Interview on the Books Between Podcast

Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 11.16.25 AM.png

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!


Books to Look Out For (January 2018)

2017 is nearly over, and what a year it’s been for books! But don’t despair — 2018 promises to be just as exciting for all of us readers. Below are just ten of the 2018 releases that I’m looking forward to, all of them hitting shelves in the next month alone! Take a look — and get excited!

. . .

Books to Look Out For: January 2, 2018 — January 30, 2018

FENWAY AND HATTIE UP TO NEW TRICKS, by Victoria J. Coe — January 2, 2017

fenway and hattie 3.jpg

What it’s about:

Fenway’s life is pretty great, except for the strange stripey chipmunks that have suddenly appeared in the Dog Park behind his house. He’s determined to catch them, but one of their hiding places contains some stinging insects. Ouch! Fenway thinks he can take care of this injury himself, but his humans don’t let him. They take him to the Place of Fear and then Hattie doesn’t even help him take off the Cone of Doom!

Fenway never would have expected Hattie to do these things to him. Doesn’t she love him anymore? But even though his family is acting weird, Fenway is determined do whatever it takes to make them all happy again.

Why I want to read it:

The previous two FENWAY AND HATTIE books have been utter joys. As far as I’m concerned, there can’t be enough of these hilarious, heartwarming adventures. Keep ’em coming, Victoria!

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

HELLO, DOOR, written by Alastair Heim, illustrations by Alisa Coburn — January 2, 2018

hello, door

What it’s about:

In Hello, Door, kids can follow a thieving fox as he greets everything he sees in a home that isn’t his.

Hello, door.

          Hello, house.

                    Hello, mat.

                              Hello, mouse!

In this ode to the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story, kids can follow a thieving fox as he greets everything he sees in a home that isn’t his. He collects fine art and jewelry, practices his golf swing, and devours a tasty snack along the way. But just when he thinks he’s in the clear to leave with all the goods, the owners of the house—a mama bear, papa bear, and baby bear—come home. They chase him through the house, and when the mama bear catches him, she promptly throws him out. But she throws him so far that he ends up in a much nicer neighborhood—in front of a mansion, in fact—where he can begin his mischievous adventure again!

Why I want to read it:

All of Alastair’s picture books are a delight, and his last collaboration with Alisa — 2016’s LOVE YOU TOO — quickly became one of my all-time favorites. I’d be looking forward to anything this dynamic duo teamed up on.

Visit Alastair here to learn more about him and his books. And visit Alisa here to learn more about her and her work.

WINTERHOUSE, by Ben Guterson, illustrations by Chloe Bristol — January 2, 2018


What it’s about:

Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

Mystery, adventure, and beautiful writing combine in this exciting debut richly set in a hotel full of secrets.

What people are saying:

“Guterson provides readers a treat: mean caregivers à la the Dursleys; a vast, luxurious hotel where oddities abound; a new word-puzzle-loving friend; a shrouded history for Winterhouse; and sinister circumstances. . . Clever and captivating.” — Kirkus Reviews

Filled with puzzles and magic, Guterson’s debut keeps suspense high as the secrets of Elizabeth’s past unwind. This satisfying mystery leaves just enough unanswered questions to have readers eager for the next book in this planned trilogy.” — Publishers Weekly

Why I want to read it:

A cursed hotel? A mystery involving a peculiar man and his sinister family? A magical book of puzzles? If that’s not a recipe for awesomeness, I don’t know what is.

Visit Ben here to learn more about him and his books. And visit Chloe here to learn more about her and her work.

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC: A DASH OF TROUBLE, by Anna Meriano, illustrations by Mirelle Ortega — January 2, 2018


What it’s about:

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.

What people are saying:

“Meriano builds a wonderful contemporary world in small-town Texas, full of diverse characters, where magic feels right at home and muggles will feel equally welcome. A series opener that’s proof that windows and mirrors can be magical ingredients.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Why I want to read it:

One of the only things I love more than eating cookies and cakes is reading about cookies and cakes. Mix in some magic, an ambitious protagonist, and a storyline involving Dia de los Muertos, and you’re sure to have a winner.

Visit Anna here to learn more about her and her books. And visit Mirelle here to learn more about her and her work.

