Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read (So Far) in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl blog

The topic for this was a freebie, so I decided to list what my ten favorite reads of 2020 have been! I'm keeping to YA, MG, and Graphic Novels for this post, because if I included Adult and Picture Books, there is no way I could keep to just ten. It was already hard enough to narrow down! Here we go! :)

Listed in no particular order.

Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read (So Far) in 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! 2020 Wrap Up Post!

Hi, everyone! Today is the end of Yay For Middle Grade Books! 2020! There have been so many fantastic guest posts and interviews this year, from so many amazing authors. I hope you enjoyed reading them all (I know I did!)! I want to again thank all the authors who participated this year, and everyone who read, commented, tweeted, and in any way supported this event. You all are awesome! Now, onto the wrap up! :)

Isn't that a fantastic group of authors and posts?! Thank you again to everyone, and here's to next year! :)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Dee Romito!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm happy to present an interview with Dee Romito, the author of multiple MG novels, including No Place Like Home, and the new chapter book series, Fort Builders Inc.

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 No Place Like Home?
No Place Like Home is about a girl named Kenzie who travels around the country with her dad for his job. They live in fancy hotels and fly first class, and she knows how lucky she is to have that life, but she misses having a real home. When she gets the chance to go to middle school for six weeks, she’s thrilled! She wants to try everything, but she doesn’t tell anyone that she’s only there temporarily. Which gets her in a bit of trouble. 

It’s a story about what home means and why the things we often take for granted are really the best things in life.

You have a chapter book series releasing this year! Would you please tell us a little about it?
Sure. 😊 Fort Builders, Inc. is a series about a group of kids who decide to start a fort-building business to earn some money. Along the way, they learn about teamwork, perseverance, and friendship. The first book, The Birthday Castle, is out now, and Happy Tails Lodge releases August 25, 2020. Two more will follow in 2021.

The books are early chapter books, meant for emerging readers in grades K-3. They also have a cast of characters, word list, discussion questions, and a STEM/STEAM activity, so they’re great for teachers and parents because they give some guidance along the way.

Random Question! What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
My two favorites have always been black raspberry and peanut butter swirl. But I LOVE ice cream, so there are plenty of flavors I like. 😊

I love ice cream, too! I think it's the best dessert! :)

If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
Right now I’m hovering between a nonfiction picture book and a contemporary MG--mostly doing a lot of thinking and planning. With everything going on in this weird time in history, I’m home with the kids and am taking the opportunity to spend time with them. I’m also doing some organizing projects I’ve been putting off for so long! 

What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
Two of my favorites are The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society by Janet Sumner Johnson and The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder. Both authors debuted with me when The BFF Bucket List came out in 2016. As far as what I’m looking forward to reading, I’m paying attention to all the great lists coming out now of books with diverse characters and by diverse creators. 

Excellent choices! :)

Thank you to Dee Romito for participating in this event! :)

Author Bio: Dee Romito is an author of books for young readers and a 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) received a starred review from Booklist and a Crystal Kite Award. Next up is a chapter book series titled Fort Builders (Aladdin/S&S), which will release in 2020. Dee blogs about writing at WriteforApples.com 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 DeeRomito.com.

Here Are A Few Links:

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Lindsay Currie!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm pleased to present an interview with Lindsay Currie, author of the MG novels The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, and the upcoming Scritch Scratch, which releases in September.

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 Scritch Scratch?
Absolutely! Scritch Scratch is a ghost story/mystery set in Chicago. Though it does have these things in common with my debut MG, The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, the books are not connected in any way. My main character in Scritch Scratch is Claire Koster and I just can't wait for you to meet her! Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She's a scientist, which is why she can't think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she's made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There's something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour...he's gone.
Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad's ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something...and Claire needs to find out what before it's too late.

If you liked Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, or perhaps read and enjoyed City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab, then I think you'll like Scritch Scratch! 

You write such great spooky MG books! Have you always been interested in ghost stories?
Aww, thank you! I guess I have always been interested in paranormal things to some extent. When I was young, Halloween was my favorite holiday (still is) and I distinctly recall being the only girl in my entire grade to dress as something sinister or macabre every year. 😂 Seriously, I was a zombie/ghost/witch in a sea of fairy princesses every. single. year. It was hilarious. Honestly, I think my interest in ghosts stems mainly from my interest in history. The concept that every place has it's own history, past residents, and stories to tell is a fun one to explore - especially when you're in a city with a history as interesting as Chicago. Did you know that a huge chunk of my neighborhood used to be a graveyard over 100 years ago? It did! And each of the locations on the Spirits bus tour in Scritch Scratch are brimming with real history as well. Things that happened in those spots often generated ghost legends that circulated for years - many of them still existing today! 

Random Question! What’s your favorite Disney movie?
Whoa! This might be the hardest question I've ever been asked in an interview, haha! I'm a HUGE Disney fan. Visit WDW every year and adore Disney movies. Right now, I'm going to go with a classic - The Little Mermaid. Though I do really love Moana, Aladdin, and Frozen as well. They're all SO good!

Excellent choices! :)

If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
Ooh, yay! A chance to talk about my work-in-progress! Currently, I'm finishing the first draft of my next MG mystery release, tentatively titled WOODMOOR. WOODMOOR is scheduled to release in Fall 2021 from Sourcebooks Kids - hooray! 

Unlike my previous books, this one doesn't take place in Chicago. I know, weird, right? It takes place in Michigan near a town where I actually visit often on solo writing retreats. WOODMOOR follows the story of Ginny Anderson, a 12 year old Agatha Christie fan, who is spending a month of her summer in Michigan because her father (a restoration specialist) has taken job in a dilapidated manor from the 1930's. Once there, Ginny discovers there are a variety of sinister legends about the area - legends she wants no part of. From the Melonheads to the Shadow People, the entire town is afraid of Woodmoor Manor. Combined with the fact that Ginny is already missing out on the writing workshop she's been looking forward to for an eternity, the rumors about Woodmoor make the summer feel like a total flop. Things get much, MUCH worse when spine-chilling things begin happening inside Woodmoor Manor's walls - things only Ginny seems to experience. 

Can a 12 year old channel her inner Agatha Christie to solve a mystery even the adults seem afraid of? You'll have to read to find out! 

Ooh, this sounds really good! :)

What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
Ohhh, so many MG novels I adore. First off, I do love spooky books so a special shout out to the Spooky MG group I'm a part of. The other members in this group have written some killer books I love, so look them up when you have time! I'm a fan of Katherine Arden, Mary Downing Hahn, and of course R.L. Stine! My most recent MG read that I adored was A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat. It was wonderful! 

I read so many Mary Downing Hahn books when I was younger! They were so good! :)

Thank you to Lindsay Currie for participating in this event! :)

Author Bio: Lindsay Currie lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her high school sweetheart turned husband and their three amazing children. While she didn’t go to school to be a historian, researching her city’s complex, and often spooky history is one of Lindsay’s favorite things to do—especially when there are ghost legends involved!

Here Are A Few Links:

Friday, July 24, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Guest Post From Janet Sumner Johnson!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm happy to present a guest post from Janet Sumner Johnson, the author of the MG novel The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society, and the Picture Book, Help Wanted, Must Love Books.

Middle Grade books have always held a special place in my heart. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on from Sweet Valley Twins (and High), to Babysitter's Club, to Narnia, to Ramona. Those books were everything. 

They told me I wasn't alone (Ramona, I knew just how you felt when you squeezed that whole tube of toothpaste into the sink). They gave me motivation to try new things (like that babysitting business I was "inspired" with for my Business Fair project). And they reminded me that even perfect twins with perfect everything still struggled sometimes (And Liz, I have no idea how you put up with Jessica!).

But back in the day (yup, I totally just used that phrase), there was not nearly the selection we have now. Today, readers have an amazing selection of Middle Grade books that deal with topics from homelessness, to bullying, to LGBTQ+ struggles, to racism, to drugs, to you name it. And while I may have grown up in the golden days of the 80's, I still wish I could have had access to the books middle graders have now. 

So today, in no particular order, I present you with 3 books I wish I'd had when I was a kid.

1. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

In fourth grade, I was shocked when the teacher stood up to scold our class over a lack of tolerance for other's beliefs and other's religions. I can distinctly remember thinking, "Not everyone here is the same religion?" I grew up in a very homogenous community. I never considered all the many cultures outside of mine. And this moment is perhaps one of the reasons I love learning about other cultures and experiences so much. I wish I'd had a book like Amina's Voice to teach me about the beautiful diversity that exists in this world. To see how those who attend Muslim Mosques are just like me. And maybe I would have found my voice a little sooner, just as Amina does.

2. Real Friends by Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

In 5th grade, I threw a party and invited all the most popular girls. My mom sent three of them home for sneaking out, and I became an outcast. The leader of the group was the meanest, but I spent a good three years trying to figure out how to navigate past that. Sports, it turned out, was the answer for me, but not everyone has that. I wish I'd had this book to know I wasn't alone in trying to figure things out.

3. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

When Charlie Brennan goes ice fishing on her town's frozen lake, she's hoping the fish she reels in will help pay for her dream: a fancy Irish dancing dress for her upcoming competition. But when Charlie's first catch of the day happens to be a talking fish offering her a wish in exchange for its freedom, her world quickly turns upside down, as her wishes go terribly and hilariously wrong.

Just as Charlie is finally getting the hang of communicating with a magical wishing fish, a family crisis with her older sister brings reality into sharp focus. Charlie quickly learns that the real world doesn't always keep fairy-tale promises and life's toughest challenges can't be fixed by a simple wish . . .

In sixth grade, just like Charlie, I had some awesome dreams, too. In fact, I had just landed a lead role in our grade's Christmas Production. And just like Charlie, a crisis with my older brother changed the focus of everything. Yes, the very same crisis. A drug addiction. After an accident landed him in the hospital and rehab program, I had to drop my role so I could attend family counseling. I made so many wishes that year. And I felt so alone. I wish I'd had The Seventh Wish to help me see a way through.

There are so many other books I wish I had time to talk about . . . 

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Just South of Home by Karen Strong
The Copycat by Wendy McLeod MacKnigh

. . . middle grade books help readers find solutions in a world that doesn't always seem to have any. It helps readers learn empathy for those around them going through similar and very different experiences. For kids who feel they have no one to talk to, these books can be life savers. We need these books, and our kids especially need these books. 

Yay for Middle Grade! And may authors continue to seek out and write these ever important stories.

I absolutely love this guest post, and I completely agree! MG books are important for so many different reasons! :)

Thank you to Janet Sumner Johnson for participating in this event! :)

Here Are A Few Links:

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview with Jen Malone!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm happy to present an interview with Jen Malone, the author of multiple YA and MG novels, including The Art of the Swap, written with Kristine Carlson Asselin, and her YA, The Arrival of Someday, which has its paperback release in August.

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 Art of the Swap, the MG novel you wrote with Kristine Carlson Asselin?
I’d love to! SWAP is about two girls who live in the same mansion a hundred years apart (one as a modern-day caretaker’s daughter for the home, which has become a museum, and the other as a Gilded Age heiress/American Princess when the mansion was newly-built), who accidentally swap bodies and have to prevent a century-old art heist from occurring in order to return to their rightful time periods. The mystery of the heist was really fun to write, but the opportunity to explore the freedoms and expectations for girls at different points in history was really important to both of us. The concept came about when Kris was telling me about an article she read about a girl living in a Gilded Age museum with her caretaker father, as we road tripped home from a conference, and immediately our ideas for adapting it to a middle grade story starting sparking off one another’s. That’s the part I love best about co-authoring!

Your YA book, The Arrival of Someday, has it’s paperback release later this year! Would you please tell us a little about it?
Sure! It’s about a teen girl who was born with a liver disease that hasn’t impacted her at all beyond infancy, but suddenly rears its ugly head just as she’s about to graduate high school. Although she’s asymptomatic for most of the story, she is a ticking time bomb because her liver has begun the process of deteriorating and if she doesn’t get a liver transplant within months, she could potentially die. So it’s a heavy topic, but the book itself has a lot of lightness (she’s a dress-code fighting, sarcastic roller derby queen who refuses to let anyone pity her). It’s weird how so many of the themes it explores (especially the uncertainty of not knowing what your future holds) have become so timely, with this pandemic, and I hope the story can bring some comfort to those wrestling with those questions.
Random Question! What’s your favorite color?
YELLOW!! It’s cheerful and friendly- there’s no such thing as a moody yellow, which is why I adore it. 

