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The Great Upending by Beth Kephart

Source: Purchased

Hardcover, 272 pgs.

I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Great Upending by Beth Kephart is a story with mystery, family, and lives turned upside down in unexpected ways that will create long-lasting bonds. Sara and Hawk Scholl are siblings living on a rural farm in Pennsylvania, a farm that has seen its share of troubles and there’s no end in sight to them. Twelve-year-old Sara has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, and she needs a rather expensive operation that her financially strapped parents cannot afford.

The farm in this story is alive with animals running, prize birds escaping, and a Mister renting out the family’s converted silo. The kids have chores and the parents are praying for rain to end one of the worst droughts they’ve ever experienced. The Mister is a mystery, and even though they are told to keep their distance, they can’t help by spy on him from the roof or a nearby tree. Kephart’s prose is as poetic as always, even as she describes a disease that can mean an early death for many who have it.

“It all comes down to glue. I’m a body built out of stretch.” (pg. 29)

“The only rain that’s anywhere is the rain that rains eyes to chin, over the long stretching stretch of my thinking, and now, downstairs, I hear Mom and Dad talking. I hear the number we need: twenty grand for Sara’s surgery.” (pg. 78)

“I take a picture, which is like a seed, the way it keeps its beauty folded in.” (pg. 205)

From the love of reading to the vivid, wild pull of imagination, Sara and Hawk are drawn into their own mystery and start making plans to help the stranger who is helping them, even if the money from his rent is not enough to cover the bills or the dream of surgery her parents carry for Sara. These siblings are tied by the bond of family, but they’re also conspirators in a tale of salvation and preserving the thrill of imagination. The Great Upending by Beth Kephart is gorgeously rendered and brings to life the beauty and hardship of farm life and the struggles a young girl with Marfan syndrome can face, but how those hardships are only part of the story.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.

Cloud Hopper by Beth Kephart

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 332 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Cloud Hopper by Beth Kephart is a novel of adventure in the eyes of three teens who have found their own family among one another. K, Wyatt, and Sophie look to the skies as Sophie’s Grandma Aubrey wove tales of her namesake, Sophie Blanchard, aeronaut extraordinaire. A cloud hopper comes to life in a young migrant girl who falls from the sky one summer as the trio are watching. When they scramble to save her from the wreckage, the trio begin a journey of self-discovery and shared secrets that has little to do with the hopper herself. Sophie must become more at ease in the air, like her namesake, if she is to come terms with all that happens in this novel.

Kephart’s lyrical prose creates a sense of urgency to find the migrant girl’s family without them being caught by ICE or worse, as the hospital will only keep her so long as she heals. Sophie’s grandmother’s multiple sclerosis is progressing at the same time. Sophie is pulled between her friends and the mission and the love of her grandmother who needs her most. What Kephart does so well is create a vivid scene in each moment, making the reader feel they are there on the forest floor searching, in the Cessna circling, at the hospital appeasing, and striving for a resolution and a happy ending, even if they know not all endings are happy.

“You pick the best people for your life, Grandma Aubrey always says. And you stick with them.” (pg.78)

“‘Nothing that is not to be expected,’ she says, but it takes her way too long to say it, and my thoughts are worries, and my worries are like the black storm in the sky that came upon the hopper and threw her to the ground.” (pg. 129)

Like many other Beth Kephart books, readers will be swept into a new world — a world that is both real and fantastical. It’s poetic, it bends the rules, and it soars. Cloud Hopper by Beth Kephart is like the hopper, flying perilously toward danger without a safety net, but the journey is well worth the unpredictability.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.

Mailbox Monday #599

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Cloud Hopper by Beth Kephart, which I purchased from Main Point Books.

When a girl in a homemade hot air balloon falls out of the sky in rural Gilbertine, there are questions: Who is this girl, where exactly did she come from, why won’t she talk, and what has she risked to live in a country that does not seem to want her?

And what can Sophie, Wyatt, and K―three misfit best friends with complex and harrowing stories of their own―do to help the girl who can’t trust those who want to help her? What should they do? As seen through the eyes of 14-year-old Sophie, who lives with her terminally ill grandmother, Cloud Hopper by National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart is a poignant, high-flying adventure set among the old planes, Vietnam vets, and majestic hot air balloons of a run-down municipal airport. It’s about the rules we’ll break and the dangers we’ll face to do the most-right thing we can imagine, even when we’re feeling long past brave.

