Cover reveal for….(drum roll)….Jenny Lundquist’s The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams

I had the great good fortune to spend several days with Jenny at a book festival earlier this year and I could not be more excited about her forthcoming novel! The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams is a hopeful middle grade story of three former friends who must come together at their annual town carnival to heal and reconnect after a tragedy.

Jenny is the author of such gems as Seeing Cinderella, The Princess in the Opal Mask, The Charming Life of Izzy Malone, The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby and more.

Now, three quick questions for Jenny before we scroll down and take a look at the beautiful cover for The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams.

What was your favorite part about writing Carnival?

My favorite part was imagining myself living in a small town in the Midwest. I was born and raised in southern California, but both sides of my family once lived in the Midwest. They came to California partly because of the great weather and partly in search of jobs. The story goes that my maternal grandfather interviewed for a job in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and was told he didn’t get it. He decided to take the $500 he’d saved up and buy a car to drive the family to California because he’d been told there was plenty of housing and plenty of jobs. The employer called back a few days later to say there had been a mistake: my grandfather actually had gotten the job, after all. But by then the car was purchased and the bags were packed! I don’t regret my upbringing, but sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I’d grown up in Nebraska or Ohio.

Where did the idea come from?

The idea was partly inspired by the book The Night Circus. I loved it so much, and I knew I one day wanted to write a middle grade novel with a slight nod to that. Then one day when I was free writing I came up with a character who received an anonymous note to meet someone at the Ferris wheel at midnight at the town carnival. At the time, I wasn’t even sure who          wrote the note, or why they wrote it, but it was enough to keep me intrigued, so I kept going!

What is your favorite thing to do when your not writing?

When I am not writing I love reading or especially right now with the weather so amazing, I love to be outdoors. I live in northern California now, near Sacramento and there’s a park I like to visit to walk around while I sip a cup of coffee. Being there is hugely life-giving to me, I try to make it there at least once a week.

 

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I LOVE it!! Congratulations, Jenny!

Look for The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams on Feb. 12, 2019. Preorder today from Amazon, B&N, IndieBound or from your local bookstore.

Visit Jenny at:

Website: www.jennylundquist.com

Twitter: @Jenny_Lundquist, 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/writerjenny, 

Instagram: www.instagram.com/jenny_lundquist

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34915599-the-carnival-of-wishes-and-dreams, 

Summer Reading 2018

Multiple studies now prove what we always knew: summer reading helps prevent the ‘summer slide’ or summer learning loss. And some experts say it takes just five books to reap the benefits. We can do that.

Of course, for some kids, reading is as natural as breathing but for others it’s a struggle. Fortunately, there are many amazing programs out there, including those at your local library, that encourage kids to pick up books during these long, hot, unstructured, wild and free summer days. (Check out my reluctant reader guide for tips, too.)

My personal belief is summer reading should be FUN – it’s the perfect time to indulge in action/adventure novels, thrillers, mysteries, graphic novels and books that make you laugh so hard you kind of think you might barf. To make it easy (because everyone is busy) I made a list. (I love book lists but you have probably already figured that out.)  Many of the authors here have other novels in print and I encourage you to pick those up as well – you know, double your fun with not much effort. 🙂

These books are primarily for middle grade readers but many can be read aloud to younger kids and don’t feel bad about sneaking them away to read yourself. Middle grade authors are producing gold these days and no one should miss out. Some are on shelves already and some are publishing soon.

Enjoy and happy summer!

(I include ‘buy’ links with each title but don’t forget your local indie book store and your local library!)

