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Mad For Middle Grade: Watch Your Language!

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Hey–guess what. It’s MIDDLE GRADE MARCH MADNESS! Which works out perfectly because we have three amazing March releases:

HopeIs

HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
by Robin Herrera
Release date: March 11
Goodreads

UnderTheEgg

UNDER THE EGG
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Release date: March 18
Goodreads

caminar

CAMINAR
by Skila Brown
Release date: March 25
Goodreads

Congratulations Robin, Laura, and Skila on your fantastic releases! May your books nestle into the hearts of young readers everywhere!

HOLY RAVIOLI!

This month we are discussing language in middle grade–from colorful swears to slang to made up words to integrating foreign language to how to use particular words to construct a voice. Read on as we spill our secrets about how word choice can affect the setting and characters.

Question: How do you handle language in middle grade, and what tips do you have about using word choice effectively? How does your use of language create a particular voice?

Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Characters define themselves by the words theBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copyy use, and if those words don’t ring true, you’ve lost your reader. To put it in a proverb: “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” When I compose a first draft, it’s nearly all dialogue with no description, because that’s how I discover who my characters want to be.
By the Grace of Todd has four viewpoint characters, and several other main characters, all with distinctly different voices. I relied on using catch phrases and varied sentence structure to keep the voices unique from each other: Duddy says “Dude!” a lot, Lucy “mmm hmms” and “yannos,” Todd likes “holy frijoles,” Lewis the Toddlian speaks very formally, like C3PO, and Persephone, the cowgirl Toddlian talks like a character in a Louis L’Amour novel, using such phrases as, “yer jest a sorry sack o’ taters.” To keep consistency of voice, I wrote the different POV chapters out of order. It was important to me that the kid characters sounded authentic, because that makes the fantasy elements more believable and fun.

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Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan

In writing THE LOST PLANET, I didn’t make aTHE LOST PLANETny changes to the complexity of the sentence structure or vocabulary just because it was middle grade–I wrote the way I would write for any age. Because it’s science fiction, there are a few made-up terms like “annirad” blasters and colorful exclamations like “What on Hesta’s seven suns?”, but their meaning is apparent in the context, and I tried to never overexplain anything. Because I personally find that science fiction with a boatload of made-up words and slang gets a bit inaccessible to the average reader, I intentionally kept those expressions to a minimum. Even my main character names are straightforward, 21st century names–sure, those probably won’t be average names in the future, but I find it makes the characters more easily relatable. Besides, if I waste good weird names like Zap and Xaphlod on my Earthan boys, how will I distinguish my aliens?

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

18769364I love words. I love long words, slippery words, and — a writer’s favorite — words that I can use perfectly but have no idea how to pronounce. I also love swears! But when writing Middle Grade I had to rein in both tendencies and make sure that the language worked for four Fletcher brothers. With four narrators is that word choices really changed depending on whose head we’re in. Eli, who has a real fascination for science, explains things precisely. Jax is more prone to hyperbole, while Sam, the eldest, uses the most slang. And of course Frog, who is only six, speaks largely in exclamation points. When you’re the youngest, I guess you need to be loud to be heard!

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Talking about language in MG? Yes!

One thing I love is when authors use sophisticated lHookCover_frontonly_72anguage and advanced vocabulary. I’m not talking about overwriting or purple prose, but rather, not shying away from complex sentence structure and/or less familiar words. (Lemony Snicket does this well.)

I think most MG readers are able to pick up on contextual clues to figure out what something means. If not, there’s always the dictionary—which I must admit to using myself for the word “perfidy” in Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux.

I think the key to making more difficult language accessible is to write with a strong, engaging voice that will carry the reader through the unfamiliar parts.

But that’s easy, right? RIGHT?

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

Language! Playground. Arsenal. Paintbox. 51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Box of Shrimp Chocolates. First-Aid Kit. Third Rail. Last Resort of Humans Separated by Skin Sacks. Growing up I fell in love with the serpentine, multi-claused language of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, L. M. Montgomery and E. Nesbit. I liked and like my narration packed with asides, double-backs and unexpected passage-ways — pockets to hold the comic perspective in the tragic sentence, and the tragic perspective in the comic one.  I assume there are kids alive today who also delight in such rich mazes.

