Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Review: The Night Olympic Team

“Night falls on the Olympic Village. Lights go out one by one. The Olympic flame bounces alone in the cold, the only movement till dawn. Or is it?”

It’s winter, 2002, in Utah. In a remote laboratory, tucked in the snow-covered foothills away from the Olympic Village, a team of scientists are gearing up to do what few people think of as part of being a scientist. These real-life crime fighters are out to catch cheaters.

THE NIGHT OLYMPIC TEAM is a true story of how a team of UCLA scientists worked through the nights of the 2002 Salt Lake City games to figure out which athletes, if any, were taking banned drugs. The story shows in detail how the scientists came to arrive at their conclusion: someone had indeed cheated. All-night work sessions, secret meetings in the nearby wilderness and racing with the clock were all part of what the team had to do in order to catch the wrongdoers before the games were over.

Author Caroline Hatton not only tells how these science sleuths successfully identified the dishonest athletes, but she also gives readers an up-close look at the history of doping in athletics, the health risks involved with taking blood-boosters and performance-enhancing drugs, and how and why athletes resort to using them.

This book is a must-read for young athletes. Photographs of the Olympic Games and the scientists at work enhance an already fascinating story. The book concludes with “Sports Smarts: Healthy Ways to Enhance Performance” (tips for kids to compete in a healthy manner), a glossary of terms and an author’s note that discusses the ongoing debate about these drugs and the legislation involving them. The School Library Journal says, “Teachers and young readers will appreciate Hatton’s personable manner and her keen perspective on this timely subject.”

In addition to being a best-selling children’s author, Dr. Caroline Hatton was a scientist at the UCLA Olympic Lab and a member of “the night Olympic team.” She has carefully created a story that addresses a mature and controversial topic in a clear, truthful and intriguing manner for kids. You can learn more about her and her books by clicking here.

The Night Olympic Team/ ISBN 978-1-59078-566-9/2008/Boyds Mills Press

Friendly Reminder: Recipe Contest

Just a friendly reminder that the deadline for my blackberry recipe contest is two weeks away. For all of the juicy details, click here.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oops! Missed a Stop

How does that old saying go? Well, slap my face and call me silly! Yesterday, it was pointed out to me that Valarie Giogas, author of In My Backyard (Sylvan Dell Publishing), had hosted me on her blog as part of my book blog tour a few days ago. Thank you, Valarie, for bringing it to my attention! :-}

Valarie had asked me some really fun questions for the interview, so please hop on over to her blog for a look (scroll down to June 13)!

Thanks, Valarie!

Monday, June 23, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

JAY ASHER is the author of the New York Times Bestseller's list young adult novel, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. He got the idea for THIRTEEN REASONS WHY at a museum. While taking an audio tour, he was struck by the eeriness of the voice in his ear—a woman who described exactly what he was looking at, but wasn’t there.

Jay lives on the central coast of California. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is his first book. Find out more about him at

Thirteen Reasons Why has had huge success in its young life. Did you ever foresee the kind of attention it has received and how do you keep grounded with all of the attention it (and you) have gotten since its release? And possibly related to that, what project are you currently working on?
If the book found its audience (which required the help of booksellers and librarians), I thought it could be a real word-of-mouth success because of its mix of suspense, a unique structure, and the issues it discussed. I just didn't think the initial audience would be so big. From there, the teens took over and began recommending it to their friends. I definitely didn't expect to see it on the New York Times Bestseller list, though. When it first appeared on that list, it was such a shock that I actually started crying.

As far as staying grounded, a full-time job definitely helps. But, more than that, the letters I receive from teens are so heartwarming and inspiring. Many of them open up about their own lives and tell me the ways in which the book positively affected them. I can't feel anything but honored by that.

I'm working on my next novel for teens right now. There will definitely be more humorous elements in this book than Thirteen Reasons Why...but hopefully just as engaging.

Do you have a favorite novel-writing exercise, tip or piece of advice that you find most useful, and are willing to share with other writers?
Thirteen Reasons Why
was the first manuscript I wrote without anyone looking at it (other than the first 12 pages) before it was finished. Since I was writing such a personal story, I didn't want anyone swaying the emotional aspects of my words yet. But I did hold several brainstorming sessions with my wife and two writing friends (and co-bloggers) Robin and Eve. After it was finished and polished to the best of my abilities, then I let other people read at a time. After each person critiqued it, I made alterations and then passed the manuscript on to the next person. That way, the story was seen through fresh eyes each time as opposed to the same people critiquing every stage of the revision process.