THE UNCANNY EXPRESS (The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters Book 2), by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill — January 9, 2018


What it’s about:

Jaundice and Kale are back from their adventure on the high seas, and they are settling back into a quiet life in Dullsville, just the way they like it. The tea is tepid, the oatmeal is tasteless, and the socks are ripe for darning . . . until Aunt Shallot shows up and reveals herself to be anything but the dull relation they were expecting. Instead, she tells her nieces she is Magique, Queen of Magic, and she’s on her way to a big show and in need of two willing assistants. As Magique and the Bland sisters board the Uncanny Express, they meet a cast of mystifying characters. And when Magique goes missing, it’s up to Jaundice and Kale to solve the mystery—with the help of famous detective Hugo Fromage.

An inventive story in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient ExpressThe Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Uncanny Express has all the whimsy and humor that readers who are looking for an anything-but-bland adventure will love.

What people are saying:

“LaReau has a lot of fun with her Agatha Christie homage, filling her book to the brim with requisite gags and puns . . . Move over, Holmes and Watson. There’s a new detecting pair in town, and the name’s Bland.” — Kirkus Reviews

Why I want to read it:

A new book by Kara is always something to celebrate. No one can make me laugh hard and think deeply in the space of a single sentence quite like her. The first installment of the Bland Sisters series, THE JOLLY REGINA, was no exception — it’s filled with clever wordplay, loads of fine-tuned sentences, and all kinds of gender norm-upending. Add Jen Hill’s brilliant illustrations, and you’ve got the perfect package. I can’t wait to spend some more time with Jaundice and Kale, and hope the sisters come back soon for a third round of unintentional fun.

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

SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB, by Jackie Yeager — January 9, 2018

SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB, by Jackie Yeager.jpg

What it’s about:

It’s the year 2071 and eleven year-old Kia Krumpet is determined to build her 67 inventions, but she won’t have the opportunity to unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends at school, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. After she and four of her classmates are selected to compete for a spot at PIPS, they travel by aero-bus to Camp Piedmont to solve a task against forty-nine other state teams to earn their place at the best inventor’s school in the country.

Why I want to read it:

I love reading about tinkerers, and Jackie’s Kia Krumpet sounds like a world-class tinkerer if there ever was one. Add in the drama and excitement of a competition, and I’m hooked.

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

SPY TOYS, by Mark Powers, illustrations by Tim Wesson — January 16, 2018

spy toys.jpg

What it’s about:

The world’s leading toy manufacturer gives each toy it creates a tiny, computerized brain and a unique personality making for some seriously awesome toys. But sometimes there’s a faulty toy . . .

Dan is a “Snugliffic Cuddlestar” bear–he should be perfect for hugging. But because of a malfunctioning chip, Dan is so strong he could crush a car. Thrown into the rejects pile, he meets Arabella, a “Loadsasmiles Sunshine” doll, who has a very short temper. Soon Dan, Arabella, and Flax (a custom-made police robot rabbit) are recruited by the head of the toy world exactly for what makes them unfit. And their first mission is a doozy: to protect a senator’s eight-year-old son from being kidnapped.

With black-and-white illustrations throughout, this hilarious book has reluctant reader appeal written all over it.

Why I want to read it:

This series was described to me as Toy Story meets James Bond — and as soon as I heard that, I knew I had to check it out.

Visit Mark here to learn more about him and his books. And visit Tim here to learn more about him and his work.

A PROBLEMATIC PARADOX, by Eliot Sappingfield — January 23, 2018

a problematic paradox.jpg

What it’s about:

Nikola Kross has given up on living in harmony with classmates and exasperated teachers: she prefers dabbling in experimental chemistry to fitting in. But when her life is axially inverted by a gang of extraterrestrials who kidnap her dad and attempt to recruit her into their service, she discovers he’s been keeping a world of secrets from her–including the school for geniuses where she’s sent for refuge, a place where classes like Practical Quantum Mechanics are the norm and where students use wormholes to commute to class. For Nikola, the hard part isn’t school, it’s making friends, especially when the student body isn’t (entirely) human. But the most puzzling paradox of all is Nikola herself, who has certain abilities that no one understands–abilities that put her whole school in greater danger than she could have imagined.

