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Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published May 8, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about it almost daily since I’ve read it. It’s an unforgettable story about a girl’s courage to survive. I don’t know her age, and although I suspect that the book is targeted by marketing teams for middle graders, it is quite simply a must-read for everyone. The book provides layers upon layers of themes and issues to consider. It made me think about privilege, freedom, education, and bravery, in particular. Amal is inspiring, and I greatly admire her courage in the face of adversity. When I was reviewing this book on GoodReads, I noticed that every one of my reader friends rated the book highly, and I am not surprised. Amal’s story is one that will stick with all readers. 

This is an important book. This is a book that will make your heart race. This is a book that I will read again and again.

Kellee’s Review: This story affected me much in the way that Sold, A Long Walk to Water, Rickshaw Girl, or Queen of Water did. As we fight for so many injustices here in America, there are unimaginable things happening to humans in other places around the world. Often somewhere like Pakistan seems so far away, but then you read a story like Amal’s and you see that the gap between you and her is not that big and we all just want happiness in our life. Amal’s strive for knowledge and willingness to help others are traits that make her unforgettable mostly when paired with the bravery she shows throughout this book. Amal’s story will truly help readers look through windows (and possibly mirrors) and have to face the privilege we do have and the injustice others face. 

On top of the very important theme and amazing main character, the story of Amal Unbound is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and heart wrenching. And there is a truly suspenseful part also! The story is definitely one that will keep kids reading while also doing all of what I said above.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book as a read aloud, close reading/analysis, lit circle/book club, or classroom library text. It is rare that Kellee and I designate a book with all of these categories, but it’s a very adaptable text. It might be interesting for teachers to use this book as a whole-class read but using book groups. The groups could select a theme to study (e.g. education) and read other fiction and nonfiction related to the theme. This might allow for rich discussion across groups where they share their findings and teach each other.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways did Amal show courage? Did you agree with all of her actions?
  • What is the role of education in this book?
  • Which characters stood out to you? What made them three-dimensional?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose(s) might be?

We Flagged: “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Read This If You Loved: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

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2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Finalists Announced

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction.  Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.  

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Winner is:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
(HarperCollins/ Balzar +  Bray)

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists are:

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
(Penguin Random House/ Crown Books for Young Readers)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
(Simon & Schuster/ Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
(Simon & Schuster/ Simon Pulse)

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
(Penguin Random House/ Philomel Books)

The winning title and finalists will be honored at the 2018 ALAN Workshop on Monday, November 19th in Houston, TX, and the authors will be invited to participate in a panel discussion.

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee would like to thank: the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Foundation, the ALAN Executive Council, the ALAN Board of Directors, NCTE, and the many publishers who submitted titles for consideration.

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee considered over 350 young adult titles throughout the process.  The committee was comprised of eleven members representing the university, K-12 school, and library communities. They are:

Beth Scanlon, Committee Chair
Teacher
Cypress Creek High School, Orlando, FL

Lisa Scherff, Past Committee Chair
Teacher
South Ft. Myers High School, Ft. Myers, FL

Sheila Benson
Associate Professor, English Education
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA

Robert Bittner
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Marie LeJeune
Professor, Literacy Education
Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR

Lisa Morris-Wilkey
Librarian
Casa Grande Elementary School District, Casa Grande, AZ

Sarah Mulhern Gross
Teacher
High Technology High School, Lincroft, NJ

Kerry Neuberger
Teacher
Garner-Hayfield-Ventura High School, Garner, IA

Jennifer Paulsen
Teacher
Holmes Junior High, Cedar Falls, IA

Beth Shaum
Librarian
St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School, Allen Park, MI

Wendy Stephens
School Library Media Specialist
Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville AL

For more information on the award, please visit ALAN Online: The Official Site of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/walden-award/

Congratulations to Angie Thomas and the the finalists! 

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2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Finalists Announced

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction.  Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.  

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists are:

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
(Penguin Random House/ Crown Books for Young Readers)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
(HarperCollins/ Balzar +  Bray)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
(Simon & Schuster/ Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
(Simon & Schuster/ Simon Pulse)

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
(Penguin Random House/ Philomel Books)

The winner will be announced on Monday, July 30th. The winning title and finalists will be honored at the 2018 ALAN Workshop on Monday, November 19th in Houston, TX, and the authors will be invited to participate in a panel discussion.

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee would like to thank: the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Foundation, the ALAN Executive Council, the ALAN Board of Directors, NCTE, and the many publishers who submitted titles for consideration.

