Today in YA History: October 31, 1977 – Jo Whittemore born!

October 31, 1977: Jo Whittemore, author of The Silverskin Legacy Series, is born in Kentucky!

From Olivia: Hi there ‘Today in YA History’ readers! I have a special one for you today: it’s The Silverskin Legacy author Jo Whittemore’s birthday! That’s right: she’s a Halloween baby and a part of YA History!

I contacted Jo about this, and she has been super awesome in agreeing to a quick interview, so you can learn more about her and her books. Let’s get this rolling…

Today in YA History: Jo, thank you very much for agreeing to this guest appearance at Today in YA History. Since your birthday falls on my favorite holiday, I am especially excited that you are my first interview! Happy birthday!

So, you have published The Silverskin Legacy, a YA trilogy about the magical land of Arylon. What can you tell new readers about this series and what sets it apart from other fantasy adventures?

Jo Whittemore: A lot of current fantasy is set in this world or a dystopic one with fantastical elements. The Silverskin Legacy is high fantasy, which is one of my favorites. Two teens from our world accidentally get pulled into an alternate one by their next-door neighbor, who happens to be a wizard. The only way they can get home is a staff of power that gets stolen. The first book in the trilogy is about retrieving the staff and the second and third continue their adventures in Arylon after things don’t go quite as planned. The trilogy contains a lot of your traditional fantasy elements (dragons, unicorns, necromancers) with a few I’ve created and thrown in (Ponzipoo, Siall cats, narshorn). I highly recommend. :-)

TIYAH: Sounds interesting, especially those Siall cats…

I see you are currently publishing books for mid-grade readers, which sound like a lot of fun. What other projects are you working on next?

JW: Thanks for asking! Next year, I have another middle grade humor novel coming out about a group of theater misfits that never make the cut and decide to put on their own show. Shenanigans and mayhem ensue.

After that, I’m fiddling around with the idea for a superhero book and another humor novel set overseas. (I’m thinking “research” trip!)

TIYAH: I’ll be on the watch for that superhero story for sure!

Now, you are one of the founding members of AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom). This group’s members include your fellow YA authors like Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, and Scott Westerfeld. How and why did such a good-looking group of authors come together? (And if you know what day AS IF! was born, I would love to post it in YA History!)

JW: Oh, my gosh, it’s been so long since we formed that group, I’m not sure of the specific day! Honestly, the group was created to address censorship in literature, particularly for teens. Certain schools and libraries ban books, and some churches protest the “unhealthy” content of YA literature, but the topics in these novels are what teens face every day. People may not want teens to read books that reference substance abuse, but it’s out there and it’s happening. Why not address it head-on in a relatable fashion?

TIYAH: There’s a lot going on these days, too, questioning how teen audiences are influenced by YA books. It’s nice to see a group of authors come together to tackle those discussions head-on.

So this next one is a two-parter. When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? And now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?

JW: Let’s see… when I was a teen, I didn’t have a favorite book, I had a favorite series–the Agatha Christie murder mysteries. The characters were so well-developed (LOVED Poirot) and all the foreshadowing and thought that went into the plotting was awesome. My favorite contemporary YA would have to be “13 Little Blue Envelopes” by Maureen Johnson. I love the idea of a travel adventure.

TIYAH: Oo, I agree, 13LBE is a great read. All right, last one! In honor of your birthday and it being Halloween… If you were going to go trick-or-treating tonight to get some candy and no one would think twice about it, what would you be dressed as and what candies would you be on the prowl for?

JW: I’d be dressed like Cat Woman, a feline femme fatale. And I’d be on the prowl for Milk…y Way.

Kidding! I’m an M&Ms girl. Peanut. Shaken, not stirred.

TIYAH: Nice! I was always a black cat for Halloween growing up myself. We can stalk the neighborhood together!

Well, thank you very much, Jo! And again, from Today in YA History, have a very happy birthday and a great Halloween!

Readers, be sure to check out Jo Whittemore at her home page to keep up with her work. And you can purchase The Silverskin Legacy at your local independent bookstore!


Today in YA History: October 27, 2009 – Final “Luxe” book published!

October 27, 2009: The fourth and final installment in Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series, “Splendor”, is published by HarperTeen.

About the series, from The Luxe website:

    Set in a world of luxury and deception, the Luxe series will take you on a thrilling trip to the age of innocence that’s anything but innocent. Don’t miss your chance to dance in the gilded ballrooms of nineteenth century Manhattan, and slip away with the city’s most charming bachelors. Your carriage ride to 1899 awaits within the pages of Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series.


    As spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father’s death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.

    Carolina Broad, society’s newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father’s rule extends well beyond New York’s shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.

    In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York’s most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate.

These fun, adventurous, and fashionable books can be found at your local independent bookseller!

Today in YA History: October 23, 1961 – Laurie Halse Anderson born!

October 23, 1961: American author Laurie Halse Anderson is born in Potsdam, New York. Her most famous YA work, Speak, has been translated into 16 languages. You can read about Speak‘s day in YA History here!

Born Laurie Beth Halse (pronounced Halt-z, like waltz), she knew she wanted to be a writer by the time she was in second grade. She had spent time playing with her Methodist minster father’s typewriter, and had been taught how to write haiku by her second grade teacher. According to Anderson, “The giant light bulb clicked on over my head: ‘Oh, my goodness! I can do this!’ I hope every second grader learns how to write haiku.”

From 2nd grade haikus, she kept writing, eventually beginning her career as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. For a time, she worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

She began writing novels and, after hundreds of “discouraging rejection letters” from publishers, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators where she found a supportive critique group. Anderson says they “made all the difference.” She published 3 picture books for young readers.

Finally, in 1999, Farrar Straus & Giroux published what would go on to be Mrs. Anderson’s most famous novel to date, Speak, a young adult novel of a fourteen-year-old girl who becomes mute after a sexual assault. The novel, critically acclaimed and part of middle school curriculums around the country, was made into a film in 2004. The novels that followed include Fever, 1793 (2000), Catalyst (2002), Twisted (2007), and her most recent Wintergirls (2009).

Laurie, living in Northern New York with her husband (childhood sweetheart Scot, father of their four children), now writes both contemporary Young Adult and Historical Fiction books (including picture books for early readers). History has been a life-long love for Laurie, and she has written several novels involving Colonial and Revolutionary America. Over the next decade, be on the look out for more books for Laurie as she alternates between these two genres!

When she’s not writing, Laurie enjoys spending time with her family, working in her garden, training for marathons, or hiking in the nearby mountains of her home. While she has taken time away from visiting schools–to write all those books we’re waiting for!–Laurie does sometimes set up Skype visits. Learn all about it!

A few parting words of advice from Laurie’s website:

    “Any career in the arts has a simple truth attached to it: you have to do the work every day. That is how you get better. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve published. I have never before written the book I am writing now.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson

Visit her on twitter @asklaurie and say happy birthday! Or purchase her books at your local Independent bookstore today!

[[All quotes are from Laurie’s website! Check it out, it’s pretty fascinating and totally huge. Laurie even has a whole page where she talks about Censorship!]]

Today in YA History: October 19, 1946 – Phillip Pullman born!

October 19, 1946: Author Phillip Pullman (“His Dark Materials”) is born in Norwich, England.

As a child, Mr. Pullman and his family traveled to England, Zimbabwe, and Australia for his father’s Air Force pilot job. When Pullman was seven, however, his father was killed in a plane crash. After his mother remarried and the new family moved to Australia, Pullman discovered and fell in love with comics like Superman and Batman. He spent time with his clergyman grandfather, and discovered what would become a major influence on his more popular works: John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

In 1970, Pullman married Judith Speller (they have two sons, James and Thomas.) At 25, he became a teacher for Oxford Middle School and then later Westminster College. He would often write the school plays. Though he loves education, he has been critical of schooling, saying, “My main concern is that an over-emphasis on testing and league tables has led to a lack of time and freedom for a true, imaginative and humane engagement with literature.”

In 1982, Pullman’s first children’s book, “Count Karlstien”, was published. He has written more than 30 novels, plays, and short stories. Much of his work deals with fairy tales or re-told fairy tales.

Though his most well-known work by far is the His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass if you’re reading in the US). Started in 1993 while Pullman was teaching part-time at Westminster College in Oxford, it was published in 1995 and promptly won the most prestigious British children’s fiction award, the Carnegie Medal. Mr. Pullman left his position with the college in 1996 to write full-time.

The second book, The Subtle Knife, was published in 1995 with the finale, The Amber Spyglass, arriving in 2000.

In 2008, Pullman started working on the sequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy and Lyra’s Oxford. On his website, he speaks about The Book of Dust:

“And finally, The Book of Dust. My work on this has been interrupted over the past couple of years, but the book is growing slowly and before long I shall take it up again full-time. What can I tell you about it? Nothing, except that it’s by far the most important thing I’m doing, and I intend to do it as well as I possibly can. When it’s finished, you’ll hear about it, I guarantee.”

Pullman has “a strong commitment to traditional British civil liberties and is noted for his criticism of growing state authority and government encroachment into everyday life. Later, he and other authors threatened to stop visiting schools in protest at new laws requiring them to be vetted to work with youngsters.” (From BBC News July 16, 2009)

Mr. Pullman also enjoys drawing–check out some of his illustrations for the His Dark Materials series on his site here!

Today in YA History: October 18, 2007 – ’13 Reasons Why’ published!

October 18, 2007: “Th1rteen R3asons Why” by Jay Asher is published with Razorbill. The story illustrates how even little things can have a big impact on others.

From GoodReads:

    Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

    On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Written from both Clay and Hannah’s perspective, 13RW has received numerous awards (including Borders Original Voices finalist, Top 10 Best for Teens at B&N, and Kirkus Reviews Editors Choice), was a NY Times Best Seller for 57 weeks, and has been published in more than 25 countries. It is also “used as summer reading for students entering high school in some schools, due to its realistic themes and powerful messages.”

But there is a lot more to 13RW than just the book! You can check out the 13WR Project at (launched May 2011) where fans send in their reviews and experiences as stories, photos, and videos.

And on February 8, 2011 it was announced that the book is being developed into a movie with Universal Studios. Selena Gomez (Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place) has been cast as Hannah, while rumors still swirl on who will be cast as Clay: Logan Lerman or Taylor Lautner! Neither young actor is a stranger to book-to-movie adaptations: Lerman plays the main roles in the Percy Jackson movies and set to play Charlie in the book-to-movie adaptation of Perks of Being A Wallflower, while Lautner is werewolf Jacob Black in the Twilight series!

In the meantime while the casting continues, pop into your local Independent bookstore, and pick up “13 Reasons Why” today!