Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Merry Book Club Christmas!

This year our book club decided to take a holiday picture. Proudly showcased in the center? THE AVIARY! Its evergreen cover was a perfect match for our ensembles. The author is in brown antlers and a snowman turtleneck. A memento for the ages!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chilling Portraits of Early 20th Century Children

I'm putting together a presentation featuring my research on turn-of-the-century life for THE AVIARY. The little girl pictured here lived in Eastport, Maine (a fishing village and port of entry) around the time my fictional Clara Dooley lived in Lockhaven. Until I started poking around in search of images for my book, I hadn't heard of Hine. His photographs of working children are stunning, heartbreaking and shocking to our modern sensibilities. Russell Freedman has a beautiful book for kids on Hine titled: KIDS AT WORK: LEWIS HINE AND THE CRUSADE AGAINST CHILD LABOR. Highly recommended!

Monday, November 14, 2011

AVIARY article at Bangor Daily News

It's true, I've never been to Maine, but I've written a book with a Maine setting. My friend, Carla, who is a longtime Portland resident helped me with some of my story's logistics. I'm happy to say she's included in this article:
Check it out:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

THE AVIARY from a Pug's P.O.V

My writer friend, Linda Zinnen, has interviewed my pug, Max, asking him to give his two cents on the making of THE AVIARY. After all, it was on my walks with Max that I discovered that house in the neighborhood with the outdoor cage of tropical birds. He was in on the whole process--sleeping soundly beside me as I tapped out the story at the kitchen table. So I said, why not? He's almost eighty in dog years and has never yet been interviewed. See his take at: lindazinnen.com!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You want it? Baby, you've got it...

A word to the elderly: you know when you're stuck with one of those golden oldies in your head and it's driving you crazy? ("Love is a highway, I want to ride it all night long...") My bete noir awhile ago was the Young MC hit, "Bust a Move." They say you can get rid of these ear worms by listening to the song all the way through. So I try downloading it from itunes. Usually, I have no problem with this, but "Bust a Move" is particularly stubborn and I get nothing but error messages. So I keep clicking to download--errors again. I give up, but later when I'm back at my laptop, "Bust a Moves" download en masse to my itunes folder. Now I can listen to the song all day nonstop if I want to without putting it on a loop. Anyway, that was a couple weeks ago and I thought I was through "bustin'." Until one afternoon this weekend I open my laptop and BOOM! Another one downloads.

"You want it, you got it," indeed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wild Rose Bouquet for THE AVIARY from School Library Journal

"O’Dell weaves a tapestry of hauntingly gorgeous imagery with this atmospheric tale of suspense, magic, and adventure. Readers will be captivated from the first page on."


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Win a copy of THE AVIARY on Sunday, October 2nd

After a visit to Michael's craft store, I have constructed a display and raffle box with my own loving hands for the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come see it for yourself (ignore the glue marks) and enter! Free admission! Free parking! And at least one free book! 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. West Hollywood, CA

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bouquet from Booklist for THE AVIARY!

The Aviary.
O'Dell, Kathleen (Author)
"Five birds live in the old iron cage at the back of the Glendoveer rose garden, and 12-year-old Clara has
never felt friendly toward them until she befriends the smallest one and learns to communicate with it. As
a result, she comes to believe there is more than a passing chance that they aren’t really birds at all and are
somehow connected to the supposedly drowned Glendoveer children. O’Dell has crafted a terrific story
with just the right degree of horror for upper-middle-school children. The plot is well matched to the early
twentieth-century setting (the early film The Great Train Robbery is mentioned at one point) to help
distance readers from the macabre events while adding an atmospheric flavor perfectly suited to
adventures involving gloomy mansions and mysterious children."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

See me at The West Hollywood Book Fair, Oct. 2

I'm looking forward to meeting readers and signing books at the new West Hollywood Library on Sunday, October 2nd from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. I'll be holding a drawing for a spanking new copy of THE AVIARY, so come on by and try your luck!
West Hollywood Library & West Hollywood Park
647 N. San Vicente Blvd.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New! THE AVIARY Book Trailer

The fabulous Janis Olson of Olson Creative designed this trailer for my book. I love it! And THE AVIARY has a facebook page too. Please stop by and give it a "like!" http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Aviary-Childrens-Book/153297138088818

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Bouquet from Kirkus

Not an actual bouquet--better! A lovely review for THE AVIARY:
In the early years of the 20th century, a 40-year-old mystery in a dead magician’s crumbling mansion magically changes Clara Dooley’s life forever.
Eleven years old and barely allowed out of the house due to her “weak heart,” Clara and her mother live with ancient Mrs. Glendoveer. Mother nurses the widow and keeps the mansion in mostly working order with the help of cook Ruby. All of them tend the magician’s five surviving birds, of various species, that live in the backyard aviary. When Clara hears the mynah shout “Elliott,” she asks Mrs. Glendoveer who that might be, only to find it’s the name of Mrs. Glendoveer’s baby, who went missing decades before. When Mrs. Glendoveer dies shortly thereafter, Clara discovers that five other children vanished with Elliott; despite the impropriety, Clara begins to investigate with the help of Daphne, her new (and secret) friend from town. O’Dell jumps genres to great effect in this spooky, fantasy/mystery (Agnes Parker… Keeping Cool in Middle School, 2007, etc.). She evokes the period so well that (older) readers might suspect they’re reading a lost collaboration between E. Nesbit and Agatha Christie. O’Dell reveals the mystery and magic incrementally, even as Clara simultaneously discovers her autonomy. Readers seeking instant gratification might not stick it out, but they’ll be cheated out of an action-packed, page-turning finale.
An absorbing mix of talking birds, ghostly messages, kidnapped children, magic spells and tragic family secrets. (Historical fantasy. 9-12)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Aviary webpage and first review

Publication of THE AVIARY is hard on the horizon, and I'm doing that thing where I'm walking around with my shoulders hunched, waiting for the reviews. It's a defensive posture--as if someone might at any moment hurl a pie!

