Category Archives: Young Adult Books

New Book: Writing Young Adult Fiction

After two years of editing(!) Dani’s and my new book, Writing Young Adult Fiction, is about to be published. As one of our fans, I’d like to extend this special pre-publication offer to you: get the Kindle book for just $2.99, or get it for free when you purchase the paperback.

My favorite part of the book is our spirited back and forth discussion of our favorite YA novels, where we explore everything that makes them great, from plot to covers. And of course, that makes it a great source of inspiration for your own Young Adult novel.

Order the paperback here and get the Kindle book for free.

Or order the Kindle book by itself for just $2.99.

After this pre-publication special the price will go up, so take advantage of this insider tip now. Of all our books, this is my favorite!

Oh, and if you take advantage of this, could you leave a review on amazon? That’s how books get sold.



NaNoWriMo: Creating a Novel in 30 Days

November is National Novel Writing Month, when authors can sign up at and receive encouragement as they work to create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Hundreds of my students have successfully used NaNoWriMo to complete their first draft, so it’s a valuable tool.

It sounds like a lot of work, but you may be surprised how easy it is to create a novel in a month — if you approach that goal with the right strategy.

Here are my tips for how to succeed at NaNoWriMo:

  1. Don’t just start typing. If you do, you will get lost, hit a dead end, and give up. You must start with a plan, prepared even before NaNoWriMo begins.
  2. Start with a scene list. If you have a list of 50 to 100 scenes planned to get you from start to finish, then it’s easy to start writing each day, because you know exactly what you need to work on.
  3. Your scenes need to flow, so create them within a three-act structure. The easiest way is to use the nine checkpoints I teach in all my writing classes.
  4. To create a checkpoint structure you need to know your characters, especially your protagonist, so start by designing that character. Most importantly, you need to understand the flaw your protagonist must overcome to achieve the goal that drives your novel.
  5. Steps 2-4 may sound familiar. If you work through them in the opposite order — from character through checkpoint structure to scene list — you are following the path I teach in all my classes. With that done, success is just some dedicated effort away.
  6. So how much dedicated effort is that? If your scene list is ready to go at the start of NaNoWriMo, then you can focus on writing. 50,000 words is about 1700 words per day for a month. But you should write more than that, because Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or having relatives to entertain are all likely to get in the way as the month draws to a close. Plan on 2000-2500 words per day.
  7. How much writing time is that? Even if you can type very fast, you probably can’t “write” faster than about 20 words per minute. The great thing is that even if you can’t type very well, you can still probably write about 20 words per minute! That means you need to dedicate 90 minutes to two hours per day to writing during November. If that sounds like a lot, think about how much time you spend watching television. The easiest way to succeed at NaNoWriMo is simple: don’t watch any television in November!

If you follow these guidelines you’ll have a finished first draft by November 30.

Then what should you do?

Put it aside and enjoy the holidays. Then, on January first, create your own NaNoEdMo — that’s National Novel Editing Month! Polish it into a second draft and you’ll be ready for publication in February.

I’ve listed some course links with great discounts below, specifically for NaNoWriMo. The first three will get you ready for NaNoWriMo, and the last one will get you published in February.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo:

Novel Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at 84% off (just $49)

Young Adult Fiction Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)

Publishing Your Finished Novel:

Publish Your Book Now! at 60% off (just $19)

Sign up today and you’ll have a completed novel on November 30th!


Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts


I’ll try to keep this list updated. Please let me know of any good or bad experiences with these by dropping me a note at [email protected]

Books for Adult Readers

Baen Books

Baen Books is a science fiction and fantasy publisher. It accepts unsolicited manuscripts for all books and prefers electronic submissions through its manuscript-submission form. Baen is very accepting of new authors and has a large e-publishing department.

Beacon Publishing Group

Beacon Publishing Group accept all genres of Fiction and Nonfiction.

D. X. Varos, Ltd.

We publish genre-fiction in the categories of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. We also accept young adult submissions if they fit into these categories.

DAW Books

DAW Books is the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Penguin Books. It accepts unsolicited manuscripts and prefers them in paper form. It will respond in about three months and will not consider simultaneous submissions.

Chicago Review Press Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoirs

Dream Big Publishing 

Dream Big Publishing is looking for fiction works. Full length novels – 20,000  words and up, 120,000 + words, if applicable for the work, may be split into separate novels.  Short stories are acceptable. No non-fiction.

– Romance
– Historical
– Dystopian
– Erotica
– Paranormal
– Zombie
– Fantasy

Harlequin Romance


Inkitt creates a free copy of authors’ books that people can read using their app. If readers like the book, then Inkitt offers the author a publishing contract. Authors then receive 25% of the book’s sales.

Joffe Books

  • Thrillers, Mysteries, Detective, Romance, Horror, Suspense, and Literary Fiction are favorite genres
  • Great books which say something interesting about the world as you see it
  • We prefer full-length novels

Kellan Publishing

Kellan does not charge authors, and provides limited cover design, editing and marketing advice services.

Kensington Publishing Corporation

Zebra:  Kensington’s flagship imprint publishes nationally bestselling women’s fiction, romantic suspense and bestselling historical, paranormal and contemporary romances.

Brava:  Publishes popular contemporary romances.

Pinnacle:  Publishes bestselling thrillers, westerns, horror and true crime titles.  Among Pinnacle’s western bestselling authors is William W. Johnstone, the country’s most popular western writer.

Citadel is Kensington’s non-fiction imprint.  Citadel publishes acclaimed memoirs and books about popular culture, past and present.

Aphrodisia:  Launched in January 2006, Aphrodisia publishes an extremely diverse and popular line of erotic romances, ranging from historical, to paranormal, contemporary, ménage, bdsm, and more.  Quality writing, a fascinating variety of sexual relationships, and a willingness to push the boundaries of explicit content far beyond those of traditional romance is what Aphrodisia offers the adventuresome reader.

Dafina:  Launched in the fall of 2000, Dafina is the leading publisher of commercial fiction written by and about people of African descent.  The word Dafina, which is Swahili for an unexpected gift or treasure, reflects the imprint’s mission:  to share the gift of storytelling.  Dafina Books has established itself as a publishing home for dynamic stories for adults in genres as diverse as women’s fiction, street lit, romance, and inspirational fiction.  In 2006 Dafina expanded its program to include books for teens.  Dafina Books publishes over eighty books a year in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and eBook.

KTeen Kensington:  Launched in the spring of 2011, Kensington Kteen focuses on publishing a wide variety of exciting, commercial teen fiction with positive messages, cutting-edge stores and all the drama, humor, and fantasy teens love.

KTeen Dafina: Under the imprint Dafina Kteen we publish romance, mystery, paranormal, and street lit for teen readers.

  Launched in the summer of 2012, eKensington is a digital imprint that publishes in many genres, including:  women’s fiction, romance, urban fantasy, thrillers and mystery among others. eKensington offers a new platform for Kensington’s established authors and a fresh way to launch authors and introduce readers to burgeoning new talents in all their favorite genres.

Rebel Base Books: 
Not for dudes only!  But guys really seem to dig these manly books, which gleefully push the limits of taste, humor, and snarkiness.

Lyle Stuart Books: 
Learn how to win at poker, blackjack, and more with advice from the pros, including Gus Hansen, John Vorhaus, and Lou Krieger.

Holloway House: Holloway House publishes legendary street lit fiction that has set the standard for the genre.
They feature material that is both edgy and provocative in any era.

Lyrical Press: Founded in 2007 by Renee Rocco, Lyrical Press offers readers a rich catalog of titles ranging from tender contemporary romances and edgy erotic paranormals to suspenseful thrillers and shocking science fiction. Authors can expect a personalized publishing experience from Lyrical Press, where the relationship between the author and publisher is understood to be symbiotic. When the authors succeed, the house succeeds.

Koehler Books

Imprints: Battle Flag, Beach Murder Mysteries, Cafe con Leche (Coffee with Milk), High Tide. They offer a booklet about all aspects of publishing, including self-publishing and offering paid services:

NCM Publishing

NCM Publishing publishes all genres of fiction, non-fiction, self-help and young adult fiction.

