Monday, February 13, 2017

Audacity Jones Steals the Show: Review, ARC Giveaway, and a Mini-Lesson on POV

Congratulations to Sandra Warren for winning Augusta Scattergood's book, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG.


Here's the question:

On a multiple choice test, which would you choose?

a. Kirby Larson's newest book, Audacity Jones Steals the Show (Scholastic, 2017), is about an eleven-year-old girl ("Audie to her friends") who makes an elephant disappear.

b. Audacity Jones is about Cypher, who in his new job with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, is charged with the duty of keeping an eye on Theo Quinn. 

c. Audacity Jones is about a young scientist, Theo Quinn, who provides Houdini with the necessary illusions to cause a seven-foot elephant to vanish. 

d. Audacity Jones is about Harry Houdini's newest and most fantastic trick ever.  

e. Audacity Jones is about Min; a persistent, smart chocolate-striped puss, who speaks Dog, learns to speak Elephant, and refuses to let her girl out of her sight. 

f. Audacity Jones is about the fraud Oberon who thinks he can use Theo Quinn to outwit Mr. Harry Houdini and become the world's greatest magician in his place. 

g. All of the above.

Third Person Omniscient POV

The answer is probably obvious, but I gave you these glimpses into this story for a reason. Although Audi is the heroine, Kirby Larson uses third person omniscient point-of-view to show readers what these important secondary characters think and want.

The interplay between these characters moves the story forward at a fast pace. Since this device is not seen in too many contemporary books (and generally advised against, particularly for new writers), I asked Kirby what prompted her to write Audacity Jones in this manner. 

She said, "I do not have any fancy names or explanations for the method I used in writing this book. I was aiming for an old-fashioned storytelling feel, thus the moments of omniscient narration; I also chose to break the “fourth wall” by speaking directly to the reader on a few occasions (a nod to Jane Austen). And I do know that we writers of books for children are advised not to use multiple viewpoints, etc., but honestly that is how I felt the story needed to be told. And I am lucky enough that my editor and publisher supported my choice, no matter how many “rules” there are against it!" 

A recent Writer's Digest article, "Why Point of View is So Important" by Joseph Bates, concludes: "Oftentimes we don't really choose a POV for our project; our project chooses a POV for us...Often stories tell us how they should be told--and once you find the right POV for yours, you'll likely realize the story couldn't have been told any other way."

Min's Voice

As I think you'll see from this scene from STEALS THE SHOW, that's exactly what Kirby Larson has done. This is from the POV of Min, one of my favorite characters. In this scene, she has snuck on board a train bound for New York City, for "Where the girl went, so did she." (p. 15)
Despite her abilities and intuitions, Min was stymied by the cargo put aboard at the most recent stop. More cage than crate, it took six men to load it into the baggage car. The creature inside was ten times greater than the heft of both Corgis combined and a thousand times more intelligent than the chickens. Min struggled to interpret the new creature's language, reminiscent of Bison, with a hint of Eagle. It didn't help that the language--or perhaps it was the speaker; Min hadn't worked that out yet--was rather nasal in tone. Min had worked out that the creature was either named Punk or was a punk; at least that's what the men had called it. By its limited vocabulary, she had also surmised it was not full-grown. It smelled of hay and apples and something else: The young thing reeked of sorrow. Once the cage had been situated in the baggage car, that smell did more to keep Min awake than all the clucking of those flibbertigibbet hens.
Early on, Min had learned how to comfort little Audie during lonely nights. Min hesitated: Would this baby, huge as it was, also welcome such comforting? If Punk stepped on her, then farewell to one of Min's remaining lives. Yet, she could not bear the creature's melancholy any longer. She padded close, straw shifting and scratching under her paws, to rub her scent against the metal bars of Punk's crate. After a few moments, the creature slowed it's rocking. Made a snuffling noise. Min waited, not a muscle twitching. Then something stroked her back through the bars. It was Punk's curious appendage, the one that hung from between his eyes. If it was Punk's nose, it was the most ridiculous nose that Mind had ever seen on an animal, but she kept that to herself. Hard enough for this baby to be alone; no need to rub salt in the wound by pointing out how homely he was. But then truthfully, what animal compares to a cat?
"Moww-rr?" Min inquired, paw poised in midair. 
Punk snuffled again. Puffs of warm air from his long appendage blew tracks in Min's chocolate-striped fur. Min took this as permission and eased slowly between the bars, into the cage, a cage too small for Punk to do anything but stand. She pressed against Punk's front leg and he stopped rocking altogether. Then he slowly eased his solid self into a lean agains the metal bars. Min leapt to a spot at the back of Punk's flat head, between ears as big as boat sails. Turning once, twice, three times, she settled herself, purring. Though Punk could not lie down, Min felt him relax.
Min locked at the leathery skin beneath her. It was dry. Punk needed water. Needed rest. Needed...
He said something.
Punk said something. And Min understood.
Thank you, he said. Thank you, friend (p.39-41. Used with permission.)

