Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ratha's Creature by Clare Bell

The she-cub Ratha and the other wild cats in her clan are called the Named. They are not just talking animals in an alternate prehistorical world. No, no, no. The Named are truly animals, but at the same time they are intelligent and have self-awareness. The Named have laws and customs. They have a society so advanced that they no longer hunt for their food. They herd dappleback horses and three-horns (which I assume are deer).

Ratha's Creature is the first book of the Named by Clare Bell. Readers are introduced to Ratha as a yearling and accompany her as she grows and matures. While still a yearling, Ratha discovers fire. The Red Tongue becomes her creature. But the others in her clan do not understand fire and so fear it and fear Ratha for being able to control it. Meoran, the leader of the Named, fears the most because he sees that Ratha can overthrow his rule by wielding the fire. Out of ignorance and rage, the Named cast out Ratha from the clan. Ratha is forced to fend for herself in the wilderness, hunting for her own food and protecting herself from enemies such as the primitive Un-Named cats.

I took my sweet time reading the clear and very vivid writing in Ratha's Creature. Still it seemed like some of the important scenes were a blur - like the characters were not given enough time to understand what was happening to them and the readers were not given enough time to absorb what was happening before they were all rushed to the next scene. On the flipside, Ratha's Creature is a page-turner that will not once bore readers.

Moreover, the Named and their society are very, very interesting. Ratha is absolutely fascinating. She is strong-willed, independent, clever (maybe too clever for her own good), imperfect, and very complex. She questions authority. She is sometimes rash and always adventurous. A strong female main character indeed. Equally fascinating are the many parallels between Ratha's coming of age and a human's coming of age. Ratha's growing awareness of herself and her body, of others, and of the world around her mirror a young adult's development. Ratha's discovery of fire and the subsequent disownment from the clan is an interesting take on the man vs. society theme in young adult literature.

I can't help but be curious and even anxious about the future of Ratha, the rest of the Named, and the Un-Named. I am eager to read Clan Ground, the second book of the Named.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Even More from Turkey: Pictures and Links

Here are some fun shots of my brothers while they were in Turkey for the World Taekwondo Federation's 2008 World Poomsae Championships. :D

Here JP is at a market. Check out the delicious-looking bread and the giant heads of cabbage!

Remember how the White Witch put Edmund under her spell in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? Edmund was bewitched by the Turkish Delight she served him! And Edmund even promised to bring his siblings to the White Witch because she said that he could be Prince of Narnia and live in a castle with rooms full of Turkish Delight. JP poses with the magical confections here.

Here's Brian. Brian loves candy! I'm not surprised that he sought out candy while in Turkey.

And now for some links! Click here and here to watch Brian in the individual men's competition of the World Taekwondo Federation's 2008 World Poomsae Championships. Click here and here to watch JP and his girlfriend Rani totally kick ass in the pairs competition.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Poetry Friday: The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot

Christmas is "over," but its spiritual message is relevant every single day of the year. So I don't think I am posting this poem too late. :D Here is "The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot. I have put in boldface the part of the poem that truly stirs me.

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dear Santa

At the mall today I saw a bulletin board with letters to Santa. Two letters really cracked me up:

Dear Santa,

Samsung sliding fone, PSP, and Edward Cullen.


Dear Santa,

All I want 4 Christmas is

- death of Edward Cullen
- Bella
- RX-8

Edward Cullen Killer


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More of the Bronze Medalists

Here are more pictures and videos of my brothers JP and Brian and their teammate Tonek - the bronze medalists in the men's team competition of the 2008 World Poomsae Championships!

Check out these shots of Brian practicing:

JP and Brian (right side) with some of their other teammates and their coach:

Click here and here to watch different and even better videos of the bronze-winning performances of JP, Brian, and Tonek! (In the videos, JP is front-right. Brian is at the back.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The World Taekwondo Federation's World Poomsae Championships 2008

My younger brothers JP and Brian just got back from a week in Ankara, Turkey. They brought back with them boxes of Turkish Delight in assorted flavors (woot!), apple tea, fresh figs, dates, beautiful fabrics, and turquoise. But more importantly they brought back the bronze medal in the men's team competition of the World Taekwondo Federation's World Poomsae Championships 2008.

