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Interview with Jeff Strand, 3-Time Bram Stoker Nominee, about His Newest YA Novel

Hi Jeff!! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Located in Ohio where I know you spent your high school and college years (hence, not wanting to enter the cold again), I think I’ll pop down to your sunny location for a few questions about your newest release, I Have a Bad Feeling About This!  I expect you to be wearing your Bram Stoker Award emcee tuxedo and be prepared with drinks. Though I do know that you recently have been busy signing books for the launch of your new book….how is it all going for you?

Jeff: Oh, my hand, my poor, poor hand! Signing the first thousand copies was fine–my fingers are heavily muscled at this point in my career–but the fans just kept coming!  Two thousand! Three thousand! Twelve thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven! It’s not like I’m a cyborg! I kept asking the bookstore staff to turn fire hoses on the crowd to at least thin them out a bit, but they were all like “But we’d get the books wet!” Finally, I turned on the hose myself, blasting away thousands of people. A lot of books did get wet. I should have listened to the staff. So, anyway, to answer your question about how it’s going, my hand is kind of sore.

9781402284557-PR

Erin: Can we make mock cocktails? What will we be drinking as we hang out, relax, and discuss your entry into the world of young adult readers–how did you ever talk them in to this, by the way!? You must have put on your best innocent face?

Jeff: If we’re discussing young adult fiction, I feel that I should set a good example with my choice of beverage. I shall have a glass of delicious, antioxidant-filled pomegranate juice. Mmmm-mmm. The healthy choice is the best choice, that’s what I always say! Maybe I’ll just add a splash or two of Mountain Dew in there. Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

Erin: I have my drink in hand and I’m prepped for anything you have to say…I think. I know that you have been a successful adult horror author for many years, what made you decide to take the plunge into writing YA novels, first with A Bad Day for Voodoo, and now with I Have a Bad Feeling About This?

Jeff: About fifteen years ago I wrote a middle-grade book called Elrod McBugle on the Loose, which gave me my first experience writing for a younger audience, and also my first experience having a book published that nobody read. I’ve written elsewhere about the lengthy, twisty web of events that led to A Bad Day For Voodoo, but the short answer is: an editor at Sourcebooks asked I’d thought about writing YA. I said, sure! She said, send me some sample chapters. I said, sure! She said, send me some different sample chapters. I said, sure! She said, yep, we want to offer you a contract for this. And thus my goofy voodoo book was born.

Erin:  What has been the best aspect of writing novels for young adults (though I know adults are reading them too!)?  What have been any challenges you’ve found to crossing over (and I only mean in the book writing sense!)?

Jeff: For me, the best part is getting wide distribution on books with such an extreme level of silliness. A Bad Day For Voodoo is exactly the kind of book I was told NOT to write early in my career if I wanted to ever sell to a major publisher. A bit of time has elapsed since I personally was a young adult, but I haven’t found any overwhelming challenges; at least, nothing more brutal than writing a non-YA book. I’ve got a self-imposed restriction on harsh curse words and sex, so there’s the occasional moment where I think, “Y’know, a nice f-bomb would go great right here,” but my publisher would let me drop the f-bomb if I wanted, so that’s my own problem!

Erin:  How awesome does it feel to have this book be compared by Kirkus Reviews to Saturday Night Live skits? Though a little more scary (with bad guys taking over the survival camp and all), these books fit your personality well as you are always so very funny and that can be a draw to a sect of the YA crowd.  Do you consider your comedian qualities to be an asset to your novel writing or just something you can control and is an integral part of almost everything you do or want to do?

Jeff: I think the humor definitely an asset. It’s something I could turn off if I needed to (and in fact, my novella Kutter was a personal challenge to take a silly premise and then write the book without any actual jokes). But I like writing humor and it’s what I’m known for, so I might as well keep doing it. Books like Pressure, Dweller, Mandibles, and Stalking You Now aren’t non-stop knee-slapping hilarity, but I think the humor that’s there makes them better books.

Erin:  I know you write like a fiend and have 100 ideas for every book you publish, but are you thinking about continuing with more YA novels?  Will they remain mostly non-horror and more humor, or will you ever take them in another direction?

Jeff: Oh, there will definitely be more YA novels. I’m toying with the idea of doing a science fiction one, but I might have abandoned that by the time I finish writing this sentence…no, wait, I’m still on it. We’ll see what happens. Most of the ideas I pitched for my next book after A Bad Day For Voodoo were horror/comedies, and it’s pretty much unthinkable that I won’t return to that sub-genre soon.

Erin: Do you feel you’ve set any trends as far as sub-genres?

Jeff: Every once in a while I’ll read a review of somebody else’s book that says “This reminded me of a Jeff Strand novel,” but, no, I haven’t set any trends. There hasn’t been an explosion of horror/comedy novels since I came on the scene, and if there had been, it would’ve been because of somebody like Christopher Moore, not me!

Erin: Um, maybe a precedent then, or maybe you’ve stolen the genre.

Erin:  After reading through your *ahem* extensive bio on your site, I was surprised to learn that you haven’t tried to be an actor.  I know you have a desire for screenwriting, but do you aspire to bring your humor to the big screen? Would any of your YA books make a good movie? It worked for Diary of a Wimpy Kid….

Jeff: I’m in Herschell Gordon Lewis’ movie The Uh-Oh Show for about 15 seconds (I get killed by the Big Bad Wolf) but that’s the extent of my acting career. I don’t think I’d be very good at it. Both of my YA books would, of course, make spectacular movies, and I encourage Hollywood to throw briefcases full of cash at my head. And this weekend I’m…actually, I know I’m supposed to maintain the illusion that we’re sitting across from each other, having an intimate conversation, but I’m really writing this answer in Microsoft Word, and I can see your next question, so I’m going to continue my answer there…

Erin: Besides emceeing the World Horror Convention Bram Stoker Awards for a record setting sixth year, what other big plans do you have for this year?

