Blog Takeover! Teen writer Tori & RED HOOD by Elana K. Arnold

What are teens doing between #DistanceLearning and #shelteringinplace
Some are struggling with online school and others are having a hard time finding motivation. 
I’ve been there, back, and there again. Amidst the crazy of #shelteringinplace, I’ve  been working on my novel (finally!), building a website for teens stuck in quarantine, and reading. 

Here’s my review of Elana K. Arnold’s RED HOOD. You will notice it’s written in 2nd person. You’ll know why once you read the book… 

RED HOOD
From the moment you first open RED HOOD, Arnold’s world feels warm and comfortable. You feel warm and comfortable. And above all, safe. 
warm and safe
If you’ve ever gone to a school dance, you know this scene like the back of your hand. The loud friend, the blaring music, the romance of a partner there with you. Almost instantly, the plot takes off. You read and see and feel the main character’s feelings. Bisou’s fear is evident on the page. 
fear is evident
And when you keep turning the pages, earnestly, the scene gets darker and darker, until Bisou is running through the cold, dark, night. The plot winds and spins and spirals, some parts dark and twisted, others bright and clear. But more shadows start to appear, overwhelming the sun, creeping slowly, like thick, black, mud. There are long kept secrets that are kept coiled up tightly, each one harder to read than the last. Still, you find it harder and harder to look away, to slam the cover shut. 
dark and twisted
shadows like thick, black mud
 Wolves and men begin to flit through the artfully written pages, and the stuff of your nightmares starts to cackle and grin. You see Bisou find friends in the unlikeliest of places, and you see her struggle to trust them, not knowing what is happening to her. Her monthly need to go and fight and defend and kill. Men die. Hushed whisperings spread through the town. Tensions rise. A nosy reporter worsens things considerably. 
long kept secrets
wolves and men
Bisou’s terror starts to increase, and you discover the horrors of involuntary celibates. Incels. Men who feel they deserve sexual relationships; that women are pieces of property.  A team is formed. Bisou, Keisha, the reporter, and one other victim of the crimes of an incel, Maggie. Banded together by fear and desperation, a desperation for answers.
burning questions
Eventually, Bisou’s grandmother answers your burning questions. The story you see, the one that Mémé tells, is not one you will forget for a long, long time. A cryptic note left by Mémé alarms the young team.
girls who’ve grown up too fast
unlikely to succeed
They are girls who’ve had to grow up too fast and are unlikely to succeed, unlikely to be a team at all. They fix what they can, ending the beginning of Bisou’s story. They close the door on Bisou’s dead father. They save Mémé, the girls united and strong, but human. Fighters, warriors, but just girls. Broken, bruised, beautiful. 
broken, bruised, beautiful
Arnold depicts the power of women, or the lack of it, at the hand of men, through a twisted version of Little Red Riding Hood. 
RED HOOD
If you like fantastical books that can make your skin crawl, with imperfect female heroines, or  you’ve enjoyed the titles MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russel and FROZEN BEAUTY by Lexa Hillyer, this book is for you. Put RED HOOD on your TBR list. Better yet–buy it at your favorite Indie. (Support Independent bookstores!)
Victoria Krol is 15 year-old Freshman in high school with an absolute passion for reading, writing, the arts, and horseback riding. She is currently working on a novel with her co-partner Charley Ramos, which is in the midst of its second revision and currently has a plot that resembles lasagna. She met Erin dressed in full 70’s gear at the 2019 SCBWI LA Summer Conference, where their instant friendship resulted in her as a guest blogger. 

Writing and Reading Resources from the #kidlit community

Hi friends. I’ve put my Teacher hat on and compiled some awesome resources and ideas that #kidlit friends have been sharing, for student lessons and activities during this challenging #shelterinplace time:

(You can write to me too, by the way…)

  • OR…Write A Letter …to a grandparent, the neighbors, your best friend, your teacher…Use Beverly Cleary’s DEAR MR. HENSHAW or Mark Teague’s DEAR MRS. LA RUE as mentor texts.

With so many staying home, why not make it #WriteALetter Day every Wednesday?

  • Illustrators are sharing too. Here’s the link to daily ART lessons from Jarrett Krosoczka!  