Giveaway and Resources

I have an autographed ARC to send to one of you. If you share this on social media or become a new follower of my blog, I'll enter your name twice. Just be sure to leave me your email address if you are new to my blog and tell me what you have done. Giveaway ends on February 17. Kirby is donating a portion of her royalties to The Elephant Sanctuary.

For other resources on using the third person omniscient POV see:

Third Person Omniscient vs. Third Person Limited  by Nathan Bransford

How to Write in Third Person Omniscient POV by Brian Davis. Brian gives good examples of "head-hopping" (which is NOT what Kirby has done) and subjective vs. objective omniscient. 

Whose Head is it Anyway? by Janice Hardy.

Immersive POV by Donald Maas. Not specifically on third person POV, but excellent article. (Aren't all articles by Maas eye-opening?)  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Making Friends With Billy Wong-- BONUS GIVEAWAY!

In conjunction with this week's review of MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG Augusta Scattergood is giving away an autographed copy of this timely book. 

Please leave your name (and email address if you are new to this blog) by 7 PM Saturday, February 11. If you are a teacher, home educator, or librarian,  let me know in your comment and I'll enter your name twice!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood: A Review with Help from David Corbett

Congratulations to my fellow blogger, Clara Gillow Clark, who won a copy of TWICE BETRAYED on last week's blog. Stay tuned friends, I have lots more giveaways coming up!

One of the writing blogs I follow is Writer Unboxed. When I find an article by one of their contributors in Writer's Digest, I pay extra attention. 

Soon after completing Augusta Scattergood's middle grade novel, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG (Scholastic Press, 2016),  I read David Corbett's article "To Change or Not to Change?"(Writer's Digest, January, 2017). Thanks to Corbett, I found a terrific template to review Augusta's book. (Quotes from his article are in bold.)

Every story implicitly asks two simple questions: 1) What happened? and 2) Why? These questions may remain unanswered, but they cannot be escaped...we need to keep in mind what Les Edgerton means when he says every story is about the same thing--trouble--or what Steven James means when he says that stories are not about what happened, they're about what went wrong. (Writer's Digest, pp. 26, 27)

For Azalea Morgan, the protagonist in MAKING FRIENDS, her life goes wrong in the first paragraph: 
All it took to send my summer on the road to ruin was a fancy note and a three-cent stamp. The minute that envelope showed up, Mama was packing my suitcase. (p. 1)
The reader quickly discovers the three types of problems which Corbett says characters try to answer:
  • External challenges: tasks in pursuit of a goal in the physical world. 
For Azalea, that means surviving a summer in Arkansas without her best friend and being asked to help a cranky grandmother she doesn't really know.  
  • Internal questions: doubt concerning deep-seated issues such as one's worth, purpose, nature, identity--in which characters are forced to ask, Who am I? What kind of person do I want to be? 
Azalea doesn't make friends easily and when she finds out her grandmother expects her to be friends with Billy Wong, the local grocer's grand nephew, Azalea thinks,
Like it or not, I was going to meet more people than I was ever friends with back in Texas. (p. 26)
Would this Billy Wong boy want to talk to me? Did we speak the same language? I wasn't so great at talking to ordinary boys back home--boys who didn't look like they'd just arrived from some faraway country. Mama says I'll get over that talking-to-boys thing. I doubt I'll get over it this summer in Paris Junction, Arkansas. (p. 29) 
  • Interpersonal Relationships: efforts to grow closer to or distance oneself from another character or characters. 
In spite of her doubts about being friends with a Chinese boy, Azalea begins to see the ostracism Billy faces. That, along with his friendliness, draws the two together. After they get ice cream at the drug store, Billy asks her if she wants to bike at the creek or hunt turtles. 
If I hadn't already talked more than I'd talked in my entire lifetime to a boy, I'd be explaining that no, I will not be exploring a creek. I will be fixing dinner and watering Grandma Clark's garden till the cows come home....Even though it was easy eating ice cream together, I had a hard time picturing being good friends with a boy. Especially one so different. 
But today was fun. So I looked right at Billy Wong, and I answered, "Maybe." (p. 64)
In the Writers Digest article David Corbett wrote, 
When a protagonist of any kind changes, it's usually because the struggles and conflicts he has faced have forged a different understanding of himself, his abilities and/or his world, including the people in it. (p. 28)
By the mid-point of the book, Azalea is calling Billy her friend. She is also surprising herself by becoming braver than she ever had been in Texas. She discovers hidden truths about Willis, the town bully, as well as about her grandmother. These discoveries spawn new actions.  

Despite her fears, towards the end of the book Azalea climbs up her grandmother's tree behind Willis, who has been throwing acorns down on her and Billy. She asks:
"You doing this because you're mad at me? What'd I do?"
"This was my tree till that Chinese boy came. Now every time I climb it, he's around." 
When a breeze rustled the tree's leaves, I grabbed hold of a thicker branch and held on. "Ever think about being friends with Billy?" I asked, still not quite believing I was perched in a tree with Willis DeLoach. (p. 173)

With that interaction, the reader knows that Azalea is well on the way to growing and changing. 