Click here to watch JP, Brian, and their teammate Tonek in round 1 of the competition. Click here to watch them perform a different poomsae routine in round 2. For both rounds Brian is at the back of the formation, and JP is to the viewer's right.

Congratulations JP, Brian, and Tonek! To visitors of Into the Wardrobe: I hope you enjoy the videos. :D

Update/edit: Here are a couple of pictures of the bronze medalists!


Tonek and JP

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The December Carnival of Children's Literature

Are you wondering which children's and young adult books to buy for yourself and/or as gifts this holiday season? Do you want to discover more blogs about literature for the young and young at heart? Do you want to read some of this year's very best blog posts on children's and young adult literature? Then head on over to Jen Robinson's Book Page for the December Carnival of Children's Literature!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Butterfly Award for the Coolest Blog

Kaza Kingsley, author of the very fun children's/YA fantasy series Erec Rex, has given Into the Wardrobe the Butterfly Award. Wow, Kaza thinks my blog is cool. :D Thank you, Kaza!

As a Butterfly Award winner I have the privilege of choosing up to 10 more blogs for the award. But I am only going to give it to one blog. The blog that was first and foremost in my mind when I saw that I should pass along the award. I would like to give the Butterfly Award for the Coolest Blog to jama rattigan's alphabet soup!

Jama writes picture books and her blog is about children's literature and food. It is an absolutely DELICIOUS blog. Jama, thank you so much for being so kind and friendly and generous of spirit. And thank you so much for your cool, fun, cheerful, and informative blog. It never fails to make me happy (it always gets me grinning!) and HUNGRY.

Jama, please pass the award along. Here are the rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog. (And no, I have no idea why the logo says "for the coolest blog I ever know". LOL!!!)
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to 10 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

Thank you, Secret Santa!

On Friday I was pleasantly surprised to receive a package from Portugal. I realized it was the gift from my Secret Santa, courtesy of the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap!

I discovered that my Secret Santa is Ana, a.k.a. Nymeth, of things mean a lot. Nymeth was very thoughtful and sent me a touching Christmas card, two lovely homemade bookmarks, and this children's/YA fantasy novel:

As appalling as it sounds, I have yet to read any of Terry Pratchett's work. So Nymeth's gift is really great. :D Thank you, Nymeth!!! *big hug from across the seas*

Today I bought and sent the gift for the person I got for the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap. She should get it by Friday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she will like it. The Book Bloggers Christmas Swap is a fun way to get to know new people. I will definitely join it again next year. I am so happy to "meet" you, Nymeth!

And the gift card goes to...

...Cow! (Yes, he goes by the name "Cow".) Congratulations, Cow. You are the winner of the very first Into the Wardrobe giveaway, and you get a $20 Amazon gift card - or a PHP1,000 gift card for a Philippine bookstore since you are in the Philippines. You choose. ;)

In his entry for the giveaway, Cow said that he read and enjoyed the YA fantasy novel Secret Sacrament by Sherryl Jordan. He said that he would use the gift card to buy its sequel Time of the Eagle.

If you are wondering how I chose the winner... I put the names of the participants on slips of paper, put the slips of paper in a bag from a bookstore, gave the bag a good shake, then had my mom pick out one slip of paper. Hehehe.

To everyone else who joined the giveaway, don't worry! I find giveaways addicting, so I will have more soon. :D

Happy reading, all!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Gift for My Readers

'Tis the season for giving and I would like to thank readers of Into the Wardrobe. I am giving away a $20 Amazon gift card!* (I initially wanted to give away a book, but I am so lame I couldn't decide which book to give away. This way the winner can choose which book to get!)