What's your favorite children's joke? (I know as a frequent winner of the SCBWI summer conference joke contests, you've got to have a few jokes on hand ;-).
Knock knock!

Who's there?

Interrupting cow.



Thanks, Jay!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kid-Friendly Blackberry Recipe

Mmm-mm-mm! Check out Mary Ann Dames's website. Today she's posted a very kid-friendly recipe, Bear's Crunchy Blackberry Treat, to go with Blackberry Banquet!

What a great way to start the summer~ reading and preparing food with kids!

Monday, June 16, 2008

RECIPE CONTEST: Blackberries!

Friends, Romans, Children’s Writers and Cooks,

Lend me your muffins, pies, cakes and smoothies!

In celebration of the release of Blackberry Banquet, I’m holding a recipe contest! I’m asking for your best and tastiest original recipe that includes blackberries as one of the main ingredients.

The lucky winner will receive:
1. A signed copy of Blackberry Banquet with a special surprise gift.
2. Pride in seeing his/her recipe posted on my blog.
3. Pride in knowing that his/her recipe with appropriate credits will be used by Sylvan Dell Publishing as a part of their media release for Blackberry Banquet, which includes a feature in Sylvan Dell’s Aug/Sept issue of Book Beat, their bi-monthly e-newsletter, online posting and possible inclusion with other Blackberry Banquet media promotion.

Contest rules:
1. You must state in your entry that your recipe is your original recipe.
2. The recipe must include blackberries as one of the main ingredients.
3. Your recipe must be sent to me at with the words, “Recipe Contest” in the subject line.
4. Entrants must have a U.S. residence where I can send the contest prize.
5. Employees of Sylvan Dell Publishing (or their family members) are not eligible for entry.
6. The deadline is July 10, 2008.
7. The winner will be announced on my blog on July 22, 2008.

By submitting the winning recipe, you are giving me permission to use your recipe on my blog and you are giving Sylvan Dell Publishing permission to include the recipe with media information about Blackberry Banquet.

Thanks for entering and good luck!

Blog Tour Thanks

I wanted to thank all of the bloggers who hosted me on their sites last week for my tour with Blackberry Banquet:
Karen Lee (author/illustrator)
Elizabeth Dulemba (writer/illustrator)
Anastasia Suen (author/blogger extraordinaire)
Sherry Rogers (illustrator)
Anastasia Suen (picture book of the day/poetry Friday)
Anne-Marie Nichols (My Readable Feast)
Book Buds

Thanks, everyone!

We Have a Winner!

Drumroll, please! The winner of the drawing for a free copy of Blackberry Banquet is...
Stephanie Reed!
Congratulations, Stephanie, and a big thanks to all of you who entered the drawing. And stay tuned for another contest I'll be holding soon (okay, that means I'll be posting the contest and its guidelines later today).

Friday, June 13, 2008


I woke up today to find that my cyber-tour bus had stopped at two places; Anastasia Suen's blog, Picture Book of the Day, and a Anne Marie Nichol's blog, My Readable Feast.

But wait, you might say. Didn't Anastasia feature your book yesterday? Well, yes, sort of. Yesterday, she posted an interview with me on her blog, but today she focused on my book for her blog, Picture Book of the Day. Because it's a rhyming text, she thought it worked nicely with Poetry Friday as well. Here, she cleverly takes a closer look at books and gives readers two mini-lessons that accompany the book. What a fun way to stretch your imagination and practice your writing. Thanks, Anastasia!

My Readable Feast is a delightfully fun blog about family cooking and children's books. How can anyone go wrong with that combination? Yesterday Anne Marie featured Blackberry Banquet, along with the blackberry smoothie recipe that is included at the end of the book. Today, she gave us a second helping of goodness by offering another recipe to munch on while reading Blackberry Banquet; Blackberry Cake! And mmm-mm! It looks yummy! (it might even cause me to squeak or yip!) I'm definitely trying this one :-).

Please check out both sites, as they've both offer a unique ways to extend Blackberry Banquet beyond the joy of reading it to a child. And I'll tell you, its terrific to bond with books and create a true appreciation for stories where our kids are concerned!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

BLACKBERRY BANQUET Blog Tour!: Double Stop on Day #4

Wow, not only did Anastasia Suen blog about Blackberry Banquet today, but illustrator Sherry Rogers has also hosted me on her site. Wowie! Check out the interview here.

