Remember how in kindergarten, you ran into that playground pole? You were running flat out. Then – DING – it was like someone rang a giant bell. The goose egg on your forehead was so big the school called your mom because they were afraid something was seriously, medically wrong with you. Then, in first grade, you were staring at your feet while walking with your class from lunch and – DING – you smacked into that pole that held up the canopy. There was another goose egg. Another call to your mom.
Well, the good news about being eight is you will no longer run into poles.
Okay, yes, there’ll be more goose eggs. There will be the time when you and your older brother are playing. He’s spinning you around like a whirling dervish by holding your arm and leg. (Your little sister is watching – not her turn.) He loses control, you knock your forehead on the tabletop, and you and your siblings panic the babysitter. This is fairly impressive as you only have a babysitter about three times in your entire childhood, and manage a possible medical emergency with one of them.
Even now you sometimes run into things – counter, desk, rocking chair – any type of furniture really. Just the other day you managed to hit your head on the driver’s side door of your Subaru. You’re slightly taller than the car, so you’re not sure how that happened. But despite all that, between eight and thirty-something years of age, I can assure you, you haven’t dinged your head on another pole even once.
The point being, it takes you awhile, but you do get better at looking at where you’re going.
When I decided to write to you, I considered telling you specifics about things that will happen – good and bad, hopeful and depressing – then I realized that at eight you’ve only recently stopped looking at book’s endings before you decide if you want to read them. I don’t want to make you backslide by tempting you with any more life spoilers.
(Although, I do wish you’d be less mortified and more excited when your dad shows up in a gorilla costume to take you to your Diane Fossey report. Yes, that does happen. And, no, he doesn’t warn you beforehand. He wants to surprise you. So try to be happy. The only one who doesn’t realize immediately that gorilla is hilarious is twelve-year-old you.)
Okay. That was one more spoiler. But no more!
Instead, I decided to talk with you about poles, and knocks, and looking at where you’re going and where you’ve been. Know that some of the things that are hard for you now – showing people your writing, talking in front of people, new social situations – will be challenging for some time. In fact, I don’t think they’ll ever be easy.
Lots of things take practice. When you start something, you don’t have to be perfect at it. You don’t even have to be good at it. Not being the best at something doesn’t make you the worst. Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure. And you struggle through. It’s one of your better qualities. I’d tell you not to stress so much about it along the way, but I know you will anyway.
And although sometimes it’s a disaster, most times it’s not. Eventually, many people are shocked these things are challenging for you.
So expect years of comedy (and sadly some tragedy), keep a lookout for poles, and realize if you do get dinged, most times it just hurts for a moment. After the swelling goes down, it’ll become another hilarious tale. Just write it down and make it part of the story.
All his life, Prince Caden has dreamed of slaying a dragon. But before he has the chance, he is ripped from his home in the Great Winterlands of Razzon and finds himself in Asheville, North Carolina—a land with no magic and no dragons.
Or so he thinks. The longer Caden spends in Asheville, the more he comes to realize that there is unexpected and dangerous magic in this strange land. There just may be dragons here, too. But what if Caden’s destiny isn’t to slay a dragon, after all?
|Laurie McKay is an author and biology instructor who lives in Durham, NC. When she’s not working, she spends time with her family and her two elderly dogs. Her debut MG fantasy novel, VILLAIN KEEPER (The Last Dragon Charmer #1), is available now!|
Want to show the author in your life (or on your shelves) a little extra love this weekend? Here are a few Valentines that will make him or her swoon for you:
I write to you specifically (not to fourth grade Cory or sixth grade Cory) because fifth grade was a really important year for you (us). Epic, really.
This is the year that you discover you’re not cool.
Now I understand why, at this stage of your life, you wouldn’t necessarily see this as a positive. And you won’t see it like that, not for quite a while.
But let’s be honest, you’ve sort of seen this coming. Right? You know yourself. Last year got a little bit confusing, what with switching schools at all. Everybody was too busy labeling you “the new girl” to notice if you were cool or not. Nobody really knew you, so you sort of drifted through the groups and the cliques and the clubs like you were in some sort of weird, middle school utopia.
But this year is a brand new year. And now that everybody knows you better, they’ve figured it out. You, my dear, are not cool.
That’s not true for everyone. In fact, something weird is going to happen this year: some of the girls you’ve been hanging out with are going to magically be declared “cool.” No one knows who, exactly, decides this. Or what the criteria is. Or how those who achieve this mysterious honor are notified about their change in status. (There was probably a handshake or a secret meeting or pamphlet that explained it – but you’re not cool enough to be privy to anything like that). But however it happens, some of your friends will go on to claim the title of “cool” and all the rights and privileges associated with it. While you, and your fellow un-chosen friends . . . won’t.
The whole thing is going to make you a little bit miserable, to be honest. And I wish I could tell you “Buck up, Cory. In high school, your fairy god mother shows up and arms you with a new wardrobe, better hair, a working familiarity with acceptable music and trendy pop culture references and BAM, you become the homecoming queen.” But that isn’t what happens. Not in high school, not in college, and not in the mysterious “real world” that you are only now beginning to picture.
I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. The good news is, you do read a lot of good books this year. (And next year, wow, I can’t begin to tell you about the awesome reading that sixth grade has in store for you – The Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Blue Sword, The Egypt Game: it’s a truly inspiring year of books for you.) And if you had been tapped as “cool,” who knows if you would have had time for any of those? Or maybe they wouldn’t have meant so much to you. Food for thought.
You’ll be glad to know that being cool becomes a lot less important later on. And believe me, it’s not because we achieve it. I mean, yes, we do eventually learn how to blow-dry our hair straight. And the nice people at Sephora teach us how to do make-up properly. And we stop wearing flannel shirts and hiking boots All. The. Dang. Time. But you still use the term “cosplay” as a verb a bit too often, you get a little bit too excited about life-size Tardis replicas, and you are too quick to quote old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (ah yes, that’s another thing you have to look forward to), to be considered “cool.” At least in the traditional sense.
