ENGINERDS in California, Nerd Jersey, and Illinois!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here, but there are two pretty good reasons for that. The first reason is that I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on Revenge of the EngiNerds, the sequel to EngiNerds. The second reason is that my farting bots and I have been crisscrossing the States, visiting schools and bookstores all over the place!

Back at the end of March/beginning of April, I was out in California, where I visited a couple of great schools in the Los Angeles area.

While I was out there, I also had a chance to grab coffee with two California-based MGers — Dana Middleton (author of The Infinity Year of Avalon James and Open If You Dare) and Danielle Davis (author of Zinnia and the Bees).

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After that, it was on to New Jersey — or should I say NERD Jersey. I was heading there to attend nErDcampNJ, but went a few days early to do some school visits. The visits were excellent — and were so even before one amazing fan gave me a box of EngiNerds-themed cookies and chocolates she’d had made!

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Like all nErDcamps, nErDcampNJ was simply incredible. I learned so, so much, and left feeling more fired up and inspired than ever.

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The morning after camp, I stuck around to visit a local Barnes & Noble with fellow authors Sally J. Pla, Melissa Roske, and Rob Vlock. The event was educator-focused, and our panel was moderated by one of the best educators out there: 5th grade super-teacher Nicole Mancini.

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My time in New Jersey served as a powerful confirmation of the fact that authors and educators are colleagues, and that at the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal: to get the books that kids both want and need into their hands when they want and need them most. The more that authors and educators connect and collaborate, the better it will be — both for us and, more importantly, for the kids we serve.

After New Jersey, I was back home for just a couple days before I was on the road again — this time to Illinois. I visited schools in Northlake, Elburn, and Lisle, and also met up with some bookish friends in Chicago.

Next up is nErDcampVT, brand new this year! After that I’ve got a couple of events here in Massachusetts, and then I’m off again — first to Kansas for nErDcampKS, then to Denver for that city’s ComicCon, and then on to Michigan for nErDcampMI! It’s going to be a busy, nerd-filled summer. After which it’ll be time to gear up for the launch of Revenge of the EngiNerds!

Stay nerdy, friends!

ENGINERDS is a 2018 Global Read Aloud Finalist!

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Inspired by a story she heard on NPR, educator/author Pernille Ripp began the Global Read Aloud in 2010. Her idea was simple, but bold and beautiful: to get as many kids, in as many classrooms, to read the same book, and then connect with one another in order to share their thoughts and discuss.

The GRA began small — but quickly became enormous. Check out these participant numbers:

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Last year, in 2017, it’s estimated that more than FOUR MILLION kids participated. The connections made — between kids and kids, between teachers and teachers, between human beings and BOOKS — are priceless, and are doing an enormous amount to help make the world a better, brighter, more hopeful place.

It is a tremendous honor to simply have my book nominated for such an awesome project — and the honor is all the greater considering the five other nominees are from some of my all-time favorite creators. If you haven’t read books by the other authors, I encourage you to do so. Like, today. Like put them on hold at your library RIGHT NOW or go out and buy them (or, in the case of THE UNICORN RESCUE SOCIETY, preorder it — that one pubs April 10th).

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If you want to vote, you have until March 20th, and can do so here. And once again: a big, giant, enormous THANK YOU to Pernille Ripp for everything she does to help turn kids into lifelong book-lovers and readers, including creating and growing the Global Read Aloud.

Smack Dab in the Middle Author Festival and Upcoming Events

Last weekend, I participated in Dedham, Massachusetts’s first annual Smack Dab in the Middle Author Festival.

It. Was. AWESOME.

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The event was sponsored by the Dedham Public Library, the Blue Bunny Bookstore, and the Dedham Library Innovation Team, and thanks to the hard work of all these incredibly creative, highly organized individuals, the day was a tremendous success.

It all began with a handful of us authors running writing workshops for aspiring young writers. Though “aspiring” isn’t all that accurate a word — the kids in my group are already astoundingly talented. The story ideas they shared with me were so exciting, I made them promise to go home and start writing them so that I can read them all someday!

Next up were authors panels. We were broken up into three groups:

  • FANTASY, featuring Marcykate Connolly, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Petti, and Tui Sutherland
  • CONTEMPORARY, featuring Victoria Coe, Lee Gjertsen Malone, Peter Reynolds, Anna Staniszewski, and Susan Tan
  • SCI-FI, featuring Katie Slivensky, Monica Tesler, Rob Vlock, and me!
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Photo courtesy of Rob Vlock.
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Photo courtesy of Melissa Lee.

