Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Books Chosen for Der Leserpreis

Der Leserpreis is one of the largest audience book awards in the German-speaking area. This year Wish U Were Dead has been nominated in the young adult category and Fame Junkies in the audiobook category.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wish You Were Dead Named to Tayshas Reading List

The Tayshas list is produced by the Texas Library Association. The books on it are recommended for reading by Texas teens. But unlike the other state nominations, I don't think they vote on their favorite.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wyoming Update

Drove down to Wright this morning to visit the junior high there. Passing endless miles of yellow prairie grass, a herd of grazing bison, and an enormous coal strip mine. Some teachers and students here come from so far away that they board in housing built beside the school all week and go home on the weekends.

Later, back at the Gillette public library, I couldn't help noticing some of the more Wyoming-centric titles: Good Snakekeeping, Understanding Lameness (in horses), and Cost Effective Welding.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Week in Gillette Wyoming

I'm spending the week in the clean coal capital, speaking in schools. Yesterday my hosts Sue and Cliff were kind enough to drive me out to the Black Hills to visit Devil's Tower (Sorry it's sideways. I'm the tiny red dot at the bottom.)

Here in northeast Wyoming it's rolling hills, sagebrush and cattle grazing land for as far as the eye can see, mile-long coal trains, pick up trucks, and lots of sky. Devil's Tower is massive. 1,280 feet high (The Empire State Building is 1,250). An extraordinary-looking monolith (figuring significantly in Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

The school kids are fun and funny. Some camoflage clothing, but lots of hoodies, torn jeans, and sneakers, too. Today the girls were telling me how they ride their horses up to the drive-thru window at McDonald's.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If I Grow Up Now In 4th Hardcover Edition

The paperback has been out for quite some time, so it's gratifying to see that the hardcover is still selling.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Boot Camp Nominated for Virginia Young Readers Award

It's basically the same idea as the other state awards. Students will choose their favorite from a list of about ten recently published books. In addition to Virginia, Boot Camp has been nominated in Illinois, Georgia, and Iowa.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

If I Grow Up Nominated For Gateway Readers Award

The winner of the annual Gateway Readers Award is selected by Missouri students in grades nine through twelve. If I Grow Up has also been nominated for readers awards in North Carolina and Kentucky.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wish You Were Dead Nominated for the Sakura Medal

The Sakura Medal program brings together students from 17 international schools across Japan each year to vote for their favorite books.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Review for Blood on My Hands

From Booklist:

On the first page, Katherine lies dead at Callie's feet. What follows is a Fugitive-like mystery with plenty of disguises, double crosses, and red herrings; a race against time; and enough love triangles to do a daytime soap proud. Callie knows she didn’t kill Katherine and is determined to find out who did before the authorities find her. Although Katherine was much loved and much reviled, who could have hated her enough to kill her? And who hated Callie enough to frame her for it? Assisted in her getaway and hiding by Slade, the steadfast boyfriend Katherine forced Callie to dump while he was away at basic training, Callie works all the leads she can find. Although the final resolution may feel like a bit of a “gotcha,” this is a rare teen thriller with an actual mystery that is as quickly paced as it is heart wrenching.

— Heather Booth

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blood on My Hands


In the dark woods behind the baseball dugout, I'm kneeling next to Katherine's body, my emotions reeling crazily at the sight on the ground before me. Katherine is lying on her side, curled up, as if she was cowering from whoever attacked her. Her body is still warm, but there's no pulse. And that means she's dead. Dead! I can't believe this is happening, that I've just touched a dead person, someone I know, someone my own age.

Someone... who's just been murdered.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bible ... According to Common Sense Media

Of the many thousands of books reviewed by CSM, I guess it should come as no surprise that The Bible seems to have been overlooked. So I thought I'd provide some insight as to why.

Let's look at this line from the Book of Genesis:

"And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived."

According to CSM's system of icons this line would undoubtedly earn one big #! for "more extreme swearing suggested by substitutions."

I could continue giving out numerous bombs for violence, lips for sex, #! for [suggested] language, and martini glasses for drinking, but it is not my intention antagonize anyone who happens to read this blog (unless they work for CSM). Rather I am simply trying to point out the absurdity of reducing literature to a system of icons based on random sentences taken out of context, and on the subjective interpretations of amateur reviewers.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Letter to Common Sense Media


Ms. Elizabeth Perle Editor in Chief Common Sense Media 650 Townsend Suite 375 San Francisco, CA 94103

Dear Ms. Perle,

It has come to my attention that a reviewer for your company, Common Sense Media, gave my book Give A Boy A Gun a three #! rating for "mild to moderate [language] with more extreme swearing suggested by substitutions.”

