PICTURE BOOKS

MIDDLE GRADE

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Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston is an excellent mentor text for how to interweave backstory, using multiple techniques, without slowing down the story one bit.

As writers, we hear all the time that you absolutely have to develop your characters’ backstories. We can spend a lot of time laboring over our characters’ pasts–creating, inventing, discovering–only to have someone read a draft and tell us: “Take out all the backstory!” Too much backstory can drag the pace of a story. Too little, and characters seem unmoored and unmotivated. So what to do?

Many kids that experience mental illnesses start developing symptoms as young teens–just when they’re at the age to encounter Young Adult literature. Through YA novels, writers can reach readers at this critical time. Young adult books can be a balm to teens struggling with mental health, offering disability representation, much-needed hope, and comfort in knowing that they’ll come through their darkest days… if we follow a few key guidelines. These six pointers are indispensable in creating an empathetic, accurate, and hopeful book with mental health themes.

craft review by LA Biscay Whether or not Erin Entrada Kelly used a prescribed form of story structure while writing her 2018 Newbery Award winning book, Hello, Universe, I could sense solid bones during my first reading. I giggled, I teared up, I enjoyed the characters’ journeys, and since the novel is told from four […]

craft review by Jen Jobart If you gave most kids the choice between unlimited books of a compelling book series and a truck full of candy, it would be a tough choice. Middle grade kids are ravenous readers, and there’s nothing better than a shelf of books that is seemingly never-ending. Usually our discussion group […]

Craft Review by Beth Mitchell The historical setting of One Crazy Summer is what first caught my eye. The story takes place in Oakland, California in the tumultuous summer of 1968. What captured my imagination, though, are its vivid characters. One Crazy Summer is the story of the three Gaither sisters’ journey from Brooklyn to […]