episodes and devoured the Pern series. Anne McCaffrey was a big part of why I decided to write books: I wanted to give kids the same feeling of being transported that I felt while reading her books. She was one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever to have written, in my opinion, and the world is better for having had her in it.

You can read more HERE, in Galleycat's feed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MMGM: THE TIFFIN, by Mahtab Narsimhan

It's MMGM time! Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by the lovely Shannon Whitney Messenger, who thought Middle Grade deserved more internet attention, and I agree! So most Mondays I spotlight a great Middle Grade book that I've read and loved.

This week, I want to tell you about THE TIFFIN, by Mahtab Narsimhan. Here's the cover copy: Bombay is home to the dabbawallas, a group of deliverymen who bring boxed lunches -- called tiffins -- to workers all over the city. For every six million lunches that are sent, a tiffin goes missing only once.

This is a story about one of those times.

When a note placed in a tiffin is lost, young Kunal is separated from his birth mother and ends up living as a twelve-year-old slave under the thumb of his foster father, Seth.

Kunal turns to his friend, a kindly old dabbawalla named Vinayak, for help. Vinayak takes Kunal under his wing, showing him the world through the eyes of a tiffin carrier. Filled with new hope for a better life, Kunal hatches a plan that could reunite him with his mother.

Aren't you just dying to know what the plot is and whether it works? I know I was after reading that.

I loved the characters in this book: Kunal is a true picture of a twelve-year-old boy, complete with stubborn temperament, and I really wanted him to find his birth mother and have her love him. I can't tell you what happens, obviously, but I can tell you that there are lots of twists and turns, and that at one point I was on the edge of my seat almost shouting at Kunal. (You'll know that scene when you get to it!)

But the thing that I most loved about this book is the setting, and the way she makes it come alive on the page. From the very first line, the sights and sounds and smells of Bombay swirl around in your mind. The descriptions are so vivid that I actually feel as if I have been there, even though I never have. And the little bits of Hindi dropped throughout the dialogue and text are the perfect finishing touch.

The bottom line is that I really loved this book. Not only is it a great story, but it brings Bombay (now Mumbai) alive for young readers who may never have a chance to see it in person, and that alone is a pretty amazing gift. So check it out! And if you liked THE TIFFIN, you'll want to check out her other books, which you can do HERE.

And then go to Shannon's blog HERE, for links to more Marvelous Middle Grade!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Favorites: Licensed Toys

It's Friday! The sun was shining, there was a light dusting of snow floating down through the air, and I finally started some strengthening exercises for my shoulder.What an awesome way to end the week.

And to top it all off, I opened my son's Scholastic leaflets this morning and saw that fellow writer, all-around wonderful person, and friend Helaine Becker has some AWESOME news: the porcupine in her Christmas book, A PORCUPINE IN A PINE TREE, has been turned into an adorable little plushie! I don't want to accidentally breach copyright by posting a picture of it, so I'll link to the Scholastic page, which is HERE, so you can go over there and admire it.

I'll wait.

ISN'T IT CUTE?!? I'm so thrilled for Helaine and Werner (who illustrated the book), I can't tell you. Except, I just did. Um... (Hey, it's Friday. Don't judge.)

So, this got me thinking about a good theme for this week's Favorite: licensed stuff! You know, those character-based dolls, bookmarks, stationery sets and the like. Some people hate those things, but I'm a total sucker for having physical evidence of my obsessions.

When I was a kid, I loved the Hello Kitty erasers and stationery sets.

Now, I'm into plushies. I'm particularly fond of the Zoobies. They're large plush toys that have soft fleecy blankets inside. They start out looking like this:

Ant then you open up a couple of velcros and do a bit of unrolling and they end up like this:

PERFECT for snuggling up under with your favorite book, or for keeping your legs warm during a four-hour typing marathon.

I've got the Olivia one in my office, but there's also a Very Hungry Catterpillar one that I'm really hankering for.

So how about you? Is there a character-inspired toy/stationery set/thing-a-ma-bob that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? What's your favorite?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNo Nutso

LORDYCAKES, I have dropped the blogging ball this month. Sorry guys. NaNo + PiBo + houseguest = crazy Ishta. I'll try to do better from here on in.

FIRST, my next MMGM will go up NEXT MONDAY, when I will be spotlighting one of my favorite books to come out this year by one of my favorite people, so make sure to come back for that.

And now for the nutso part...

I changed my NaNo project at the last minute. I was originally going to write a YA dystopian that I've been thinking about for a few months now, but the characters just weren't coming together. And then I met Sandra Bogart Johnston last month at a conference, and hearing about some of the books she's been working on got me thinking about my family and their role in WWII, and THAT got me thinking... there's a book in here somewhere. And I really want to write it.

So I'm outlining and taking notes for a YA historical about the guerilla movement in the Philippines during the Second World War. And I love it. That stuff about writing the book you're burning to write is totally true - I've never had the words fly out so fast before.

What have you been writing about? How is NaNoLand treating you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo News

It's November! And you know what that means...

National Novel Writing Month!


Picture Book Idea Month!

And because I'm CRAZY, I'm doing both again! WOO-HOO! Let's hear it for the crazy people!

So, the thing to know is that this month, posting will be erratic. There will be one MMGM post next Monday, and NaNo posts on Wednesdays, and maybe the odd random Friday letting-off-steam post about nothing in particular, but for the most part, I'm not going to be here. Because I'm going to be HERE, in NaNoLand.

Are you NaNo-ing this year? If you are, come find me - my user name is Ishta - and let's be buddies!

And in the meantime, I've spent the last few days wondering how to start my NaNo novel. Last year, I started on page one. But there's more than one way to steamroll your way through 50,000 words, and this year, I'm trying something different.

I'm just going to start. I've got the beginning of a scene in my head, and I'm just going to start there and work my way over, around and through this thing.

So if you're like me, sitting there with this kernel of an idea and wondering what to do with it, maybe try that. Just start with the scene that is your idea, and go from there. See where it takes you.

Happy NaNoWriMo-ing!