Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Stunning Book About Lives Wasted in War

After reading this book I cannot help but believe that no matter what President Obama thinks the goal or purpose of sending young men and women to die in the Middle East (I like Obama a lot, and I'm sure he believes he has good reason for sending them, but that doesn't make it right) is, these wars are not justifiable in terms of the young lives sacrificed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why We Do School Visits

For many reasons, not the least of which is a letter like this:

Dear Todd,

Thank you so much for your wonderful presentations at Derby last Wednesday. I've had terrific feedback from both teachers and students. The Writing Workshops were both practical and inspiring. Connie Chapin, our 6th grade English teacher (and Head of the English Department) was very impressed with how you related to the 6th graders at exactly the right level for them. The large presentations in Larson Hall were funny, informative and perfectly tailored to each of the groups you were addressing. I loved the way you mentioned books that you enjoy, written by other writers. I've had lots of requests from students, teachers and even a parent, for the titles that you mentioned.

Thanks again for a great visit! Your books are flying off theshelves--always the best sign that the visit was a huge success.

Best regards,Judy

Judy Simons
Coordinator of Library Services
Derby Academy
56 Burditt Ave., Hingham, MA 02043
781-749-0746 ext. 57

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Petra and Pia Come for a Visit

My German editor Petra and her husband Joe and daughter Pia are living in Boston this fall. Joe had to go back to Germany on business so Petra brought Pia down here for a visit. We’ve taken walks, talked about books, and yesterday went to New York to meet Anne C. Voorhoeve, another one of Petra’s authors who was on her way back to Germany from a reading tour in Canada.

Anne is the author of, among other books, Liverpool Street, a fictionalized account of the Kindertransport rescue mission of 1938, when about 1,000 mostly Jewish children were sent from Nazi Germany to Britain. Many of the children were placed in foster care, but not all. Some as young of 14 found themselves completely alone, and unable to speak English, in London. Liverpool Street will be published in English by Penguin in 2011.

Imagine what it must have been like to be the parents of these children, putting them on a train in Germany, knowing there was a very good possibility that they would never see them again. I can’t fathom how the parents could summon the strength to do it.

It is shameful now to think that senior American officials apparently knew what was happening in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and did nothing to prevent the slaughter. (See The Abandonment of the Jews by David S. Wyman)

Petra, Pia, Anne, and I went to Central Park where we saw the Zen giant bubble man.

Then we joined Lia for dinner in a very small and tightly packed restaurant where we had to chain Lia’s bike and Pia’s stroller to a grate outside.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WYWD is Featured in Barnes & Noble Mystery Month

He Will Be Giant (Someday)

Richie and I went to a blues harmonica blowout at BB King's where we saw and heard some of the giants of the blues world.

And one 8-year-old future giant who could really play!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An amazing story about a white goose

This is one of those amazing stories you feel the need to share even though it probably won’t mean much to anyone else.

For years, about once a week, I have gone out to Long Island, picked up my mother in Great Neck and driven her out to see her sister in Glen Cove. And for years, almost every time we passed the park between East Shore Road and Maple Street in Manhasset, we would see a flock of Canada geese on the grass with one pure white goose among them.

I know it may seem strange, but I came to look forward to seeing that goose. I often wondered if he (or she) thought he was also a Canada Goose. Or whether the other geese even noticed. But basically, I just liked to see it year after year and know that it was thriving.

But earlier this summer, disappoint struck. Week after week we would pass the park and not only was the white goose gone, but so were all the others. I wondered if the town had found a way to get rid of them. Recently some Canada geese have begun to return. But not the white goose. Had it died? I sadly wondered.

This morning I was speaking to my friend Glen. He was telling me that the other day he took a walk by himself at Greenwich Point in Greenwich, CT. He said he noticed a flock of Canada geese … with one white goose among them.

And then he told me he wondered whether that white goose thought it was a Canada goose.
Greenwich Point is about 12 miles north, across Long Island Sound, from Manhasset, as the crow (or should I say, goose?) flies.

