Sunday, September 26, 2010

ROOTING FOR A PRICKLY CHARACTER: Turtle in Paradise (Post #6)

Dear Sleuths,
When Allyson and I met to discuss Turtle in Paradise, we were surprised to note the number of similarities between it and our July book, Karen Cushman’s Alchemy and Meggie Swann. Sure, a few hundred years and the Atlantic separate them in terms of setting. But look at how both books start: in each, the protagonist—a girl on her own—is sent away by her mother to live in a strange and unfamiliar location with relatives who don’t really want them. Furthermore, each girl is a smart, sharp-tongued character who must find a way to survive in difficult circumstances.

Prickly Characters

In fact, Turtle and Meggie Swann share a common outlook: they are brutally honest, funny, independent thinkers who come off as outspoken, impertinent, cranky or sensitive, depending on the moment. While I wouldn’t necessarily like to have either one as a houseguest (at least not the way they act at the beginning of the books), I do end up rooting for both. And from a writing point of view, let’s face it: given where the two characters start, the changes they go through as they find friends and establish themselves create a highly satisfying character arc.
Every writer wants to show character growth, so it’s not unusual to start a book with a character who has a little attitude. That attitude can go too far, of course. Once, when I shared a manuscript at an editorial conference, an agent cautioned me against making my character too sarcastic and snarky. So I started wondering how Jennifer Holm gets us to root for Turtle despite her “hard shell” (p. 99).

Bonding Time

In the book Plot and Structure, writer James Scott Bell says, “After conceiving a compelling Lead character, you must go a step further and figure out how to create an emotional bond with the reader” (p. 65). One tool authors can use is sympathy.
In contrast to mere empathy, sympathy intensifies the reader’s emotional investment in the lead… There are four simple ways to establish sympathy. Choose wisely. Don’t overload them, as it may make the reader feel manipulated. (p. 66)
Bell’s four ways of establishing sympathy are: jeopardy, hardship, the underdog, and vulnerability. Let’s take a look at each.


Bell writes, “Put the hero in terrible, imminent trouble.” Turtle is traveling to Key West without her mother, and when she arrives, her aunt Minnie is shocked to see her. When Minnie learns that Turtle is supposed to stay with her indefinitely, she exclaims, “As if I don’t have enough already with three kids and a husband who’s never home” (p. 19). Any reader will sympathize with Turtle’s position as an unwanted burden.


“If the Lead has to face some misfortune not of her own making, sympathy abounds,” Bell says. Turtle faces plenty of hardship, from her mother’s current and former employers, to the realities of the Depression. Life hasn’t been easy for Turtle, which goes a long way to explain her jaded outlook.

The Underdog

Says Bell: “America loves people who face long odds.” Turtle is the underdog in her new home. She’s the only girl among a gang of boys, a newcomer in a well-established community, and she is completely unaware of her extended family’s dynamics. Aunt Minnie’s son Beans is unfriendly at the start, describing Turtle as “some freeloading cousin from New Jersey” (p. 27). The boys won’t even let her join the Diaper Gang because she’s a girl. When Turtle succeeds in tricking the ice cream man into giving her a free scoop—something Beans fails at doing—the reader can’t help but cheer for Turtle.


According to Bell, “Readers worry about a Lead who might be crushed at any time.” Turtle is vulnerable because fundamentally, she is a kid on her own. She and her mother have moved around a lot, dependent on working for fickle wealthy employers. Not only that, but Turtle’s mother, Sadiebelle, is less practical than her daughter. “Mama’s good at looking at the sunny side of life,” Turtle says early in the book. “Mama’s watched so many pictures that she believes in happy endings” (p. 10). Later, Turtle thinks “I don’t know what she’d do without me to figure things out” (p. 94). Turtle believes she must take care of her mother—and to make matters worse, Turtle doesn’t have a father to help out. No wonder she longs for the stability of a home (the Bellewood) and the security of a father in Archie.
Holm succeeds in establishing Turtle as a sympathetic character, despite her churlishness. Ultimately, the overarching question the reader has throughout Turtle in Paradise is “Will Turtle be ok?” The details that Holm reveals about Turtle’s family and background help the reader to see that Turtle is like her namesake. As Uncle Vernon says, “You know, the thing about a turtle is that it looks tough, but it’s got a soft underbelly” (p. 100).
And as for Turtle’s snappiness? Her impertinent remarks? Her witty comebacks? The things she thinks and says—the things I’d never say for fear of being impolite—those are the very things that show Turtle’s spunk and independence. While I sympathize with her situation, I like her humor, her attitude, and the fact that she says what she thinks.