Regal Crest Non-Fiction

Topics of interest to both alternative (GLBTQ) readers as well as mainstream readers including, but not limited to humor, popular culture, current events and politics, psychology, erotica, education, health, sports, travel, pets, biography and memoir, social issues, and history. We are also interested in anthologies and How-To books (such as writing instruction), and depending upon the approach, we may also be interested in topics in the fields of business, sociology, and religion.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications

Sky Horse Publishing Non-Fiction

Poets and Writers Small Presses Database for Poets and Writers 

Search for small publishers who publish poetry or collections of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction (memoir), etc. You can filter the genres and it will show you your choices.

Books for Adults and Children

Arthur A. Levine Books

August Books

Adult books about storytelling and collections of folktales.

Children’s books – Original folktales

Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books were not recommended by Preditors and Editors. I think it wise to research the internet for complaints and decide  for yourself before placing judgment.

Free Spirit Publishing (Children, Teens, Parents, Educators, Counselors)

Free Spirit Publishing publishes high-quality nonfiction books and learning materials for children, teens, parents, educators, counselors, and others who live and work with young people.

MuseItUp Publishing

Romance – everything from: romantic comedy, contemporary romance, fantasy romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, western romance, sweet romance, sci-fi romance, time travel romance

Paranormal – Fantasy –  we love vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves and shape shifters…and dragons

Mystery – Suspense -Thriller – captivate us with the pacing of your novel. Hint: we love cozy mysteries

Young Adult – we’re big fans of the Potter & Twilight series but seeking a unique voice for this target group

MuseItYoung – this division is for our tween crossover chapter books for 10 – 14 year olds – NO PICTURE BOOKS

Horror & Dark Fiction – scare the living daylights out of us with your settings, dialogue, and characters – not with blood and gore and missing human parts. Use the power of your writer’s voice to draw images that will leave readers sitting at the edge of their seats.

Science Fiction – do you have a fantasy/romance/paranormal/etc. set in another planet? Fleshed out your otherly world? Then give us a shout.


For children’s picture books, send full manuscript.

For all others, send either full manuscript OR table of contents plus three sample chapters.

Peachtree does not accept query letters where no manuscript is included.

Peachtree currently publishes the following categories:

Children’s fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, middle readers, young adult books

Education, parenting, self-help, and health books of interest to the general trade

PublishingHau[5] (pronounced “publishing house”)

Publishing startup focused on publishing non-fiction Kindle books and providing web-searchable versions to Google to make their content more findable by readers.

Sky Azure Publishing (Teen, Young Adult, Adult)

A small independent publisher based in Cornwall in the United Kingdom. We are a traditional royalty-paying publisher, accepting electronic submissions now from authors, irrespective of previous publication history or genre. They are not accepting non-fiction (Feb.2016).

Sterling Publishing

Woodbine House

Mostly publishes books for parents of special needs, but said they would look at submissions for children’s books, too.

Book for Children

Albert Whitman & Company

Picture book manuscripts for ages 2-8.

Novels and chapter books for ages 8-12.

Young adult novels.

Nonfiction for ages 3-12 and YA.

Art samples showing pictures of children.



Charlesbridge offers free activities and downloadable items.

Curious Fox

Curious Fox does not publish picture books

Dawn Publications

Dawn publishes “nature awareness” titles for adults and children. Our picture books are intended to encourage an appreciation for nature and a respectful participation in it. We are seeking to inspire children as well as educate them. An inspired child is a motivated.

Dial Books For Young Readers 

Flashlight Press

Flashlight accepts only picture books.

Guardian Angel Publishing 

Kane Miller EDC Publishing

Just Us Books and Marimba Books (Multi-Cultural Children’s books)

Click on Contacts and scroll down for submission guidelines.

Lee & Low Books (Children of Color)

Lee & Low Books publishes books for children and young adults with a multicultural theme. All manuscripts must be aimed at children of color, with an authentic voice. They accept submissions from new authors through regular mail. They accept no email submissions.

Little Pickle Press Middle Grade and Young Adult

Mighty Media

Onstage Publishing chapter books, middle grade novels and young adult novels

Saguaro Books, LLC (Middle and Young Adult)

Saguaro Books, LLC is a publisher of middle grade and young adult fiction by first-time authors. They also accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Sky Pony Press

Tall Tails Publishing House

Small independent children’s press, Krystal Russell, Phone: 918-770-9923,


Literary Agents Representing Young Adult Fiction

Are you writing a Young Adult novel? Have you finished a Young Adult novel, and are now looking for an agent to secure a book deal and get that manuscript on to shelves?’s AgentInbox has agents that specialize in Young Adult/Juvenile fiction. Go here to see the full list of the agents on AgentInbox.

Here are a few of the YA agents and their perspective on the genre.

Susanna Einstein, LJK Literary Management: Susanna has worked in publishing since 1995 and is one of the founding agents at LJK. In an interview with Guide to Literary Agents, Susanna explained her attraction to YA books:“The opportunity to be involved in that process where kids and teens discover their own favorite books is one that I couldn’t pass up. And there’s a joy and creativity in the children’s/YA market that is less present, or at least less visible, in the adult market.  I also think, perhaps naïvely, that there’s a sense of purpose, of good work being done, in finding and selling books that young people will want to read, and that’s important to me.”

Check out Susanna’s WEbook profile.


Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media: Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at Random House before becoming an agent. When asked what qualities she looks for in a first-time YA author, Mollie said:

“I really enjoy learning something new with every project I take on. And really, what I’m looking for in anything I take on is the same. I’m looking for a book with a unique voice. I’m looking for a great plot and great characters that convey a bigger idea. And I’m looking for a book I can’t put down.” 

You can see Mollie’s WEbook profile here, or check out one of her best known clients’ book, Promise of the Wolves.


 Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary Agency: Tamar worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She is also one of the honorable PageToFame Judges. In a guest blog post at Magical Musings, Tamar talked a bit about her experience representing YA:

“When I started [as an agent], I had never read anything but very literary young adult novels. Now I can’t get enough of them, and I am not talking about the literary stuff. I never would have thought that I would be representing fantasy as it wasn’t a genre I had grown up reading. And that’s the beautiful thing about publishing and books in general. There is just so much learning, exploring and discovery available.”

To learn more about Tamar, check out the PageToFame Judges video.


The Man Behind the Curtain: L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz

by Linda McGovern


L. Frank Baum

Chances are you have seen the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz, at one point or another in your lifetime. But the chances maybe even greater that you do not associate it with L. Frank Baum, the author of the book on which the film was based. In fact, most people have probably never heard of him at all unless they have read his work or were born around the time when he was popular. Whether it is shown on television annually or rented at the local video store, The Wizard of Oz has become a staple of American popular culture. Young or old, we know where the famous, unforgettable lines originate; we know the characters by heart: Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, as well as the munchkins. Oz is as familiar as our own backyards.

Although the movie and the book differ in minor ways, the premise is similar and so are most of the characters. The only significant difference, that might matter to a child and possibly to an adult, is that in the movie, Dorothy’s journey to Oz is only a dream, purely imaginary, in other words, not real. In the book, however, there is no such rationale. Instead it invites the child to use his or her imagination as a creative, transforming force and to accept the journey, and Oz as a real place full of hope over the rainbow, where the child could escape ordinary life. Baum believed in the power of the imagination in the child. Oz really existed if only we believed it did.

After reading The Wizard of Oz, I was completely intrigued by the book as I was by the movie. It was like revisiting an old friend. Oddly however, for several years the book was considered controversial and was banned from the shelves of various libraries across the country because librarians felt it did not qualify as important juvenile literature, a sentiment which has been refuted over time. It has been criticized for its simple language and themes and was no doubt written stylistically for a child to comprehend. However, as in most fairy tales, there is room for the reader to interpret beyond the black and white on the page. What is it about The Wizard of Ozthat makes it so special, so enduring? I guess MGM couldn’t have said it any better, “Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion.” 1

Do we know who stands behind this classic and how it came to be? Have we ever heard of L. Frank Baum or his life story? As one might expect, L. Frank Baum was a fascinating person who had a wonderfully interesting life; an intricate journey of twists and turns, some good and some bad, perhaps metaphorically similar to his characters’ journey through Oz. The Wizard of OZ has been one of my all time favorite movies, to which I believe I am not alone.With this impetus, I wanted to discover who was “The Wizard of OZ,” the man behind the curtain, by shedding some light on the shadow cast upon L. Frank Baum by the film his work inspired.