Moderator Janet Reynolds got each panel going by asking a question, such as, “Where do you get your ideas?” Authors took turns answering, and also occasionally got into conversation with one another. After that, the audience had a chance to ask questions. There were some excellent ones. Scholastic Press Corps Kid Reporter Maxwell Surprenant asked us sci-fi authors what role our parents played in shaping our career trajectories, and also wanted to know the most important thing we’d learned from them. Middle Grade fiction fans not there in person could still take part in these panels, as each of them was live-streamed on Facebook. Throughout the day, there were well over one thousand out-of-town readers tuned into the event.

The final part of the event, however, was something that you had to be there in person to enjoy: a book signing! All of us authors set up shop in the main room of the Dedham Public Library. We signed books and, even better, got a chance to chat with local kids, parents, and educators. I also learned about a brand-new independent bookstore opening up in just a few weeks in West Acton, Massachusetts — the Silver Unicorn. The owner of the bookstore stopped by to check out the event and spread the word.

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Photo courtesy of Rayna Freedman.

All in all, it was a jam-packed but totally fantastic day. There’s nothing better than connecting with young readers, and the Dedham Public Library, the Blue Bunny Bookstore, and the Dedham Library Innovation Team offered all of us authors a wonderful opportunity to do so. The event serves as a testament to the importance of public libraries and independent bookstores in our communities. Fun, inspiring, life-enriching events such as these would not happen without them. So make sure to get out there and support YOUR local libraries and independent bookstores — for your sake, for your community’s sake, and for the sake of the book and reading community at large.

For more on the Smack Dab in the Middle Author Festival, read Maxwell Surprenant’s write-up of the event here, or Ariane Komyati’s write-up for Dedham Wicked Local here.

. . .

If hearing about the Smack Dab in the Middle Author Festival got you fired up to attend some book events, you’re in luck! I’ve got a bunch of them coming up, and at each I’ll be in the company of some truly excellent authors. Below is a list of where I’ll be, when I’ll be there, and who I’ll be with for the rest of the month of March. I hope to see you out there!

Saturday, March 17: Barnes & Noble Framingham Spring Author Festival

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with Jannie Ho, Diane Magras, Gina Perry, Heather Lang, Jen Petro-Roy, Sarah Jean Howitz, Rob Vlock, Lisa Rosinsky, Sara Levine, Gregory Katsoulis, and Carol Gordon Ekster

12:00 pm — 4:00 pm
Barnes & Noble, Framingham
1 Worcester Rd, Framingham, MA 01701

Sunday, March 18: Book Signing at Savoy Bookshop and Cafe

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with Kara LaReau (The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series, The Infamous Ratsos series)

2:00 pm
Savoy Bookshop and Cafe
10 Canal Street, Westerly, RI 02891

Saturday, March 24: Barnes & Noble Burlington STEMlit panel

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with Katie Slivensky (The Countdown Conspiracy), Monica Tesler (Bounders series), and Rob Vlock (Sven Carter & The Trashmouth Effect)

11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Barnes & Noble, Burlington
98 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA 01803

 

Kid Lit Mentorship Project: News & Updates (02/06/18)

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The application period for the Kid Lit Mentorship Project closed one week ago today. We received over 100 applications from kids all across the country, every one of them passionate about writing and eager to improve their craft with the guidance of an author-mentor. It is now up to Jenny, Jenn, Brooks, and me to review all of these applications and each choose a mentee to work with — and believe me, it is not going to be an easy task. These kids are beyond impressive. A few months ago, when I first launched this project, I said that I thought it’d be us, the mentors, who would learn the most from our mentees during the course of our work together. Looking over these applications, I’m more convinced than ever that this will turn out to be true.

If a child or student of yours applied to the Kid Lit Mentorship Project, please ask them to hang tight while Jenny, Jenn, Brooks, and I make this difficult decision. Once our mentees have been selected, ALL applicants will receive a note from us, and those young writers who did not get chosen will have an opportunity to either: (1) ask us a specific writing-related question or for some more general advice about writing, or (2) have a short sample of their writing critiqued by one of the four of us.

Thank you to all of you who encouraged the young writers in your life to apply to the project. I look forward to sharing more news and updates with you soon.