Stay healthy! We can DO this!

Classroom Blog Takeover: What are you reading? 3rd Grade

It’s Classroom Blog Takeover Day and this post comes all the way from Cambodia!

I first met the 3rd Graders at the International School of Phnom Penh when I skyped with them for #WRAD.

Sharing the cover of my next book: DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 ( Illus. Luisa Uribe / Harper Collins/ Dec. 2020)

(Fun fact: I skyped with ISPP from California at 7pm Feb. 4th, and it was already 10am Feb. 5th –World Read Aloud Day–in Cambodia.)

As a follow up, I thought it would be cool to learn more about what they’re reading.

Huge thanks to their teacher, Erika Victor, for sending these answers along, and to Zunran, Hyeonseo, and Mia for sharing their thoughts:

What are you reading?

Zunran: I just finished reading ZIG AND WIKKI IN THE COW (Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler / Toon Books). I liked this book because the story was funny, the characters were planning, and also because it had some informational text in it too. 

Full Disclosure: Because I had never heard of this book, I wanted to learn more. (Thanks Zunran!) Here’s the summary from Toon Books:

When alien pals Zig and Wikki lose their spaceship on Earth, their friendship is definitely in trouble. In order to get home, they must travel through a farm and into a cow, picking up fun facts about ecology (and picking fights) along the way. 

Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler‘s funny, science-based early-reader is packed with fast-paced adventure and facts about poop: what more could a young reader want?

Reminds me of Ms. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus (Scholastic) only with Aliens!

HyeonseoI just finished reading HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (J.K.Rowling / Scholastic Press). I liked the book because the story was interesting and had lots of details in it. The characters were very interesting also because they all like to do different things like play chess or learn and more. The book was also very attractive and now I want to read the second book in the series. 

Wow. Hard to believe HARRY POTTER was first released in the US in 1998 and readers are still discovering the magic.

Mia:  I just finished reading GUTS (Raina Telgemeier / Graphix / Scholastic). I liked the book because the story was about that everyone gets scared and people are vomiting and that it’s okay if people get therapy. The characters were nice, mean, and generous. The book was good for me to practice inferring and had very good pictures. 

Thank you again to the third graders at the International School of Phnom Penh. Did you notice that 2 out of 3 books are graphic novels? When I asked Ms. Victor about it she said they had just finished a graphic novel unit (Hooray!)

Ms. Victor: Third graders LOVE graphic novels, but so do most grades. This unit helped them read them more purposefully, which has really helped. Now we are reading infographics, so into all kinds of NF too.
It’s interesting to note all three of these amazing Classroom Blog Takeover students speak English as a second or third language. WOW! Congrats, my friends–and keep #READING!

Raising Readers –Tips from an editor, an author, and an illustrator

If you follow Carol Hinz (@CarolCHinz Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books at Lerner Publishing Group) you know she has tweeted many wonderful stories about her boys READING.

 Author Katey Howes (RISSY NO KISSIES / Lerner 2021; WOVEN OF THE WORLD / Chronicle 2021; MAGNOLIA MUDD /Sterling; and BE A MAKER /Carolrhoda —details here.) has written many insightful #RaisingReaders posts. *See archives over at kateywrites.wordpress.com.

Illustrator Luciana Navarro Powell (EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA/ Amicus Ink, 2020; TINY BROWN MONKEY ON THE BIG BLUE EARTH / Amicus Ink 2019; GRANDMA’S FAVORITE & GRANDPA’S FAVORITE / Kane Miller/ 2018) often shares her sons’ unbelievable (!) reading positions on Insta at @LucianaIllustration

How on earth have these busy moms

raised such amazing young readers?

What better way to celebrate I-Love-To-Read Month, than to find out?   

READ ON, friends:

Q1. How old was your young reader when you realized he/she was hooked on books?  

Katey: It’s hard for me to put a finger on the moment I realized my 3 kids loved books – in part because I never thought about it being any other way. I grew up bookish in a family that walked to the public library every weekend and brought home literal wagon loads of books, so my kids’ interest in books and reading from babyhood seemed as much a foregone conclusion to me as their love of chocolate chip cookies and mushing around in mud puddles. In fact, it wasn’t until I started blogging in 2013 that I realized that a reading household like ours wasn’t the norm.