StorySleuths Tip #97: Help readers sympathize with a prickly character by revealing her “soft underbelly” but also make sure to show the character’s spirit and spunk.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Dear Fellow Sleuths,

We all know that even the most accomplished authors don’t always get it right the first time. We asked Jennifer Holm if she would be willing to share with us a sample of something she revised--sort of a before and after shot from her wonderful novel Turtle in Paradise. We were expecting some random paragraph from deep within the novel, and look what we got! Jennifer shared with us an early stab at the book’s opening paragraph. How cool is that?

Ladies and gentlemen, here for your viewing pleasure, the birth of an opening paragraph!

Jennifer Holm:

So, Turtle In Paradise is a book I worked on, literally, for years. I started it back in 2005. I can’t even find some of my really early drafts because the original laptop I wrote them on was fried when my husband spilled a cup of coffee on the keyboard. (Yes, we are still married.)

I should point out that I am a somewhat strange writer in that I love revising. (Probably to a fault if you ask my editor.) And Turtle went through a lot of revisions.

This is the opening scene from an early draft I found that was written in July 2006. At the time, the working title of the book was Turtle and the Conchs.

DRAFT July 2006

I’ve got my eyes closed. I’m pretending to be asleep.

Not that it stops Uncle Lyle from talking. Smokey’s been meowing the whole time, and even she can’t get a word in edgewise.

Uncle Lyle likes to talk. And talk. And he’s got an opinion on everything. He talks about how folks in the Dust Bowl wouldn’t be having so much trouble if they’d just move near some water. He talks about how he doesn’t trust President Roosevelt to get us out of this depression and that if you give someone money for not working why would they ever bother to get a job? But mostly he talks about how he can’t wait to get to Key West so he can hurry up and get back home to New Jersey.

Looking back, the problem with this version was that it was more about Uncle Lyle than Turtle. I loved the character of Lyle (let’s just say I’ve known a few Lyle-types in my life) and he really took over the early first drafts of chapter one. This ended up being more of a hindrance because Lyle was pretty tangential to the action in the book.

Final version:

Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I’ve lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it.

I stare out the window as Mr. Edgit’s Ford Model A rumbles along the road, kicking up clouds of dust. It’s so hot that the backs of my legs feel like melted gum, only stickier. We’re been driving for days now; it feels like eternity.

In front of us is a rusty pickup truck with a gang of dirty-looking kids in the back sandwiched between furniture—an iron bed, a rocking chair, battered pots—all tied up with little bits of fraying rope like a spiderweb. A girl my age is holding a baby that’s got a pair of ladies’ bloomers tied on its head to keep the sun out of its eyes. The boy sitting next to her has a gap between his two front teeth. Not that this stops him from blowing spitballs at us through a straw. We’ve been stuck behind this truck for the last few miles, and our windshield is covered with wadded bits of wet newspaper.

StorySleuths Tip #96: Don’t let your main character get sidelined! And when it comes to revision, remember that it sometimes takes huge changes to get the story where it needs to go. Instead of rewriting the same paragraph over and over—try something new.

Post #6: Rooting for a Prickly Character

Posted by Allyson Valentine Schrier

Saturday, September 18, 2010

CHAPTER BEGINNINGS: Turtle in Paradise (Post #4)

Dear Sleuths,

My intention for today’s post was to write about the way Jennifer Holm incorporates historical details such as references to Shirley Temple and Little Orphan Annie into Turtle in Paradise. Author of six historical novels, including two Newbery Honors, Holm has mastered the fine art of balancing enough detail to set a scene while not overwhelming readers with too much research.

However, we have written a lot about historical fiction over the last few months, and as I flipped back through Turtle in Paradise, something else caught my eye: the way Holm begins each chapter with a short transitional paragraph before launching into action.

Chapters are an interesting element of structure and form in that they exist in all novels, but they warrant minimal discussion in craft books. When chapters do show up in a writing book as a subject, it’s usually in reference to chapter endings. Here’s an example from the book Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham:
You end chapters at places which will hook readers. You do not devise your chapters to provide convenient blank spaces in between them for purposes of transition. (p. 118)
Multiple writing experts reiterated the fact that chapters should not end when characters go to sleep! A hook must be in place at the end of a chapter to propel readers forward. (For more about suspense and chapter endings, refer to Allyson’s April post about Blackbringer by Laini Taylor.)