The 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee considered over 350 young adult titles throughout the process.  The committee was comprised of eleven members representing the university, K-12 school, and library communities. They are:

Beth Scanlon, Committee Chair
Teacher
Cypress Creek High School, Orlando, FL

Lisa Scherff, Past Committee Chair
Teacher
South Ft. Myers High School, Ft. Myers, FL

Sheila Benson
Associate Professor, English Education
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA

Robert Bittner
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Marie LeJeune
Professor, Literacy Education
Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR

Lisa Morris-Wilkey
Librarian
Casa Grande Elementary School District, Casa Grande, AZ

Sarah Mulhern Gross
Teacher
High Technology High School, Lincroft, NJ

Kerry Neuberger
Teacher
Garner-Hayfield-Ventura High School, Garner, IA

Jennifer Paulsen
Teacher
Holmes Junior High, Cedar Falls, IA

Beth Shaum
Librarian
St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School, Allen Park, MI

Wendy Stephens
School Library Media Specialist
Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville AL

For more information on the award, please visit ALAN Online: The Official Site of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/walden-award/

Congratulations to the Walden Award committee and to the authors and publishers of the honored books!

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Running on the Roof of the World
Author: Jess Butterworth
Published May 1st, 2018 by Algonquin Young Readers

Summary: A story of adventure, survival, courage, and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India.

Tash lives in Tibet, where as a practicing Buddhist she must follow many rules to avoid the wrath of the occupying Chinese soldiers. Life remains peaceful as long as Tash, her family, and their community hide their religion and don’t mention its leader, the Dalai Lama.

The quiet is ruptured when a man publicly sets himself on fire to protest the occupation. In the crackdown that follows, soldiers break into Tash’s house and seize her parents. Tash barely escapes, and soon she and her best friend, Sam, along with two borrowed yaks, flee across the mountains, where they face blizzards, hunger, a treacherous landscape, and the constant threat of capture. It’s a long, dangerous trip to the Indian border and safety—and not all will make it there.

This action-packed novel tells a story of courage, hope, and the powerful will to survive, even in the most desperate circumstances.

About the Author [from her website]: As a child I wanted to be many things, including a vet and even David Attenborough, but throughout all of those ideas, I always wanted to write. So I studied creative writing as a BA(hons) at Bath Spa University, where I won the Writing for Young People Prize in 2011. I then completed a Master’s in Writing for Young People, also at Bath Spa University, and graduated in 2015.

My first two novels, RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD and WHEN THE MOUNTAINS ROARED are set in the Himalayas. My family on my Dad’s side has lived in India for seven generations and I spent much of my childhood in India too. My father was a trek leader and we lived on a remote foothill above Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile is settled. My mother’s family lived in London, where I was born. She was off on her own adventure, travelling in India, when she met my dad. Growing up, I would always write about the Himalayas when I was in the UK and missing the mountains or my dad and grandparents who still lived there.

Although RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD is fiction, it is inspired by a journey that tens of thousands of Tibetans have braved. I wanted to write a story that is relevant to today and grounded in events, places and communities I care about deeply.

Now I live between Louisiana in the US and Frome in the UK, and you’ll often find me back in the Himalayas too.

Review: We all have knowledge gaps. I try to learn as much as I can about the world and others unlike me, and this story took me to Tibet and showed me a struggle happening that I was unaware of. While reading and since reading, I have spent hours reading about the history and current affairs of Tibet.

But other than smacking me in the face with this truth and taking place in a setting and from a point of view that is not often shared in middle grade and young adult novels, it also is a page-turning survival adventure. Tash and Sam must face a trek that hundreds of thousands have done, but they are doing it alone with only help from a few yaks and maybe some unexpected allies.

I included the author’s biography in her own words above because I think it is important to see that although this book may not be an own voices per se, it is written by someone who lived in the area and cares deeply about the people who live near the Himalayas.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to see this book and others from countries in other continents as part of a lit circle or in-class book club within middle school or high school classrooms to allow kids to see the world outside of their small area. Some other texts could be: Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, Refugee by Alan Gratz, Diamond Boys by Michael Williams, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan, Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg, Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf, Long Walk to Walter by Linda Sue Park, The Glass Collector by Anna Perera, Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, La Linea by Ann Jaramillo, and I am sure there are more that I just don’t know. In addition to the novels, students could read news articles about the current events that connect with what they read in their fiction novels.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do Tash and Sam have to leave Tibet?
  • What are Tash’s parents doing that is so dangerous?
  • What is the geography like between Tibet and India?
  • What religion is Tash and Sam if they are going to see the Dalai Lama?
  • How do the yaks impact the success or failure of Tash and Sam’s journey?
  • What did the message in the letter end up meaning?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter 17: Journey

Eve steps into a ditch and I slide forward, slamming into the hump above her shoulders.