Like Kirby Larson's LIBERTY, Augusta Scattergood inserted poems from Billy's point of view. Her sparse use of language gets to the heart of how Billy is feeling. This is one of my favorites:

Keeping Notes on Lucky Foods, My Private File

The screen door pushes open.
The bell ting-a-lings.
A white man steps inside, tall, frowning.
Hat pulled close over his forehead.
Eyes darting fast
from Kay's Cookies to Dum Dum suckers,
cash register to cigar boxes.

"Need me some garden fertilizer," he snarls.
"Near the fishing lines," I answer, nicely.
He draws his words out.
"Bologna? Cheese? Bread?"
"Right this way, sir," I say.

I reach into the cool case of cheese and lunch meat.
Weigh a thick wedge of cheddar.
Punch the cash register's round buttons.
Hand the man groceries.
Watch him leave.

He'll go in my stories.
Mixed together with
track meets,
Future Farmers,
Student Council,
dusting soup cans,
pricing crushable cracker boxes.
And new friends.              
Property of Billy Wong, Spy (p. 123)

Corbett concludes the article, 
Look to your story to determine whether your main characters must change, and the degree of change they will undergo. Change is by no means a requirement--but when the story leads to self-examination, or revolves around a relationship, it is all but inevitable that the action will create the re-evaluation of self that we equate with change. (p.29)
Teachers and home school educators: Augusta just posted her classroom discussion guide on her website. You can download it here.
Augusta and I have been Facebook friends for several years.
We enjoyed meeting in person a few weeks ago, half-way between our homes in Florida.
We talked about books and writing for three hours-
and now I have a new "real" friend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Twice Betrayed: A Cover Reveal and ARC Giveaway!

I'm honored to share a cover reveal for a tween book that will be released next month. TWICE BETRAYED, by my fellow Highlights Summer Camp participant, Gayle Krause, will be available on March 28th from Trowbridge Books.

Isn't this a gorgeous cover?

Here's the blurb for the book:

The thread of friendship is stretched to the breaking point…

With the spark of independence crackling in Colonial Philadelphia, 
Perdy Rogers chafes under the strict rule of her Quaker grandmother and the endless duties of her apprenticeship in Betsy Ross’s upholstery shop. So when her best friend shares a secret and invites Perdy to help plan an elopement, she’s thrilled to be with her friends again. But Perdy has no idea that one favor will unravel the stable fabric of her life and involve her in a tangled web of deceit, lies and treachery.

Disguised as boys, three girls head to the river to put Perdy’s plan into action, but only two return. When the third, a young milliner’s assistant, is found drowned with gold coins sewn into her hems, coded spy letters in her bodice, and a journal implicating another sewing apprentice as her co-conspirator, all eyes turn to Perdy Rogers. But she’s no spy!

Accused of treason, she struggles to prove her innocence with the help of a handsome stranger and learns the hard way that freedom, whether an individual’s or a country’s, comes at a cost.

Gayle shares some of the backstory behind TWICE BETRAYED:

I’ve always loved history and discovering how things came to be. In the Caribbean, the long-lost pirates whispered to me with each crash of the waves. I’m working on a female pirate story. When I walked in Pompeii, I felt like I had been there before. In the Coliseum, a new story blossomed, about one of the entertainers. I’ve yet to write that one!

But Perdy’s story was different. I wrote it first, and when I visited the Betsy Ross House, after the story was completed, I froze in my tracks and my husband asked me what was wrong.

But nothing was wrong…it was right. I had described the shop, the kitchen, the bedroom Perdy shared with her sister and grandmother in great detail, with the only difference between TWICE BETRAYED and the real thing being the shape of the stairs. And since the whole story about Betsy Ross making the first flag is a legend, with no real proof that she actually did make it (you can ask any historian) it was a perfect setting for my story.

I come from a long line of seamstresses and am a certified Home Economics teacher so you can see how the sewing bits in the story are relevant.

TWICE BETRAYED is a mix of fact and fiction stitched together to bring a new light to the fabric of our beginnings, told from the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl, who fell into a web of deceit and struggled to win her freedom.

Gayle is giving away an autographed ARC to one fortunate winner. Please leave your name and email address (if you are new to my blog.) and I will pick a winner on February 4. If you share this on social media, let me know what you do and I'll enter your name twice. 

Gayle Krause was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania where she led the younger kids in creative dramatics, wilderness expeditions, and fossil hunting. Those early interactions led her to a career in teaching, where, as a Master teacher she continued to inspire teens as she prepared prospective Elementary Teachers and Early Childhood Educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Simultaneously, she directed an instructional Laboratory Pre-K for her students, where she worked with eager young preschoolers.