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“The Writing Process” 

Over the course of a career in children’s book publishing, I’ve had the opportunity to hear many wonderful authors speak about their “process” – how they approach that intimidating blank page – whether a notebook, a sheet of paper in a typewriter, or the screen on a computer.  Where do you begin? And then what?

The clearest answer for me was a comment Walter Dean Myers made in a speech. “Writers write,” he said.  That is the literary version of “just do it!”  When you have an idea that’s taken hold of you, start writing.  What you write probably won’t make it into the final version of your project, but it will help you exercise your writing muscles and fire up the connection between your thoughts and your fingers. While doing that, some good sentences will emerge; characters will introduce themselves to you; plots will begin to take shape.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be thinking about all these elements, too – not just waiting for them to tap you on the shoulder.  Make notes.  Do research.  Ask questions of yourself and search for answers.  All of this becomes the soil your story needs to grow.  But keep writing through it all.  That’s the only way I know of to discover the voice that is right for this particular story – and voice is the hardest part to explain, or force, or fake.

For the three novels in my Raccoon River Kids series of chapter books, I started with a place – a small town where kids have lots more freedom than they do in cities – a place where they can hop on their bikes and go by themselves – even when they are as young as seven or eight — to a friend’s house or venture into the center of town with a park as its centerpiece, a community center, and an old town hall where the doors are always open.

That was the beginning. My early writing was about the town itself, but as I described its geography and places, I began to envision the children who would be at the center of the novels: a third-grade boy and his best friend, a third-grade girl. There was a third boy. too. He stood outside of things and had only contrary remarks about the other children’s plans.  I didn’t know why at first, and I knew I would have to explain it – first to myself, then to my characters, and finally to my readers, of course.

As I developed Raccoon River and the characters in my early unstructured doodling, I also found the voice for these books.  At first I thought I would have the older sibling of one of the characters be the narrator, but it became complicated.  She couldn’t be everywhere the kids were. And, if she had to be involved in everything that they did, the children could never keep a secret from her. And secrets are important to children of this age – I didn’t want to take that option away from “my kids.”

I decided on an omniscient narrator who could get into everyone’s head; a teller who could be behind the scenes and in front of them simultaneously; a non-judgmental, trustworthy observer with a sympathetic view and faith in the characters.

With all these puzzle pieces to manipulate, I started to write. I always begin at the beginning. Opening chapters are important to me.  Wiser authors have told me that I should never get attached to the opening I write.  They universally agree that as the story progresses, beginnings often need to be changed, or moved elsewhere, or simply dropped.  I’m sure that’s true, but I can’t get going until I have at least my opening scene written.

Writers have also advised me not to polish any writing until the entire first draft is written. Again, I’m sure this is good advice.  But I find it impossible not to fix something that isn’t working – whether it’s an ugly phrase, a bad choice of a word, or an entire episode that is … well … wrong.  The first thing I do when I return to a work-in-progress is read what I wrote the last writing session.  And make changes, sometimes big ones, sometimes little tweaks.  That gets me back into the voice of the story.

I write mostly chronologically.  But not always.  If some later adventure has been working itself out as I take walks or make dinner or watch the news, I write it out of order. I figure it will fit in somewhere.  Mostly it does.

When I have a good portion of the whole written, I step away for several weeks.  I might jot down notes if any random ideas come to me, but I don’t put them into the manuscript.  I try to remove myself from the story for a while.  When I return to it, there’s a strange sense that it was written by someone else, which allows me to see things more clearly.

The result of this round is a new manuscript.  I can move chapters around, clarify motivations, polish language, deepen my characters, and strengthen the logic in the plot that will lead readers through the novel.

At the round three stage, I work on chapter endings and beginnings to be sure the story flows through smoothly.  I look for secondary themes to amplify. I examine the actions of the characters and how they speak for consistency. Similarly, I check for character traits or habits that help identify one from the next for readers. Because these are chapter books for relatively new readers, I make sure there’s not too much description but that there is enough so young readers can find themselves in Raccoon River and put themselves into the story.

