Thought for the Day:
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
~ Mark Twain ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Humor makes almost any piece of writing better. The post HERE from Writer’s Rumpus by Paul Czajak will help you add humor in your writing.
I always appreciate good writing exercises. HERE is a post from The Story Journey from Alicia Rasley with exercises that will help you deepen your point of view.
Backstory is important but tricky to get in. Margie Lawson has a great post HERE on Writers in the Storm about how to do it well. She has great examples.
Now and then I receive an email from a publisher or publicist offering me ARCs of books. It’s always fun to look through their offerings and pick a few free books for review. I received an email from Candlewick Press a while back. I love to hear from them because they only publish books for young people, and there are always a few that interest me. One of the books I chose is the book I will review for you tonight, Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt. I simply loved it.
Thirteen-year-old Jimmy is not having a very good day. He is stuffed into a pair of pants that fit fine a year ago, but boys this age tend to grow, and Jimmy is no exception. His pants button is holding on by a thread. Seriously. A thread. And his parents have just told Jimmy he will be expected to speak at his cousin’s funeral the next day. Speak. In front of everyone. All he has to do is say something nice, tell a fun story, about his cousin, Patrick. But there weren’t any fun stories. Patrick had been, shall we say, difficult. No, let’s not say that. Let’s say what he really was — a mean, selfish, bully who ruined every good thing Jimmy had ever had. They never had been close, but they had been thrown together at every turn. Their mothers are twin sisters, and Patrick’s mother often needed a break from her obstreperous son. Jimmy usually had to entertain Patrick during those breaks. Patrick’s parents were too distraught to make the speech, and they wanted Jimmy to do it. All through the day at the wake, Jimmy wracks his brain, trying to come up with one good memory he can use for his speech, and all the while he is hoping to keep his pants on.
It’s hard to describe just how funny and sweet this book really is. Jimmy is a terrific kid and his voice, telling the story in first person, is pitch perfect for a 13-year-old boy. The characters are completely believable, and Jimmy’s relatives are people we all might have known in our own families. Patrick is a real jerk, but Jimmy has another cousin, sweet Sophia, Patrick’s little sister, who is about 8 and quite deaf, but her parents refuse to accept that fact and have never learned sign language. She has a tough life, but Patrick had a way with her that made things a bit easier for her. Jimmy also has a soft spot in his heart for her. Other odd relatives — aunts, uncles, grandparents, and more — show up and make things interesting and remind Jimmy of stories about Patrick. But choosing the right thing to say propels this story forward to a surprising and wonderful conclusion.
Author Adam P. Schmitt has written a terrific debut middle-grade novel. The writing is sharp and the humor is almost always present. You will fall in love with these characters and be disappointed when the story ends and you have to leave them behind. This one deserves very wide readership well beyond the bounds of middle grades. Clear some time when you get your hands on this one. It’s very hard to put down once you get started.
I have a gently-read ARC for one of you. All you need do is be a follower or subscriber (it’s free!), have a U.S. address, and leave a comment below. If you would like extra chances, please share the link to this post on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media outlet and let me know you have done that. If you are reading this in your email, please click HERE to get to my blog, then click on the title of the post, and leave a comment. And don’t forget to check for other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at the Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.