Greetings from Witness Protection, Jake Burt’s debut middle grade novel, walks the line between funny and poignant so perfectly, I couldn’t put it down. That same light touch shines in his second novel for middle grader readers, The Right Hook of Devin Velma. In this story of friendship, anxiety, families and basketball, Burt creates characters who struggle with some of the harsher aspects of modern American life and yet come out stronger for the experience.Continue reading “Jake Burt talks about The Right Hook of Devin Velma”
From the minute I saw the cover of EngiNerds, I was all in. I love the way the super smart ‘nerd’ boys are just average tweens in so many ways. This makes them relatable even when their adventures get wild. In the first of the series, Ken and pals discover the cool robots that appeared mysteriously on their doorsteps are not all positive. Sure, they can be awesome but they can also be destructive. Soon, the boys find themselves in a desperate race to save not only themselves but also the world.
From the beginning, EngiNerds is fast paced, thrilling, action packed adventure and chaos. I love this stuff! What influenced your desire to write this kind of book?Continue reading “Farting robots! Chaos! Hilarity! We must be chatting with middle grade author Jarrett Lerner…”
I’m a huge fan of sequels, especially ones that get my heart pounding! A Hint of Hydra, the follow up to last summer’s A Dash of Dragon, fits the bill. The series features Lailu, a monster cuisine chef with the best curses (‘What the spatula?’) and a extra serving of bravery. The amazing world building from the first book holds steady in this tense, action packed story, which finds Lailu trying to prevent a war between the elves and the scientists. There is also a cute boy. What’s not to love??
(PS: When I first interviewed this sister writing duo, I just knew I wanted to hang out with them in real life. And it’s happening! Join us at Keplers Books in Meno Park on September 14th 6:00-8:00 for Mighty Middle Grade, a panel moderated by the amazing Jill Diamond. We are going to have fun and you want to be there. More details here.)Continue reading “A chat with the middle grade author duo Kati Bartkowski & Heidi Lang”
Abby and the rest of her friends go international as they embark on their first “official” Center mission in this second book in the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series.
After discovering the truth about her spy school/boarding school—and her super-spy mom—Abby Hunter is ready for her next adventure, but what’s about to happen is something she never would have guessed…
Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges.
After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good.
With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission. They tangle with the world’s most notorious hacker, get in trouble for the possible theft of the Mona Lisa, and prepare for the ultimate showdown in London. But not before they have to contend with one more hurdle: the agonizing Smith School Spring Formal. Along the way, they discover they are much stronger as a team they can ever be alone.
And with a little luck, they might just save the world.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ellyswartz. And, for all the educators and librarians reading, I also love visiting schools and Skyping!
Smart Cookie Curriculum Guide