One more book!

My kids were 8, 6 and 4, and I was a stay-at-home mom for the first time. The blog was my outlet, and I was writing posts about a variety of topics, trying to figure out what I had to contribute that was unique and helpful to other parents. Anytime I posted about our trips to the library, our afternoons acting out our favorite stories, or the nights I despaired of ever getting to sleep because my kids needed “one more book,” I got drastically increased traffic to my site, and lots of comments and questions. Those reactions helped me recognize that we had something special, and that I could analyze it and share it with other families to help them raise readers, too.

Turning “disaster” to magic.

Carol: I feel like it’s happening before my eyes with my 6-year-old son, who is in first grade. While he’s been read to since he was a baby, he’s just starting to read on his own. It’s interesting because we’d been struggling with a “book in a bag” assignment, in which the teacher selects books that are 8-16 pages and coded with a reading level, which get sent home to give kids extra practice reading. It was a disaster! We spent more time fighting about reading these books than he spent actually reading.

One day I realized that the problem was that he wasn’t engaged by the stories. So just after winter break, I asked his teacher if we could opt out and choose early readers from the library instead. To my great relief, she said yes! And now instead of fighting about reading, my son has started insisting on it. He’s suddenly becoming a much better reader, and it feels like magic to see him excited so about reading on his own!

World Book Day 2019 by Luciana Navarro Powell

Luciana – It was probably when my boys were in early elementary. They were really early readers, my youngest got out of pre-school a reader already. They are now in 5th and 7th grade. I started noticing that we were running out of bookshelf  room rapidly in our house, a great problem to have of course. Library alone wasn’t doing it – and a confession here, I was not organized enough to keep track of all the books around the house and was always paying late fees. We started to buy a lot of books as well and those teeny book shelves from their toddler years just weren’t enough.

Q2. Please share more tips or insights as to how your kids got hooked on reading. 

“Let them pick and choose when, WHERE and what to read.”

Katey: I maintain that children are great big copycats – and that modeling behaviors is one of the best ways to influence them. My best advice is to not only read to and with your kids, but to read in front of them – for pleasure, for information, for any reason at all. My second best advice is to make reading a choice and not a chore – keep a variety of reading material readily available, and let them pick and choose when, where and what to read (or to have read to them.)

Carol: Since I work full time and there are only so many hours in the evening before bedtime, I’ve found it helps to be a bit creative and flexible about how reading happens. So rather than cuddling together every night on the couch to read books, sometimes I read to my 6yo while he eats his snack. Sometimes it’s while he’s in the bath. Some nights he draws while I read to him. It felt like a great discovery when I realized I there wasn’t one “right” way to do bedtime reading. 

My other tip dovetails with Katey’s–keep a variety of reading material on hand and don’t box kids in. Especially in early elementary school, it’s amazing what a range of topics kids are drawn to. When my older son was 5 or 6 I realized I was checking out a lot of picture books from the library with male protagonists. Once I got over my horror at this realization, I started checking out a wider variety of books, and he took just as much interest in them as he had in any other type of books.

Luciana – I agree with Carol and Katey’s answer. In our case, because I’ve been illustrating books before they were born, I had a full collection of picture books already once they reached that age. Another factor in my family is that we are avid outdoorsy people, so we’ve been taking the boys backpacking ever since they were really young. No electronics are allowed in the car, even now that they are older.

There is always a pile of books in the middle seat. Reading in the car is not for everyone, but thankfully my guys don’t get sick. We’ve done epic 12-hour drives with them reading almost the whole time. When they start to get shifty, we ask them to read out loud to us from one of their “Candy Books” (Wimpy Kid, Timmy Failure) They take turns reading to us and enjoy immensely when we burst out laughing, because that’s the beauty of candy books – they are hilarious!

Flip their reading: “Re-Tell us a story!”

Another way we foster reading is during long hikes. I’m talking about all day long hikes. When they start complaining we ask them to re-tell us recent books they’ve read. It is a thing of wonder, it works every single time. Now my youngest will just start on his own, telling us about different subject matters that interest him. On the last hike we took, it was the series of events that led to WWI. He talked non-stop for an hour and a half. In another hike about 2 years ago they were really into the Apollo missions, and would take turns in telling details about every Apollo mission until the program was shut down.Needless to say my husband and I learn a lot when we hike with them these days!