‘Sorry, Eve,’ I mutter, shuffling back to find my balance.

Being a yak rider should run in my blood but my leg muscles ache from clinging on so tightly.

We approach the thick wire fence that surrounds the village. Two rocks stand to our right like giant guards.

Please let it be clear.

Sam dismounts. He moves slowly toward them, crushing the gravel under his boots.

‘There’s no one here!’ he shouts.

‘Is the fence still broken?’ I ask.

He nods and disappears between rocks with Bones.

I follow him. The rusty fence has bowed to the ground where the boulder fell and flattened it. The space between the rocks is just big enough to squeeze Eve through, though I have to tug at her harness to get her to move. As I step over the fence, my heart jumps.

We’re escaping.

Read This If You Love: Books about climing mountains like Peak and The Edge by Roland Smith, survival books like Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder, or books that expand your reading borders like the books listed above

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**Thank you to Brooke at Algonquin for providing a copy for review!**

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The 2018 Big Book Summer Reading Challenge is on, and there is still plenty of time to join! It’s easy-going, like summer – you only need to read one book with 400 or more pages sometime between now and the end of summer (early September) to participate (though of course, you can read more Big Books, if you want to). It’s great motivation to tackle some of the bigger books on your shelves or TBR that usually get overlooked. Check out the details at the link and join the fun!

Kellee

I’ve already read one of my Big Books this summer!!!!

Anger is a Gift
Author: Mark Oshiro
Published May 22, 2018 by Tor Teen
463 pages

Summary: A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

My Review: Mark Oshiro did something that I think is super hard to tackle: told a story that many may label an “issues” book but does it without making it seem didactical or preachy. The author just told us a story that is based in reality. Are there parts that hit on social issues from our society? Yes! Because that is real. It is truth. This is a story that is going to hit some people very hard because the truth is hard. It is hard to face if you are not part of this reality. It is hard to face if you are a cause of this reality. It is hard to face if you are living this reality. This Big Book packs a big punch!

I still plan on reading some Rick Riordan books which are definitely Big Books! I’ve promised my students I would read some Heroes of Olympus, so hopefully I can fill that promise!

Ricki

Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Published March 6, 2018 by Holt
525 pages

I started listening to this book on Audible this month, and I am loving it! I am currently three hours from the end (the entire book is sixteen hours). It’s well-worth the hype. If you haven’t read it yet, you should!

Anger is a Gift
Author: Mark Oshiro
Published May 22, 2018 by Tor Teen
463 pages

Upon Kellee’s recommendation, I started this book last week on my Kindle. It’s very, very good.

 

Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner
Published March 7, 2017 by Crown
405 pages

I started this book last year, but I wasn’t in a good place for it. I am going to restart and finish it by the end of the summer, for sure!

I hope you will join us and Sue in the 2018 Summer Big Book Challenge!

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A Possibility of Whales
Author: Karen Rivers
Published March 13th, 2018 by Algonquin Young Readers

Summary: The story of a girl who—thanks to her friends, her famous single dad, and an unexpected encounter with a whale—learns the true meaning of family.

Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher loves possibilities: the possibility that she’ll see whales on the beach near her new home, the possibility that the trans­gender boy she just met will become her new best friend, the possibility that the paparazzi hounding her celebrity father won’t force them to move again. Most of all, Nat dreams of the possibility that her faraway mother misses her, loves her, and is just waiting for Nat to find her.

But how can Nat find her mother if she doesn’t even know who she is? She abandoned Nat as a baby, and Nat’s dad refuses to talk about it. Nat knows she shouldn’t need a mom, but she still feels like something is missing, and her questions lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.

About the Author: Karen Rivers’s books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usu­ally be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, and two birds. Find her online at karenrivers.com and on Twitter: @karenrivers.

Praise: 

“A remarkable novel . . . Nat’s witty and vulnerable voice drives the novel, from her wry observations about contemporary celebrity culture to the thoughtful collection of untranslatable words that help define her world. The chapters that center Harry’s perspective are just as strong, emphasizing his desire to be seen and understood, not as an abstract exemplar of a transgender child but as an individual. The novel avoids offering simple solutions for questions of identity and adolescence, instead reveling in life’s nuance and complexity. Perfect for fans of Raymie Nightingale and Counting by Sevens, Rivers’s latest work brings an improbable combination of elements together in an unforgettable story that is quirky and wise.” —School Library Journal

“Charming and sweet as it explores personal identity, life changes, love, and, of course, whales . . . Nat’s story of self-discovery is sure to inspire anyone searching for their place in the world.” —Foreword Reviews