Weird But True Halloween: 300 Spooky Facts to Scare You Silly by Julie Beer and Michelle Harris for review from Media Masters Publicity.

The wildly popular Weird But True! line is all dressed up for Halloween with 300 all-new spooky facts about candy, costumes, pumpkin carving, and more! Calling all boys and ghouls: You’re in for a treat of freaky facts, stats, tidbits, and trivia about one of the most popular holidays! Did you know that there is an underwater pumpkin carving contest? Or that the U.S. Defense Department has a zombie apocalypse plan? Maybe you’d be amazed to discover that there are more Halloween emojis than there are U.S. states? It’s all weird–and it’s all true–in this latest and greatest edition, packed with hilarious and terrifying tidbits on Halloween!

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #597

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Eunice and Kate by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Elena Napoli from Penny Candy Books.

The girls live with their moms next door to each other in the heart of the city and have a lot in common―even though they have different dreams for the future: Kate wants to be an astronaut and Eunice wants to be a ballet dancer. But when they draw portraits of each other in art class, things get mixed up. Eunice draws Kate as a ballet dancer and Kate draws Eunice as an astronaut, and they both get more than a little annoyed. Can their friendship survive? With a little help from their moms, the girls come to learn the value of respecting each other’s different dreams. Eunice and Kate is a heartfelt new book by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Elena Napoli, about how honoring our differences can strengthen our bonds.

Luca’s Bridge by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Anna Lopez Real from Penny Candy Books.

Together in their car, Luca, his brother Paco, and their parents head across the border to Mexico where his parents were born. Luca doesn’t understand why he must leave the only home he’s ever known, his friends, and his school. He struggles through lonely and disorienting times―reflected both in Real’s delicate, symbolic illustrations and through Llanos’ description of his dreams―and leans on music, memory, and familial love for support. Luca’s Bridge / El puente de Luca is a story for everyone about immigration, deportation, home, and identity.

Trini’s Big Leap by Alexander de Wit and Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit from Penny Candy Books.

She easily masters any gymnastic move her teachers show her, and always says, “I can do that.” But when she tries to construct buildings out of blocks like her friends do, she discovers that some things don’t come as easily for her. Through the encouragement of her friends, Trini learns the value of collaboration and trying new things, even when they aren’t so easy. An afterword by the founder and CEO of The Little Gym Europe, outlines why it’s important to encourage children to try new and difficult things.

The Yellow Suitcase by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Meera Sethi from Penny Candy Books.

When they arrive at her grandmother’s house, it’s filled with strangers―and no Grandma. Asha’s grief and anger are compounded by the empty yellow suitcase usually reserved for gifts to and from Grandma, but when she discovers a gift left behind just for her, Asha realizes that the memory of her grandmother will live on inside her, no matter where she lives.

Henry the Boy by Molly Felder, illustrated by Nate Christopherson and Tara Sweeney from Penny Candy Books.

This is not a story about a heron or a robot or a chicken but an ordinary boy with daily struggles, triumphs, and an extraordinary imagination. Henry uses forearm crutches decorated with animal stickers. He sometimes feels out of place at school, especially when he gets made fun of, but through his own rich imagination and his friendship with Joel, Henry learns to define himself on his own terms.

Everything I Own by Angela Just from Pork Belly Press.

These poems are about storytelling, things handed down and examined, from the gifts a mother might give to her daughter to the embrace of two Neolithic skeletons. This micro is intimate and brave—a little wicked, a bit bruised. Ultimately, Just’s poems are darn intriguing.

 

Sap Rising by Christine Lincoln, which I purchased.

In this spare and mesmerizing debut, Christine Lincoln takes us inside the hearts and minds of African Americans whose lives unfold against a vividly evoked rural community. As they navigate between old and new, between youth and responsibility, they find themselves choosing between the comforts of what they trust without question and the fearsome excitements of what they might come to know.

One young man’s world is both expanded and contracted by stories he hears from a beautiful stranger. Another stumbles across his mother having an affair with his uncle. An intense friendship forms between one woman afraid she will turn out like everyone else and one afraid she won’t. Lincoln’s down-to-earth voice, saturated with the manner and details of the South, brings her characters to life with a remarkably light touch and an extraordinary depth of emotion. In Sap Rising, she proves herself one of those writers whose work transcends its own rich particularity to speak with clarity to the most fundamental elements of the human experience.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #578

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

We’re All Not the Same But We’re Still Family by Theresa Fraser and Eric E.W. Fraser, for review.

