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The Great Bouts Buns Bake-Off

The students in the Golden Sower Book Club at Georgia Wheeler Elementary School in 100_8176Omaha, Nebraska, held a Bouts Buns bake-off. Not only do their efforts look incredibly tasty, they even made a video about it!

With their permission, here’s a link so you can watch this creative bit of filmmaking — and admire the beautiful buns the kids made.

Click here: Bouts Buns Bake-Off

Hooray for the Ocean State!

rhode islandI’ve just found out that The Marvelwood Magicians has been nominated for the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award! This is such exciting news. Students in the state will be reading the book, and then they’ll be voting on it, and maybe it will win. But even if it doesn’t, the nomination means that lots of kids will get a chance to read it.

shelter-harbor-inn
where I spent Day 1 of my honeymoon, long long ago

Rhode Island is a beautiful state with a glorious coastline. I spent part of my honeymoon there. I have friends who live there. And now the librarians and readers of Rhode Island are honoring the Marvelwoods. Thank you all so much!

Just FYI: here are some strange and/or interesting facts I’ve learned about the state:

  • Its official name is The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
  • Newport, RI, was the first town in the country (before it was even a country) to host a circus.
  • Its official state bird is a…chicken.
  • It’s the home of the country’s oldest Baptist church and oldest synagogue — and oldest still-functioning lending library.

 

(And as the nomination is the result of librarian love, I must add: HAPPY NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK! There is no better place than a library, and librarianno better people than librarians. They are our bookish superheros.)

 

Go Cornhuskers!

I’m feeling the Nebraska love this month. Baker’s Magic is nominated for a Golden Sower award,  a statewide children’s-choice award. As a result, I’ve been in touch with lots of readers from the state.

I did a Skype visit with a couple of fifth grade classes from Falls City, NE — the first Skype where I tried to use PowerPoint. I also had to use a borrowed webcam, since my built-in one is, oddly, in the lower left-hand side of my screen. When I Skype with it, it makes me look very strange to people on the other side — I’m looking away from them as I talk to them. Anyway, it all worked; the students were great and asked good questions, the PowerPoint and webcam behaved. And then I did another Skype with kids from Doniphan, NE — again, it went perfectly, and the questions they asked were excellent.

The Golden Sower winner isn’t decided until spring, so I’ll be waiting anxiously. In the meantime, Nebraska students, keep reading! (And I’m happy to Skype with your classes: just send me a request.)

Danger: Elephant Ahead

People have been asking me, “Why a circus book?”

Circuses have had a place in my imagination for a long time. They’re part of my family mythology. When I was two or three years old, we all went to the circus. My brother was a baby at the time, so my mother was in charge of him and my older sister. My father was tasked with keeping me in line.

Easier said than done, apparently.

I got away from him, and a moment later, I was standing in front of a large elephant on its way to the big top.

According to family legend, I was completely unafraid, though the onlookers were horrified. I didn’t even come up to the elephant’s knee. It could have squished me like a bug.

Instead, we gazed at each other silently. Nobody dared to move.

Then my father saw me, and he sprang forward, grabbed me, and yanked me out of the elephant’s path.

I have no real memory of this incident, though my parents sure do. But I grew up with the story, and I tried to instill both the terror they felt and the fearlessness I displayed into The Marvelwood Magicians.

You may well have your own circus tale. Tell me about it! Your comment will enter you in a contest to win one of two signed copies of The Marvelwood Magicians.

Write a comment on the blog telling me why you love (or fear!) the circus. Two winners will be picked by random.org on October 20.

Good luck!

Another Day, Another Book

Yesterday was publication day for The Marvelwood Magicians. 

And the title of this blog is the EXACT OPPOSITE of how I feel.

This is my sixth novel; you’d think it would get old, right? But honestly, it doesn’t. Though the process gets a little easier, a little more familiar (sort of like giving birth to your sixth child, if you aren’t too squeamish for that metaphor), it’s still an utter thrill to bring a new book into the world. Knowing all those pre-orders are winging their way to readers (you pre-ordered it, right?), seeing it on bookstore  and library shelves, and hearing from people who’ve read it — all of that is just as much fun with the sixth book as it was with the first.

 

So go read! If you want to order a copy, just click on the cover. Let me know what you think! Happy book birthday to the magical Marvelwoods!

A Present!

I got a present! The very first bound book of The Marvelwood Magicians arrived on the doorstep, tied with a ribbon and accompanied by a card of congratulations signed by the Boyds Mills Press folk. What a thoughtful, unexpected gift. I feel very lucky to be working with this wonderful group — thank you all!

 

And isn’t it gorgeous?

Marvelwoods Making Magic!

 

Early reviews on The Marvelwood Magicians have begun trickling in — and they’re excellent! I’m so excited for this circus family to meet the world. September 19 is the day!

 

 

From Kirkus (read the whole review here):

A hair-raising, exhilarating, big-top mystery.

 

And from School Library Journal:

The suspenseful plot moves quickly, and Zahler vividly portrays the unbearable pain of losing an innate part of one’s self.

VERDICT Bound to entice voracious and reluctant readers alike.

 

Booknews in Triplicate

There’s a lot of book stuff going on!

  • Baker’s Magic:  I did my annual school visit at Mill Road School this week (postponed after a blizzard happened on the original date), talking about Baker’s Magito groups of fifth graders. Authors Nancy Castaldo, Jennifer Donnelly, Jennifer Castle, Nancy Furstinger, and I had a great time. My PowerPoint worked, and the students’ questions afterward were excellent. I brought mini-Bouts buns, and nobody refused to eat them. And oh the pastries during the book signing afterward…!

The audiobook of Baker’s Magic got a starred review  from Booklist — my first starred review ever. And it’s on the Audiofile list of 20  Exceptional Audiobooks. I knew that audio was amazing. Especially whoever read the recipe at the end!

 

  • The Marvelwood Magicians: ARCs have arrived, and they are beautiful. I’m thrilled to see this story in almost-book form! The publication date is now official: September 19.

 

  • The new secret book: I’ve sent the finished manuscript to my editor. Now comes the waiting. I actually kind of like this part — before I know if she likes it or hates it, before I have to rewrite, before I know for sure what’s going to happen. I can imagine almost…anything.

 

The Magic of Bread

nopoliticsStuff’s been happening!

And I don’t mean the election. Luckily, this is a book-and-writing blog, so I don’t have to go there. Instead, I can talk about Baker’s Magic and try to forget about politics for a while.

portuguese-editionThe Portuguese edition of the book is on the shelves! In Portuguese, it’s called A Magia do Pão, which translates to The Magic of Bread. That works for me. And its first Portuguese review is here. I’m pretty sure the reviewer liked it — but if any Portuguese-speaking readers want to send me a translation, please do!

 

The audiobook is also out, and it is fabulous. I can hardly believe how perfectly Live Oak Media has realized the story that I had in my head. The voices are exactly right, and it’s a joy to hear these characters I’ve spent so much time with just as I imagined them.

 

The audio adaptation got a great review audiofile-logoin AudioFile Magazine. The issue isn’t published yet, so I can’t link to it, but I can give you a little taste:

A full cast works together seamlessly in this charming magical adventure….Scenes in the bakery are rendered with as much attention to detail as those on the high seas or in the mage’s castle–beware of listening while hungry.

And…it’s the winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award!

If you wantlive-oak to listen — and hear me at the end, reading the recipe for Bouts Buns (no easy task, see this post) — you can order the audiobook from Live Oak Media here

 

The View from the Sound Booth

Baker’s Magic is going to be available as an audiobook! And the company that’s doing the img_4366audio version is the wonderful Live Oak Media, run by my dear friends Debra and Arnie Cardillo. Live Oak is an award-winning company; its recordings have won 3 Odyssey Awards, 5 Audie Awards, and 2 Grammys.

Live Oak decided to record Baker’s Magic with a whole cast of voices, and they were kind enough to invite me to be a part of the experience. My job was to read the recipe for Bouts Buns at the end. Hard to screw up reading a recipe, right?

img_4346I got to the recording studio while Stephen DeRosa was reading in the sound booth. You may know him from his turn as Eddie Cantor on Boardwalk Empire. I’m a huge fan of the show — I watched every episode, even the ones where I had to cover my eyes to block out the excessive violence. And Stephen DeRosa was amazing, both on the show and as my villain, the evil Master Joris. In fact, he was so convincingly menacing that we werimg_4358_editede a little unnerved — until he also read the hilariously ancient, doddering Master Nicon and had us snorting with laughter as we tried to be quiet in the studio. Somehow, he performed his own magic to bring my words to life, using his voice to make my characters far scarier, more comical, more melancholy than they are on the page. It was a remarkable performance.

Then it was my turn. The sound booth is an unsettling place — just me, a microphone, and
a window looking into the studio where everyone is listening. The director, knowing she was working with a novice, decided to join me in the booth and encouraged me to imagine that she and I were drinking a Belgian beer together as img_4377I read. (I think she’d secretly been coached.)

My first line was, “Hi!”

It didn’t go well.

There were multiple takes. I tried a cheerful “Hi!” A perky “Hi!” A slightly reserved “Hi!” An exceedingly enthusiastic “Hi!” A merely happy “Hi!” At last I nailed it, and we moved on.

A few more lines needed several takes — who knew reading a recipe could require such delicate modulation? But I managed to earn a thumbs up from the director and the Cardillos (I wasn’t allowed to wear the headphones that would have transmitted what they all actually said about my performance, which was surely for the best). It wimg_4373as both exhilarating and oddly exhausting.

So look for the audiobook of Baker’s Magic, coming in October! You can order it here. And if you listen all the way to the end, you’ll get to hear ME reading my recipe.

And saying, “Hi!”