Thursday, May 31, 2018

Blog Tour For The Frame-Up: Interview With Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Today on the blog I'm pleased to welcome Wendy McLeod MacKnight! This is a stop on her blog tour for her new book, The Frame-Up, which release June 5th. I got to interview her for the blog tour, and here's the interview! :)

The bold font are the questions I asked, the regular font are her answers, and the bold italic font are my comments about her answers.

Would you please tell us a little about The Frame-Up?
Hi Jessica! I’d love to!

The book is a middle grade fantasy based on one major idea: What if every original piece of art in the world is alive, but doesn’t want us to know they’re alive? 

It’s set at the real-life Beaverbrook Art Gallery, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where I live, and a lot of the characters in the story are masterpieces that you can actually visit (and which Greenwillow Books amazingly included in a full-color insert in the book!). In the story, one of the masterpieces, a portrait of a thirteen-year-old girl named Mona Dunn, is caught moving in her portrait by the gallery director’s son, Sargent Singer. As they become friends, they’re caught up in a potential art heist and all kinds of other shenanigans. It’s a real page-turner!

I loved the idea of exploring how people interact with art, especially children, because for many people, visiting art galleries can be an intimidating or a dry experience. I hope that once they read The Frame-Up, that won’t be the case! I also wanted to write a story in which the two main characters couldn’t interact in the same place; the worlds in front of the frame and behind the frame are completely separate. And what would it be like to be always thirteen like Mona is? There were so many juicy ideas to dig into!

Because of the book, I have to ask. What's your favorite piece of art?
My favorite piece of art is actually the portrait of Patsy Ryder that’s included in the book, because it’s a portrait of my mother!

But in terms of paintings that don’t belong to me, it’s gotta be Mona Dunn. I loved her portrait before I ever dreamed of writing the book!

Image of Mona Dunn

That's neat! :)

Random question! What's your favorite movie?

The Wizard of Oz! And I had the campers watch it in the story!

If you're able to talk about it, what are you working on now?
I just handed in my next book to Greenwillow Books. It’s about a girl who’s been forced to move a lot and to fit in, she always acts like the other kids. Except in the latest move, she actually begins to turn into them…

It sounds good! :)

What are some books you've recently enjoyed reading?
Oh my gosh where to start? You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly is beautiful! Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla is wonderful, too! I am dying to read the next Jason Reynolds book and I am on a countdown for the last Penderwicks book!

You Go First is on my TBR list! :)

Thank you to Wendy for letting me be a part of this blog tour! :)

Author bio: Wendy grew up in St. Stephen and wrote her first novel at age nine. She worked for the Government of New Brunswick for twenty-five years, ending her career as the Deputy Minister of Education when the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. Wendy is represented by Lauren Galit of the LKG Agency in New York City. Her debut middle grade novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! was published by Sky Pony Press in 2017. Her second book, The Frame-Up, a fantasy set at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, was sold at auction to Greenwillow Books in a two-book deal and will be published June 5th 2018. 

Here are a few links:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: Postcards From Venice

Review: Postcards From Venice by Dee Romito

Twelve-year-old Skyler is about to go on the biggest adventure of her life. Her mother has been relocated to Venice, Italy, with the possibility of a long-term move. While there, Skyler takes on an informal internship and will be blogging about the city--a position that could lead to even bigger things if all goes well.

One of her fellow interns, Logan, is cool, cute,and Australian. But the other intern, Zara, seems determined to sabotage Skyler's chances. And with a big assignment coming up, Skyler is already stumped.

Wishing she had someone to talk to, the first person who comes to mind isn't even on the same continent. Skyler knows that her BFF, Ella,would have all the answers, especially how to solve the writer's block. But after a summer bucket list that went awry, they didn't leave on the best of terms. Thanks to technology, Skyler and Ella get a long-distance shot at mending things.

But when Skyler's writing mistakes start to pileup, she isn't sure if she's up to the task. With the help of some Italian magic and her oldest friend, can Skyler learn to love her new city and stay connected to what matters most?

