Interview with Clare Hodgson Meeker, Author of Soccer Dreams

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Clare Hodgson Meeker is an award-winning author of 10 published books and over 20 magazine stories for children. She teaches writing and makes author appearances in schools and at conferences around the country. http://www.claremeeker.com

Thank you for joining us today, (your name). Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in New York and graduated with a B.A in Music from Boston University. After receiving a law degree from Hofstra University, my husband and I moved to Seattle, Washington where we currently live. I left the practice of law to raise two children and begin a second career writing books for children. I am also a founding member of The Righteous Mothers, a female vocal group that has performed nationally and internationally for many years. You can hear our music at our website, http://www.righteousmothers.com.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I was lucky to have wonderful teachers in grade school who encouraged me to write. In third grade, I wrote a play called Murder By Death that my classmates and I performed. It was a heady experience seeing your words acted out, particularly when one of my classmates forgot to break his fall from a ladder and landed face first on the floor. My fifth grade teacher encouraged me to send a story I had written and illustrated to a publisher in New York. I received a kind rejection saying “Please come back to us when you are older,” and have been writing ever since.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I realized when I began reading picture books to my own children how much they enjoyed the playfulness of words and the power of a good story to communicate ideas and help them learn about the world around them. I wanted to write stories about the people, places and subjects that I found fascinating and share what I learned with kids.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

Children, particularly younger audiences, enjoy plots that are action-oriented with less emphasis on description. Pacing is very important. If it takes too long to get to the problem, you will lose a young reader’s attention. Also, when you are writing picture book text, you have to leave room for the illustrator to tell the story. That is why description should be kept to a minimum so that the pictures can add their own dimension to the story.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

To me, the best picture books are like poetry. I enjoy the challenge of making every word count. Even my most recent book, Soccer Dreams: Playing the Seattle Sounders FC Way, is a free verse chapter book for ages 7-12 years old. I was inspired to write in this format by a sports story I read called “Smile Like Jeter “ by Maria Testa. I loved the way she crafted scenes that had a minimum number of words, but still conveyed strong action and emotion. The shorter word count is particularly attractive to boys who are reluctant readers and are looking for books about sports.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Soccer Dreams combines a fictional story about a boy from Kenya who moves to Seattle and helps build a winning soccer team with inspiring teamwork tips and quotes from Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC coach and players. 10-year old Todo is looking to make new friends. He is thrilled to meet a group of kids who share his love of soccer, but he struggles with an overconfident striker named Peter who sees Todo as an unwelcome competitor. His schoolmate Anna, a skilled defender on a girls soccer team, knows first-hand that Peter is a ball hog. Together, she and Todo make a plan to bring their two teams together. But Todo’s coach has his own strategy for building teamwork that involves his favorite team, the Seattle Sounders FC. Mixing fiction with actual photographs and personal stories of the Seattle Sounders coach and players, this book is licensed by Major League Soccer and is endorsed by the Sounders team.

What inspired you to write it?

I was fascinated by the fact that like my main character Todo, the Sounders players came from all over the world and spoke different languages, but still managed to work together as a team and win the U.S Open Cup championship in their first year. The beauty of soccer is that you don’t need expensive equipment to play the sport. All you need is a ball. As Steve Zakuani, one of the Sounders players says, “Once you get out the field, everyone knows what to do.” It’s a common language that you speak with your feet.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The enhanced ebook with bonus audio interviews of the current Sounders FC captain and goalkeeper is available on all digital platforms including the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iPad.

You can also purchase the hardcover book from your local independent bookstore (PartnersWest is the distributor) as well as online at MLSGear.com, the SoundersFCPro shop.com and at Amazon.com.

What is up next for you?

I have an article about the Hawaiian Monk Seal coming out in October in The National Wildlife Federation’s “Ranger Rick” Magazine. I am also preparing a book proposal about the Hawaiian Monk Seal and the efforts by government scientists and the local Hawaiian community to save this critically endangered species from extinction.

Do you have anything else to add?

I am launching a new In-School Field Trip author presentation around my Soccer Dreams book called “How to Build Teamwork on and Off the Field.” Set in an assembly or classroom format, I talk about the teamwork tips that are practiced in the major league soccer world and how they can be applied to group dynamics in the classroom. Students then break up into groups and practice using these tips, including setting goals, identifying each other’s strengths and working together to accomplish each team’s goals. The idea of the in-school field trip is to provide the excitement and the hands – on learning of an out-of-school field trip at a much more reasonable cost. If you need more information, visit my website at www.claremeeker.com. You can contact me directly through the site.

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Best of Summer 2013 Kid Lit Giveaway Hop

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The Best of Summer 2013 Kid Lit Giveaway Hop is hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews. Kid lit bloggers, teen lit blogger, authors, and publishers are coming together to share their favorite books of the summer!

The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection is giving away a hardcover copy of Nobody’s Secret, a novel of intrigue and romance by Michaela MacColl. This is the first book in a MacColl’s new series that imagines great literary figures as teenage crime solvers.

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One day, fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious, handsome young man. Surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with Mr. “Nobody” until he turns up dead in her family’s pond. She’s stricken with guilt. Only Emily can discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he’s condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, blossoming romance, and deadly danger. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, this novel celebrates Emily Dickinson’s intellect and spunk in a page-turner of a book that will excite fans of mystery, romance, and poetry alike.

