Book Giveaway, book review, Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday, Middle Grade Books, Phillip Pullman, Princess Academy, Susan Crandall, Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard and Princess Academy – two reviews and one giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.” ~Phillip Pullman~

Some Gifts for My Writer Friends:

Click HERE for an excellent blog about tools for writers.

Who would you rather have ten writing tips from than Joyce Carol Oates? Click HERE to find them.  

Katherine Longshore wrote a wonderful guest post on Plotting, Pantsing, and Knowing When to Let Go. See it HERE
Last week I offered a copy of Patricia MacLachlan’s The Box Car Children Beginning. It was fun to see so many comments from people who have a real love for these books. But we could only choose one to win, and that one is Tarissa, a new blog follower! Congratulations, Tarissa. I will be sending the book out this week. 

This week I want to talk about two books — one new, one not so new, one I won’t give away, and one that I will. I like having a giveaway with each post, so sometimes that means double duty, because although I am desperately trying to winnow my books, some I just have to keep.

The book I am keeping is Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall. This one was just released this month, and I am sure it will be a big hit. I will not be surprised to see very sophisticated middle-graders read this book, but it will be more popular with teens and adults. The story takes place in Mississippi in the 1960s and the main character is nine-year-old Starla Claudelle, a feisty and smart girl. But she’s not smart enough to control her anger and it gets her in trouble. Starla lives with her grandmother Mamie, a real stickler for the rules who seems to take pleasure in grounding Starla when something important to her is coming up. Starla’s mother went to Nashville to become a singing star when Starla was three, and her father works on an oil rig in the Gulf and is away for months at a time. When Starla is grounded once again for the Fourth of July, she goes to town for the parade anyway (Mamie has gone and left her at home on her own). There she finds herself is such trouble, she feels she has no choice but to run away and find her mother, who, Starla is sure, will fix everything. She also believes her father will join them and everything will be the way it should be. Starla gets a ride from a black woman named Eula who

Susan Crandall

has a white baby with her. She promises Starla to help her get to Nashville, but takes her to her home. It turns out Eula’s husband is not only huge, but abusive and a little crazy. Her time at Eula’s is so frightening, she is sure she will never get out of there alive. I wasn’t too sure either! I don’t want to give away too much, but I can’t tell you enough how much I admire and enjoyed this book. The writing is stunning and the story is powerful and important. This book gives a very real picture of life in the deep South during the 1960s and is filled with characters who are interesting, palpable, and, for the most part, endearing. Whistling Past the Graveyard should be on everyone’s summer reading list. This is the book — sorry — I am not giving away. I already have family and friends lined up to read it. But this one is really worth getting, so do it!


A while back, I went on a Shannon Hale binge and read several of her books. I really liked them all. The other day I found a hardback copy of Princess Academy in my bookcase that is in pretty good shape and decided someone else should enjoy this book. It is the story of Miri, a mountain dweller whose family has, for generations, quarried stone in the mountain. But the king’s priests have somehow divined that the next princess will come from Miri’s village. The girls of the village are sent to an academy to learn to be proper princesses. After a year, the prince will come and choose his bride. At the academy, Miri runs into a very harsh mistress and a lot of competition from the other girls. But Miri is conflicted. Does she really want the prince to choose her or would she rather return to her village and try to win the heart of someone there? When bandits decide to try to kidnap the future princess, Miri has to get the girls to work together and use a unique talent the mountain dwellers have to save themselves. This is a very clever, fun story. Miri is a terrific character and the story has some interesting twists. I can’t imagine anyone who likes middle-grade

Shannon Hale

books not liking this one. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? It is fun and interesting. AND, you can have my copy by simply having a U.S. address, being a follower, and leaving a comment. So please do. I would love to hear from you. 


If you are a real fan of middle grade books, make sure you check out Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays over at the blog of Shannon Messenger, writer extraordinaire. You can find it by clicking HERE.

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