To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is answer these questions in the comments section below:

1. What children's or young adult book would you get if you won the gift card?

2. Why do you want that book?

3. Would the book be for yourself or a gift for someone?

Your answers to all three questions will count as one entry. Only one entry per person is allowed. This giveaway is open to all readers of Into the Wardrobe, no matter where you are in the world.

The winner of the gift card will be randomly selected next Sunday evening, Dec. 14. I will post the name of the winner and his/her entry by next Monday morning, Dec. 15. This is all happening in Philippine time, of course.

Good luck! And don't be shy. I look forward to reading all the entries. Thank you so much for reading my blog. :o)

*If the winner turns out to be someone here in the Philippines, he/she may opt instead for a PHP1,000 gift card for any of the major bookstores in the Philippines.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wow, this time I get interviewed!

Fran Slayton is a children's book author whose debut middle grade novel When the Whistle Blows comes out June 2009. At her blog, Fran is posting a series of interviews with kidlit bloggers on how they determine which books to review and which authors to interview. The series is dedicated to all debut children's and young adult literature authors in 2009.

The first interview she has up is with me! Thank you so much for hosting me, Fran. It was fun being interviewed about kidlit blogging. :D

Friday, December 05, 2008

Review Policy

Hello! Thank you very much for your interest in Into the Wardrobe, an international blog about literature for the young and young at heart. :o) Into the Wardrobe is proudly a part of the kidlitosphere and the YA blogosphere/YA book blog directory.


I happily accept all kinds of children's and YA books for review. If you would like to send me a book for review, please email me so that I can give you my mailing address.

I feature every book I receive (through a review or author/illustrator interview, etc.). However, I cannot promise a positive feature for a book. I will be honest about both the strengths and weaknesses of a book. I also cannot promise a specific date for posting about a book. But every book will get featured.

I have a second children's and YA book blog, Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, where I highlight: children's and YA books set in Asia, children's and YA books with Asian characters, children's and YA books with characters of Asian descent, Asian children's and YA book authors and illustrators, and children's and YA book authors and illustrators of Asian descent.

I also review books for Color Online, a blog dedicated to promoting children's, young adult, and adult books by women of color.

Please let me know if you would like your book featured on Into the Wardrobe; Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind; or Color Online.


Yes, I accept electronic copies of books for review. Please email me before sending an electronic copy of a book. My guidelines for electronic books are the same as my guidelines for books.


I love interviewing authors and illustrators (and really anybody in the children's and YA book world)! If you would like to request an interview, please email me information about the author or illustrator and his/her books. It would be best if I received a copy/e-copy of one of his/her books, so that I can ask the best questions and even accompany the interview with a review of the book.

Blog Tours

Yes, I participate in blog tours. Email me to inquire about my interest in a tour. For a blog tour, I will need a copy/e-copy of the book being promoted.


I would be glad to host giveaways/contests for the benefit of my blog readers. Email me to inquire about my interest in a giveaway/contest.

Thank you again for thinking of Into the Wardrobe! I look forward to working with you. :o)


Monday, December 01, 2008

Book Review and Author Interview: Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney

Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney answers the one question burning on all kids' minds during the holidays: How does Santa Claus deliver all those presents in ONE night? Each country has its own Gift Bringer/s! There's Pere Noel and Tante Arie for France, Grandfather Frost and Babushka for Russia, Santa Claus for the Philippines, Babbo Natale and La Befana for Italy, and so on and so forth. All the Gift Bringers of the world are part of one family - the Yule dynasty. And each Gift Bringer is responsible for delivering holiday gifts to the children in his or her country.

The American Gift Bringer, Kris Kringle, has a problem. He has no male heir. He has a very likeable fourteen-year-old daughter named Christine. Will the Yule clan allow Christine Kringle to be the United States' Gift Bringer when Pa Kringle retires 100 years from now?

