Otis Dooda Blog Tour Part II - Ellen and Ian Potter Share Their Favorite Books

Hi Ellen and Ian - Welcome to Kid Lit Frenzy.  I am so excited that you are willing to answer a few questions about your favorite books.

Since it is time for summer reading, I am looking for some book recommendations and I am hoping that you can help.

OTIS DOODA made me laugh. Can you name your top 3 summer reads that will make kids laugh?

1.The BFG, by Roald Dahl (those Whizzpoppers get me every time).
2. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (I know a few Thought-You-Saiders that could use some of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s potions).
3. The Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (pure ridiculous fun).

Of course, Otis has a bit of a mystery to solve and some adventures. What 3 mysteries or adventure stories do you recommend?

1. Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer (did you know Sherlock Holmes had a brilliant crime-solving sister? And that she rocks?)
2. Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator series by Jennifer Allison (you will fall in love with Gilda, I promise!)
3. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (quirky fiction at its finest)

What 3 books (any genres) do you think Otis would recommend to readers?

1. Brick City by Warren Elsmore (it’s all about Legos, of course!)
2. Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (love this book, you will)
3. The Adventures of Tintin by Herge (Great snakes, this series is exciting!)

And Ian, just curious, what is in your summer “to-read” pile?

1. The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger (because I loved Origami Yoda)
2. Alex Rider: Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz (I like all the spy gadgets)
3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (I have a signed copy form E.B. White’s granddaughter! Plus E.B. White liked dachshunds and so do I.)

Ian's friend Nigel guarding the pile of summer reading.
Thank you Ellen and Ian for sharing so many great titles.  This is going to make for some fun summer reading and of course, OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE should be on everyone's summer reading list.

Check out the official book trailer:

And don't forget to check out illustrator, David Heatley's Guest Post.

Thanks to Ellen, I am giving away a signed copy of Otis Dooda: Strange But True.  Open to those with a US mailing address.

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Book Review - Otis Dooda

Author: Ellen Potter
Ilustrator: David Heatley
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (June 4, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Grades 2nd to 4th
Fiction * Humor * Making New Friends

Description from GoodReads:

Meet Otis Dooda. Yes, that’s his name. Go on and have a good laugh. He’s heard it all before. He’s been called things like Otis Poopy Stink and Otis Toilet Twinkie. That’s right, yuck it up and get it out of your system. We’ll wait.

All right then. This is the story of Otis and the Dooda family (including their rat named Smoochie) moving to New York City, and the incredibly strange, but true, things that happened to them. It all started with Otis getting cursed by a guy in a potted plant in their apartment building lobby, and then meeting a bunch of their neighbors, including a farting pony named Peaches who was disguised as a dog. And that was just the first day.

My thoughts on this book:
Ellen Potter has ventured into new waters with her latest book, OTIS DOODA.  Her book is more along the lines of what I have come to expect from David Lubar (Weenies Series) or Dan Gutman (My Weird School Daze).  In an effort to create a story for her 8 year old son and his friends, Potter brings us OTIS DOODA, STRANGE BUT TRUE.  

In the beginning, Otis acknowledges the humor behind his last name.  The Dooda family (mom, dad, older brother - Gunther, and Otis) have moved from Hog's Head to the big city.  Their new apartment building comes equipment with a doorman, a potted plant guy, and a whole cast of quirky characters.  After unknowingly insulting the Potted Play Guy, Otis is saddled with a curse about "breaking all of his bones by the next full moon".  Welcome to New York City.

Of course the story doesn't end there.  Otis meets and makes friends with Perry Hooper, Ben and Cat.  Perry's father works as entertainment for children's birthday parties.  The Hoopers, also, have a minature horse named Peaches who they try to disguise as a large dog.  Between the Hoopers, Otis' older brother Gunther, and the Potted Plant Guy, there is never a dull moment.  Each funny encounter, mishap, and antic is certain to make every 7 to 9 year old laugh out loud. 