Because The Ninja Librarians is an adventure fantasy which had to, if not hurtle forward, at least move smartly in that general direction, I (and my suffering editor!) had to pick and choose when the story could afford my natural er…excesses. Despite our best efforts, I think my incorrigible impulse to force readers to cuddle/ lick the kitten/crowbar shapes/tastes of words, remains detectable. Forgive me, Hemingway Youth Guild members!

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Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

I love a good, juicy, breathless,51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ careening run-on sentence. I also love when people get to the point. Writing QUINNY & HOPPER in two first-person POVs let me indulge both linguistic loves.

Quinny is a Tae Kwon Do green belt, expert tap dancer, beginner accordion player — and the life of any party.  Relentlessly sociable and often hot-tempered, she has trouble using her “indoor voice” and her engine’s got one speed: very, very, extra-very fast.

Hopper is a gifted artist and budding scientist who’s deeply curious about people – but from a distance.  He’s happiest holed up in his room, sketching, reading or juggling. He thinks Quinny talks too much, but he’s mesmerized by all the words in her mouth.

Dual first-person narratives are tough to pull off, especially in characters this young (rising 3rd graders – yikes!). But, being a Gemini, I went for it.

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Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

When I was writing CUPCAKE COUSINS, I wanted to capture the spirit of books that I think have a certain timelessness. Elizabeth Enright’s GONE AWAY LAKE, Jeanne Birdsall’s THE PENDERWICKS. Both features kids running around in the summertime enjoying the simple pleasures of being a kid. So while my book is clearly contemporary – one of them goes to zoo camp each summer! – I was deliberate in my references and language in not going for up-to-the-minute trendiness.

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Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

For me, language in middle grade is the 20518878same as language in any novel. It’s best when it reflects the character’s personality, background and setting. Setting? Yes, language can enrich your setting. Here are some examples from my novel SPIRIT’S KEY which takes place on an island.

“Nector grins wider than a clam at high tide.”
“Luck of the oyster crab has abandoned me today.”
“Last one there is a rotten jellyfish.”
“Son of a sand fiddler!”

My main character Spirit uses ocean references because she lives on an island and is deeply connected to her home. Her place on the island is one of the book’s biggest themes. Whooping wowzers! Language can convey everything.

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

One thing I’m really conscious about ATYOURSERVICEis using language and phrasing to try to give another level of insight into my characters.  My opening line of AT YOUR SERVICE (which is: Oh! Holy! Yikes!) is a phrasing I made up just for Chloe and hopefully shows her tween voice well. But I also tried hard to show how much a part of her New York City (her hometown) is, by choosing similes that refer to it whenever possible. When she has a crush on the boy she describes his eyes as “the same navy as the Hudson River before it storms” and she blushes “the bright red color of the TKTS booth” in Times Square. It was a very deliberate decision that also was a ton of fun to write. My favorite is when she describes her feeling of “ugh- this is too much to handle at once” as being like “walking to school in February and having to go down a half block from the crosswalk to avoid the puddles of slushy, sooty, melting ice puddles and then stepping off the curb only to land in the dog poop someone didn’t scoop AND getting sprayed by a taxi driving too close to the side of the road.” As much as I love visiting New York myself, there ARE some times the city turns on you. 🙂

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

When you’re writing a book with aAllFourStars large cast, one of the biggest challenges can be making sure that your characters don’t all sound the same. One trick that sometimes helps me with this is to give a character a sort of “catch-word,” which they use when they’re feeling strongly about something. For instance, in ALL FOUR STARS, Sandy pronounces things “excellent” a lot, and Charissa (kinda like this author) overuses the word “awesome.” Meanwhile, our heroine Gladys—who tends to face disaster more often than her friends do—relies heavily on the middle-grade-friendly (and cooking-related!) expletive “Fudge!”

One word may not sound like much of a start, but I’ve found that it can serve as a gateway into a character’s entire speech pattern.

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Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

When I was includingcaminar Spanish words and phrases in Caminar, I had to think about how to let a reader know what each phrase meant. Sometimes I included the English translation right after that. Sometimes I relied on context clues. Other times I just allowed that the word was similar enough to an English cognate that even the youngest reader would figure it out. My editor suggested adding a glossary at the end of the book—a great idea. But definitely the hardest part was coming up with a pronunciation guide. It’s hard to explain the sounds of one language using only the sounds of another to do so. I don’t envy the writers of language dictionaries!