The Yule dynasty has an even bigger problem this year though. The Town Council of Plinkbury in England has formally banned Christmas. Nick, the son of the United Kingdom's Father Christmas, has come up with a secret plan that will save Christmas in Plinkbury and convince the dynasty to allow Christine to become the United States' Gift Bringer. Christine and Nick head to Plinkbury with their friend Little K, the son of Japan's Santa Kurohsu, who is on a mission to promote his Living Lights invention - fantastic Christmas lights that need no electricity because they run on reindeer DNA. To help the three teenagers are Nick's mother Zazu - a beautiful, glamorous, and kind "tall elf," and Nick's uncle Egan - a handsome and clever "tall elf" businessman.

Christine Kringle stirs up Christmas memories and excitement for Christmases to come. It is a story full of good cheer, interesting tidbits about how Christmas is celebrated around the world, and Christmas spirit. If you are looking for a way to kick off the holiday season, I recommend reading Christine Kringle. It's a fun Christmas adventure - complete with interesting shopkeepers, mulled wine, a Christmas bazaar, Christmas nuts, and a female Scrooge!

Christine Kringle is the first book in a series and author Lynn Brittney is offering readers the chance to win USD$5000 (or the equivalent in their national currency) if they can come up with a one page synopsis of a plot for book two in the series.

Lynn says, “There are endless possibilities for future adventures for Christine Kringle and her friends and this competition gives me the unique chance to find out what characters and situations the readers would like to experience in the next book in the series.”

Entry forms for the competition can be found on the website Anyone aged over 9 and under 90 can enter. The entries must be in English and the deadline for entries is January 31, 2009. The winner will have their name on the front of the next book in the series!

It is now the month of December and I cannot think of a better way to start off the holiday season than by hosting the author of Christine Kringle at my blog. Welcome to Into the Wardrobe, Lynn! :D

What was your road to publication as a writer for children and young adults?

I had spent many years writing non-fiction books for various people and four of them were for children (The Treasure Chest Series by Running Press - history books). When I felt ready to write a novel, I felt I wanted to write for Young Adults, because the selection of books available for that age group is very poor. A lot of the books are about "misery" topics - drugs, teenage pregnancies, bullying etc. I felt it was about time that someone started writing good old fashioned action adventures - so the Nathan Fox series was born. Christine Kringle was born out of my love for all things Christmassy and a need to write something light-hearted in between writing serious historical fiction for teenagers. I did the usual thing with Nathan Fox 1. I sent three chapters and a synopsis to all the literary agents in the UK. I was fortunate that William Morris saw the potential of the book and took me on.

What books and/or authors have influenced you the most as a writer for children and young adults?

As a child I loved The Mary Poppins books, The Borrowers series and Paddington the Bear. I think my sense of the gently ridiculous comes from those books and, I hope, I have put that in Christine Kringle. As a teenager, I'm afraid to say that I devoured spy books by Ian Fleming and John le Carre. Hence my desire to make the Nathan Fox books set at the very start of English espionage - the Elizabethan era. I am also, by the way, crazy about Shakespeare, and this love started when I was a teenager because I lived around the corner from the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and spent all my Saturdays there!

What inspired you to write Christine Kringle? Where did you get the idea of all the world's Christmas Gift Bringers being part of one family - the Yule dynasty?

I love the magic of Christmas but it always seemed ridiculous to me, as a child, that Santa could deliver presents to the whole world in one night. It therefore seemed entirely logical to me that each country would have its own "Santa" and they would all be part of a family dynasty. Then there was the issue of the British Government legislating the joy out of Christmas at every turn by banning carol singers (Health and Safety violations), Christmas lights (ditto), selling homemade Christmas cakes etc. I felt I wanted to protest about that through the novel. Even overseas readers seem to appreciate the stupidity of it all.

Christine Kringle explores many of the different aspects of Christmas. Is there a particular reason you chose not to explore the religious/spiritual aspects?

I think we live in an age where religious/spiritual aspects of Christmas have come under fire from non-Christians - or so it seems. I decided to concentrate on the celebration and fellowship of the festive season and to attack the commercialism of it all. This seems to be a universal feeling that we should get back to a Christmas holiday where we celebrate togetherness and family, rather than making it an orgy of shopping. There is room for both secular and religious aspects of Christmas I think. I write nativity plays for children, which are performed in schools around the world ( I express my religious feelings about Christmas in those.