This story was written for adoptive families to explore the benefits of adoption openness. The main character, Deshaun, loves his family but always wondered about his biological family. Does he look like them? Did they love him? With the support of his adoptive parents, Deshaun gets to meet his biological family. They develop an ongoing relationship, so Deshaun feels more stable in his adoptive family, but also develops a comfortable relationship with his birth family. Deshaun and his family are reminded (as we all are) that family can include biological, adopted, foster and kin members.
After reading this book, a child and their family will be able to:

  • Discuss feelings about adoption
  • Imagine what openness might mean for them
  • Acknowledge similarities and differences among family members
  • Discuss if an expanded sense of family is possible for their circumstances

Hiking the Grand Mesa by Kyle Torke, illustrated by Barbara Torke, for review.

Join Coover, Conrad and their mighty dog, Clementine, as they explore one of the most unique landscapes in southern Colorado–the Grand Mesa! Their grandma takes them to the Dobies, a series of steep hills made from adobe clay that formed as the nearby volcanoes, now extinct, eroded. At first, Coover feels a little sad and lonely, but as he is introduced to the rich wildlife–from woodpeckers to toads, cattails and sunflowers–he feels stronger and more confident. As both boys tramp through their imaginative journey, the vivid history and beautiful scenery awaken them to a new world full of possibility and friendship. By the end of the day, everyone is happily exhausted and ready for the next adventure!

And You Can Love Me by Sherry Quan Lee for review.

And You Can Love Me is a story for everyone who loves someone with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). It is the fictional story of Ethan, a nonverbal autistic child, based on the author’s observations and experiences with her grandson. The bounce of a ball is not only a metaphor, but also how the author imagines that the child is releasing his innermost physical and emotional challenges. It is a love story that can be recognized by parents, caregivers and teachers; a story that embraces Ethan, a nonverbal child, who may never/or not yet be able to write his own story, yet he lives it every day and tells it by his actions and by bouncing a ball — any ball, any size, any color.

Emma Lou: the Yorkie Poo by Kim Larkins for review.

Meet Emma Lou, the Yorkie Poo – a little dog with big worries. She loves playing with her best friend, Pearl, but Pearl doesn’t always pay attention to Emma Lou’s worries. With the help of some new friends, Caleb the Calico cat, Patrick the pig and Gigi the ginormous giraffe, Emma Lou and Pearl begin to learn a new technique to calm their minds and bodies. Parents, educators, counselors – and especially children – can benefit from Emma Lou and her friends’ curious adventure to a mindful experience.

Amanda’s Fall by Kelly Bouldin Darmofal for review.

Amanda’s Fall, with charming illustrations by Bijan Samaddar, depicts an event common in schools today. Young Amanda gets a concussion after falling and hitting her head during recess. While she can hear people talking, she cannot respond. Amanda is taken to a doctor for evaluation. Wisely, her parents ask for a prognosis, which in Amanda’s case, is a good one. Author Kelly Darmofal offers readers her third book on TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), encouraging parents and caretakers to alert schools and, hopefully, doctors when any child is concussed; side effects can then be ameliorated.

Float: A Guide to Letting Go by Aimee L. Ruland, Illustrated by Carl R. Anderson for review.

Float: A Guide to Letting Go seeks to encourage children to process their emotions gently and in a way that allows them purposeful ownership of what they think and how they feel. It will aid them in identifying the root of their feelings, help them to examine their reactions to emotions and decide for themselves what they may be ready to release. The thoughtful use of color and symbols, and the guided practice of breathwork, encourages listeners to maintain a broad focus as they become more grounded and aware. The playful rhyme dances with listeners as they grow on their journey to the present, where they are beautifully set free.

Please Explain ‘Time Out’ to Me! by Laurie Zelinger and Fred Zelinger for review.

Time out is a dignified and effective method of discipline, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. This book, written by parenting experts, explains the time out process and provides step-by-step instructions for its proper and effective use. Please Explain Time Out To Me is two books in one: an engaging story with colorful illustrations and a parent section which describes the time out process in detail, as well as the advantages and pitfalls of other methods of discipline.

The Great Upending by Beth Kephart, which I purchased and is autographed by the author after her lovely virtual book launch with Main Point Books and the Radnor Memorial Library.

