22 Sep

KidLit and TeenLit Books on Body Image

Posted in Kid Lit, Literature, Reading, Teen Lit


Today, as promised, I have a list of books I’ve discovered that deal with the subject of body image for teens and middle grade.  This list was tough to put together because as I’ve mentioned before, there are very few books that address this topic.  Below is what I have so far.  If you think of any other books that should be on this list, leave a comment and I’ll update the post.  Here’s my list (in no particular order and with links to Goodreads):


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
by Sarah Darer Littman
North of Beautiful
by Justina Chen Headly
More Than You Can Chew
by Marnelle Tokio
The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things
* by Carolyn Mackler
* by Scott Westerfeld
Reasons to Be Happy
* by Katrina Kittle
by Amy Kathleen Ryan
by Judy Blume
Best Little Girl in the World
by Steven Levenkron
Operation Beautiful
by Caitlin Boyle
Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.
by Medeia Sharif

(Note: Books marked with a * are ones I myself have read and would recommend.  All other books have been recommended to me by you all!)  Also, if you’re still looking for more body image books (particularly ones dealing with eating disorders), here’s a list I found on Goodreads: YA Eating Disorder Books


10 Aug

The Rule of 3: The Flint Heart by Katherine and John Paterson

Posted in Book Reviews, Craft, Kid Lit, Writing

by Katherine and John Paterson, illustrated by John Rocco

“A man, a woman and an emu walk into a bar…”  We’ve all heard that joke before, or at least something along those lines.  They’re always told the same way, with two parts building up to a third that is the punchline.  The Rule of 3.

We hear this pattern in songs too.  “Here an oink, there an oink, everywhere an oink oink.”  But I’m not just talking about children’s songs either; jazz and blues are filled with the Rule of 3.

The best way to illustrate the Rule of 3 in the blues would be to quote the lyrics of the hilarious parody Poppa’s Blues from the musical Starlight Express:



The first line of the blues is always sung a second time.
The first line of the blues is always sung a second time.
So by the time you get to the third line, you’ve had time to think of a rhyme.

The Rule of 3.

Finally, we also see this pattern in stories.  The perfect example, of course, is “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”  Not to mention that there were three little pigs, one with a house of straw, one with a house of sticks and one with a house of bricks.  The Rule of 3.

This rule is alive and well in Katherine and John Paterson’s gorgeous book, The Flint Heart, where the evil Flint Heart causes trouble for the woodland community not once, not twice, but a full three times.  This beautifully illustrated novel proves that even today, this age-old technique of grouping things in threes is still quite effective.

So, how does the Rule of 3 work, exactly?  Doesn’t the reader see the punchline coming?  Why is it that even though it’s been around for what seems like forever, the Rule of 3 still holds that element of surprise and satisfaction?  Here’s why:

1) There’s always three.  Not two.  Not four.  Three.  Why three? Because it’s enough to set up a pattern in the reader’s mind, but not so much that the reader gets bored.  If you repeat something only once, it’s not enough for the reader to notice the effect, but if you do it three times, then you’ve got the reader’s attention.

2) There’s a build-up.  Part of the reason why the Rule of 3 is so effective is that when writers use it, they build each piece on the previous one.  The Flint Heart is a perfect example.  The first time the flint heart causes trouble, it is only within the context of one human family.  Next it causes problems within the fairy kingdom.  Finally, the flint heart creates trouble for the entire woodland community, affecting humans, fairies and all the creatures of the forest.  Each iteration is more intense and has higher stakes than the last.

3) Third time’s the variation.  Finally, the Rule of 3 works because the third time is never exactly the same as the first or second.  Think of the three little pigs.  The first two houses get blown to smithereens but the third house of bricks is what does in the Big Bad Wolf.  Think of jokes, where the punchline comes at the end of a chain of three.  Think of the Blues, where the first two lines are often the same, with a variation coming in the third and final line.  Using the first two iterations to establish a pattern, you can then add a variation or twist with the third.  That catches the readers attention and leads to that element of surprise and satisfaction.

Have you used the Rule of 3 in your writing?  How?


