Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Shopping!

Compass Book Reviews gives THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE five stars and recommends it as one of its top picks for holiday gift giving. CHARLIE ANNE is one of eight novels the popular review site recommends for girls between the ages of 9-12.

“Charlie Anne is an amazing character with an incredible amount of spunk,” it says.

Here is the review: "Like many during the Great Depression, Charlie Anne's family is down on their luck. Author Kimberly Newton Fusco details this disheartened family's farm life in a beautifully poetic and touching manner. And while life initially seems full of heartache, an unexpected friendship brings much-needed sunshine into Charlie Anne's life.

Charlie Anne is an amazing character. She has an incredible amount of spunk and can't help but say exactly what she's thinking. Though she has her flaws, readers will cheer on her courageous spirit. The Wonder of Charlie Anne also tackles racial issues prevalant during the time period. These conflicts are presented from a child's perspective and show how love, friendship, and kindness can triumph. The Wonder of Charlie Anne is historical fiction for children at its finest!"

THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE also received a Parents' Choice Silver Medal, was named a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, was placed on the American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer List of strong empowering girls, and is a current Nutmeg Book Award Nominee in CT.
  For the Compass Book Reviews complete list of holiday recommendations, visit   Thank you, Compass Book Reviews!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mainely Girls!

I am pleased and honored that THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE is a new addition to the Mainely Girls Middle School Reading List.

Mainely Girls is a non-profit organization in the state of Maine that was founded with a two-part mission: to work with rural communities to assist them in focusing on girls’ needs in a positive, preventative, and proactive manner; and to work on the state level to bring about positive change for girls.

It addresses issues of girls in rural areas by helping communities identify the specific needs of girls and young women in their areas and, in response to those needs, organize programs to improve the environment in which their girls grow to maturity.

Since 1996, Mainely Girls has administered numerous programs to make good things happen for girls.  One thing it does is set up A Girl’s Point of View Book Clubs across the state.  The clubs provide an opportunity for girls of all levels and abilities to read the best contemporary fiction that focuses on issues many girls are facing today.

Teachers and librarians from other states might appreciate this list of 43 titles.  Each novel features strong girls.  The lists of suggested titles include major award winners and some of the most talented authors writing today.  They include Cynthia Voigt, Lois Lowry, Karen Cushman, and Maine's own Cynthia Lord.  I am delighted that TENDING TO GRACE is also included on the list!

There is also a 4th and 5th grade list and a high school reading list.

For more information, contact

Saturday, November 3, 2012

An English teacher's dream!

High School teacher Kristin Russo recently wrote that TENDING TO GRACE is an English teacher's dream.

A statement like that will certainly make an author sit up and listen. Why is that? I asked. Here's what she said:

"As a teacher of Grade 9 English, I am required to follow a course of study with my students that includes reading and exploring a wide array of literary classics, including works by Steinbeck, Poe, Harper Lee, Shakespeare, and Homer, just to name a very few. The overall theme that is meant to tie these diverse works together in the freshman curriculum is “Journeys.”

Through the lens of a metaphorical journey, we explore literature, or as we call it “words as art,” looking for inspiration and examples of courageous personal evolution and growth. I have found that there is no better way to begin this literary journey with my students than by reading Kimberly Newton Fusco’s TENDING TO GRACE.

Fusco’s prose reads like poetry and every page has numerous, rich examples of the figurative language I try to teach my students to decode. They are thrilled when they finally understand how to use literary techniques to better understand a character or to figure out what is going to happen next.

My students notice through a close look at the food imagery in TENDING TO GRACE that the main character, Cornelia, eats more healthful foods when she goes to live with her aunt Agatha, symbolizing that she is better nourished and cared for her in her new home, even if she insists she is unhappy at first.

By following Fusco’s use of the “sock” imagery throughout the text, students not only better understand Cornelia’s loneliness and her wish to belong to a pair, but they also predict the likelihood that Cornelia is “finally going to get what she wants” when they notice her new teacher is wearing Christmas socks. The students learn to notice what they once considered to be unimportant details in a text and use them to better understand the characters and their stories. They apply this close reading technique throughout the school year as they tackle other books on the reading list.

