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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Middle School Pick: Free Thaddeus

Free Thaddeus
by John Gosselink
Amulet (Abrams)
231 pages

Now out in paperback with a new cover and title, more readers may be drawn to this cute ya read. I read the original last year in hard cover with the title of In Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter. Here is the original cover
I loved it when I read it, but thought the cover had little kid appeal. With its new cover and title, I think this book rocks! Read my original review here

FTC Required Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this or the earlier review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paranormal Pick: Sweet Venom

Sweet Venom
Tera Lynn Childs
Katherine Tegan Books
(Harper Collins Publishers)
345 pages

Fantastic, hypnotic, captivating and uber-cool, Sweet Venom is a rollicking thrill ride. Tera Lynn Childs has done it again. She delivers a solid page-turner that is well-written with wide appeal sure to entertain teen readers who like mythology and paranormal novels. I loved this book and found it much more entertaining than Forgive My Fins.

Three sisters who have been adopted separately have no idea they are sisters, let alone triplets! Imagine their surprise when they run into each other and realize they are related. Not only that, Gretchen the wild goth sister who favors combat boots to stilettos, informs them that they are meant to fight monsters from Greek mythology.

Grace just moves to San Francisco and begins to see weird creatures. She sees a minotaur walk into a restaurant and thinks she might be going a little crazy. That's when she meets Gretchen. The two girls do a little detective work and find out they are not twins but triplets descended from the Gorgons, the three sisters of Greek myth. The two girls train together and defeat a few monsters but something strange is beginning to happen.

First, Ursula vanishes. She became Gretchen's guardian taking her in and teaching her about the monsters. Gretchen learned that only one monster can escape the seam at a time, but now the sisters are seeing monsters everywhere. How can all these monsters be running around free in San Francisco? The rules seem to have changed but the sisters have no rule book and no one to guide them.

Grace and Gretchen are able to find Greer, the third triplet. Greer has led a posh life, attending high teas and the opera, shopping in the most expensive boutiques, and being the most popular girl in the junior class. She is not happy to find out she has sisters and less delighted to hear that she is meant to fight Greek monsters. What if she breaks a nail or ruins an outfit?

Teen readers are in for a treat--Sweet Venom is only book one! Childs has more books up her sleeve, so stay tuned.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No sex; no language.
I loved the idea of the Gorgon sisters and their descendants being "good" not evil.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dystopian Fairy Tale Pick: A Long Long Sleep

A Long Long Sleep
by Anna Sheehan
Candlwick Press
342 pages

Part fairy tale, part romance, part science fiction, part thriller, part dystopian fiction, A Long Long Sleep will seduce readers with its eerie concept. Rose Fitzroy has slept for the past 62 years in a chemical induced sleep in her stasis chamber, long forgotten in a sub-basement under a huge corporation until she is awakened by a stranger's kiss.

Rose slept through the Dark Times when the planet was besieged by plague and death that claimed her parents and her boyfriend's lives. Now she is awake in a new world and destined to take the reins of power of her parents' inter-planetary corporation. Some people see her as a threat to their own power; others see her as a freak or a liar. Rose just wants to find her way, and find a way of living without anyone. She barely gets through the days until she finds a friendship with Brendon (Bren) the boy who kissed her awake.

Someone has sent a Plastine, an engineered super-soldier, to kill her, and it will stop at nothing short of success. Rose realizes her father's reign of terror is far-reaching, even after his death.

Compelling and shocking, Rose's parents' actions are beyond abusive. They are power-hungry and selfish, bent on showing the world a "picture perfect" family while they steal their daughter's childhood one week, one year, two years, 62 years at a time. Rose remembers her early years and realizes that her parents sent her into stasis when it was convenient for them--when they needed to get away, to travel Europe, to take a second honeymoon, to throw a grown-ups only party. Her stasis tube became her womb-like babysitter--sometimes for years at a time. While the world changed and her friends grew older, Rose remained in stasis.

The shocking, yet satisfying ending came all-too-fast. The Long Long Sleep is a serious page-turner that mixes sci-fi with dystopian romance. Readers will practically weep for Rose with her child-like naivete and will later cheer her inner strength of character.