14 Jul

Fashioning Fiction: Guest Post by Olivia Bennett

Posted in Book Reviews, Craft, Kid Lit, Reading

Today we have a fabulous guest post from Olivia Bennett, author of Who What Wear: The Allegra Biscotti Collection, just released in June 2011.  This charming book continues the adventures in fashion of Emma Rose, who is also secretly the hip new fashion designer Allegra Biscotti.  I had the pleasure of reading this book, not realizing it was actually the second one of the series.  And unlike many sequels that often lean heavily on the first book, this one holds its own as elegantly as one of Allegra’s designs.  After finishing Who What Wear (and of course, going back to read the first as well!) I knew I had to get Olivia here at the blog to share a few secrets of how to fashion a story for young readers.  For more information on Olivia or The Allegra Biscotti Collection, please visit the Who What Wear webpage.  Now without further ado, here’s Olivia Bennett with FASHIONING FICTION.


“She wore a black cotton cardigan–on which she had replaced the plain plastic buttons with marching band uniform buttons–over a white tank top and black, gray, and white camouflage pants from the Army-Navy store and her favorite silver sneakers.”

With the above description, I introduced Emma Rose to the reader in the first book of THE ALLEGRA BISCOTTI COLLECTION. Because ALLEGRA is fiction with a fashionable twist, I felt it was very important to not only show the fashion but to use the fashion as way to describe the characters via what they chose to wear or not to wear. Emma—who later takes on the double life of fashion designer Allegra Biscotti—is creative above all else. While couture and designers matter very much to her, she thrives on the creative (and so the detail about the DIY buttons), does not aim to stand apart from her middle school peers (thus the tank and under-the-radar colored pants), yet is an individual who embraces a special sense of fun and whimsy (finally, the silver sneakers).

Description is what makes a story real, especially for middle-grade readers. It allows the reader to feel as if she is really in Allegra’s design studio or standing by the racks of gasp-worthy clothes lining Madison’s sleek offices. The question often becomes—how much detail to bring to your descriptions.  Allegra is a fashion series so, knowing my audience, all clothes were described in painstaking detail. However, my readers also have a strong desire to create and too much detail would take this almost- interactive process away from them. The key was to give them just enough and then let their imagination do the rest.  Throughout the first two book in the series, I made sure the juicy colors, the weight of the fabric, and the general shape of the garments were vividly described, but allowed by reader to add the little details—buttons, zippers, and all the trimmings.


Thank you so much Olivia for joining us here at iggi&gabi and sharing your words of wisdom.  Now my questions to all you readers out there: What are your thoughts on giving too much detail vs. not enough?  How do YOU find that balance?  Hint: For an example of how to put this balance into action, check out Who What Wear and The Allegra Biscotti Collection.  Write on!

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08 May

5 Reasons Why Moms Matter in Children’s Literature

Posted in Character, Kid Lit, Literature, Teen Lit, Writing

The first thing you learn when writing for children and teens is that you have to get rid of the parents.  With parents or other adults around, the kids don’t have as many opportunities to go on adventures and get into trouble.  The easiest way to solve this problem is to kill off (or otherwise dispose of) the parents.  I find, though, that getting rid of the parents altogether is often a mistake because parents matter in children’s literature.  Moms matter.  So today on Mother’s Day, I thought I’d do a little ode to why moms matter in Kidlit and YA.
1.  They provide conflict.  Read any of Carolyn Mackler’s novels and you’ll find that the central conflict for the teen protagonist often revolves around her relationship with her mother.  In The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, Virginia has to find her own identity, independent of the identity that her mother tries to steer her toward.
2.  They can incite a story.  In Sarah Beth Durst’s Ice the story really begins when Cassie gives up her own freedom in order to free her mother from the trolls.  If it had not been for her mother trapped in the troll castle, the story never would have unraveled from there.
3.  They provide a safe place in a world of chaos.  Though Katniss’ mother doesn’t play a huge role in The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), she does provide a safe place, a home base.  In the first book of the trilogy, the mother doesn’t appear very much, but in Catching Fire, when Gale is wounded, she springs into action with her healing skills.
4.  And did I mention the conflict?  In Coe Booth’s Tyrell, the mother’s inability to get her act together and take care of her family is what pushes Tyrell into his caretaker role.  If the mother had been a regular, responsible mother, then Tyrell wouldn’t need to take care of his younger brother and he never would have come up with the plan that drives the story.
5.  Finally, even when they’re not around, the mother’s presence can be felt.  Perhaps the best example of a mother who has a strong impact on the protagonist is Lily, Harry’s mother in the Harry Potter series.  While we never see Lily, but we know her selfless sacrifice is partly what protects Harry throughout the story.
To all the mothers, moms and mommies out there, you’re awesome!  Despite the scuffs and struggles, remember: protagonists would not exist without their mothers.
To my own Mami: this one’s for you.


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