Postcards from Venice is a companion to The BFF Bucket List.
-summary and cover via Goodreads

Plot: I loved reading about Venice! I would love to visit Italy one day, and reading the descriptions of Venice in the book was wonderful! (But seriously, all the mentions of gelato had me wanting a bowl of it myself!)

Characters: I liked all the characters in the book! I enjoyed reading about Skyler's adventures through Venice.

The cover: M!X covers are always fun, and this might be one of my new favorites!

Overall: This was a really enjoyable Middle Grade book, that is would be great for summer! (Or anytime of year!) Definitely recommend this book! :)

(Bonus: The reference to one of the authors other books, No Place Like Home, was fun!)

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Yay For Middle Grade Books! 2018 Wrap Up

Hi, everyone! Today I'm posting the wrap up for Yay For Middle Grade Books! 2018! I've had a lot of fun with this event, and I hope you all have had a lot of fun, too. Before I get to the recap, I just want to say thank you to all the authors who participated in this event! You all are awesome people. And to everyone who helped promote this event, by reading the posts, commenting on them, retweeting them, and anything else that helped, thank you! :)

Now, onto the recap!

The first day of the event featured an interview from Patricia Bailey, author of The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan.

On day two, we had a guest post from Kamilla Benko, author of The Unicorn Quest, about her favorite literary sisters in Middle Grade books.

Day three featured an interview with Lindsay Currie, the author of The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street.

The following day was a spotlight on Jen Malone's books, plus a giveaway.

Then an interview with Allison Gutknecht, the author of Sing Like Nobody's Listening.

After that, an interview with Janet Sumner Johnson, author of The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society.

The next day, Sarah McGuire (The Flight of Swans) interviewed Stephanie Burgis (The Girl With the Dragon Heart) about her books, plus, a giveaway! (Which is still happening! Go and enter the giveaway!)

The next day featured an interview with Lauren Magaziner, the author of Wizardmatch.

The following day, an interview with Gail Nall, the author of Out of Tune.

Then a guest post from Anna Staniszewski, author of Once Upon a Cruise, about How NOT to Write Middle Grade Voice.

Following that, a guest post from Jen Calonita, author of Misfits, about the royal wedding and her book.

The next day, a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight, author of The Frame-Up, Everything I Learned About Humor I Learned From a Middle Grade Book.

And to end the event, a guest post from Dee Romito, the author of Postcards From Venice., plus, a giveaway! (Go and enter it!)

Thank you again to all the authors who participated, and thank you to everyone who helped promote the event! :)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guest Post From Dee Romito + Giveaway!

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Dee Romito! Ms. Romito is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including the upcoming Postcards from Venice, which releases May 29th. Here's the guest post! And be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post, because Ms. Romito is giving away one of her books!

When I first started writing middle grade stories, I was also reading a lot of middle grade books. Because if there’s one thing writers hear over and over again, it’s to read within your category and genre. That’s how you see what’s out there and learn how it’s done. For me, that meant middle grade contemporary—maybe with a little bit of magic.

One of my favorite books during that time was Seeing Cinderella, by Jenny Lundquist. It’s about a girl who gets a pair of glasses with magic powers and can read people’s thoughts. Cool, right? That was the kind of book I wanted to write, and someday, I wanted to have one of those adorable Aladdin Mix covers. She even sent me an advanced copy of her next book with an encouraging note. I still have that note. (Thank you, Jenny!)

As I moved along on my publishing journey, I met a writer in the slush pile of a contest and we became critique partners and friends. Not too long after, she got her first book deal. At Your Service, by Jen Malone is about Chloe, who lives in a fancy hotel in New York City, and is appointed the official junior concierge. She’s in charge of whatever the kid-guests might need. And she’s doing great, until she loses a princess! That was the kind of book I wanted to write, and someday, I wanted to have one of those adorable Aladdin Mix covers. (Can you guess where this is going?)

Well as it turns out, I did get one of those adorable Aladdin Mix covers. My first book, The BFF Bucket List, came out in 2016 from Simon & Schuster. And that cover had my name on it. In a fitting, full-circle twist, my editor was the same one who had worked on Seeing Cinderella.

So for those of you on that publishing rollercoaster, keep writing, reading, and pushing toward that goal. And for the readers out there, we’re doing our best to write books you’ll love. Thank you for all of your support!