This is an absolute true story. I’m not all that surprised that, upon seeing the white goose among the others, Glen thought the same thing I thought. But really, what are the chances that he would see the white goose at all? And what are the chances that, having seen it, he would bring it up on the phone with me?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wish You Were Dead ... The SLJ review

When a high school student announces on her blog that she hates Lucy Cunningham and wishes her dead, no one takes her seriously-until a few days later, when Lucy disappears. Madison Archer is particularly shaken by the disappearance, as she was the one who drove the missing girl home and was the last to see her that night. In addition to her guilt over not seeing Lucy safely to her door, Madison is also trying to uncover the identities of a cyber stalker who sends her Facebook messages lecturing her about her cliquishness and an anonymous "friend"who leaves her hastily scribbled warnings and pleas for help. When the blogger posts another name, a second student goes missing. And then a third. Madison needs to find her missing friends before it's too late-for them and for herself. The action proceeds at a smooth pace and hits all the right notes of a teen thriller: revenge-seeking outcasts, betrayal, mysterious strangers, and some violence and torture (though it is not graphically depicted). Characters are distinct; readers will be able to tell even the background characters apart... The social-networking technologies are blended seamlessly into the narrative. Strasser's... gripping plot will keep readers turning pages late into the night.-Brandy Danner, Wilmington Memorial Library, MA

Friday, September 18, 2009

Maisy Steals The Show

Made a quickie promo video for the Carlsen sales people and Maisy stole the show:

Thanks, Glen!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wish You Were Dead -- The Kirkus Review!

Carefully plotted, this suspenseful novel blends the traditional with new tech details to a successful end. Popular but kind Madison is the protagonist of what can be described as an almost archetypal teen thriller about a high-school clique being stalked (and, one by one, abducted) by an unknown villain. Interspersed throughout Madison's first-person narrative are blog postings by a bullied student at their school; each time she posts about a slight by one of her peers, that person mysteriously goes missing. Also peppered throughout are deliciously evil monologues from the perspective of the kidnapper that are both titillating and chilling ... An impressive number of red herrings will keep readers guessing right up to the satisfying conclusion.

(The reason for the ellipsis is that the reviewer added one teeny tiny utterly not relevent little ever-so-slightly critical note that this blog sees absolutely no logical reason to repeat ;-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wish U Were Dead in Germany

The German edition of Wish You Were Dead (with a U instead of You) won't be released until next June, but here's the cover.

Monday, August 31, 2009

News and Funny Stuff

In honor of the silly season, here's some funny stuff:

Late last week you came up with a joke and sent it to the Laugh Lines Blog at the New York Times, and low and behold, they included it:

Next, a few years ago you decided to write a country western song about your mother's driving for the funny NPR show, Car Talk. They played it on the show in October of 2006:

And some news:

Hot off the presses, the first hardcover copy of WISH YOU WERE DEAD

Have a great Labor Day Holiday!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Your BRIEF Career as a Male Model

Back in the day when you worked as a newspaper reporter they sometimes called summer “the silly season” because there was not always enough hard news to report. As a result, reporters sometimes came up with pretty silly stories to fill the news hole (On a broiling hot day you once convinced a kid to pose over an egg cracked on the pavement to see if it would actually cook).

The author, third from the left, wearing a haute foam insulated camoflague hunters outfit with matching hat.

So, in honor of the current silly season you will file this story to fill the blog hole.

Recently your children were sorting through some old clippings of yours when they came across some odd ones that appeared to be torn out of a catalogue and showed some men wearing hunting outfits. They wanted to know why were these among your clippings?

The answer goes back to late 1970s when you lived in New York City. A friend of a friend was a photographer who needed models for an apparel shoot. You went down to the photo studio to audition, and were, quite frankly, shocked when the photographer said he could use you.

Early one morning the following week, with fantasies in your head of huge photos of your fashionably dressed self plastered in magazines and on billboards everywhere, you boarded an RV with three other “models,” a stylist, the photographer, his assistant, and the RV driver. While feasting on bagels and donuts, the photographer explained what you would be modeling: hunting outfits for the JC Penny catalog.