But what about those chapter beginnings? What is their function? Is it the same as the opening of the book? Allyson’s last post on the narrative hook analyzed how the first chapter of Turtle in Paradise hooks readers with the Four Ws (Who is the story about, where is it set, when does it take place, and what is going on?). Jessica Page Morrell, author of Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing, has a slightly different take on beginnings:
All beginnings matter. Stories, scenes, and chapters cannot simply commence; they must create a tingle in the reader, pique curiosity, and thrust the story and readers ahead with potency and punch. (p. 39)
The chapter openings in Turtle in Paradise both pique the reader’s curiosity and propel them forward. Let’s take a look at an example from chapter eight.
Maybe it’s because it’s only ever been Mama and me, but I don’t understand what’s so wonderful about having a big family. Someone’s always fighting, or not talking to someone else, or scrounging around trying to borrow money. Far as I can tell, relations are nothing but trouble. (p. 72)
What are the elements at work in this paragraph?

1.     Character development. The first thing that strikes me about this paragraph is how much it reveals about character. It gives me a clear sense of how Turtle feels about living in close quarters with her extended family.

2.     Voice. Here is another example of narrative voice in action, complete with attitude, opinion, and patterns of speech (“Far as I can tell…”).

3.     Pacing. The paragraph provides a moment of pause, a break between the action that wrapped up in the previous chapter and the action that’s about to start.

4.     Creating questions. Turtle’s attitude makes me wonder why she feels this way. What’s happening with her family? What kind of trouble are we in for?

And so I keep on reading, quickly transitioning from Turtle’s thoughts to the action taking place in this chapter. My curiosity is piqued, and off Turtle and I go.

All but two of the chapters in Turtle in Paradise begin in similar ways. And what’s really neat, if you’ll forgive the term, is the way I as a reader start to feel the rhythm and style of the story. After a while, I can’t wait to hear Turtle’s latest thoughts, such as this one from chapter thirteen:
In my opinion, the fellas who make Hollywood pictures are really just salesmen. Instead of peddling girdles, they sell thrills and chills, and folks eat them up. Not me, though. I’m no sucker. I know there’s no such thing as giant apes climbing skyscrapers or mummies walking out of tombs. But just try telling that to the boys. (p. 123)
Another revealing opinion. Another great transition.

I want to return to the question of chapter endings and the hook or question that propels the reader forward. Some books, such as the Goosebumps series or the more recent 39 Clues series, end chapters with big cliffhangers. Readers flip the page, dying to know who’s behind the door or what happened when the lights went out.

But some books don’t have big cliffhanger chapter endings. Books such as The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate tend to be more episodic, keeping action contained within chapters. On the scale between Goosebumps and Calpurnia Tate, Turtle in Paradise probably falls toward the middle: sometimes the action ends with the chapter, and sometimes the chapter ends without resolving the conflict, leaving the reader to wonder what happens next.

When chapters do end with resolution (the cat is banished, Slow Poke pays Turtle), then the next chapter opening absolutely must act as a hook to pull the reader into a new scene and new set of action, as happens in Turtle in Paradise.

StorySleuths Tip #95: A strong chapter opening is so much more than a simple point of transition: it can reveal character, develop voice and, like a hook at the end of a chapter, propel the reader forward.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

THE NARRATIVE HOOK: Turtle in Paradise (Post#3)

Dear Fellow Sleuths ,

Well, I should really have started off this post, as it has to do with the beginning. It’s about the way the author successfully grabs you and makes you want to read more. In her book What’s Your Story, Marion Dane Bauer says:

The beginning of your story has one primary job: to capture your readers’ attention so they will want to go on reading. A narrative hook will do this for you. It will grab your readers and pull them into your story.(70)

The narrative hook, she says, is simply your story problem. It is the reason you’re writing the book, and the reason that your readers are going to stick with it—they want to see how that problem is solved, especially if they’ve come to like the character and want to see her succeed.