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

In WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE, IWhen Audrey Met Alice final cover had two very different voices to work with: a contemporary first daughter, Audrey, and a historical one, Alice. I had so much fun figuring out how Audrey would use language—she mentions a lot of names and acronyms, such as her Secret Service code name, “Tink,” acronyms like POTUS, and other nicknames based on her family’s political roles, like “First Gent” and “Fido.” Alice’s voice was a little trickier—I really wanted to make sure her diary entries were realistic. Hopefully, her voice is believable as that of a seventeen-year-old in the early 1900s. I’m sure I’ve included a few anachronistic words here and there, even though I did rely heavily on an online etymology dictionary and other resources to see when terms came into use! But I also wanted Alice’s words to flow nicely and stay accessible for young readers today.

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

I’ve read a lot of craft books that advise HopeIsagainst using any sort of slang. They specifically tell you that slang is a bad way to date your novel. But does anyone read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and think about how dated the slang is? NO!  

Anyway, my one golden piece of advice on slang is to use it consistently. Yes, your book will sound dated if you have a character blurt out hot slang words a couple times. That’s not how kids talk! And a lot of kids don’t even use known slang, they make up their own. (Which is what I like to do!) Stellar example: just started reading Ryan Gebhart’s There Will Be Bears, where the main character, Tyson, uses the word “yamhole.” I love it! The meaning hasn’t even been explained yet, but contextually it’s easy to figure out, and it gives you insight to Tyson’s personality. (It helps that Tyson doesn’t just say it once.) Whatever you do with slang, be consistent! Don’t be slangin’ all over the place or it will ring false.

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What do you think are the distinguishing factors in language for middle grade readers? Is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month? Let us know in the comments!

Happy springtime! See you again on Monday April 7th.

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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When We Say YA: Books We Loved as Teens

Welcome to When We Say YA! Every month, the OneFour YA authors get together to talk about everything related to young adult lit. February is all about love, so this month’s question is:

What were your most loved books from your own teen years?

Harry Potter, for sure. I fall into that beautiful age category where I discovered the first book at nine or ten, and so basically grew up along with the series.
Corinne Duyvis, OTHERBOUND

As a teen, I was crazy about old poetry. Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings, Gerard Manly Hopkins, John Donne, Langston Hughes. All the dead (mostly white) guys.
I didn’t necessarily understand their poems in the normal way of “understanding” something, but I don’t think the normal way of understanding is what poetry is about. It’s definitely not what love is about–and I was out-of-my-gourd in love.
I still have my dad’s old paperback copy of Wallace Steven’s The Palm at the End of the Mind. The spine is busted and it’s held together with a rubber band, but that book is one of my absolute favorite things. There are little pencil-mark stars beside the poems I kept going back to. And they’re the poems I return to, even now.
Mary Crockett, DREAM BOY

High School Jess went through a bit of a Jane Austen phase after the release of Clueless and the Sense and Sensibility movie starring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. I must have read Emma and Sense and Sensibility a zillion times.
I was also desperately in love with The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I don’t think I fully understood it, but it still spoke to me in a way no other book had managed to.
Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL

I was a big Christopher Pike fan. I loved how messy his characters were. None of them were 100% angelic, nor two-dimensionally evil. I think I read almost every single one. I still have a stained, yellowing paperback of Remember Me on my shelf. But I also read a ton of scifi and fantasy. Andre Norton, Ray Bradbury, David Eddings, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, Anne McCaffrey. In fact, the first series of books that launched me into my obsession of reading was The Secret of the Unicorn Queen series. I freaking loved those books.
Mary Elizabeth Summer, TRUST ME, I’M LYING

Harry Potter all the way. Also His Dark Materials and the Farsala trilogy by Hilari Bell.
Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION

Soooo much Sweet Valley – High, Senior Year, University…all of it. Of all the books I had to read for school, I’d say SONG OF SOLOMON by Toni Morrison was my favorite. So good.
Dahlia Adler, BEHIND THE SCENES

I’m with you, Dahlia. I devoured every Sweet Valley High book I could get my hands on. I also really enjoyed my older sister’s Nancy Drew books.
Michelle Krys, HEXED

I don’t remember reading much that was specifically YA, though there was this one called AS THE WALTZ WAS ENDING about a girl living through Nazi Germany as a member of the German Ballet. I read a lot of thrillers, especially by David Morrell and Dean Koontz. And then when I took AP English, I was in love with THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, anything by Toni Morrison, and CATCH-22.
Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST

I was really into Isabel Allende and John Steinbeck in high school and into college -not sure what the connection is there. Going back a little further I loved Narnia, The Alanna series by Tamora Pierce and The Bridge to Terabithia!
Sashi Kaufman, THE OTHER WAY AROUND

The book that stands out for me as my true love during high school was Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I remember being amazed at finding a character that was allowed to be with her pain and anger, even when she didn’t fully understand it. It spoke to me in a powerful way. I also loved Forever… we all knew the page of the sex scene by heart.
Kinda jealous of those of you young enough to have enjoyed Harry Potter as kids. I actually avoided it until book 7 was about to be released (I avoid “the pack”). Finally, my high school English teacher (with whom is stayed friends), convinced me to give it a chance. Wow. Inhaled them all during a blissful two-week period. Fully immersed in that world. Heaven. Or, better. Hogwarts.
Maria Andreu, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY

For me it was Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. They were slightly racy, filled with animals, intrigue, and romance! I also loved the southern classics like Gone With the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird.
Jaye Robin Brown, NO PLACE TO FALL

I was on team Harry Potter as well. One of my favorite reading memories was diving into the first three books over the course of about four days in early November of my sophomore year. (Fall leaves, cloudy skies, cozy reading.) I was also really into Francesca Lia Block, Tamora Pierce, Cyrano de Bergerac, and stories from Seventeen Magazine.
Annie Cardi, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN

As a fantasy geek, I was deeply, obsessively in love with Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, and I also grew up with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series–which only recently ended! (The latter was a very lengthy love affair.)
AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

The Hobbit was a book that I still continue to draw inspiration from. Also The Giver, which was the beginning of my love for dystopian (or utopian, I suppose). The Dragonriders of Pern series was a beloved favorite as well, and I devoured every Fear Street book I could find from R.L. Stine.
–Lori M. Lee, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

I read and reread the Belgariad, Mallorean, Elenium and Tamuli sagas by David and Leah Eddings constantly during my teens – it’s what started my love for the fantasy series. This was also around the time I discovered Shirley Jackson and Mervyn Peake (the Gormenghast series was nothing like I’d ever read before then).
Rin Chupeco, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

If Mercedes Lackey wrote it, I read it. I fancied myself one of her Heralds of Valdemar in another life. If Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it, I read it. I suppose I also fancied myself an explorer of worlds and societies. Neither of these has changed very much.
Natalie C. Parker, BEWARE THE WILD

CARRIE, FIRESTARTER, IT, THE STAND: Stephen King was my favorite author when I was a teen (and also a pre-teen, and also an adult). I also loved all the V.C. Andrews books (don’t judge). THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton was another favorite. Stay gold, Ponyboy.
Clara Kensie, RUN TO YOU

I’m going to second THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, especially the story THE SWEETHEART OF THE SONG TRA BONG which I re-read almost every year. I also remember reading THE BLUEST EYE by Toni Morrison in school and just being blown away by how gorgeous and raw it was.
Also, a lot of romance novels. So many romance novels.
Elissa Sussman, STRAY

As a Jersey girl, I loved, loved LOVED Judy Blume. (Although I know she has a much wider audience than New Jersey, I still like to claim her!) Her stories were so relatable to me and I definitely credit her books with inspiring me to write stories that readers connect to. I was forbidden to read FOREVER, so that only made it that much more appealing (sorry, Mom!). For me, that book was a safe place to live out the highs and lows of first love without experiencing collateral damage!
Robin Constantine, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING

The classics! Jane Eyre, all of the Jane Austen books, the Scarlet Pimpernel, C.S. Lewis and of course all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.
Christy Farley, GILDED

I loved J. D. Salinger, particularly Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, and anything Hemingway. My parents passed the super sentimental poetry of Edgar Guest back and forth when my father was stationed overseas and that was my doorway into the love of poetry. W. H. Auden, e.e. cummings and Ogden Nash were a few of my early favorites but the list is long.
Linda Phillips, CRAZY

Roots by Alex Haley was a book I decided to read for my freshman English class because I had to prove to my friend that I could read a longer book than she could in the allocated three weeks. But that book stayed with me. Still does. It was a very personal journey into mistreatment and injustice; I could not get over the harsh living conditions the characters in the book had to endure.
Chris Struyk-Bonn, WHISPER

What books are/were your favorites as a teen? Share them in the comments!