Born Lyman Frank Baum in 1856, just east of Syracuse in Chittenango, NY. He never used his first name since he preferred Frank. A rather sickly child who was both timid and shy, he kept to himself and made up imaginary places and playmates since he had to refrain from any kind of strenuous exercise due to his faulty, weak heart. Throughout Frank’s life, his health was a constant impediment, which became a looming presence and a major controlling factor. Although, it never impeded his creativity, drive and talent.

When Frank was about 5 years old, his father, Benjamin Baum, struck it rich in the oil business, and the family moved to Rose Lawn Estate, a country home near Chittenango. Rose Lawn was an idyllic place for young Frank to grow up. He was very happy there except for the constant reminder of his heart condition. It is possible that young Frank developed his creative side more than most since he was not allowed to play physically like other children his age. It is reasonable to assume that the foundations for his storytelling sensibilities were laid and nurtured during this time. Frank read fairy tales and British writers voraciously, and he especially enjoyed Dickens. But even at his young age, he criticized the fairy tales that were frightening and horrifying, “I demanded fairy stories when I was a youngster, and I was a critical reader too. One thing I never liked then, and that was the introduction of witches and goblins into the story. I didn’t like the little dwarfs in the woods bobbing up with their horrors.”2 These fairy stories contributed to his nightmares or perhaps it was his overly active imagination. Frank made the decision that he would write a different kind of fairy tale.

Because of Frank’s dreamer-like qualities, his parents sent him away to a strict military school to rid him of his fanciful demeanor. This decision was not a wise one, for it did not curb his whimsical nature but instead resulted in his suffering a heart attack or a nervous breakdown (it is not clear which). Frank had always been home schooled prior to this experience. He did not like Peekskill Military School at all and it is understandable since he was not accustomed to such strict, regimented schedules and physical punishment. His parents finally allowed Frank to withdraw from Peekskill after they realized the negative effect it had on him and his health. His parents then began to nurture Frank’s creative interests.

Frank’s initial attempt at writing and publishing was in his own small newspaper called The Rose Lawn Home Journal. His father bought him a small printing press after he showed an interest in a larger, more commercial one. He was fifteen years old when he began this paper with his younger brother Harry, and he took his writing abilities seriously. The newspaper contained articles, editorials, fiction, poetry, and word games. The Rose Lawn Home Journal did well and some of the local stores bought advertisement space for their services. In 1873, Frank started a new paper called The Empire as well as The Stamp Collector, a magazine not surprisingly for stamp collectors.

Early on Frank demonstrated his resourcefulness, drive and creativity. Throughout his life, he was always productive with his time and energy and was never idle. Frank always had many interests and one of them was tending chickens. With the help of his father and brother Harry, he began to breed Hamburgs, small colorful birds which were popular at the time and they soon won awards. Frank then began a new magazine called The Poultry Record. His first book was published in 1886 and was called The Book of Hamburgs, A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Throughout his life, Frank’s interests were varied and he did well at most things he attempted. His most influential interest was the theatre, which developed in his teens and loved and supported throughout his life. He took acting seriously and viewed it as an art. “When he went to plays, he studied actors’ techniques. He memorized passages from Shakespeare, and then, with money from his father, he formed a Shakespearean troupe.”3 As a young man, he entertained the thought that his career was to be an actor. He finally got a taste of the stage with Albert M. Palmer’s Union Square Theater in New York. Frank took the pen names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. Benjamin Baum, his father, who owned a string of opera houses in New York and Pennsylvania, must have seen his son’s enthusiasm and love of the theatre, for he made him the manager of them in 1880 and eventually they were given to him after he proved himself worthy. After whetting his thirst for the theatre and seeing what delighted the audiences, Frank set to work on writing original plays. His play The Maid of Arran immediately became a success, “The script, music, and lyrics were all from the name that the playwright now used for theatrical purposes. It was based on a novel, A Princess of Thule, by the Scottish novelist, William Black.” 4 Frank was the leading man and the manager of the company for The Maid of Arran. This was Baum’s first major literary work. Overall, the reviews were very positive and this spark ignited the flame of passion for the theatre.

It was while Frank was home on holiday that he met the other love of his life, Maud Gage. Through his sister Harriet’s persistence, Frank agreed to meet Maud at a party. She was still at Cornell University while Frank was with The Maid of Arran Company. After the holiday season came to a close, Maud left to go back to school to the admiration of other male suitors and Frank stayed with the Company. Maud came from a prosperous family who lived in Fayetteville, NY. Maud’s mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a nationally known feminist and her father was a dry-goods merchant. It is interesting to note, that Matilda worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in her later years. It was in the Gage home that these three women wrote History of Woman Suffrage published in four volumes from 1881 to 1902.

Baum  later recalled his feelings after meeting Maud, “…my show had some free time between bookings. At every opportunity I returned to Syracuse, borrowed a horse and buggy from father, and drove the eight miles to Fayetteville.”5 Frank began courting Maud soon after meeting her. Maud’s mother was not thrilled by Frank for he seemed rather flighty, a dreamer type and she thought him an unstable match for her daughter. However, against the wishes of her mother Maud and Frank were married on November 9th, 1882. Maud went along with Frank and the Company on tour with The Maid of Arran. They lived a nomadic existence while touring. However, when Maud became pregnant with their first child, they settled down and rented a home in Syracuse.

Baum found a new leading man to take his place and trained a new company manager. Maud soon took over the family finances and the role of disciplinarian, for it was known that these were not Frank’s strong suits. In many respects, Frank and Maud were exact opposites. She was headstrong, strong willed and temperamental. Frank, on the other hand, was low key, optimistic, even-tempered and whimsical. For Baum, “Years of living in the shadow of a heart ailment had taught him to avoid upsets that might bring on an attack.”6 Maud was raised in a much stricter environment and appeared to have had her way with her parents, and was spoiled in a certain respect. “Maud Baum often mentioned that peace and harmony had always graced her home, but those who knew the family best felt that this was true only because Frank, from the time of their marriage until his death thirty seven years later, allowed her to have her own way with the household, the children, and the family purse.”7  Whatever their secret formula was to a happy marriage, it seemed their opposite natures were a good combination.

During this time, Frank’s health was less than perfect, Baum had suffered one heart attack shortly before his marriage, and in the summer of 1883, his uncertain health was indicated by nausea and dizzy spells. Once settled in Syracuse, Baum worked in sales for the family business. In 1884, trouble hit with full force, Frank’s uncle who was the manager of the theatrical establishment, became quite ill and a bookkeeper was hired to replace his absence. There was major mismanagement of the funds and by the time Frank’s uncle was ready to go back to work, the bookkeeping was so illegible that it was impossible for them to make an audit. During the time of the investigation, the bookkeeper conveniently disappeared. Everything suffered but again Frank managed to stay afloat by working as head salesman in the family Castorine Business. Shortly after Frank’s father died, the family fortune began to wane. During this time, Frank was preoccupied with his own fragile health and hectic sales schedule, Maud having their second son, and the failing health of Uncle Doc who handled the business finances. The business was left in the hands of a clerk. Ironically and sadly, again their money was swindled from them, gambled away while the bills went unpaid and they lost everything. “In the Spring of 1888 Baum returned to Syracuse early one morning from a sales trip and went directly to the office. He unlocked the door, entered, and was stunned to find the clerk sprawled across the deskÃ?¢??dead. The revolver with which he had shot himself was still in hand.”8 Forced to sell the business, Frank and Maud decided (at Maud’s suggestion) to move out West to the Dakota territory where “Western Fever” was the talk of the day. Many families were migrating and Maud’s relatives were no different. This may have been another factor in their decision besides the hope of economic possibilities. In Aberdeen, Frank operated a general store that he named “Baum’s Bazaar” which he rented for a few years. The store opened on October 1, 1888 and it sold a variety of goods from tableware, household goods, tinware, and lamps to toys and candy. There were always plenty of children around the store for they liked to listen to Frank tell them stories of faraway places and enchanted lands. “The Bazaar always was crowded with youngsters after school . Some bought a penny’s worth of candy or ice cream. Many came to hear stories that Baum could be persuaded to tell.”9 Unfortunately, due to the terrible drought in 1888 the customers had no money to buy anything, and because of Baum’s friendly demeanor and compassion for his neighbors, he couldn’t deny them their necessities and as a result, the Baums were nearly bankrupt. In 1890, the bank foreclosed on “Baum’s Bazaar.” Frank never lost hope and never relinquished his creativity and resourcefulness. Soon after, he began a new position managing a weekly newspaper called The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. He sold advertisements, set the type, ran the press, and wrote. It seemed the skills he acquired as a boy came in handy. In the paper he wrote about all sorts of social events. Unfortunately, however, and to his discredit, it also included editorials that had disparaging racial comments and illustrated an intolerant attitude towards Native American Indians during their conflicts with the government. Nonetheless, it was a well liked paper but the scarce Dakota years got the best of him and in 1891 Frank lost the Pioneer to bankruptcy. He reportedly responded by saying, “I decided the sheriff wanted the paper more than I.”10