And again, I step away from what I am now thinking of as “a book” for a while.  If it holds together when I return some weeks later, then it’s ready for some feedback.  And that’s when the process starts all over again.

About the Author: Lauren L. Wohl has had a long career in children’s book publishing. She has a degree in Library Science and has been an elementary school librarian. She served as Director of James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead program, taught writing at the college level, and now consults with several publishers and literary agencies. Stories she’s been reading in newspapers and seeing on television news programs about children stepping up to make kind, generous, and important contributions to their communities inspired her chapter books about the Raccoon River Kids: Blueberry Bonanza and now Extravaganza at the Plaza. She is also the author of a picture book, A Teeny Tiny Halloween, illustrated by Henry Cole and Zooapalooza, coming August 2019. A native New Yorker, Lauren enjoys life in her new hometowns of Lenox, Massachusetts and Miami Beach, Florida.

About Extravaganza at the Plaza (Raccoon River Kids #2): “It isn’t fair that our town doesn’t have its own theater,” eight-year-old Hannah complains. 

A lot of thinking, planning, dreaming, and list-making, and Hannah–along with the kids of Raccoon River–are up to their ears in a brand new project: saving the town’s old abandoned Plaza Theater. But first, they have to get a look inside. And it’s spooky in there-spider webs and creaky floors, and one slowly-swaying curtain. Can Hannah and her friends save the plaza? 

Lauren L. Wohl tells a story of determination and hard work, cooperation and more than little bit of luck where the kids of a small town make a real difference in their community, the first sequel to BLUEBERRY BONANZA in the RACCOON RIVER KIDS ADVENTURES series. Mark Tuchman illustrates the action with characterful drawings that enrich the tale.

Thank you, Lauren, for your post–it was fascinating to learn about your process!

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The Lost Girl
Author: Anne Ursu
Published February 12th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it is decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. She is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.

Praise: 

The Lost Girl is a jewel of a book—hard, bright, sharp, and precious. It reminds us of the boundless and subversive power of sisterhood and the inherent magic of girls.”—Kelly Barnhill, Newbery-Medal winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“I raced through The Lost Girl, breathless. And when I was finished, I found myself full of hope. It’s a beautiful, riveting, important book.”—Laurel Snyder, award-winning author of Orphan Island

“When the world makes no sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. When the world makes all the wrong kinds of sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. If you crave a story with the wit, wisdom, and magic to unriddle the world, then you need to read The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.”—William Alexander, award-winning author of A Festival of Ghosts

“A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories.” Booklist (starred review)

Review: Anne Ursu has a way of telling what seems like an ordinary tale and adding twists and turns that the reader does not expect but once you are on the narrative ride she has created, you never want to get off! And although I am always skeptical of magical realism, she does it in a way that just makes her books seem like realistic fiction that just happens to be bit magical, so it is hard not to buy in. In The Lost Girl, the story also is fascinating in the way that the author plays with the narrator/point of view as well as how she shapes both girls equally as the story moves between their narratives and shows the strengths and weaknesses in both. It is impossible to tell who the lost girl is and who is the ones saving because both sisters feel like they play a part in saving the other. I’m still thinking about responsibilities, love, and protection long after the book ended. You are going to love Lark and Iris and will root for both of them until you turn that final page.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are readers who need this book. There are kids that don’t feel like they belong in this world or kids who feel like they don’t mesh with others their own age or kids dealing with a huge change in their life. These are the kid who will need this book. They need the lost girl to guide them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the twins is the lost girl?
  • How did the crows play a part in the story?
  • Without the magic in the story, how would everything have been different?
  • What mistakes does Iris make in her decision making once the girls enter 5th grade?
  • What lesson are the adults trying to teach the girls?
  • How did the Club Awesome girls turn out differently than Iris assumed? What does this tell you about them? Iris?
  • How are the sisters alike? Different?