As we near the end of the book, my students start to ask me what we’re going to read next. When I tell them, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is next, they ask me what it is about. I tell them to open TENDING TO GRACE and Cornelia will tell them what it is about. Cornelia happens to be very well read, and it tweaks my students’ interest that a number of the books on our list are mentioned in TENDING TO GRACE. My students come to love Cornelia and want to understand her better. That means reading the books that she has read, and luckily, they find nearly all of them in our Grade 9 curriculum."

After finishing TENDING TO GRACE, Mrs. Russo's students took a break for Halloween and read, Poe's, THE RAVEN. "The students didn't get the allusion to the poem when Cornelia says, "Nevermore" in TENDING TO GRACE and refuses to go back to the struggling reader class.

My lesson on Poe and his crazy poem was much better received, I think, because Cornelia knows about it, so it made my students more curious too."

Thank you, Mrs. Russo.  I believe teachers can change lives.  I know my high school English teacher changed mine.

If you'd like to know what Mrs. Russo's students think of TENDING TO GRACE, see the previous post!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Turning to stone is hard work!

Kristin Russo, an English teacher and writer, reads TENDING TO GRACE to her high school classes each year. She says the novel is an English teacher's dream. This year she asked if her Scituate, RI, students could write to me and discuss the book.

I said, "Sure!"

Here's what they had to say:

From Ed: I found your figurative language to be rather extraordinary, and it really hooked me in. "Only God’s perfect” foreshadows that mistakes will be made in the future. I love the way you show instead of tell, it makes the book more flowing and rhythmic. Your writing is very smooth and just takes me for a ride.

From Robert: In the beginning of the book you said that Cornelia curls up into a ball and pushes her feelings back into her toes and turns to stone. I really got the impression that she was forcing herself not to say anything and to show no emotion, like a stone.

From Abbie: When you wrote “They’re dandelions. They’re sending off their seeds, becomin’ something new. This is a lucky day, Cornelia.” To me this symbolizes Cornelia becoming something new.

Alisha wrote: I love it when she talks metaphorically about turning into a shadow. I can see her doing that. "I am a shadow. I burrow deeper within myself and pray that if the other kids don't see me, they won't talk to me. I pretend I am the desk, the book, the floor, and we all expect less of me each day. I try not to lose myself, but the shame of always looking at my feet beats me deeper and deeper into the earth, planting me as surely as my mother planted tulip bulbs one summer, face down." I adore the detail. I can see a woman planting tulips face down. I can see a girl looking at her feet.

From Lindsay: Thank you for using the carrots to describe how Cornelia feels. It helped me to understand that Cornelia feels like her mom doesn’t want her anymore. Cornelia is all upset when Agatha pulls the baby carrots out of the ground and throws them to the side. Then Cornelia sits there and replants them, hoping they will grow.

From Troy: I love how you used the metaphor, “Turning to stone is hard work.” That really shows me how Cornelia is acting to her family, and it helped me understand more about her mom. Also, Cornelia’s sock collection is really the only thing that Cornelia has. She has purple socks, Christmas socks, wool socks, and homemade socks. Every sock you could imagine...but with one sock missing, the pair is worthless. It's the same with family....

From Sydney: I LOVED how Agatha was planting the carrots and she had a pile of the throwaway carrots and Cornelia said, "I look at her throwaways and see myself." I thought that was super-creative and hinted about how Cornelia feels about her mom just dumping her.

And Gabby agreed: “I really like the way you used Cornelia ripping all the baby carrots out of the ground and she puts them all in a big pile and calls them the throwaways because that's what she feels like. We know Cornelia feels like this because her mom and her boyfriend just drop her off at her aunt's house, who she's never even met ...

From Taylor: Your use of figurative language helped me understand how Cornelia and Agatha's thoughts, feelings, and emotions change and/or stay the same throughout the book.