I can't be the only author out there who has that mixed feeling of anticipation and dread come publication. For this book, I'm feeling particularly tender. I lived in THE AVIARY's crumbling mansion for a long time, and the birds there are my dear friends. (Or at least it feels that way.) It has been hard to move on to other things, which is new for me. That's how attached I am to this book and its world.

I'm happy to report that my first reviewer, Publishers Weekly, did not throw a pie. No, this was definitely a lovely bouquet. They called it "a well-paced, high-tension mystery" that joins "a rich heritage of stories about children with a secret 'room of their own'.”

One thing, however: while this book will have readers recalling THE SECRET GARDEN, I must confess that I have never read it myself. I did attempt it one summer in fourth grade and couldn't get past the spelling of its English dialect with the missing aitches, etc. It was too difficult for me at the time, I suppose. The book that most influenced me in writing THE AVIARY was Joan Aiken's wonderfully chilling THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE. Now there's a read that will keep you up at night!

Anyway, go ahead check out the new page at kathleenodell.com!

Friday, June 24, 2011

My New American Girl Short Story

I had a lot of fun writing THE UN-SURPRISE PARTY for the latest issue of American Girl Magazine. But then again, I always have fun writing for them. It's a wonderful magazine for girls!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kathleen O'Dell Website Back in Business

Hey, everyone! I hope my new website helps answer readers' questions. I've hired a the Homework Fairy for those of you who are doing author assignments. Just click on her page, and voila! If you want to contact me for questions, please do. Just try to email rather than snail mail. By the time I get your mail via my publisher, you may be already graduating from high school. I try to answer all email promptly. Thanks...


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Polly Wants to be Alone

It took me over a year to figure out which animal (baby? woman-in-distress? rabid bobcat?) was shrieking to high heavens on our back street on late afternoons. As it turns out, we've got parrots--the brilliant Cherry Head kind--in the neighborhood. Despite their brilliant coloring, they can hide quite well in all the greenery we've got here. They have a noisy rivalry with the crows that can really get out of hand. When I spotted my first full flock, I was surprised at how awkwardly they fly. They are flappy and nervous. You can imagine them saying, "Whoa, gotta hurry up and get to the tree before we fall out of the sky!"

They're interesting to watch close up, and since I've written THE AVIARY, a book about mystical talking birds, I wanted to see how they interact. They are quite affectionate, actually. They groom each other and sit with heads resting on each other's shoulders. I love their bow-legged pirate walk. A few weeks ago, when they perched in a low-growing olive tree, I stood below them and said in my best Polly-want-a-cracker voice, "Hello? Hello?" A hunk of bark fell an narrowly missed me. I tried again. A branch grazed my nose! And then I saw the Cherry Head furiously biting on a tree limb for more ammunition. They were throwing stuff at me! I had to laugh.

Since these birds are offspring of former pets, I'm imagining they are rather proud of themselves having overthrown their keepers and are happy back out in the wild. We humans can just bug off.

Photo by Jef Poskanzer

Monday, January 31, 2011


I have a lot of light reflecting off the glossy paper, but you get the idea. It's spooky, isn't it? Hints at the mystery inside...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fun at Flintridge Bookstore this Sunday

I'm looking forward to meeting girls and their moms in La Canada Flintridge on Sunday. We authors will have a chance to chat, talk about our books and sign them, too. Last year the event was a great success, and I feel lucky to be an invitee for 2011.

Hope to see you there:
964 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada, CA
818 790-0717

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

THE AVIARY--Almost Complete

Just heard from Knopf today that THE AVIARY bound copy and jacket proof is in the mail. The aviary above is a pic culled from an antique store. I had the pleasure of checking out many cages and aviaries for the book. This one has a zinc tile roof and is very charming, I think (though the birds are stuffed. Yeeks!).

Will post a photo when I get the real thing. Can't hardly wait...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gingerbread Mandala

Every December, I make a gingerbread house. I scrounge for the oldest ingredients in the cupboard (since I know the thing will not be eaten) and make the dough. After the dough is mixed, it must be refrigerated. After that, I bake the parts of the house which must dry overnight before construction. The next day comes royal icing making and the laborious process of holding the parts together as they dry. The pastry bags spring leaks and we (my kid assistant and I) end up sticking to the kitchen floor when we walk. When the house is complete, we mount it on cardboard and make a candy garden. We are so pleased with ourselves when it is done that we don't mind scrubbing down our sugary kitchen!

Six weeks later, the tree has been taken down. Nothing of the holidays remains except a shedding poinsettia and the gingerbread house. It's so hard to let it go. So much work! And it has given us pleasure appropriate to the season. But now?

I thought about those sand mandalas made by Buddhist monks--the ones that can take years to complete--and how they blow the sand away as part of the ritual when the work is completed. We're both quiet as my kid assistant stands poised over the little house with a hammer. Miraculously, the house resists the first blow! (That's how old and hard it is.) She tries again, and voila! Down it goes, shattering into pieces. We both manage to laugh. It was actually kind of fun.

Time changes. We move on.