Which part is historical and which part is fiction? My Semi-official 39 Clues Rant

Book 10: Into The Gauntlet

It’s by the fantastic writer Margaret Peterson Haddix. What’s there not to like?

This post might get me in trouble with my kids, but so be it.

In case you don’t know The 39 Clues is a book series for middle grade readers (roughly kids 8-12). I think the initial target audience was older, but that’s who’s reading this series in my neck of the woods.

Kids love these books. They are exciting and are so engaging as to be addictive. Tweens clamor for more titles, which are delivered to bookstores at an astonishing rate. They are written by some top names in kids’ lit, like Rick Riordan, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and (one of my faves) Linda Sue Park. What’s there to dislike?

Here’s my beef.

The 39 Clues series freely borrows from historical fact, then elaborates on this to create a thrilling adventure for kids. Continue reading

3 Tricks for magazine writers: How to write on a theme and still make your deadline


Before you start to type, you might want to try one of these 3 things.

One of my writing jobs is penning teen and tween stories for Jewish magazines. Before getting this gig, I had to learn an important lesson: most kids’ magazines select one theme per issue, and they are only open to stories on those themes. That means you have to write what they want, when they want it–but you’ve got to still tap into your creativity to make your story fresh, fun, and readable.

NOTE:¬†Writing contests (although many are scams, there are plenty of legit ones) and classroom assignments frequently require that submissions/assignments include a specific topic or theme and have a deadline, as well. You don’t have to write for magazines to benefit from these 3 tips.

Sometimes, I get the heads-up on what story the editor wants on what theme a month in advance. But sometimes it’s a lot less. How do I come up with a story on short notice?¬† Continue reading

How to find a kosher book: Nifty bit in this week’s HaModia

There’s an article this week about Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld in HaModia, and it mentions almost as an aside that he and his 12 year old daughter have started a website with books for Jewish kids.
I visited the site, and the coolest thing is that it is SEARCHABLE! You can look up selections by subject and by age of reader, as well as title and author. However, it does not contain all the books out there. I’m assuming it is a work in progress and I’m very impressed with what they’ve done so far. It would be a great resource, for example, for those looking to buy a gift for a particular child or looking to stock up for a school or classroom library.
The link is in the list to the right of this blog, as well, and will remain there indefinitely.
In other “HaModia” news…my all-time favorite serial (aside from the one co-written by yours truly…) wrapped up in that magazine last week. Hopefully, This is America! will soon appear in novel format in Jewish bookstores. I really hope so, as it will deservingly find more readers this way.