September 16th, 2014

Guest Post: Amy Herrick

Today I have Amy Herrick, author of The Time Fetch, talking about what inspires her.

Being often (and currently) a fantasy writer, a seeker after the world-in-back-of-the-world, there is a particular and long list of things I turn to again and again for inspiration.  Inspiration being for me not necessarily what the story is going to be about, but the way to get into it. I often picture myself deep in the woods walking around and around a small house, its windows shuttered, its doors either locked or not visible to the naked eye.  Getting in is the trick. Sometimes one is admitted.  Sometimes it’s a break-in.  Generally, it must be done over and over again each day.  Some days are quite easy.  Some require human sacrifice. The inside, of course, is much bigger than the outside. This, as Dr. Who and anybody who thinks about it ought to know, is one of the key secrets to everything.

Burglary Tools:

books1  inspiration
First, and most stomach-acid producing, is coffee

I drink it in small, extremely well-regulated amounts.  A half a cup is sometimes enough to lead me to believe that I can see into the future or walk through walls.


Second are my favorite books.

I have a stack that I keep near my desk.  The stack changes with my internal seasons, but there are certain books I reach for again and again, just for pleasure, just to procrastinate, but always in the secret hope that they will unlock a door for me.  Most frequently reached for in recent weeks:  E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, Edward Gory’s  The Haunted Looking Glass, Virginia Woolf’sTo the Lighthouse, Garrison Keillor’s collection: Good Poems for Hard Times.



dogwalk2 inspirationThird, and most important, is my morning walk with the dog in Prospect Park.

Each day when we pass through the gate and no one stops us we’re a little amazed at our luck. Really? No Gatekeeper? No Fee? No Three Questions?  We let ourselves off the leash and head for the lake and the trees and the birds and the rolling green. There is never a morning that we return the same as we went in.   Prospect Park is partly open landscaped garden, partly urban picnic-ground, partly wilderness. It delights, horrifies and humbles us. My dog is lame and no longer youthful, so we must walk very slowly.  We must smell every smell, foul, fair or funky. We must look at every leaf and insect and cloud with meticulous attention:

A delicate and glittering web strung wide between a tree branch and a lamppost, with a teensy bright green spider waiting patiently for her breakfast.

A cicada killer wasp lugging its paralyzed booty down into its dark hole to feed its children.

A beautifully colored rock at the side of the road which turns out to be a turtle gauging the traffic.

It’s hard not to walk back out without some sort of comical new tale: The League of Three-Legged Dogs, The Magically Appearing Boulder, A Proposal by Ambush Under the Bridge, The Return of the Birthday Ribbon Nest.

We watch how the storms and wind change the landscape, how the seasons do their slow inevitable work, the rotting and renewal. We are always reminded that time and place are inextricably woven together and that each morning we enter a park that is not the same park as yesterday.

The closer you look, the more you see.  The inside is always bigger than the outside. The door is right in front of our eyes.



Amy_Herrick_300dpi (1)
Amy Herrick is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Every morning, she and her dog take a long walk in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, looking for adventure. They’ve seen and heard many wondrous things there, some of which have served as inspiration for this story. The Time Fetch is her first book for young readers.

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September 16th, 2014

Book Spotlight: Fantasy League

Today I wanted to do a quick spotlight on Fantasy League by Mike Lupica. I’m always on the look out for good sport books and this one seems to fit the bill.

Twelve-year-old Charlie is a fantasy football guru. He may be just a bench warmer for his school’s football team, but when it comes to knowing and loving the game, he’s first-string. He even becomes a celebrity when his podcast gets noticed by a sports radio host, who plays Charlie’s fantasy picks for all of Los Angeles to hear. Soon Charlie befriends the elderly owner of the L.A. Bulldogs — a fictional NFL team — and convinces him to take a chance on an aging quarterback. After that, watch out . . . it’s press conferences and national fame as Charlie becomes a media curiosity and source of conflict for the Bulldogs general manager, whose job Charlie seems to have taken. It’s all a bit much for a kid just trying to stay on top of his grades and maintain his friendship with his verbal sparring partner, Anna.



I especially like the fact that while Charlie is a football guru, he’s not a player. I think that’s something a lot of kids can relate to. This one is for sure going on my TBR list as a possible book talk for my Dinner with Books program and May school visits.

Have you read Fantasy League? If so, be sure to leave a comment and tell me what you thought!



Mike Lupica has been called “the greatest sports writer for middle school readers.” He is the author of multiple bestselling books, including Heat, Travel Team, Million-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. As a sports columnist for New York’s Daily News, a host of his own show on ESPN Radio, and a weekly member of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, which is televised nationally, he has proven that he can write for and speak to sports fans of all ages and stripes. Mr. Lupica lives in Connecticut with his wife and four children.


September 15th, 2014

Book Spotlight: Chasers of the Light

Book Spotlight: Chasers of the Light

Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson
Publisher: Perigee Trade
Release Date: September 2014
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher

The epic made simple. The miracle in the mundane.

One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.