A quick word about “the beginning”. What is that? By when do you need to hook your reader? By the first line? The first paragraph or page? In her book The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, Nancy Lamb says, “At the most you’ve got two or three pages to hook the reader”. (35)

A couple of days ago I was chatting to a friend who’d just had a manuscript consultation with an editor at Henry Holt. The editor commented that my friend was trying too hard to get the story problem out there in the first few sentences of the story. My friend explained that she was trying to hook the reader. The editor assured her that if the writing is solid, and the story compelling, you have a few pages to do that. The first sentence, while engaging, doesn’t need to be the hook.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a riveting first sentence. In Turtle in Paradise, Jennifer Holm succeeds in writing a first sentence that makes you buckle up your seatbelt and strap in tight because you know you’re in for an exciting ride:

Everyone thinks kids are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I’ve only lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it. (3)

I love that! But while it pulls me into the story, is it the narrative hook? Does it tell me Turtle’s problem? Do I read that and know that she is a kid who’s being forced to leave home and take up roots in a strange place with people she doesn’t know? No, but it does give me an inkling that there are kids in her world who cause problems for her and for others, and she’s not very happy about it. The fuller problem is revealed over the course of the first chapter. But what this opening line DOES do is intrigue me and make me want to read more.

Marion Dane Bauer recommends that those first few pages in which you reveal the narrative hook contain what she calls the four Ws. Here is how they play out in Turtle in Paradise:

WHO is the story about?

Within several paragraphs we know who the main character is. She’s a young girl living in the depression era, and times are tough. Within a couple of pages we know her name is Turtle and she’s ten. Referring back to Heather’s recent post about voice—we know Turtle is snarky -– “I’m not sweet,” I said. “I slugged Ronald Caruthers when he tried to throw my cat in the well, and I’d do it again”. (5)  

WHERE is it set?

Within several pages we know that Turtle is on her way to Key West to stay with her Aunt Minerva.

WHEN is it taking place?

Page 1 of the novel bears the words, June 1935. But even without those specifics, we know from story details that the story is set in an earlier time. They’re driving in a Ford Model A and travelling on a road that kicks ups dust. The pickup truck in front of them is piled with belongings (an iron bed, a rocking chair) and children who are clearly not wearing seatbelts. The baby in that truck has bloomers tied on her head to keep the sun out of her eyes.

Aside from era, we know the story takes place during summer by Turtle’s description of sticking to the car’s leather seats, the dusty road, the baby with the sun in her eyes.

WHAT is going on?

Within several pages we know what the story is about. We’ve seen the mean kids Turtle has had to deal with. We’ve met slick Archie and vulnerable Mama. We know that on Turtle’s journey she’s going to hit a few bumps in the road—literally and figuratively.

StorySleuths’ Tip #94: Create a story beginning users won’t be able to resist by opening with an intriguing first line, getting your narrative hook out there within a few pages and remembering to reveal Marion Dane Bauer’s Four Ws.

Post #4: Chapter Beginnings

Posted by Allyson Valentine Schrier

Saturday, September 11, 2010

NARRATIVE VOICE: Turtle in Paradise (Post #2)

Dear Sleuths,
How many times have you been at a writer’s conference where an editor says, “I’m looking for books with voice”? The editor might use the phrase distinctive narrative voice or authentic voice. Then, when pressed to explain what distinctive narrative voice is, the editor sheepishly shrugs and says, “It’s hard to explain, but I know it when I see it.”
Sometimes, it feels like there is an entire sense of secrecy built up around the concept of voice. You hear about it all the time, but no one seems to agree on what it is or how to get it. Here is a quotation I found in one of my writing books:
A strong, distinctive, authoritative writing voice is something most fiction writers want—and something no editor or teacher can impart. (p. 128, Self-editing for Fiction Writers)
Well, when I read Jennifer Holm’s book Turtle in Paradise, I thought to myself, “Here is a clear example of a distinctive and authentic narrative voice. I see it!” But what is that voice? How did Holm create it? Turns out, those editors weren’t lying. It is hard to explain.
Let’s start with a description of voice (note, I did not use the word definition). Author K. L. Going compares narrative voice to people’s actual voices: 
Our word choices and speech patterns reveal who we are, where we’re from, and what we’re thinking…. The same is true for narrative voice. Your narrator can be revealed by what he chooses to say and how he says it. (p. 113, Writing and Selling the YA Novel)
A way of seeing
Eleven-year-old Turtle, who narrates the story, “sees things for what they are,” and she has no qualms speaking her mind. Take this commentary at the beginning of chapter twelve: 
Everyone’s always saying that hard times bring out the best in people, but as far as I can tell, the only thing that hard times brings out is plain meanness. I left my shoes outside on the front porch last night, and some rotten kid stole them (p. 113). 
She has her own perspective on the world, one that’s informed by her experiences, and she has no problem disagreeing with what “everyone says.”