What do you want readers to take away from Christine Kringle?

I want readers to feel good, to laugh, and to say "Yes. Christmas should be about celebrating with friends and family. People shouldn't make it a focus for religious or political point-scoring. It's a harmless winter celebration of the good things in the human personality."

Why did you decide to hold a competition for Christine Kringle's second adventure?

Many critics poured scorn on this and said "Oh, haven't you any ideas of your own?" The truth is that I have too many ideas and I felt that the competition would provide a unique opportunity for readers to tell me which direction to take next. I'm looking forward to getting a perspective of Christmas from other cultures. Let's face it, in the world of The Yule Dynasty there is ample scope for hundreds of stories about different Santas and their country's customs.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for your books to be award-winning, or for your books to be bestselling? Why?

If I had to choose between those two, I would have to be sensible and say bestselling. Not for the money (although that would be nice) but for the satisfaction (which every writer should aspire to) of communicating with as many people as possible. Also, I'm not sure that awards mean much nowadays. For example, many of the awards for children's books are not selected by children or teenagers but by adults - professionals in the publishing world - and I don't feel that they truly represent the tastes of children. I have been nominated for several awards and the most satisfying have been the ones orgainsed by school regions, where the children themselves have selected and voted on the books. I feel honoured to have been nominated by those children.

What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

With the Nathan Fox books, I would like them to become enduring classics, still read by men as they progress from teenagehood, like the Sharpe books or Hornblower books are. This is already happening with Nathan Fox in Germany, where they have become "crossover" books as they are called.

With Christine Kringle, I would also like those books to become Christmas classics, like The Polar Express, or A Christmas Carol. Books that people turn to every Christmas, in order to generate that Christmassy feeling.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a YA science-fiction thriller series (Book 1 is halfway through) and some adult novels. Of course, I already write plays for children and adults and I am starting a new company next year which specialises in plays with good parts for older actors (much needed in the amateur drama world!). My ultimate aim is to be the most versatile writer possible, hopping from one genre to another with ease.

What is your strongest or favorite holiday memory from when you were around Christine Kringle's age?

My father was a professional soldier, he was in the Coldstream Guards for twenty two years. Every year they used to have a Christmas party for the children and one of the biggest guardsmen would be Santa. We used to have a wonderful time. The parties were usually held at Wellington Barracks in London or some such venue and then my parents would take me to Oxford Street for the switching on of the Christmas lights. Very special!

What are your favorite holiday books/stories?

A Christmas Carol, as I have already mentioned, can never be beaten in my mind as a truly great classic. I also love The Nutcracker, as a book and a ballet. (I shall take my daughter to see it this year - she is 12 and training to be a dancer.) I love The Polar Express and The Snowman too. I have a huge collection of Christmas DVDs which we all watch every Christmas. And I also have a huge collection of Christmas craft books. I am a Christmas nut.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? How will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

We live in the South West of England which is farming country, so there are lots of food fairs (not good for the waistline!). There are also wonderful craft fairs in the historic houses dotted around this part of England. We live four miles from the beach at a place called Lyme Regis (where the famous book The French Lieutenant's Woman is set) and we always go for a walk with the dog on the beach before Christmas lunch. It would be wonderful if it snowed this year. However, there is a wonderful tradition locally, where lots of insane people go swimming in fancy dress in the sea at another local beach, in sub zero temperatures. My family usually goes along to support them and donate money as it is all for charity.

[This is a picture of] my greatest Christmas ever, when I brought my adopted daughter Rose back from Beijing the week before Christmas 1997. Rose is 12 now! My son Tom (pictured also) was 6 years old at the time – he is now 18! That was our most wonderful Christmas.

Thank you so much for sharing, Lynn. Happy holidays! And happy holidays to everyone reading this. :o)

What are you all reading for the holidays? How will you celebrate the holidays this year?

I have the world's best desktop background. Really, I do.

And here it is:

Best. Picture of Twilight cast. Ever.