(Psst … Postcards from Venice, the companion/sequel to The BFF Bucket List comes out May 29!)

Love this! The Aladdin Mix books are always fun! And thank you to Ms. Romito for participating in this event! :)

Author bioDee Romito is an author and former elementary school teacher. Her middle grade books include The BFF Bucket List, No Place Like Home, Postcards from Venice, and co-authored Best.Night.Ever (Aladdin/S&S). Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) releases in November 2018. She blogs about writing at and is Co-Advisor of Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators. While she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. You can visit her website at

Here are a few links:

Now the giveaway! :)

Information and Rules:
Giveaway runs between May 26th through June 3rd.
Enter using the rafflecopter below.
There will be one winner! 
Afterward I will contact the winner to get the information for the author, the winner will have 48 hours to reply.
If the winner does not reply within 48 hours, I will draw a new winner.
The author is the one responisible to get the prize to the winner.
US and Canada only

No cheating! 

And good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 25, 2018

Guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight!

Today in Yay For Middle Grade Books!, I'm happy to present a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight! She is the author of It's a Mystery, Pig Face!, and the upcoming The Frame-Up, which releases June 5th. Now here's the guest post!

Everything I Learned About Humor I Learned from a Middle Grade Book

Is there anything better than a book that makes us chuckle, or even better, experience a laugh-out-loud belly laugh?

And sure, picture books can be hysterical (one only has to read BJ Novak’s The Book with No Pictures to get that), but my money is on the middle grade novel, where authors take us on wild rides that leave us laughing so hard we’re crying.

One of the first middle grade novels I ever read was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. Every page was filled with witty and sarcastic asides, as well as slapstick comedy. As a reader, I felt very grownup to be in on Mr. Dahl’s secret that children’s books could be so funny.

“Whips!” cried Veruca Salt. “What on earth do you use whips for?” “For whipping cream, of course,” said Mr. Wonka. “How can you whip cream without whips? Whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all unless it’s been whipped with whips. Just as a poached egg isn’t a poached egg unless it’s been stolen from the woods in the dead of night! Row on, please!”
And then of course I discovered Pippi Longstocking, the world’s strongest girl and freest spirit!

“As the children were sitting there eating pears, a girl came walking along the road from town. When she saw the children she stopped and asked, ‘Have you seen my papa go by?’

‘M-m-m,’ said Pippi. ‘How did he look? Did he have blue eyes?’

‘Yes,’ said the girl.

‘Medium large, not too tall and not too short?’

‘Yes,’ said the girl.

‘Black hat and black shoes?’

‘Yes, exactly,’ said the girl eagerly.

‘No, that one we haven’t seen,’ said Pippi decidedly.

For a while — a very short while — I grew up and didn’t read many middle grade novels. But I missed them dreadfully, because humorous adult novels have a tendency to be too clever for their own good.

Enter Captain Underpants, who my son adored:

I adored Captain Underpants, too, for lines like the following…

“George and Harold were usually responsible kids. Whenever anything bad happened, George and Harold were usually responsible.”

From Captain Underpants, he moved on to a Series of Unfortunate Events, Holes, and everything by Kate DiCamillo.

It was a reminder to me of how important it is to not only watch funny movies and TV shows, but read funny books as well, and since then, I’ve never shirked my duty to look for funny middle grade novels.

Nowadays when I do school visits, I always make sure to talk to kids about funny books.

Not only did the funny books I read as a kid help sharpen my funny bone, they were often the perfect tonic for stressful times, life changes, and the confusion I often felt while growing up.

And I bring along copies of recent books (and sometimes I leave a few for their library!) that I think they will fall in love with, including these recent faves:

These books are guaranteed belly-laughers, and thanks to the wonderfully twisted minds of their authors, are helping create the next generation of smart, funny, kids!!
Just as “issues” books are critical for our kids, so are escapist romps.

Frankly, we could all use more laughs in our lives, and middle grade novels are the perfect place to start!

I haven't read all these books, I really need to try them! And thank you to Ms. MacKnight for participating in this event!