What people are saying:

“Absolute outlandishness, an endless parade of jokes (both sly and knee-slapping), incredibly wacky worldbuilding and characters, and a savvy, refreshing irreverence for the genre. Readers will clamor for more. A glorious cacophony of wildly inventive gadgets, gags, and action.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Nikola’s blunt wit makes for entertaining reading in debut author Sappingfield’s frenetic SF comedy. The school’s fantastical elements are inventive and fun, but it’s Nikola’s longing for friends that forms the heart of the story.” — Publishers Weekly

Why I want to read it:

If I had to pick a favorite genre, it’d be science fiction — but silly science fiction, a la Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. Why? Because I love to laugh. Because I’m always excited by the inventiveness that science fiction demands. Because I find that, perhaps paradoxically, the sillier an author lets their story become, the deeper it’s able to get. Eliot seems destined to join the ranks of great, silly-yet-deep sci-fi storytellers, and I don’t want to miss a single sentence of it.

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

THE PROBLIM CHILDREN, by Natalie Lloyd — January 30, 2017

problim children.jpg

What it’s about:

Filled with mystery, humor, and adventure, the first book in this new trilogy is an unforgettable tale of adventure, family, and finding the courage to face any problem heart-first.

When the Problim children’s ramshackle bungalow in the Swampy Woods goes kaboom, the seven siblings—each born on a different day of the week—have to move into their grandpa’s bizarre old mansion in Lost Cove. No problem! For the Problim children, every problem is a gift!

But rumors about their family run rampant in the small town: tales of a bitter feud, a hidden treasure, and a certain kind of magic lingering in the halls of #7 Main Street. Their neighbors, the O’Pinions, will do anything to find the secrets lurking inside the Problim household—including sending the seven children to seven different houses on seven different continents!

What people are saying:

“With her trademark charm and heavy doses of whimsy, Lloyd spins another heart-warming yarn centered on friendship and family.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Both text and illustrations offer a nod to Roald Dahl’s quirky, juvenile heroes and equally quirky, nasty villains. The distinctive flavor comes both from Lloyd’s witty but succinct word mastery and from her unflagging imagination.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Natalie Lloyd has done it again! A story about family, hidden treasure, a wonderfully mysterious house, and finding your place even when you’re frightened to try, The Problim Children is bursting at the seams with magic, heart, and humor. A sheer, riotous delight.” — Claire Legrand, author of Some Kind of Happiness

“An affectionate ode to the wonders of being a weird kid in a weird family. This book is an utter delight!” — Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy and Breadcrumbs

“Filled with adventure, mystery, humor, and heart. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the entire Problim family.” — Heidi Schulz, author of Hook’s Revenge

“An absolute gem, delightfully original but with the timeless charm of a favorite classic.” — Dan Gemeinhart, author of The Honest Truth and Some Kind of Courage

Why I want to read it:

No one writes quite like Natalie Lloyd, and each of her previous books offers up a feast of wholly unique wonders and joys. The only thing more exciting than the release of THE PROBLIM CHILDREN is the promise that there’ll be two more books coming after it.

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

SMART COOKIE, by Elly Swartz — January 30, 2017

smart cookie

What it’s about:

Sometimes you need to keep a few secrets.

Frankie knows she’ll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she’s determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie’s is missing a piece.

But Operation Mom is harder to pull off than Frankie expects. None of the Possibles are very momish, the B&B’s guests keep canceling, Frankie’s getting the silent treatment from her once best friend, and there’s a maybe-ghost hanging around. Worst of all, Gram and Dad are definitely hiding secrets of their own.

If a smart cookie like Frankie wants to save the B&B and find her missing piece, she’s going to have to figure out what secrets are worth keeping and when it’s time to let go.

What people are saying:

“Frankie is honest and ever hopeful as she narrates her own fast-paced tale of confusions, worries, and headlong lapses of judgment. She is fully accepting of her charmingly eccentric family and friends. All the pieces come together in the end with many surprises . . . Readers will laugh and commiserate and root for Frankie all the way.” — Kirkus Reviews

Why I want to read it:

If you’ve read Elly’s FINDING PERFECT, then you know why I’m looking forward to SMART COOKIE. Elly tackles important issues, and does so with graceful prose that makes you feel big feelings and think deep thoughts. Her latest is sure to be a sweet, thoughtful, heartfelt treat.

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

. . .