Favorite phrases
The example above includes a couple of Turtle’s favorite phrases of speech, notably “as far as I can tell” and “rotten kids.” She also likes to say “it’s a fact,” “from where I’m sitting,” and “in my opinion.” Turtle has lots of opinions, and she shares them with authority and confidence. Returning to Going’s description of voice, Holm uses word choice and speech patterns to reveal Turtle’s character.

Metaphorically speaking
Given Turtle’s “see things for what they are” attitude, you might guess that the voice of the novel is plain and straightforward. It’s not. While Turtle is cynical and at times jaded, she’s also sassy and witty, with a wry sense of humor. She comes up with unique metaphors to explain her take on events and people. For example, 
Mama’s always falling in love, and the fellas she picks are like dandelions. One day they’re there, bright as sunshine—charming Mama, buying me presents—and the next they’re gone, scattered to the wind, leaving weeds everywhere and Mama crying. (p. 6) 
Metaphors such as this appear throughout the book, enriching the narrative with distinctive imagery and pleasing comparisons.
It’s important to note that the metaphors in the book fit with Turtle’s experiences and era. For example, about her mother, Turtle says, “’Mama’s head is so high in the clouds, I’m surprised she doesn’t bump into Amelia Earhart’” (p. 94). Every kid in 1935 knew about Amelia Earhart. It’s the perfect comparison, both showing us how crazy Turtle thinks Mama is as well as reflecting the time period of the book.

Gee, that's swell
While helping to reveal character, narrative voice also helps build a sense of the book’s time period and setting. The kids in the Diaper Gang don’t say things like “That’s cool,” or “That rots.” They say “gee whiz” and “aww.” Words such as fella, gotta, dough, gang, swell, folks, mama, and sugar all sound appropriate—even authentic—to the 1930s.

They call it banter
In fact, as I read Turtle in Paradise, I couldn’t help but think about a few classic Katherine Hepburn movies such as “Bringing up Baby” or “The Philadelphia Story.” It was more than the choice of appropriate words and historical details such as references to Little Orphan Annie. It was the wittiness of dialogue. Here’s Slow Poke and Turtle after Slow Poke rescues Turtle from the water.
“I thought you said you could swim like a fish,” Slow Poke chides me.
“A dead one,” I say, and cough.
“Honey,” Slow Poke says, shaking his head, “dead fish float.” (p. 68)
Slow Poke might be late to everything, but he’s got a quick wit, as do all the characters in Turtle in Paradise. This smart dialogue, which often ends on a perfect zinger, contributes to the overall narrative voice.
Short story writer Sylvia Watanabe wrote an essay on voice in the book Creating Fiction. After analyzing a story by Flannery O’Connor, Watanabe tried to “identify the specific aspects of a story’s voice.” These aspects, she says, include:
choice of genre, articulation of point of view, treatment of exposition and dialogue, selection of detail, use of language… and the handling of sonics (the sound and rhythm of the prose). Voice, it would seem, abides everywhere in the story. (p. 202)
Perhaps therein lies the issue: voice abides everywhere in the story. I saw one person summarize voice as “what you write and how you write it.” It’s the combination of word choice, attitude, phrases of speech, regional or historical details, and patterns of speaking.
The combination of all these elements in Turtle in Paradise work together to create a distinctive narrative voice.

StorySleuths Tip #93: When writing and revising, look for ways to use distinctive words, metaphors, dialogue, details and patterns of speech, as well as opinions and attitude, to enrich a story’s narrative voice.

Post #3: The Narrative Hook

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Dear Fellow Sleuths,

Whether or not you have finished reading Jennifer Holms’ marvelous book, Turtle in Paradise, you’ve likely already noticed the brilliant job she’s done choosing character names. There’s Turtle, the endearing main character. Slow Poke, a secondary character who plays a large role in Turtle’s life. Turtle’s cat, Smokey, who’s unfortunate name was chosen, prophetically, before her tail was ever set on fire. In choosing names such as these, Holm has honored several rules concerning the naming of characters. First, she has assigned names that are both memorable and fun, and that will appeal to her intended readership. Second, the character names have meaning. Consider Turtle, tough on the outside, but soft and vulnerable beneath, who literally comes out of her shell as the story evolves, discovering aspects of self and family. And the ever-tardy Slow Poke, who, upon learning that his true love, Sadiebelle has gotten married, comments, “Huh—too late again.”