Author bio: Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a small town with a library card as her most prized possession. She wrote her first novel at age nine. Her debut middle grade novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! was published by Sky Pony Press in 2017. Her second book, The Frame-Up, a fantasy that asks “What if every original piece of art is actually alive?” sold at auction to Greenwillow Books in a two-book deal and will be published June 5th, 2018.

Here are a few links:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Guest Post From Jen Calonita!

Today on the blog I have a guest post from Jen Calonita! Ms. Calonita is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including her upcoming book, Misfits, which releases October 2nd. Here's her guest post!

Long May They Reign

As I sit here sipping from my commemorative Prince Harry and Meghan Markle coffee mug that my husband brought me from London on a recent trip, I can’t help but be giddy about a wedding that will have already happened by the time this post goes live.

I’ve read all the magazine articles a person can read on Meghan and still, I find myself pining for more. I will be watching the Lifetime movie special about their courtship and will most likely set my alarm for 5 AM EST to watch the wedding live here in the States. I have my commemorative mug, my favorite plastic tiara, and my Harry and Meghan tote bag (yeah, he got me one of those too. Plus, a tea towel! I’m so happy!) all ready for the celebration.

What is it about this wedding that has me and so much of the world excited? Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I love the idea of a new era of royals dawning. Not only is Meghan a commoner, and an American to boot, but she’s a divorcée—all things once considered taboo for a royal bride. I’ve watched in wonder as she and Harry have rewritten the code for what it means to be a royal couple. They haven’t shied away from public displays of affection or from choosing charity work that is personally meaningful to them both. Basically, I’m fascinated, partly because they’re setting the groundwork for my own group of royals that readers will meet this October when Royal Academy Rebels’ MISFITS makes its debut.

My protagonist, Devin, is what you’d call a reluctant royal trapped at a school where royal traditions reign. At Royal Academy (a sister school to Fairy Tale Reform School), Devin and her roommates Sasha (Sleeping Beauty’s younger sister) and Raina (a sibling of Snow White’s) learn princesses haven’t changed that much over the years. Princesses are taught how to survive sleeping curses and handle being trapped by villains with grace and humility. They learn how to wait in towers to be rescued and are taught never to attempt to rescue themselves. Devin, wants none of that. Neither do some of her new friends, including world explorer Prince Heathcliff (another sibling of Snow White’s) or Logan, a boy allergic to dragons but a whiz in the kitchen. These young royals are ready to rock the system and I think both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would approve.

--Jen Calonita, author of the Fairy Tale Reform School series (SWITCHED, is out now) and the upcoming Royal Academy Rebels from Sourcebooks

The royal wedding was fun to watch! And Misfits sounds really good! Thank you to Ms. Calonita for participating in this event! :)

Author bioJen Calonita is the author of the Fairy Tale Reform School series and the upcoming companion series, Royal Academy Rebels. The first book, MISFITS, will be out October second. When she isn't hanging out with her family or her two feisty chihuahuas--Captain Jack Sparrow and Ben Kenobi--you'll find her daydreaming about a life spent living in Cinderella's castle in Walt Disney World.

Here are a few links:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Guest Post From Anna Staniszewski

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Anna Staniszewski! Ms. Staniszewski is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including Once Upon a Cruise. Here's her guest post!

How NOT to Write Middle Grade Voice

Many moons ago, when I first started writing novels, I thought I was writing for adults. But over and over, people would tell me, “Your characters sound too young. They sound thirteen.” Eventually I smartened up and realized that I was supposed to be writing books for middle grade readers, and I haven’t looked back since!

I’m lucky that I have a natural middle grade voice, but voice is probably the hardest thing about writing for young readers—and even I don’t always get it right. A lot of writers think they have a “kid voice” but it actually sounds like an adult trying to sound like a kid. How do you avoid this pitfall? Here are some tips for the aspiring MG writers out there.

-Find the emotion.

Think back to when you were the age of your main character and remember what mattered to you: what felt exciting or terrifying or devastating. Then infuse that emotion into your character’s story, so that their thoughts and reactions will feel genuine and real.

-Avoiding stereotypes.