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.
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Mad For Middle Grade: Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue…

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Brrrrrrrr, it’s cold outside! And what better way to stay all warm and cozy than with a cute, snuggly middle grade book? Check out our newly minted February releases:

When Audrey Met Alice final cover

WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
by Rebecca Behrens
Release date: February 4
Goodreads

MoonSaid

WHAT THE MOON SAID
by Gayle Rosengren
Release date: February 20
Goodreads

ByTheGrace

BY THE GRACE OF TODD
by Louise Galveston
Release date: February 27
Goodreads

Three cheers for Rebecca, Gayle, and Louise! And be sure to check out these delightful debuts, dear reader!!!

And now, for this week’s topic:

ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WE LOVE MIDDLE GRADE
WOO WOO WOO

If you haven’t guessed, we’re gearing up for Valentine’s Day! …which mean’s we’re going to discuss LOVE! (Ewwwww cooties.) But not just romantic love–all types of love in our middle grade novels!

Question: What four things does your main character love?

caminarSkila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Carlos loves playing soccer and earning money, especially when he skips school to do so. He also loves his mama. (Because every good boy should.)  But most of all, he loves his village, though he doesn’t realize just how much until he’s on his own.

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Edith Cohn
20518878SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

More than anything in the world Spirit Holden loves her dog Sky. But he mysteriously died and washed ashore on a sand dune. Sky used to be a wild dog, feared by the islanders in her community. Spirit is the only one who loves all the island’s wild dogs. More are dying, and she has to save them. But first she has to save her dad. She loves him too. She’ll hunt down clues in her rubber-peeling purple flip flops—because purple is a color Spirit loves to wear.

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

cover coming soonFour things–four things only–that Jocelyn Hook loves?

1. Books, especially adventures like The Odyssey, or true histories of famous explorers like Ferdinand Magellan (the more gruesome, the better.)

2. White dresses, because white makes an excellent canvas for grass stains on her seat, mud on her hem, and raspberry jam dribbled in her lap.

3. Her friend Roger. Wait–no. That’s disgusting. They’re nothing more than friends.

4. Frightening people by the mere mention of her father’s name: Captain James Hook. Yes, that Captain Hook. Shall I fetch the smelling salts?

AND

5. Doing things her own way, especially if it means breaking all the rules.

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AllFourStarsTara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

The great loves of Gladys Gatsby—other than cooking, of course!—include:

1) Rating every meal she eats in her reviewing journal (using a strict
four-star system adapted from the New York Standard’s Dining Section).

2) Alphabetizing the tomato products at Mr. Eng’s Gourmet Grocery
(crushed, diced, paste, pureed, stewed, whole!).

3) Sampling Indian delicacies at her friend Parm’s house (mmmm, samosas).

4) Playing with her neighbor Sandy’s rabbits, Edward and Dennis
Hopper. (Whom she has never considered cooking into a
delicately-flavored stew. Nope, not even once.)

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9780448456836_IHB_1Heart_CV_front (1)Michelle Schusterman
I HEART BAND
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

Holly loves her French horn, obviously – so much that she even practices on Sundays, which drives her brother up the wall. She also loves color-coded labels and schedules that are organized down to the minute. And thanks to her friend Owen, Holly discovers she loves alien video games and fantasy role-playing card games, too.

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Kate Hannigan
51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

The main characters in my book are almost-10-year-old cousins Willow and Delia, who are trying to bake their way out of being flower girls in their aunt’s upcoming wedding. Each summer, the girls spend a week vacationing together, along with their whole, extended family in an old Victorian on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Their loves are:
+ Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa
+ Warm waffles on Sunday mornings
+ Big furry, drooly dogs like Willow’s Bernese mountain dog
+ Grandpa – definitely not any boys at school

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Jen Malone
ATYOURSERVICEAT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

Chloe Turner loves positively everything about NEW YORK CITY firstly and forever. She’s also pretty enamored with living in a hotel, between luggage cart races with the bellhops to room service sundae bars at her sleepovers. Third place goes to the color black (being a native New Yorker and all) and, lastly, we have quiet walks on the beach. Pfft. As if. Give her honking taxis and ambulance sirens any day of the week. Unless you happen to be talking Rockaway Beach, since that’s, ya know, part of NEW YORK CITY.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

Theo Tenpenny loves–or loved–her grandfather, who died suddenly, leaving her a clue to find “a letter . . . and a treasure.” She loves finding a new friend in the jet-setting, up-for-anything Bodhi. She loves an air-conditioned diner with a comped meatloaf plate and New York Post. And more than anything, Theo loves a great street find (as does the author).