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

Signed Copies of ENGINERDS at Porter Square Books


It’s officially the holiday season, and for me that means time with family, fun with friends, lots of delicious food, and — wait for it — BOOKS! Books make the best gifts all year round, but they are especially great to give for the holidays, when everyone’s got a little time off from work or school and can actually sit down and get some reading done.

If you’re buying books this holiday season and want to gift someone a copy of MY book, you can now make sure it’s signed by yours truly thanks to the awesome humans at one of my local independent bookstores, Porter Square Books.

To do so, simply order your copy of EngiNerds here. As soon as you do, the wonderful folks at PSB will send me a note letting me know, then I’ll swing by the store, probably buy a bunch of books, maybe (definitely) have a scone from Cafe Zing, and sign your book (after washing my scone-y hands, I promise). PSB will then ship the book wherever you want it sent.

And should you want a signed copy of EngiNerds after the holidays, don’t worry — this isn’t a temporary offer. You can use the link above to get signed copies any time you want. And while you’re there, don’t forget to browse some of the other great books PSB offers signed copies of.

Happy holidays!

And happy reading!!!

Kid Lit Mentorship Project: News & Updates (12/05/17)


It’s been a week since I first posted about the Kid Lit Mentorship Project and the response so far has been fantastic. All the parents, teachers, and librarians I’ve heard from or spoken to about it have been as excited as I am, and the applications I’ve been getting from kids are just incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I was seriously nervous I’d never be able to pick just one kid from among the many who have already applied and will continue applying. Lucky for me, I no longer have to. Instead, I’ll be able to pick FOUR kids — and I’ll have some help picking, too.

That’s right: THREE additional authors have joined the Kid Lit Mentorship Project. And these aren’t just any old authors. These are three of Middle Grade literature’s absolute finest, and every one of them wants to find a young writer to mentor. They are looking to critique that writer’s work, and to offer the advice, guidance, and encouragement needed in order to bring a large-scale project to completion.

But I know you really just want me to hurry up and tell you who these three other authors are. So, without further ado, joining me as mentors for the Kid Lit Mentorship Project are . . .

Jenny Lundquist


Jenny is the author of six novels, most recently The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby, the follow-up to 2016’s The Charming Life of Izzy Malone, which Publisher’s Weekly called “a heartwarming coming-of-age journey [in which] Lundquist deftly portrays the pain of being odd girl out, both at school and at home.”


Jenny was born and raised in Huntington Beach, CA, the original “Surf City USA.” She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies with a minor in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) at Biola University. Her favorite part of college was spending one semester living in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, where she drank lots of tea, met some really interesting people, and honed her Yahtzee skills. She’s painted an orphanage in Mexico, taught English at a university in Russia, and hopes to one day to kiss her husband at a café in Paris. She lives in northern California with her husband Ryan, their two sons, and Rambo, the world’s whiniest cat.

You can learn more about Jenny online at or follow her on Twitter at @Jenny_Lundquist.

Next up:

Jenn Bishop


Jenn is the author of The Distance to Home, which Booklist praised for its “vivid writing and compassionate touch,” and 14 Hollow Road, a “gorgeous summer tale” (Erin E. Moulton) in which she “nails the tween voice” (Booklist).


Jenn grew up in a small town in Central Massachusetts. A lifelong reader, she was formerly a youth services and teen librarian. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she studied English, and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Along with her husband and cat, Jenn lives in Cincinnati, where she roots long-distance for the Red Sox.

You can learn more about Jenn online at or follow her on Twitter at @buffalojenn.

And finally:

Brooks Benjamin

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 12.01.33 PM.png

Brooks is the author of My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights, which Booklist called “a fresh and winning debut about the power of self-expression” and Kirkus praised as “an earnest first novel with a solid message about finding out who you are on your own terms.”


In sixth grade, Brooks formed a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called the New Kidz. He wasn’t that good at dancing back then. But now he’s got a new crew—his wife and their dog. They live in Tennessee, where he teaches reading and writing and occasionally busts out a few dance moves. He’s still not that good at it.

You can learn more about Brooks online at or follow him on Twitter at @brooksbenjamin.

. . .

Keep those applications coming! I’ve already received a ton of great ones, and am so glad that, thanks to the generosity of the authors above, FOUR young writers will get to take part in this exciting project. You can find the KLMP application here, and can link to it from anywhere on my site using the menu at the top of the page. Questions? Send me a note using the form on my Contact page.


