2016 "Write On!" 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Contest Winners!

Congratulations to the 2016 “Write On!” 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Contest Winners!

After an astounding 104 entries, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place stories were chosen from each grade, and the 2016 winners were announced at the Awards Celebration held on April 17th!

Come back soon to read this year’s short story submissions on the contest website!

Fabulous Fiction First #593 “Death never comes at the right time, despite what mortals believe. Death always comes like a thief.” ~ Christopher Pike

The A to Z of You and Me by debut author James Hannah will quickly bring to mind Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Ah, a tearjerker to be sure, but surprisingly beautiful and unflinchingly honest about the "raw unraveling of a life lived loud and hard."

Ivo, a 40 year-old diabetic with kidney failure, plans to spend his last days in hospice care quietly, and on his own terms. Having withdrawn from friends, and estranged from his sister Laura, lethargy takes over, if not for Sheila, his spunky and take-no-prisoners nurse.

At her urging, he plays the A to Z game - listing parts of his body from A to Z, and a memory associated with each: the terrible choices of his youth, friendships made and cracked, especially those of Mia, the love of his life.

For readers who enjoyed Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and its follow-up The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

Just-released is Charles Bock's Alice & Oliver * *, drawn from this award-winning author's (Beautiful Children, 2008) own experience. Listen to his interview with Terry Gross on NPR, where he talked about the devastating period in his life that eventually inspired this heart-breaking, page-turning, life-affirming novel about love, marriage, family, and fighting for your life.

* * = 2 starred reviews

The Hamiltome is Here!

Hamilton: The Revolution: Hamilton: The RevolutionHamilton: The Revolution: Hamilton: The RevolutionHamilton, the smash-hit Broadway hip-hop musical about Founding Father and America’s first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton (yes, you read that right), has taken the world by storm. Performances are sold out through the end of this year, and celebrities from Busta Rhymes to Madonna all the way up to Dick Cheney and the Obama family have raved about the show.

If you’ve been listening to the Broadway cast soundtrack non-stop since it came out, you probably already know all about Hamiltome, the nickname for the newest book about the musical. Many Broadway shows publish libretti with music, lyrics, and notes about the show, but Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and collaborator Jeremy McCarter have put together something more like a scrapbook. In addition to the traditional libretto, Hamilton: The Revolution features large color photos of the cast, set, and show; plus historical background information, interviews, and footnotes from Miranda and the cast. It was published this week, and you can place a hold on it from AADL!

If you just can’t wait for it, and need to dive deeper into Hamilton and his contemporaries, try one of these:

Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton tops the list of further Hamilton reading, and is in fact the inspiration for the musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda took this 800-page tome on vacation as some nice beach reading, connected with the plight and struggle of a man writing himself out of hard times, and started composing the musical when he got back from vacation. This is the definitive Hamilton biography, a vivid and detailed portrait of a multi-dimensional man who came to a new country and made himself a new man.

Hamilton wrote prolifically, and there’s no better way to understand that than by picking up the 1108-page collection of his writings, which includes letters, speeches, the infamous Reynolds Pamphlet, and all 51 of the Federalist Papers he authored. Flip through, and you might even notice some lines from his actual writing that became lyrics in the show. Be certain to read some of the affectionate letters he wrote to his wife Eliza and the series of letters with Aaron Burr that led to their fateful duel.

After the duel, Aaron Burr would often casually refer to Alexander Hamilton as “my friend Alexander Hamilton, whom I shot.” They were, at the very least, colleagues, and even worked together as attorneys for the defense in America’s first sensational and fully transcribed murder trial. Duel with the Devil, by Paul Collins, shares the scandal of the Manhattan Well Mystery and the trial of suspect Levi Weeks, plus some of the political backstory of the two legendary rivals.

Don’t throw away your shot to learn more about this Founding Father’s fascinating life and career. Placing a hold on one of these books is easy, waiting for it is harder.

Fabulous Fiction First #592

Spill Simmer Falter Wither * * by Sara Baume, the winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature; short-listed for the Costa First Novel Award; and also a March 2016 Indie Next Pick, is praised as "unbearably poignant and beautifully told... (a) captivating story follows, over the course of four seasons (echoed in the title), a misfit man who adopts a misfit dog."

57 year-old Ray lives alone at the edge of the Irish sea. Once a week on Tuesdays, he goes into the village for supplies, and it is on one of these trips in the spring that he saw a notice about a dog up for adoption. With a back story equally heartbreaking, Ray and One-Eye (injured severely while badger baiting), forge an unlikely connection.

With each other as company, they venture out and explore their surroundings, and their small, seaside town suddenly takes note of them. A mishap on the beach brings the dog warden to their door. Desperately and ill-prepared, the pair takes to the road as autumn turns into winter.