Q3. I confess wasn’t a voracious reader as a child, thus I’m wondering–were you? 

Katey: I was a big reader all through childhood. I was a very anxious kid, and books were an amazing escape, a safe place to explore, and a good way to learn how to navigate emotions, friendships, and challenges. In fact, they still serve all those purposes for me as a (somewhat less anxious) adult.

Carol: I was a big reader as well. If I was reading instead of doing something else I was supposed to (such as Saturday morning chores), my parents would threaten to take my book away! My older son enjoys reading but not quite in the way that I did, and sometimes I have to remind myself that just because he’s not at my level of obsession with books, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy reading.

Carol’s oldest with his cousin. Reading to others is fun too!

Luciana – I was a big reader too and have great memories of my mom taking us to the library every week. I grew up in Brazil and the publishing industry there doesn’t even come close to the breadth and richness of the industry in the US, specially children’s literature. It is slowly improving but books in Brazil are extremely expensive, sadly, and libraries are not as numerous as they are here. I moved to the US as an adult. The more involved I got with the picture book world, the more I wished I had had the access that children – and adults! – have here in the states.

The Illustrator, Luciana, and one of her Readers–at work…

Endless thanks to Carol Hinz, Katey Howes, and Luciana Navarro Powell for sharing their tips and wonderful photos. Here’s an idea–let’s READ THEIR BOOKS! You can learn more about the fabulous work of these three #kidlit women by clicking the links in their names above, or following them on social media.

#ReadingIsPower

 

Blog takeover: Happy #YA Book Birthday to RED HOOD by Elana K. Arnold

It’s a Blog Takeover by my favorite teen writer, Victoria Krol, who has questions for another fav of mine, Elana K. Arnold. Win-win! Are you excited as I am? Check out these starred reviews for RED HOOD:

“In the wake of her Printz Honor–winning Damsel, Arnold blazes a new and equally powerful trail through toxic masculinity. Read, shed your pelt, and be transformed—for blades are being sharpened.” ~Booklist /starred review

“It’s unsettling how seamlessly Arnold incorporates dark fantasy elements of beastly wolves and cunning hunters into her all-too-realistic tale. A fantastic novel in the #MeToo era, empowering women to share their stories by reaching out, speaking up, and demanding a change.”

~School Library Journal starred review

Victoria: I am honored to interview Elana K. Arnold following the publication of Red Hood, her newest novel. Read on for some insights about her older works, and a discussion about this much-awaited #YA. For starters, here’s the flap copy for RED HOOD: (no spoilers here).

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Printz Honor book Damsel, returns with a dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power—and one girl’s journey to regain it.

You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked. And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good.

But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her.

A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions.

About the blood in Bisou’s past, and on her hands as she stumbles home.

About broken boys and vicious wolves.

About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

Let the Q & A begin!

Q1: I have recently read DAMSEL–A National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor winner, released last month in paperback–, and with the release of your new, and highly-anticipated novel, RED HOOD, I noticed that the idea of traditional fairy tales are “fairy-ly” apparent in both. What more can you tell us about RED HOOD and its themes?

Elana K. Arnold: I like to think of RED HOOD less as a retelling of a fairy tale and more as a reincarnation—some of the same plot points as Little Red Riding Hood, but also an infusion of the things that interest, fascinate, engage, and anger me: menstruation, sisterhood, poetry, moon cycles, werewolfism, “incels,” or “involuntary celibates,” rape culture, and power.

★ “This incisively written allegory [DAMSEL] rips into a familiar story and sets it aflame.”

~School Library Journal starred review.

★ “Arnold’s pitch-black fairy tale [DAMSEL] isn’t subtle, but this isn’t a tale that requires subtlety. For teens learning to transform sadness and fear into active, productive fury, it’s an essential allegory. Eat your heart out, Sleeping Beauty: this brutal, devastating, powerful novel won’t soon be forgotten.”   ~Booklist starred review. 

Q2: DAMSEL, is also relatively dark. What prompted you to twist the idea of seemingly happy-go-lucky fairy tales to your own will, and put DAMSEL on such a dark path?