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MoonSaidGayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

Esther loves Rin Tin Tin the Wonder Dog. What if there’s no theater in the town near the farm where she can follow his film adventures? She loves to read but she only owns two books. She relies on libraries to satisfy her book-cravings. Will there be a library near the farm?  Esther has a special love for her doll, Margaret.  She tells Margaret all her secrets and she confides her fears about moving.  Ma scolds.  She says Esther is too old for dolls. Esther loves Ma with all her heart–if only she could be sure that Ma loves her.

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ThereWillBeBearsRyan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

Tyson Eugene Driggs isn’t really sure what he loves, but he knows he likes a bunch of stuff. The new girl who just moved from Texas in his Choir class, she’s pretty cute.  He’s also a big fan of Taylor Swift, even though everyone makes fun of him for it. He likes the *idea* of hunting and of seeing a grizzly bear in the wild, even though he’s not exactly sure what he’s getting himself into. And pizza. Yeah, he definitely loves pizza.

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Rebecca Petruck
SteeringTowardNormal_FinalSTEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

Diggy Lawson is a simple man.

He loves to raise steers. He loves D-movies (because B-movies are too classy—give him a yeti tearing off a guy’s leg any day). He loves July Johnston (so what if she’s a senior and he’s still in eighth grade?). And he loves a good prank, especially if it’s on his supposed half-brother Wayne.

Now all Diggy needs is that Grand Champ purple ribbon…

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Adriana Schanen
51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Quinny loves playing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” on her accordion; kee-yaapping a block of wood in half with her kicky bare foot; talking to anyone; and, without quite realizing it, she loves her quiet neighbor Hopper’s great big looking-looking eyes.

Hopper loves juggling (but only in private) and reading “Atlas of Human Anatomy” by Frank H. Netter, a book so thick and heavy that real doctors actually use it. He loves going to the town pool at night when no one’s there but 200-year-old Mrs. Porridge in her swim cap made of parrot feathers. Plus he secretly loves Quinny’s teeth, because they’re the happiest teeth he’s ever seen.

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ByTheGraceLouise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Todd and his best friend Duddy LOVE to role-play Dragon Sensei, a “wicked awesome” Japanese anime series featuring Koi Boy and his green monkey sidekick, Mongee Poo. Lucy, the brainy neighbor who helps Todd discover and care for the Toddlians (the tiny people who spawned from Todd’s sock) loves all things scientific. Lewis, the Toddlian most loyal to Todd, loves his Creator. And Daisy, Todd’s evil genius baby sister, loves her power source: the Blankie.

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WhenAudreyRebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Both of my main characters, Audrey and Alice, love to dance, although Audrey’s not exactly sure what Alice means when she talks about doing the “hootchy-kootchy.” Through reading Alice’s diary, Audrey comes to love a few new ways to “eat up the world” as a First Daughter: wearing unapproved outfits to State dinners, taking joyrides on the White House lawn, and sneaking in (crushworthy) guests. Of course, neither one particularly loves the repercussions!

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HopeIsRobin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

What does Star Mackie love? More than ANYTHING else? Her sister, Winter, is number one, along with the rest of her family–Mom and Gloria, her pseudo-godmother. And her home, Treasure Trailers, even if it is next to the dump and everyone makes fun of her for it. She also loves macaroni bake, a dish her mom cooks. And finally, she loves Emily Dickinson. Even though no one else in the Emily Dickinson Club does.

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bWF9njFSoPiovwFCJUtNAovKP4AYgX4CNkj5tAhh-S0Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

Dorrie Barnes, consistent loser of books and accidental time-traveler, loves getting in a little sword-work with Cyrano de Bergerac, avoiding tramplings by wayward overgrown cows, caramels caramels caramels, standing up for the knocked down, and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Eh-hem. Oh, did I list FIVE loves? What? We were supposed to list four? I AM sorry. Hey what’s that? Over there….

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Patrick Samphire
SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB
secrets-of-the-dragon-tomb-temporary-coverChristy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan

What does Edward Sullivan love? 

1. Adventure. At least, when it’s safely in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Not so much when he’s being chased through a crashing airship by murderous mechanical crabs, or being dropped of a fifty foot cliff.

2. Spies. All Edward ever wanted was to be a spy, but now there are spies everywhere, and they’re spying on his family. That really wasn’t what he had in mind.