Highly, highly recommended grades 8 and up. No sex, no language. Some creepiness factor when Rose realizes Bren is the grandson of Xavier, her boyfriend of 62 years ago, and creepier still because Grandfather is still alive and Rose recognizes her childhood love. Remember she is sixteen and he is now in his eighties.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dystopian Pick: All These Things I've Done

All These Things I've Done
by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar Straus Giroux
354 pages

Blogger's Note: Author Gabrielle Zevin will be at the Austin Teen Book Festival along with 29 other ya authors on October 1 in Austin, Texas. The festival is FREE and held at Palmer Events Center. Ya'll come join us there! More information is available at Teen Book Festival.
follow the Twitter feed @AustinTBF@APLFF
Teens will report using cellphones and Flip video cameras. event hashtag: #ATBF11

watch the book trailer here

Fascinating, riveting, and brutally taut, this dynamic new ya dystopian thriller by Gabrielle Zevin is sure to be a teen hit!

The year is 2083 and governments have toppled. Crime is rampant, laws are in place but there are more criminals than law-abiding citizens, curfews are set up to protect the populace, chocolate is contraband, coffee and sodas are illegal, food and candles are rationed, parks and sidewalks are overgrown and filthy, and museums and libraries are forgotten artifacts.

Anya Balanchine is the middle daughter of a murdered crime boss. Her mother was killed years earlier in a hit gone wrong that was supposed to be on her father. Her older brother Leo took a bullet to the head in the same incident. Although he seems "normal," Leo now suffers seizures and has the abilities of a nine-year old. Anya's younger sister Natty is only nine. Nana, the matriarch, is bed-ridden and sometimes forgetful. This leaves Anya in charge of the entire family. That is a lot of pressure on a high school student--not to mention the fact that everyone knows her family's sordid crime past.

Anya's family makes and distributes chocolate. When chocolate was legal, it was a productive business. Now that it's contraband, the family fortune grows but it's an increasingly dangerous business. Gable, Anya's ex-boyfriend, ends up in the hospital, and police suspect that Anya poisoned the chocolate bars she gave to Gable. Anya is thown into Liberty--an island off the coast of New York City--punishment for young girls. Anya notices the feet of a giant statue that stand over her prison. She remembers Nana telling her that the statue was once of a lady and tourists could climb all the way up the statue using staircases inside. Now all that's left is rubble and the statue's feet. I found it ironic that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island--icons for peace and freedom to Americans today--are now a prison in this novel that stifles all freedom and liberty of the citizens.

Anya spends time in solitary--treated worse that any animal and survives only due to her inner strength. She is freed by Charles Delacroix, the city's prosecuter and father of her "friend" Win. Delacroix is a sly politician and asks that Anya back off from her friendship with his son. He doesn't want his career tarnished by a relationship with a crime family. He makes himself crystal clear that he will cause trouble for Anya and her family if Anya doesn't break it off with his son.

The Balanchine chocolate empire is about to fall if Anya doesn't take some action. Her uncle offers Leo a job at the "Pool," the base of the family's operations. Anya worries that Leo will be asked to do something illegal and knowing that he is so trusting and naive, she fears he will face prison, or worse. Anya can't cause any trouble in the family because maybe her uncle will retaliate, sending the authorities to take her and Natty into Child Protective Services since Nana is too old to care for them and Leo is not mentally fit to be their guardian.

Anya is a stunning character--passionate, fierce, full of strength, analyzing all her options before acting, methodical, practical, quick-witted, and sharp of tongue, this girl's got real moxie! Sparks fly in the relationship between Anya and Win; readers will feel the heat.

This page-turner will leave readers wanting more of Anya and her crime family drama. This ya novel is a novel take on dystopian fiction--I appreciated this book as a crime noir, murder mystery--who killed Anya's father? Who is responsible for Nana's death? Who poisoned the chocolate?--dystopian fiction, and romance--just enough to keep girls interested and not enough to bore boys. There is bound to be a lot of teen interest in this book.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. No language, almost "sex."

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Book Giveaway: High School Pick: And Then Things Fall Apart

I have five copies of And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky up for grabs. This is a must-have for high school collections! Girls who love Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar will like this read. See the review I gave the book here

Post a comment here and be sure to include your email contact and city and state. Many people who have posted on earlier giveaways couldn't be considered since they did not leave an email contact.