Jeff: I wrote the script for a short film called “Gave Up The Ghost,” which will be directed by Gregory Lamberson and is (for people reading this interview right when it’s posted) shooting this very weekend. I’ll be traveling to Buffalo to be on the set for that, so I can watch my creative vision come to life and also mop the floors and get coffee for the crew. This will be one-fourth of the anthology film Creepers, which also includes adaptations of stories by Joe Lansdale, Edgar Allan Poe, and Lafcadio Hearn.

Erin:  Where can readers connect with you best?  Or in other words, where can they go without being completely scared out of their pants?

Jeff: I’m on Facebook as JeffStrandAuthor. Twitter as JeffStrand. GoodReads as JeffStrand. I created a Google+ account but I never did anything with it. And, of course, readers can visit my website at http://www.jeffstrand.com.

Erin:  Where should readers rush out to purchase I Have a Bad Feeling About This?

Jeff: Anywhere they like to buy books! If they like to buy books from Amazon, they can click on http://tinyurl.com/l5hoqxv.

Erin: I know you’ve done some appearances in Florida, but have you ever thought about coming back to Ohio? We’d be honored to have you!

Jeff: Every time I announce some appearances, people say, “When are you coming to _______?” and I always think, “Oh, yeah, I should jump in my car and drive around the country doing book signings!” Someday I’ll return to Ohio. Not in the winter.

Erin: I am so thrilled that you stopped by the site today to talk about your new YA novel! It’s been a lot of fun to read and it was not only my pleasure to have you here this week, but a laugh a minute. Best of luck with this novel and everything else to come! Keep laughing, but close that mouth once in awhile, you’re eating too many bugs down south!

Jeff: Bugs are nutritious and delicious. I mean, not tarantulas, obviously, and the Human Centipede movies kind of ruined the taste of centipedes for everyone, but overall, bug consumption is a healthy and fun way to live your life. There, I’ve included an educational component to this interview. You’re welcome.

Erin: ha!

Jeff Strand, Biography~

jeff strandJEFF STRAND is a three-time nominee for the Bram Stoker Award, and both of his YA books, A Bad Day for VooDoo and I Have a Bad Feeling About This are both Junior Library Guild Picks. Jeff lives in Tampa, Florida, and would last approximately three seconds in a true survival situation. But he’s okay with that, because he mostly just types stuff in a safe bear-free environment.

See more at http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com

I Have A Bad Feeling About This, Synopsis~

9781402284557-PRHenry Lambert would rather play video games than spend time in the great outdoors—but that doesn’t make him a wuss. Skinny nerd? Fine. But wuss is a little harsh. Sadly, his dad doesn’t agree. Which is why Henry is being shipped off to Strongwoods Survival Camp.

Strongwoods isn’t exactly as advertised. It looks like the victim of a zombie apocalypse, the “camp director” is a psycho drill sergeant, and Henry’s sure he saw a sign written in blood…

Wilderness Survival Tip #1

Drinking your own sweat will not save your life. Somebody might have told you that, but they were trying to find out if you’d really do it.

Wilderness Survival Tip #2

In case of an avalanche, don’t despair. You’re doomed, but that’s a wicked cool death.

Wilderness Survival Tip #3

If you’re relying on this book for actual survival tips, you’re dead already.

1 Comment

Filed under Q and A with Authors

I Have A Bad Feeling About This, by Jeff Strand, Will Have Teens Laughing for More

I Have a Bad Feeling About This, by Jeff Strand:
Review and Guest Article
New Young Adult Book from Sourcebooks

9781402284557-PR

Review~

My 10-year-old daughter and I just love this book. I’ve thought Jeff funny for years now, but when I heard about this book I knew that it would be a really cool read for someone her age. She’s not the daughter that’s the princess, she is more of the tomboy, so she likes Diary of a Wimpy Kid types of books, though her reading level has increased beyond that. She enjoys books that are about survival in history, or in the elements, enjoys Survivor on TV, and also likes really funny joke books and reading materials about kids in all kinds of crazy situations. I was spot on when we read this book and it totally fit the bill in regards to her personal reading list. She says to tell Jeff, “that he is some crazy funny writer and to write her more.” She really liked that it had archery, she said.

Personally, I thought myself that Strand did a good job with the action scenes, the dialogue, and with maintaining what the actors were thinking in their own heads. He had a good handle on how teens might act in this situation. You know, NORMAL teens, not over the top Disney channel type of teens (well maybe when Shia LeBouf made Even Stevens famous), but normal teens put into unlikely scenarios. I like Jeff’s banter and I think most teens will as well. It’s clean comedy with great humor. He also had great character development and a fun way of capturing all the coming of age angst that teenagers feel. Sent off to camp to be made stronger and more confident, these characters eventually take on more than any adult might handle.

I really liked the Survival Tips that were given at the end of each chapter and found them hilarious. I think that many adults could probably read this book just for a laugh at its twisted nonsense and it would probably make a pretty good movie.  I suppose we can also note that if you look past the humor, it has a message too of how kids are sometimes misjudged and how certain circumstances can really show their inner foundation.

Rip-roaring funny and a delight for any teen reader, this book will be breezed through with its non-stop action and hilarious content. Any kid is going to eat it up like the candy hidden under their bed and scream for more.

And that concludes the review and my sitting on pins and needles waiting to see what funny thing Strand will say or do next. Oh, one final note, if you’re an adult that was an 80s child like me, you’ll probably like this too.

Now enjoy Strand’s insane humor in this unique guest article…..

***************************************************

“Characters Taking On A Life of Their Own”
Guest Article by Jeff Strand

There is nothing more magical for an author than when your characters take on a life of their own, almost as if they’re writing the story instead of you!

Or so I hear. My characters do exactly what I tell them.

MY CHARACTER: Look at me! I have my own free will!

ME: The hell you do. As punishment for your insubordination, I’m adding a psycho killer with a chainsaw to this scene.

MY CHARACTER: No! No! Noooooooooo–[rest of sentence unintelligible].

I’m the boss of my books. In my new novel, I Have A Bad Feeling About This, sixteen-year-old Henry Lambert gets sent to survival camp by his parents. But it wasn’t really his parents. It was all me, typing words on my laptop which, read in the proper sequence, shared the dialogue and descriptions involved with the act of parents sending their teenaged son to camp.