And here you are modeling the lastest (circa 1979) in all-cotton camouflage chamoix shirt.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Book Covers

  • Morton Rhue's next book in Germany

  • If I Grow Up paperback (in the US)

Nighttime mass market

Sunday, August 2, 2009

First Review for WISH YOU WERE DEAD

The first review comes from the blog Live Life

Since the day I read Give a Boy a Gun, I’ve been a Todd Strasser fan. His writing is authentic and scary, sort of like that feeling you get when you are all alone and you think someone is watching you. You feel your hair standing up on your arms and little beads of sweat break out over your upper lip. “Is someone there? Hello?” His new novel, WISH YOU WERE DEAD keeps the chills coming.From the first chapter, Strasser’s YA thriller sets us up for more scares than a Halloween haunted house. We cautiously turn the page ahead to the next chapter, readying ourselves for another shock. He makes sure the evil keep popping out at us, giving us fright after fright. WISH YOU WERE DEAD features a blend of four narrations: an anonymous teen’s blog listing the kids she hates, a first person narrative by a nice girl named Madison from a wealthy community, a bit of omniscient narration, and strange ramblings from a possible psychopathic kidnapper. Strasser is able to pull off having this many different narrators through his talent as a writer and the use of font styles to indicate a change in narration.The main character, Madison, is losing her close friends, one by one, and is receiving strange emails and notes warning her of each impending disaster. To compound matters, she is attracted to the new guy in school, but is unsure whether he is involved in the disappearances or not. When Madison decides to take matters into her own hands, we cringe, knowing no good can come out of a choice like that. The pace is fast and the end is shocking. As I sat curled up in my chair at 1:00 am, wanting to finish it, I was wishing I had started it earlier in the day…it was so dark outside and only a thin screen separated me from the noise on the porch…Strasser’s WISH YOU WERE DEAD is published by Egmont USA and is due out late September 2008. Some language and violence, but nothing over the top for most teen readers. The themes of bullying, tolerance, and friendship are all ones to which students can relate. A perfect read for chill seekers…make plans to spend the wee hours of the night with this one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Here's what happens when a talented videographer/editor applies his craft. Great job, Jeff. Thanks!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why GIVE A BOY A GUN Should Probably Not Become a Movie

Ever since GIVE A BOY A GUN was published in 2001 there have been (very) informal discussions and questions about the possibility of it becoming a movie. In general you’ve been leery about the possibility (not that it’s really been seriously broached by anyone in Hollywood) because you’re afraid it may be taken as an example rather than a warning.

For some reason that you can’t quite explain, you believe a book about school shootings is less likely to inspire someone to shoot than a movie. There just seems to be something about these stories becoming a movie that leads to a greater sense of reality.

Even though GIVE A BOY A GUN was published in 2000, queries from students and aspiring screen writers have remained pretty steady, and the work has been adapted for the stage several times.

But recently, since the success of THE WAVE movie throughout Europe last year, suggestions about a movie version of GIVE A BOY A GUN have increased. The idea still makes you nervous. This recent article in the New York Times does little to alleviate your concerns:

A 17-year-old Manhattan man has been arrested in the May 25 bombing of a
Starbucks coffee shop on the Upper East Side, and the explosion appears to have
been modeled on a scene from the 1999 film “Fight Club,” the authorities said on

The predawn blast from an explosive device damaged a sidewalk bench and
shattered windows at the shop, at 1642 Third Avenue, at 92nd Street, but no one
was injured.

The teenager, Kyle Shore, of 250 West 27th Street in the Chelsea section of
Manhattan, was charged with arson, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal
mischief, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference. He had
bragged to friends that he was responsible for the bombing, Mr. Kelly said, and
had started an underground fight club modeled on the one in the 1999 film, which
starred Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

“His statements indicated he was launching his own Project Mayhem,” Mr. Kelly
said, referring to a plan in the movie, hatched by the protagonist of the film,
to sabotage corporations by destroying property. Mr. Shore had told a friend to
“watch the news on Memorial Day,” May 25, Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Shore was arrested near his home, and the authorities found on him a DVD of
“Fight Club” and a box of sparklers — a type of handheld firework — as well as a
newspaper clipping reporting on the Starbucks bombing.

The point being that before THE FIGHT CLUB was a movie, it was a book.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

4th of July. Richie's photos

My friends Richie and Paula came up for the 4th and Richie took these photos of the display in Larchmont Harbor. Please click on them to get the full size.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Raw Feed for Bootleg Books

You went down to Brooklyn last week to tape a segment for a show called Bootleg Books. You're not sure exactly where or when the show airs, but here's some raw footage.

In the future you will have to make sure you remember what your book is about before you are interviewed.

