Meet “It’s All Write!” Judge #11: Ben Stroud

Are you ready to hear about the last author to round out the entire team of this year’s judges? Introducing: Ben Stroud!

Ben Stroud recently published his first book, Byzantium, in 2013. He is best known for writing literary short stories, as featured in several anthologies, Harper’s Magazine, Boston Review, and The Literary Review. He has lived in Texas and Ann Arbor, and currently teaches creative writing at the University of Toledo. In an interview with One Story, he gave the following advice to other writers: “There’s so much we can’t control as writers, no matter what stage we’re at…We can sit down, we can work, we can write our stories. If we remember that, and remember why we started doing this in the first place—not for all those other things but for that magical feeling of stringing words together into a story—then the rest will take care of itself.”

Stay tuned for more information about the “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest and the upcoming Awards Ceremony on Saturday, May 10!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #454 - “those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers...” ~ Anna Quindlen

Leaving home for the first time armed with a prestigious scholarship (Art History) at Columbia, 23 yr.-old Brit Esme Garland is dazzled by Manhattan and smitten with the attention of Mitchell van Leuven, a gorgeous, wealthy, blue-blooded New Yorker with an appetite for all things erotic. He abruptly ends their short fling before Esme could tell him she is pregnant.

Determined to get through this on her own, Esme takes a job in a secondhand bookstore on Broadway, a gathering place for the eccentric, who watch over her through her pregnancy - from the laconic owner to the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. Together they must struggle for the survival of the store in the challenging retail slum.

The Bookstore * by first time novelist Deborah Meyler is a "sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giv­ing up on your dreams... sheer enchantment from start to finish."

"Above all, it's about the love of books. A deeply satisfying novel you will keep close to your heart, written in a style by turns witty and poetic."

Award-winning author Gabrielle Zevin gives us "(a) likable literary love story about selling books and finding love" in The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry * (More in a recent NPR interview).

A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) off the coast of MA, is going through a tough spot: he lost his wife in a car accident, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, until an unlocked door brings the most astonishing gift, and a young publisher's rep. offers him the chance to make his life over.

The Storied Life is about "a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving.” It also tops the April LibraryReads list of the Top Ten Books that Librarians Across the Country Love.

Sarah Jio's Goodnight, June imagines the inspiration behind Goodnight Moon, a beloved classic among generations of young readers.

June Anderson, a successful NY financier is lonely and unhappy in her personal life. She is unexpectedly called home to Seattle, to settle her great-aunt Ruby's estate and to dispose of Bluebird Books - the children's bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store's papers, June stumbles upon letters between Ruby and the late Margaret Wise Brown, and that Brown not only visited the bookstore, but Ruby had in fact, inspired Goodnight Moon.

When June receives notice the shop is within days of foreclosure, she has a change of heart. In her rally to save the bookstore, June learns an important lesson about acceptance and forgiveness.

* = starred review

Multicultural Chapter Books: The Alvin Ho Collection

Second-grader Alvin Ho loves playing the brave Firecracker Man at home but at school he is too afraid to say a word. In fact, Alvin is afraid of many things but faces fear after fear in the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look. In the first book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, Alvin worries about making friends at school. In its sequel Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters, Alvin and his family get ready for Alvin’s first camping trip. Not only are these books delightfully funny, but the situations are very relatable. The audiobook is a particular treat, narrated by child actor Everette Plen who brings a fantastic youthful energy to these stories.

I think my favorite thing about the Alvin Ho series,though, is their celebration of multiculturalism. Alvin’s close-knit Chinese-American family includes a father who spouts Shakespearean insults and a grandfather who sews, and Alvin’s growing friendship with classmate Flea offers a wonderful message about accepting friends who are different from us.

The series continues with Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-made Catastrophes; Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances; and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in The Night. More books in the series are also available as audiobooks.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #453 - "Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies" ~ Jane Austen

The Zodiac Deception * by award-winning reporter for the New York Times Gary Kriss is a fast-paced WWII espionage thriller. "Crisp prose and a well-structured storyline" also makes it entertaining.