Why would I let my characters take the credit for all of my hard work? Henry didn’t do squat to help me write this book. It would’ve been nice if he had. I’d have enjoyed a scenario like:

ME: Gosh, I feel like going to the sunny beach today! I’ll pack my beach chair and my towel and some sunscreen and a dozen hot dogs and…[sadly], no, wait, I have a book to write. Aw, man.

HENRY: Hey, I’m your main character! Why don’t I tell you how I would behave in this situation?

ME: Really? You’d do that for me?

HENRY: Sure!

ME: That would be great! Wow. I’m going to stop for ice cream on the way home, too!

But that wouldn’t happen. The true conversation would be:

ME: Hey, Henry, what would you say if you ate a poisoned berry?

MY WIFE: Who are you talking to?

ME: Uh, nobody.

MY WIFE: Did you call somebody Henry? Isn’t Henry the name of the main character in the book you’re writing? Are you talking to your fictional character???

ME: No, no! There’s this one guy named Henry who I thought was here but I guess he left to go get some–

MY WIFE: Liar! Your mind has been overcome by a cloud of madness! Off to the asylum with you!

MEN IN WHITE COATS: Hi. We were waiting outside your house, just in case. Come with us, please. Don’t make us use the…actually, we were really looking forward to using the tranquilizer dart, so we’re going to go ahead with that even though you’re not putting up a struggle.

TRANQUILIZER DART: Thwack!

Truthfully, when I hear an author say, “My characters tell me what they’re going to do!” I think, “Well, then, you’re a damned plagiarist!”

I wrote I Have A Bad Feeling About This. Every word. My editor made me change some words, but I wrote the new words, too! No way do my characters get the fame and money. That would be crazy!

9781402284557-PRI Have A Bad Feeling About This, Synopsis~

Paperback, 242 pages
Published March 1st 2014
by Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN 1402284551 (ISBN13: 9781402284557)

Wilderness Survival Tip #1
Drinking your own sweat will not save your life. Somebody might have told you that, but they were trying to find out if you’d really do it.

Henry Lambert would rather play video games than spend time in the great outdoors–but that doesn’t make him a wuss. Skinny nerd? Fine. But wuss is a little harsh. Sadly, his dad doesn’t agree. Which is why Henry is being shipped off to Strongwoods Survival Camp.

Strongwoods isn’t exactly as advertised. It looks like the victim of a zombie apocalypse, the “camp director” is a psycho drill sergeant, and Henry’s sure he saw a sign written in blood…

Wilderness Survival Tip #2
In case of an avalanche, don’t despair. You’re doomed, but that’s a wicked cool death.

Wilderness Survival Tip #3
If you’re relying on this book for actual survival tips, you’re dead already.

Jeff Strand, Biography~

jeff strandJEFF STRAND is a three-time nominee for the Bram Stoker Award and will emcee the 2014 awards. Both of his YA books, A Bad Day for VooDoo and I Have a Bad Feeling About This, are both Junior Library Guild Picks.

Jeff lives in Tampa, Florida, and would last approximately three seconds in a true survival situation. But he’s okay with that, because he mostly just types stuff in a safe bear-free environment.

Check Jeff out at:

http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com/

http://www.Jeffstrand.com

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Posts

The Mapmaker’s Daughter, by Laurel Corona, Offers Emotionally Gripping Story of Loss, Love, and Faith in 15th Century

9781402286490-PRThe Mapmaker’s Daughter, by historical author Laurel Corona, is an emotional, well-researched, highly intelligent novel set in 15th century Iberia where the Spanish Inquisition is complicating (or worse) the lives of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. However, as the Inquisition sent away those of Jewish faith, ordered them to convert, or caused them to hide among them posing as Christians, stories of hundreds of families arose in history that are now being pulled from the history books and made into educating fiction.  As a Christian, my heart breaks for the people of Jewish and Islamic faiths and what they endured during this time period of persecution.

Corona does a phenomenal job with her protagonist Amalia Cresques, the daughter of a famous cartographer (as a side note, Amalia is an invented character, but the family actually existed).  At first living as conversos, eventually she and her father are sent to Portugal to serve Henry the Navigator, who is exploring the African court. Though an affluent family in the Jewish community, their faith now puts them in servitude.  Her father, as he spends time plotting maps for the conquering men that were ripe in this time period, ironically is assisting these men in claiming their dominance.

But the book doesn’t focus on the mapmaking, it focuses on the mapmaker’s daughter, as it is rightly titled. Amalia is a young girl coming of age in a very tumultuous time period of confusion where not only are things difficult, and downright frightful, but the mental fatigue that would probably come from defining yourself, and your faith, in a time when so many theories or restrictions were put into place (and faith was very personal and fervent and felt so deeply). Her portrayal of Amalia brought depth and emotional connection to her character, whether it was when the novel was reaching forward into time and revealing Amalia 60 years later and at the end of her life or when it showed her just beginning her foray into life, love, and faith.

It was interesting how Corona added many real figures from history and how someone such as Amalia’s character would have interacted with them given the circumstances of that historical family (her family). The relationships between Amalia and many of the other characters are strong and rich and interwoven among historical detail of the time period. Corona’s prose also really showcases for us how the time period truly felt to those of the Jewish faith, as she tried to capture sentiments of those who were easy to convert, those who held strong, and those who floundered in not knowing their truest heart’s desires.

The detail of Iberia, the scenery set in the novel, and the lush verbiage was lovely and allowed for breathing between the action of the story. I was amazed to learn even more about the Jewish people and what they endured during the Spanish Inquisition. I’ve read several novels lately that dealt with stories of this time period and I am always floored by the civil injustices endured by Jews, as well as several other types of faith throughout time. In relation to our modern era, there are lessons to be taken away from this history, lessons we must never forget.

Corona’s newest epic novel of faith, family, love, and personal survival will amaze you with an emotional and historical tapestry weaved with remembrance of just how far humankind can fall and what we must do to always ensure compassion and tolerance.

For readers who enjoy learning more about 15th Century Spain, the Spanish Inquisition, and how various faiths intertwined during this time period, then this book is a sweeping saga and an intelligent read that will leave you wanting to learn more. Corona has presented a well-written, well-researched, and emotionally gripping story of courage during the turbulent time of the Spanish Inquisition.

The Mapmaker’s Daughter (Sourcebooks), Synopsis~
On sale date: March 4, 2014

9781402286490-PRA sweeping novel of 15th-century Spain explores the forgotten women of the Spanish Inquisition

In 1492, Amalia Riba sits in an empty room, waiting for soldiers to take her away. A converso forced to hide her religion from the outside world, She is the last in a long line of Jewish mapmakers, whose services to the court were so valuable that their religion had been tolerated by Muslims and Christians alike.

But times have changed. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquer Granada, the last holdout of Muslim rule in Spain, they issue an order expelling all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity. As Amalia looks back on her eventful life, we witness history in the making—the bustling court of Henry the Navigator, great discoveries in science and art, the fall of Muslim Granada, the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. And we watch as Amalia decides whether to relinquish what’s left of her true self, or risk her life-preserving it.

Exploring an under-published period in history, The Mapmaker’s Daughter is a sweeping saga of faith, family and identity that shows how the past shapes our map of life.

Praise for The Mapmaker’s Daughter~

“A close look at the great costs and greater rewards of being true to who you really are. … A pivotal period of history and inspiration” —Margaret George, NYT bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Sentences of startling, hard-won wisdom leap from the page and command our memories not to forget them.” —Susan Vreeland, NYT bestselling author of Luncheon of the Boating Party

 “Amalia is the perfect character through which readers will experience these turbulent times … Vividly detailed and beautifully written, this is a pleasure to read, a thoughtful, deeply engaging story of the power of faith to navigate history’s rough terrain.” – Booklist

 “Well-researched, evocative, and a pleasure to read”
—Mitchell James Kaplan, award-winning author of By Fire, By Water

Author Laurel Corona, Biography~ 

Laurel Corona author photoLaurel Corona is the author of three historical novels, including Finding Emilie (Gallery Books, 2011), which won the 2012 Theodore S. Geisel Award for Book of the Year, San Diego Book Awards.

She has taught at San Diego State University, the University of California at San Diego, and San Diego City College, where she is a professor of English and Humanities.

Corona is a member of the Brandeis National Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Hadassah. She has written over a dozen nonfiction Young Adult books for school library programs, primarily on Jewish topics.

She lives in San Diego, California.

You can visit her online at: www.laurelcorona.com

THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER by Laurel Corona

Sourcebooks Blog Tour Schedule

March 5

Passages to the Past

Guest Post

March 6

Unabridged Chick

Review

March 7

My Friend Amy

Guest Post

March 10

Let Them Read Books

Review

March 11

Read Lately

Review

March 12

Julz Reads

Review

March 13

Broken Teepee

Review

March 14

A Patchwork of Books

Review

March 17

Mina’s Bookshelf

Review

March 18

Oh for the Hook of a Book

Review

March 19

Poof … Books!

Review

March 20

A Bookish Affair

Review

March 21

Historical Boys

Guest Post

March 24

Reading the Past

Guest Post

March 26

Radiant Light

Review

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

My Daughters Assist in Interviewing Carol Weston, author of Ava and Pip and Girl’s Talk Advice Columnist!

Hi, Carol! My daughters Emma (age 10) and Addie (age 6) and I (age 39-ha!) are so happy to have you join us on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We appreciate you taking time out of your busy letter answering, book writing, school visiting schedule to talk to us about the launch of your very cute book, Ava and Pip, which publishes March 4 from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

Ava and Pip

Carol: And I appreciate your appreciation! Thanks for reaching out. 

Erin: We always enjoy serving our guests tea and the girls enjoy baking cupcakes. Do you have a favorite choice of cake and frosting? We go from the simple to the extravagant, so ask for anything!

Carol: Chocolate is always the answer to that question!

Erin: We have just a few questions for you, so let’s get started. Of course, we’ll wait until your mouth isn’t full. ha!  I’ll leave it over to the girls to question away…..

Emma: Hi Carol! I really enjoy reading books of girls my age that are funny yet also have issues of girls my age in them. I like to find answers through books. I am more like Pip in the story (I do make friends, but I am quiet and shy) and Addie is more like Ava, though I am the writer!  How do you come up with your characters?

Carol: Thanks, Emma. Sometimes characters put themselves together gradually, like a puzzle. Other times, they jump aboard whole. Being a mom of two daughters helps me write about girls. And being the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life for 20 (!) years helps me get into the minds of girls too. But the real secret is that, like every other adult on the planet, I was a kid first — and I happen to remember what it was like to be the little sister with the diary who sometimes craved a smidge more attention than she was getting. 

Emma:  Have you written any other Ava and Pip stories, or is the first, and also, will there be more? I really enjoyed it and I hope there will be more like it.

Carol: Thanks! I’ve already written the second book in the series and it’s with my editor at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. The working title is Ava and Taco Cat. Did you notice the spelling of Taco Cat? It’s a palindrome. While you’re waiting for the sequel, you can also read about Melanie Martin. She’s ten too and her sister is six — Addie’s age. Melanie and Matt go traveling to Italy, Holland, Spain, and New York in a series that Knopf published starting in 2000 — before you were even born! The Diary of Melanie Martin is in paperback.

diary of melanie martin

Emma:  I am just 10, but I feel like I am already dealing with so much teen drama and life is so busy there is not as much time for fun.  My mom wants to know why tweens and teens are growing up faster and faster and I’d like to know what advice you can give me to stay focused on my dreams and goals, yet still have fun?

Carol: W-O-W, big questions. Okay, first of all, I do believe that fun is important. Kids should have fun (safe fun, of course) and parents should too. At any age, I think it’s all about balance and doing a little planning. Today, for instance, I’ll be at my desk most of the day thinking about words… but tonight I’m going to hear friends sing at a cabaret. Knowing I have something fun to do later helps me work hard now. Get it? 🙂 As for your mom’s question, the crazy thing is that parents have always thought that kids grow up too fast and it’s always been true and it gets truer and truer. Emma, you are ten and I hope you have fun being ten. There’s plenty of time to be a teenager and adult but this is your time to be a kid. 

Emma:  I’d like to be a writer and/or an artist. What advice do you have for young writers like me?

Carol: Keep a journal. Don’t worry about getting published because that’s a whole different ballgame. Enjoy the creative writing. I have lots of writing tips in the second Ava Wren book but basically, much of writing is rewriting. Paint pictures with your words and use vivid details and be a good observer. When possible, read your work aloud before turning it in. Or at least reread it to find mistakes or repeated words or places where you can be clearer or funnier or more honest or effective. 

Addie:  What are your personal favorite children’s writers and/or books?

Carol: Like Ava, I love and loved Aesop’s fables. They are short and pithy and they pack a punch — meaning they give me something to think about. If I had to pick just one or two favorite kids’ books, Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be up there. But what about The Giver? Or A Summer to Die? And good ol’ Ramona? I’m a reader and a book person and I majored in French and Spanish literature at college so we could go on and on. 

Addie: It’s cool that you send letters to the New York Times. I thought of when Virginia sent the letter about Santa to the Sun in the 1800s. Do you ever use these letters in your books? (Mom says this is inspiration)

Carol: I live in New York City and I like to start my day with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. If something makes me mad or I want to express my opinion, I’ll send off an email. And yes, I’ve had three dozen letters in so far, which is kind of cool. The last one was my memory of when President Kennedy died. I was about your age, Addie. Oh my goodness, I think I gave one of my letters to the Times about bullying issues had the idea of a queen bee stinging in it. Found it! It did! So your mom’s right, my writing that letter was part of the inspiration behind this book. W-O-W. Thanks for reminding me!

****

logo-nytimes

May 24, 2010

Friends as Enemies (1 Letter)

To the Editor:

Re “Can an Enemy Be a Child’s Friend?” (Mind, May 18): A study suggests that “when someone dislikes you, it may be adaptive to dislike them back.” Yes, but as a mom, author, and advice columnist, I know that if you fight a queen bee, you’re likely to get stung. When friendships go sour, girls should reach out to other kids and recognize that the world is crowded and not made of just two people orbiting each other. Disengaging is not easy, but it is liberating.

Carol Weston
New York

****

Erin:  I hear you live with a master funny man (btw, he used to be from my state of Ohio!), what does he do to keep you laughing every day? What do you do to keep HIM laughing?

Carol: A master funny man? Are we talking about my cat Mike or my husband Rob?? Rob Ackerman of Bexley, Ohio, does props and special effects for Saturday Night Live and writes plays and musicals like Tabletop, Volleygirls, and Teach for America. I guess we both enjoy wordplay so we do try to amuse each other! And we believe in fun, so we go out a lot and sometimes have to say to each other, “Pencils down!”

Erin:  We don’t want to keep your further, Carol, but we have enjoyed being able to talk to you! Keep doing what you are doing, it is an amazing help to girls and mothers. And we hope to read more about Ava, she’s a delightful childhood character for the girls to enjoy!!  Best of luck with launching it in March! 

Carol: Thanks so much, Erin and Emma and Addie. I’m glad you like AVA AND PIP. Comes out March 4! For more info, visit my website carolweston.com or check out my channel, youtube.com/girltalkwithcarol. I have videos there for parents and tweens too. All best to all of you and thanks for the cupcake. I hope I didn’t leave any crumbs.

AVA AND PIP YOUTUBE TRAILER: http://youtu.be/vuOocdWBLnM

Ava and Pip, Synopsis~Out March 4, 2014!

  • Age Range: 10 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 – 7
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402288700
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402288708

Ava and PipUnlike her shy and reserved sister Pip, Ava just can’t seem to stop talking.  Whether it’s pointing out the palindromes in her or her family’s names (A-V-A, P-I-P) in phrases in sentences, or speaking out against others, she just can’t keep her mouth shut – or in one instance, even her mind.  When Ava writes a vengeful story against Bea to get back at her for ruining Pip’s birthday party, she begins to taste the bittersweet reality of her actions.  Soon, guilt-ridden Ava enlists none other than Bea to help Pip overcome her introverted personality, and along with finding out that she and her family are not the only ones that enjoy puns and homonyms, she discovers how big of an impact words and stories can have on the world around you.

http://www.amazon.com/Ava-Pip-Carol-Weston/dp/1402288700

Where You Might Catch Carol in Person~

Carol is having some launch parties to celebrate her new book also!! Join her as per her website states “at the Corner Bookstore in NYC on Mar 4 at 6, or Mar 9 at 2 at BookCourt on 163 Court Street in Brooklyn, or Mar 11 at the New York Society Library at 5:30. Or meet her Mar 29 at Watchung in Montclair at 2; Apr 4 at the NYC Center for Fiction; Apr 5 at the Bank Street Bookstore at 2:30… I’ll be in D.C. Mar 21 (Politics and Prose), and L.A. on Apr 8, and Columbus, Ohio, Apr 15. More details to follow.”  Check her website at http://www.carolweston.com

Carol Weston, Biography (in her words, from her website)~

jroemerwestonI’m a grown-up girl, a mom-wife-daughter-sister-friend, a New York Upper West Sider, a guest on Today and Oprah, “the reigning advice columnist at GL magazine” (so says Newsweek), a novelist/author of 12 books who enjoys skiing and art museums, a Yalie who wrote for Seventeen at age 19, a speaker of French and a mumbler of Italian with an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury, a guest at schools from Alaska to Florida (not on the same day), and hmmm, what else? My parents were writers, and my birthday is September 11th. Oh, and I’ve had 28 letters in the New York Times. (Who knew? The Times knew. They keep track!)

The Columbus Dispatch said, “A little G-rated advice can go a long way to help young girls navigate an R-rated world. Carol Weston is standing by.” And it’s true. I am standing by.

But I like sitting too! And playing Hearts and Boggle and Words With Friends and baking cookies and watching movies and reading the paper and going to Book Club and hanging with my cat. Since we all have different strengths and weaknesses, let me confess that my sense of direction is truly terrible. (Thank heavens for the compass on my iPhone!)

