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Book Review Wednesday: Flutter

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From Erin Moulton’s website:
Big things are about the happen at Maple's house. Mama's going to have a baby, which means now there will be four Rittle sisters instead of just three. But when baby Lily is born too early and can't come home from the hospital, Maple knows it's up to her to save her sister. So she and Dawn, armed with a map and some leftover dinner, head off down a river and up a mountain to find the Wise Woman who can grant miracles. Now it's not only Lily's survival that they have to worry about, but also their own. The dangers that Maple and Dawn encounter on their journey makes them realize a thing or two about miracles-and about each other.
“The book is written by Erin Moulton who also graduated from VCFA.” I told this to my twelve and a half year old son who looked over my shoulder as I finished the Flutter, by Erin Moulton. “So you know that it’s good.” If you are a writer, you know that it takes a village to raise a writer and her story. I knew when I read Ms. Moulton’s acknowledgements that the story of Flutter, was born in a village that respects children, story and literary craft.
Ms. Moulton’s characters grow up in a wonderful family full of love. Love for each other certainly, but also a deep love for the Vermont mountains. Their father has them memorize the Latin names for birds, teaches them map skills and first aid, and appreciates the call of the coyote and the lights of the Aurora Borealis. The back-story to Maple and Dawn’s knowledge makes them both believable and likeable. Ms. Moulton never pauses the story to give the reader this backstory but weaves it in a way that keeps the narrative moving forward.
The author does a wonderful job portraying the sibling dynamic between the older bossypants sister and the middle sister (the narrator) who is desperately trying to define herself by her own achievements, know-how, and bravery. Her use of first-person present tense, keeps us in the moment for many of the tense and suspenseful moments of the girl’s quest.Whether we are reading about a white water scare, or a knock down drag out between the sisters we are in the midst of the action.
It was refreshing to read a survival/adventure story with smart and savvy girls as the protagonists. The book is a true hero’s journey where Maple (our heroine) questions then accepts the call for adventure. Moulton includes supernatural intervention in the form of a butterfly and the Wise Woman of the Mountain. She and Dawn move beyond their ordinary world, encounter trials, and return (ultimately with help from without) to a greater understanding of life, death, strength, truth, and hope for their future. All this with the added benefit of beautiful language, fabulous pacing, and true-to-life wilderness adventure.

Farmer’s Market Frenzy!

Farmer’s Markets are full of color, families, dogs, and all-around community. They are great places to draw, write, and be inspired.

In the last two weeks we have left of good summertime, I've invited my SCBWI members to meet up at local farmer's markets around Northern New England to write poetry and sketch. Unfortunately, I only have a few takers so far. Therefore, I'd like to open it up to all SCBWI members.

Visit a farmer's market between August 29th and Labor Day (September 5th). After your Farmer’s Market Frenzy visit, choose your favorite poem or image and email it directly to me at NorthernNERA at nescbwi dot org with the subject: “Farmer’s Market Frenzy.”

Poetry no more than ten lines and in the body of the email.
Images (sketches fine!) should be 72 dpi as attachments.

Make sure you give me the credit name and any links you want me to include- blog, facebook, twitter addresses all fine.

On September 7th, 12th, and 14th, I’ll publish the images and poems on my blog and link to my facebook & twitter sites with the credit and links you provided.

Happy Harvest time!

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Book Review Wednesday: Beauty Queens

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I am a note taker. The fact that I took absolutely no notes during Libba Bray’s recent speech at SCBWI’s 40th Anniversary Conference in LA has nothing to do with a lack of content and everything to do with the fact that I was laughing hysterically. When I started reading her most recent young adult release, Beauty Queens, I knew I could expect more laughs. How could you not when the author started with the premise, “A plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island.” What Ms. Bray has ended up with (in addition to marvelous humor and witty satire) is a smart and biting commentary on feminism, beauty, motherhood, and commercialization in our modern world.

Now before you groan and go get a cheese sandwich let me say that what is masterful about this book is how none of this is shoved down your throat. There are wonderful, imaginative, quirky characters here. Through tight and realistic dialogue and a fresh structure, Ms. Bray takes readers behind the stereotypes, behind the masks of her main characters allowing us to glimpse their heart and soul, their fears and vulnerabilities.

There is no “message” here, but there is theme. Theme comes after the book is written. Theme is the questions that the text forces each reader to ask but leaves each reader to answer. “Can girls (and boys) be themselves in our current culture?” “Has corporate greed corrupted the media?” “What is beauty?” “Has the beauty industry run amok?” “What are we doing to empower girls and boys in our current commercial culture?” “How do our parents shape us? Can we be us- apart from them?” “How does our sexual schizophrenia (American puritanical/commercialized) effect our sexuality and health?” “What is the responsibility of our elected officials in all of this?”

If you are teaching Lord of the Flies this year, I highly recommend that you included Beauty Queens, as a comp lit piece. The discussion opportunities would be endless. And while you’re at it, add in Golden Kite Winner Tanya Lee Stone’s The Good, The Bad and The Barbie. By the way, I was so engrossed in Beauty Queens that again I failed to take notes. However I did underline a favorite quote on page 177:

“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.”

Ah, yes, Libba. An island– or a room of one’s own.