Some books make us laugh, others make us weep. Some books break our hearts, others fill them up and leave them stronger. Some books force us to think long and hard, others compel us to wonder and dare and hope and believe and dream. And then, every now and again, a book comes along that somehow, magically and magnificently, makes us do all of this and more.

Dusti Bowling’s debut, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, is one of those rare, magical and magnificent books that somehow, in the space of only 262 pages, contains such multitudes. I could’ve picked any passage from Dusti’s book and highlighted it here, but the thing that most bowled me over (sorry, Dusti . . . ) about her writing was how she managed to find humor everywhere, even in the most seemingly unlikely places.

You can’t teach humor. You can, however, work at it. You can try every day to look for it in both your writing and your life. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus offers tons of examples of how this might be done, and also serves as an argument for why it should be done. Humor sets us at ease. It brings us closer to one another. It pries our hearts and minds open a little wider, letting in so much else that we might otherwise miss.

If you don’t know anything about Dusti’s book, there are a few things you need to know so that this passage doesn’t confuse you. For instance, that the book’s narrator, Aven, has no arms. She was born without them. Another thing you should know: she lives inside a somewhat derelict theme park called Stagecoach Pass, and in this passage is sitting in a wagon with her father. Also, her friend Connor, who she briefly mentions, has Tourette syndrome. And lastly, the “lights” in the sky that Aven’s father mentions are planets, as opposed to stars.

Read the passage — and then read Dusti’s entire book. Feel sad and mad and happy and hopeful and daring and dreamy — and, most importantly, find the humor in every last bit of it.

. . .



“I just wish I were like everyone else.”

He stared at me for a while. “Now that’s a terrible thought.”

I scowled. “How is that terrible? Connor wants to be like everyone else.” I tried my best to keep the tears from spilling out by not blinking. “And so do I.”

Dad put his arm around me. “Why do you want to be like everyone else?”

Despite my best efforts, a tear broke loose and slid down my cheek. “So I can wear cute tank tops and play the guitar at the festival and not worry about everyone staring at me all the time.” I took a deep breath. “So I don’t have to eat in the bathroom ever again.”

Dad furrowed his eyebrows. “And why do you have to eat in the bathroom, Aven?”

I wiped at my cheek with my shoulder. “Because I don’t want the other kids to see me.”

Dad sighed deeply and looked back up at the sky. “Those lights up there . . . they’re not like anything else in the sky.” He looked at me. “But they shine the brightest.”

I sniffled. “That’s so cheesy, Dad.”

He laughed. “It may sound cheesy, but it’s true.” He squeezed me tightly to him and made a ridiculous wise look, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “No one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket. They put it on a table so it can shine for all to see.”

I rolled my eyes. I’m sure it pleased him to no end to incorporate a Sunday school lesson into our discussion. “Okay, Dad. I’ll go sit on a table.”

He kissed the top of my head. “Don’t be like everyone else, Aven. Be you.”

“And what is that exactly? A table lamp?”

“No, not a table lamp.” He poked me in the ribs, causing me to squirm beside him. “A light who shines for all to see.” He tilted my chin to look up at him. “A light who doesn’t hide in the bathroom.”

He got down from the wagon. “Come home when you’re ready. Just know Mom will be pacing the floor until you get there.”

. . .

Want to learn more about Dusti and her work? Visit her here and follow her on Twitter at @Dusti_Bowling.

Kid Lit Mentorship Project (K.L.M.P.)

One of my favorite parts of being an author is visiting schools and classrooms, and one of my favorite parts of visiting schools and classrooms is getting to meet so many young writers. I always let teachers and librarians know that I am up for sticking around after my presentation/Q&A in order to host a group workshop or meet one-on-one to critique and discuss kids’ work. It’s so inspiring to meet young people passionate about books and the written word, and if I can do anything at all to help make them better, more confident storytellers and communicators, I want to do so.