Flagged Passages: “Once upon a time, there were two sisters, alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different. Iris and Lark Maguire were identical twins, and people who only looked at the surface of things could not tell them apart. Same long busy black hair, same pale skin, same smattering of freckles around the cheeks, same bright hazel eyes and open face.

But Iris and Lark had no patience with people who only looked at the surface of things, when what lay beneath was the stuff that truly mattered.

Because the girls were identical, but not the same.

Iris was the one who always knew where she’d left her shoes. Iris was the one who could tell what the collective nouns were for different animals and that Minnesota was home to the world’s largest ball of twine. Iris always knew when her library books were due.

Lark always knew when their parents had been arguing. Lark could tell you what the consequences for stealing were in different fairy tales, and that the best bad guys had interesting back stories. Lark always knew which books she wanted to check out from the library next.

No they were not the same.” (p. 1-2)

Read This If You Love: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, Watch Hollow by Greg Funaro, The Explorers by Adrienne KressWishtree by Katherine Applegate, The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Recommended For: 

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Don’t miss out on the other stops in the blog tour!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2: About to Mock
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3: Novel Novice
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7: Kirsticall.com
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9: Book Monsters
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 10: Fat Girl Reading
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Too Much Space (March 13th, 2018)
Party Crashers (March 13th, 2018)
Take Us To Your Sugar (September 11th, 2018)
Double Trouble (December 11th, 2018)

Author & Illustrator: Jonathan Roth
Published by Aladdin Publishing

Book 1 Summary: Meet space-school attendee Bob and his alien bestie Beep in this start to an outrageously funny and action-packed chapter book series that’s great for “kids who love funny stories but may be too young for books like ­Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (School Library Journal) !

Astro Elementary is a school near Saturn attended by the bravest, smartest kids in the solar system . . . and Bob. Bob never wanted to go to school in space. He even tried to fail the admissions test by bubbling in C for every answer – but ended up with a perfect score!

Then Bob meets Beep, a little lost alien. Beep instantly takes to Bob, even thinking of Bob as his new mother! And with Beep by his side, Bob begins to find his courage. But will courage even matter when Beep and Bob find themselves about to be sucked inside the most terrible wonder of the universe, a super-massive black hole?

Book 2 Summary: It’s Bob’s friend Lani’s birthday, and she’s having her party on a super fancy space cruiser called The Starship Titanic. The cruiser has three water parks, sixteen amusement parks, and 12 million hyper-show channels on TV!

But when Beep and Bob arrive, they realize they forgot to buy Lani a birthday gift! But that’s not their biggest problem. Suddenly, guests’ jewelry is stolen from right under their noses—and Beep and Bob get blamed for the crime!

Things go from bad to worse when Beep and Bob discover that their “indestructible” ship is headed right for the ice rings of Neptune—and then starts plummeting toward the planet below! Can Beep and Bob reveal the true thieves and save the Starship Titanic – or will this be their last birthday party EVER?

Book 3 Summary: Beep and his best friend Bob hatch a plan to save Halloween—and their school—in this third book in the hilarious, action-packed Beep and Bob series!

It’s October in space, and Bob is getting excited for his favorite holiday: Halloween. When Bob tells Beep that soon they’ll get to dress up like monsters and get as much free candy as they can carry, Beep thinks he has gone to heaven. But Lani informs them that Halloween isn’t celebrated at Astro Elementary.

Bob cannot imagine life without Halloween! He appeals to Principal Quark, but with no success. Determined to save Halloween, Bob and Lani organize a secret club: SCARES (Scary Costumes Are the Right of Every Student, or, more truthfully, the Society of Candy Addicts who Rely on Energy from Sugar).

As the secret club grows, Halloween fever invades Astro Elementary. Unfortunately, a horde of grotesque aliens, attracted by the treats, also invades the school on the last day of the month. With everyone in costume, no one can tell who’s who. Beep and Bob may have saved the holiday, but can they somehow use their sugar-addled wits to save the school?

Book 4 Summary: Beep and Bob accidentally clone themselves for the school science fair in this fourth book in the hilarious, action-packed Beep and Bob series!