Elana K. Arnold: I think we make art with that which has filled us up. I am fortunate that many wonderful, healthy experiences have contributed to the person I have become, but many less happy experiences are part of who I am as well, and I tap into all my experiences when I write. Compounding my personal experiences with the reading I’ve done all my life and my observations of larger American culture, the stories I create rise up almost like organic things. I don’t choose to write dark books; those stories insist on being told. I also write soft, gentle books.

Look for An Ordinary Day, next month, Illus. Elizabeth Vukovic/ Beach Lane Books.

Elana K. Arnold: We contain multitudes, and no writer should feel compelled to produce one sort of art over and over again.

Q3: Speaking of dark themes, I am a huge fan of WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF. From what I can see, there is next to nothing cloaking the blatant reality of the themes in that book. Everything you meant to say seems to be clearly spelled out, whether spoken or thought, by the main character Nina. Did you encounter resistance because of your themes when you went to find an editor/publisher? 

Elana K. Arnold: I don’t think it’s strictly true that everything I say in WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF is clearly spelled out, as my protagonist Nina does not have a complete, clear understanding of herself, the elements of her history, her parents’ history, or the history of women in religion and the world, to clearly speak about all the things she feels. Nina is an unreliable narrator; she’s not trying to lie to the reader, but she (like all of us) has incomplete information. Her perspective is limited by her age and experience, as well as by a number of other factors, including her privilege.

All this being said, I did not encounter resistance from the Lerner Publishing Group or their imprint Carolrhoda Lab who ultimately published the book. They honored my authorial decisions and stood behind them, which was ultimately rewarded when this book was named a National Book Award Finalist.

“Each of us has the right to take up space, and I believe that each of us has the responsibility to help others take up space as well.”

Q4: I think that women of all ages can tend to forget how powerful they are. If you hear something enough, you will start to believe it. What would you tell someone to do if you see someone forgetting how special they are, each in their own way?

Elana K. Arnold: I agree that it’s very common for women to lose sight of their power. There are many ways that people are discounted and undervalued, especially those who are young and female presenting. I think it’s important for each of us to find a community of people who honor and respect us, and to consume art that centers the vision we wish to see in the world. Each of us has the right to take up space, and I believe that each of us has the responsibility to help others take up space as well. I have found that when I make room to recognize the achievements of others, I feel emboldened to give space to my own work. Remember that there is room for all of our brilliance, all of our art.

“Life is not a zero-sum game.”

Q5: What made you discover that writing is your passion? Correct me if I’m wrong, but based off of your blog post “What About the Girls” (a must-read), you use literature as a way to tell the world the stories of the real, the scary, and the messed up. What inspired you to even begin writing in the first place?

Elana K. Arnold: As a kid, I was myopic, anxious, and socially untalented. Books were a place where I felt safe. It seemed to me, from a very young age, that the only thing better than reading stories would be writing stories of my own. Even when I’m writing the most fantastical story, I’m writing from my own lived experience in some essential way. I write to entertain myself, to challenge myself, to explore the things that fascinate and repel me. Life is beautiful and terrible, and writing is my way of engaging with it.

Q6: Do you have a Recommended Reading List you might share?

Elana K. Arnold: 

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Laura Ruby

Out of Salem, Hal Schrieve

Calling My Name, Liara Tamani

Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan

The Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King

Serpentine, Cindy Pon

Dark and Deepest Red, Anna-Marie McLemore

To learn more about Elana K. Arnold and her books, see ElanaKArnold.com  and follow her on Instagram @elanakarnold and Twitter @ElanaKArnold.

Thanks to Elana for answering my questions,and to Erin for letting me take over her blog! To everyone out there, keep believing, creating, and inspiring!  ~ Victoria

Victoria Krol is 15 year-old Freshman in high school with an absolute passion for reading, writing, the arts, and horseback riding. She is currently working on a novel with her co-partner Charley Ramos, which is in the midst of its second revision and currently has a plot that resembles lasagna. She met Erin dressed in full 70’s gear at the  2019 SCBWI LA Summer Conference, where their instant friendship resulted in her as a guest blogger. 

You can find her at www.victoriaakrol.weebly.com.