“A worthwhile addition to library collections.” —Booklist

ReviewI am a big fan of novels that switch points of view as I feel like it gives another perspective into the story that is being told, and with this story, I am so very happy that we get to hear from Nat AND Harry. There needs to be coming-of-age stories for all types of kids, and Nat and Harry will be someone that kids that may not have someone to connect to in other books will immediately find some kids that they’ll see themselves in. And Harry’s story is one that needed to be told in a middle grade book and hadn’t yet been in a book that I’ve read, and is one that many of my students have asked for. I am so glad that Harry exists for my middle schoolers! And Nat is a special young lady whose coming-of-age story is one that middle schoolers need as well–a look at family, growing up, friendship, school, and WHALES!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The best home for Whales will be in the right kids’ hands. This book will be perfect for all libraries, classroom and school, as well as for the right lit circle or book club.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Nat’s acceptance of Harry right away show you about Nat’s character?
  • How has Nat’s father’s career and her lack of mother affected her life?
  • Why was the name lion perfect for the paparazzi who followed Nat and her father?
  • What do the whales symbolize in the story?
  • How did the two points of view help shape a more thorough story?
  • What was the author’s purpose of including Bird in the story? What role did she play in Nat’s life?

Flagged Passages: 

Nat: “On her fourth day at the new place, Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher walked down the long, lumpy trail to the beach that lay at the bottom of the slope.

The ‘Baleine’ was silent, was what she told people when they asked , which was pretty much only when she was registering at a new school or had to show her passport. Baleine was the French word for ‘whale.’ Nat loved the fact that it was there, hiding inside her perfectly normal name. She pictured the whale swimming past the Natalia Rose on her passport, surfacing when no one was looking to take a long huffing breath of air before disappearing again, under the Gallagher.

‘Baleine’ was the heart of her name. (When Nat had to do an ‘All About Me’ poster in first grade, she drew a whale where most kids put a heart.)

‘Baleine was also a secret between Nat and her mother, who named her.

Her mother, who named her, and then left.” (p. 3-4)

Harry: “Harry scratched his ear again, so hard it was probably bleeding. It was just a coincidence that it was the same ear that got hurt the year before when a group of boys in his class decided it would be funny to beat him up.

They beat him up because they hated him for knowing who he was.

That is, they beat him up because even though some dumb doctor said he was a girl when he was born, he was really a boy.

The boys who beat him up were not the kind of kids who understood things like that.

No one in that town was.

Maybe no one anywhere was.” (p. 43)

Read This If You Love: Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson; All Summer Long by Hope Larson; Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky; I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-LogstedTwo Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick; Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz; Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamilloStealing Our Way Home by Cecelia Galante; The Real Us by Tommy Greenwald

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**Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

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TwoSpells
Author: Mark Morrison
Published February 21st, 2018

About the Book: TwoSpells is a magical tale about a set of teenage twins, Sarah and Jon, who find out that they’re heirs to an ancient, magical realm containing an enchanted library that can transport a reader to anywhere or anytime the author has written into the story. They soon realize that moving through multidimensional worlds isn’t the safest or wisest of choices.

They’re immediately pulled into an inter-dimensional war erupting between goodness inherent within her kind and new evil forces flowing from parallel universes now looking to claim the library’s unique magical enchantment as their own portal to besieging and conquering their world and all realms outside their own.

Along the way, the twins meet astonishing and fascinating characters of a wide variety of species, both Regulars and Irregulars, who can do amazing things. Some are good and some are of unspeakably horrific creations bent on one thing: destroying the two strange intruders who have entered and disrupted their sacred two-dimensional domain.

Sarah and Jon have left behind their much simpler life as Regulars and embrace their new positions as successors to a very special kingdom designed for their kind only, the Irregulars.


Excerpt: Chapter 12

THE FRONT DOOR LAY FLATTENED, hinges bent and twisted and the sliding bolt-lock contorted. The door jam was broken and splintered.

“What is this?” Grandpa roared, waving his walking stick at the mountainous intruders. “Which one of ya’ is gonna pay for all this?”

The dust settled and the two ominous figures stood just outside the doorway, the bright moon blazing behind them. Tattooed across their pale blue foreheads were the numbers thirty-seven and thirty-eight. Each was stuffed into a suit two sizes too small and busting at the seams, barely able to contain their hulking, muscular bodies. Black, wraparound sunglasses hid their eyes from view and Sarah could tell that something strange lay behind them. One muttered into a small microphone curled toward his lips and the other stared straight ahead.

Grandpa rolled up behind them. “Collectors!”

“Collectors?” Sarah whispered to Jon. He shrugged.

