The Treacherous Seas
Author: Christopher Healy
Published November 5th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press
Summary: After saving New York by thwarting Ambrose Rector’s dastardly plot to control the minds of everyone at the 1883 World’s Fair, Molly Pepper and Emmett Lee thought they’d have it made. They were heroes, after all. But if someone saves the world and there’s no one around who remembers it, did it really happen?
Now Molly, Emmett, and Molly’s mother, Cassandra, are left to prove themselves once again. And they aim to do it with an achievement that no one could ignore or forget: winning the race that has captured the attention of the world, to be the first people to find the South Pole. But despite their one-of-a-kind ship, their can-do attitude, and the help of a determined young journalist named Nellie Bly, the path to the Pole is not without its challenges—or its terrors. It is the path Emmett’s father took when he led an expedition to Antarctica on behalf of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell—the expedition in which Mr. Lee and his entire crew were killed. Does death await our heroes on these treacherous seas?
About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of the novels A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem #1: A Dastardly Plot, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw and the picture book This Is Not That Kind Of Book. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at www.christopherhealy.com
Christopher Healy’s Nerdy Book Club post was hilarious and also focused on research–don’t miss out on it!
Don’t Miss out on the Other Blog Tour Stops:
November 6 Nerdy Book Club
December 2 Bluestocking Thinking
December 3 Novel Novice
December 4 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
December 5 The Book Monsters
December 6 Maria’s Melange
**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for giveaway and for hosting the blog tour**
Bad Hair Day
Author and Illustrator: Jim Benton
Published July 23rd, 2019 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Summary: Franny K. Stein isn’t a fan of glamour. She doesn’t style her hair, the thought of wearing makeup makes her want to gag, and she couldn’t care less about wearing dressy dresses when she’d much prefer her lab coat.
But sometimes Franny wonders if her mom wishes she were different. Which gives Franny an idea…for an experiment! What if she can turn the beauty products her mom loves into something more exciting?
Every experiment has its experimental error, and when Franny’s hair takes on a life of its own, Franny must save the day (and her hair).
About the Author: Jim Benton is the New York Times bestselling writer of the Dear Dumb Diary series and a cartoonist whose unique brand of humor has been seen on toys, television, T-shirts, greeting cards, and even underwear. Franny K. Stein is the first character he’s created especially for young children. A husband and father of two, he lives in Michigan, where he works in a studio that really and truly does have creepy stuff in it.
Review: Franny K. Stein is not worried about all those other things other people worry about–she just wants to do experiments and other mad scientists things. And you know what, I love that!!! And I definitely saw what Benton was trying to do with this book when it comes to glamour and such, but I, as a parent, just didn’t like to see Franny’s mom put a bit of passive aggressive pressure on Franny to be anything other than her amazing self. I mean, she makes creatures and fights them–what does a little messy hair matter?! But in the end, Franny’s mom and the reader are reminded of this, so once again Franny can go on being herself.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Simon and Schuster have a wonderful curriculum guide to use with this series: CLICK HERE.
- Franny’s mom is supportive of Franny, but she also questions her. How did you feel about how Franny’s mom in this book?
- I like to describe Franny as awesome, as in I am awe-struck by her. What traits does Franny have that would lead me to describe her this way?
- Why did Franny’s pig tails act differently than her ponytails?
- How was Franny’s mom wrong about Igor?
- Would Franny be successful in her monster fighting without Igor? Why or why not?
Flagged Passages: CHAPTER ONE: FRANNY’S HOUSE
The Stein family lived in the pretty pink house with the lovely purple shutters down at the end of Daffodil Street. Everything about the house was bright and cheery.
But, of course, the outside of a house is never as interesting as what’s going on inside it.
And inside this house, behind the little round upstairs window, something interesting was always going on, because this was the bedroom and laboratory of Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist.
Last week, for example, Franny developed a giant sea horse, and the day before that she worked on a way to fly based on how bats flap their wings.
Those projects became pretty expensive, so Franny needed to get a piggy bank to save her money in.
Of course, being a mad scientist, she created her piggy bank from a real live pig, which meant that she had to learn all she could about pigs.
This got pretty messy, but she didn’t mind getting messy, because that’s just what happens when you’re doing mad science.
