Category Archives: Feature

Greek Heroes Week: Perseus

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Today, we continue our week-long celebration of this week’s release of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, a companion novel to the Percy Jackson series — which this year is marking 10 years in print! Each day this week, we’re bringing you a little more in-depth information about Greek mythology — and a unique chance to win a Percy Jackson prize pack. (Details on that later in this post, so keep reading!) For now, here’s today’s lesson.

PercyPackBADGEGreek Mythology: Perseus

perseusConsidered “the first hero,” Perseus is perhaps most well-known for beheading the gorgon Medusa — although he also defeat plenty of other assorted monsters. He’s also the half-human son of a mortal woman and Zeus, and the great-grandfather of Heracles. (Which would be weird, because Heracles is also the son of Zeus, so wouldn’t they also be half-brothers? Anyway. Moving on.)

So what persuaded ol’ Perseus to start his questing? Well, it did all begin with Medusa — whose head he sought as a gift for the guy who was wooing his mother.

(Side note: Medusa was the only mortal Gorgon — and the story goes she was originally a regular human woman who was way too obsessed with her beautiful hair. She got frisky with Poseidon in the Temple of Athena, who didn’t take too kindly to this defiling and punished Medusa by turning her hair into snakes. That also turned men to stone who looked at it.

So Perseus sets off to find Medusa — and Athena, apparently still holding a grudge, gives him all the tricks and tools of the trade to successfully lop off her head … which he does, and which causes the apparent “birth” of Pegasus (the famous winged horse) and a young man named Chrysaor, the apparent kid of Medusa and Poseidon.

perseus flying sandalsAnyway, ol’ Perseus held onto that Medusa head — keeping it in a special sack — and used it periodically to turn people into stone if they pissed him off too much. That includes they guy originally betrothed to Andromeda — who Perseus married after rescuing her from a sea monster. (In classic mythology, this rescue totally happened while Perseus was wearing those famous flying sandals — although some imagery shows him riding Pegasus instead.)

Eventually, Perseus gave up Medusa’s head to Athena, along with all the other goodies she helped him acquire for defeating the Gorgon, and went off on his further adventures.

GreekHeroesLearn more about Perseus and others by checking out Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, in stores today:

Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.

Win a Percy Prize Pack

PercyPrizing

Tell us your favorite Greek hero in the comments below, for your chance to win a copy of Greek Heroes, plus a Percy Jackson backpack. Tune in every day this week for more chances to win!

Earn more entries by entering the Day 5 Code Word: WINGS

Once you’ve commented below, head to the Rafflecopter form HERE to make it official.

Prizing & samples provided by Disney Hyperion.

Visit the Official Website

Follow Rick Riordan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

#ReadRiordan

Greek Heroes Week: Heracles (aka Hercules)

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Today, we continue our week-long celebration of this week’s release of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, a companion novel to the Percy Jackson series — which this year is marking 10 years in print! Each day this week, we’re bringing you a little more in-depth information about Greek mythology — and a unique chance to win a Percy Jackson prize pack. (Details on that later in this post, so keep reading!) For now, here’s today’s lesson.

PercyPackBADGEGreek Mythology: Heracles (aka Hercules)

You probably know him best as Hercules — but that’s his Roman name. In Greek mythology, his name is Heracles. But whatever you call him, you probably know a little about this guy, as the half-son of Zeus. The result of the god’s affair with a human woman, Zeus’ wifey Hera was not Heracles’ biggest fan. (She kind of hated him, actually.) There’s some pretty iffy biology going on in the story, because apparently Heracles’ mom got pregnant the same night by her human husband, and so he has a 100% human twin. (Yeah, that’s not how that works … but then, we’re also talking about mythological gods. So, let’s just accept this at face value and move on.)

baby heraclesAnyway, Hera hated Heracles so much — because it proved her husband’s infidelity — she basically had it out for him all the time. But little did she know, her half-sister Athena (who just loves protecting heroes), tricked Hera into nursing Heracles, her “divine milk” giving Heracles his famous superheroic powers. (Also, apparently, this nursing supposedly lead to the creation of the Milky Way. So there’s that.)

Later, Hera sent two giant snakes to kill eight-month-old Heracles and his brother — but baby Heracles just grabbed the snakes in each hand and strangled them. Because super strong baby.