"Fans of Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain (2008) will adore this glimpse inside a very unusual relationship between two very unusual creatures."

Suggested read-alikes: Mirian Toews' All My Puny Sorrows - "rich with deep human feeling and compassion..., (where) observations are knife-sharp"; and All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld, the story of an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary turns 100 years old today! Her books have been adored by many for decades and she has left quite a mark on children’s literature. Her first book was published in 1950, and her first book about the Quimbys, Beezus and Ramona, was published in 1955.

Popular books include Henry and Ribsy, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Ramona the Pest, and Dear Mr. Henshaw, which won Cleary a Newbery Medal in 1984. I remember devouring these books as a child, and they definitely boosted my interest in reading.

What are you or your child’s favorites?

Meet “It’s All Write!” 2016 Judge #5: Kevin Emerson!

Kevin Emerson is the author of twelve novels, including the Exile series books: Exile, Encore to an Empty Room and the series conclusion, coming in August 2016, Finding Abby Road.

School Library Journal declared that Emerson's Atlanteans series, "...reads like a combination of Star Trek, Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games... The plot twists around like a vine, blending mythology, technology, pandemics, violence, and excitement."

Kevin Emerson is a singer, drummer, and guitarist and has played in bands since high school. He has toured across the country and in Europe and the UK and now lives in Seattle, one of the best music cities in the world. Learn more about Kevin on his blog and stay tuned for more information about the 2016 “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest Judges!

Concussion on DVD & Blu-ray

The dramatic film Concussion is based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a brilliant forensic neuropathologist who first discovered CTE, football-related brain trauma, in pro players. He ends up head to head with the NFL fighting for them to admit this is a problem, while players continue to die due to side effects of long term football-related head trauma.

Will Smith wonderfully portrays Omalu with one of his best performances yet, and Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks offer amazing supporting roles. I’m not so much into football or football films but I really enjoyed the story and the look and feel of this powerful film. It really makes you think of how as humans we can make such a difference in the lives of others. There is also a movie tie-in book with the same title.

New Tolkien Book!

It is a marvel that a tale spun simply as a writing exercise, and certainly left unfinished (the ending is a series of notes, and several sentences have alternative phrasing in the drafts), emerges nonetheless as an emotionally captivating, and deftly woven, if simple, fiction. But, what else would you expect from John Ronald Reuel Tolkien? Tolkien’s previously unknown work, The Story of Kullervo, follows Kullervo's tragic life from his young enslavement in captivity, to a self-provoked curse which incurs his Oedipus-like demise. Laced with magic throughout, including a magic dagger, this was the foreground for Tolkien's Middle Earth, with its protagonist as the fore-runner of Túrin Turambar. This brand new publication includes images of Tolkien’s original drafts, as well as two essays he wrote on the myth that inspired his creation—the Finnish Kalevala. Though an accessible read for anyone, those who have read the Silmarillion, and/or are interested in Tolkien’s process as a writer will be especially fascinated. For those interested in Tolkien but intimidated by his lengthy prose, this very short story offers a pleasurable introduction to his writing voice. A provocative tale tugging at questions of fate and personal responsibility, Kullervo may break your heart, and will certainly transport you to another reality.

Matisse’s Garden

This gorgeous picture book features reproductions of artworks by French artist Henri Matisse. Matisse’s Garden tells how he began cutting paper shapes and how his process evolved into large scale works of art that are so recognizable today. It beautifully captures the essence of the color, pattern, and shapes in his work. It’s a beautiful book for art admirers of all ages. I also recommend Henri’s Scissors, and if you want more perhaps you’ll enjoy these other books on Matisse.

New Adult Fiction: The Ramblers

There are times in our lives to travel a straight line. And then there are times to ramble, to explore what might be as we accept what is.

The Ramblers, the brand new novel by Aidan Rowley, is being hailed as “exquisite.” Taking place over one fateful week during Thanksgiving, the book follows three friends whose lives change profoundly in this short period. Clio Marsh had a difficult childhood, and uses her hobby of quiet birdwatching in Central Park to escape. After years of avoiding her memories, she is only now beginning to take the first tentative steps out of her shell. Smith Anderson, the privileged daughter of a wealthy New York family, makes her living organizing the lives of others, despite the fact that her life is in shambles after a broken engagement and the anxiety caused by her sister’s society wedding. Tate Pennington has returned to New York City after working in the West Coast tech world, licking his wounds after an imploded marriage and determined to pursue his artistic dreams.

As the trio’s lives intersect and they sort through their daily trials and tribulations, they learn the valuable lesson of letting go of the past to make room for the future. Reads the book jacket: “Part love letter to New York City, part tour through the wilderness of the human heart and mind, [The Ramblers] asks, ‘Maybe that is the point after all? To be lost?’”

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