3. His little sister, Putty. Yes, she may be interfering, outrageous, and prone to dragging him into madcap schemes and explosive situations, but…she’s family.

4. Living on Mars. There are pterodactyls, clockwork servants, and dragon tombs full of mechanical marvels. What’s not to love?

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HumTracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

Grace has just lost her Mama, so it’s hard for her to love much of anything at the moment. She tries, though, by hanging on to Mrs. Greene and Lacey, friends she had to leave when Mama died. She writes letters so they won’t forget about her, and she loves getting Lacey’s letters in return. She loves her writing journals, and keeps them close, even though she can’t get herself to write in them. Most of all, she loves the junk-art bird Mama left behind. The one that just might lead her home.

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Rupert loves–TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942

“HEY!” Witchling Two cackles in my ear. “I’m the mainiest maniac main character that ever was. Plus,” she nods vigorously, “I love lots more things than Rupert.”

She steals the keyboard from my hands and begins to type:

Witchling Two loves loves loves

1. Purple

2. Lollipops

3. PURPLE LOLLIPOPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. OODLES AND OODLES OF PURPLE LOLLIPOPS!!!!!!!!

Sfjklsdfasdfhdslskdjfsldkjfskflsdjfa

At this point I steal the keyboard back from her. She has dreamily put her elbows on the keyboard and drooled over the thought of grape lollipops. Excuse me while I fetch a napkin to clean my keys… BLECH.

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Dana Alison Levy
18769364THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

What do the Fletcher boys love? Well, it depends who you ask. Sam loves his phone and soccer, but kinda-sorta-secretly loves telling spooky stories to an adoring audience. Eli loves learning, as long as he can do it his own way, without too many rules. Jax loves fourth grade, (except maybe he actually doesn’t). And Frog, well, that’s easy. Frog loves Ladybug Li, his new best friend, even if everyone does think she’s imaginary. Oh, and he loves his pet cheetah too, and he’s not imaginary either. Just invisible. (Duh).

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Is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month? Let us know in the comments!

Stay warm, friends! We’ll be back on March 3rd!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Friday Q&A

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! On Fridays, the OneFours answer questions about their books, writing processes, life, favorite flavors of ice cream, and more. This week’s question:

Which book by another author would you love to claim as your own and why?

I’d love to pass off MONSTERS OF MEN by Patrick Ness as my own. His whole Chaos Walking Trilogy, really. It contains such an interesting sci-fi concept, and Ness isn’t afraid to put his characters into the kind of horrible situations that make you want to simultaneously punch him in the face and sob for a million years. My goal as a writer is to make people feel the way I feel when I read his books.
Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION

Maggie Stiefvater’s book always make me feel like I have no business writing, but I’ve learned that a lot of newer authors feel that way. So, I’m going to say Amber Dermont’s THE STARBOARD SEA, which is a coming-of-age story (classified as adult, but I’d readily recommend to teens who appreciate beautiful words). It’s the kind of book that deepens with repeated reading and a protagonist who really got under my skin and made my cry (which is the benchmark of a good book for me).
Helene Dunbar, THESE GENTLE WOUNDS

I’m gonna cheat and go with a whole series here, but they’re short! The Ruby Oliver series (THE BOY BOOK, etc.) by E. Lockhart is, in my opinion, the most dead-on insight into the teen female mind. The writing is great, and Ruby’s a really fun character, but what really gets me about it is the way four strong books are crafted out of the kind of real, true dramas I remember experiencing that age, which no crazy, unrelatable plot points thrown in for sympathy points or dramatic effect or to scream “High concept!” It’s really just a girl learning to prioritize her life and embrace herself, while understanding what makes some relationships stronger and more worthwhile than others. To pull off that kind of thing while also being quirky and entertaining and unique isn’t easy, and it’s the kind of thing I’d love to contribute to the YA canon!
Dahlia Adler, BEHIND THE SCENES

Would anyone notice if I replaced Ellen Raskin’s name with my own? Even now, The Westing Game has everything I love in a book. A central mystery. The reading of a will. Cryptic clues. A race to solve them. An ensemble cast of interesting, complex characters. A flawed but funny mini-heroine with a great name (Turtle). And at no point does the book talk down to kids: the plot includes bombs, bookies, religious extremism, and degenerative disease. I read this book over and over as a kid, and I still pick it up and re-read it! I think that’s the dream of any author–to write a book that has something to say to every reader.
Laura Marx Fitzgerald, UNDER THE EGG