 

The Shadow Thieves, by Alexandra Ott (June 5th/Aladdin)

Author Ott goes deep with former thief Alli Roscoe. Torn between two worlds and competing desires, I felt every moment of her confusion.With compelling friendships and family relationships, this sequel to Rules for Thieves delivers action and edge of your seat thrills. Read the author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

The Seismic Seven (June 5th/HarperCollins)

Action packed. Science infused.  Six kids race to save the world from a super volcano. The heart pounding adventure ratchets up a notch when it becomes clear that there is more to fear than the volcano. In my mind, this is about as perfect as summer reading can get. Read the author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

The Frame Up, by Wendy McLeod MacKnight  (June 5th/Greenwillow Bks)

A fresh take on the idea of art coming to life, with multiple layers of compelling mystery  and intrigue, unexpected friendships and family drama. I especially loved the mash up of historical figures and characters living in the present. Could not put it down! Author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound

 

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, by Diane Magras (Deckle Edge)

One of my favorites of 2018 so far! I love the history, twisty plot and bold, heart pounding adventure. The Scottish headlines come vividly to life. But the complicated family relationships and friendships really make this book shine. Read the author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

Vanished! by James Ponti (Aladdin)

The winner of the 2018 Edgar Award, this sequel to Framed! is such good fun. I love the brainy mystery elements and the push/pull between best friends Florian and Margaret. I recommend reading them both although I read them out of order and it was fine. Trapped!, the 3rd in series, hits shelves SEp

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

The House that Lou Built, by Mae Respicio (June 12th/Wendy Lamb Books)

A coming-of-age story that explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a true home. I especially loved how thoroughlyLou plays against type and yet is relatable and familiar. For readers unfamiliar with Filipino culture, Lou is the best kind of guide. Experiencing the world through her eyes is a delight. Middle grade readers are in for a real treat.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

A Hint of Hydra, by Kati Bartkowski and Heidi Lang (July 10th/Aladdin)

I loved A Dash of Dragon, the first in this series penned by real life sisters, about Lailu, a monster cuisine chef with the best curses (‘What the spatula?’). The amazing world building and fun hold steady in the tense and action packed sequel, which sees Lailu trying to prevent a war between the elves and the scientists. There is also a cute boy.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound) (I will be at Kepler’s Books with Heidi and Kati September and it’s going to be fun! Details here.)

 

The Cryptid Catcher, by Lija Fisher (August 21st/ GS&F)

I loved this action/adventure with mythological roots and lots of humor. Thirteen year old Clivo Wren has his hands full following in his father’s footsteps but with the help of some new friends, he might just pull off the  impossible.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

The Right Hook of Devin Velma, by Jake Burt (Sept. 4th/Feiwel & Friends)

In this story of friendship, anxiety, families and basketball,  characters struggle with some of the harsher aspects of modern American life and yet come out stronger for the experience. I loved peering into the deep friendship between Addi and Devin and how they had each other’s backs, even when it was uncomfortable.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

24 Hours in Nowhere (Sept. 4th/Sterling)

Quirky characters and a unique desert setting make author Bowling’s second novel a perfect way to round out summer vacation. Gus wants to escape his dead-end town but first he has to survive the wrath of the local bully and a harrowing 24-hour search for missing gold. There’s

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

Take Us To Your Sugar, by Jonathan Roth

(Beep & Bob #3) (September 11th/Aladdin)

This series is perfect for younger readers and it might have my favorite title ever! I can totally see my eleven year old making the same demand! In this installment, Bob and his best friend Beep discover Halloween will not be celebrated at Astro Elementary, they hatch a plan to save their favorite sweet holiday. Funny, action packed space adventures will have your readers begging for more.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)

 

 

Katie Silvensky- The Seismic Seven interview

I am a huge Katie Silvensky fan so I’m extra excited to have her here to day to answer some questions. If you haven’t read her 2017 debut, The Countdown Conspiracy, get on that right now. It’s perfect for summer reading! I also can’t wait to dive into her second novel, The Seismic Seven, which pits seven smart kids against a supervolcano with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Just that description gets my heart racing.

Let’s talk to Katie!

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound or purchase from your local bookstore)

You write fast paced, science infused, high stakes thrillers for kids. Tell me a little bit about how that came to happen.