And somewhere along the way, that stopped bothering you.
Maybe it’s because everybody else seems to have stopped caring if people are cool. Or maybe we’ve just learned to live with it. Or maybe it’s because we’ve realized that we know our share of awesome, inspiring, lovable people and none of them are cool either.
The point is, we end up doing just fine. And when I think back through all the people we’ve met, the books we’ve read, the experiences we’ve had – almost none of which were remotely “cool” – I wouldn’t trade any of them. Not if our fairy mother came down right now and offered me “cool” on a platter.
So thank you, Fifth Grade Cory. You’re taking one for the team this year. (And also next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and then some). But take comfort in the fact that somewhere, your thirty-four-year-old self is reveling in all of her grown-up, totally uncool, dorkalicious glory. And she’d like to sincerely thank the fifth grade version of herself who made it all possible.
Everyone knows the dinosaur gene skips a generation.
So it isn’t a complete surprise when Sawyer sprouts spikes and a tail before the start of fifth grade. After all, his grandfather was part stegosaurus.
Despite the Principal’s Zero Tolerance Policy, Sawyer becomes a bully magnet, befriended only by Elliot aka “Gigantor” and the weird new girl. When the bullies start disappearing, Sawyer is relieved-until he discovers a secret about the principal that’s more shocking than Dino DNA. The bullies are in for a galactically horrible fate…and it’s up to Sawyer and his friends to rescue them.
|Cory Putman Oakes is a children’s book author from Austin, Texas. Her middle grade debut, DINOSAUR BOY, came out in February 2015 with its sequel, DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS, to follow in February, 2016. She is also the author of THE VEIL (a young adult novel).|
I have started bullet journaling. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really evaluate its effectiveness, but so far, I like it. Making lists is my jam.
Hook’s Daughter, the UK version of Hook’s Revenge, will be out in just over a month! That means I have just over a month to decide on my celebration dinner: Fish and Chips or Bangers and Mash?
Want to win a copy?
HOOK’S DAUGHTER, the UK edition of HOOK’S REVENGE, releases from @chickenhousebooks on March 5. Want to win a copy? Make an Instagram video telling why you would like to win—while speaking in a fake accent. (If you live outside the U.S., I’d love to hear your fake American accent!) Be sure to tag me on Instagram, @heidischulzbooks, so I see your video. The winner will receive a pre-order of HOOK’S DAUGHTER from the Book Depository, to be delivered after the book’s release, to any country to which the Book Depository will ship. (Check their website if you are unsure.) I will also send a signed bookplate and some HOOK’S REVENGE swag. I’ll choose a winner next Monday, February 9. Good luck! #vlogstagram #giveaway #books #mg #mglit
Pepper has learned the word “blanket” and comes running whenever anyone says it. If I don’t have a blanket on my lap, she attempts to climb up my pant leg. I thought you should know that.
I think this old McDonald’s toy (Lucy from Narnia) looks like me. It’s a bit unnerving, but in a delightful way. Would it be weird if I bought a bunch of them on eBay and put them all over my house? (Even if you say yes, I’ll probably still do it.)
Mystery figure. Anyone recognize? Lever in back makes her raise/lower arm that has small package. A photo posted by Tom Angleberger (@tomangleberger) on
The above image is from the Instagram account of Tom Angleberger, author of the the Origami Yoda series. It’s delightful.
What exactly is a banger? Some kind of sausage, right?
Right now school is a miserable place for you. I know how you dread the bus every morning. How you get made fun of when you have to take a day off from school for allergy tests and come back looking like you were bitten by a geometrically-inclined mosquito. How even recess has lost its fun now that that group of girls taunts you every day, telling you you’re fat and ugly (by the way, you’re not. And you’ll grow out of this awkward phase—mostly—I promise.)
You may not realize it now, but you’re lucky because you have friends who are awesome and will be your friends for many years (even if you fight more often than you like). You share a love of books, and act out your own stories in the Redwall world at recess as way to escape the bullies. Maybe those bullies mock you for it, but some day, you’ll write your own novels. You won’t know what they’re doing, and you won’t care either.
The bad news: Before it gets better, it’s going to get worse. As hard as 5th and 6th grade have been, junior high is going to be harder. Then there will be high school. That’s where you learn to embrace your weird…unfortunately, not everyone else does. I know you worry that no one cares about you, but trust me—they do. The bright side of high school is that you collect a few more longtime friends along the way.
Now the good news: Someday you’ll go to a college where you’re not the weirdest or geekiest person in the room. And they won’t give you grades. Sounds like heaven, right? It is, and it’s how you got the courage to tackle a novel in the first place. You’ll meet people who challenge you in all the best ways, and inspire your creative side. It is glorious. It is life changing. I promise it is worth getting through what must seem like an infinite stretch of public school before you.
So, keep reading late into the night even after mom and dad yell at you to go to sleep. It’s okay to need an escape. Books are a healthy way to do that! And when you do go to bed, keep telling yourself stories as you fall asleep (though, you might want to whisper more quietly – your sister in the next room can hear you!). Keep creating, and most importantly keep dreaming. One day when you get to hold your own fantasy novel in your hands, you’ll know it’s all worth it.
The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.
Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.
Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.
And what he knows will change Kym’s life.
Reminiscent of Frankenstein and the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic.
|MarcyKate Connolly is a writer and arts administrator living in New England with her husband and pugs. She’s a coffee addict and voracious reader. Monstrous is her debut middle grade novel.
Connect with MarcyKate on MarcyKate.com, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.