Much later in life, Heracles got married (to a princess named Megara – sound familiar, Disney fans?) and had a bunch of kids. But Hera wasn’t done tormenting him, and she drove him to a fit of madness, during which he killed all his children. (We didn’t hear about that part, Disney.)

Once he came back to his senses, Heracles sought penance for murdering his children (gee, thanks). Once again, Hera was pulling the strings — bringing Heracles to his arch-nemesis King Eurystheus, who commanded that Heracles perform “ten labours” — later increased to twelve, because technicalities. You’ve probably heard about some of these adventures:

  1. Slay the Nemean Lion.
  2. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
  3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
  4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
  5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
  6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
  7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
  8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
  9. Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
  10. Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
  11. Steal the apples of the Hesperides
  12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.

Later, after he was feeling relieved of the guilt of killing his kids (I mean, SERIOUSLY! Why do we not talk about this more when we learn Greek mythology???), Heracles also joined up with Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece.

He also helped rescue Prometheus from his punishment for stealing fire from the gods, by slaying the eagle that tortured Prometheus daily.

Aside from his assorted other heroic act, Heracles was also quite the lover. He married four times, had a number of affairs, and was even known for having a number of male lovers (which, at the time at least, was considered a major sign of masculinity and warriorship). All this loving around means Heracles also had a lot of kids — including plenty he didn’t murder.

Heracles died through a complicated plot of trickery — but basically, he was poisoned by Hydra blood. As the poison killed him, he actually built his own funeral pyre. As his body burned, only his immortal side was left — and Heracles rose to Olympus.

GreekHeroesLearn more by checking out Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, in stores today:

Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.

Win a Percy Prize Pack

PercyPrizing

Tell us your favorite Greek hero in the comments below, for your chance to win a copy of Greek Heroes, plus a Percy Jackson backpack. Tune in every day this week for more chances to win!

Earn more entries by entering the Day 4 Code Word: SNAKES

Once you’ve commented below, head to the Rafflecopter form HERE to make it official.

Prizing & samples provided by Disney Hyperion.

Visit the Official Website

Follow Rick Riordan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

#ReadRiordan

Greek Heroes Week: Trojan War

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Today, we continue our week-long celebration of the release of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, a companion novel to the Percy Jackson series — which this year is marking 10 years in print! Each day this week, we’re bringing you a little more in-depth information about Greek mythology — and a unique chance to win a Percy Jackson prize pack. (Details on that later in this post, so keep reading!) For now, here’s today’s lesson.

PercyPackBADGEGreek Mythology: Trojan War

paris and helenPerhaps one of the most famous events in Greek mythology, the Trojan War spanned approximately ten years. As the story goes, the Spartans waged war on the city of Troy after Paris stole Helen away from her Spartan king husband Menelaus.

Of course, that didn’t happen until AFTER the gods meddled — all because Athena, Hera and Aphrodite were arguing over who was the prettiest. (Really.) Fed up with their stupid argument (and who can blame him), Zeus gave hottie human dude Paris a golden apple, and told him to give the apple to whichever of the goddesses he thought was the hottest.

Paris chose Aphrodite. She was so pleased with his choice, that she made Helen — the most beautiful human woman — fall in love with Paris, even though she was already married to a king, LOL.

trojan horseObviously, Menelaus and his people were kind of PO’ed about this, and though waging a war would be the best way to resolve this marital discord.

Thus the ten-year war was launched, in which lots of Greek heroes died — including Paris himself, along with other names you might recongize, like Achilles, Ajax, and Hector — and was ultimately won by the Greeks when the Trojans fell for the old Trojan Horse ruse. (Which was brand new at the time, hence the name “Trojan Horse.”)

Essentially, it was a huge bloody mess, and you can read more about it in lots of texts about Greek mythology, including Homer’s Illiad. But basically, three goddess ladies couldn’t decide who was prettiest — and that started a ten year, deadly war. Nice one, eh?

GreekHeroesLearn more by checking out Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, in stores now:

Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.

Win a Percy Prize Pack

PercyPrizing

Tell us your favorite Greek hero in the comments below, for your chance to win a copy of Greek Heroes, plus a Percy Jackson backpack. Tune in every day this week for more chances to win!

