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What Hooked Me? —The One And Only Ivan (Author Katherine Applegate)

  This month WWAT looks at Katherin Applegate’s wonderful The One and Only Ivan. Jess: I was hooked by the John Newbery Medal on the front cover. My childhood favorite, The Bridge to Terabithia was awarded The Newbery Medal in 1978. Because of my favorite book and many others, it is hard for me to walk past a Newbery Medal or Newbery Honor without flipping through. Some of my recent favorite Newbery Award winners are Wolf Hollow, Roller Girl, Echo, Doll Bones, Three Times Lucky, The Wednesday Wars, The Graveyard Book, and this year’s winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.   The Newbery is given by the Association For Library Service to Children (ALSC). The recipient is considered the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children from the previous year.  In 2013, when The One and Only Ivan won, the committee chair, Steven Engelfried said, “Katherine Applegate gives readers a unique and unforgettable gorilla’s-eye-view of the world that challenges the way we look at animals and at ourselves.” John: What hooked me was the poetry of language. Now, of course, The One and Only Ivan is not a novel in verse. But the beauty in the prose truly does border on poetry....
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The Benefit of Judging a Book by its Cover

Wrapping up our reading of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I wanted to expound on the point I made in the group post earlier in the month. That cover! As mentioned in that post, Miss Peregrine’s was first pitched as a picture book to be filled with the wonderful photos found throughout the narrative. Also mentioned in that post was how so many readers commented on how drawn in they were by the photos. I have to admit, they got me too. This is one of those books that does a remarkable job of combining an image with a title in a way that absolutely reaches out and grabs the reader by the collar. It is that cover and the title that attracted many to the book. I will admit, I thought the book started a little slow, but there was no way I was going to quit reading–not with the promise of a school of people with wondrous abilities. The reader’s patience is rewarded when we are introduced to Emma, Olive, Millard, and the others (and not much of a spoiler alert, they get their own photos as well). I found this to be a great example for our writer friends as evidenced by...
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What’s so Peculiar? Nailing the “Novel Idea”

Recently, I had the misfortune to discover that my completed work-in-progress had some startling similarities to a recently released novel. Further digging proved that the similarities ended at the logline, but it was enough for me to put the project on hold. I threw up my hands, and for a few weeks, I allowed myself to feel greatly uninspired. Then, one day, I’m walking past my five-year-old’s stack of library books. He loves the shelf that features the bizarre and unusual, and when I looked at the cover of one, I almost fell over, a new idea struck me so fast. This time, I scoured Amazon, Goodreads, and the AR reading list for similar titles. At the end of it, I had a pretty big grin. My idea looked to be somewhat unique. But that begs the question: What exactly is a “fresh idea”? We see rehashed movies all the time, and we’ve come to expect regurgitations of our favorites. But editors in the book world, while wanting something intriguing and marketable, are always looking for something a little different. But what’s different? Well, here are a few ideas. Using a gimmick. No, this is not a dirty word. It’s great to be inspired...
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The Unusual Situation

As writers, we are often told to begin at the critical moment and to begin with action. I know from my own experience that this can be confusing. I’ve started right in the middle of a magnificent (my thoughts alone) car chase or fight scene. Readers weren’t introduced to the characters so they couldn’t relate and no one was hooked by the action. An unusual situation helps the writer start at the right time, in action, while introducing an appealing character.   Recently, I read 10 Ways to Hook Your Reader (And Reel Them in for Good) by Ann Garvin http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/10-ways-hook-reader-reel-good. The first three on her list included beginning at a pivotal moment, an unusual situation, and adding an intriguing character. I had just read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and I thought to myself, that is a great example of an unusual situation.  That unusual situation sparked my curiosity and as I read, I met the main character. Now that situation was not the main inciting event. In fact, it was rather mundane, yet unfamiliar. Still, it was a great way to introduce the main character.   Jacob’s construction of a 1/10,000-scale replica of the Empire State Building from...
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 What Hooked Me?—Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Jess: An Unusual Situation An unusual situation is key to introducing an intriguing character while also beginning with action. The  unusual situation is not the main event that changes the main character’s world. It is often ordinary, yet surprising. It sparks curiosity and I think Ransom Riggs utilized an unusual situation well. Jacob builds a 1/10,000-scale replica of the Empire State Building from boxes of adult diapers; the wrong brand. It’s a perfect way to show through action, who the main character is. Jacob is a spoiled brat who is trying to get fired, yet he cares deeply for his grandfather. No one else in the family seems to get grandpa, but him and he goes to great lengths because of this love. He’s a flawed character that shows moral strength through love and loyalty. I was hooked as a reader and a kindred spirit of my own grandmother. John: A Promise of Wonder Many of those who have read and commented on the book on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites have stated that what immediately drew them to the book were the pictures. This idea makes sense since the book was first pitched as a picture book and only turned into a novel...
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Welcome to WWAT!
What's WWAT? What's Write About This is a blog dedicated to examining what works in kidlit. By tackling various themes and topics, we'll break down passages, examine sentences, and explore concepts that make-up the components of successful writing. We welcome you back each week with a new post. Thanks for stopping by!
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