What’s twice as fun as Beep and Bob? Two Beeps and Bobs!

While up too late working on his science fair project, Bob accidentally points a duplication ray at Beep. To his shock, another Beep appears! Beep decides the more, the better, so he points the ray at Bob and PRESTO: it’s Bob 2 (or Backwards Bob).

At first Bob thinks their clones are creepy, but it doesn’t take long to realize that having duplicates comes with perks: they can sleep in while their clones go to class!

Then the real Beep and Bob discover a hitch: the Beep and Bob clones are EVIL, and are planning to duplicate an EVIL Earth to rule! How will they possibly get themselves (and themselves!) out of this one?

About the Author:

Author-illustrator Jonathan Roth is a public elementary school art teacher in Maryland who likes reading, writing, drawing, cycling, and napping. Though he has never left the Earth, he has met four of the astronauts who have gone to the moon. Beep and Bob is his first series. To learn more, and to download a free Beep and Bob activity kit, visit his website: beepandbob.com.

  • Born: Detroit, MI. He has also lived in Zaire, Africa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, rural Virginia, and Brooklyn, NY.
  • Current home: Rockville, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, two cats, and three (or more!) bicycles.
  • College: the Cooper Union School of Art, New York.
  • Occupation: Public elementary school art teacher by day; author/illustrator by evenings, weekends and glorious summer.
  • Previous occupations: paper boy, house painter, dairy farmer, photographer, cartoonist and library tech.
  • Number of years in school: 1 year Kindergarten + 12 grades + 4 years art school + 1 year teacher school + 18 years teaching = 36. (All the more amazing, because he’s only 29 years old!)
  • Number of students taught: 28 average per class x 25+ classes per week x 40 school weeks a year x 18 years = a broken calculator! Definitely too many enthusiastic young artists to count!
  • Number of Apollo astronauts who have been to the moon he has met: four.
  • Historical figure he would most like to meet: Leonardo da Vinci
  • Childhood favorites (that are still totally worth checking out): Spiderman, Batman, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Star Trek, Star Wars, ET, Alice in Wonderland, the Lord of the Rings, The Odyssey, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Pigman, the Beatles, Stand By Me.
  • First Book: Duel in Dimensions, a novel about Batman and Superman in Wonderland; written in sixth grade, still unfinished and unpublished.
  • Elements he feels are most important to his books: humor and heart. He wants kids to laugh, learn and love.

Praise: 

“Pretty sporky, as Bob would approvingly put it.” —Booklist

“A strong addition to any library’s chapter book selection.” —School Library Journal

Review: Trent and I really loved reading about Beep and Bob! The stories combine heart and humor just as the author hopes it would! Beep is a great comic relief yet also adds a wonderful element of heart as he loves his Bob-Mother. Bob is also going through all the same ups and downs that many kids go through in school such as crushes, bullies, mistakes, and successes, so that adds a direct connection between his story and the readers. For Trent specifically, the element of space and the information you learn in the book really pushed it over the edge into awesome in his eyes. Not only did we laugh and want to know what was happen next, we also learned about Pluto and black holes (in book 1) and even more in the sequels! This book is a great addition into the early chapter book collection of any classroom or library!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Beep and Bob books would be a perfect read aloud in an early elementary classroom because there are so many different things that could be done in class that would connect to the book such as students writing their own blogs (or is there a fun name they could name them?) and they could study the science shared in the book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you had an alien best friend, what would you hope they’d be like?
  • What did you learn about ___?
  • How does Bob face his fears throughout the books?
  • If you were in space school, where would you look forward to visiting?
  • What mistakes did Bob make that led to a shift in the plot?

Flagged Passages (from Too Much Space, Book 1): 

 

Read This If You Love: Frank Einstein series by Jon Scieszka, HiLo series by Judd Winick, Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wight, Books about space

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One lucky winner will receive a set of ALL FOUR Beep and Bob titles–Too Much Space!, Party Crashers, Take Us To Your Sugar, and Double Trouble (U.S. addresses), courtesy of Aladdin/Simon & Schuster!