Sherry is an illustrator with a cute, whimsical style that's perfect for so many picture books. Bright colors, smooth lines and a playfulness are her trademark. Her latest book is Kersplatypus (Sylvan Dell Publishing). You can see the book trailer here.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Sherry!

BLACKBERRY BANQUET Blog Tour: Stop #4, Anastasia Suen's Blog

This morning I was delighted to see that Anastasia Suen posted a three-question interview with me. And she even included a photo of the plush bear that accompanies Blackberry Banquet (he's just so cute!). Please head on over to Anastasia's blog to see what it's all about!

Anastasia is a prolific children's author with one hundred six books published (that's not a typo--106!). One of her recent books is Wired (Charlesbridge) a picture book about power and electricity. What I love about this book is that it was inspired by driving down the road, observing the power lines, which goes to show that ideas can come from the least expected places!

Thanks for the interview, Anastasia!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Recipe: Bear's Berry Best Blackberry Pie

Helloooo! Bear here. Terry has saved my Berry Best Pie recipe for last, which must mean it must be the best. Which it is. From the time I was just a cub, I remember watching Mama make this delicious berry pie. Something about the fresh blackberries makes it so good. Maybe it’s because my thick fur keeps the brambles from sticking me, so I can reach the highest, sweetest, ripest berries, or it’s the feel of the berry juice dripping down my muzzle, but I just find this is the perfect pick for any summer dessert. Mm-mm-mmm! It’s so berry good!

Bear's Berry Best Blackberry Pie
Gather from the forest:
1 unbaked 9-inch double pie crust (I make mine from “scratch” but you could lumber on over to the store and get one of those ready-made frozen kind)
4 cups fresh blackberries (frozen works too, but isn’t quite as tasty)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. sugar
Aluminum foil or pie ring

Here's what you do:
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. In a small bowl, mash a handful of berries. It won’t take long if you have big paws, like me. Or you can use the back of a spoon to squish them. Mix in the cornstarch. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, gently mix the remaining berries, sugar and flour. Carefully fold in the berry-cornstarch mixture, trying not to break any berries (otherwise, you might end up with a runny pie).
4. Pour into bottom pie shell. Add dots of butter.
5. Lay out the top crust layer on a floured surface. Using a sharp knife or pie wheel, cut into ½-inch strips. “Weave” the strips over the pie mixture, forming a lattice top. Pinch over edges to seal.
6. Brush lattice with a little milk then sprinkle with sugar.
7. Place a pie ring on the rim. If you don’t have a pie ring, cut a ring of aluminum foil (by folding it as if you were cutting paper snowflakes--but cut it into a ring shape).

*Note: Using the pie ring is important as it allows the pie to cook entirely, without burning the outside edge of the crust.
Bake until the juice is bubbling, about 40-45 minutes (I like to put a sheet of aluminum foil below it, so catch any juice drips).
Cool on a wire rack then serve plain or with vanilla ice cream. I guarantee, it will be berry, berry delicious!


Blackberry Banquet has received its first review, done by BookBuds online reviews. Please check it out and see what they're saying about this sweet summer pick!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blog Tour Stop # 2: Elizabeth Dulemba

Check this out everyone: illustrator extraordinaire Elizabeth Dulemba has posted an interview with me on her blog today! Elizabeth is a fellow berry-picker (and lover). I mean, she must be to have stepped on a Copperhead snake in her efforts to pick sweet, delicious blackberries :-).

Her latest books are Paco and the Giant Chile Plant (RavenTree Press), Ready for the Day! and Ready for Bed! (Free Spirit Publishing).

Please head on over to Elizabeth's blog to read more about Blackberry Banquet and learn more about Elizabeth (check out her art!).

Monday, June 9, 2008


This week I'm doing a blog tour for Blackberry Banquet (how cool is that--I get to "tour" without getting out of my bunny slippers!). Today author/illustrator Karen Lee has posted an interview with me on her blog. Karen is the illustrator of One Odd Day, My Even Day, My Half Day and she wrote and illustrated ABC Safari (all published by Sylvan Dell Publishing).

Please come on over and check out Karen's blog and learn a little more about me and my book (aren't you dying to know the five things that I just can't write without ;-).

Sunday, June 8, 2008


I'm kicking-off my summer-long promotion of Blackberry Banquet by having a free drawing here on my blog. It will be as easy as pie; blackberry pie, of course! If you want a chance to win a signed copy of Blackberry Banquet, just email me at with your name, and the words “Blackberry Drawing” in the subject line. I'll collect all of the names sent to me and let an impartial person pick the winning entry.