Throughout his lifetime, Frank genuinely loved children and they adored him. He never stopped believing in the creative powers of the imagination. While working at the paper, he would see his truly faithful story listeners, “Often, as Baum would walk down the streets of Aberdeen on his rounds for news and advertising, he would be stopped by children demanding a story. He would sit down on the edge of the dusty wooden sidewalk and spin one of his yarns of magic countries.”11 These children forecasted his future; they saw the genius of a storyteller he would become.

Baum’s future was in the Midwest (at least for a while) and he decided that moving onward a second time was the smartest choice, and he was right. Through these tough economic years, Baum remained optimistic which could not have been easy at the time. In 1893, Chicago had the World Columbian Exposition so it seemed a logical place to try to find employment. Frank first took a position as a reporter for the Evening Post but the pay was so slight he instead he worked as a traveling salesman for a china company, Pitkin and Brooks. During the weeks that Maud and Frank were apart, Maud’s mother, Matilda, would stay with her and help out. On several occasions, Matilda would over hear her son-in-law telling the children stories and though she wasn’t always thrilled by Frank, she always admired and encouraged his storytelling abilities. She told him that he should write these stories down and publish them. Whenever Frank was home with the family, “he would recite to the boys’ favorite Mother Goose Rhymes. They would ask him, for instance, how blackbirds baked in a pie could later come out and sing and got what Harry remembered as a satisfactory answer. Often neighborhood friends of the older boys would drop in for the storytelling hour.”12 Storytelling was a natural gift Baum possessed. He had the ability to capture the imagination of children and to create worlds of timelessness in his stories. Baum states in the introduction to The Lost Princess of Oz, “Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreamsÃ?¢??day dreams with your eyes wide openÃ?¢??are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.” 13 While traveling, Frank would never ignore his creative muse but instead would continue to write while in hotel rooms on the backs of scrap paper or anything available.

While in Chicago, Baum kept in contact with the Chicago Press Club of his former newspaper days and mentioned to a popular novelist, Opie Read, about his writings on Mother Goose stories and that he was looking for a publisher. Through Opie Read, he met Chancey L. Williams of Way & Williams Publishing. With illustrator Maxfield Parrish, Baum’s Mother Goose Stories became Mother Goose in Prose in1897.Also during this time, Frank’s health began to fail and he had nasal hemorrhages, and terrible chest pains. He saw a heart specialist who advised him to find a more sedentary job, rather than a traveling lifestyle. His vice of smoking cigars, throughout his life, probably didn’t help his fragile health but he did not relinquish them.

The Show Window, a monthly trade magazine that Baum started five years after leaving Pitkin and Brooks, was the next of Baum’s creative ventures that actually did very well and which he kept until 1902 when it was sold. His days with the “Baum Bazaar” and his time at Pitkin and Brooks as a salesman had given him a keen eye for window design. As boring and as flat as window trimming and decorating may sound to some, Baum was able to liven it up, “by publishing short stories by Stanley Waterloo and Gardner C. Teall, and by writing himself about the values of window advertising in specific trades.”14  Being an editor of a magazine now gave Baum more time to frequent the Press Club than when he was a traveling salesman. Through his friend Opie Read, he met William W. Denslow or “Den” and from then on his life would never be the same. Denslow was described as being serious and gruff, quite the opposite of Baum and years later their contradictory personalities were, in many respects, the downfall of their relationship. Denslow sported a large walrus moustache and was known to wear a beautiful red vest that he liked to show off while at the Baum home. Denslow and Baum worked together often and Denslow would visit Baum at his home drawing pictures to fit the verse. Their first official venture together was Father Goose, His Book,published in 1899,and it was an immediate success, becoming the best selling children’s book ofthe year. The Tribune reported in June, 1900, that “Father Goose, His Book last year achieved the record of having the largest sale of any juvenile in America.”15 Baum had finally hit it just right and all the previous experiences of his many professions made it all the sweeter. But the best news was when Pitkin, whom Baum had worked for, stated, “that fellow Baum who worked for us is the author of a book that is selling like hot cakes.”16  It was so popular, that it spurred the Songs of Father Goose, in which some of the verses were put to music. The combination of Baum’s verses and Denslow’s illustrations were the perfect mixture to please a child, which was Baum’s original purpose. The Baums were able to spend several summers at Macatawa Park, Michigan, a resort along the shore of Lake Michigan, because of the proceeds of Father Goose, His Book. They bought a summer cottage that Frank named “The Sign of the Goose.” Inside the cottage Frank made all the furniture by hand: large rocking chairs, a grandfather’s clock, a small bookcase, as well as other creations. Baum was so much a part of his work and his work so much a part of him that he engraved and stenciled geese into some of the woodwork, as well as into a stained glass window. This was a hobby he took up after recovering from an attack of facial paralysis. Interestingly, later Baum would name their dog Toto and their home in California Ozcot, after his most notable work The Wizard of Oz.

Baum also did some writing there, as well as relaxing. But he was certainly never without something to do, for he was very involved in the community social life as well. Frank wrote a book about Macatawa in 1907,entitled Tamawaca Folks A Summer Comedy which was considered an unfavorable account by some.

The Baum Denslow team would produce the most lasting and popular piece of work, The Wizard of Oz. The most worthy and notable of Baum’s creations was the story of Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the other inhabitants of Oz, which not surprisingly, began as a story told to some of the young children in the neighborhood, as well as to his own children. Baum’s moment of inspiration came when he broke up the storytelling hour so he could write down the magical story he knew he must note for safe keeping. He wrote out the story longhand and attached the pencil he used to the draft itself that was titled, “The Emerald City.” It was only because of the negative reaction he received from his publisher, the Hill Company, that the title was eventually changed, for they had some superstitious notion against a book with a jewel in its title and they would not publish it. So after some reworking, after several titles lacking the vitality that Baum wanted to capture, he finally came up with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Baum early on had wanted to write a new kind of fairy tale because of the frightening themes he remembered as a child. “Before Baum there were few fairy tales written by Americans. There were, of course, the fairy tales of Howard Pyle and Frank Stockton. The American child had to look to Great Britain for his tales of fantasy”17It has been suggested that Baum never totally created a purely American fairy tale for he did borrow ideas from the European tradition of using witches, and wizards and magical shoes etc. It is interesting to note that he used to have a recurrent nightmare about a scarecrow who chased him, yet he used the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz as a friendly companion of Dorothy’s.18

The Baum and Denslow team were to work together on a few more books and projects and only for a few years following their success from The Wizard of Oz. In 1902, they collaborated with Paul Tietjens and Julien Mitchell to produce an adult version of The Wizard of Oz as a musical stage play. It became a major success and toured the nation. It has been suggested that Denslow wanted his share of the royalties of the play and threatened a law suit even though he had nothing to do with it. It is not certain why Baum and Denslow split up but it has been suggested that there were several possible reasons, one being that neither Baum nor Denslow needed the other to prosper, now that each was known in their own right. Another reason is that there was also considerable rivalry about who was most responsible for the success of their books and they had large disagreements on this subject. Also, the failure of the Hill company made it logical for them to split as well. They were mainly just business partners; there was no loyalty to friendship, since they were very different people and had very different lifestyles. “They had different friends, different habits, and different ways of living. Denslow was quixotic and extrovertedÃ?¢??his sense of humor was upside down. He would carp and complain and grumble. The bohemian atmosphere of his studio, where his cronies gathered, was the center of his life. Baum, on the other hand, was quiet and spent most of his evenings at home.”20 As a result, their relationship did not end on good terms.