Earn more entries by entering the Day 3 Code Word: GOLDEN APPLE

Once you’ve commented below, head to the Rafflecopter form HERE to make it official.

Prizing & samples provided by Disney Hyperion.

Visit the Official Website

Follow Rick Riordan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

#ReadRiordan

Greek Heroes Week: Jason & the Argonauts

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Today, we continue our week-long celebration of today’s release of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, a companion novel to the Percy Jackson series — which this year is marking 10 years in print! Each day this week, we’re bringing you a little more in-depth information about Greek mythology — and a unique chance to win a Percy Jackson prize pack. (Details on that later in this post, so keep reading!) For now, here’s today’s lesson.

PercyPackBADGEGreek Mythology: Jason & the ARgonauts

Constantine_Volanakis_ArgoThis story from Greek mythology — famously retold in various cinematic incarnations — follows Jason and his band of heroes (called “Argonauts,” which was basically a fancy way to name them after the boat they were sailing on, the Argo) on a quest to find the golden fleece.

Why a golden fleece? The short version is it would help Jason reclaim his family’s throne, which had been usurped years earlier by a guy named Pelias. Pelias thinks he’s sending Jason on a suicide mission — and therefore, protecting his throne — but the goddess Hera has other plans, and intervenes just enough to make sure Jason survives the journey.

The 1963 movie version is pretty amusing, if for nothing else than the fabulous stop-motion animation used for the villains, particularly the army of skeletons and the hydra:

GreekHeroesLearn more by checking out Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, in stores today:

Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.

Win a Percy Prize Pack

PercyPrizing

Tell us your favorite Greek hero in the comments below, for your chance to win a copy of Greek Heroes, plus a Percy Jackson backpack. Tune in every day this week for more chances to win!

Earn more entries by entering the Day 2 Code Word: ARGONAUTS

Once you’ve commented below, head to the Rafflecopter form HERE to make it official & earn extra entries.

Prizing & samples provided by Disney Hyperion.

Visit the Official Website

Follow Rick Riordan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

#ReadRiordan

Greek Heroes Week: Homer’s IlliadOdyssey

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Today, we’re kicking off a week-long celebration of tomorrow’s release of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, a companion novel to the Percy Jackson series — which this year is marking 10 years in print! Each day this week, we’re bringing you a little more in-depth information about Greek mythology — and a unique chance to win a Percy Jackson prize pack. (Details on that later in this post, so keep reading!) For now, here’s today’s lesson.

PercyPackBADGEGreek Mythology: Homer’s Illiad & Odyssey

These two epic poems by Homer chronicle the events of the Trojan War and its aftermath. Chances are, you have or will read at least one of them at some time in your high school education — and while the language of these epic poems can be daunting, they are totally worth the read! Why? Well, here are some examples of the stories you’ll encounter in these epic poems:

  • The seduction of a god
  • A fight amongst the gods
  • Capture (and escape) by the Lotus Eaters
  • A battle with the Cyclops
  • A witch who turns men into pigs

The Odyssey also ends with a pretty bad ass climax, in which Odysseus and his son fight and kill all the suitors who have been trying to woo Odysseus’s wife while he was away fighting the Trojan War. It’s insane, and so much fun to read.

GreekHeroesYou can learn more about both The Odyssey and The Illiad at your local library, and read more about such Greek Heroes in the new book from Rick Riordan, in stores tomorrow:

Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.

Win a Percy Prize Pack

PercyPrizing

Tell us your favorite Greek hero in the comments below, for your chance to win a copy of Greek Heroes, plus a Percy Jackson backpack. Tune in every day this week for more chances to win!

Once you’ve commented below, head to the Rafflecopter form HERE to make it official.

Prizing & samples provided by Disney Hyperion.

Visit the Official Website

Follow Rick Riordan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

#ReadRiordan

Enter to win Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras (Open Int’l!)

Strays Feature Banner
All week, we’ve been featuring the new YA novel Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras — and today, we’ve got your chance to win. And as a bonus … this contest is open INTERNATIONALLY!

Yes, we are giving away one finished print copy of Strays (U.S. only) and one e-book version of Strays in the format of your choice (open Internationally).

To enter, tell us in the comments below about an animal that you’ve shared a special bond with — then fill out the Rafflecopter form here to make it official, and earn extra entries.