I agree, yellow is such a cheerful color! :)

If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
I’m working on a craft book/kit for kids that explores science concepts with ice dyeing (like tie-dyeing but done with ice cubes and powdered dyes—it’s really fun!!!) I love anything crafty and this was a great way to combine my interests. It will publish next spring and I can’t wait to share it. 

This sounds so fun! I will definitely be checking it out when it releases! :)

What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
One of my favorites is Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson- it’s a murder mystery in a secluded country house. Very Agatha Christie-ish. I also love The Westing Game for the same reasons.  A recent read that I adored was Mary, Underwater by Shannon Doleski. It’s really unique and cool, about a girl building a submarine for a school project. I’m excited for Dee Romito’s Fort Builder’s series- who doesn’t love a cool fort??

Your description of Nooks and Crannies just made me add it to my TBR list! :)

Thank you to Jen Malone for participating in this event! :)

Author Bio: Jen Malone is the author of over a dozen middle grade and young adult titles including The Arrival of Someday (HarperCollins), The Sleepover (Simon & Schuster), Wanderlost (HarperCollins), and Follow Your Art (Dreamworks Animation/Penguin Random House). Jen once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star's tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books.  You can learn more about Jen and her books at www.jenmalonewrites.com. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @jenmalonewrites.

Here Are A Few Links:

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Debbi Michiko Florence!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm pleased to present an interview with Debbi Michiko Florence, the author of multiple Chapter Book series, and the MG Novels Keep It Together, Keiko Carter, and the upcoming Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai.

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 Keep It Together, Keiko Carter?
Sure! Keep It Together, Keiko Carter is a story about changing friendships and first crushes. Keiko Carter is excited to start 7th grade with her two best friends Jenna and Audrey at her side. But when Audrey decides that the three of them should get their first boyfriends in time for the Fall Ball, Jenna and Audrey have a falling out and stop talking to each other. Keiko does everything she can to try to get her friends to make up while also dealing with her own first crush and family strife. Oh, and there are dogs and chocolate in the story, too!

What was the inspiration for the book?
I have always gravitated toward books about friendship and romance. When I was growing up, and when my daughter was growing up, we didn’t find a lot of books with characters that looked like us and had shared experiences. I’m third generation Japanese American and was raised in Los Angeles and my daughter is hafu – half Japanese American and half Caucasian. I wanted to write the kind of book I would have loved to have read as a tween, and one that my daughter would have related to, as well. 

Random Question! What’s your favorite food?
I have to pick just one? I’ll go with chocolate!

A very good choice, in my opinion! :)

If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a sequel to Keep It Together, Keiko Carter! Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai follows Keiko’s best friend Jenna who decides heartbreak is for suckers as she attempts to get over her first crush and her parents’ divorce. I’m so happy to get to stay in Keiko’s world for another book as I’ve grown to really love these characters. Look for this book in spring 2021!

What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
This is a tough question because I read a lot of great books and it’s hard to choose just a few. I’ll try to stick to recent reads: A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat, The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert, and The Prettiest by Brigit Young. One middle grade novel I read as a galley that I’m super excited about is Eva Evergreen: Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe. A novel I’m getting ready to read as a galley that will be out next year is Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva.

Ooh, I haven't heard of Sugar and Spite before! *goes to add to Goodreads TBR* :)

Thank you to Debbi Michiko Florence for participating in this event! :)

Here Are A Few Links:

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Eileen Moskowitz-Palma!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm happy to present an interview with Eileen Moskowitz-Palma, the author of The Popularity Pact: Camp Clique, and the sequel, The Popularity Pact: School Squad, which releases later this year.

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 Popularity Pact: Camp Clique?
In the blink of a summer, Bea goes from having a best friend and a place she belongs to being dropped and invisible, eating lunch alone and only talking to teachers. The end of sixth grade and the start of Camp Amelia can't come soon enough.