Baum went onto produce seventeen sequels to the Oz books since the reception of the first was so incredible. The first was The Marvelous Land of Oz. Children would send him letters constantly telling him how enjoyable The Wizard of Oz was and how they were delighted he wrote such a great story and would beg him to write more of them. But the Oz stories appealed to both young and old and he received fan mail from both. Baum stated, “My books are intended for all those whose hearts are young, no matter what their ages may be.” 21  It seems that Baum did not want to write as many sequels as he did, for he wanted to write other kinds of children’s books but the children’s requests were incessant.  He wrote other kinds of books under several different pen names mainly because he wanted to be remembered as the American author of fairy tales, and this way he could try other facets and not worry about their success and profit. There Frank could explore all sorts of themes, not just the happy place of Oz. There were several that claimed success but none would repeat the amount that The Wizard of Oz had. Aunt Jane’s Nieces became a very popular teenage series for girls that Baum wrote under the pen name of Edith Van Dyne. Baum always looked for ways to boost his income in those days. Financial success gave him not only a reputation but the comforts of life and the pleasures of traveling that he and Maud enjoyed so much.

Baum became known as the “Royal Historian of Oz” until his death when Ruth Plumly Thompson was chosen to take on this title and continue the tradition. In 1905, people could not get enough of Oz and a small newspaper called The Ozmapolitan was issued.

In 1908, Baum produced a traveling film show called the “Fairylogue and Radio Plays,” which did not achieve commercial success. Baum had left a great amount of debt to accumulate primarily as a result of the “Radio Plays.” Frank and Maud decided to leave Chicago and move to California to a home they called Ozcot. California was much more compatible with his failing health. Here Frank was very contented, writing constantly, and tending his garden. “At Ozcot, Baum, for the first time in his life could fall into a congenial monotony of routine.”22 He ate breakfast at a certain time, went to his garden to tend his blooms, wrote and revised in the afternoons, yet he also enjoyed golf and played the game on a consistent basis for a while, as well as playing the piano or a game in the evenings after dinner. Like most anything Baum ever ventured he succeeded at, and his garden was no different. “Baum soon made a name for himself as a grower and exhibitor of prize dahlias and chrysanthemums. His blooms won so many awards in strong competition in that land of flowers that he was often described as the champion amateur horticulturist of Southern California.”23

Baum courageously went on in the face of adversity. He never gave up easily and his horizon always seemed within his grasp. In a letter he wrote to one of his sons who was in WWI, “for I have lived long enough to learn that in life nothing adverse lasts very long. And it is true that as years pass, and we look back on something which, at that time, seemed unbelievably discouraging and unfair. The eventual outcome was, we discover, by far the best solution for us”25 Bedridden and in constant pain, he continued to write, propped up with pillows. Baum had to stop his beloved gardening, answering letters from devoted fans and basking in the California sunshine that proved it was not the magical elixir it was thought to be, like it might have been in a fairy tale he told; nothing could extend Baum’s fragile years. Like California, Oz was the seemingly perfect place. Glinda of Oz was the last of the Oz sequels and was published posthumously in 1920. On May 5th 1919, Frank lapsed into unconsciousness and spoke to Maud with his last thoughts. He wished for her to live in their home when he was gone where they had been so happy all those years. The next day, while in a semi-comatosestate, just before he died, Frank’s breathing became very erratic and unsteady and as he slipped from one world into the next, he managed to whisper to Maud, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”

His health had begun to fade, it had become quite a restriction and he soon was left immobile, restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain of his health contributed to his attacks of angina pectoris, as well as the unpredictable, gall bladder problems, excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face of tic douloureux which were like seizures. “Although few traces of agony are detectable in his work, there were many times when the tears would stream from his eyes and wet the paper as he wrote.”24

His humble tombstone reads only, “L. Frank Baum 1856-1919” yet there was so much between those dates that children and adults still discover and rediscover when they open their hearts to the magic of imagination which was Baum’s pilot. With mixed emotions, I watched The Wizard of Oz again and wished that Baum could have known the impact his book had upon the world.



Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

Baum, Frank Joslyn and MacFall, Russell P.To Please A Child A Biography of L. Frank Baum Royal Historian of Oz Reilly & Lee Co. Chicago 1961.

Carpenter, Angelica Shirley and Shirley, Jean. L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz . Lerner Publications Co., Minneapolis: 1991.

Hearn, Michael Patrick. The Annotated Wizard of Oz Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. New York: 1973.

1 p. 133 To Please a Child

2 p. 14 The Royal Historian of Oz

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13 p. 293 The Annotated Wizard of Oz

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Themes in Young Adult Novels

Other people may be more like us than we imagine. (The Borrowers)

Memories of friendship can last forever. (Bridge to Terabithia)

Defending a country requires loyality and sacrifice. (Camp X)

Every child is special to his or her family. (The Canada Geese Quilt)

Imagination can be a powerful weapon. (Cougar)

Jealousy can be destroying. (The Fairest)

The power of knowledge. (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

Feelings make human beings. (The Giver)

Self-reliance. (The Hatchet)

Sometimes we have to accept change even if we don’t want to. (Julie of the Wolves)

Beasts can show strong emotions too. (King Kong)

Some customs and traditions compel people to be dishonest. (The Kite Runner)

Thinking and analysing contribute to decision making. (The Lemming Condition)

Unity is a power. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Orphans deserve parental love. (Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism)

Children can be brave. (Molly Moon Stops the World)

Divorce makes children miserable. (My Broken Family)

Families are the basis of life in societies. (The Orphan of Ellis Island)

War has ugly faces that make children miserable.(Parvana’s Journey)

Information leads to knowledge.(The Penultimate Peril)

Sometimes, you can save lives by being wise and clever. (Poppy)

Not everything in life comes without price. (Shiloh)

Different people can become friends. (Sign of the Beaver)

Sometimes, risky decisions yield their fruits. (Skybreaker)

Unfortunate person can sometimes become fortunate.(The Slippery Slope)

When there is a will there is a way. (Stone Fox)

Hatred has negative effects on people. (Weasel)

Fear can prevent us from helping others. (Wired)


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: A Synopsis

This is the foundation, the book that sets the stage for the series and introduces the major characters. The hero is Harry Potter, an 11-year-old boy reared Cinderella-style by his cruel aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley. In contrast, the Dursleys lavish gifts and attention on their son, Dudley. Harry spends the first years of his life sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs.

The villain is Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard who for some reason killed Harry’s parents when he was only a year old. Voldemort used a death spell to first kill Harry’s father, James Potter, and then his mother, Lily, who begged for Harry’s life. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry, the spell ricocheted and hit the former, severely weakening him and virtually destroying his body.

Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Minerva McGonagall, assistant headmistress, work with the school’s Keeper of the Keys and Grounds, Rubeus Hagrid, to deliver Harry to his aunt and uncle. Petunia is Lily Potter’s sister. While McGonagall feels these guardians are horrid people, Dumbledore says it’s better for Harry to grow humble and not totally aware of his fame in the wizards’ world.

They notice a still bleeding scar on the toddler’s forehead, shaped like a lightning bolt. Dumbledore says the boy will have it for life — it is the place where Voldemort’s death spell hit him.

Harry is a thin boy with unruly black hair, green eyes, round eyeglasses and a distinctive lightning bolt shaped scar in his head. He rather likes this scar. His guardians tell him he got it in the car accident that killed his parents. This is how he grows up for 10 years, think his parents died in the crash.

Harry is very mistreated. He wears Dudley’s huge hand-me-down clothes, hardly gets any good food, and experiences no family love. His eyeglasses are fastened together with clear plastic tape because of the many times Dudley has broken them by punching him in the nose. Vernon and Petunia try as much as possible to hide his existence from the neighbors. Dudley and his pals beat up Harry at school and prevent the other kids from befriending him.