Carol’s Professional Bio from Amazon~

Carol Weston writes for kids, teens, and grown-ups and has been the advice columnist at Girls’ Life since 1994. Newsweek calls her a “Teen Dear Abby.” At Yale, she studied comp lit, graduating summa cum laude, and she and her family now live in NYC. You can visit her website at carolweston.com and her advice channel at youtube.com/girltalkwithcarol. Carol’s next book for kids is about AVA AND PIP.

Carol’s first book, GIRLTALK: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You (HarperCollins), has been in print since 1985, and is widely translated. Now in a fourth edition, it’s as sensible, encouraging, and “outstanding” (SLJ) as ever. Carol’s first novel was The Diary of Melanie Martin (Knopf). It’s about a traveling girl and her brother Matt the Brat. (Psst, their art teacher mom doesn’t know that their favorite museum game is Point Out the Naked People…) In the series, the family visits Italy, Spain, Holland, and NYC.

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Addie and Emma

Emma Al-Mehairi, Age 10, Interviewer~

Emma is ten years old and a straight A student with a gift for reading and writing.  She has read at a higher level than her peers ever since the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade when she spent almost the entire summer at the beach. That was also the summer Mom was reading the Twilight series, and took her to see Eclipse at the theater, and Emma found herself loving vampires, werewolfs, and other abnormals when once she was deathly afraid of them.  She also likes reading about girls and boys her age, adventure and action thrillers, magic, fantasy, and history. She also enjoys stories about boys and girls her age, especially those who like to write or draw.

Besides reading and writing, she also enjoys softball, soccer, fashion, history, art, writing stories, shopping, asking questions, chocolate, and coffee.  She loves to bake cookies and cakes and spends much of her time writing stories and drawing pictures or making crafts.

Addie, Age 6, Interviewer~

Addison Busbey is a sweet six year old of the intelligent variety. She loves to explore books and relishes her trips to the library and any bookstores where she “oohhhs and ahhhhhs” over covers and content.She loves red and pink and has a penchant for watching anything involving cute animals or princesses. Yet, her current favorite shows are all in the Power Ranger television dynasty. With mommy, she looks forward to watching Scooby-Doo each Saturday morning.  She has quite the wide variety of interests.She enjoys playing softball, soccer, jumping rope, creating art, and baking cupcakes. She has an extreme love affair with shows like DC Cupcakes, Cake Boss, and Cupcake Wars and is constantly inventing new cupcakes for us to bake. She likes to sing and listen to all kinds of music while dancing till she collapses.

She is a fashion queen who dreams of being a fashion designer in Paris, with her own cupcake store around the corner and perform part-time as a pop star. She wants to have a pet squirrel and will most certainly put a pink bow on its tail and make it wear sparkly heels all while having it wear a superhero outfit!

Watch for more of Emma and Addie’s reviews and interviews!  And if you have a recommendation for them, send it their way via Mom (Erin Al-Mehairi).

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My Daughter and I Review Eric Pierpoint’s The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole: Wild West on the Oregon Trail!

The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole is a middle reader, recommended for ages 9 and up, by the actor Eric Pierpoint, who has been seen on Hart of Dixie and older goodies I remember him from like Alien Nation, various Star Trek episodes, and much more over his long career. Taking his family history, he writes his first middle reader novel in order to teach kids some history of the Oregon Trail and he does it in a very entertaining way!

Emma, my daughter who is turning 10 this week was excited to check this one out. I’ll let her give her review and then I’ll follow-up with mine. It was a quick read for both of us and you’ll learn why in a minute.

Caleb O'Toole

Emma, Age 9, Review~

I love books that teach me history. In school we have been learning about the Native Americans in Ohio, but I am interested in all Native Americans so it was neat to learn about others out West.  I’ve never been there. I also like to read about how pioneers, or children from the past, lived since it was so different from me. I liked the character of Julie alot and really want to be motivated to do something important like she was. I agree that women can do anything.

I think the book was so good it made me not want to stop reading it and I kept turning the pages in all my free time at school until I finished it up. My favorite books are those with action that hold my focus, so this book really did that for me.

I have guy friends and girl friends and I’d recommend it to some of my girl friends who like sports and action and also to most of my guy friends. They like to read action. My grandpa liked Cowboys and Indians when he was growing up, more boys should still read it.

I am interested in this time period of history and I would like to see more books again with this theme. I haven’t seen many.  Maybe he will write more like this and I’d read them! I like the history facts in the back, they taught me alot! I can’t believe how hard life was back then!

Mom’s Review~

Stereotypically, this book would be marketed to boys and does seem like it would interest boys who enjoy adventure stories. Do boys still like books of Wild West adventures? I hope so, and if not, this should kick start that trend again!  This one features cowboys, pioneers, thieves, and Native Americans. It’s tagline reads, “There’s Danger On Every Step of the Oregon Trail” and the book lives up to telling us why that is for the O’Toole kids!

However, it’s not just for boys in our house and I hope that encourages readers to know that guys and girls can read everything and enjoy it! My daughter is multi-faceted, so though she loves girl-themes, she also likes to read action! And the history component was a huge sell for her and I know she wasn’t disappointed as she loved the Native American characters in the book. I did too, and in fact, I was so happy at how Pierpoint portrayed them and the relationships with them and the others in the book. We need more books that show the gentle and caring side of Native Americans, as well as their strength and endurance!

Another selling point for me after reading the book, which is another good reason why girls should read it, is that although the protagonist Caleb is a boy, Pierpoint showcases how Caleb’s two sisters are also able to accomplish things. He also features a woman doctor who inspires Caleb’s sister to want to perform medicine. She tells the family how she went to a university in Cincinnati, Ohio (which was awesome since we are from Ohio) and learned to be a doctor. In this time of prairie living, this would have been unheard of for most families. She tells Julie and Caleb that women can do anything! By the end of the book, I was so happy to see Julie so empowered and this would be a great read for young girls who want to achieve their dreams!  It is also subliminal enough to reinforce in young boys that women are equal and able to do as much as they do.

Besides Pierpoint hitting those social issues point on for us, the story also flew by with action that I know he has picked up from his acting and screenwriting days. He knows how to describe a cinematic view, which is highly important for children in their reading. You have to hold their attention and describe the surroundings, especially if historical and different from their present environment. He does this extremely well and the pace of the book is so quick, the pages turn quickly.