But then the worst part of school, ex-best friend Maisy, shows up in Bea's safe place and ruins it all. Maisy lands in the same bunk as Bea and summer suddenly seems dire. Never having camped a day in her life, Maisy agrees: it's hopeless. She should be at home, spending time with her little sister and hanging out with her super popular crew of friends--not at this stupid adventure camp failing everything and being hated by everyone. In a desperate bid to belong, Maisy offers Bea a deal: if Bea helps her fit in at camp, she will get Bea into the M & M's, their town's popular clique, when they enter seventh grade in the fall. The Popularity Pact is born.
I’ve heard there’s a sequel coming out later this year! Can you tell us anything about it?
Picking up where The Popularity Pact: Camp Clique left off, the second book finds former best friends Bea and Maisy preparing for the new school year. Bea kept up her end of the bargain, getting Maisy "in" with the girls at camp. Now it's Maisy's turn to fulfill her promise to ingratiate Bea with the popular girls. When Bea is accepted into this new inner circle, she begins to lose sight of what true friendship is all about. As Bea seems prepared to sacrifice anything to be "cool," Maisy realizes there's more to life than hanging out with a bunch of mean girls. Can she convince Bea that the popularity pact was a mistake? Can these former friends find their way back to each other?


Random Question! What type of drink and/or snack do you always have with you when you're writing?
I need ALL the caffeine while I write. My current obsession is Apple Pear Caffeine Kick Hint Water. I don’t usually eat while I work because I like to take a real lunch break away from my computer. Watching a Netflix show while eating a giant salad helps clear my mind for an afternoon of work. However, pre-COVID-19, my writing bestie Lea and I used to meet up once a week to write at the local coffee shop. My fave coffee drink is coffee cake flavored iced coffee with almond milk, while Lea sticks to plain coffee. When we’re sufficiently caffeinated and hungry, we move next door to the sushi restaurant to write together over sushi for her and fully cooked salmon teriyaki for me. We miss our routine, so we’ve been FaceTiming over lunch once a week during this time.
I think salmon teriyaki sounds delicious right now! :)

If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
I just completed the final round of copy edits for School Squad. I haven’t been working a new manuscript because launching a book during this pandemic has looked completely different than I anticipated. As a former elementary school teacher, I had been looking forward to school visits. I was devastated when the schools closed and all of my book launch events and school visits were canceled. But then, I realized that I could help all of these families who were struggling to balance homeschooling and working from home. I started running free virtual writing camps and book clubs for kids in grades two through eight. It has kept me very busy in the most positive way. Serving all of these kids during this crisis has kept me focused on how I can support others, which has in turn helped me stay positive during this time of sheltering in place. I have also had the opportunity to connect with kids on a much deeper level than I would have otherwise. I am actually using the questions kids asked during our Camp Clique book club meetings in the Q & A section of the paperback edition.

What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
 I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I’ve read the series through twice and watched all of the movies more times than I can count. When the last book in the series came out, I was first on line in the bookstore to get it and I read it in one day so that I wouldn’t hear any spoilers. When I was a kid, I read all of Judy Blume’s books and I loved the way she wrote about issues that most grownups didn’t talk about. The experience of reading her books inspired me to do the same with my own writing. I love Raina Telgemeier books, and I am looking forward to reading her latest book Guts next. I am always blown away by her gift at drawing just the right illustrations to go along with her storyline. Her words feed her artwork, and her illustrations feed her words. I recently devoured The Copycat by Wendy McLeod MacKnight. I love the complex characters in that story, the cozy magical realism vibe and the twists of the plot. It has been my favorite quarantine read yet!

I love Raina Telgemeier and Wendy McLeod MacKnight's books! Guts was excellent, and The Copycat is on my TBR list! :)

Thank you to Eileen Moskowitz-Palma for participating in this event! :)

Here Are A Few Links:

Monday, July 20, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Tamara Bundy!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm pleased to present an interview with Tamara Bundy, the author of the MG novels Walking with Miss Millie and Pixie Pushes On, and the upcoming Picture Book, Lullaby Prayer.