Mr. Bill says, "Moron."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Everchanging Family

"Hey, Mr. Bill!"


"Last week I went out to Long Island for my aunt’s art show. My mother and brother were there, too. I told them to go into The Family Changing Room. But when they came out the family was still the same."

"Do I know you?"

The Mystery Plant

Some years ago you went to the island of St. John with a friend. Together you snorkeled with hawkbill sea turtles, and hiked, and sailed. Early one morning you went bird-watching with a guide who pointed out a plant, the leaf of which, she said, would grow in air if you pinned it to a curtain in the sun.

You put a leaf from this plant in a zip lock bag and brought it home. Then you forgot about it. One day long after you and your friend said good-bye and you were feeling sad, you remembered the leaf. You took it out of the zip lock bag and put it in the sun.

Nothing happened.

After a while you decided to put it on some dirt and moisten it. Soon the mystery plant started to grow.

You showed the plant to your daughter, who had also been to St. John several times. You told her you thought it was called an air plant. She said she thought it was called a life tree.

The mystery plant/tree kept growing and you began to grow more mystery plant/trees from its leaves. On several occasions you tried to look up the mystery plant/tree on the Internet, but you were never able to figure out precisely what it was. The only thing you knew for sure was that it wasn’t The Toilet Tree that is so prominently featured in Is That A Dead Dog in Your Locker (ß plug).

Meanwhile the mystery plant/tree has continued to grow, and indeed, now it does look more like a mystery tree. You have several dozen of them. If anyone out there in the blogosphere knows what the mystery tree really is, you would like to hear from them.

Mr. Bill says, “Boring!”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why You Wrote Boot Camp

Some of the research for Can’t Get There From Here involved speaking to homeless teens on New York’s lower east side. During one interview, a young woman mentioned that she’d run away from home when her parents threatened to send her to a boot camp.

A short time later you read an article about “transporters,” professional kidnappers who parents hire to “grab” their children and “escort” them to boot camps. It sounded shockingly excessive, but you knew from your own experience that sometimes a young person can be so angry, rebellious, and out of control that it is impossible for a parent to force him or her into a car to take them somewhere they don’t want to go. And probably impossible to keep him or her in that car/plane/train long enough to get him or her there.

But there was another aspect of boot camps that you found equally disturbing – the idea that until a child reaches the age of 18 he or she has no legal right to prevent parents from sending him or her away.

You do believe that in the vast majority of cases, sending a child to a boot camp is an act of utter parental desperation. Parents do it because they absolutely believe that it is the only avenue left to prevent a child from self-destructing, either from drug use or some other unlawful and dangerous activity. You have heard a number of stories about young people whose lives were turned around for the better after being sent to a boot camp. But, as you point out in the book, you have also read about young people who have died in such camps.

Among the many problems with boot camps is that most are run on a for-profit basis. In other words, their purpose is dual-fold: 1) To save young people from themselves and 2) To make money for their owners. Like a hotel, a boot camp has a certain number of beds it needs to fill to make this money. And also like a hotel, it can’t make money by turning people away.

So who can really judge who should be sent to a boot camp and who shouldn’t? Should a young woman be sent away because she insists on making “an unacceptable choice of boyfriends”? Should a young man be sent because he refuses to accept his parents’ choice of religions?

One thing you discovered during your research: there are plenty of boot camps that would accept both.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


The clock is ticking on the dedication for WISH YOU WERE DEAD.

You had lots of fun at Book Expo America (BEA), the big book convention at the Jacob Javits Center in New York over the weekend, handing out your card and telling the recipients not to take it personally. But how can you dedicate this book to anyone without them taking it personally?

"I have good news and bad news! The good news is, I'm dedicating a book to you! The bad news is, the title is WISH YOU WERE DEAD. You won't take it personally, will you?"

You can imagine the dedicatee pulling the book out to show to a friend:

Dedicatee: "Can you believe he dedicated a book titled WISH YOU WERE DEAD to me?"

Friend: "Wow, he must really hate you."

Dedicatee: "True that."

Friend: "I'm glad he didn't dedicate that book to me."

Oh, well.

Wait! You just had an idea!!!!!!

(see below)

You'll dedicate it to Mr. Bill!

"Hardy har har!"