Books to Look Out For (February 2018)

It’s February, and you know what that means — a whole new batch of books to look out for. February may be the shortest month, but there’s no shortage of exciting books hitting shelves. Below are just some of the books I’m most looking forward to. If you don’t see a February release that you’re especially excited about, let me know, either in a comment on this post or on Twitter. Tell me why I need to be excited about it, too!

Happy reading!

. . .

Books to Look Out For: February 6, 2018 — February 27, 2018

STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE, by Sally J. Pla — February 6, 2018

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What it’s about:

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley knows comics trivia.

It’s what he takes comfort in when the world around him gets to be too much. And after he faints during a safety assembly, Stanley takes his love of comics up a level by inventing his own imaginary superhero, named John Lockdown, to help him through.

Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s entered Trivia Quest—a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt—to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. Partnered with his fearless new neighbor Liberty, Stanley faces his most epic, overwhelming, challenging day ever.

What would John Lockdown do?

Stanley’s about to find out.

What people are saying:

“In Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, Sally J. Pla captures the challenges of moving through a world that can sometimes feel too big to face and introduces a character that readers cannot help but root for. A fun, vibrant story full of humanity and heart!” — Booki Vivat, New York Times bestselling author of Frazzled

“Stanley Fortinbras is a master of superhero lore, an artist, a kid who deeply feels the impact of his surroundings, and a protagonist with enough heart and soul for a thousand comic-con attendees. Readers of Stanley Will Probably Be Fine will be much more than fine; they’ll be elated.” — Mike Jung, author of Unidentified Suburban Object

“Stanley is an eminently lovable underdog!” — Leslie Connor, author of All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook and The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

“An excellent addition to promote social-emotional learning.” (School Library Journal)

“[Stanley is] a multidimensional character of great depth who gradually learns how to calm his worried mind. Add to the growing list of intelligent books about kids whose brains operate outside the norm.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stanley’s anxiety and sensory processing disorder are portrayed in a sensitive and relatable way. Refreshing.” — Booklist

Why I want to read it:

If you read Sally’s THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, they you’d be looking forward to STANLEY, too. But as a comic-nerd and superhero-fan — and, more importantly, as a natural introvert who often finds socializing both overwhelming and exhausting — this book appeals to me personally even more than Sally’s first.

Visit Sally here to learn more about her and her books.

BRINGING ME BACK, by Beth Vrabel — February 6, 2018

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What it’s about:

Noah is not having a good year.

His mom is in prison, he’s living with his mom’s boyfriend—who he’s sure is just waiting until his mother’s six month sentence is up to kick him out—and he’s officially hated by everyone at his middle school, including his former best friend. It’s Noah’s fault that the entire football program got shut down after last year.

One day, Noah notices a young bear at the edge of the woods with her head stuck in a bucket. A bucket that was almost certainly left outside as part of a school fundraiser to bring back the football team. As days go by, the bear is still stuck—she’s wasting away and clearly getting weaker, even as she runs from anyone who tries to help. And she’s always alone.

Though Noah ignores the taunts at school and ignores his mother’s phone calls from jail, he can’t ignore the bear. Everyone else has written the bear off as a lost cause—just like they have with Noah. He makes it his mission to help her.

But rescuing the bear means tackling his past—and present—head-on. Could saving the bear ultimately save Noah, too?

What people are saying:

“A boy, desperate and broken, and a young bear with its head caught in a bucket: Vrabel sensitively interweaves these two disparate plotlines. . . . Noah’s first-person narration is spot-on, age appropriate and full of anger with brief flashes of insight. The trope is well-worked; this effort rises above the pack, believable and ultimately uplifting. Engrossing, satisfying, and compassionate.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Masterfully written. Vrabel explores tough topics with compassion and grace.” — Lynn Rush, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“Beth Vrabel doesn’t disappoint in this touching tale of a boy and a bear. She creates a lovable but flawed character―a raw portrayal of someone who has been dealt some bad cards and made poor decisions, who readers are left rooting for. Bringing Me Back speaks to a wide audience.” — Natalie Rompella, author of Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners

Why I want to read it:

Beth writes beautifully about tough topics, and it sounds like Noah is dealing with a whole bunch of those. I’d be eager to read any book by her. However, as soon as I heard about the seemingly simple, almost surreal premise behind this book, I was more eager than ever to get my hands on it. Knowing Beth’s work, she’ll handle it all masterfully, and in the process make me feel all the feels and then some.