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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Happy 2019! 

This year, I reread more books than any previous year. I am not including the billions of pictures books that I reread to my children in that statistic, either. 🙂 But for this list, I am focusing on my favorite reads of 2018. These are books that will stick to my bones for years to come!

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Young Adults

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

The Astonishing Color of After by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Upper Elementary and Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

 

Favorite Picture Books

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by John Agee

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell

 

Which were your favorite reads of 2018?

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Happy 2019! 

I had one of my best reading years ever! My GoodReads goal was 300 which I exceeded!

I read 415 books this year!
(Though I will admit GoodReads adding the ability to add rereads really helped with the total; however, I was quite inconsistent with it– I marked re-reads sometimes and other times I didn’t, so I don’t know how accurate the count is, specifically picture books…)

 

It was almost exactly split between picture books and non-picture books with my novel, etc. total being a bit over 200.
My average rating for the year is 4.2 and my top shelves were: realistic fiction, nonfiction, Unleashing Readers, Trent 4-5 years, middle grade, audiobook, mg-ya picture books, picture book, and read to Trent. 

Today, I want to highlight my favorite reads from the year by sharing my 5 star reads from 2018
(the visual includes all while the list includes only newly read in 2018 books): 

Click on the photo above to see my 2018 Goodreads shelf to learn about any of these titles. If I’ve reviewed the book on Unleashing Readers, I’ve also hyperlinked it in the list. 

Picture Books & Early Readers (nonfiction & fiction)

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Windows by Julia Denos
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Trilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon
Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon
Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford
Square by Mac Barnett
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk 
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack by Frank Tra
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade
Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the Worlds Most Adorable Animals by Jess Keating
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
One of a Kind by Chris Gorman
The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara
Memphis, Martin, and Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey
Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid
Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton Hughes
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
We Can’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone
Sun!: One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty
The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayred
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Middle Grade

False Prince trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Granted by John David Anderson
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bat & the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
Track Series: Sunny & Lu by Jason Reynolds
Breakout by Kate Messner
Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamura by Pablo Cartaya
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Garbage Island by Fred Koehler
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Young Adult

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
What Girls are Made of by Elana K. Arnold
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Dry by Neal Shusterman
Another Day by David Levithan

Graphic Novels

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Divided Earth by Erin Faith Hicks
I Am Ghandi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero edited by Brad Meltzer
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Monsters Beware by Jorge Aguirre
Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens by John Green
HiLo #4: Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Nonfiction

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman
The Great Rhino Rescue by Patricia Newman
National Geographic: History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by Kitson Jazynka

All of these books are highly recommended by me, so if you haven’t read them and they interest you, they won’t let you down 🙂 Happy reading!

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The Sisters 8 Series by Lauren Baratz-Logsted with Greg Logsted and Jackie Logsted

The Sisters 8 #1: Annie’s Adventures The Sisters 8 #2: Durinda’s Dangers
Published December 29th, 2008 by HMH Books for Young Readers

through

The Sisters 8 #9: The Final Battle…For Now
Published August 7th, 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers

About the Series: The story begins on New Year’s Eve, eight sisters–octuplets–wait for Mommy to come back from the kitchen with eggnog and Daddy to come back from the shed with more wood for the fire.

But they–Mommy and Daddy, that is–don’t. Come back. Ever.

It takes the sisters a few minutes to notice, but when they do it’s just as you would expect. Disbelief! Outrage! Despair! But then a note appears, telling the girls that each one of them has a talent and a gift. They all must find theirs to learn what happened to Mommy and Daddy.

Okay, so that’s how it begins. How does it end? Enter the world of the Sisters Eight to find out…

About Annie’s Adventures (Book #1): A rather large problem has befallen the Huit girls. (Sisters, actually. Octuplets to be exact.) One particular New Year’s Eve, the girls wait for their mommy to bring them hot chocolate and their daddy to return with more wood for the fire. But they don’t. Mommy and Daddy, that is. They’re gone. Poof! Maybe dead—no one knows for sure.