I’m lucky enough to have a career in informal science education, so I get perspectives from kids all the time about what is fun and exciting to them in the world of science. As it turns out, it’s usually what I’m super into, as well! Space travel. Giant volcanos. Prehistoric creatures. When I started pursuing publication seriously just under a decade ago, I knew that would be my angle: use what I was enthusiastic about (and what kids are enthusiastic about) to fuel my books.

My background as a scientist gave me the skillset to research with accuracy and speed to create the scenarios my books are founded on, and my lifelong love of action/adventure stories gave me the mold to work with to create my own. The only thing left to do was to practice, practice, practice, and revise, revise, revise!

Your books have ensemble casts with kids hailing from around the world and from various cultures, races and ethnicities. What kind of research do you do to make sure you get those different voices correct?

As authors, we have an incredible responsibility to our readers in this regard. I have personally made the decision to write only from the POV of my own cultural and racial background, while making sure that my ensemble cast of characters reflects the diversity of our world. I spend a lot of time working to get these varying voices to feel genuine, not perpetuate any harmful stereotypes, and stay respectful and unforced. It’s been a big learning curve—and I know I have much more learning still to do!

To accomplish the above, one thing I do is to read a lot of books by authors that share backgrounds with my characters. I have found this to be incredibly helpful way to get to know differing voices. I also do a lot of research into the modern history of each ethnicity/disability/culture/etc (as well as keeping up on current events). But these are really just first steps—getting voice “right” is as much about what you know and can put into the story as it is about what you don’t know or what should not be put in the story. Therefore, I seek out paid sensitivity readers to help me with characters whose backgrounds are different than my own. Hands down, this has been the most important and most helpful thing to do. I have received incredibly thoughtful feedback from sensitivity readers that has all served to change my narrative and characters for the better. I could not be more grateful for their honesty and work.

I tell everyone who will listen that The Countdown Conspiracy has the best ending of a middle grade book maybe ever!  Do you work up a detailed plot outline before you begin writing or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

I’m definitely a plotter, not a pantser. I create pages upon pages of detailed outlines, character arcs, maps, diagrams, everything! Messily, I should add. These notes aren’t neat or pretty in the slightest. They’re scribbles all over any type of paper I can grab when ideas hit, including junk mail envelopes, receipts, and napkins.

…Though, I have to say, I never wrote down the ending to COUNTDOWN on any of my plotting notes. I knew the ending, but I kept it in my head (or perhaps in my heart) for fear someone, somehow, would find it and get spoiled!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

 Both of my parents are readers and got me hooked on books from childhood. I was that kid who always carried a book with them. My imagination was enormous and books were like magic!

The first evidence I have of writing came from a notebook I had when I was about 4. (I wrote a story about a girl who got a cat as a present. Clearly, I was destined to be an author.) But it wasn’t until 2nd grade that my love for writing really kicked in. My teacher gave our class a creative writing prompt that I didn’t complete on time because the story wasn’t done. Rather than force me to hand it in unfinished, my teacher encouraged me to keep writing and even began reading it aloud to the room week after week as I added to it. My classmates were always tremendously eager to hear each new chapter. As the “quiet kid”, having attention on me in a positive way that built confidence was a new and exciting thing. Ever since then, storytelling has been a critically important part of my life.

 Who are your favorite authors?

 To name a few (because I could go on all day): Rick Riordan, Richard Adams, Ibi Zoboi, JK Rowling, Douglas Adams, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and Diana Wynne Jones.

 What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

 I like to take nature walks and practice my photography. 🙂

 What are you working on right now?

 Ooooh, right now I have three projects I’m working on. Each very different, but all middle grade and adventuresome. Stay tuned!

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

 I can be reached via the contact form on my website: www.katieslivensky.com. Otherwise, please feel free to follow me on Facebook  or on Twitter.

Thank you so much for the interview, Beth! This has been fun!