Visit Beth here to learn more about her and her books.

ARTS AND THEFTS, by Allison K. Hymas — February 13, 2018

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What it’s about:

Ahh, summer vacation! Jeremy Wilderson, Scottsville Middle School’s first (and only) retrieval specialist, is enjoying a slower-than-usual season of retrieving (NOT stealing) lost objects in order to help the under thirteen population of Scottsville.

But crime doesn’t take a vacation! And when sabotage strikes Scottsville’s event of the year—the Summer Art Show—threatening to ruin the burgeoning painting career of Jeremy’s best friend, Case, it’s up to Jeremy to figure out what’s going on. Of course, his archrival Becca Mills, who just happens to think Jeremy, Case, and their friend Hack are involved in the crime, is also looking into it.

Jeremy has only a few precious hours to stop the sabotage before more contest entries—and kids’ dreams—are slashed and burned.

But Jeremy’s specialty is retrieval . . . not detective work! The only solution is to team up with Becca to solve the case, something Jeremy’s not exactly thrilled to do. Not to mention, he has to keep his alliance with Becca a secret from Case and Hack, who will disown him if they see him working with the enemy. Somewhere between being stuck inside an air vent and slathered in red paint, Jeremy has to wonder: is he in over his head?

Why I want to read it:

Allison’s first book, UNDER LOCKER AND KEY, was a total blast. Fast-paced, funny, and full of equal parts action and intrigue. It also featured some of the sharpest, snappiest dialogue I can ever remember reading, and countless clever metaphors and quirky, hilarious turns of phrase. And “conning,” as it turns out, is a fascinating and informative lens through which to look at the Middle Grade years, when kids are constantly trying on different identities, figuring out who they are and what sort of people they want to surround themselves with.

Visit Allison here to learn more about her and her books.

THE STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS OF BYRONY GRAY, by E. Latimer — February 13, 2018

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What it’s about:

Bryony Gray is becoming famous as a painter in London art circles. But life isn’t so grand. Her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients . . . and now her paintings are taking on a life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances.

When her newest painting escapes the canvas and rampages through the streets of London, Bryony digs into her family history, discovering some rather scandalous secrets her uncle has been keeping, including a deadly curse she’s inherited from her missing father. Bryony has accidentally unleashed the Gray family curse, and it’s spreading fast.

With a little help from the strange-but-beautiful girl next door and her paranoid brother, Bryony sets out to break the curse, dodging bloodthirsty paintings, angry mobs and her wicked uncle along the way.

Why I want to read it:

If you’re at all familiar with the work of Oscar Wilde, then you’ve surely figured out that E.’s book is a bit of a riff on his The Picture of Dorian Gray. In her book, however, E. kicks things up a notch — or maybe more like five or six notches. Family secrets? A deadly curse? Bloodthirsty paintings? Angry mobs? This sounds like a one-of-a-kind rollercoaster of a novel that I definitely don’t want to miss.

Visit E. here to learn more about her and her books.

THE 11:11 WISH, by Kim Tomsic — February 13, 2018

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What it’s about:

Megan Meyers has a foolproof plan to reinvent herself at her new school. Good-bye, dorky math nerd; hello, friend magnet! But her first day at Saguaro Prep starts off weird to the tenth power.

When she’s dared to “make something exciting happen,” Megan is thrown into the middle of an epic power struggle between the two seventh-grade Spirit Captains. So with nothing to lose, Megan wishes for “some magic” as her classroom’s cat clock chimes 11:11—and is granted an enchanted teen magazine promising miracle makeovers and sure-fire secrets for winning friends and crushes.

But magic can have dangerous side effects, and as her social life grows exponentially worse, Megan begins to wonder if wishing was ever a purrfect idea.