Deadline for posting is Friday, September 30 at noon MST. Winners will be notified by email. Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email. Copies will be mailed to winners by the publisher in New York City. Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cool Booklists for Teens

I have lists of Top Ten Young Adult Reads
100 Books for the College Bound Teen
Books for Girls
Books for Boys
Books for Teens
click here for lists of suggested books

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tween/Teen Pick: The Summer Before Boys

The Summer Before Boys
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon & Schuster
208 pages

Moving, poignant, and simple, yet satisfying and sublime, The Summer Before Boys is a novel about relationships--childhood friendship, mother/daughter relationships, strained relationships, and adolescent relationships.

Two girls are ready to leave childhood behind but worry that boys will ruin their long childhood friendhip--a true friendship where they promised to be "friends forever." Eliza and Julia spend long summers on the mountain, swimming and hiking, playing with dolls, slipping into the Mohawk Hotel, and gossiping with Pam, the gift shop lady who secretly slips them ice cream, telling them it's her treat "just this once." The summers seen to last forever, and the girls are inseparable.

Julia's mother signed up for the National Guard thinking that the extra money would be great and that a few week-ends away was just like going to summer camp. This all changes when she's called up for a tour in Afghanistan, and Julia is terrified her mother may never come home. When people tell her what a hero her mother is and how brave and patriotic she is and how proud she should be of her mom, she doesn't feel any of that. She just wants her mother home...safe and alive. Julia's father works long hours and never seems to be around for her.

The summer she is twelve, Julia has her first crush; she spends hours daydreaming and writing Micheal's name in her diary, and Eliza feels left behind. The two "friends forever" have a major falling out that may be unfixable.

Sometimes wars take more than human lives. Simply because the soldier comes home "unharmed" doesn't mean she is the same person. On the last day of being twelve, Julia and her mother play make believe in the attic with her mother's old Cabbage Patch dolls, and life seems good.

Recommended for tweens and teens grades 5-9. This novel will resonate with those readers who have a parent who is deployed.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Coming soon: Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

My review of Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield coming soon...see the book trailer here
Looking forward to reading this one!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Non-Fiction Pick: Wicked Bugs: the Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects

Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects
by Amy Stewart
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
272 pages with index and bibliography

Sinisterly intriguing, wildly interesting, dangerously entertaining, Wicked Bugs will bother you after you turn off the lights at night. You may wonder, is that just a harmless itch? or do we have bed bugs? Or, you may not want to travel to other countries after reading about their strange and dangerous bugs.

Wickedly entertaining, this plethora of entomological information will delight fans of non-fiction who love a quick read rife with interesting facts and historical anecdotes.

Stewart warns us that she is neither a scientist nor an entomologist; that this little book is not a field guide or a reference book for the medical field. She informs the reader that she is "a writer who is fascinated with the natural world." In my opinion, she's much more than that; she is an entertainer, a creative writer, and a great storyteller.

The book is divided into categories: horrible bugs, painful bugs, deadly bugs, dangerous bugs, and destructive bugs. Stewart writes, "It is estimated that there are ten quintillion insects alive on the planet right now, which means that for each one of us, there are two hundred million of them." That fact alone should make readers want to read more about these fantastic creatures that are taking over our world.

Did you know that the black widow only bites when it feels trapped? In the golden, olden days of outdoor plumbling (outhouses) many a person found out about their painful bite in a rather sensitive place. As a person would sit down to "do his business," he would inadvertently block the seat off and any spider hiding under it would feel trapped. The spider would bite the human where it hurts the most!

For those non-fiction readers, those reluctant readers, those teen readers who hate novels, Amy Stewart continues to deliver fantastic compendiums that appeal to their tastes. Her earlier book, Wicked Plants is reviewed here.

Highly, highly recommended for readers grades 6 and up. Recommended for all non-fiction collections. Grade 4 and 5 advanced readers should have no trouble reading and comprehending the content.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Paranormal Pick: Vanish

Vanish (book two, Firelight)
by Sophie Jordan
294 pages

see the book trailer here

Captivating, mesmerizing, romantic, and steamy, girls who loved the Twilight and Shiver series have something new to devour.

Paranormal fans who have craved a satisfying and scorching new romantic read need not search further. This is not just another vampire book, nor is it about a pack of hungry wolves. Instead, the draki live in a misty world hidden from humans. There they are able to live in peace and hide their secrets from prying eyes. The draki are special--half dragon and half human, they live mostly in their human form but can "manifest" and fly. Several draki have special powers. Jacinda is the only one in many generations who can actually breathe fire.