Things that can’t be explained also happen. Aunt Petunia, furious about his unruly black hair, chops it off down to the scalp. The next morning, it has completely grown back. Another time he tried to run away from Dudley’s bully friends and somehow ended up on the school roof. A third time when Petunia was trying to force one of Dudley’s ugly sweaters over his head, it kept shrinking until it was no bigger than a piece of clothing for a hand puppet.

On Dudley’s 11th birthday, Harry is dragged along to the zoo after Mrs. Figg, his regular babysitter, was unavailable. He is relieved — Mrs. Figg is an odd old lady whose house always smells like cabbage and bores him with endless stories about her huge collection of cats.

Uncle Vernon warns Harry that there better be no “funny stuff” when they visit the zoo. At first, things go swimmingly, because Harry gets a lemon ice cone and the rest of Dudley’s knickerbocker glory sundae. Harry sees a primate in the ape house that he laughingly thinks to himself looks like Dudley.

At the reptile house, Dudley and his friend Piers Polkiss poke at a boa constrictor’s cage. The snake seems to tell Harry that he wants to go home to South America. Before anyone — especially Harry — knows what has happened, the front of the cage has totally vanished, and the snake has gotten away! The distraught Dursleys comfort Dudley and rush home, locking Harry in his cupboard for the night.

until the Dursleys finally decide to give him a vacant bedroom jam packed with broken castoffs from Dudley

Harry’s world is this bad — a prisoner of unkind people…

…Until the letter arrives. It’s only one letter, but it’s addressed to Harry, who has never gotten any mail in his life. It’s from Hogwarts School, but Harry does not know that yet. Vernon takes it away, looks at it with Petunia, and they both gasp. It is immediately tossed out.

More and more letters arrive, showers of them delivered by owls. These birds of prey serve as the letter carriers in the wizard world. Letters come through the mail slot, the fireplace and inside of eggs! They won’t stop! Afraid that the wizards might hurt them, Vernon tells Harry to start living in a vacant bedroom jam packed with broken castoffs from Dudley. He bawls and protests, but his parents will not give in to him this time.

The letters pursue the Dursleys and Harry from their house, to a hotel, to a remote shack on a rocky point jutting out into the ocean. Late at night, midnight arrives. Harry sees the time on Uncle Vernon’s watch. It is 31 July, his 11th birthday, and no one remembered.

The door is pounded upon during the stormy night. Hagrid finally knocks it off its hinges and strides inside. He has finally reached Harry and the Dursleys at the hovel. He is a giant of a man, with bushy black hair and beard. Vernon tries to point a gun at him, but Hagrid simply bends the barrel and throws it into a corner. Hagrid is head gamekeeper and Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts. delivers the Hogwarts admission letter to Harry. He also tells Harry the truth about how his parents died and the terrible reign of Lord Voldemort. After Vernon shouts out that he won’t pay to have a “crackpot old fool” teach Harry “magic tricks,” Hagrid loses his temper and points his pink umbrella at Dudley. The boy yells out, and they look — he now has a pigtail growing out of his behind! (Later the Dursleys must take him to a private hospital to have it discreetly removed.) Hagrid, who was expelled from Hogwarts years ago for some reason, had his wand broken in half and still keeps it inside his umbrella.

After a hearty breakfast the next morning, Harry begins to discovers the “wizarding world,” with Hagrid as his guide. The Keeper of the Keys takes Harry to London and through the doors of the Leaky Cauldron, a pub few non-magical people ever notice. Before moving on, Harry’s hands are pumped, and he’s eagerly greeted by many witches and wizards who are well aware of his fame that he is only beginning to discover. Hagrid introduces him to a shaky, stuttering man named Quirrell, whom the big man says will be Harry’s Defense the Dark Arts professor come fall.

Hagrid goes into the courtyard behind the Leaky Cauldron and taps a certain brick in the courtyard wall. Instantly the bricks draw aside and reform into a tall archway leading into a hidden shopping district! This is Diagon Alley, the place in London where wizards do their shopping and business.

Harry first goes to Gringotts Wizarding Bank and withdraws money from the small fortune his parents left him. Gringotts is a very secure place, managed by clever, tough little goblins who also use dragons to guard wizard fortunes stored in vaults deep beneath London. A goblin named Griphook takes Harry and Hagrid on a crazy ride in a little cart along a track that is part of a network that leads to the vaults. Hagrid gets very sick in the speedy ride.

Harry shops for his school supplies in the alley. He buys a robe, books and cauldron with wizard money –bronze Knuts, silver Sickles and golden Galleons. Hagrid buys him a snowy owl named Hedwig for a birthday present. She will become a dependable, loyal pet. He also gives Harry his boarding ticket for the Hogwarts Express and lets him know to report to King’s Cross Station in London to catch the train on 1 September.

The biggest adventure is yet to come: attending Hogwarts, the United Kingdom’s private boarding school for young sorcerers, located in a secret place in Scotland.

In September, Harry gets the Dursleys to begrudgingly give him a ride to King’s Cross. He must find Platform 9 3/4, and he’s afraid to ask people about it. He feels odd and out of place, what with a trunk full of wizard supplies and a caged owl. At last he hears the phrase “…packed with Muggles…” and sees a mother and her large family of kids, all of whom have red hair.

Harry cannot believe his eyes when one of the students seems to vanish before his eyes by a wall. Then a second boy, and a third. He approaches their mother, who is Molly Weasley. She tells him not to be nervous and introduces him to her son Ron, who also is a Hogwarts first year. She tells him to go straight at the wall, which is really a magic portal to Platform 9 3/4. “Best to do it at a bit of run, if you’re nervous,” Mrs. Weasley adds.

Harry looks at the seemingly solid wall and makes his dash. Instead of crashing into masonry, he passes through and finds himself at a train platform in the sunlight. He’s made it. Before the Hogwarts Express leaves the station, Harry is the object of much attention, since he survived Voldemort’s attack. He unknowingly has been a celebrity among wizards since he was a tot.

He becomes further acquainted with Ron. He has a pet rat named Scabbers that he tries to turn yellow with an old, battered wand. Ron reports that just about everything he owns he inherited from his five older brothers because money is so tight in their household.

Harry also befriends Hermione Granger, a very smart girl whose parents are “Muggles,” or nonmagical people. She comes barging into their compartment, stating that she is helping Neville Longbottom look for his missing toad, Trevor. She also mentions that she’s excited to begin school and has already read most of her textbooks.

Neville Longbottom is a clumsy, shy boy from an all-wizard family whose own magical abilities appeared rather late in life.

On the Hogwarts Express, Harry again meets up with the snooty Draco Malfoy and his two bullying bodyguards, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. He rejects Draco’s offers of friendship and to help him not mix with riffraff, choosing to stay with Ron instead. This sets up an emnity with Draco that continues at least through the fourth book.

In a lighter note while riding the train, Harry also gets his first taste of wizard candies, such as Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, whose flavors include grass, dirt and boogers; Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum; and Chocolate Frogs, each of which comes with a collector’s card showing a famous witch or wizard. It is from these cards that he learns that the subjects in wizard photographs move around!

The Hogwarts Express pulls into the school’s station late at night. Hagrid ushers the first years to magically self-propelled boats to take them across Hogwarts Lake to the school castle. A ripple of water is the giant squid living in the depths. Hagrid also locates Trevor, the missing toad.

Professor and Assistant Headmistress Minerva McGonagall meets the first years in Hogwarts’ vast entrance hall. She lets them know that tonight they will be selected for the house in which they will spend their next seven years of study.

In the Great Hall, Harry studies the faculty sitting at their head table. He sees a glowing man with a hooked nose and long, black greasy hair talking to Quirrell, who is now wearing a silly purple turban. His scar begins to burn, which unnerves him. He asks Ron who the black-haired prof is, and is told that he is Severus Snape, professor of Potions.

After a sumptious feast in the Great Hall, Dumbledore makes a welcoming speech. Everyone sings the school song — out of tune and not in unison. Harry is very, very nervous, because Fred Weasley, one of Ron’s older twin brothers has told him he must pass a test in order to be selected for a Hogwarts house.

Hogwarts has four houses, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, named after the school’s original founders. The enchanted Sorting Hat, a garrulous, singing headgear, selects the house into which each child will enter. This is actually the “test” about which Fred teased Harry!