What people are saying:

“Debut author Tomsic infuses Megan’s first-person narrative with lots of personality and a distinctive voice, and secondary characters are all complex and multidimensional. Light fantasy firmly grounded in the realities of middle-school emotions.” — ALA Booklist

“Readers will empathize with [Megan’s] tenuous position and her tenacity despite the hilarious situations she gets herself into. A fine, funny fix.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Tomsic puts a pawsitively magical twist on middle school mayhem. Whimsical and wacky, The 11:11 Wish is a romp of a read sure to please young teens and tweens.” — Ingrid Law, Newbery Honor Winner and New York Times Bestselling Author of Savvy

“Full of unexpected twists and turns, this sweet, funny book is pure magic.” — Tara Dairman, author of All Four Stars

“Readers will be enchanted by this delightful story of friends, family, fitting in, and finding yourself. The 11:11 Wish mixes the pitfalls of middle school with much humor and heart, and the results are pure magic.” — McCourt Thomas, Head of Youth Services, Lyons Regional Library

“A magic-infused romp that will make you wince and cheer. Perfect for readers struggling to find their own voice in the tricky social landscape of middle school.” — Ida Olson, Library Media Specialist, McCormick Junior High School

“From social outcast to social butterfly – can the enchanted cat clock grant Megan’s impulsive wish? This debut novel is full of mean girls, magic, teenage angst, and ultimately the satisfying discovery of self.” — Susan Dunn, Children’s Librarian, Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library

Why I want to read it:

Recently, at a school visit, I was asked by a kid to describe what my favorite kind of books are like. I told her that my favorite books usually take place in the real, recognizable world — but that they all have a splash of unreality or surreality mixed in. Kim’s book promises to be a stellar example of just such a book. And as someone who used to constantly wish on the clock (at both 11:11 and 12:34), I can’t wait to see how things turn out for Megan.

Visit Kim here to learn more about her and her books.

THE NOT-SO-BORING LETTERS OF PRIVATE NOBODY, by Matthew Landis — February 13, 2018

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What it’s about:

Twelve-year-old Oliver Prichard is obsessed with the Civil War. He knows everything about it: the battles, the generals, every movement of the Union and Confederate Armies. So when the last assignment of seventh-grade history is a project on the Civil War, Oliver is over the moon–until he’s partnered with Ella Berry, the slacker girl with the messy hair who does nothing but stare out the window. And when Oliver finds out they have to research a random soldier named Private Raymond Stone who didn’t even fight in any battles before dying of some boring disease, Oliver knows he’s doomed.

But Ella turns out to be very different from what Oliver expected. As the partners film their documentary about Private Stone–with Oliver’s friend Kevin signing on as their head writing consultant–Oliver discovers that sometimes the most interesting things are hiding in uninteresting places. Even Private Stone is better than expected: There’s a mystery buried in his past, and Oliver knows he can figure it out.

What people are saying:

“A couple of tech savvy seventh-graders that readers will love getting to know go digging for a civil war soldier with a secret and discover themselves. Matthew Landis’s novel is the best kind of time travel as past and present cross-dissolve.” — Richard Peck, Newbery Medal-winning author of A Year Down Yonder

“Matthew Landis depicts the world of middle school with laser-like clarity, big-hearted warmth, and abundant humor, while also managing to bring Civil War history vividly to life.  There’s even a little romance thrown in!  I wish I were still teaching just so I could hand this book to my favorite students.” — Jordan Sonnenblick, award-winning author of Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

“For seventh-grader Oliver, nothing’s fair when it comes to war, first love, or group projects. . . . Teacher Landis knows how middle schoolers work, and he shows his skill here.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Landis challenges readers to see history as more than ‘endless battles, dates, and generals.’ Each setting (school, homes, historical societies, reenactment practice field, and Gettysburg) adds another dimension to the characters and issues in this appealing novel.” — Booklist

“The story’s pace and romantic tension build as the students gel as a team, research primary sources, and create a documentary. The mystery they solve about Private Stone offers tension and interest, but it’s the chemistry between these two characters that is the real star.” — Publishers Weekly

“Oliver makes major missteps in navigating both the project and his “more than friends” interest in Ella, but with the help of his enthusiastic history teacher, Oliver reaches a more nuanced understanding of the Civil War and of his first crush.” — School Library Journal

Why I want to read it:

Like Oliver, I was once obsessed with the Civil War. For a year or so, I read nothing but books by Eric Foner and Shelby Foote (Matt surely knows who those guys are!). I’m eager to dip back into that world, and to do it within the world of an MG novel. The fact that Matt is one of the most hilarious guys I know doesn’t hurt, either.

Visit Matthew here to learn more about him and his books.