You must see the problem here. Eight little girls on their own, no mommy or daddy to take care of them. This is not a good thing.

So now these little girls, must take care of themselves. Get to school, cook the meals, feed the cats (eight of them, too), and pay the bills. They can’t ask for help, oh no. Any self-respecting adult would surely call in social services, and those well-meaning people would have to split them up. After losing their parents, being split up would be completely unbearable.

At the same time, the question remains:What happened to Mommy and Daddy? The Sisters Eight (as they are called, affectionately and otherwise) are determined to find out. Luckily, they do seem to have someone or something helping them. Notes keep appearing behind a loose brick in the fireplace.

It’s a good old-fashioned mystery with missing (or dead) parents, nosy neighbors, talking refrigerators, foul-smelling fruitcake (is there any other kind?), and even a little magic. Eight little girls, eight cats, and one big mystery—let the fun begin!

Annie’s Adventures, wherein the girls’ parents go missing (or die) and the girls learn each one has a power and gift. Annie, being the oldest, is the first to discover hers.

And expand the Sisters Eight adventures by entering The Sisters Eight Website!

After you enter, you can:

  • Learn about each of the books,
  • Learn about the authors,
  • Read reviews of the books,
  • Meet the Huit sisters,
  • Take a quiz to see which Sisters Eight you are,
  • Printable paper dolls,
  • Make your own beanbags,
  • Decorate a t-shirt,
  • Design flip-flops,
  • Make a friendship bracelet, or
  • Learn about starting a Sisters 8 book club!

About the Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of more than a dozen books for adults and young readers, including The Twin’s Daughter, Crazy Beautiful, and the Sisters 8 series, which she cowrites with her husband and daughter.

A personal note from the author on this special anniversary: 

Who could ever have predicted that getting snowbound in Crested Butte, Colorado, back in 2006 would lead 12 years later to a nine-book series that has sold over a quarter of a million copies? But that’s what happened to my family. When a visit with friends that was supposed to last five days turned into 10 following a blizzard that closed Denver Airport, my husband Greg and me and our then-6yo daughter Jackie had to find new ways to entertain ourselves, which in our case meant brainstorming what would become known as The Sisters 8 series, about octuplets whose parents go missing on New Year’s Eve, leaving the girls to solve the mystery of where their parents went while keeping other adults from realizing there are no longer any adults in the house. The first two books were published in December 2008, with seven more books since.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. While I have neither the money of Rowling nor the critical acclaim of Franzen, I’ve been able to write the books I wanted to write – for adults, teens and children – in a variety of genres, and seen nearly 40 of those books published. If that’s not lucky, I don’t know what is. But nothing in all of it has given me more pleasure than The Sisters 8. I got to create it with my husband and daughter, who is now 18 and off at college. I got to share the early books with Jackie’s classmates as we were writing them. I got to receive thousands of emails from kids – and their parents, grandparents, librarians and teachers – telling me how much the series has meant to them. Most writers I know long for more money or greater fame. Now, I’m not saying I’d say no to either, but when you’ve receive a letter from a ten-year-old saying “After my brother died, The Sisters 8 was the first thing that made me feel cheered again” or from a special needs teacher saying “It was the first book that ___ asked if she could take home to continue reading on her own” or whole families of Canadians saying they bring the books to read aloud to each other on camping trips (Bless you, Canada!) – well, after all of that, you realize that while fame and fortune would be nice, you did your job as a writer.

This marks the 10th anniversary of The Sisters 8. I hope you’ll join me in wishing them many more years to come – cheers! ~Lauren

Celebrate the Sisters 8 ten-year anniversary by picking up a Sisters 8 book and enter into their adventures!

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“Trick or Read”

When I was in fifth grade I made an awesome Halloween costume:  I was a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter.  No one could tell who I really was since my head was covered, but I got lots of compliments on my cool creativity.

However, that was the high point:  after that I was never able to figure out another Halloween costume I was comfortable wearing.

So, decades later, still blocked on finding a suitable costume, I decided to approach Halloween from another angle: I started giving out books, instead of candy, to trick or treaters.