The only bad part about all of this is that I never have enough time to really get to know a writer, and so can offer no more than a little bit of assistance and advice. Only so much can get accomplished in a single group workshop, and when I do one-on-one meetings, I have to keep them short so I don’t leave any kids out. I’ve been wondering for a while now how I could go about changing this, how I might figure out a way to work with and help young writers in a more long-term, sustained manner – and I think I’ve finally got it. Announcing:


Starting today, I will accept (very short) applications from young writers between the ages of 9 and 14 to join me on a writing journey. I am looking for a kid who is passionate about writing and who wants to continue to learn and grow as a storyteller. What I am offering is to work closely with this one young writer on a large-scale project – a novel, a memoir, a collection of short stories – and serve in any capacity they see fit. I can remain an advisor/editor, or join them as more of a co-author. And my role can, of course, change as the process moves along. Basically, the kid will make the decisions, not me.

Communication between the young writer and myself can be conducted however they (and their parent(s) and/or teacher(s)) choose. E-mail, phone calls, Skype meetings – any or all of the above. My goal is to help a young writer complete the project they’ve envisioned, and to celebrate the highs and support them through the lows involved in such an undertaking. At the end of the process, I will cover the costs to get a certain number of copies of the book printed and bound so that the young writer can experience the thrill of holding a book they wrote in their hands, and also so that they can share their story or stories with others (online e-book publishing options can also be explored).

I will start accepting applications immediately, and will continue to do so through January 31, 2018. I haven’t set a timeline or mapped out any specific schedule for this project, as that will need to be worked out once a young writer is selected, and all of it will depend on their schedule (as well, of course, as mine). My hope is that any kid interested in submitting an application will have a parent or teacher “sponsor” to help facilitate and schedule contact between myself and their child or student. This sponsor could then remain as actively involved as they deem necessary and appropriate.

Click here to access the application, or link to it in the menu above. Questions can be sent to me through my Contact form (also located in the menu above) or on Twitter (@Jarrett_Lerner).

Recent Reads & Purchases (11/16/17)

If you look carefully, you’ll notice something a little bit different about the books I’ve bought over the course of these past couple weeks: not one of them has been published yet! All of them are pre-orders — books I’m so excited to read I just couldn’t wait until they’re actually out to purchase them. I suggest you get excited for them, too, and while you’re waiting for them to arrive, read (or reread!) these wonderful authors’ other excellent books: Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect, Lauren Magaziner’s The Only Thing Worse Than Witches and Pilfer Academy, Susan Tan’s Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire, Jill Diamond’s Lou Lou & Pea and the Mural Mystery, Julie Falatko’s Snappsy the Alligator picture books, and Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.

Happy reading!

. . .

Recent Reads

TRAINS DON’T SLEEP, by Andria Rosenbaum, illustrated by Deirdre Gill

trains don't sleep

An ode to trains, delivered in clever, evocative rhyme, that takes you on a riveting visual journey through all kinds of lands and locations.

GRANDMOTHER THORN, by Katey Howes, art by Rebecca Hahn

grandmother thorn

A picture book with the feel of a fable about the limits and loveliness of our relationship with nature, full of gorgeous, utterly absorbing multimedia artwork that’ll have you lingering over each and every page.

DADDY DEPOT, by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Andy Snair

daddy depot

A humorous and heartfelt celebration of dads, DESPITE all their foibles and flaws.

THE WILD BUNCH, by Jan Gangsei

wild bunch

A romp through the wilderness with a delightful cast of characters and as many moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity as edge-of-your-seat excitement.



Jodi’s book begins with a ridiculously exciting premise — a boy saves a pig from slaughter and brings her home to his urban Ohio home.
 That home just so happens to be jam-packed with four other kids, two parents, and a dog. One of those kids is Josie, who is our narrator.
 Josie, “unnoticed” in her busy home/family, immediately feels a connection with the pig, a runt who was shoved aside by her bigger siblings. Josie’s relationship with the pig only grows stronger as the days pass, complicating her mission to find her a forever home.

But this book is about so much more than that. It’s about the importance and power of having a strong, loving, healthy community.
 It’s about how hardship can, perhaps paradoxically, bring a family closer together, bridging distances that have formed between its members. 
It’s about how a kid’s interests can shift and change as much as their bodies, and how that can be both sad and happy, confusing and thrilling. It’s about how other people’s lives and stories are always bigger and more complicated than we think they are from the outside.
 It’s about how strong the bond between human and animal can be, and how meaningful that bond can become.

On top of all this, the book is beautifully written, and full of some of the most heartwarming family scenes I can ever remember reading.
 If you haven’t read THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY, do yourself a favor and read it. I promise you won’t regret that you did.