THE ART OF THE SWAP, by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone — February 13, 2018

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What it’s about:

Hannah Jordan lives in a museum…well, sort of. She is the daughter of the caretaker for mansion-turned-museum The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island. Hannah’s captivated by stories of The Elms’s original occupants, especially Maggie Dunlap, the tween heiress subject of a painting that went missing during a legendary art heist in 1905.

But when a mysterious mirror allows Hannah and Maggie to switch places in time, suddenly Hannah is racing to stop the heist from happening, while Maggie gets an introduction to iPhones, soccer (which girls can play!), and freedoms like exploring without supervision. Not to mention the best invention of all: sweatpants (so long, corsets!).

As the hours tick off to the art heist, something’s not adding up. Can the girls work together against time—and across it—to set things right? Or will their temporary swap become a permanent trade?

Why I want to read it:

I grew up, and still live near, the scene of one of recent history’s most famous art heists — the still-unsolved theft of 13 paintings, drawings, and objects (together valued at half a billion dollars) from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Maybe it’s my proximity to the scene of this crime, but I’ve always been fascinated by art heists and the mysterious underground world into which stolen pieces seem to disappear. Throw in a potentially permanent body-swap and add the fun of an early twentieth-century girl living in our iPhone- and sweatpants-filled modern world, and I’ll be running out to get this book the day it hits shelves.

Visit Kristine here to learn more about her and her books. And visit Jen here to learn more about her and her books.

R IS FOR REBEL, by J. Anderson Coats — February 20, 2018

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What it’s about:

Malley has led the constables on a merry chase across her once-peaceful country. With her parents in prison for their part in a failed resistance movement, the government wants to send her to a national school—but they’ll have to capture her first.

And capture her they do. Malley is carted off be reformed as a proper subject of the conquering empire, reeducated, and made suitable for domestic service. That’s the government’s plan, anyway.

But Malley will not go down without a fight. She’s determined to rally her fellow students to form a rebellion of their own. The government can lock these girls up in reform school. Whether it can break them is another matter entirely…

What people are saying:

“Historical fiction master Coats invents a country and a history all her own to create the fully realized, inspirational protagonist Malley . . . Descriptions are at times graphic, but the realistic details only make Malley a more believable and empathetic character . . . An empowering and timely story about resistance.” — Booklist

“Themes of the cost of freedom and the power of identity shine through in powerful ways. Malley is a rebel to her core and her spirit won’t let her accept the idea of submitting, especially not after what happened to her parents. While the nations depicted are imaginary, the connections to colonialism and past/present efforts to rub out supposedly inferior cultures is unmistakable. A strong purchase with powerful themes that will stick with readers.” — School Library Journal

Why I want to read it:

The world needs more rebels — good ones, brave ones, thoughtful ones. In J.’s accomplished hands, I’m confident readers of R IS FOR REBEL will be left better, braver, and more thoughtful about the world around them — and more ready than they were before to stand up and be a rebel when one is needed.

Visit J. here to learn more about her and her books

LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES, by Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester — February 20, 2018

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What it’s about:

A band of orphan avengers. A cursed stone. A horde of zombie outlaws.

This is Keech Blackwood’s new life after Bad Whiskey Nelson descends upon the Home for Lost Causes and burns it to the ground.

With his home destroyed and his family lost, Keech will have to use the lessons he learned from Pa Abner to hunt down the powerful Char Stone. Luckily, he has the help of a ragtag team of orphans. Together, they’ll travel through treacherous forests, fight off the risen dead, and discover that they share mysterious bonds as they search for the legendary stone. Now it’s a race against the clock, because if Bad Whiskey finds the stone first . . . all is lost.

But Keech and the other orphans won’t hesitate. Because they’re more than just heroes.
They’re Lost Causes.

Legends of the Lost Causes marks the thrilling start to an action-packed middle grade series by debut authors Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester.