Following another rule, Holm has been careful to select names that reflect the time in which the story takes place. When the story opens and Turtle is reminiscing about the kids that have made her life miserable, she mentions Josephine, Sylvia and Marvin—not Caitlyn, Maddie and Aidan. It turns out that if you do the math, these characters would have been born in 1923 (they are 12 and the story is set in 1935). Referring to the US Government’s Social Security site I found that in 1923 all three of these names appeared on that year’s top 100 baby names list. And looking at statistics for 1905 (around when I thought Aunt Minnie would have been born) I found that the name Minnie was #35 on the popularity chart for that year.

Holm has also taken care to choose character names that reflect the story’s location. In her Author’s Note, she points out that nicknaming was a tradition in Key West. She gives the Key West local residents names that are in keeping with that tradition. There’s the pair of best buddies Beans and Pork Chop, the baby Pudding, and the calamitous friend they all avoid, Too Bad.

We contacted Jennifer Holm (who wins the blue ribbon for Author Quickest to Reply to a StorySleuth’s Email!) and asked her a couple of questions about how she chose names for Turtle in Paradise:

StorySleuths: All the names in Turtle in Paradise shine with originality. Would you share a few thoughts about how you came up with the names you used in this book? Also, was it an intentional choice to have Turtle and Slowpoke have names that one can draw a strong connection between?

Holm: That's a great question. So ... "Turtle" was actually a nod to the historic turtling industry of Key West (green turtle soup, anyone?) Some of the names were inspired by Key West nicknames ("Beans" and "Johnny Cakes" and "Killie the Horse"). There's a man who grew up in KW who actually went around and catalogued peoples' nicknames. "Pork Chop" just sort of grew out of Beans (Pork Chop and Beans--they just go together!) "Papa" was actually Ernest Hemingway's local KW nickname. And finally, "Slow Poke" was more of a little tease for the reader to understand that he's always been chronically late ... and that sometimes being late has big consequences.
More on Choosing Names

There are plenty of web sites that offer tips about how to choose names. Two that I found to be particularly useful are the Tips for Writers section of the Baby Names website, and Anne Marble’s article Name That Character! at the Writing-World website

And where do you go to choose names that help make your characters come to life on the page? I recall a lecture I attended years ago in which Jack Gantos shared one of his sources—graveyards. But you don’t need to walk amongst the dead to find terrific names for your characters, as there are fun and informative sites available online to both look for names, or generate your own.

The Baby Names site offers lists sorted not just by boy and girl, but even has a “cool names” option with categories like spooky names, names in sports, and top pet names. And there is the Social Security website already mentioned which not only lists popular names for a particular birth year, but can show you how a particular name has waxed and waned in popularity over time.

To generate names, take a look at A Barrel Full of Names, or The Seventh Sanctum name generator which generates names for specific categories like your fantasy character, your gnome or your princess.

StorySleuths Tip #92: When choosing character names do your research and choose names that are not only fun and meaningful, but that also reflect the time and location in which the story takes place.

Post #2: Narrative Voice

Posted by Allyson Valentine Schrier

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy September!

Dear StorySleuths Readers,

All across the country, children are heading back to school. Summer vacation is over! We hope you had lots of time to read while at the beach, the pool, or in the backyard.

We'll be hanging on to summer a bit longer in our upcoming September read, Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. It's the story of an eleven-year-old girl sent to live with relatives in Key West, Florida. If you haven't yet read Turtle in Paradise, grab it for Labor Day weekend! It's a humorous, fast-paced tale, the perfect book for the last official weekend of summer.

We will be hitting a milestone here at StorySleuths at the end of September: our first year of blogging! We've read eleven middle grade and young adult novels, plus looked at eight picture books, uncovering 90 writing tips along the way.

As we plan for the next year, we thought it would be great to know a little bit more about you, our readers. Would you take a few minutes to tell us who you are, what you like about StorySleuths, and what you'd like to see in the future? You could either leave us a comment below, or if you prefer, complete a short survey (guaranteed not to take longer than three minutes!).

We're sad to announce that Meg has decided to take a leave of absence in the coming months. She has been an invaluable member of the StorySleuths team. Her schedule is booked this fall, however, due to teaching commitments. Hopefully, she'll grab her magnifying glass and join us from time to time.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Labor Day weekend! We look forward to discussing Turtle in Paradise after the holiday. (Oh, and for those of you who like to read ahead, we'll be looking at Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief in October. What makes it such an engrossing read? One that kids just can't put down? We can't wait to find out.)

Heather and Allyson