“You know why here,” Thirty-seven grunted, flipping one side of his jacket open and exposing a peculiar gold badge attached to his belt. It was a cluster of mechanical gears embedded with astrological symbols and a mechanical winged dragon clinging to a peculiar orbs.

“We do not!” Grandma shouted, leaning on her walker.

“Overdue book,” the other one boomed, holding out a six fingered hand.

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about ya’ thug,” Grandma said, rolling her walker closer. “Who’s gonna fix me door?”

The Collectors muttered something in another language to one another.

“We haven’t even been ta’ the bloody library in years,” Grandpa argued. “Ya’ have that written in your records?”

Thirty-seven moved closer, his hand out again. “Special text overdue.”

Sarah and Jon eased backward a little. The tone of its voice sounded threatening.

About the Author: Mark was born number seven of eight children in a small town in Ohio. His family moved to Florida where he grew up, met an incredible women, got married and raised four fantastic children, three boys and a girl. Many years later an empty nest left him to his true calling, storytelling. His first remarkable story is about a heroin whose courage and unrestrained personality, like his daughters, breathes passion and fervor into this adrenaline packed fantastical story.

Author Guest Post: 

“The Uh… Game”

Hello Everyone,

I’m Mark Morrison. I’m originally from a teeny-tiny town in Ohio called Salem. My father used to say that it was the armpit of the country. Peeuuw! I have seven brothers and sisters, a slew of nieces and nephews and a couple dozen great nieces and nephews. I now live in Florida with my loving wife, four children and two beautiful grand-babes. It’s hot down here, but it’s just a sticky, obnoxiously wet heat. Hahaha.

My father used to say that I was an uneducated genius. I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that. I suppose he thought that because I spent most of my time in school more involved in sports and art classes than mathematics, history or science. I did, however, sneak in several elective credits as a librarian’s assistant. That was a whole lot of fun and I was able to read a ton of awesome books.

As a boy I grew up reading things like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, and classics, like Huckleberry Finn and Charlotte’s Web. I topped those off with some outstanding comic books and MAD magazines. But as I got older my taste changed. I was really into Isaac Asimov, George Orwell and Edgar Allen Poe. And I watched a lot of television as well. Star Trek, Dark Shadows, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Who, Andy Griffith, Mary Tyler Moore, the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island rounded out some dull afternoons when I didn’t have a book in hand.

As most folks with large families know, board games are an inexpensive way to entertain ourselves. We’d always get a batch of new board games at Christmas along with a new pair of socks and underwear. On one particular low budget Christmas, my father introduced us to a game he claimed he’d invented called, “Uh!”

Our family would gather in the living room and Dad would elect one of us to start the game. The starter would have to create a totally fictitious story out of thin air using heavy inflection and hand gestures to embolden the story. After a sentence or two they’d pause mid-sentence and let the next player take over from there. This continued around the room until someone hesitated or said “uh” while trying to think of an idea. That player was out and the game continued until only one person was left. The stories were extremely creative and often incredibly strange, because each player was attempting to make the next in line chuckle and fumble. It was an awesome game of improvisation and I credit my love of storytelling, and wild hand gesturing while I speak, to that silly game.

Picture this scenario: A teacher in a room full of school children chooses an order to play a really fun and improvisational game. The teacher determines the first to play, a child in the front row seat was chosen and starts a story with a simple partial idea like this, “Once upon a time there was a young giraffe by the name of George who woke up one morning and realized he had lost his spots and…”

The child next in order adds to it, “Cried because he felt naked and embarrassed that all the other giraffes still had their beautiful spots and he didn’t. He searched the plains where he lived for hours on end, even searched the nearby forest with no luck at all. His spots had seemed to have just disappeared in the night. He decided somebody must have…

The next in order has to add to that, “Stolen his spots while he slept. Being the tallest creature in the neighborhood so continued his search further from home. He scanned the new surroundings until he saw what he thought were his missing spots on a creature perched on a tree limb in the distance. The creature was called a…

The next in order continues, “Leopard. George was furious that someone would take his precious spots. He ran to the tiny leopard and cried out….uhhhhh…”

That child slipped up and paused, therefore they’re eliminated and the game continues on from there to the next player rounding the room over and over until every child is eliminated except one.

The stories can turn into some very bizarre abstract worlds full of nonsensical ideas but hilarious sometimes. My family would have a ball for hours and hours playing UH! And for free. It was a fantastic way to teach us how to think fast and improvise. I lend that game to my ability to pretty much create a story out of any idea thrown at me in an instant.

Thanks for listening!

And thank you, Mark, for sharing your story!

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