Student after student is summoned to a stool by Professor McGonagall. Hermione and Neville are sent to Gryffindor. Draco naturally joins Slytherin. The hat shouts out each house. Finally, “Potter, Harry.”

“Not Slytherin!” Harry thinks. The hat can read his mind and replies telepathically that he could do great things in Slytherin. Harry again says no, and the hat says, “Better … be … GRYFFINDOR!” Great cheers arise from the house’s table as he joins them.

Harry and his friends and foes quickly settle into school life: the monotonous History of Magic with Professor Binns; the intriguing world of plants in Herbology with Professor Sprout; astronomy withe Professor Sinistra; perfecting spells with Professor Flitwick in Charms. Binns is the school’s only ghost professor; he died one day while sleeping in the staff room, woke up and didn’t even know he was a spirit. Professor Quirrell is only a so-so Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor.

The harhest class is with Snape in Potions. The Gryffindor first years must attend Snape’s course with their Slytherin counterparts. Snape liberally takes away house points from Gryffindors and repeatedly belittles them while the Slytherins laugh.

Harry meets many friends and foes at Hogwarts. McGonagall is the head of his school house, Gryffindor, and the woman who gets him a slot on the team for Quidditch, a fast game played aloft on broomsticks. Harry’s talent is discovered by accident after Nevill falls off a broom in Madam Hooch’s flying class and drops his Remembrall, a device to help him stop forgetting. Draco flies off with it and throw it, and Harry makes a spectacular flight and save of the ball, catching McGonagall’s eye.

Harry becomes the youngest Seeker — the one who goes after the prized Golden Snitch ball — in the history of Hogwarts. Madam Hooch pushes him to improve his natural talent and learn to be the best Quidditch player — an area where Gryffindor team captain Oliver Wood also works with him.

Hagrid becomes a best friend, with whom he shares tea and the dilemma of a nippy baby Norwegian Ridgeback dragon named Norbert. He must be not be kept as a pet due to wizarding regulations and his danger to people. Harry and his friends help get Norbert delivered to Ron’s older brother, a dragon expert.

Harry’s two major foes are Professor Snape and Draco. Snape heads Slytherin House and resents Harry for his fame and is especially hard on him in Potions. Malfoy also mocks Harry’s fame when he is sorted into the rival Gryffindor.

The Hogwarts castle is haunted by friendly resident ghosts, and one each represents the four houses. Harry meets Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, or “Nearly Headless Nick.” Nick was beheaded, but the axe did not go all the way through his neck, so his ghostly head sometimes flops around. Nick and Harry also become good friends.

The worst ghost is Peeves the Poltergeist, an annoying little man dressed like a court jester who appears out of nowhere to sing mocking songs, tattle on students to caretaker Argus Filch, and sometimes throw things at people, such as walking sticks. Mrs. Norris, Filch’s big-eyed, scuffy cat, also is a pest who patrols the corridors and quickly lets the caretaker know if she’s found students sneaking around.

Outside of class, there’s Quidditch practice. It is a sport that combines elements of soccer, basketball and polo. It is played aloft, with all team members on broomsticks. There are seven players on each team. Three players called Chasers try to score in the three hoops at the end of each field with the Quaffle. The Seeker looks for the fastest ball, worth the most points, the winged Golden Snitch. Two Beaters protect the Chasers and Seeker from the attacking black balls called Bludgers and try to whack them back toward the opposing team members. The Keeper is like a goalie, flying back and forth and trying to keep the rival Chasers from scoring.

The topic that causes the biggest buzz in Hogwarts is a break-in at the wizard bank, Gringotts. Later Harry, Hermione and Ron learn that whoever tried get into Gringotts was looking for the Sorcerer’s Stone, a magical substance that makes the owner immortal, cures all ills and gives them enough power to rule over the world. The stone is eventually brought to Hogwarts, where it is surrounded by a series of traps and a nasty three-headed dog that Hagrid ironically has named “Fluffy”!

Harry, Ron and Hermione think that Professor Snape is the one trying to steal the stone. They become even more suspicious when Harry’s broom goes out of control at a Quidditch came, and he is nearly killed. Ron and Hermione spot Snape mumbling spells or other words under his breath, so Hermione goes over toward him and sneakily sets his robe on fire. She crashes into Quirrell, who also was nearby.

Halloween is very eventful. The best is Professor McGonagall quietly arranges for Harry to receive a Nimbus 2000, the top broomstick on the market. This will make him even better at Quidditch. However, the broom causes Ron and Hermione to stop speaking to each other, because she believes it is a reward for breaking rules during flying class. He believes it’s a great thing that will help Gryffindor be Quidditch champions.

The worst, though, is someone lets a mountain troll into the school – and Harry and his friends are the ones who discover it – in a girls’ bathroom! And Hermione is trapped in there with him. She went their to pout and cry after fighting with Ron. Through sheer bravery and luck with magic spells, they defeat the huge, stinky creature.

At Christmas Harry and Ron stay over at Hogwarts. They get hand-knit sweaters and pies from Mrs. Weasley, which is her annual tradition. Harry receives a most unusual gift, the Invisibility Cloak, which completely hides the one who wears it. The person who sent this gift is unknown.

With the Invisibility Cloak, Harry begins on occasion to explore Hogwarts’ corridors at night. He must dodge Peeves, Filch and the ever-vigilant Mrs. Norris.

Harry comes across a disused classroom containing a fancy looking glass. He becomes obsessed with this Mirror of Erised, a magic thing that shows the person their deepest wishes. He sees his mother, father and ancestors when he looks into it. He is compelled to come to it nightly to stare at his long-dead parents, until Dumbledore intervenes and explains its powers, to bring Harry back to his senses. Some people have starved to death before the Mirror of Erised after they could not tear themselves away from its imagery, Dumbledore tells Harry.

After the holidays, school resumes in earnest. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Draco are given detention for creating a fracas in Snape’s Potions class. Filch leads them to Hagrid, and laughingly tells them he hopees they don’t get killed that night.

Hagrid has them enter the Forbidden Forest to look for an injured unicorn. The students meet the thoughtful centaurs, Bane and Ronan, who want only to discuss the stars and signs in the skies. Centaurs, half man and half horse, are not much as conversationalists.

Harry is at one point paired with Draco and Hagrid’s huge, friendly dog, Fang, to find the horned horse. Something startles Draco, Harry and the dog. They watch in terror as some cloaked creature crawls over to the now dead unicorn and starts drinking its blood! Harry’s scar begins to burn. Draco and the dog run away. The creature notices him and starts to come toward him until something sounding like another horse comes running up and scares it off.

The rescuer is Firenze, a third centaur who is different from the others. He is outspoken and not shy about mentioning that some evil is lurking around Hogwarts. He takes Harry back to the other centaurs, who criticize him for letting a human get on his back and for getting involved with people’s problems. Firenze tells Harry that drinking unicorn blood helps restore life to people. The creature is doing this until it can get to the Sorcerer’s Stone and become immortal.


Because Dumbledore has gone to London, Harry, Ron and Hermione decide they must get to the Sorcerer’s Stone themselves to stop whoever is trying to steal it. The leading suspect is Snape. They use their combined knowledge to get to the stone. They first find Fluffy the three-headed brute, whom someone put to sleep with a harp. They use Hagrid’s flute to put him back in dreamland.

The second challenges is a choking, vining plant called the Devil’s Snare. With some urging by Ron, Hermione sets the plant on fire, which drops them.

The third challenge is a room full of flying keys. One of them will unlock a door on the other side of the room. The trio find some flying brooms and pursue the flying things. Harry, the great Seeker, quickly spots and grabs the proper key. He notices it has a broken wing. Their enemy has already caught it and used it to go toward the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The fourth challenge is a giant chessboard with life-sized pieces. Ron, an expert at wizard’s chess, directs a game with the three of them taking the place of other pieces. Ron sacrifices himself to the violent opposing queen. Harry gets through by placing her in a checkmate. He and Hermione continue.

The fifth challenge already has been eliminated. A large troll, even bigger than the mountain species they fought at Halloween, has been knocked out and left on the floor by their enemy.