Accompanying Potter's humorous text is David Heatley's illustrations.  Heatley captures the characters and spirit of the story so perfectly.  

If you know any 7 to 9 year olds, then I suggest picking up a copy of OTIS DOODA to share.

Check out the official book trailer here:

Stop by tomorrow for two special blog posts.  Illustrator, David Heatley will share about how he created not only the illustrations for Otis Dooda but a soundtrack too.   Also, Ellen and her son, Ian, share some favorite books.

Humming Room Blog Tour: Interview with Ellen Potter

In celebration of the release of The Humming Room written by the amazing, Ellen Potter, MacMillian is running a blog tour and giveaway.  Ellen was kind enough to stop by the blog to answer some questions.  Also, one lucky winner will receive a copy of The Humming Room - see details below.

The Secret Garden was one of my absolute favorite books as a child. When I found out that The Humming Room was similar, I was so excited to read it. Did you worry that people will overlook Roo's story because they would be looking for comparisons with The Secret Garden

Oh, I was full of worries when I wrote this book, but then I’m a natural-born worrier. The idea of reinventing a classic was as exciting as it was nerve-jangling. The fact that The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books of all time really amped up the pressure. Still, out of this miasma of anxiety, the character of Roo emerged so powerfully that I knew her story could stand on its own.

 When I finished reading The Humming Room, I immediately had to go look up the islands. What was your favorite part of doing the research for the book? 

All of it! Researching The Humming Room was bliss. The Thousand Islands region of New York is paradise—in the summer, at least. I wandered around islands, spied on osprey nests, and found out from a wildlife rehabilitator how to feed a baby bird (with a paintbrush). I guess my favorite piece of research was when I accompanied the island mail carrier on his rounds. We zipped through the St. Lawrence River on his little green boat, stopping to deliver the mail to the islanders. That boat went so fast I thought I might throw up. In a good way, I mean.

Your books are all set in present day. Do you ever see yourself writing a book in a different time period? If so, what one? 

I have this lingering fantasy that I’ll write a book set in England in the mid 1800’s. The thing is, though, I can’t even remember the combination to my gym locker, much less retain the tiniest details of everyday life in the Victorian Era. I suspect my brain would erupt in flames if I even tried.

With all of your books, I have come to love your characters. What is the secret to writing characters that readers will connect with? 

If I were at a party, my characters are the sort of people I would gravitate toward—for better or for worse. I write about people who fascinate me, so it’s possible that my obsession with them transfers to my readers.

I know I have mentioned this before to you, but your writing is truly lovely. What is your editing and revision process like? And have you worked with the same editor on a number of books or do you have a different editor each time? 

Like most writers, I revise A LOT. The first draft often resembles a puzzle that has been put together by someone who hasn’t had their morning coffee yet. I have to go back in many times to make sure all the pieces are snug and in the right place. I’ve been very fortunate with my editors. Jean Feiwel at Feiwel & Friends edited both The Kneebone Boy and The Humming Room, with a light, but magical, touch. She always seems to understand what I am shooting for in each scene, and with gentle nudges she aligns me with my intention.

When I interviewed you last, I commented about the wonderful cover for The Kneebone Boy. You seem to have some great cover karma. Now looking at the cover for The Humming Room - did you work with the same designer? A different one? And did you get any input on the cover? 

Cover karma! I like that. Yes, I must have done something really nice for an artist in a past life, because I am one lucky gal when it comes to my book covers. The Humming Room cover was done by the mind-blowingly gifted Jason Chan. He also did the stunning cover for The Kneebone Boy. Before Jason Chan came along, I used to worry about my covers (I told you I’m a worrier). Writers generally have very little control over what their covers will look like. But Jason is such a visionary that I would literally write a book based on one of his covers.

When I think about my favorite books as a child, I think of the ones that I took out from the school library or classroom library over and over again. It seems that everyone has at least one book that may have never made it back to the library because it was so well loved. Do you have one? 