Jacinda and her mother and sister flee the comfort and safety of their home to live in the human world. While living as humans, Jacinda does the unthinkable--she falls in love with a human, Will. Will is not just a normal human; his family are hunters--they hunt and kill Jacinda's kind. Nothing good can come of this steamy relationship, and Jacinda reveals her true self to Will's family in order to save his life. They are now on the run. They flee back to the safety of the draki, leaving poor Jacinda heartbroken and pining for the human boy she loves.

Tamra, Jacinda's sister, finally grows into her power. She is a shader, a draki who can make people forget what they saw, erase their memories. Cassian, the male draki who loves Jacinda, welcomes her home with open arms. He knows she loves another, but he is willing to wait for her to come around.

When Will shows up in their midst, Jacinda knows she has to tell him to go away, for his own good and the safety of her people. But she just can't. They agree to meet in two weeks and run away together. Cassian saves Jacinda from a horrible fate, the clipping of her wings, and she owes him. They are "bonded" in a dragon ceremony. Still, starry-eyed Jacinda carries the torch for Will.

The star-crossed lovers angle never gets old, and Sophie Jordan presents three very likeable characters as the main players. Head-strong Jacinda, romantic Will, and noble Cassian will have female readers turning pages late into the night. I couldn't put this book down until I turned the last page, and now I can't wait for book three! Firelight (book one) has been optioned for a movie, and will begin production soon.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. no sex, no language. Some steamy kissing and Cassian and Jacinda are "married" but sleep separately.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, September 9, 2011

High School Pick: Famous

by Todd Strasser
Simon & Schuster
259 pages

Timely, poignant, brutally honest and rife with in-your-face social commentary about America's need for celebrity gossip, Famous will resonate with teen readers.

Jamie Gordon always wanted to take pictures; she is really good with her camera and her boyfriend Nasim thinks she is truly talented. In a chance encounter, Jamie just happens to be at the right place at the right time with her camera ready. She gets candid shots of a famous super-model slapping her son in a coffee shop and sells them to a tabloid for more money than most teens will ever see--"just for taking some pictures."

When the chance of a lifetime occurs, Jamie finds herself in L.A. shadowing America's hottest Hollywood sweetheart Willow Twine--who has been in a bit of trouble lately. Willow is dating a rock star of questionable background and morals, she's been in trouble with the law, and now movie studios are seeing her as more of a financial risk than box office gold (sound familiar?) When Jamie discovers some shots in her camera that she didn't take--photos that will ruin Willow's career but make Jamie famous--she is torn. Does she ruin a teen dream or take the money and run?

Avy is Jamie's friend in New York. He has dreams of becoming a super-hot mega star model/actor in Hollywood. He sells everything he owns and gets a cheap apartment in L.A. Avy soon finds out that shedding a few pounds is not the answer to fame in a town known for devouring thousands of young hopefuls each year. Avy makes crucial mistakes and falls in with the wrong crowd scene. Readers will like Avy--his naivete, his vulnerability, and his ulitmate defeat will have readers' empathy.

Strasser has captured the illusory celebrity lifestyle and pampered existence of young Hollywood. The novel's ominous tone is apparent from the opening pages and savvy readers will guess what will happen to Jamie, Willow, and Avy, but they may just be surprised!

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. Typical Hollywood behavior that you might read about in tabloids: drug use, partying, underage drinking, sex.

FTC Required disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paranormal Pick: Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
by Richard Paul Evans
Simon Pulse
336 pages

Visit the official website

Amazing, amusing, and fun, Michael Vey will appeal to teens--male and female.

Thrilling and electric (yes, pun intended, you'll see) Michael Vey is a great read! And what a character! Michael is an ordinary high school boy with extraordinary powers--he's electric! Somehow, he is able to direct electricity and shock others with enough power to knock them unconscious or even kill them!

His best friend Ostin (pronounced Austin, like the town in Texas but Ostin's mother didn't choose to spell it right) and Taylor, a pretty and popular cheerleader are the only ones who know about Michael's special abilities. Taylor is rather special, too. She can "reboot" people, making them forget whatever it was they were just doing or thinking. She can also read minds. Ostin is a total nerd; a scientific and research genius but has no special physical powers.

Together the three teens from a club called the Electroclan and are investigating how Michael and Taylor got these special "gifts." Ostin is onto something when he figures out how Taylor and Michael were born in the same hospital in California and a strange outbreak of newborn deaths occurred around the same time. Only seventeen newborns survived--Michael and Taylor are two.

What if the other fifteen kids all had special powers, too? And what if someone was looking for them? And what if that someone has bad--really, really bad-- intentions?

When Michael's mother is kidnapped, he knows he has to go save her. He will use his powers and call upon his friends and a couple of frenemies for help.

Action-packed adventure, well-paced, and thoroughly enjoyable, this novel is going to be huge! Books two and three are likely to enjoy a large following--maybe even an upcoming movie, perhaps?

Highly recommended for lovers of paranormal and action. Grade 7-up. No language, no sex.

FTC REquired Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dystopian Pick: The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague
by Jeff Hirsch
304 pages (Amazon website has page count at 304; the arc from Scholastic has 288 pages)

Watch the book trailer here

Grim, ghostly, and gritty, this solid page turner will resonate with dystopian fans. Stephen and his father live in a world gone horribly wrong. After a strike against China, the Chinese send a deadly plague, P11, which races across the countryside killing nearly everyone--only the unlucky survive.

It doesn't take long for governments to crumble and the infrastructure to cease--there is no electricity, no clean water, no cities, only roaming bands of pillagers, scavengers, and slavers. Stephen and his father scavenge for whatever they can find to trade for food and matches. They roam the shadows, afraid of running into others--those who would steal from them, kill them, or worse--make them slaves.

Stephen soon finds himself alone when his father is injured. A group of men take Stephen to a settlement where they offer food and safety. In a world where there are no rules, how will Stephen know who to trust?

After a harrowing run-in with another group of survivors, Stephen decides to stay in Settler's Landing and begin his life again--in this new world. Maybe there is a future...

Recommended grades 7-up.
Listen to the audiobook here

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interview with author Joseph Bruchac, author of ya paranormal thriller Wolf Mark

Wolf Mark is a new ya paranormal thriller that is sure to be a huge hit with both male and female teens. It was a book that I couldn't put down!Don't forget to post a comment either at the end of the interview or the next post down for the book giveaway. I have 5 copies of Joe's book Wolf Mark up for grabs! Win a copy now!

I interviewed Joseph Bruchac via email and he was kind enough to give thoughtful answers. I think teens and adults will learn from Joseph's answers.

Q: What do you find special about the area where you live, the Adirondack foothills?

Joseph: One reason this area is special to me is that my family has been here for so many generations. So it's in my blood and my bones. I live in a house I was
raised in, a house built by my grandfather on the foundation of the house
where my great-grandparents lived before that house was deliberately burned
by a local bootlegger trying to kill them. (Looong story about all that.) There are burial places where many generations of Abenaki and Iroquois people were laid to rest long before my life, places I've fought to protect from developers.
Close to here, only two miles away from my home, are springs that were
sacred to my ancestors, that gave Saratoga Springs its name--Salatogi, place
of healing waters.

I also love this area for its biodiversity, it's a place of old hills and deep valleys and cold streams where native brook trout swim. On our own little 90 acre nature preserve we have more than 60 tree species, deer, fox, coyote, wild turkeys, raccoons, the occasional bear. There are trails within a few miles of me where I can walk or run for hours without ever crossing anything more than a snowmobile trail. I feel right in these hills, love the hollow drum of the earth under my feet, the changing scents of every season, the old stones, the healing plants that offer
themselves, the dragonflies that land on my arm as I sit by a mountain pond, the rain on my face, the sharp chill of the snow and the hawks yawping down at me as they ride the winds above the cabin up in the Kaydeross Range where I go to write.
There's a kind of peace I find here that I find nowhere else.

Though I've been to every state, including Hawaii and Alaska, have traveled through Europe, lived in West Africa, this has always been the place to which I've returned.
Ndakinna. Our Land. Home.

Q: How is the wolf depicted in Native American storytelling and culture? Why do you think it differs so much from the blood-thirsty werewolves of Europe?