June 1942, Princeton professor David Walker didn't exactly volunteer, but OSS chief Wild Bill Donovan convinced him posing as German astrologer Peter Kepler was the only option other than prison, considering his checkered past. Walker's mission: rely on his skills learned as a protégé of both Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, to use illusion, sleight of hand and deception to gain Heinrich Himmler's trust and persuade him to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

From Berlin to Paris to Cairo; from Hitler's Eagle Nest to Himmler's occult Wewelsburg Castle, Walker walked a tightrope of deceit, navigating impossible challenges. To further complicate the mission, he fell in love with a maker of Nazi propaganda films and must rescue her from Paris' labyrinth underground sewers.

"Gary Kriss's The Zodiac Deception is a memorable debut, an unforgettable thrill ride through the dark heart of World War II Germany." A sequel is in the works. Stay tuned.

David Downing, author of the John Russell espionage series set in WWII Berlin, begins a new series with Jack of Spies, set on the eve of the First World War.

It is 1913, Jack McColl, a globe-trotting Scottish car salesman with an uncanny ear for languages, travels from city to great city trying to sell his company's luxury car, the Maia, while collecting intelligence for His Majesty's Navy. As the world tumbles towards war, his spy duties intensify along with danger quotient.

Meanwhile, a sharp, vivacious American suffragette journalist has wiled her way deep into his affections whose family may be involved in a plot against the British, putting him in the impossible position to choose between love and country.

"(F)ull of rich historical and cultural details", both of these FFFs would appeal to fans of Alan Furst, Philip Kerr; and Kate Mosse's latest Citadel (2014), where a group of WWII French Resistance women fighters risk everything to protect astonishing secrets buried in a village nestled deep in the Pyrenees.

* = starred review

Picturebook Picks: The Shape of My Heart

The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sherring is a delightful, colorful picturebook that is perfect for reading aloud. Sherring takes the readers on a journey to discover all of the wonderful, beautiful shapes that we see in our everyday life. From the shapes of our eyes to the sun, from the shapes of the zoo to our hearts, this is a heartwarming book that is perfect for engaging in seek-and-find - “Where is the duck?” - play. The illustrations, colorful and bright, are a collage of animals, shapes, and objects that children will immediately recognize. In addition, these amazing illustrations are brought to life with added sound effects, from chirps to squeaks! Children will fall in love with the high level of interaction this every-color-of-the-rainbow book has to offer.

PreK BITS - Bunny Money

Ms. Rachel celebrated the letter B in Preschool storytime.
"B" is for birthdays and Bunnies and Balloons and the song that has the phrase ... "Bring Back my Bonnie (Bunny?) to me."

BUNNY MONEY is a Max and Ruby story about buying a birthday present for Grandma.
More Max & Ruby stories can be watched on the DVD RAINY DAY PLAY.
Max & Ruby, sibling rabbits, ... are favorite Bunny characters of Rosemary Wells.

FAVORITE Birthday stories are below:
MR RABBIT And The LOVELY PRESENT is a Classic by Charlotte Zolotow.
WHAT A PARTY! by Anna Maria Machado
BIRTHDAY PRESENTS is a Classic by Cynthia Rylant
HAVING A PARTY WITH LILY And MILO by Pauline Oud
The BIG RED LOLLIPOP by Rukhsana Khan
EVEN MORE Birthday Stories can be found in this link.