From Alexandria: “This is my old girl Esther,” is about Agatha's outhouse. I think you are trying to show that Agatha is a very lonesome person and she names non-human objects to make it seem like she has other people or company around her.

From Andrew: "A house with clapboards looser than old skin" foreshadows that Agatha's house is a dump.

From Jessica: I want to know if Cornelia ever becomes more comfortable with herself and if she is able to believe that other people are there for her. My honest opinion is that if she can't accept herself, she’ll never believe anyone else can.

From Maria: The way you describe Cornelia's life had such on impact on me. It feels as if Cornelia is a real girl stuck living a life like this. What I never expected was that a teacher would tell her that she should be in an honor's class.

Several students discussed the turning to stone metaphor, including Brendan, Ryan, and Andrew. Shea said that the stone metaphor helped show what Cornelia has to do in order to keep her anger inside. "This shows that Cornelia doesn't want the attention that she could be getting ..." Caitlyn said, "The way you use figurative language and imagery to describe the characters is why I find this book so interesting." Holly said, "The style of writing in this book is very enrapturing, it keeps me wondering what will happen next."

Jamie liked the part where Cornelia doesn't like Yodels: "That really showed that her taste buds had grown up, and that she had grown up a little quickly." Jenna liked the way the barn was described with "the dry smell of crushed hay." Kyra said that when Cornelia asks Agatha, “Why d-d-d-don't we leave them where they are?” it helped her to see that you can point something out to your audience, without directly telling them.

Hannah said: While I was reading the book I really wanted to know that Cornelia would be okay and that she would go to Vegas and have a wonderful life. I held onto that. Then I realized that Agatha and Cornelia can probably fix each other.

And boy did I love what Robert had to say: "I can already tell that this is going to be a great book that will somehow change the way I look at things."

Tomorrow I will blog about what it is like to teach TENDING TO GRACE, from their teacher's perspective.

Thanks everybody!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where's Papa going with that ax? .

     When I was a reporter at the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette for many years, I kept three books on my desk.  One was the Associated Press Stylebook, one was Strunk & White's Elements of Style and one was Charlotte's Web.
     The first two might be  pretty obvious for a reporter who loved to write, but the third?  My reporter friends might say it was because I was an education writer and couldn't keep myself away from children and schools and libraries and books.
     But the real reason was that the writing was so beautiful.  When I needed to be inspired, I would pick up the novel and read paragraphs like this:

"The barn was pleasantly warm in winter when the animals spent most of their time indoors, and it was pleasantly cool in summer when the big doors stood wide open to the breeze.  The barn had stalls on the main floor for the work horses, tie-ups on the main floor for the cows, a sheepfold down below for the sheep, a pigpen down below for Wilbur, and it was full of all sorts of things that you find in barns:  ladders, grindstones, pitch forks, monkey wrenches, scythes, lawn mowers, snow shovels, ax handles, milk pails, water buckets, empty grain sacks, and rusty rat traps. It was the kind of barn that swallows like to build their nests in. It was the kind of barn that children liked to play in.  And the whole thing was owned by Fern's uncle, Mr. Homer L. Zuckerman."

Don't you feel as if you are in that big beautiful barn?  I know I do.

One thing that made White's writing so wonderful is he loved specifics.  And he loved lists:  "Templeton kept out of sight.  In the tall grass behind the cattle barn he found a folded newspaper.  Inside it were leftovers from somebody's lunch:  a deviled ham sandwich, a piece of Swiss cheese, part of a hard-boiled egg, and the core of a wormy apple.  The rat crawled in and ate everything.  Then he tore a word out of the paper, rolled it up and started back to Wilbur's pen."   

I was delighted to discover this book a while back at one of my favorite bookstores:

I think it is a goldmine for writers, because it lets us look over the shoulder of White as he worked his way through eight drafts of this amazing novel.  It shows how "specificity is one of White's primary criteria for good writing."

Everything White writes is active; there are no wasted words. 

I love this: "Artfully, White makes us feel the seemingly interminable rain as he begins four successive sentences identically - 'Rain fell...' - and then resolves the paragraph with a lovely, loose, sinuous sentence that winds its way as do the tired sheep."