 

Books

Title: THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Release date: August 1st, 2017

Blurb: Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

****A Junior Library Guild Selection: Fall 2017****

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26102519-the-countdown-conspiracy

Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062462558

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Countdown-Conspiracy-Katie-Slivensky/dp/0062462555

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-countdown-conspiracy-katie-slivensky/1124860410

Title: THE SEISMIC SEVEN

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Release date: June 5th, 2018

Blurb: Brianna Dobson didn’t plan to spend her summer saving the planet from total destruction—but what starts as an educational experience shadowing geologist Dr. Samantha Grier in Yellowstone National Park quickly becomes a race to stop a massive volcanic eruption the likes of which the humanity has never seen.

Seven kids. One supervolcano. One chance to save the world.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35230414-the-seismic-seven

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062463180

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Seismic-Seven-Katie-Slivensky/dp/0062463187

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-seismic-seven-katie-slivensky/1126439901

 

Author

Katie Slivensky is an educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does presentations with alligators and liquid nitrogen (not usually at the same time), and runs the rooftop observatory program. Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her online at www.katieslivensky.com, and follow her on Twitter at @paleopaws.

 

An interview with Tricia Springstubb

Tricia Springstubb is the author of many books for middle grade readers and while I hope you will add them all to your child’s To Be Read list, right now I’m especially fond of the Cody series, the fourth of which, Cody and the Heart of a Champion, was recently released. Cody is a spunky young girl who charges headlong into life without thinking through the consequences. The results are often hilarious but what I really enjoy is being in Cody’s head and experiencing how she puzzles through challenging life choices, some of which may feel familiar to younger middle grade readers.

AND We’re lucky to have Tricia Springstubb here to answer some questions on today’s blog!

(Buy the books: AmazonB&N, IndieBound or purchase from your local indie bookstore)

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve loved stories as long as I can remember—stories in books, stories my grandmother told me, stories I made up and acted out with my dolls or stuffed animals. Once I learned to read,

I never went anywhere without a book. It wasn’t till I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s, though, that I began to write for anyone beside myself. I’m a self-taught writer, and my evolution from reader to reader-writer was slow.

I laughed out loud reading Cody and The Fountain of Happiness. Her heart is in the right place but sometimes she messes up anyway (I’m thinking of the hypnotizing scenes). Is this the way you envisioned her from the beginning or did she evolve on the page? Where did Cody come from?

I was a shy, timid child, and I’m still not good at taking risks. I tend to write characters who think a lot before they act. With Cody, I wanted to inhabit a different kind of kid, one who was impulsive and confident and seized the day—for better or for worse. Her big heart saves her every time, thank goodness. I have loved writing her

The secondary characters in the Cody books have much more depth than I’m used to seeing in books targeting younger middle grade readers. It gives your books real emotional heft. Was this intentional?

I can’t seem to help writing complicated—complicated characters, plots, themes. It’s kind of a curse. With the Cody books, I tried hard to make things simpler, but never simplistic. I’m so glad you liked the minor characters, because I am very fond of them all, including MewMew, who’s based on my own beloved cat.

The fourth and latest Cody book is Cody and the Heart of a Champion (released in April). How many do you envision in the series? In your mind, how is Cody changing/will change as the series progresses?

The fourth book is the last one—at least for now. It’s set in spring, so it brings the series full circle through the year. Cody has learned a lot about patience, empathy, conscience, the ebb and flow of friendship, the inevitability of change, but she’s still her own high-spirited, big-hearted self, thank goodness.

Who are your favorite authors?

Children’s writers I love include E.B. White, Kate DiCamillo, Linda Urban, Lynne Rae Perkins, Julie Falatko, Rita Williams-Garcia, Naomi Shihab Nye—I could go on and on (I am very bad at picking favorites).  Adults writers include Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro, Alice McDermott, Joanne Beard and someone I just discovered—Jane Gardham.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Uh oh, another favorite question! I could say read (duh), walk, garden, but since my second grandbaby was born yesterday, I will say: Be a nana.

What are you working on right now?