Recent Purchases

SMART COOKIE, by Elly Swartz — January 30, 2018

smart cookie

Sometimes you need to keep a few secrets.

Frankie knows she’ll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she’s determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie’s is missing a piece.

But Operation Mom is harder to pull off than Frankie expects. None of the Possibles are very momish, the B&B’s guests keep canceling, Frankie’s getting the silent treatment from her once best friend, and there’s a maybe-ghost hanging around. Worst of all, Gram and Dad are definitely hiding secrets of their own.

If a smart cookie like Frankie wants to save the B&B and find her missing piece, she’s going to have to figure out what secrets are worth keeping and when it’s time to let go.

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

11 11 wish.jpg

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.

WIZARDMATCH, by Lauren Magaziner — March 6, 2018


Twelve-year-old Lennie Mercado loves magic. She practices her invisibility powers all the time (she can now stay invisible for fifteen seconds!), and she dreams of the day that she can visit her grandfather, the Prime Wizard de Pomporromp, at his magical estate.

Now Lennie has her chance. Poppop has decided to retire, and his grandchildren are coming from all over to compete in Wizardmatch. The winner inherits his title, his castle, and every single one of his unlimited magical powers. The losers get nothing. Lennie is desperate to win, but when Poppop creates a new rule to quelch any sibling rivalry, her thoughts turn from winning Wizardmatch to sabotaging it…even if it means betraying her family.

CILLA LEE-JENKINS: THIS BOOK IS A CLASSIC, by Susan Tan — March 27, 2018

cilla lee-jenkins 2

Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins has just finished her (future) bestselling memoir, and now she’s ready to write a Classic. This one promises to have everything: Romance, Adventure, and plenty of Drama―like Cilla’s struggles to “be more Chinese,” be the perfect flower girl at Aunt Eva’s wedding, and learn how to share her best friend.

In Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic, author Susan Tan seamlessly weaves experiences as a Chinese American with universal stories about being a big sister, making friends, and overcoming fears. Cilla Lee-Jenkins will bulldoze her way into your heart in this winning middle grade novel about family, friendship, and finding your voice.

LOU LOU & PEA AND THE BICENTENNIAL BONANZA, by Jill Diamond, pictures by Lesley Vamos — April 24, 2018

lou lou and pea 2

BFFs Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl are busy preparing for the Bicentennial Bonanza, their city’s two-hundredth birthday bash! And this year, the party will take place in their beloved neighborhood of El Corazón. With a baking contest, talent show, and a new gazebo planned, the community can’t wait to celebrate the founders (and historical BFFs), Diego Soto and Giles Wonderwood. But when Vice-Mayor Andy Argyle claims the festivities belong to Verde Valley, using a mysterious diary as evidence, Lou Lou and Pea smell trouble. Will the friends be able to uncover the secrets of their city’s founding, and bring the Bonanza back to El Corazón?

TWO DOGS IN A TRENCH COAT GO TO SCHOOL, by Julia Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack — May 29, 2018


Sassy and Waldo are good dogs. They spend the day keeping their house safe. Has a squirrel ever gotten inside? No! But every day their boy, Stewart, comes home from this terrible place called school smelling like anxiety and looseleaf paper.

Sassy and Waldo decide to save Stewart. But they don’t let dogs into school. So Sassy and Waldo decide to get creative. They put on an old trench coat, and now everyone at Bea Arthur Elementary thinks they are a new student named Salty from Liver, Ohio. Well, everyone except Stewart.

Sassy and Waldo love school! Everything smells like meat and dirty socks. And they discover a whole other way to help out Stewart!

TAKEDOWN, by Laura Shovan — June 19, 2018


Mikayla is a wrestler; when you grow up in a house full of brothers who wrestle, it’s inevitable. It’s also a way to stay connected to her oldest brother, Evan, who moved in with their dad. Some people are objecting to having to having a girl on the team. But that’s not stopping Mikayla. She’s determined to work harder than ever, and win.

Lev is determined to make it to the state championships this year. He’s used to training with his two buddies as the Fearsome Threesome; they know how to work together. At the beginning of sixth grade, he’s paired with a new partner–a girl. This better not get in the way of his goal.

Mikayla and Lev work hard together and become friends. But when they face each other, only one of them can win.