The Poetry of Metal

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in American History, Press | 0 comments

KGrahamA few days ago, I slipped away from my desk to watch The Post. And loved it. Meryl Streep’s performance was a joy, sensitive and hesitant and powerful all at once; “I am speaking to Mr. Bradlee now” is one of my new favorite lines in film.

One moment stuck with me: watching the printers slot the metal type into place to run that first edition with news of the Pentagon papers. There is something so gorgeous, so solid and precise and elegant, about a page of metal type set to run, glistening with ink, all the letters reversed so that the elegant bars and curves of the font seem fresh to the eye. And then the whole building vibrating with the impact of the press, the reporter’s pencils dancing on their desks. Force of words made manifest.

Now, I love all the convenience of digital everything as much as the next writer; I love the swiftness and ease of editing when sentences and paragraphs are feather light and can be moved from here to there with the tap of a key. But I miss the sturdy beauty of real type and real ink.

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Deadly Flowers and the Critics

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Book: Deadly Flowers, Ninjas, Press, Reviews | 0 comments

Deadly Flowers

Deadly Flowers

I’ve been so excited and happy about the reviews for Deadly Flowers. This review from the (*cough*notoriously picky*cough*) Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books has my favorite adjective string of all time: “clever, vivacious, dangerous.” I’m going to get it put on a t-shirt.

Ninja-loving readers will rejoice at this clever, dangerous, vivacious book about a group rarely mentioned: girl ninja. Kata was orphaned as a young age, so all she knows as home is her place with Madame Chiyome (a real historical figure who trained young girls to be ninjas in the mid 1500s). She works willingly, eager to be offered her first mission so that all of her torturous, exhausting, dangerous training can be put to test. She’s stunned to realize, though, that her first job is an assassination, of a young boy no less; when she encounters the boy and his protective sister, she can’t go through with the deed, and she ultimately helps the kids escape and search for their uncle. The siblings are also protecting a pearl that has supernatural powers, while trying to evade other assassins, demons, ghostly beings, and vengeful family members. It’s a lot, but just as the descriptions and social settings start feeling a bit too dense, there’s a great fight scene or a creepy-cool mention of a double-mouthed woman or trickster spirit to change the tone and add excitement. An author’s note offers brief details about female ninjas and what is actually known about their history, as well as some additional details on Japanese ghosts and demons.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

I’m also quite fond of The Horn Book for saying that the book first goes “from bad to worse” and then “from worse to much worse.”

First-person narrator Kata–in training since childhood to be a “deadly flower,” a female ninja, in Feudal Japan–sneers at rich new girl Saiko. When Saiko is assigned to assist in Kata’s very first assassination, Kata is dismayed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when the target is revealed to be Saiko’s younger brother, and Kata instead finds herself caught up in a rescue mission. Then things go from worse to much worse; someone is hunting the siblings to steal the wish-granting pearl Ichiro has recently inherited. This action-packed adventure blends historical fiction with intriguing supernatural elements drawn from Japanese folklore. While Kata herself–determined, stoic, honor-bound–has a somewhat limited emotional range, Saiko turns out to have unexpected depth and even more surprising motivations. An author’s note adds historical and mythological context.
The Horn Book

Other reviewers have also chimed in:

“Nonstop action, interesting characters, and a journey into another time and culture.”

“This mission turns into a coming-of-age lesson for Kata that forces her to challenge herself while she learns about deception, trust and friendship. The story unfolds with many twists and turns that keep readers intrigued, including many frightening encounters with demons and ghosts pulled from Japanese folklore that range from spooky to outright terrifying. Kata struggles to survive and keep others around her safe. This book is a great combination of adventure, fantasy, and horror, with two strong heroines who form an unlikely alliance.”

School Library Journal


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LitPick Interview

Posted by on Feb 24, 2016 in Children's Literature, Press, Writing Process | 0 comments


“Where do you get your ideas?” “Who’s your favorite character?” “What advice would you give aspiring writers?” LitPick has an interview with me up on their webpage today!



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“Edge-of-your-seat action!”

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Book: Deadly Flowers, Historical Fiction, Ninjas, Press, Reviews | 0 comments

FLOWERS coverHere’s what Kirkus Reviews says about Deadly Flowers:

A girl’s first mission as a ninja is complicated by a pair of young siblings and dangerous Japanese spirits. Orphaned at a young age, Kata has been trained to be a “deadly flower”—a female ninja in feudal Japan. She is the best trainee at Madame Chiyome’s secret school. Kata is eager to prove herself on her first mission, only to realize that she must assassinate Ichiro, a little boy and heir of a powerful lord. His 15-year-old sister, Saiko, initially Kata’s accomplice, surprises her by thwarting the mission. Having failed her first mission, Kata’s honor forces her to help the siblings find their uncle. The plot is dense with detail and events. Ichiro hands Kata a small pearl for safekeeping but neglects to disclose its supernatural powers. Kata initially looks down on Saiko’s noble coyness but finds that Saiko’s skills have their uses on their journey. The three fight off demons, Madame’s ninjas, and a samurai’s legions. In Kata and Saiko, Thomson has created heroines who are opposites yet manage to use their strengths to take control of their lives under the social restraints of their time. Plot-driven moments feel like pauses in between the book’s heavy action scenes. Japanese spirits are described in frightfully vivid detail, along with the ninjas’ death-defying exploits. Edge-of-your-seat action that will have both girls and boys rooting for the girl ninjas. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

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