I have a new picture book coming out with Candlewick Press in 2020. It’s tentatively titled “Khalil and Mr. Hagerty”. I love love love the collaborative process of working with an illustrator, and I’m very excited to be working for the first time with the amazing Elaheh Taherian.

I’m also working on a new middle grade novel, this one about a girl named Loah, whose fearless (possibly foolish) mother is off on a scientific expedition to save the rare (possibly extinct) Loah bird. It’s gone through more drafts than I can count.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Readers can contact me through my website triciaspringstubb.com, my Facebook page, or Twitter @springstubb. Whichever way you choose, please do contact me! I can get very lonesome sitting at this desk by myself all day.

An interview with Elly Swartz, author of Smart Cookie

Elly Swartz’s new middle grade novel, Smart Cookie, has all the elements that are sure to delight young readers – friendship, family, secrets, mystery, a cool granny and ghosts.

At a young age, Frankie lost her mother but rather than wait for fate to intervene and choose a new partner for her father, she is determined to influence events. Along the way, she will have to wrestle with family secrets, an irritated best friend and, possibly, a haunted B&B. I loved Frankie’s spunk and grit and I know you will, too.

(Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes and NobleIndiebound)

(Also by Elly Swartz: Finding Perfect)

 

What were your favorite books as a kid?

I was a huge fan of Pippi Longstocking, Ramona the Brave, and Eloise. I think I loved their spunky, mischievous, independent nature.

In Smart Cookie, protagonist Frankie creates an online dating profile for her dad without his knowledge, with humorous results. What sparked this idea?

The best ideas are everywhere! You just have to store them away for the right story. I run a business where I help students and their families navigate the college process. And a long time ago, one of my students shared that she created an online dating profile for her grandmother. It wasn’t, however, a secret mission. Although this was many years before Frankie came to life, it planted the seed for Operation Mom. That’s the thing about idea seeds, you collect them, but they only germinate when the story is ready to spring to life.

Frankie feels like a classic middle grade hero – her voice is genuine and relatable. Did she show up that way or did you experiment with different versions of her?

Frankie came to me with all her spunk and heart. I loved her from the first moment she started whispering in my ear. She’s filled with a strong sense of loyalty and love of family. But, ultimately, learns that family isn’t about having all the pieces in place, it’s about having people in your life who love you unconditionally. And that circle is so much bigger than those with whom you’ve shared a childhood or a name.

Secrets and mystery are at the heart of Smart Cookie. Are you a mystery fan or did this just evolve as you went along?

The secrets and mystery element of Smart Cookie evolved as an integral part of the story. When I write, I start with the heart of a character. In this case, that was Frankie. From there, it’s like I’m the muse and the characters are whispering in my ear. They are sharing their secrets and telling me why it’s so important to keep them hidden. And, if I am listening, really listening, I get to write their story.

Frankie, her dad and her grandmother live together in a struggling B&B. I loved the details. How did you research what it might be like running a place like The Greene Family B&B?

My husband and I have spent a lot of time in B&Bs. They are warm and friendly and filled with family. And many of these B&Bs have been nestled in wonderful small towns in Vermont. During our stays, I’ve spoken to the owners of the B&Bs about what motivated them to buy the inn, how life has been for them as owners, and the travails that have ensued at the B&B.

What are you currently working on?

I am in the middle of revisions for a new middle grade novel that comes out in 2019. In GIVE AND TAKE, you’ll meet twelve-year-old Maggie. Maggie has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. With the help of her turtle Rufus, a baby named Izzie and the almost all-girls trap shooting team, she begins to understand that people are more than the things that hold their memories.

I also have ideas stirring for a nonfiction book and another new mg novel. So stay tuned. Good things are coming!

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I love connecting with readers! They can reach me via my website, http://ellyswartz.com/contact or ellyswartz@outlook.com or on Twitter @ellyswartz. And, for all the educators and librarians reading, I also love visiting schools and Skyping!

 

Smart Cookie Curriculum Guide

http://ellyswartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Smart-Cookie-Curriculum-Guide-.pdf