"The next day was rainy and dark.  Rain fell on the roof of the barn and dripped steadily from the eaves.  Rain fell in the barnyard and ran in crooked courses down into the lane where thistles and pigweed grew.  Rain spattered against Mrs. Zuckerman's kitchen windows and came gushing out of the downspouts.  Rain fell on the backs of the sheep as they grazed in the meadow.  When the sheep tired of standing in the rain, they walked slowly up the lane and into the fold."

And of course Charlotte's Web has one of the best first and last lines ever:

"Where's Papa going with that ax?"


"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both."

When I am reading the Annotated Charlotte's Web, I feel as if I am taking a writing class from a master.  As The New York Times said in its review, "This book should be required reading for anyone who might still believe that it is easy to write for children."


(Written with the help of my daughter, Laura.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

"The Amazing Instances of Grace"

A wonderful women's book group in Port Washington, Long Island, read TENDING TO GRACE recently and discussed how "the amazing instances of grace in the novel made it a truly spiritual reading experience."

Thank you!  What a fantastic review.  For those of you who haven't read the novel, TENDING TO GRACE received the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award for its empathetic portrayal of a young girl who stutters.  It is a novel that centers around the redemptive power of love.

I live in Rhode Island and wasn't able to attend, but one of the members, Karen Vetrone, herself a writer, kindly sent me highlights of the discussion.  These were moments the women thought were important to the book:

- The unfolding of Agatha and of Cornelia.
- The examples of the broken healing the broken.
-The amazing insight on the part of Agatha exemplified by her building the tee pee.
-The wonderful similes and metaphors, and the breathtaking descriptions of natural beauty.
- The almost visible melting of the stone inside Cornelia ...and of Agatha.
-How her name was so difficult for Cornelia to say… literally and emotionally.
-The wonderful nickname for the librarian.
-The amazing growth in Cornelia and her movement from rage to forgiveness of her mother.
-The clear painful description of the effects of abandonment. The damaged hearts in Agatha and Cornelia.
-The strength of the young girl Bo, and her ability to respond to Cornelia.

The women made sure food was as important to their sharing as it was in the book. One member brought in sassafras that she found growing in her back yard which used to be a horse pasture. Karen made lemon pound cake and orange cake, inspired by the story.

One woman brought cookies and a note which read, “Dear Karen, …I want to especially thank you for recommending the book. I hope I can tend to the graces in my own life and in my own self. I believe it is through our brokenness and the brokenness of others that we reach true compassion.”

Karen was also kind enough to share the questions she prepared for the discussion.  Here they are:

Questions for Discussion of Tending to Grace

1. “We enjoy most the people who touch our hearts.” Who in this book touched your heart?

2. There are many types of relationships in the book. Some are healthy, others are not. Which did you find most interesting? Why?

3. Stuttering is the most obvious example of a disability in this book. What others
did you observe?

4. What is the role of friendship and how does it play out?

5. Discuss the title… does it have other than the obvious meaning?

6. How is Cornelia "caught in that lonely place between what I want
to say and what I can’t?”

7. Why does Cornelia miss and resent her mother? Is her mother believable? Why or why not? Why does her mother not make everything “all better” for Cornelia at the end?

8. Why won't Agatha speak for Cornelia?
9. What is the significance of cleaning for Cornelia? How does she see herself as a “fixer?”

10. What role does the tee pee play in the novel? Why does Cornelia need to be alone when things are really bad?
11. What is the importance of the cocoon and butterfly images in the novel?

12. What other metaphors and/or similes did you find especially meaningful?

13. What is Agatha hiding and how does this impact the novel?

14 “An experience of God is difficult to express in words, but our lives become the expression of that experience.” Is this reflected in the novel?

15. Why are books and reading and literacy important to both Cornelia and Agatha?

16. What books were important to you as a young adult?

17. Would you have liked this book?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


This is the cover for BEHOLDING BEE, which will be in bookstores in February.