If you’re going off of what you’ve seen on TV, chances are you’ll get it wrong. There is no such thing as a typical 10 or 12 year old, and there’s no such thing as a typical MG protagonist. Instead, dig into your character to find out how they think and act and express themselves. If they’re angry, do they cry or do they scream or do they neurotically alphabetize? Creating unique, quirky humans (rather than “typical” kids or tweens) will make your characters feel layered and engaging.

-Find your character’s language.

If you’ve developed a unique character with authentic emotions, that will go a long way in making sure the character acts and talks in a believable way. But what language patterns or oddities do they have? Are they always making up weird words? Do they spout scientific facts when they’re nervous? Those types of details are way better than having your character rolling their eyes and saying “Whatever!” all the time!

-Don’t make character too articulate.

Remember that young people often have more emotions than words, so they’re not always able to articulate how they’re feeling. That’s why showing thoughts and emotions through action and gesture is so useful, especially in times of high emotion. We generally don’t expect people of any age to say exactly what they’re thinking, and it feels especially fishy if we hear characters in MG saying something like, “I was upset when you did that because it made me feel bad about myself.” It’s much more likely that a character will say, “You’re the worst!”

-Get the adults out of the picture.

This is a cliché in children’s books—kill off the parents!—but it exists for a reason. Parents often get in the way of a kid going on adventures and trying new things, but when it comes to voice, having too many adults in the story can also get in the way of your character speaking up. It can be interesting to show how your character acts/talks around adults vs. around peers or siblings, but if you have too many “helpful adults” trying to tell your character what to do or trying to speak for your character, then it takes your character’s voice away and makes the story less interesting. So if your story is crowded with adults, even if they mean well, at some point, they need to fade away so that your character can live their own story and make their own mistakes.

All really great advice! Thank you to Ms. Staniszewski for participating in this event! :)

Author bioAnna Staniszewski is the author of several tween novels, including The Dirt Diary and Once Upon a Cruise, as well as the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex. She was a former Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and currently teaches at Simmons College in Boston. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, eating too much chocolate, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. Visit her at

Here are a few links:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Interview With Gail Nall!

Today on the blog I'm happy to present an interview with Gail Nall! Ms. Nall is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including Out of Tune.

The bold font are the questions I asked, the regular font are her answers, and the bold italic font are my comments about her answers.

1. Would you please tell us a little about Out of Tune?
Sure! Out of Tune is basically music, Yellowstone, and finding home. Maya, the main character, is an aspiring country singer from Nashville. She has big plans to audition for a reality singing show when her family sells everything they own to move into a trailer and travel the country. Maya's determined not to let that stop her dreams, so she hatches a plan -- which might involve a 100-mile bike ride through Yellowstone -- to get back home in time for auditions.

Love this book! :)

2. Maya, the main character of Out of Tune, loves country music and wants to be a country singer. Maya lists Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert as her favorites. Who is your favorite country singer?
Ooh, good question! I love those ladies. Miranda Lambert can sing a break-up song better than just about anyone. I also have a soft spot for Dolly Parton (seriously, is there anything better than "Jolene"?). I also love guys like Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, and my all-time favorite, Jason Isbell. Mostly, I just love a country song that tells a story and maybe makes me cry. 

I don't think I've ever heard Jason Isbell's music before! I need to listen to it! :)

3. Random question! Do you listen to music while you write?
I don't! Not usually, anyway, because it distracts me. But a lot of times, I'll make a playlist for the book I'm working on and listen to it when I'm driving or out walking. If I listen to it enough, the music gets me in the mood of the story and fades into the background so I can work through plot problems or brainstorm ideas for characters.

4. If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
Right now, I'm working on a new middle grade novel that I can't say much about yet. I've got the story plotted, and I've just started writing the first draft. It's very different from my other books, and I'm having a lot of fun writing it! I also have the first draft of a YA novel that I need to go back and start revising.

5. What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
Lately, I've really enjoyed Eric Bell's ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD and Amy Dixon's upcoming ANNIE B., MADE FOR TV. I'm most looking forward to reading Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone's THE ART OF THE SWAP and Sayantani Dasgupta's THE SERPENT'S SECRET -- both are out, and I just haven't had the time to read them yet.

I really liked The Art of the Swap! :)

Thank you to Ms. Nall for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the Aladdin/S&S middle grade novels OUT OF TUNE, BREAKING THE ICE, the YOU'RE INVITED series (co-authored with Jen Malone), and BEST.NIGHT.EVER. (co-authored). She is also the author of the young adult novel, EXIT STAGE LEFT (Epic Reads Impulse/HarperCollins). You can find her online at and on Twitter as @gailecn.

Here are a few links:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Interview with Lauren Magaziner!

Today I'm happy to present an interview with Lauren Magaziner! Lauren is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including Wizardmatch, and the upcoming Case Closed: Mystery in the Mansion, which releases August 14th.

The bold font are the questions I asked, the regular font are her answers, and the bold italic font are my comments about her answers.

1. Would you please tell us a little about Wizardmatch?
Wizardmatch is like Which Witch meets The Incredibles.

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 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.

2. Your next book, Case Closed: Mystery in the Mansion, releases in August! Would you like to tell us all a little about it?
Case Closed is a “pick your path” mystery series, in which the reader chooses which clues to follow up on, whom to interview, and what questions to ask each suspect. There are also puzzles embedded into the story, and it’s up to you to solve them in order to advance. There are countless combinations of choices and endings—and it’s really like getting five books in one!

The first book, Mystery in the Mansion, is about Carlos Serrano, whose mom gets sick the morning she’s supposed to be investigating a case that could save her failing detective agency. So Carlos decides, with the help of his best friend Eliza and her little brother Frank, to solve the case for her. The case involves an eccentric millionaire named Guinevere LeCavalier who has been receiving death threats. Someone is demanding her late husband’s secret treasure… or else. Only, Guinevere doesn’t know where or what the treasure is. Can you find the treasure and stop whoever is sending the death threats before it’s too late, or will it be case closed? You pick the path, you crack the case!

I'm really looking forward to reading this book! :)

3. Random question! In Wizardmatch, every member of the family has a magical power that lasts for a limited amount of time. What would you want your power to be?
Oh, I would definitely want to be able to turn vegetables into cookies. Even if it’s just for 10 seconds at a time!

That would be a pretty great power! :)

4. If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on the second Case Closed book, which is called Case Closed: Stolen From the Studio. Same three young detectives from book one (Carlos, Eliza, and Frank), but a totally different mystery. This one is about a teenage TV starlet who mysteriously vanishes from the set. And some of the people around her may have had motives to make her disappear. It’s up to Carlos—and YOU—to investigate the suspicious cast and crew of the show and figure out what truly happened to Layla.

5. What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
Some middle grade books I’ve adored recently have been:

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

The War I Finally Won by Kim Brubaker Bradley

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Frazzled series by Booki Vivat

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Some middle grade books releasing this summer that I’m looking forward to reading:

Spell & Spindle by Michelle Schusterman

Takedown by Laura Shovan

The Mona Lisa Key by Liesl Shurtliff

Babysitting Nightmares by Kat Shepherd

Nightbooks by J.A. White

Estranged by Ethan Aldridge

And, of course, catching up on a bunch of 2017 and 2018 middle grades that have already come out… but I haven’t had a chance to read yet. My TBR pile is out of control! 

I haven't heard of all these books before, I need to look them up! :)

Thank you to Lauren for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Lauren Magaziner grew up in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and is a proud graduate of Hamilton College. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her humorous middle grade books, Wizardmatch, Pilfer Academy and The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, are available now. Her next: the first book in the Case Closed series, a "pick your path" mystery series for middle grade, releases on August 14, 2018 from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books.

Here are a few links:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sarah McGuire Interviews Stephanie Burgis! + Giveaway

Today on the blog for Yay For Middle Grade Books! 2018, Sarah McGuire has interviewed Stephanie Burgis! Sarah McGuire is the author of Valiant, and the upcoming The Flight of Swans, which releases October 1st. Stephanie Burgis is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart, and the upcoming The Girl With the Dragon Heart, which releases November 6th. And read all the way down to the bottom of the post, because Ms. McGuire is giving away a copy of The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart! Here's the interview!