He fell in love.

Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of theTypewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.

I’ve been thinking about how to review this book all week and still I come up blank. The only thing I can say is go read it. Go read it now. Seriously, I’ll wait. Just go read it and come back later. It’s worth it I promise.

Don’t believe me? Well, you should. As an English Major, it should be no surprise that I have a secret love for poetry. When I got the chance to preview this book, I jumped on it. It had been a long time since I’ve just sat down and read a book of poems from cover to cover. Way too long to be honest. Also, I loved the idea of writing a poem without revisions, which was near impossible since he was doing them on a typewriter.

What I didn’t expect was how Chasers of Light affected me. It’s been a long time since poems have hit me straight to the core. And not just once. Over and over again. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture of all the poems I have marked.


Even one of my friends, who grabbed the book from my bag, had the same experience. Over and over she exclaimed at how perfect a poem was for her life. In fact, she already plans to buy her own copy because there were so many she liked. However, we both agreed that our favorite poem by far is



I wish I could put into words why book is so good, but I know it comes down to personal experience. A poem I may love may not be one you do. However, I will guarantee you there will be at least one poem that hits you like it did me. In fact, if you make it out with just one I’ll be highly surprised.

Be sure to buy Chasers of the Light  and check out more of Tyler’s poetry.

September 1st, 2014

Teen Book Club: And We Stay

And We StayAnd We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Release Date: Jan  2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press 

Pages: 240

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend, Emily Beam, and then takes his own life. Soon after, angry and guilt-ridden Emily is sent to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where two quirky fellow students and the spirit of Emily Dickinson offer helping hands. But it is up to Emily Beam to heal her own damaged self, to find the good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

Share, Skim, Shelve?
Sadly, this was a book that most of the group ended up not liking. There was some variety, but the ultimate breakdown came to 1 share, 1 skim, & 8 shelve.

What did you think of the poems? Helpful or hinderance?
Most of the teens really liked the poems. They thought it gave a nice insight into what was happening in Emily’s journey. A couple thought they were irrelevant, but still liked them anyway. And for a few, it was the only part they liked of the book.

If the time frame had been different would the story have changed? (Today vs. 1994/95)
They all agreed it would have been a much different story. Not only due to school shootings, but in technology. They also thought the aftermath would have been HUGELY different. Mainly that the story would have been all over the news and media would have been heavily involved in relaying what happened. None of them felt she could have escaped from her old life as easy as she did.

What did you think about the parallels between Emily Beam and Emily Dickinson?

Some really liked the parallels, especially when it came to the seclusion and the way Emily Beam mimicked Dickinson in order to heal. However, many thought they were way too similar and that they author was trying too hard.

What did you think about Paul and Emily’s relationship?

They all agreed it was a very abusive relationship. They felt like Paul peer pressured Emily into things she didn’t want to do. And that he was controlling, obsessive, clingy, and emotional unstable. The teens believed that Paul and Emily thought they loved each other, but it was obvious in the end that they didn’t.

What do you think of K.T.? Do you think her letting Emily know about her friend’s suicide would have helped?

Most of them thought that K.T. was the best character. However, they felt her character needed more and that she was a bit flat. They all agreed that it took a while to warm up to her as well. They weren’t sure if they could trust her at first. They also wished that she would have told Emily about her friend’s suicide much sooner. They believed it would have built a relationship where they connected more and would have helped Emily heal sooner.

Thoughts on Paul’s suicide?
The teens felt like this scene proved how unstable he was. However, they did not feel as if he planned it. With the discovery by the teacher, it was obvious he felt trapped and had nothing left. There was also some talk on it being more of an accident than suicide.

Do you think the story would have played out differently if Paul’s parents had known about the baby?
This was a resounding yes from all the teens. They believed it would have been much worse for Emily and that Paul’s parents would have had a reason to blame her for this death. However, it would have also given them a reason to watch Paul and maybe stop the shooting from ever happening. They also tossed around the thought they his parents may have stopped the abortion from every happening.

Do you think Emily’s poem will win the competition? Do you think if it’s published it will hurt or help Emily’s healing process?

The general thought was that Emily’s poem would win the competition. They were a bit torn on if it would hurt or help Emily and saw it more as a both thing than an either or. The teens thought it would help people fully understand what she was going through. On the other hand, it would hurt because everyone would indeed know and she may have to relive the experience the over and over again.

Memorable Scenes

  • They all thought the scene where she’s in Emily Dickinson’s house is very weird. I’m pretty sure they were all just like WTF!
  • They all loved the dinner she had with her roommate and their one teacher/house mother. They felt it showed Emily different and what she may have been like before/what she could be again once she healed.

Final thoughts

They all felt like this books description was rather misleading. When they read it was about a school shooting, they thought it would be more along the the lines of an actually lock-down school shooting type scenario and the aftermath of living through that traumatic experience. Instead, they got something that was much more quiet with less action. I do wonder if this preconceived idea didn’t make them like the book less than if they hadn’t known anything about it.


