Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bitopia - Review of a Book About Bullying and a Giveaway

Thought for the day:

“We should not write so that it is possible for the reader to understand us, but so that it is impossible for him to misunderstand us.”

~Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), rhetorician (c. 35-100)~ 

A gift for my writer friends: 

Here are some links I think you will find valuable – three great ones this week: 

For a really good list of publishers who work with children’s books, click HERE. 

Click HERE for a site that is just plain fun for writers of children’s books. 

Christie Wright Wild’s is running a series of posts on writing picture books at wonderful blog, Write Wild. There is much to love and learn from on her blog. Click HERE to check it out.

First, let me apologize up front for the problems I am having on my blog with spacing, type sizes, bolding, etc. I have no idea what is going on, but this week things simply look a little wonky. Please just read the words and ignore the nonsense. I'm working on it!

I recently won a ten-page critique over on Carol Baldwin’s blog. You can visit her blog by clicking HERE, and I promise you it will be worth your time. Anyway, the critique came from Rebecca Petruck who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and has her first novel, A Weird Kind of Normal, coming out in 2014 from Abrams/Amulet. Today I received her notes on the first chapter of my first novel, a book I believe in, but have been struggling with, for years. Her comments were spot on and so insightful that reading her notes was, for me, like that metaphorical shot of whiskey Clint Eastwood drinks in an old western that clears his mind and gives him the stamina to face Lee van Cleef. The good news is, Rebecca is a writing gun for hire who can help you face your writing fears. Check out her services by clicking HERE.

For my wonderful giveaway, the winner is Kristin Lenz! (Let’s hear a 21-gun salute!) She is also a writer. Kristin, Kathryn Fitzmaurice will be sending you a signed harcover copy of Destiny, Rewritten soon. Thanks for reading my blog. Enjoy! There will be another giveaway, so stay tuned and please leave comments to have a chance in the drawing.


I have been receiving requests lately to do book reviews for middle-grade books – some from authors, some from publicists, and even one from a publisher. It’s very flattering and it makes me realize that I’m actually building a pretty good readership. I feel good about that! Now, if I could just get into triple digits with my followers… In any case, this is a lead in for the book I will review and give away today.

A couple months ago I received a nice letter from a publicist asking me if I would be interested in reviewing Bitopia by Ari Magnusson. She told me it was a middle-grade book about bullying, and I told her to send it along. My grandkids have both been bullied and this is a very real problem for me. If we can find ways to mitigate the problem with engaging books for kids in middle school, I think it’s great, and I will do what I can to get the word out.

Young Stewart is trying to get home from school, which seems like a simple task, but there is a gang of three boys who harass Stewart and make his life miserable at every turn. This day, the boys surround him and really go after him. He escapes into a sewer pipe in a construction zone and, when the bullies start heaving garbage and rocks at him, he runs into the maze of pipes. Lost, he finds what he thinks is a way out only to find himself in a strange place that clearly is not his home town. When he turns back, the way he came out has disappeared.

Stewart finds a girl his age, Cora, gathering strange fruit. She refers to Stewart as a newcomer and says she will take to Bitopia, but they have to be careful of the Venators, frightening creatures that hunt children, picking at them, injuring them, harassing them. When they arrive in Bitopia after being chased by the Venators, Stewart finds himself in a walled city, sealed off from the outside world, and populated completely by human children. All the children arrived in this strange land after suffering terrible bullying. None ages while there. There are stringent rules and everyone has jobs to do, some riskier than others. Stewart discovers there is a book called the Comlat that was written by children from long ago that may hold the secret for all the children to overcome the Venators and return to their homes, but the book is kept locked away and only the Princeps, leader of the city, can see it.

Ari Magnusson

Stewart is determined to read the book and try to figure out the secret to returning home. He convinced Cora to help him, but they are found out. Anyone who does such a thing is destined to be banished from the safety of the city. Yet Stewart continues to try to be heard and try to solve the problem. Can he find a way to make himself heard, to overcome the terror of the Venators?

Most kids really like fantasy, and this is a great way to get a message across about bullying that is not too heavy-handed or preachy. The book, for the most part, moves along quickly and has lots of good tension and a compelling story. The characters are likable and engaging.

I can see this being used in the classroom along with a study guide the author has available, but it certainly is entertaining enough to find readers without it being assigned. I will be giving away my gently-used copy to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment to have your name in the drawing. If you Tweet the link to this post or put it on FaceBook or put it on your blog post, please let me know and I will put your name in a second time.  I will post the winner on my next post, so check back. And next week I have something even more exciting for you won’t want to miss!

Don’t forget to stop by Shannon Messenger’s wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday links. Click HERE to find it.

On the book giveaway, this is for U.S. only. Sorry, but it would be too expensive for me to send books out of the country. But please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Remember, if you have trouble leaving a comment, click on the title of the post and it will give you just this post with a comments section on the bottom. Also, if you haven’t signed up by email, please do. Just look in the upper right-hand corner of this page, pop your email address in, and you will receive an email each time I put up a new post. Your information will not be shared with anyone.