Inside the front flap, the copy will read:

"Bee is an orphan who lives with a carnival and sleeps in the back of a tractor trailer. Every day she endures taunts for the birthmark on her face, though she prefers to think of it as a precious diamond.

Then one day a scruffy dog shows up, as unwanted as she, and Bee realizes she must find a home for them both. Soon she discovers a cozy house with gingerbread trim that reminds her of frosting. There two mysterious women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter, take her in. They clothe her, though their clothes are oddly out of date. They feed her, though there is nothing in the house to eat. And, strangest of all, only Bee seems able to see them. Whoever these women are, they matter. They matter to Bee. And they are helping Bee realize that she, too, matters to the world. If only she will let herself be a part of it.

This tender novel from an acclaimed writer beautifully captures the pain of isolation and the healing power of community."

I am proofing final edits this month, and am getting more and more excited to welcome BEE into the world!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Writing Workshops


Kimberly Newton Fusco 

As a children’s author, I enjoy meeting young people and sharing my passion for writing. I love to watch the faces of students who realize that when we write from the deepest places within ourselves we become very powerful writers.  My role is to encourage, and I do that with great enthusiasm!

I offer hands-on, practical writing strategies that directly support school curricula and standardized writing assessments.  My workshops are creative and inspiring and consistently receive high praise from teachers and students.


Since I write for middle grade and young adult audiences, I am able to present a range of programs to fit many curriculum needs and grade levels.  I also speak with teachers and give writing workshops to adults.



DIGGING FOR GOLD - A writing workshop on inspiration and the creative process, with free-writing, imagery, metaphor, and figurative language.  Students learn to shut down their inner-editor so they can write deeply and poetically.  Students “show” without “telling,” and are often surprised at how much their writing improves when they write from a place deep within themselves.  With group sharing and revision. All ages.

CREATING CHARACTERS THAT LEAP OFF THE PAGE – Great characters don’t just happen, they are planned. What makes a strong character?  What’s the difference between a boring character and an awesome character?  How do you create main characters who are worthy of their starring role, and villains who have some depth and a little bit of goodness to them as well?  Remember, most people aren’t ALL good or ALL bad.  This workshop will focus on creating characters that sizzle. Includes handouts. All ages.

READY FOR A RIDE?  - A rollercoaster is a great way to picture how to plot a novel.  In this workshop we plan the Beginning (What kind of rollercoaster are we riding?), the Exciting Event (Getting on the Rollercoaster), Rising Action (Climbing the Big Hill) the Top of the Rollercoaster (the Climax), the Falling Action (Speeding Down the Tracks), and the Ending (Getting Off the Rollercoaster).  This workshop (requires a  2-hour presentation) is a fiction planning workshop and when the day is over, students will be ready to begin writing a short story or novel on their own.  Includes handouts.  Grades 4 and up.

ONE AUTHOR’S LIFE – I have written three successful novels and love to talk about how I dreamed up each one.  I talk about where ideas come from, how I plot and plan a novel, how I created characters that would resonate with readers, and how I kept writing when the writing got tough. Students are often surprised how much rewriting is involved in the writing process. This is also a workshop on having a dream and the persistence and discipline necessary to stay on course.  All ages.

A WRITER ON THE SIX TRAITS OF WRITING – Professional writers use the Six Traits of Writing that teachers are teaching nationwide because they work: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.  An author might call coming up with “ideas” day-dreaming and “organization” might be a plot or scene sketch.  An author might check for “sentence fluency” and be thinking, where is the poetry in this line?  An author usually calls “conventions” editing or the final draft.  But the truth is, we use these traits every day.   Find out how an author incorporates these traits into the writing life.  Includes handouts and writing/revising time. All ages.

Additional Information

- I give up to two presentations per school visit, plus a book signing if desired.  Each presentation runs 45 minutes to one hour. (An alternative would be a two-hour workshop for 25 students, such as is required for the READY FOR A RIDE? workshop.)

- Each presentation should include no more than 25 students, and should be offered in a classroom or similar small space.

- Teachers interested in a book-signing may order my books through Random House at

- I am also available to speak to larger audiences, assemblies, conferences and literature festivals. To make those arrangements, please contact Lisa McClatchy, Author Appearance Coordinator, Random House Children’s Books.

- I have many teachers/librarians who will provide references. Please ask.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month, and The Children's Book Review wrote that THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE is a book that begs to be read and discussed!

Here's the review:

"Filled with memorable moments and a winning cast of characters, Fusco’s story, set during the Great Depression, is sure to tug at the heartstrings of all who read it. Bringing topics such as the Depression and segregation to life for young readers, this is a beautifully moving story about a spunky young heroine and her determination to overcome the hardships that life has given her.

A story begging to be shared and discussed, Kimberly Newton Fusco’s lyrical novel is the perfect selection for book clubs everywhere, and is the summer read kids will want to get their hands on before returning to school.

In a starred review, KIRKUS REVIEWS said “good humor, kindness, and courage triumph in this warm, richly nuanced novel that cheers the heart like a song sweetly sung.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Nutmeg Nominee

THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE has been nominated for Connecticut's 2013 Nutmeg Book Award!

It is very exciting to be nominated because students across the state of Connecticut read the nominees and then cast their votes for a winner. CHARLIE ANNE joins nine other books in the intermediate category. All will be displayed at public libraries, school libraries and book stores throughout Connecticut.

The Nutmeg Book Award encourages children in Grades 4 to 8 to read quality literature. Jointly sponsored by the Connecticut Library Association (CLA) and the Connecticut Association of School Librarians (CASL), the Nutmeg Committee is comprised of children's librarians and school library media specialists.

Here's what the committee has to say about THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE:

"Charlie Anne’s father leaves Massachusetts to find work during the Depression, leaving his family with their miserable cousin Mirabel and a farm full of chores. When another girl moves in next door, Charlie Anne is thrilled, but some townspeople don’t feel the same way. Can Charlie Anne and Phoebe help their town overcome prejudice? "

Congratulations to my fellow nominees:

Baseball Great
by Tim Green

Because of Mr. Terupt
by Rob Buyea

Born to Fly
by Michael Ferrari

The Mostly True Adventures of
Homer P. Figg
by Rodman Philbrick

My Life As a Book
by Janet Tashjian

The Potato Chip Puzzles
by Eric Berlin

by Matthew Cody

A Tale Dark & Grimm
by Adam Gidwitz

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Little Gushing

I loved this review from MUSINGS FROM A MODERN BLUESTOCKING: Book reviews and random ramblings about literary and historical matters:


"Charlie Anne is growing up during the Depression in a small farming community in Massachusetts. She has lost her mother and now her father and older brother have left to go build roads up North.

Charlie Anne and her siblings are left on the farm in care of her mother's bossy cousin Mirabel who is determined to teach the children manners, especially Charlie Anne. She doesn't give the children any time for fun - only chores and more chores, most of which go to Charlie Anne.

Whenever she can slip away, Charlie Anne heads to the hill overlooking the river to have a conversation with her mother who is buried there. She pours out her feelings on the tough times and her mother responds with kindness and sympathy, teaching Charlie Anne how to be deal with tough times.

When the neighbor, Mr. Jolly, remarries, his wife brings along color and kindness, along with her adopted daughter Phoebe, who happens to be "colored." Charlie Anne quickly finds a close friend in Phoebe. Rosalyn and Phoebe also help Charlie Ann gain the confidence she needs to learn how to read. Together, Charlie Anne, Phoebe and Rosalyn confront racism and classism in their small farming community.

I can't gush enough about this book. The writing is beautiful though the sentence structure is simple... I thought the book was set in the South but the cataloging information says it's set in Massachusetts, which makes it very different from most of the northern-set Depression era kids books. The plot is interesting and engaging though you wouldn't think so because it doesn't have any grand action or adventure. I couldn't put it down.

It teaches important life lessons a non-moralizing hit-you-over-the-head way. This is one of those MUST READS for everyone ages 10+. Some elements may be too harsh for younger children but it would make a good book to read to a 4th grade class. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time!"

For more great reviews, visit: