Comfort by Carolee Dean (Houghton Mifflin, 2002). Kenny Willson wants out of Comfort, Texas--away from his alcoholic ex-con daddy, away from his controlling mama, away from everybody except Cindy. Despite her bullying boyfriend, she introduces Kenny to poetry competitions and shows him something that might be love. But not everything is what it appears to be in Comfort, though the search for familiarity and quest to break free rages on. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended.
How had I not already read this novel? I loved its strong Texas setting and the fluid and thematic integration of poetry and prose. I was heartened by its inclusion of a contemporary Texas YA poet Naomi Shihab Nye (from San Antonio), and I think the story will inspire young readers--including boys--to look at poetry in a new way.
Carolee's Web site features extensive curriculum tie-in materials (as does Houghton Mifflin's), and I'm pleased to learn that Comfort received a much-deserved star from SLJ and made the 2003-2003 Tayshas list.
As a teenager, Carolee lived in Lubbock and Happy, Texas. Today, she makes her home in Albuquerque.
To recap, other great novels I've read so far this year: Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2005); Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl by D.L. Garfinkle (Putnam, 2005); Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004); Out of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003); See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004); Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005); Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee; A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005).
Driving For Dragons from author Linda Joy Singleton's blog. A report on attending the Cornelia Funke (author of Dragon Rider, Inkheart, and Thief Lord) at Hicklebee's in San Jose.
How To Write A Novel...Observations...Part 1 from author Greg Leitich Smith's blog.
The Writer's Prayer by Sandy Tritt, whose site also includes a series of articles on the Elements of Craft: Tips and Techniques (show, don't tell; say it once, say it right; keep it active; character trait chart; manuscript format; and many more).