Twelve-year-old Sara and her brother Hawk are told that they are not to bother the man—The Mister—who just moved into the silo apartment on their farm. It doesn’t matter that they know nothing about him and they think they ought to know something. It doesn’t matter that he’s always riding that unicycle around. Mama told them no way, no how are they to bother The Mister unless they want to be in a mess of trouble.

Trouble is the last thing Sara and her brother need. Sara’s got a condition, you see. Marfan syndrome. And that Marfan syndrome is causing her heart to have problems, the kind of problems that require surgery. But the family already has problems: The drought has dried up their crops and their funds, which means they can’t afford any more problems, let alone a surgery to fix those problems. Sara can feel the weight of her family’s worry, and the weight of her time running out, but what can a pair of kids do?

Well, it all starts with…bothering The Mister.

What did you receive?

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, illustrations by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate


I think Beth Kephart is the most reviewed author on my blog. And you will probably understand why when you realize that many of her books are like prose poems that tell stories with big themes and complex and colorful characters. She is one of my favorite authors, and I especially love that her husband is illustrating some of her more recent books.


Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, with illustrations from William Sulit, is as beautifully poetic as Kephart’s previous novels, but this one is suspense wrapped in the wilds of the Adirondacks. Taking inspiration from a prison break at the Clinton Correctional Facility and the family heirlooms — Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart — in her father’s home, Kephart has woven an inspirational tale of courage tugged from 13-year-old Lizzie’s connections with her family and dearest friend, Matias. This middle-grade novel will charge young readers to think about their own lives and whether their willing to go the distance to save their own family and friends.

“I don’t remember if I ran, but maybe I did. I don’t remember how my heart felt, except for the squirm of it, like it was riding a carousel inside my chest.” (pg. 96)

Using the victim impact statement as a story-telling device, Lizzie takes us on the road to recovering her missing Uncle Davy and her friend Matias, but to take the journey, she says we must first understand who they are. We’re given glimpses of life in Matias’ homeland of El Salvadore — the beauty and the violence — and in many ways Lizzie’s journey to save them is like stepping foot into those El Salvadorean jungles where fear takes hold and makes things larger than life, scarier than they may be … at least in the Adirondacks. William Sulit’s watercolor renderings from Matias are beautiful and add a sense of wonder to the story, providing us a glimpse of what his art could be.

“‘I heard it roar. The loudest commotion you ever heard. Like an old man snoring through a megaphone that had been slapped against my ear.'” (pg. 289-90)

I was swept up in this story of Lizzie, her famous antique finding Uncle Davy, and her artistic friend Matias. I loved that Lizzie wanted to be brave and to find her family but at the same time her limitations are realistic. The woods carry a mystical quality for our young biologist, especially since she’s as entranced by her friend Matias’ paintings as she is enchanted by the natural world. She holds tight to memories and her family, but she also holds tight to knowledge, including the knowledge in The Art of Keppy, a practical guide for woodland explorers. My only moment of confusion and pause came when a character (who really isn’t) appears as Lizzie tells us what happened to the escapees and how this “character” had been tricked. This sequence took me out of Lizzie’s story and I was disoriented for a moment. I’ve debated whether this was intentional or not, but regardless, I wanted back into Lizzie’s world … to know what happened.

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, with illustrations from William Sulit, looks at the consequences of choice for the young protagonist, Lizzie. She chooses to leave her mother alone for the summer and be with her uncle in the woods and with her summer friend. She chooses to run after Matias when she learns he is missing, getting lost herself. When she returns home to find her uncle gone and police looking for escapees, she must make another choice and that choice can have the most dire of consequences. Would you have the same courage, touched with naivete? Does she make the right decisions? Many of these questions are not answered, but it would be a great book club discussion.

RATING: QUATRAIN

Other Books Reviewed:

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country

Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 44 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and William Sulit is published by Penny Candy Books. Trini is a fearless gymnast and a kid with a can-do attitude. But how she faces a challenge will be a lesson to all her readers. When faced with a challenge, how do you react? Do you give up? Do you ask for help? Do you ask someone to do it for you? Or do you work with others who have different skills.

Trini spies her friends in another room building things with blocks, but no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t build the castle she envisions. When Mr. Ed asks if she needs help, she refuses, even though she’s discouraged and frustrated. She doesn’t understand why she can’t do it.

Sulit’s delightful illustrations bring the bouncy Trini to life, and kids will engage with her high-energy activity. The pages are colorful but soft, and are a great complement to the story.

Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and William Sulit is a delightful picture book with a great message about perseverance and discovery. Take a journey with Trini and her friends and see how teamwork can save the day and move mountains.

RATING: Quatrain

Please check out these great interviews at Penny Candy Books.

Mailbox Monday #544

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and illustrated by William Sulit, which I purchased from Penny Candy Books.

Trini is the highest flyer, the strongest gripper, the most spectacular cartwheeler at her after-school club. She easily masters any gymnastic move her teachers show her, and always says, “I can do that.” But when she tries to construct buildings out of blocks like her friends do, she discovers that some things don’t come as easily for her. Through the encouragement of her friends, Trini learns the value collaboration and trying new things, even when they aren’t so easy.

An afterword by the founder and CEO of The Little Gym Europe, outlines why it’s important to encourage children to try new and difficult things.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #483

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received this week:

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart and illustrated by William Sulit, which I purchased.

The threat of two escaped convicts and a missing friend lead Lizzie on a harrowing journey through the wilds of the Adirondacks in this stunning novel from National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart.

Thirteen-year-old Lizzie’s favorite place in the world is her uncle’s cabin. Uncle Davy’s renovated schoolhouse cabin, filled with antiques and on the edge of the Adirondacks, disconnected from the rest of the world, is like something out of a fairy tale. And an escape from reality is exactly what Lizzie needs. Life hasn’t been easy for Lizzie lately. Her father abandoned their family, leaving Lizzie with her oftentimes irresponsible mother. Now, her mom has cancer and being unable to care for Lizzie during her chemotherapy, Mom asks her where she’d like to spend the summer. The answer is simple: Uncle Davy’s cabin.

Lizzie loves her uncle’s home for many reasons, but the main one is Matias, Uncle Davy’s neighbor and Lizzie’s best friend. Matias has proportionate dwarfism, but that doesn’t stop him and Lizzie from wandering in the woods. Every day they go to their favorite nook where Matias paints with watercolors and Lizzie writes. Until one day when Matias never arrives.

When news breaks about two escaped convicts from the nearby prison, Lizzie fears the worst. And when Uncle Davy goes missing, too, Lizzie knows she’s the only one who knows this area of woods well enough to save them. Armed with her trusted Keppy survival book, Lizzie sets out into the wilds of the Adirondacks, proving just how far she’ll go to save the people she loves.

Too Much Space! (Beep and Bob) by Jonathan Roth from an author visit to my daughter’s school.

Meet space-school attendee Bob and his alien bestie Beep in this start to an outrageously funny and action-packed chapter book series that’s great for “kids who love funny stories but may be too young for books like ­Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (School Library Journal) from debut author Jonathan Roth!

Astro Elementary is a school near Saturn attended by the bravest, brightest, most elite kids in the galaxy…and Bob. Bob never wanted to go to fourth grade in dark, dangerous space. He even tried to fail the admissions test by bubbling in “C” for every answer—and turned out to be the only kid on Earth to get a perfect score!

Party Crashes (Beep and Bob) by Jonathan Roth from a school event.

Beep and his best friend Bob get blamed for a robbery on a fancy spaceship in this second book in the hilarious, action-packed Beep and Bob series!

It’s Bob’s friend Lani’s birthday, and she’s having her party on a super luxury space cruiser called the Starship Titanic, whose motto is “The 100% safest ship in the galaxy.” The Titanic boasts three water parks, sixteen amusement parks, and twelve-million hyper-show channels on TV! Beep and Bob pack their favorite swimsuits and their favorite TV watching gear.

When Beep and Bob arrive on the ship, however, they realize they forgot the most important item: a birthday gift for Lani. Not only that, but Lani’s parents are super rich and expect everyone to wear a suit to dinner (not the bathing suit that Bob wore by mistake). But that’s not their biggest problem. No, that happens when the lights dim and guests’ jewelry is stolen from right under their noses—and Beep and Bob get blamed for the crime!

Things go from bad to worse when Beep and Bob discover that their “indestuctable” ship is headed right for the ice rings of Neptune—and then starts plummeting toward the planet below! Can Beep and his squishy alien buddy save the Starship Titanic? Or will this be their last party ever?

What did you receive?

2017 Honorable Mentions

It was a tough decision this past year, but I’ve selected my favorites.

These are those that nearly made the list — my honorable mentions for 2017:

What books were your favorites last year?

Interview with Beth Kephart, Juncture Workshops Co-Founder

In case you missed my review of this must have workbook — Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit — you must check out my review.