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 Pixie Pushes On?
Pixie is my second book with Nancy Paulsen (the first was Walking with Miss Millie). It was so wonderful to work with her again. In this novel, I got to look back at my parents’ childhoods of being raised on farms. In particular, my mom’s relationship with a lamb she raised. This lamb was so special to my mom –but it was 1945 and life on a farm could be hard. When I was little and Mom would tell me what happened, I would often think it was a great story that needed to be shared. So, I had to share it in Pixie Pushes On. The other plots deal with polio, WWII, grief and just trying to “push on” each day. 

You have a Picture Book releasing in November! Would you please tell us a little about Lullaby Prayer?
I am so excited about this! I was raised on the rhythm and rhyme of Dr. Seuss, so I always knew I wanted to write a rhyming picture book. This sweet book is a nod to the many bedtime routines I had with my children when they were little. It gently reminds them that the world is winding down, and I can’t be with them all night, but God is with them and they are safe. The illustrator did a perfect job bringing my words to life. 

I love rhyming Picture Books, and this one sounds so good! :)

Random Question! What’s your favorite color?

If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on? 
I just turned in a book for submission that deals in two time periods –the first is 1913 when women were fighting to try to get the right to vote. And the other is 1970 when another girl is trying to make a difference in her world. I’m looking forward to seeing what this becomes. 

What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading? 
I read EVERYTHING middle grade. I love this genre. When I was an English teacher, I read Sharon Draper’s Tears of a Tiger to my students every year. Sharon was also an English teacher at one time. So, I drew so much inspiration from her and her journey. I had a chance to meet her right before my first MG novel came out. I recently read her Out of my Mind and it was wonderful. 
And I loved Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, so I’m looking forward to reading The One and Only Bob

I've read Out of My Mind and really liked it! :)

Thank you to Tamara Bundy for participating in this event! :)

Here Are A Few Links:

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Guest Post From Kamilla Benko!

Hi, everyone! Today I'm happy to present a guest post from Kamilla Benko, the author of Frozen 2: Forest of Shadows, and The Unicorn Quest series.

Here we go! :)

Kamilla Benko’s Ten Favorite First Lines of Middle Grade Books

Books are magic, and authors work hard to cast a spell on their readers from the very first sentence. A great first sentence often does one of three things: 

  • Creates atmosphere
  • Establishes a character’s voice
  • Surprises the reader 

Sometimes they do all three! But no matter how first sentences are crafted, they are all meant to make you wonder, “What happens next?” Take for example the first line in my most recent book The Unicorn Quest: Fire in the Star:

Claire Martinson was doing something either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish—and deep down, she suspected it was the second. 

Right away, I’m letting the reader know that 1) Claire is the kind of person who likes to think things through and 2) she is definitely about to do something dangerous! My hope is that readers will wonder what dangerous thing is she about to do, and then read the next sentence, the next page, the next chapter…and the rest of the book!  

Here are ten middle grade books with first sentences that completely captivated me and delivered on that first line’s promised magic: 

“Witches aren’t the celebrating sort.” 
--The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom by Temre Beltz

“The dragonflies live down by the bayou, but there’s no way to tell which one’s my brother.” 
--King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

“I can turn invisible.” 
--When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

“The day I turned twelve, I was certain it’d be my favorite birthday yet, but then I got the letter.” 
--From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

“There was a rhythm in my fists.” 
--Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

“Leo sprinted to the hallway bathroom, slammed the door, and locked herself in, just in time.”
--Love, Sugar, Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano 

“A monster of a mango tree grew in the courtyard of Namwon Prison.”  
--A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

“One morning shortly after Wren turned seven years old, her parents wrestled her into her best blue wool dress, pinned her down to oil her curly hair, and took her up the mountain to be eaten by a dragon.” 
--Wings of Fire: Legends: Dragonslayer by Tui T. Sutherland

“In the middle of a quiet block on 141st Street, inside a brownstone made of deep red shale, the Vanderbeeker family gathered in the living room for a family meeting.” 
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

“On the eve of the Lunar New Year, the demons invaded.” 
--The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao 

I love a good first line that makes you want to keep reading! :)

Thank you to Kamilla Benko for participating in this event! :)

Author Bio: Kamilla Benko is the USA Today bestselling author of Frozen II: Forest of Shadows and The Unicorn Quest trilogy. She spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as an author and editor. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots.

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