Oh, Libba Bray’s BEAUTY QUEENS, without a doubt. It’s smart and funny. A brilliant work of satire! I had writer-envy right from page one.
Skila Brown, CAMINAR

I’m a sucker for a good romance, and it doesn’t get more perfect than ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. I don’t know anyone who isn’t in love with both Etienne and Anna, and the perfect Parisian setting is just the icing on this delicious cake. I would love to be able to craft such a perfect romance.
Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL

I’d be thrilled to be able to slap my name onto WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. Fantastic characters and setting, and a plot that fits together like a perfect puzzle? Something to aspire to, for sure.
Tara Dairman, ALL FOUR STARS

I was so endlessly captivated by the world building in DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, by Laini Taylor. Her ability to create a world that is so vivid and lush, while also creating real, relatable characters blew me away. I wish I wrote in that genre because every word on her pages would be such an incredible study in craft.
Kelsey Macke, DAMSEL DISTRESSED

Another vote for DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. Laini Taylor’s prose is breathtakingly gorgeous, and her world-building is some of the best I’ve ever come across. I read that book twice—once in complete awe of its craft and once more just for fun.
Meredith McCardle, THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. From the very first sentence, I knew it was going to be a bad idea to read it, because it ‘s so good, with such completely compelling prose, I felt like a total hack in comparison. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to be a better writer.
Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST

If I’d written BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu, I could die happy. I love the way she combines the real world with fantasy and brings alive the hurt of losing a friend. She manages to make being human seem hyper real through fantasy, and her writing makes me so immersed. Breadcrumbs is also super dark and scary, and I love that!
Edith Cohn, SPIRIT’S KEY

One day I would love to write a book like The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I love it for its scope and the incredible characters she creates and follows through out their lives.
Sashi Kaufman, THE OTHER WAY AROUND

This is a hard one! I’m so tempted to say Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but I’m going to have to go with God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo. It was the first book I had to re-read immediately after finishing it.
Julie Murphy, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY

I’m tempted to say The Hunger Games, because, helloooo, BANK. But I’m going to say Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. Beautiful prose, quirky characters, gorgeous setting, poetry. It’s basically like the best date ever in a book.
–Jaye Robin Brown, NO PLACE TO FALL

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor because HOLY GORGEOUS WRITING, BATMAN. She could write about knitting and I’d be captivated.
Lori M. Lee, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

I’d love to claim MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY (the whole series) by Rachel Harris. The characters are so real, the romance makes me swoon, and I love the time travel elements. (I’ve always wanted to write a time travel book, but I’m so afraid I’d mess it all up!) Or if I can’t have that series, I’d claim the CAMP BOYFRIEND series by J.K. Rock for the same reason: characters that feel like real people and romance that makes my heart flutter. :)
Veronica Bartles, TWELVE STEP

I’m going to say CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare. There’s something about her writing that makes me care so freaking much about the characters, and the romance between Will and Tessa is one of my all time favourites. The scene where they first kiss is a masterpiece of an example of how to create an incredible amount of romantic tension with the simple act of removing a glove.
Danielle L. Jensen, STOLEN SONGBIRD

My choice would go to JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. I read it last year and was so struck by the beautiful writing and the stunning plot craftsmanship. And all of the characters felt so real and genuine to me; I didn’t want to leave them behind when I got to the last page. I didn’t at all expect it to affect me like it did, and I only wish I could write something so complex and touching.
Annie Cardi, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN

I’d love to be able to claim SAVVY by Ingrid Law. I am so intrigued by the idea of turning 13 and having a special power! I was captivated from the first page of her wonderful book.
Kate Hannigan, CUPCAKE COUSINS

Jaye stole my idea of Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. You know what they say about great minds… Beyond the heartfelt way Jandy weaves a tale of both grief and love, loss and new beginnings, the use of Lenny’s discarded poetry is genius. I had ALL the feels after readings that book. In fact, I think I need to reread it right now!
Bethany Neal, MY LAST KISS

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. I don’t recall how old I was when I read it, but those are the books that made me look for the small crevices and sheltered places in my own world where magic might hide. Which is another way of saying they turned me into a bizarre little child writer. I’d like to do that for some other unsuspecting creature.
Natalie Parker, BEWARE THE WILD

What book do you wish you could claim as your own? Share in the comments!

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.