Enter for your chance to win this book

Leave a comment answering the following statement: “My favorite children’s book is….”

Rules:

  • This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada who are 18 years of age or older.
  • Prize will be shipped to the winner via USPS.
  • Only comments including an email address are eligible to win.
  • Giveaway runs from 12:00 AM EST on August 25, 2013 to 11:59 PM EST on September 6, 2013.
  • Winner will be notified by email. Winner has 72 hours to respond with mailing address before a new winner is selected.
  • The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection is not responsible for items lost or damaged in shipment.

Good luck!

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Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by Aaron Paul Lazar

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Join Gus LeGarde and his friends on another exciting mystery with Aaron Paul Lazar’s Don’t Let the Wind Catch You.  Gus doesn’t understand why his mother is so upset when he befriends Tully, a cranky hermit who lives in the woods. Tully’s unknown history intrigues Gus, as does Penni, the Indian spirit that flips book pages and draws in mirrors. Is it possible Tully really communicates with Penni. And what is Penni’s story, anyway?

Gus and his friends, twins Elsbeth and Siegfried, are soon in the middle of a mystery that involves long-buried family secrets, and Gus, once again, finds his life in danger.

wind cover-Hi ResHaving read the first mystery in the young Gus LeGarde Mystery series, I quickly signed up to review the next book. There are similarities in content and style between Tremolo: cry of the loon and Don’t Let the Wind Catch You: both find Gus and his friends involved in a mystery that surrounds people from their community, the setting is so much a part of the story that it becomes a character, and both have supplementary characters with interesting stories (the mysterious visitor in Cabin Fifteen from Tremolo and the woman who arrives during a rainstorm that has an intriguing past in Don’t Let the Wind Catch You.)

From the moment I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. The twists and turns, along with uncovered secrets propelled me forward. As a history lover, I truly enjoyed the mystery that revolves around Penni and the impact Gus’s discovery had by shedding light on historical events in his hometown.  The paranormal element to this story will be attractive to this market. For me, this is the perfect type of mystery because it connects past and present, showing how the past always influences the future. While I was a bit surprised Gus was so accepting of Tully’s secret, considering the age in which the book took place, I feel it’s a great message that is subtly woven into the story.

I hope Lazar continues writing stories of Gus LeGarde’s youth. They are fascinating!

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

File Size: 441 KB
Print Length: 270 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Twilight Times Books; First edition (August 5, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00ECNEOTE

I received a free mobi version of this book from the author’s publicist. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

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Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by Aaron Paul Lazar on Sale!

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Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, the latest young Gus LeGarde book by Aaron Paul Lazar, is on sale this weekend (Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24) for only 99 cents!

When young Gus LeGarde befriends Tully, a cranky old hermit in the woods who speaks to an Indian spirit, he wonders if the man is nuts. But when the spirit rattles tin cups, draws on dusty mirrors, and flips book pages, pestering him to find evidence to avenge her past, things change fast. What Gus doesn’t understand is why his mother hates Tully and forbids him to see the old man. What could Tully have possibly done to earn this distrust?

Faced with long-buried family secrets and danger, Gus summons courage beyond his years in this poignant and powerful telling of the sultry summer of 1965.

Don’t miss your chance to pick up this fascinating novel that some are comparing to Stand By Me and To Kill A Mockingbird. Hope you’ll visit us again on Monday, when my review of this novel is posted.

PURCHASE HERE!

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

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Little Blog on the Prairie is an ingenious way to bring pioneer life to modern children and still make it fun.

Genevieve Walsh is less than happy when she’s informed her family is spending the summer at Camp Frontier, where they will live like the pioneers of the 1890s. She’s even more appalled when they arrive and she discovers she’ll have to churn butter, remove weeds from the corn field, and use an outhouse. Luckily, she was able to sneak in her cell phone–the one she isn’t supposed to get until they return home–and is able to share her pioneer experiences with her friends.

Her friends turn her texts into a blog that quickly goes viral. When a TV crew arrives at Camp Frontier wanting to know all about Gen, she’s afraid she might have ruined the vacation for everyone, even herself.

The Lil’ Diva, who knows I am a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, saw this book at the library and decided she must read it. We ended up reading it together and it made me laugh so hard I couldn’t put it down. I loved the idea of this book so much, it’s getting added to the list of books I wish I wrote. It’s like taking PBS’ Frontier House and putting it into a book. Not all the neighbors get along. Tempers flare. But Gen makes a great narrator and you can’t help but follow along as she discovers things about herself.

I enjoyed the  romantic triangle among Gen, Caleb, and Nora–the owners’ daughter. It’s innocent enough and definitely makes it a more realistic story.  Nora made a great sympathetic villain for this story because these kids spend one summer there and then they are gone, but she lives Camp Frontier 365 days of the year. I would love to see a book about Nora after the events in Little Blog on the Prairie considering how the book concluded.

Definitely a must read.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Lexile Measure: 820L (What’s this?)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; Reprint edition (May 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599906775
ISBN-13: 978-1599906775

Children’s Author Hop – Victoria Roder

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Victoria Roder is talking about her “Children’s Adventures with Value” books in her recent interview. This is part of the Children’s Author Hop we are participating in. Read her interview at http://victoriaroder.blogspot.com/2013/08/st1behaviorurlieooui-style-definitions.html