Joseph: In general, for us the wolf is not a malevolent beast, but a being that must be respected.
When people live close to wolves, have direct relationships with them--as did our American Indian ancestors--they understand the real animal and not the mythic beast of Europeantales which is a sort of projection--I feel--not of Canis lupus, but of the most rapacious and violent aspects of the human psyche. I've been in contact, direct contact, with real wolves
and in many ways they are big dogs, though belonging to themselves and not to any human.
When you've seen--as I have--the way wolves care for their young ones (as a group, with every adult animal responsible for the pups in their pack), heard them sing together, realized what magnificent, dignified beings they are, you can understand why to be called a "wolf" was, in American Indian cultures, an honor. In many American Indian tribal nations, the men who went out as scouts, to seek the enemy, to help protect the people, were called wolves.

But when people wall themselves off from nature, they lose respect for it and begin to misunderstand or even fear it. That happened in Europe. It's happened to many people in this country. That's why one of the main missions in my life and the lives of my two grown sons, is to bring people back into contact with nature, to help them find that ancient and important link between us and all that pulses with life around us. Not that nature is always safe. There's always danger, from unwise behavior or from chance. But wolves (and nature in general) are not out to get us. The most dangerous creature in the
world is the human.

Q: How are other animals depicted in storytelling?

Animals are usually depicted in ways that reflect their actual nature. Bears, for example, may be shown as nurturing (just as mother bears are of their young), even adopting lost human children, but also possessed of great power, as dangerous beings we must
respect. Creatures such as fox, coyote, and raven are often portrayed as being cunning, crafty, tricksters--which is the actual nature of those creatures. And this comes from direct observation of and long interaction with those beings.

Animals are also depicted as people, as nations in their own right. They are at least the equal of human beings in our stories and in many cases behave better than human people.

Q: If you could tell one story to a group of 5 year old and later had to tell the same story to a group of high school students, what story would it be and why? How would you change it, or would you?

It would depend on the group of five year olds. And high school students. Everygroup, every audience has its own dynamic. I always tell stories in response to the audience--responding to what I feel from them. And I know so many stories that there's not just one that would be tellable to both the very young and those of high school age. Stories grow and change with us as we grow and even a story told in the same words might be heard very differently by the same person at different stage in his or her life.

However, if I were to tell "The Boy Who Lived With the Bears" to a group of five year olds, I would probably tell it with less detail and involve the kids more directly in the story--by having them sing with me a song that the boy in the story sings when he has been abandoned and trapped in a cave. For the high school students, I'd add more of the details that would be better understood by someone of their age. (And in mostcases, I would NOT ask them to sing along.). However, as I said, because I respondintuitively to my audiences, I probably would tell each group a different story. Also, I never tell the same story twice in the same day.

Q: What made you want to write a ya paranormal book like Wolf Mark?

Several things. One is that I have been reading such stories since I was about ten years old--when I first read Dracula. I have been a reader, and even a teacher, of fantasy literature for decades. I really like the genre.

Secondly, I felt as if I had something to add to the mix in terms of the YA audience. Part of it is the American Indian perspective, which aside from my buddy Sherman Alexie's work, is generally lacking in YA books. (Though, Heaven help us, there are some "Indians" in YA books by non-native authors.)

Further, I really was not completely satisfied with the way a lot of writers--without mentioning any names--have produced books for young adult readers that are overly romantic, predictable, and improbable. The best fantasy, for me, always is done in such a way that the impossible is accepted as real. You become lost in the story as you read it. That was what happened to me when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as young reader. I have great respect for the intelligence of young adult readers and wanted to write something that would not insult their intelligence.

Further still, I wanted to write something in the genre that was both serious and funny. I believe in the serious use of humor. And I find the melodrama of some YA paranormal fiction really hard to swallow because it is so overly grave. (But not graveyard.) I wanted to create a character who could laugh--even at himself--and get the reader to be wryly amused
along with him. (By the way, I love The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon, one of my fave writers.)

There's another thing I need to mention here. I showed an early draft of the novel to another publisher (not Lee&Low) and was told that it wouldn't work as a YA novel.
In fact, I was told that I probably just didn't have the ability to write anything for that age level. Don't feel bad, some people just don't have it in them.