I was not aware that I had used substitutions to suggest more extreme swearing, and am greatly concerned by it. Would it be possible for you to contact this reviewer to find out where in my book she felt these substitutions were used, and which extreme swears she felt I meant to use, so that I can avoid using such substitutions in the future?

I look forward to your reply.


Todd Strasser

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wish You Were Dead ... Now Available in Paperback

The trade edition of WYWD has just been released.

Also, the Humble, TX TLF has been cancelled (see last two posts). I'm sorry about that, as I was eager to go down there and point out that I'm pretty sure the United States Constitution was not meant to be a menu from which we could pick and choose the rights we wished to embrace while ignoring the others.

So if people want to enjoy the right to bear arms thanks to the 2nd Amendment, I think it's only right that they should respect the 1st Amendment as well.

Also, as I heard from a newspaper reporter from Humble, some people claim that Ellen Hopkin's 1 st Amendment rights were not violated because her books are still on the shelves, but I have to disagree. She was invited to speak at the TLF, then disinvited specifically because of the content in her books. To me that's a clear violation of her freedom of speech.

Finally, as I told the reporter, my biggest worry now is that next year, just to play it safe, the TLF will feature Pat the Bunny, and similar milquetoast.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Censorship For Fun and Profit

By way of Pat Scales comes news that Give A Boy A Gun has been rated by a company calling itself Common Sense Media, whose slogan could easily be "Why waste your time censoring when we can do it for you?"

For a fee CSM will come to your home or library and "rate" your books, letting you know which you can keep out when company comes, which you should hide, and which you should immediately use for roasting marshmallows.


Okay, they don't really do that because it would require leaving the cave.


But their service does extend beyond those who do not wish to read books themselves -- to those who have never quite mastered literacy in the first place.

By using a highly sophisticated system of icons (bombs for violence, lips for sex, #! for language, and martini glasses for drinking, drugs, and smoking) CSM makes it possible for even the illiterate to find out just how "juicy" those darn books are.

I was particularly interested in the three #! rating given to Give A Boy A Gun for "mild to moderate [language] with more extreme swearing suggested by substitutions."

Apparently, one no longer even has to use "extreme swearing" (whatever that is) to be subjected to censorship. You only have to use words that "suggest" it.

For instance, if a fly comes in the house and I say, "Get the fly out," the clairvoyant raters at CSM would assume that I'm really suggesting the use of "extreme swearing," right?

The job description at CSM might read something like this: "Applicants must be telepathic and have dirty minds."

Since I myself was not aware that I was suggesting the "extreme swearing" they say I used "substitutions" for, I've decided to write to the company to find out:

Dear Common Sense Media,

It has come to my attention that your company has decided that in my book Give A Boy A Gun I used substitutions to suggest extreme swearing. I hope that, at your convenience, you will send me the list of extreme swears that you felt I meant to use, so that I may endeavour to familiarize myself with them for future inclusion in my works.


Todd Strasser

PS. I'm also curious to know just how vast is the range between mild and moderate?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Freedom of Speech

Despite our country’s current travails, I think most of us would agree that the United States continues to be the best place in the world to live. Surely one of the reasons for this can be found in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives us the freedom to express ourselves without fear of repercussion.

Recently this has become an issue in Humble, Texas where I, and a number of other writers, have been invited to appear at the Teen Literary Festival in January. One of the writers, Ellen Hopkins, was invited, and then “disinvited” by a school superintendent after a librarian and some parents expressed concern about her books.

Ellen is a New York Times bestselling author, a National Book Award nominee, and winner of numerous other awards. Her book Crank is about the dangers of methamphetamine. Earlier this year I read Methland by Nick Reding and was reminded that meth is a life- and family-destroying drug that has ravaged entire towns in the Midwest. Both books present important anti-drug messages, especially for teens since they are probably among the most likely to try the drug.

It’s not hard to guess why some parents in Humble might be uncomfortable with Ellen’s books, but they always have the option of not allowing their children to attend the festival. It is more difficult to understand why a librarian, of all people, would side with them. And it is rather remarkable that a school superintendent – someone who actually oversees the teaching of the United States Constitution in schools – would go so far as to “disinvite” an author.