Mine would have been A Wrinkle in Time. For the longest time, I would squeeze my eyes shut and try to “tesseract” to another plant. It never worked, incidentally.

If you could spend the day with a book character (doesn't have to be one of your characters), who would it be and what would you do?

Hands down, I’d spent the day with Roald Dahl’s The BFG, drinking frobscottle and making whizzpoppers.

Thanks Ellen for doing this interview....and I can't wait to get the book into the hands of students.

You can find out more about Ellen Potter at her website: www.ellenpotter.com

You can follow her on twitter: @ellenpotter

To find out where all the stop are on The Humming Room Blog Tour, click here.

Giveaway Rules:

1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.
2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 2, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on March 9, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  US and Canadian residents are welcome to enter the contest.

Interview with Ellen Potter, author of The Kneebone Boy

In honor of the release of The Kneebone Boy, I would like to welcome author Ellen Potter to Kid Lit Frenzy.  Ellen is an amazing person and author and I have enjoyed getting to know her over the past year.  She was gracious to answer some questions about her new book.

The Kneebone Boy seems so different from your previous books. How did the idea for the book and the "voice" come to you?

With every new book that I write, I start out setting a challenge for myself. With SLOB, for instance, I wanted to write a book for boys that would have the right pacing to keep boys’ interest, but would also tell a moving story.

I set several challenges for The Kneebone Boy: to write an old fashioned “siblings-on-the-loose” adventure tale; and to write a book that would appeal to both girls and boys, hence the unidentified narrator. The narrator might be a boy or a girl, you have to guess. That way if a boy is put off by a female narrator or vice versa, they will, I hope, be so involved with the story that by the time that they figure out who’s narrating, they won’t care about the gender.

What writing rituals do you have? (i.e., Certain place that you write in, snacks that you like to munch on, music? no music, etc.)

I used to have all sorts of rituals. I had to write in a certain café. I had a fountain pen that I used to start off every story, writing by hand and, after I was a few pages in, I switched to a computer. Then I had a child. Now I write anywhere, any which way, any time. Fountain pen? Ha! I’ve written with my son’s giant Curious George pencil on a Walgreens’ receipt while he’s napping in the back of the car. Motherhood has made me astonishingly unfussy.

Though I have never been to England, when I read The Kneebone Boy, I had a very distinct impression that this was a British setting. What did you have to do in terms of research and writing to give readers that sense that they were in England?!

I had to do a lot of research! I went to college in England for a while and that also helped. But my secret weapon was a teenage friend of mine and her novelist mother who live in London. They vetted the manuscript for me, gently pointing out some of the more embarrassing mistakes I had made, and bringing me up to speed on the slang.

Did you have a favorite character in The Kneebone Boy? I couldn't imagine choosing between the three Hardscrabble children, but there are also other amazing characters.

I really grew to love and admire all three Hardscrabble siblings. Otto, the brother who doesn’t talk, was the difficult child, though. From the beginning he baffled me. When I first started writing about him, he was able to speak, but his dialogue was always so stiff compared with his siblings. I knew something wasn’t right. When I realized, “Aha! He doesn’t speak!” his character opened up to me. That is until I had to figure out why on earth he was wearing that darn scarf.

One of the things that hit me while I was reading The Kneebone Boy is that I wasn't frustrated in how much information you as a writer was providing me as the reader. Sometimes there is so much revealed that it takes out all the surprise and other times not enough so the reader gets confused. What was your secret? I imagine this would be hard to do?

Oh, that’s good to hear! I think this may come from the fact that I don’t know where the story is going as I’m writing it. Well, maybe I have a vague idea, but for the most part I’m writing blind. The story is gradually revealed to me, so I suppose that’s the way readers would experience it as well.

I have been impressed with all of your book covers but I think The Kneebone Boy is my favorite. I realize that authors often have little say in book covers. Did you get to chose your illustrator? What was the process like with this book?