Things like that keep happening to me. When I was in college in my first creative writing course, my teacher told me I didn't have the talent to be a poet. I was the varsity heavyweight wrestler at Cornell University then and I think he took a look at me and figured I had stumbled into the wrong class. But I didn't give up. I just wrote more poems
for him until one day he finally said he was wrong and that I could write poetry. Eight years later, he wrote a blurb for the back cover of my first book of poems in which he said "Joe Bruchac used to be wrestler at Cornell. I haven't followed the wrestling lately, but I have read his recent poems and stories and found them championship material." (By the way, that teacher, a fine poet named David Ray who is a dear friend, claims to this day he was just challenging me because he knew I could do better. Oooo-kay.)

Later on, in graduate school, while I was working on my first novel, I was informed by my fiction teacher that I did not understand storytelling. I lacked the innate ability to be a storyteller. Uh-huh. Right.

My nature is (after the initial urge to commit hari-kari or jump off a cliff) to take such remarks not as discouragement or the final word, but as a challenge.

Rather than giving up, they end up making me more determined.

So I have to thank that editor who didn't publish Wolf Mark for giving me even more incentive to write the book.

Q: Did you know right away you would write about wolves/werewolves?

Yes, from the first word I wrote. I think that is because my character really took over. Luke was telling his story and I was typing as fast as I could to keep up with him while he was telling it. And, to be frank, he kept surprising me.

Q:What is a skin walker?
In some American Indian cultures, reference is made to "skin walkers." These are generally people who, by putting on an animal skin, can transform themselves into that animal. It might be a coyote (often the case in the southwest) or a Bear (among native nations in the Great Lakes region). Unfortunately, in most cases when a human does this, that man or woman does so with evil intentions.
The "second skin" that my main character puts on is a very different thing.

Q: What is the biggest misconception most Americans still have about native populations?

I think the biggest misconception about native people is that they are nothing more than a romantic memory--if not vanished, then irrelevant or quaint and locked in that past. But American Indian people, our cultures, and our traditions have survived, have shown the ability to grow and to adapt to a changing world. As my friend Simon Ortiz, the incredibly talented Pueblo Indian poet puts it, "Indians are everywhere."

Q: Luke is trained by his father at a young age to have specialized talents. What talents do today’s kids need to know?

In very general terms, I believe that today's kids need to learn both true self-reliance and how to work with others, to care for other people and be a useful part of the group while maintaining their own identity. Be comfortable in your own skin.
(First or second, eh?)

I recommend studying one form or another of the martial arts and getting out into nature (not to overcome it, but to feel at ease with it) with people who can be trusted to guide you.

Now for more personal questions:

Q: In five words, describe the meaning of life:

Breathing in, breathing out again.

Q: In five words, describe happiness:
Glad to be your self.

Q: What is your mood at this very moment?
Happy, because of this opportunity to share my thoughts. A little amused at myselfat the same time--don't get too self-satisfied, Bruchac. But life is good.

Q: What characteristic in a friend do you value the most?
Generosity guided by emotional and intellectual intelligence.

Q: What is your worst habit?
Talking when I should be listening.

Q: What is your greatest talent?
Sharing--through writing, storytelling, and teaching.

Q: What is your worst failure?
One of the great blessings in my life is that every failure I've
had has always turned out to be a step toward something
better than that thing I failed at. Honestly. I could give you
example after example. If, for example, I had not been such
a complete and total geeky dork in high school, Striking out in
every attempt to get a girl to go out with me, or even pay
attention to me, I doubt that I would ever have met that
one perfect person for me, my wife-to-be Carol, when I was in
college. What attracted her to me, she told me, was that
I was this big, sweet, innocent guy.

So failing doesn't have to be tragic. In fact, I believe that if we go
too long without failing (and then recovering from that failure),
then when failure does come, we may not be prepared for it. I am
stronger for my many scars.

Q: Any regrets?
That there were times when I could have been kinder,
more patient, more understanding. So I pray that my
memory of those times will help me be a kinder, more
patient, more understanding person to others, to (as
my Buddhist friends put it) all sentient beings from
this moment forward.

Q: What is your greatest advice to a 12 year old boy?
You won't always be twelve. Be patient with yourself.

Q: What is your greatest advice to the same boy, now 18?
You won't always be eighteen. Be patient with others.
That concludes the interview questions.

Olakamigenoka--Make Peace,

Thank you, Mr. Bruchac! That was fabulous! Read more about Joe and his life and storytelling at www.ndakinnacenter.org