Sarah McGuire Interviews Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis has been one of my favorite middle grade authors for a while, so when Jessica asked for posts for Yay For Middle Grade Books!, I knew exactly what to do! Stephanie's latest middle grade, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, is a fabulous story involving chocolate, adventure, and a fierce heroine who will steal your heart. Read on for an interview with Stephanie and information about a giveaway for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart! 

I loved Aventurine-especially how she was unabashedly different (that awesome dress!) and fierce: "There was no chance in the world that I was going to sit back and let anyone hurt my hoard." What was it like writing such a fiery heroine? 

In real life, I'm a people-pleaser, so I found it incredibly liberating to write Aventurine as my heroine! In my own life, I constantly second-guess what I should say; when I was writing Aventurine, I got to vicariously stomp around, proud and fierce and intent on conquering new territory! She's so fierce and strong, I loved living in her skin as I wrote this book - and I loved digging down to find the hidden vulnerabilities underneath her emotional scales, too. Perfectionism is absolutely a trait we have in common!

I savored so many of the little details you used to describe a dragon trapped in a human body, from calling eyebrows "face fur" to Aventurine realizing she was going to cry for the first time. What was it like to put a dragon inside a 12 year old girl?

I did layer after layer of rewriting in this book, constantly questioning whether I was really describing things the way a dragon would see them or whether I was letting myself slip into using terminology that she wouldn't have. It was a long process but a really fun game to play as I had to force myself to re-see familiar things as if they were completely new to me!

Let's talk chocolate! I was going to ask for recipes but saw that you had some already on your website. ( How did you research older methods of making chocolate? Were you able to find anyone who still made it that way or did you rely mostly on old recipes and accounts? 

There are a lot of differences between 18th-century chocolate and modern chocolate, because there was a huge shift in methods of chocolate production in the 19th century. I did a lot of reading in different 18th century cookbooks to find the kinds of treats that are made in The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart - which was a delicious kind of research! The best resource I found for the actual chocolate-making process  was the wonderful <a href="">18th-century chocolate kitchen in Hampton Court Palace</a>, here in the UK, where you can go to see (and drink) hot chocolate being made by chocolatiers with 18th-century methods. Even if you can't visit it in person, there's a lot of information on their website, including more recipes and instructional videos!

I loved that you had a diverse cast in Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. You mentioned in one interview how it was freeing to base a fantasy on 18th century Germany but not have it be bound to that life. In what other ways did you stretch your wings in this story?

Yes! This was the first time I'd ever written a novel in an imaginary world (even though I modelled it on 18th-century Germany) instead of giving it a real historical setting, and it felt so freeing. This was also my first novel with mythical creatures (even though I've always been obsessed with dragons!), and in this series as a whole, I've stretched my wings by writing a different heroine for each book. Aventurine is a major character in the sequel, but she isn't the star - her best friend Silke gets her own story next, and so on. :) It's been a definite challenge to change perspectives with each book, but I've also really loved getting to explore different heroines' experiences in the same fantasy world and really dig into all the different aspects of that world.

What was it like discovering that you'd win the Cybils? Was it a phone call? An email? And what sort of chocolate did you celebrate with? 

I actually found out via Twitter! And then within minutes I had congratulations emails from my editor and agent. I was over the moon! I'd been fantasizing about winning a Cybil for years, so it really was a dream come true. Of course I celebrated with a hot chocolate, Aventurine's favorite drink! :)

What are some of your favorite MG fantasy heroines? Let's help readers add to their TBR list!
I really love Aru Shah in Roshani Chokshi's Aru Shah and the End of Time - she's so smart and over-the-top creative and vulnerable and lovable, I would follow her anywhere. I also love Aluna in Jenn Reese's Above World, who's brave and strong and wounded, and Kiran in Sayantani DasGupta's The Serpent's Secret, who's snarky and loyal and fantastic at riddles.

I can't wait for The Girl with the Dragon Heart! What do you most want readers to know about it? 

I first fell in love with Silke as I wrote The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, and by the end of that book, it was obvious that she had a story of her own to tell. In The Girl with the Dragon Heart, she takes center-stage when the crown princess hires her to spy on dangerous visiting fairies - but even the crown princess doesn't know the dangerous secrets of Silke's past, or the fact that Silke actually has something she desperately wants from the fairies herself. 