I also enjoyed that at the end of the book there is some history behind the story. Pierpoint gives some non-fiction paragraphs that tell the real facts of that time period and the Oregon Trail. It was so interesting to read this with my daughter and to know her learning was reinforced by fun and fact. We also enjoyed looking at his map on the website.  Since much of his novel is based on his family’s history of travel on these trails, he took a trip to follow the journey that people in the late 1800s might have taken and chronicled it on his site. That is a wonderful companion piece to teaching kids this era of history.  You really don’t hear much taught about life of those heading West anymore!

I love this book for teaching kids history and inspiring children everywhere. I hope he writes more historical books and takes children on more journeys through this time period. I would highly recommend this to libraries, schools, and for home libraries…..and to both boys AND girls!

GIVEAWAY~

Comment to enter to win a copy of this book, US/Canada only! Leave a proper email in the comments! For extra entries (+2) also like my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.

Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole, Synopsis~

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
September 2013
ISBN: 9-781-4022- 8171-6
Trade Paper/$7.99

Danger looms for Caleb and his sisters on every mile of the Oregon Trail.

Epic in scope, populated by unforgettable characters, this debut wild west adventure novel by popular Hollywood character actor Eric Pierpoint will thrill young readers.

Caleb O’Toole and his two sisters are left orphaned after a cholera outbreak in their hometown of Great Bend, Kansas. Attempting to fulfill their mother’s dying wish, they strike out on a one-horse wagon to travel the treacherous road along the Oregon Trail to the Montana Territory to live with their aunt.

Caleb promised to keep his two sisters safe. But safety is thirteen hundred miles away in the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, past the dust-choked deserts, monstrous tornadoes and ravenous wolves of the Oregon Trail. And after witnessing a crime by the infamous Blackstone Gang, Caleb and his sisters have no choice but to brave the dangers of the trail, trying to stay one step ahead of murderous outlaws.

Author Eric Pierpoint, Biography~

Eric_Pierpoint-5Eric Pierpoint is a veteran Hollywood actor has been on stage, screen, and television for nearly thirty five years and whose credits include Hart of Dixie, Parks and Recreation, Alien Nation, The World’s Fastest Indian, and Holes.

Inspired by his family’s heritage as part of the pioneer migration along the Oregon Trail, including a great-great-grandmother born in a covered wagon, Eric piled Joey, his trusty dog, into his car to trace his family history, experience first-hand what the pioneers must have seen during the Western Migration and learn the history of this amazingera: the American Indian Wars and tribal culture, the hardships of the wild west and friendships that formed because of the dangerous journey.The author’s journey and his research was transformed into THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O’TOOLE, a unique adventure novel of America’s pioneer past.

Visit <http://www.ericpierpoint.net> http://www.ericpierpoint.net or <http://www.facebook.com/EricPierpointConnection> http://www.facebook.com/EricPierpointConnection.

Thanks to Sourcebook Jabberwocky for the book, but all opinions are honest here.

Emma A., Guest Reviewer, Age 9, Biography~

EmmaEmma is nine years old and a straight A student with a gift for reading and writing.  She has read at a higher level than her peers ever since the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade when she spent almost the entire summer at the beach. That was also the summer Mom was reading the Twilight series, and took her to see Eclipse at the theater, and Emma found herself loving vampires, werewolfs, and other abnormals when once she was deathly afraid of them.  This newfound knowledge of stories allowed her to overcome her fears and she now sleeps with Monster High dolls by her bed that are the daughters of a Mummy, the Abomindable Snowman, and a Werewolf.

She also likes reading about girls and boys her age, adventure and action thrillers, magic, fantasy, and history.  Besides reading and writing, she also enjoys softball, soccer, fashion, history, art, writing stories, shopping, asking questions, cooking, chocolate, and coffee. She has now added learning the violin to her list. Whew!

Watch for more of Emma, and her siblings, reviews!  And if you have a recommendation for her, send it her way via Mom (Erin Al-Mehairi).

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Budding Child Journalist Interviews UK Children’s Author Holly Webb

Today, Emma and I have an interview and a fun guest post with popular UK author and former Scholastic editor, Holly Webb! Emma had a great time and super learning experience doing this interview and helping to put the post together. She dictated the questions and thoughts she had to me and I typed them out so they met her approval. So thankful to Holly for giving Emma her first author interview. Enjoy and leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Hi Holly, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book!  My daughters (Emma, age 9 and Addie, age 6) are avid readers and both have enjoyed your book, Rose. We reviewed it a few weeks ago and our thoughts can be read by clicking HERE.

Emma is a budding writer and amateur journalist herself, so she has some questions for you! I appreciate your time in discussing writing with us!

Emma:  I like ghost and magic stories, but mostly what I see for my age are other stories of grade school kids that are more average. Your books are different and that is why I enjoyed it. So I would like to know what inspired you to write the Rose series?

A: I was actually asked to write a series about how someone became magical, which I thought was a fascinating question. I also really wanted to try writing something with a historical setting. I particularly love A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which has an Edwardian London setting. I wanted Rose to have the same sense of the city almost as one of the characters.

9781402285813_p0_v1_s260x420

Emma:  My mom says you used to be an editor and that you love books too, but I was wondering what really gave you the desire to write for children? What is the best feeling you get from writing?

A: It was almost an accident that I started writing! I came up with a series idea in an editorial meeting, and the plan was to work on it, and then suggest it to an author. But I realised I’d fallen in love with it, when I’d named all the characters and their pets… Being an editor and working on early drafts of books with amazing authors was a great training for writing. The best feeling is hearing from people who’ve read the books – I love it that children are adding to a world that I wrote. I remember being so involved with my favourite characters – it thrills me that this is happening to my books now!

Emma:  My mom enjoyed your book too, but I was wondering if you’ve written any adult books she might like? If not, would you ever consider writing for adults?

A: I haven’t, but not because I don’t want to. It’s just that I haven’t had a book idea that seems more adult yet. I’d love to write some teen fiction too.