"Happy Birthday anytime !!"
Just blow out the candles =)

Teen Fiction Picks: How My Summer Went up in Flames

How My Summer Went up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is about a girl named Rosie whose summer is not off to a great start. Her boyfriend cheats on her, resulting in her accidentally setting his car on fire when she tries to burn a box (full of all of the mementos he has ever given her during their nine-month relationship) in his driveway. This results in a temporary restraining order. Naturally, Rosie is depressed and still hung up on her ex. As a result, her parents get the bright idea of sending her out on a road trip with her nerdy best friend Matty and two of his equally-nerdy friends who are all obsessed with Star Wars. Despite Matty’s friends’ interests, Rosie starts to think that tagging along on this roadtrip might not be so bad afterall, as a new budding romance starts to take shape…

In this hilarious coming-of-age story, Rosie is obsessed with her ex-boyfriend, who despite being a terrible human being for cheating on her, is still the object of her affection. She’s just so caught up in their romance that she feels lost after their break-up. Fortunately, Rosie is a smart girl with lots of spark, and throughout the roadtrip, her eyes open and she comes to know herself better, regaining the strength and self-confidence she needs to get over this relationship.

Six Days Left to Enter the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge!

There are only SIX DAYS left to enter the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge!

If you think you've already made up your mind, just think of how bored you will be without this challenge. After doing a poll* of kids in the United States, kids report they did the following things instead of entering the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge:

1. Twiddled their thumbs
2. Stared at the ceiling
3. Ate that gross thing on the floor
4. Flipped a pencil so it became "rubber"
5. Sang car alarm sounds
6. Tried to lick their elbows

But think of all the incredible reasons to enter the SUPER AMAZING SHORT STORY CHALLENGE for which you could possibly receive an INSANELY COOL PRIZE! Here are the top six reasons you should enter the Short Story Challenge**:

1. Writing is fun!
2. You have an entire six days! That's almost a whole week.
3. At the awards celebration you can meet a real professional author!
4. The awards celebration will also have cookies.
5. If you give permission, your story could be published on the AADL website!
6. You could win one of 6 AWESOME prizes!

Visit the Short Story Challenge page for more information, and email youngwrite@aadl.org with submissions or questions!

*this poll was not done using the scientific method, or any reliable sources.
**no puppies were harmed while making this list

Meet “It’s All Write!” Judge #10: Douglas Trevor

Douglas Trevor has been writing throughout his entire life. As a child, Douglas Trevor wrote stories about a caveman named Cowwow Bowwow and has since achieved great success as an author and professor.
Trevor’s short stories have appeared in several publications, including Fugue, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Paris Review. He is best known for his work of short stories, A Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space, which received the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He recently published Girls I Know, his first novel.

Trevor currently teaches creative writing and poetry at the University of Michigan, and resides in Ann Arbor. He is a fan of the Denver Broncos, Joyce’s Dubliners, and studied in France.

Stay tuned to find out who is the 11th and final judge for to the “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #452

Delicious! * is absolutely irresistible if you are a Ruth Reichl fan. The former New York Times restaurant critic, Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief, and bestselling author of culinary memoirs is turning to fiction (some would say rather semi-autobiographical?) for the first time, and the result is "a magical novel... that draws brilliantly on her wisdom and humor about life, her perceptiveness about family, her understanding of character, her belief in romance, and ... her description of food, so vivid you can taste every bite".

My advice: Do not attempt on an empty stomach!

College drop-out Billie Breslin lands the dream job at Delicious!, New York's most iconic food magazine. She has no culinary skills to recommend her but a "superhuman palate" (she can taste any dish and list its ingredients and suggest the flavors it needs) which endears her to the colorful staff at the magazine, as well as customers at the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends.

When Delicious! is abruptly shut down, Billie stays on in the empty office to maintaining the hotline for reader complaints, one of which leads her to a cache of letters hidden in the magazine's library, written during WWII by a Lulu Swan to the legendary chef James Beard.

This discovery leads to more clues (in the card catalog!!), a road trip, a forged connection, a glamor-makeover; and gives her the courage to face her fears, and be open to romantic possibilities.

"Reichl's... insider's look at life at a food magazine is fascinating. Her satisfying coming-of-age novel of love and loss vividly demonstrates the power of food to connect people across cultures and generations."

Also included are: A Conversation Between Ann Patchett and Ruth Reichl, and Billie's Gingerbread recipe.

* = starred review

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