Contest is open through midnight (PT) on Friday, May 29th.

straysHere’s more about Strays:

Sometimes, life becomes unleashed.

Sixteen-year-old Iris Moody has a problem controlling her temper, but then, she has a lot to be angry about. Dead mother. Workaholic father. Dumped by her boyfriend. Failing English.

When a note in Iris’s journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself in trouble not only with school authorities but with the law.

In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program. But when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him.

Connect with Jennifer online:

Exclusive Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras

Strays Feature Banner
Today, I’m pleased to bring you our exclusive Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras. Enjoy!

jennifer_caloyeras_high2You write about dogs regularly, but tell us what inspired the story behind STRAYS?

I have been the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger for the past ten years. Many years ago, I wrote a column about an organization in Santa Monica called K9 connection that matches teens in continuation high school with homeless dogs. Through the program, the teens train and bond with the dogs. As I was writing this column, I thought, this would be a great idea for a young adult novel!

STRAYS really highlights the unique bond that can form between people and animals. Tell us about any such bonds in your life.

My home is full of animals! We have our beloved twelve year old rescue mutt named Reba and our new rescue puppy, Dingo. We also have two guinea pigs, Gunther and Cleo and a host of fish and a turtle. All of our animals are family, but none more than our dogs. We love taking them hiking and on walks around the neighborhood. Dogs are such amazing and intuitive creatures and can really sense if you’re having a bad day. I think until you’ve had a bond with an animal, you can’t imagine how special it is.

straysThere are so many great messages in STRAYS — what do you hope readers take away from it the most?

I think the idea that reaching out and helping others, whether it be a person or an animal, is the key to happiness and community. While Iris is “forced” into this animal program, it is she that ends up being on the receiving end of so much growth and love.

You’re a columnist, short story writer, and novelist. What are some of the challenges of writing in these different mediums? What never changes, regardless of what you’re writing?

I love working in different genres. I’ve also written screenplays, plays and I’m working on my first middle grade chapter novel. I think I like serving the story in whatever medium is best to tell my story. I know I’d get restless working in the same genre again and again. What never changes is the importance of what is at the heart of a story.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite villain?

Jaws.

Pen or pencil?

Pencil!!

Favorite piece of clothing?

Pajamas

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

“Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink (and Nate Ruess from F.U.N.) I can’t stop singing it but I need to find someone to sing Nate Ruess’s part.

Most recent vacation?

I had a great girls weekend to San Diego a few weeks ago.

5 things that are always in your purse?

Sunglasses, sunscreen (this is L.A. after all), Chapstick, dog treats, and a book (right now it’s May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes.)

Connect with Jennifer online:

Exclusive Classroom Material: Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras

Strays Feature Banner
When Jennifer Caloyeras first reached out to me about the possibility of reviewing her new book Strays on Novel Novice, I was intrigued – of course – by the premise of the book. But what really stood out to me was, when I perused her website, I noticed she had already put together classroom materials for the novel. (You can download discussion questions HERE!)

straysAnd if there’s anything you know about Novel Novice, we LOVE incorporating YA novels into the classroom. So when Jennifer & I started plotting this week’s features, she generously offered to put together some additional classroom materials exclusively for us. Of course I said yes! So, without further ado …

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Today, I’ll be sharing a writing prompt that will hopefully get you thinking more deeply about our connection to the animal world. You can start by writing a first-hand account of your experience below. Perhaps later, you can fill it in with made up details or even write about it in the third person.

PROMPT: Write about a memorable interaction with an animal. (off the top of my head I can think of a bird’s nest filled with eggs that I claimed and the mother bird came back looking for her babies. Or the time I saw a rattlesnake on a hike and instead of being afraid I was in awe of its beauty) Describe the animal using all five senses. How did this interaction make you feel? What did you learn from the experience? The more details you can add the better! Why not throw a metaphor or simile in there. What do you think the animal was thinking? In what ways were you similar to that animal? In what ways were you different?

Animal Outreach:
Do some research in your community and see if there are any programs similar to Ruff Rehabilitation in my novel, Strays. What are the options for participating with animals in your community? How can you get involved? What do you think you can gain by these sorts of experiences? Why is it important to help animals?

Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras Guest Post: Creative Inspiration

Strays Feature Banner
Today, I’m excited to share an exclusive guest post from Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras. We’re featuring Strays all this week on the blog, so tune in every day for new features, including your chance to win a copy of the book!

For now, here is Jennifer’s guest post:

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Creative Inspiration for My Novel, Strays
by Jennifer Caloyeras

straysA story isn’t born out of thin air, there’s always some sort of inspiration. I’ve written stories inspired by dreams. And I’ve also written stories that have been inspired by real life.

For my latest young adult novel, Strays, a few different experiences converged.

The idea initially occurred when I was doing some research for a dog column years ago. I was writing an article on an organization called K-9 connection based in Santa Monica. Here, teens in continuation school are paired up with homeless dogs. They learn how to train and trust these dogs and in turn gain confidence themselves. As I was writing this column, I put this idea in my back pocket (and into my writing journal) thinking, “this would be a great premise for a story!”

jennifer_caloyeras_high2Roman, the three-legged Pit bull in the story, was inspired by my own challenging experience adopting an aggressive pit mix. Willie, our puppy, had redirected aggressive issues (same as the fictitious Roman). This means that when Willie couldn’t attack the thing he wanted (another dog, for example) he would redirect his aggression to whomever was at the end of his leash (yours truly). I learned a lot about dog psychology while training Willie.

Iris, the sixteen year old protagonist in my novel, ends up in summer school for English. English was always my favorite subject in school and I was lucky to have so many wonderful and supportive English teachers. Perry, the kind and compassionate summer school teacher in my novel, is an amalgam of all my amazing English teachers.

jennifer caloyeras2I have always had a fascination with fairy tales, especially ones that are inverted or told from a different point of view. I discovered Angela Carter’s short story collection, “The Bloody Chamber” when I was in graduate school. I loved Carter’s feminist twist on beloved tales so I worked her novel into my story. These fairy tales always deal with recurring tropes and for Iris, it’s the story of both the missing mother and the wild child that she really finds a connection.

Finally, I needed a setting for my story. In the story, the ocean reminds Iris of her late mother, who loved to swim in the waves, so I knew I needed a beachside community and I settled on Santa Cruz, California. I know Santa Cruz well because I went to college there. Santa Cruz is such a serene and beautiful place, I thought it would be a good juxtaposition of Iris and Roman’s anger issues.

So, as you can see, this novel was inspired by an intersection of many different ideas and experiences!

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Connect with Jennifer online:

Book Review: Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras

Strays Feature Banner
Today, I am pleased to be kicking off a new week-long feature for a really remarkable new YA novel — in stores now — about the unique relationship between an outcast teen girl and an unwanted dog. Be sure to tune in every day this week for more unique content about the book, plus your chance to win a copy.

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A touching story about the unlikely bond between a troubled teen and an unwanted dog, Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras embodies the spirit and power of second chances.

straysSometimes, life becomes unleashed…

Sixteen-year-old Iris Moody has a problem controlling her temper—but then, she has a lot to be angry about. Dead mother. Workaholic father. Dumped by her boyfriend. Failing English.

When a note in Iris’s journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself in trouble not only with school authorities but with the law.

In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program. But when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him.

With sparkling prose and delightful humor, Jennifer Caloyeras’s novel beautifully portrays the human-animal bond.

Strays is a quietly moving story about starting over, and the powerful bond that can form between animals and humans. Caloyeras’ prose is instantly captivating, and readers will feel for Iris’s agony and her pain. Iris is a multi-faceted character — as are the others we are introduced to throughout the story. These fully-realized individuals — both people and dogs — who populate the story are what really bring Strays to life.

It’s also refreshing to find a more mature story about the human-animal bond. So often, stories about animals are geared towards younger readers (or they are traumatizingly heartbreaking, thank you very much, Marley & Me, ahem). Strays is an ultimately uplifting and hopeful story — but certainly deals with tough subjects in a mature fashion that both teens and adult readers will appreciate.

Beyond the bond between animal and human, Strays is also about the bond between individuals — friends, family, teachers, partners. And the parallels between Iris and Roman help show that everybody — whether you walk on two legs or four — sometimes needs a hand up, and a second chance.

Strays is in stores now.