I’ve never been able to choose my own illustrator, but I count myself extremely lucky in terms of covers. This cover was pretty special though. I remember the day my editor e-mailed it to me. I read the e-mail’s subject line and my heart started pounding. The cover is so important and I wanted this book to have something wonderful. When I downloaded the cover image I literally gasped. It was so outrageously perfect. Better than anything I could have imagined. The artist, Jason Chan, is my hero!

When I was reading The Kneebone Boy, I had to stop several times and just admire your writing and use of words. (Don't worry...children won't be doing that as they read...I'm just strange.) As a reader familiar with many of your books, I felt that you had moved to a new level of writing. Was this something that you were conscious of while writing the book?

No, but I did feel a little bolder while writing this book. I tried some things stylistically that I knew were a little quirky. I think I “played” more in this book, and hoped my readers would have as good a time with it as I did.

Any sneak peeks into your work-in-progress that you can share with fans?

My book-in-progress is set in the Thousand Islands, so the research has been heavenly. I’ve helped deliver mail to the islands, seen nesting shoals with an ecologist, and roamed through castles. Hmm, I’m thinking of setting my next book in Hawaii.

 For more information about Ellen Potter and her books, you can check out the following links:

Ellen Potter

Spilling Ink: Young Writer's Handbook

To purchase The Kneebone Boy, check out this link to Powell's Books.

To read my review of The Kneebone Boy, click here.

Book Review - The Kneebone Boy

Author:  Ellen Potter

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (September 14, 2010)

Reading Level: Grades 4th to 8th

Source: ARC for review

Rating:  5 Stars - Highly recommend

Description from GoodReads:

The book's set in a small English town and follows the Hardscrabble kids who are relocated to live with their aunt in London, where they discover they might be living next door to “a horribly misshapen boy who has figured in local legend.” It’s the story of the three Hardscrabble siblings and their search for the legendary Kneebone Boy.

There are books that are fun to read.  There are other books that are amazingly well written.  Sometimes, though, it is a struggle to find "fun to read" and "amazingly well written" between the same covers of a book.  However, as I read through Ellen Potter's newest book The Kneebone Boy, I found myself repeating in this awestruck manner "This book is brilliant".  Both fun and well written and bound behind a spectacular cover. (Click here to read a post from Potter about the cover of the book illustrated by Jason Chan.)

The Kneebone Boy is a tale of 3 children, siblings, living in an odd home with a somewhat eccentric father in England.  There is a mystery surrounding the disappearance of their mother which permeates their lives and influences their actions.  When they find themselves on their own in London, rather than return home, they set out to find their great-aunt.  Their journey turns out to be an adventure of a lifetime.  One that will challenge and test them on many levels, but will ultimately provide them with new understanding.

I am determined not to spoil this story so if some of the details seem vague it is for exactly this reason.  Potter is a master storyteller and has crafted this novel in a manner that reveals just what needs to be at each step of the journey.  As I read each page, I never felt that I wanted more or less than what was given to me.  Even as I arrived at the end of the book, I was pleased with the manner in which she pulled together all of the aspects of the story and provided the reader with a deeply satisfying ending.

It should be noted that The Kneebone Boy is written in a style that fans of Lemony Snickets' Series of Unfortunate Events or Pseudonymous Bosch's Secret Series will be familiar with. Yet, the story begins in a very different voice and style from other novels by Potter. If you are not familiar with Snickets' or Bosch's stories, and more accustomed with Potter's traditional writing style, then I would suggest that you give the story a couple of chapters to acclimate yourself to the narrator's manner. Once in the rhythm of the story you will find yourself, enjoying the interjections and information provided by the book's narrator. I will make the argument that I truly felt as if Potter has taken her writing to a whole new level with this story. There is a richness and complexity with the story that will appeal to older Middle Grade readers and even adults who are reading along with their children.

Kudos to Ellen Potter for an amazing new book and for continuing to write outstanding literature for middle grade readers.

For more information about Ellen Potter and her books, you can check out her website here: www.ellenpotter.com