The sixth challenge is a series of dangerous potions mixed in with benign ones. This is Snape’s trap. Hermione, the best Potions student, quickly solves a riddle poem and helps figure out which mixtures will protect them from fire that blocks the entrance and exits of the potions room. There is only enough potion for one person to leave the room, so Harry is the only one to face the foe looking for the Stone.

Harry gets to the room where the stone is hidden. The Mirror of Erised also is there. He finds not Snape, but Professor Quirrell! The little prof is not totally what he seems – the turban he was wearing conceals the real controller of his body, the weakened Voldemort.

Quirrell reveals that he was the one who let the mountain troll into the castle, tried to kill Harry in the Quidditch game, drank unicorn blood to sustain Voldemort, and tried to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. Hermione luckily stopped him when she ran into him at the Quidditch match. He confesses that he is now Lord Voldemort’s servant.

Quirrell stares at the Mirror of Erised to see if it reveals where the Sorcerer’s Stone is hidden. Harry stares at it too and wishes that he could locate it. The stone, hidden in the mirror by Dumbledore, materializes in his pocket.

Quirrell begins to argue with an unseen person. This second voice tells Quirrell that he wants to speak to Harry. Quirrell slowly unwraps his turban and turns around. The boy gets a real shock when he sees Voldemort’s face in a hole in the back of Quirrell’s head!

The Dark Lord has pale white skin and snake-like eyes with red irises. He tells Harry that without a physical body to live in, and unicorn blood to drink, he has no form. Voldemort at first invites Harry to join him and hand over the stone, but Harry refuses. This Dark Wizard commands Quirrell to strangle Harry, but his hands are severely burned. Harry has powers within him, passed to him by his mother’s great love, that protect him from attack. Harry keeps Quirrell from hitting him with a spell by putting his hand on Quirrell’s face. He passes out.

It is only through his courage in facing Voldemort’s magic and Dumbledore’s last-minute arrival that Harry avoids death and protects the Sorcerer’s Stone. When Harry awakes after his battle with Voldemort, he is in Hogwarts’ hospital wing. Dumbledore is there and told him he was badly injured, but is recovering. Quirrell is dead, and Voldemort is at large again.

Harry also finds out that the Invisiblity Cloak once belonged to his father, and Dumbledore sent it to him at Christmas.

Hagrid also visits Harry and gives him a photo album. He opens it up and sees the magical photos common to the wizarding world. In them are his parents, James and Lily, who smile and wave at him from every page.

At the final feast of the academic year, everyone thinks Slytherin has won the House Cup. Dumbledore gives Harry, Ron and Hermione receive special commendations for protecting the Sorcerer’s Stone, and even a few points for Neville Longbottom for bravery. Gryffindor house also beats out the other three to win the school championship and House Cup. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw cheer along with Gryffindor, because none of the houses like to see Slytherin win the cup!

After a very adventurous school year, Harry boards the Hogwarts Express in June to go back for a couple of dreary months with the Dursleys. Ron says that he must come and visit during the summer. He tells Ron that he’ll have a little fun, because the Dursleys do not know what he can and cannot do to them as a wizard.


Hi/Lo Books: Writing for Reluctant Readers

by Eugie Foster

As writers, we’re already sold on the premise that reading is fundamentally enriching as well as essential. However, reading is a skill that eludes a growing number of children, reluctant readers who have never been engrossed in a book, or who think of reading as a chore, work to do rather than something to enjoy. More school systems, teachers, and parents are realizing that they need to reach children who are not reading at their grade level as early as possible, when they’re still receptive to positive reading influences.

Demographically, reluctant readers are three times more likely to be boys than girls1. They also tend to have a narrower reading focus, subject matter-wise. When examining the problem of reluctant readers, researchers and teachers have determined that what makes a good reader is, simply, more time spent reading. That is, a child’s reading fluency increases as they have more opportunities to practice, especially when their practice meets with a high level of success2,3.

In response to the growing need for reading material to assist reluctant readers, a sub-genre has emerged: Hi/Lo books–high interest, low reading level (also “low vocabulary” or “low ability”). Aimed at children in the intermediate grades, middle through high school, these books are short, running from 400 to 1,200 words, with many illustrations. They are packaged to look like traditional chapter books so that struggling readers are not further stigmatized–especially important since struggling readers are probably already suffering self-esteem problems due to their reading difficulties.

Works for reluctant readers share many of the qualities that works for fluent readers do. They have strong characterization, featuring realistic protagonists that readers truly care about, with exciting storylines about interest topics. The best Hi/Lo books will appeal to both fluent readers as well as reluctant readers; the fluent readers will simply be able to get through them quicker.

However, Hi/Lo books must also provide supports that can assist the reading abilities of a struggling reader:

  • Characters, in addition to being compelling and three-dimensional, must also be immediately distinct from each other, all without relying on copious description or slower-paced character development. Writers don’t have the luxury of long, description-laden passages in Hi/Lo books or they risk losing their audience. A simple technique writers can use is to ensure that the names are visually dissimilar from each other.
  • Longer words and sentences and less commonly used vocabulary words increase reading difficulty level4,5. Harder vocabulary items should be introduced within contexts that make their meaning clear. Writers also need to make sure these vocabulary words are repeated in order to reinforce their acquisition.
  • Sentence structure should be short, simple, and clear. Authors should break longer sentences into multiple sentences, and use tight, concrete writing. Style needs to be consistent throughout, without the typical increases and decreases of reading complexity found in more traditional texts.
  • Plot and storyline presentation must be straightforward, without point of view switches or non-linear chronologic progressions. Flashbacks, plot twists, and red herrings should be avoided in order to better progress the reader swiftly through the story. Tight, fast pacing is essential.
  • Subject matter for Hi/Lo books must be geared to children’s, but particularly boys’ interests and should be something readers have an easy time becoming emotionally invested in. Readers must to be able to connect their own experiences to the text in order for it to resonate with them. Writers who wish to write material for reluctant readers need to be up-to-date on what kids at that age are interested in. Nonfiction is especially appealing to boys because it’s both easy to find titles that focus on a specific interest and the reader doesn’t need to read the entire text in order to obtain benefit. Some popular topics include funny situations, sports, disasters, teen conflict, family/friend problems, and street kids/gangs (rebellious boy saves the day). Genres include science fiction, mystery/spy, and adventure.

Some publishers of Hi/Lo books:

Capstone Press
Publishes material for grade 2-4 level reading ability students with content that appeals to grade 5 students and higher.
DK Readers
Publishes simple, richly illustrated texts aimed at reluctant readers.
High Interest Publishing
Publishes novels that are specifically written for reluctant readers ages 8 to 18.
High Noon books
Focuses on titles written at a grade 1-4 readability level.
Orca Book Publishers
Primarily publishes Hi/Lo fiction geared at interesting boys in middle school through high school.
Remedia Publications
Publishes texts used in the classroom with an emphasis on basic skills acquisition and repetition.
Whitecap Kids (Canada)
Publishes fiction and scientifically accurate nonfiction presented in an appealing and easy-to-read format for young readers.

More reading on reaching reluctant readers:

Kennedy, E. (n.d.). Resources for Reluctant Readers.
Rog, L. & Kropp, P. (2001). Hooking Struggling Readers: Using Books They Can and Want to Read. Reading Rockets.


  1. Kropp, P. (n.d.). The Boy Problem in Reading. High Interest Publishing: HIP Books.
  2. Allington, R. (2001). What really matters for struggling readers: Designing research-based programs. New York: Longman.
  3. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2002). Report of the National Reading Panel. Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks of Reading Instruction.
  4. Zakaluk, B and S. Samuels (eds). (1988) Readability: Its Past, Present and Future. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  5. Hiebert, E. (1999). Selecting texts for beginning reading instruction. CIERA Report #1-001. CIERA: The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan School of Education.

Copyright © 2006 Eugie Foster

Eugie Foster is a short-fiction writer specializing in genre and children’s literature. She has sold more than a dozen stories to the Cricket Magazine Group, including Spider, Cricket and Cicada, as well as to an assortment of other children’s magazines including Dragonfly Spirit and Story Station. She holds an M.A. in developmental psychology, has co-authored a textbook on child development, and is a frequent speaker at Dragon*Con’s Young Adult Literature Track. She is a member of the SFWA and managing editor of Tangent ( Foster maintains a list of children’s SF/F magazine markets at her website,