The contest is open to any U.S. resident (my apologies to my readers outside of the US, but shipping costs prohibit me from outside shipping). I’ll announce the winner on June 16.

Note: You must type “Blackberry Drawing” in the Subject Line of your email to qualify (I get a lot of spam/junk mail so all entries must have this--otherwise, I might miss your entry!).

Good luck!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book Review: Sunrise Over Fallujah

After the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks, Robin “Birdy” Perry, an eighteen-year-old teenager from Harlem, goes against his father’s wishes and enlists in the army; and soon finds himself heading for Iraq. Along with other young male and female soldiers, he becomes part of the Civil Affairs unit; the group of soldiers whose job it is to secure and stabilize Iraq then befriend the Iraqi people to establish trust with them. The code name for their mission is Operation Iraqi Freedom, a glorious title, but Robin and his unit soon discover that war is not always glorious.

The story chronicles Robin’s first three months in Iraq, a country he finds beautiful, intriguing and deadly. We see Iraq through the eyes of a teenage soldier who is still learning much about himself. Pride, determination, camaraderie, fear and confusion take him on an emotional journey as he comes to grips with realities of war; not everything makes the news, there appears to be no end in sight, danger is around every corner, and even the good guys die.

Robin shares his innermost feelings and concerns via his letters sent home to his loved ones. He comforts his parents that all is well and opens up to his Uncle Richie, a Vietnam veteran. It doesn’t take Robin long to realize why his uncle never wanted to discuss his experiences in Vietnam.

Based on interviews and extensive research, award-winning author Walter Dean Meyers does an excellent job of creating a clear story of the events that could occur in any young soldier’s life. He records both the good and bad that every enlisted man or woman could experience on his/her first mission into battle. This is an important book for teens, particularly those who are considering enlisting in the military. Meyers has no political agenda. He has simply written a significant and timely story that teens will enjoy and appreciate.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Meyers/ ISBN-10: 0-439-91624-0/ ISBN-13: 978-0-439-91624-0/2008/Scholastic Press

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Recipe: Deer’s Berry Best Salad

Excuse it my turn? Are they ready? Oh, hello, my deers...I mean, my dears! I’m Deer, the quiet one of the group, you could say. Certainly, the most refined. You have no idea how difficult it can be to keep up with all those rascally little forest creatures. I’m constantly having to watch where I step for fear one will scoot right under my hoof! But alas, I digress.

When Terry asked me to share my favorite way of eating berries, other than straight off the bush, I knew without a doubt that I would give away my family recipe for the berry best salad you’ll ever taste. This recipe goes all the way back to my great-great-grandmother, who, as the tale goes, had a fleeting cameo role in the movie, Bambi. And this dish is so simple to put together that even a human can do it. So, without further ado, I give you, Deer’s Berry Best Salad.

Deer’s Berry Best Salad
Serves 4

Gather fresh from the forest and wash:
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Buy at the store:
¼ cup light sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons orange juice

1. Cut the strawberries in half.
2. Gently mix together all of the berries.
3. Make the dressing by stirring together the rest of the ingredients.
4. Serve the dressing with the salad.
For a fun twist, serve in a halved and scooped out cantaloupe!

Let the flavors leap and dance in your mouth!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back from BEA

I'm back from Book Expo America. Wow--what an experience! I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Sylvan Dell Publishing team and hanging out with them at their booth. It was fabulous to be able to chat with them and really get to discuss some aspects of the publishing business that I've always wondered about.

My plan was to walk the floor of the smaller hall on Friday (which I did) and take on the larger hall on Saturday (which I didn't--a migraine started setting in on Sat. morning so I was forced to cut my day short). But you know, it really didn't bother me all that much. It would have been nice to see the huge hall and schmooze with other people, but I felt so fortunate to have spent the time with the Sylvan Dell team, seen so many NEW books coming out, and met up with my SCBWI buddies, that I couldn't complain! My signing went well--my books were gone within just a few minutes and I had a chance to connect with fellow book (and berry) lovers.

Other highlights: Dinner in Chinatown at Yang Chow Restaurant with four other authors; Caroline Hatton (The Night Olympic Team), Catherine Ipcizade ('Twas the Day Before Zoo Day), Debbi Florence (China: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book), and Anastasia Suen (author of over 90 books!). The food and company were both fabulous!

Now I'm really psyched to go to the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim at the end of June!