As I wrote this book, I listened again and again to the song "Defying Gravity" from WICKED, which is Silke's theme song. I love Silke for how smart and sharp and imaginative she is, for her seemingly effortless self-confidence and her brilliance at spinning the perfect story for every situation as she fights for a safe home and for her family - but her story turned out to be by far the most deeply emotional novel that I've written yet. I've cried at the ending every single time I edited it! (It's happy-crying, I promise - my books will always have happy endings! But it's a really intense ending, too. I really hope readers will enjoy it!)

Love the interview! And thank you to both authors for participating in this event! :)

Sarah McGuire Author BioSarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She wrote Valiant and The Flight of Swans,  would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

Stephanie Burgis Author BioStephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffee shops. She is the author of the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy of Regency fantasy novels for MG readers as well as The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and various historical fantasy novels for adults (and a series of romantic fantasy novellas for adults, The Harwood Spellbook, which begins with Snowspelled). You can find more information and read excerpts from all of her books on her website.

Now, the giveaway! Ms. McGuire is giving away a copy of The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart.

Information and Rules:
Giveaway runs between May 20th through May 31st.
Enter using the rafflecopter below.
There will be one winner! 
Afterward I will contact the winner to get the information for the author, the winner will have 48 hours to reply.
If the winner does not reply within 48 hours, I will draw a new winner.
The author is the one responisible to get the prize to the winner.
US only

No cheating! 

And good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Interview With Janet Sumner Johnson!

Today on the blog I'm happy to present an interview with Janet Sumner Johnson! Ms Johnson is the author of The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society.

The bold font are the questions I asked, the regular font are her answers, and the bold italic font are my comments about her answers.

1. Would you please tell us a little about The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society?

I'd love to! The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is about Annie and Jason, two best friends and co-founders of the PB&J Society. When they learn that Jason might have to move because the bank is threatening to take back his house, Annie is NOT okay with it. She makes a list of all the ways they could earn money to save it (some a little more crazy than others), and she's certain one of them will work! Especially when they discover a secret treasure map of the infamous Cap'n Black Marge. Annie is on a mission to find that treasure, because if she doesn't, she'll have to face a fate ten times worse than walking the plank: life without her best friend.

2. Because of the title, I have to ask. Peanut Butter and what kind of jelly?

Grape!! I was raised on Welch's grape, and while strawberry will do in a pinch, grape is for sure my go-to. Just as an interesting tid-bit, when I am at book signings, I always ask the kids (and their parents) what their favorite flavor is, and I take a poll. After countless signings, and countless polls, Strawberry is the unabashed winner, with grape a close (not close enough, imho) second. Raspberry is a very distant third, with apricot (the abomination flavor) a very, very, very distant fourth. My very favorite ever response was Banana Butter, because I did not know the stuff even existed. But it does! And it was not at all what I expected. 😊

I have to say strawberry is my favorite, but grape is good, too! :)

3. Random question! What's your favorite color?

Dark blue! I just love the mystery of a deep, dark navy blue.

I like that color a lot! :)

4. If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?

So I know this is Yay for Middle Grade books, but I've actually been working on some picture books. It's been so fun to learn a new craft, and switch things up for a bit. But never you fear, I definitely have some middle grade stories that I'm working on in the background. There is something about middle grade books that make me so happy, so I could never give up writing them.

5. What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?

One that I recently finished is All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor. I didn't know what to expect, but I really loved the book. It's about a boy who grew up in a detention center, where his mom was an inmate. This book really made me think, and Perry was such a great character. I was rooting for him from start to finish.

Another one I recently finished is Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin. It doesn't come out until July, but it is a beautiful book about a girl dealing with her mother's mental illness. It felt so different than anything I've read. Della was such a real character. I highly recommend it!

Finally, in terms of what I'm looking forward to, one I haven't yet read, but plan to rectify that soon is Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes. I loved her first two books, and I simply adore mysteries! Especially ones that are based off real historical figures like Frida Kahlo. I can't wait to dive in!

I don't think I've heard of that mystery before, it sounds good! :)

Thank you to Ms. Johnson for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Janet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed.

Here are a few links: