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Fresh, interesting, and unique—likely to be very useful in many settings.

Advice on plotting stories for those who love to write and those who hate it but have to do it anyway.

Middle-grade novelist Dowell speaks directly to her typical audience in this breezy, lighthearted guide. First, she assures readers that if they’ve ever written anything, they are, in fact, writers. Acknowledging that it’s much easier to write the beginning of a novel than to follow it all the way through, she focuses most of her attention on how to move a story along. Start with the “Big What If” of the subtitle: “What if you woke up one morning and realized you could fly?” Create an action-packed opening scene and then throw obstacles—she calls them sticks, stones, and monsters—into the protagonist’s way. Solve the problems, and bang! You’ve got a story! Except that now it’s time to find an editor and revise. Dowell follows several what-if scenarios through to possible conclusions to show young writers how it might be done—but leaves plenty of mental room for them to take their stories in any direction at all. Both encouraging and realistic (“Writing is like a sport: it takes practice to get good”), she confines standard writing advice (“show don’t tell,” etc.) to an appendix and instead confronts the real monster that devours many an aspiring writer: quitting before the end.

Fresh, interesting, and unique—likely to be very useful in many settings. (Nonfiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3842-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Though usually cast as the trickster, Coyote is more victim than victimizer, making this a nice complement to other Coyote...

Two republished tales by a Greco-Cherokee author feature both folkloric and modern elements as well as new illustrations.

One of the two has never been offered south of the (Canadian) border. In “Coyote Sings to the Moon,” the doo-wop hymn sung nightly by Old Woman and all the animals except tone-deaf Coyote isn’t enough to keep Moon from hiding out at the bottom of the lake—until she is finally driven forth by Coyote’s awful wailing. She has been trying to return to the lake ever since, but that piercing howl keeps her in the sky. In “Coyote’s New Suit” he is schooled in trickery by Raven, who convinces him to steal the pelts of all the other animals while they’re bathing, sends the bare animals to take clothes from the humans’ clothesline, and then sets the stage for a ruckus by suggesting that Coyote could make space in his overcrowded closet by having a yard sale. No violence ensues, but from then to now humans and animals have not spoken to one another. In Eggenschwiler’s monochrome scenes Coyote and the rest stand on hind legs and (when stripped bare) sport human limbs. Old Woman might be Native American; the only other completely human figure is a pale-skinned girl.

Though usually cast as the trickster, Coyote is more victim than victimizer, making this a nice complement to other Coyote tales. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498-833-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Gleefully providing ammunition for snarky readers eager to second-guess misguided beliefs and commands of grown-ups, Rondina dishes up the straight poop on dozens of topics from the cleanliness of a dog’s mouth and the relationship (none) between French fries and acne to whether an earwig could really crawl into your ear and eat your brains. Since she cites no readily checkable sources—support for assertions comes in the form of quotations from experts in various fields, but there is no bibliography—it’s hard to tell how accurate some of her claims are—it would be nice to have a citation to the JAMA studies that debunk the sugar-hyperactivity connection, for instance—and too often she provides only an unsatisfying “You Decide” instead of a clear “True” or “False.” Still, it all makes painless reading equally suitable for casual dipping or reading straight through, and Sylvester’s pen-and-ink spot art adds further light notes to every page. An extensive closing catalog of familiar “Parentisms”—“I’m not running a taxi service,” “Because I said so, that’s why,” etc.—adds a chuckle-inducing lagniappe. (Informational ephemera. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55453-454-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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