Moaning like zombies, my family and friends told me this was not a good idea: “no one,” they said, “wants to trick or treat for books.”  “Halloween,” they howled like werewolves, “is for handing out candy.”  “No kids,” “they screeched like a scary witch, “will come to our house for books.”

But… they were all wrong.

Twenty-five years later I am still handing out books to hundreds and hundreds of kids on Halloween. And even though I still haven’t figured out a good costume for myself, I do have another persona: I am known in town as “The Book Lady.”

I have to leave work and my job as President of Scholastic Book Clubs early on Halloween, because kids and their families who come from all over town as well as from neighboring communities (and even in groups from community centers), start lining up early—around 3:30 in the afternoon—to make sure they don’t miss out on the reading FUN! The police come to help direct traffic and the whole community gets into the act.

It makes me so happy to see all these kids and their families—who come from miles around—line up just to make sure they get books! I live on a long, flat street, with wonderful neighbors, who are, for the most part, happy to answer the door with all kind of creative treats (including toothbrushes!) for the swarms of kids who make their way down the block after they leave the “Book House.”

It was all this Halloween excitement that inspired me to write Trick or Tweet, the third book in the Bobs and Tweets series, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell.

I got so much inspiration from all kids who have come to “The Book House” on Halloween: kids stuffed into vegetable costumes, like Lou Tweet.  Vampires and zombies, like the Bobs. Ninjas, and superheroes, and mermaids, and unicorns, (along with people handing out toothbrushes, and awesome decorations and…well you name it!)  Last year, a child came dressed as a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter, which as you can imagine made me smile.

The trick or treaters all want to tell me what books they want to read and how they enjoyed—or did not like — the books they got from the Book House last year.  There is nothing quite so thrilling for me as talking to hundreds of children dressed up in costumes, expressing their creativity and their ideas– and talking about books.

Most of us who work in children’s book publishing strive to help children discover books in which they can see themselves.  We know that when kids choose and own their own books they read more and start to see themselves as readers. In my day job, as President of Scholastic Book Clubs I am privileged to work with 800,000 classroom teachers and their students—from pre-K through high school–all across the country, creating book orders filled with affordable books for all children to choose and own.

In my Halloween role as “The Book Lady, “ it is so fun and inspiring to hand out books to super eager trick or treaters who all love lining up for books on Halloween.  And as, Pepper Springfield, the author of the Bobs and Tweets books, I am truly honored to engage with readers through my characters on Bonefish Street.

So… I guess I don’t need another Halloween costume for myself after all.

Happy Reading! Happy Halloween!

About the Author: Pepper (aka Judy Newman to PW readers, close friends, and family) was born and raised in Massachusetts. She LOVES rock ‘n’ roll and chocolate, just like Lou Tweet. And, like Dean Bob, Pepper loves to read and do crossword puzzles. Over the years, Pepper has loved all kinds of pets: dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, fish, a bunny, and an imaginary monkey.

Bobs and Tweets: Trick or Tweet
Author: Pepper Springfield
Illustrator: Kristy Caldwell
Published August 28th, 2018 by Scholastic

About the Book: Lou Tweet and Dean Bob can’t wait to go trick-or-treating on Bonefish Street on Halloween. This year, they’re entering the Best Halloween Block contest, which means they need to visit every house and mark down each delicious treat that they receive.

But with spooky houses, a power outtage, and another big Tweets and Bobs family feud, will Lou and Dean be able to accomplish their task and win the contest? Find out in another spooky installment of Bobs and Tweets, this time with funhouses, new friends, and lots and lots of candy!

This third book in the Bobs and Tweets series is filled with full-color illustrations and high-interest rhymes that’s just right for reluctant readers. It’s Dr. Seuss meets Captain Underpants wrapped into one zany Halloween adventure! So go ahead, read and laugh and trick-or-treat with the Bobs and Tweets!

Thank you, Pepper, for showing how book lovers can spread the reading love on Halloween!

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