A number of the invited authors, including Pete Hautman, who wrote the wonderful book godless, which did indeed win the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, have decided to protest the Humble TFL’s action by boycotting the festival. But after considerable thought on the subject, I believe we should all attend.

Inviting, and then disinviting Ellen was wrong. Denying freedom of expression is wrong. Practicing any form of censorship is wrong. But it seems to me that boycotting the event is misguided. Why? Because it’s exactly what those in Humble who practice censorship want.

If they don’t want Ellen there, then it stands to reason that they don’t want anyone who supports Ellen, either. Isn’t any author who boycotts the festival essentially practicing self-censorship? Isn’t he or she basically saying, “You people seek to deny freedom of expression. Therefore I will not come to Humble and express myself.”

The people in Humble who don’t want Ellen there are probably thinking, “Thank God.”

Therefore I would ask the boycotting writers to reconsider and join me. Those in Humble who are fighting for free speech need our support. I would urge all the invited writers to come to the TLF, where we can express ourselves loudly and clearly – on the topic of censorship.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thrillogy Update

Egmont wanted more blood on hand. Wish You Were Dead trade paperback goes on sale on Aug. 24.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If I Grow Up now in second trade paperback edition

The trade paperback (a larger format than the mass market paperbacks you usually find in racks) has just gone into its second printing. I suspect this has something to do with the state awards it's been nominated for.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Boot Camp Nominated for the Iowa High School Book Award

When they're not fighting floods, Iowans read. They're good people. Once, many years ago, I found myself staying for a week in a motel in a tiny town (with only one restaurant that was only open on Wednesdays and Friday-Sunday). Each morning I would be picked up and delivered to a different school, then returned in the afternoon. When the owner of the motel discovered I had no car of my own, he offered me his and I drove to the movie house (also only open a few nights a week) and saw Little Shop of Horrors. On another evening he and his wife took me over to the Mississippi to watch the barges go through the locks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New ARCs

Advance reviewer copies have arrived from Simon & Schuster (Famous, pub date Jan. 2011) and Egmont (Blood on My Hands, pub date Sept. 2010).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If I Grow Up nominated for North Carolina YA book award

If I Grow Up has been chosen as one of the titles nominated for the North Carolina School Library Media AssociationYoung Adult book Award for 2011. The book will be read by students across the state who will then participate in the selection of the "Best Book" by voting on their favorite title.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wish U Were Dead is now available in the German edition

Now available in German-speaking countries. I wonder if the cover means Morton Rhue is writing as Todd Strasser.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wish You Were Dead Named to VOYA 2010 Summer Reading List

The announcement is in the June issue. Also in the issue is an article about evil, which they asked me to write. It brought back memories of the summer of 1975 and a ferocious mechanical shark named Bruce.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

School Visits Update

"Your visit in March was wonderful. Our students were so engaged and are still talking about you and your books. The teachers who attended your writing workshop loved your approach and decided to use some of your techniques in their classes. As usual, you were able to connect with our students and captivate their attention with your humor and inspiration. Our students felt very comfortable with you and even our reluctant readers continue to come to the library seeking your books. We thank you again for a very special day that was both informative and fun." (March, 2010) Rosemarie Scutero, Literacy Resource Specialist, Louis M. Klein Middle School, Harrison, NY (914) 630-3059,

Awards for If I Grow Up and Boot Camp

In the process of updating my web page I discovered a couple of awards that I neglected to post. In January of this year If I Grow Up was selected for Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2010, a cooperative project of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children's Book Council.

In March Boot Camp was placed on the final reading list for the 2011 Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

If I Grow Up selected for Kentucky Bluegrass Master List

Via their schools and public libraries, students in Kentucky will read nominated titles and select a Kentucky Bluegrass Award winner. Last year more than 30,000 students in the state participated.
The master list states inaccurately that the book was published by Little, Brown. It was actually published by Simon & Schuster.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wish You Were Dead selected for Stuff for the Teen Age

For 80 years, New York Public Library staff shared the best titles for teens in an annual list called Books for the Teen Age.

Last year, Books for the Teen Age became Stuff for the Teen Age, a multimedia, multi-format, targeted, and teen-tested list of the best of the year in teen books, music, graphic novels, movies, games, and more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

If I Grow Up -- recent developments

The hardcover of If I Grow Up is now in its third printing, and Simon & Schuster has just released a trade paperback edition (on left) here in the US, and a mass market paperback in the UK.