Emma:  I see on your website (I love the design and your book covers by the way) that you have more books, even more Rose books? Is that correct and that means more will be available in the United States for me in the future? I hope so! If so, what kinds of things will Rose do?

A: There are four Rose books – the second one is just being edited for its US edition now. It’s called Rose and the Lost Princess – it’s set partly at the royal palace, where Rose becomes a sort of bodyguard for one of the young princesses. She gets to travel to Venice in the third book, Rose and the Magician’s Mask, and in the fourth, Rose and the Silver Ghost, she discovers more about her family. There’s a sequel series called Lily, too, which Rose appears in as a minor character, fifty years later on.

Emma:  I heard that you like ancient Greek myths. I love them too! Have you considered writing any young adult books with that theme? If so, which one would you start with?

A: I’d love to. I think some of the most amazing stories are the ones with transformations – they’ve inspired a lot of the magic in my books. There are beautiful descriptions of them in a book called The Metamorphoses by Ovid, which I studied at school. I’d find it so hard to choose which of the great stories to write about – Theseus’s travels would be amazing, although I think I’d want to know more about the Minotaur than the hero… My oldest son (who is the same age as you) love myths too. He has been reading the Percy Jackson books, which I think are a brilliant new take on that world.

Emma:  This one is from my mom! In the United States, we are trying to promote literacy. What do you feel are some of the best ways to keep reading alive for children? How do we create an environment and/or foundation for life-long reading?

A: I think reading to your children when they’re little is really important, if you can. I know it’s hard to fit in (I have three children too). My two seven-year olds still go back and read the picture books we read together before they could read for themselves, and that’s very special, even though they enjoy reading longer books too.

Erin and Emma:  Thank you so very much, Holly for creating and writing wonderful books for all youngsters.  We are thrilled you stopped by and allowed Emma to ask you some questions. We hope to read more from you in the future. In fact, Emma took the book to school to read during breaks and all her classmates, boys and girls, were asking to read it! It made quite an impact!

Holly:  That’s so lovely to hear! I love the cover of the US Rose, and I really hope you enjoy her next adventure too. Thanks for such interesting questions. You’ve got me thinking about Greek myths again now, Emma…

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That was a great interview with Holly! Now we have a short snippet from Holly pertaining to magical powers she’d love to possess. Do you agree? Feel free to leave in the comments if you have any magical powers you’re waiting to arrive as well!!

Magical Powers I Would Like to Have…by Holly Webb

1) Flying. Oddly enough, this isn’t because I actually want to be able to fly anywhere. I had a recurring dream as a child (and still occasionally now) that I could jump from a particular staircase in my parents’ house (which had a lot of stairs, as it was tall and Victorian, but it was only this one staircase in the dream) and I would be able to float down to the bottom.(Freddie mentions doing this by accident in Rose.) I can still remember the amazing swooping sensation inside, even when I’m awake.  I’d love to be able to do it for real. But I don’t think I’d ever fly very high – I’m slightly scared of heights!

2)  Talking to animals. Because I would love to know what they think. I had a cat and two dogs growing up, and one of the dogs I was very close to. She was a grumpy English Bull Terrier, and we got her when I was seven. She chewed everything, and never learned to walk to heel, but I think that was our fault rather than hers. She and I used to go on long, sulky walks when I was a teenager, and it would have been wonderful to be able to talk to her properly. Although I should think she would have been very bossy. She already had me convinced that she could never walk over sand because it hurt her paws, so whenever we went to the beach, I had to carry her. And she was a big dog…

3) To make things grow. I love the idea of plant magic – the episode in Rose where she accidentally makes the wisteria vine catch her as she’s trying to climb down the wall of the house is one of my favourite bits. I’d love to be able to grow strange plants, flowers that opened up to reveal people, or perhaps secret rooms that you could get into if you were small. I loved the Narnia books as a child (I still do), and the talking animals and the dryads (the tree people) were my favourite parts.

Holly Webb, Biography~

hollyHolly Webb is a bestselling author in the UK with her books Lost in the Snow and Lost in the Storm. As a child growing up in London, Holly fell in love with stories from Ancient Greek myths, which led to studying Latin and Greek and eventually reading Classics at University. She worked for five years as a children’s fiction editor, before deciding to become a writer. The Rose books stem from a childhood love of historical novels, and the wish that animals really could talk. She lives in Reading with her husband and three small children. Visit Holly at holly-webb.com.

Rose, Synopsis~

9781402285813_p0_v1_s260x420The first book in UK kids’ author Holly Webb’s exciting, get-lost-in-the-world series about orphans, alchemy, magical powers and sinister child-snatchers, Rose is perfect for young readers who love page-turning, absorbing books full of mystery to collect and treasure. Now available in the U.S.!

Rose is sympathetic and a pleasure to root for… in this engaging tale of an orphan servant-girl”—Kirkus Reviews

How would you know if you were special? The grand mansion of the famous alchemist, Mr. Fountain, is a world away from the dark orphanage Rose has left behind. The house is overflowing with sparkling magic – she can feel it. And it’s not long before Rose realizes that maybe, just maybe, she has a little bit of magic in her, too…

But when orphans begin mysteriously disappearing, Rose is put to the test. Can she find the missing children before it’s too late?

Emma Al-Mehairi, Reviewer/Interviewer Biography~

EmmaEmma is nine years old and a straight A student with a gift for reading and writing.  She has read at a higher level than her peers ever since the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade when she spent almost the entire summer at the beach. That was also the summer Mom was reading the Twilight series, and took her to see Eclipse at the theater, and Emma found herself loving vampires, werewolfs, and other abnormals when once she was deathly afraid of them.  This newfound knowledge of stories allowed her to overcome her fears and she now sleeps with Monster High dolls by her bed that are the daughters of a Mummy, the Abomindable Snowman, and a Werewolf.

She also likes reading about girls and boys her age, adventure and action thrillers, magic, fantasy, and history.  Besides reading and writing, she also enjoys softball, soccer, fashion, history, art, writing stories, shopping, asking questions, chocolate, and coffee.

Watch for more of Emma, and her siblings, reviews!  And if you have a recommendation for her, send it her way via Mom (Erin Al-Mehairi).

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