Today, Beth Kephart stops by to answer a few questions about her workbook and Juncture, memoir workshops and a newsletter.  Please give her a warm welcome.

After teaching memoir at Penn, what prompted you to create your own series of workshops focused on writing memoir?  Was the process from idea to launching your first workshop long? And what obstacles did you face and how did you deal with those?

Serena, I helplessly love memoir. I read it with real hunger, deep interest, open questions. I have been asked by many adult writers if I could work privately on individual manuscripts. I have given memoir talks across the country and run one day memoir workshops in communities and seen what can happen when adults gather to write about their lives. It felt like it was time to create something like Juncture. It took more than a year to roll this out. We wanted to make something beautiful. Find the right sites. Create a gorgeous web site and brochure series. Build a robust syllabi. It took a lot of time and love.

Juncture is a joint project with your equally talented husband; how has that journey been?  How do you find artistic balance when you’re working closely together?

Bill is enormously talented. I love his art, his eye, his interest in building meaningful and artful communities. We have collaborated on many projects throughout the years. The creation of Juncture, which involves an Illustrated newsletter, videos, and the workshops themselves, has been deeply engaging and very personal and something we talk about and plan together. We rarely disagree on any aspect of this initiative.

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook is a collection of exercises or more.  Are these the same exercises you use in your workshops?  What have been the reactions from participants to those exercises?

I actually never teach the same thing twice. I develop themes for each workshop and work towards them. I may teach some version of some of these exercises but mostly what is in the book was created for buyers of the book. The exercises are holistic. One thing builds to the next and the next. You can do each exercise as a singular experience or you can progressively build toward key elements of your memoir. I loved thinking about the accretive process.

While I never teach the same thing, while I build an intense curriculum that creates many opportunities to study memoir and to write multiple pieces, while I supplement all teaching with excerpts I have on hand and use to develop ideas that rise spontaneously … I always see incredible growth in the Juncture writers over the five days we have together. The kind of growth that makes me cry. And because these writers most often come back for another session months later, I see how they have continued to find their voices and stories in the meantime. It is hugely emotional to be a part of this. We memorialize the experience with a book each writer receives. Portraits Bill will take. Final pages published. Proof of our community and process.

You’ve included illustrations from your husband in this workbook. Did you give him the freedom to create anything he wanted or did you offer him guidance?  Are there plans to include photography in future editions (I know there will be second and third editions)?

Bill has absolute freedom with the art. I am surprised by each sketch he shows me. I love each sketch. His work makes me happy. No plans for another version, but yes, as I have established, I can’t stop thinking about memoir. 

For those interested in signing up for your workshop, what advice would you give about preparing for the workshop in advance? How should they approach the experience? Do you expect them to have a memoir project already in mind?

I prepare my workshop goers. Two months ahead of time the participants are sent PDF packages with excerpt readings, assignments, a guide to the one full book we all read as part of the process, and so much more. I run a workshop for those who have not yet defined their memoir project and one for those already deep into their book. They are entirely different and very respectful of where each writer is in the process.

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your thoughts with us.  If you’re looking for a great memoir teacher, Beth is your lady.

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 210 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the perfect workbook for budding memoirists because it provides not only writing exercises but enough room to write inspirations down.  Users can even staple additional pages in the book if they need more room.

What I love about the workbook, other than that it is written by Beth Kephart, is that the illustrations could jog the brain into writing and the exercises vary from writing about a first memory to writing a poem about an event.  Born from her Juncture workshops, Kephart uses those experiences to offer writers exercises that will leave them inspired to tackle that memoir or other writing project they’ve been thinking about.  For example, in the writing about your first lie exercise, there are tips about finding the bigger story in the lie, as well as suggestions to think about the details to make them alluring and to think about who you were before the lie was told and who you were after it was told.

The workbook is broken down in to finding your voice, finding the true you, hunting for memory, navigating your world, using photographs to job memory or inspire, and many other topics.  I love how the exercises help you tease out details for your writing, and by the end of the workbook, you should be prepared to tackle that memoir or other work you’re looking to finish.  Always remember that the truth matters and that your memoir is not just about you!  Very sage advice.

If you’re looking for a workbook full of exercises to get you thinking outside the box, Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the one, especially if you’re writing a memoir.  Using your imagination, you could also adapt the exercises to suit your fiction writing needs or just get writing in general, if you’re a little rusty.  Kephart has done it again.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.