We don't do stars...
We don't do thumbs...
We read children's books and grade them in 10 categories:
literary quality
descriptive ability
humor (if attempted)
illustrations (if present)
believability of characters
believability of situations
overall reading enjoyment

There is no grading curve. There are no points for classroom participation. There is no extra credit.
If you disagree, come speak to us after class.

The Grading System

A+.....this means (guess what) we think it's great. So great it surprised even us.
A.....this means it's pretty darn good. A book we'd recommend to just about everyone we know.
B.....better than most. Not exactly Shakespeare for kids, though, if you get our drift.
C.....mediocre. Like the color beige, it didn't stand out.
D.....we didn't like it. There were more bad aspects than good ones.
F.....it reeked of badness. We read it over and over when we are in dire need of hysterical laughter.
F-.....We're pretty sure Dante had a circle of hell for the people who wrote these...and a lower circle for those who published them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Author Interview: Fran Cannon Slayton

A hearty welcome to Fran Cannon Slayton, author of When the Whistle Blows; the story follows a boy named Jimmy Cannon through several All Hallows' Eves of his life in West Virginia, as he grows up and his world changes. (Read my original (raving) review here: http://thechildrensbookreporter.blogspot.com/2009/09/reporters-review-when-whistle-blows-by.html)

CBR: Why did you choose All Hallows’ Eve as the day in which your stories are set? Does that day have a special significance for you?

FCS: Legend in our family has it that my grandfather was born and buried on Halloween. I always thought that was a pretty cool fact and it made me think about how the circle of life is made clear when a person dies on the same day that he was born. The beginning is the end, the end is the beginning – all whole; all complete; all one. And in some ways that is what my book is all about: that death – whether it is of a person, or a time, or a place, or a state of being – is not necessarily the “end.” It’s a part.

CBR: In your foreword you mentioned that much of WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS was inspired by stories your father told you growing up… Was it challenging for you to fictionalize these real-life events for the sake of the overall quality of the novel?
FCS: No, it was not hard to fictionalize the real events. I think the reason for this is because they were not events that I myself had lived through. My father had lived through them and knew them firsthand. But I only knew the stories through him – so even as he was telling me these stories when I was a child, I had to create my own visuals. When you create your own vision of an event it is already fictionalized to a certain extent. And because the events were not my own, I think it was easier for me to nip and tuck and let go of some of the realities in order to serve the narrative.
CBR: Would you want to live in 1940’s Rowlesburg if you (magically!) had the chance?
FCS: Not permanently, but I certainly would like to spend a month or so there. I’d love to see (and ride!) the steam engines, watch the railroaders work in the pits and in the shop; watch the ladies sweep the cinders off their porches; swim in the old swimming hole; walk along the old train bridge; meet my grandfather and eat some of my grandmother’s cooking. Sigh.
CBR: Where do you get your best thinking done? Best writing?
FCS:I can think pretty much anywhere as long as it is quiet. Thinking is one of my favorite parts of writing; I suppose my favorite place for it is in front of the fireplace.
In terms of writing, I really like writing late at night until the wee hours of the morning, but it doesn’t suit my family’s schedule very well. So most of my writing I do sometime between 8am and 3pm. I usually like writing best at home or in a coffee shop.
CBR: How do you push through those times when writing is difficult?
FCS: I’ll often revert to thinking about it. Things come in their due time, and I try not to worry about it and give myself space. Sometimes I’ll start working on another project, and let my subconscious percolate for a while. Other times I’ll just try to write through the issue, or approach it from another angle.
CBR: Thank you so much, Fran! Your book was delightful...and we look forward to seeing it come up often during "award season"--it's one of our picks for Newbery hopefuls!

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