What people are saying:

“A rip-roaring adventure in the Wild West, filled with cowboys, magic, and a horde of undead villains that’ll have you hunkered down in your bedroll, turning pages long after the campfire has died down.” — Heidi Schulz, author of the New York Times bestselling Hook’s Revenge

“I don’t get to use the word rollicking enough but there’s no other word for this book: a rollicking adventure filled with mystery and magic that crackles like a brush fire.” — Emma Trevayne, author of The House of Months and Years 

“Thrilling, dark, and full of heart, this is a Western like none I’ve ever read. I loved it.” — Stefan Bachmann, author of The Peculiar and The Whatnot

“This is a fun and exciting story, written with the utmost respect for the Osage culture.” — Wah-Zah-Zhi Cultural Center

“Cowriters McLelland and Sylvester incorporate aspects of Osage cultureand legend into this action-packed series starter. Part western, part zombieflick, this pits scrappy, resourceful kids against some menacingvillains―always a recipe for success.” — Booklist

Why I want to read it:

An MG Western? Yes, please. I wouldn’t even need the orphan avengers, the cursed stone, or the horde of zombie outlaws in order to pick up Brad and Louis’s series-starter, but every one of those added elements certainly makes me a little more eager to dive into the awesome-sounding insanity of this world.

Visit Brad here to learn more about him and his books. And visit Louis here to learn more about him and his books.

THE SERPENT’S SECRET, by Sayantani DasGupta — February 27, 2018

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What it’s about:

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey . . . until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories–like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’ve come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it . . .

What people are saying:

“This is a series starter that rivals Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. A breathtaking adventure.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Will appeal to those who like their adventures fast and furious.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

“A refreshing take on the hero’s quest . . . laugh-out-loud funny and extremely engaging.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Never a dull moment for our ordinary-girl-turned-demon-fighting-princess Kiranmala in this hilarious, action-packed romp. Also, there is snot. It’s, like, everywhere. This combination of crucial elements is everything I love in a book. A brilliant beginning to a fresh (and potentially sticky) new series!” — Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds

“This funny, unique book feels like the spirit of A Wrinkle in Time married the awesomeness of Bengali folktales and had the coolest, fiercest Indian princess – so much fun! Can Kiranmala save the rest of us next?” — Tui Sutherland, New York Times bestselling author of Wings of Fire

“I was hooked from the first page, and the action-packed story never let me go. I adored Kiranmala’s sass, courage, and confidence. She is a hero all readers will love.” — Jennifer Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince

Why I want to read it:

I mean, did you read that description? Winged horses? Moving maps? Riddles? Drooling demons? Even before the slew of amazing reviews started popping up I was eager to get my hands on this book. I can’t wait to go on a laugh-filled, action-packed adventure with Kiranmala, and along the way learning more about a culture and literary tradition I’m not familiar enough with.

Visit Sayantani here to learn more about her and her books.

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Are you looking forward to a book that I haven’t mentioned? Don’t forget to let me know! That way, I can start looking forward to it, too!

World Read Aloud Day 2018

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What. A. Day.

Today is World Read Aloud Day, and I spent it virtually visiting (via Skype) 15 different classrooms all across the country. I went to Missouri, to Illinois, to Wisconsin, to Illinois again, to New York, back to Illinois (they seem to really like me there!), up to Canada, back down to Michigan, over to New York, on to Iowa, BACK to Illinois (seriously!), and then finally way out west to California.

In every classroom, I did the same thing. Something so simple — but oh so wonderful and oh so very important. I read aloud. That’s it. I cracked open a book and I read it.

Kids who are read to every day benefit enormously from the experience. This has been shown by the academics, and is proven again and again on a daily basis in schools across the country and all over the world. To be able to spend this special day reading aloud to so many kids (by my count, somewhere between 300-400!) is a true honor — and also a tremendous amount of fun.

Thank you to ALL the educators out there who make reading aloud to their students a priority, an essential part of each and every day. And thank you especially to those teachers who invited me into their classrooms to read on this wonderful World Read Aloud Day. I am filled to the brim with gratitude and joy, and feel more inspired than ever to wake up tomorrow morning and continue to do everything I can to make a positive impact on kids’ lives.

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Interview on the Books Between Podcast

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Last month, I had the honor of being interviewed for one of my favorite podcasts — Books Between, hosted by the brilliant Corrina Allen, which focuses exclusively on Middle Grade literature and the people writing and reading it. I’ve been a devoted fan of Books Between for a long time now. It is the place to go to learn about all the hotly anticipated upcoming releases and to hear in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers of the MG lit community. To be featured on an episode is a special treat.

You can listen to the episode (and all past episodes of Books Between!) on any device you normally use to listen to your podcasts. You can also find it here. Give it a listen to hear me chat with Corrina about EngiNerds, its sequel, the power of the perfect metaphor, Project Runway (seriously!), the Middle Grade Book Village, the Kid Lit Mentorship Project, what I’m working on now, and more!

Enjoy!