Program 4-1-1

  • When: April 24th, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • How Many Teens: 11 teens;  ranging from Grade 8 – 10
August 25th, 2014

Teen Book Club: Pawn

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion)
by Aimee Carter
Release Date: Nov 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 352

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.



Share it, Skim it, or Shelve it?

No hesitations about it, everyone said they’d share it. In fact, they wanted to know when book two came out and groaned when they heard it was the end of the year.

What do you think about the class system?  

There was a lot of discussion about this one. They all agreed it didn’t really work, especially since it only tested one type of intelligence. I started to push them a little on how it was really different from today. After all, things like SAT/ACTs and financial situation dictate what kind of colleges one gets into; and usually the better the college the better your job prospects. They agreed that it was more similar than one would think, but that we aren’t quite as restrictive as in the world in Pawn. After all, we still have the opportunity to pick what exact job we want to do and where we live.

Would you have taken the VII that Daxton offered?

The teens surprised me a bit with this one. They all said yes without a second thought. Even when I asked if they knew what it all entailed, they said they would have still done it. In their eyes, there was no other option. It was either get a bullet now or go for an adventure (and maybe get a bullet later).

What do you think about the masking process?

The thoughts on this one were kind of mixed. On one hand, it was pretty messed up and it felt like they were playing god. On the other hand, it was pretty cool technology wise that they could match appearances so closely. However, none of them understood why they couldn’t do the eye color. They felt it was a bit odd to be able to change everything else (height, foot size, voice, etc) but they hadn’t figured that out yet. They did bring up color contacts, but we thought maybe that would be too obvious to tell or the color was one that just couldn’t be matched.

What are your thoughts on Elsewhere?

For the most part they thought it was messed up. None of them were really too surprised by it. The teens had all figured that Elsewhere meant death, but they didn’t think it would be to that level. Although, I did have one teen who thought it would be a nice die-in-comfort place for the elderly. They agreed it was kind of wishful thinking on their part though.

Benjy or Knox?

There is a lot of mix emotions on this one. For the most part they felt like they could trust Benjy more, but as a character they thought he wasn’t needed. They felt like he was kind of “damsel in distress” where they felt like Kitty was rescuing/protecting him more often than not. They felt like his identity was too wrapped up in Kitty, especially since he was willing to give up everything to just to be with her. Some felt he was maybe too trustworthy and that he had his own secrets up his sleeve. They were all interested to see him fleshed out more in the upcoming books.

Knox they had a bit of harder time trusting. The teens were never quite sure whose side he was really on. They felt like he was looking out for Kitty, though, considering how many times he got her out of bad situations. As a character, they liked him WAY more and all agreed he’d be the one they’d want to have their backs in a fight.

I asked if they thought their was a love triangle happening and the general response was kind of. They didn’t think it was a full blown one yet, but there were definitely emotions brewing and could see it growing in the next book. There was a lot of discussion what would happen once they were married (if they married) and how they could see her leaning more towards Knox because of it.

What is your take on the Hart dynamics? Do you have a favorite member?

The word of the day for the Harts was fake, fake, fake. They thought the majority of them had major issues and needed help. The teens felt like the power had corrupted them into hateful and selfish people.

There were only two names thrown out in terms of favorites: Greyson and Celia. They thought Greyson was smart, but there were also a couple of comment on how they thought he was like a cute little puppy. They agreed he had his issues, but he was the most decent out of all his family members. Celia, on the other hand, they really liked because she could kick some major butt, however, none of them really trusted her.

What do you think of Lila?

None of them had a positive opinion of her. They thought she was a selfish, snotty brat. Although, consider her circumstances, they didn’t really blame her. They felt like her walls were to be expected, especially with all she has experienced. They still don’t trust her, but feel like there is a lot more to her that we’re not seeing.

What are your predictions?

They don’t see how Lila and Kitty could ever switch places again and that Kitty would be trapped much longer than should would like, maybe even forever. They didn’t think that Greyson would take the throne. In fact, they thought that Knox would be the one to likely take over the government. They felt this would usher in the change everyone was hoping for and that Daxton/Hart dynasty days were numbered.

Favorite scene?

  • Anything that involved Kitty climbing through the air vents. They loved what she was able to learn and that no one suspected she was up there because it was a small space.
  • As horrible as Elsewhere was, they thought the hunt in the woods was exciting. They loved the visuals it created.
  • The final face-off between Kitty and Augusta. Without giving anything away, they loved the intensity of the scene and how it ended.
  • The wake-up scene after Kitty has been masked.
  • The dance floor scene when Knox and Kitty share a kiss.
  • Daxton’s ultimatum: the bullet or a VII
  • Her first speech. They loved how passionate Kitty became during and after the speech. It was the first moment she realized how much a difference she could really make.


Program 4-1-1

  • When: February  27th, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • How Many Teens: 14 teens; 3 boys/11 girls ranging from Grade 8 – 10
  • Cost/Supplies: Gallon Ice Cream plus toppings: $0 (left over from previous months) Books: $172 (paid via friends money)