Read This If You Love: Dear Dumb Diary series, Frank Einstein series, Zita the Spacegirl series
Weird Little Robots
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Corinna Luyken
Published October 1st, 2019 by Candlewick
Summary: When two science-savvy girls create an entire robot world, they don’t expect the robots to come alive. But life may be a bit more magical than they thought.
Nine-year-old Penny Rose has just moved to a new town, and so far the robots she builds herself are her only company. But with just a bit of magic, everything changes: she becomes best friends with Lark, has the chance to join a secret science club, and discovers that her robots are alive. Penny Rose hardly remembers how lonely she used to feel. But then a fateful misstep forces her to choose between the best friend she’s always hoped for and the club she’s always dreamed of, and in the end it may be her beloved little robots that pay the price.
Praise: [A]uthor Crimi infuses this unassuming transitional novel with compassion, humor, and a refreshing storyline in which girls organically weave a love for science into their everyday lives. Illustrations by Luyken add to the guileless sensibility. A contemplation on the magic of friendship told with sweetness, simplicity, and science.—Kirkus Reviews
**BEA Middle Grade Book Buzz Book
About the Author: Carolyn Crimi enjoys snacking, pugs, Halloween, and writing, although not necessarily in that order. Over the years she has published 15 funny books for children, including Don’t Need Friends, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, There Might Be Lobsters, and I Am The Boss of This Chair. Weird Little Robots is her first novel.
Review: Thank goodness books like this exist out in the world. I cannot wait to see what this new generation of kids are like as adults now that they all have these amazing stories of smart girls to read. Even the characters who fit a certain stereotype for Penny Rose ended up proving her wrong. This book shows that there is more to everything than anyone can imagine: more to science, more to friendship, more to imagination… What a fantastic world that Penny and Lark’s story can be told!
And the story itself is one that is fun to read. Not only do you get to read about robots, engineering, ornithology, and even decorating, but the book includes a story that many kids will connect with: do you abandon one to join the others even if the one is your best friend and the others is giving an opportunity that is hard to refuse. That is something that everyone faces more than once in their life. And told in a lyrical and a bit quirky narrative, the story is just fun to read.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A Classroom Guide for Weird Little Robots can be found on Carolyn Crimi’s website!
- What do Penny Rose and Lark have in common?
- Why do you think Penny Rose made the decision she did about the secret society? Did she regret it in the end? How could she have dealt with it differently?
- If you were going to build a little robot RIGHT NOW, what items are in your backpack that you could use? Use these items and sketch out a plan.
- How could Penny Rose have helped her other robots communicate with her?
- Why do you think the robots waited to communicate?
- What did the different members of the secret society show Penny Rose, and the reader, about judging others?
- Create your own conversation starters. Then, in class, group with 2 other people and use the conversation starters to chat. Rotate.
- What did Penny Rose’s one decision the turned her back on Lark cause?
- Penny Rose finds her way through the woods just by listening. As a class create an obstacle course that has different sounds throughout it and see if students can navigate through using only their hearing.
Flagged Passages: “First though, Penny Rose would need a detailed plan. She went up to her bedroom, sat on her bed, and turned on the lamp she had made last year from an olive oil can. A stack of notebooks sat on her nightstand: her New Inventions notebook, her Robot Drawings and Descriptions notebook, and her To-Do List notebook. Her most secret notebook, Conversation Starters, was at the bottom of the pile.
She picked it up, found a clean page, and wrote a quick list of Possible Conversation Starters:
- “I think binoculars are fun.” (Lark seems to like binoculars.)
- “The sun seems strong today.” (Lark often wears sun goop. First determine if the sun does, indeed, seem strong.)
- “Sunglasses are very wise.” (Lark wears sunglasses.)
- “Do you like robots?” (It is unknown whether or not Lark likes robots, but it is probable that she does since most people do.)
- “Yesterday was my birthday. Would you like some leftover cake?” (This seems like a good bet, unless she has allergies or is gluten-free or vegan or something.)
- “What is in that metal box?” (This might be too nosy, although if you’re going to carry something so mysterious, you should be prepared for questions.)
Penny Rose looked over her list. She considered what her father said about Lark not hearing before. She decided she would speak loudly.
Penny Rose tore out the page and tucked it into the tool belt she wore in case she happened upon interesting items for her robots.” (Chapter One)
Read This If You Love: Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Ada Twist by Andrea Beaty, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: January 9, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Guest Review by Natalia Sperry
Summary: Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman.
Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.
Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?
Review: Thunderhead packs a punch as a conceptually compelling and action-packed follow up to award-winning Scythe. While at times it moves slowly and teeters on the precarious edge of “middle book syndrome.” Its expansion of the world of the Scythdome helps the book feel more well-rounded. Despite the action, Thunderhead shines most in its explorations of democracy and the implications of AI technology.
Citra’s questioning of identity, though immediately rooted in her struggle between her civilian past and scythedom, provides a good example of identity searching for teen readers. For Citra and Rowan, the stakes are high– despite the novel’s focus on the guiding AI of the Thunderhead, the fate of the world rests not on the shoulders of the political technology or the Scythe’s government, but on the teenage protagonist’s shoulders. Though Thunderhead didn’t invent the trope of teens saving the world, in 2018 it feels all the more prevalent.
Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: As a sequel, Thunderhead will primarily be useful in addition to classroom libraries. However, in discussing the Arc of a Scythe series as a whole, Thunderhead raises interesting questions of power dynamics in politics, democracy, and the role of AI technology. If Scythe is already a text you’ve considered using in literature circles, a discussion about the themes raised in the sequel could provide an interesting supplement to the unit.
Discussion Questions: Is the Thunderhead justified? Is the Scythedom? In what ways is the world of the Scythes in MidMerica and beyond a dystopia or utopia?
Flagged: “You may laugh when I tell you this, but I resent my own perfection. Humans learn from their mistakes. I cannot. I make no mistakes. When it comes to making decisions, I deal only in various shades of correct.” (Chapter 4).
Read This If You Loved: Scythe by Neal Shusterman, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
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.
“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.
- 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
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!
**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**
To celebrate the release of The Children of Jubilee (Children of Exile #3), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from author Margaret Peterson Haddix and 10 chances to win the complete trilogy!
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
When I finished writing my very first series, The Shadow Children, I thought I had discovered the perfect way to explain how it felt to say good-bye to Luke and the other characters I’d watched grow and change over the course of seven books:“It’s like sending kids off to college,” I told anyone who asked. “You know they’re grown up and ready to leave home—they’re ready to say goodbye–but you still miss them.”My actual children were barely out of elementary school at the time, so I was describing an experience I hadn’t had in real life yet—I was only projecting.
Then my real kids grew up and left for college, and I realized I had totally underplayed what a heart-wrenching experience that would be. So at least with finishing a series, I have the comfort of knowing that I’ve already gone through worse heartache, and survived.
But there are similarities: To do our job as parents, my husband and I had to let our kids grow up and become independent and make their own choices. To do my job as a writer, I have to let my characters make their own mistakes and grow and learn and then bring their stories to a close.
And I do miss my characters after I’ve finished writing their stories. This is true with any character I’ve created, but the missing is particularly intense with series characters I’ve spent years imagining and thinking about and living with.
My real kids, of course, have continued to have new experiences and adventures, and they’ve continued to grow and change since the day my husband and I dropped each of them off at their college freshman dorms. (And, happily, they also call and text and come home to visit. And they welcome us when we go to visit them.) It would seem that my fictional characters would stay more fixed in time; once I turn in the last draft of the last book of a series, theoretically my characters have become who they are, and they’re never going to change again.
But fictional characters don’t just belong to an author at a fixed point in time, as she’s writing. They also belong to readers—and to the writer’s continued imagination.
One of the joys of being a writer is hearing from readers who whole-heartedly embrace the characters I love (or love to hate) as friends or enemies, as riddles to be figured out or rivals to be outsmarted. This can be a mixed blessing, because sometimes readers’ strong opinions are nothing like my own, and there are times when I want to huddle protectively over my characters and maybe even cup my hands over their ears so they don’t have to hear harsh criticism.
Other times, readers have amazing insights that make me see my own characters in a new light. Even very young readers have made me understand aspects of my characters’ personalities that I hadn’t noticed. Readers tell me, “I know just how Luke felt when…” or “I can relate to Katherine because…” or “I’m like Ella because…” And sometimes their epiphanies become mine as well.
I was already an adult and at least theoretically all grown up by the time I started writing series books. But even so, life and new experiences continue to change me both as a person and as a writer, so I also change my perspective sometimes on characters I wrote about in the past. Sometimes I want to go back and apologize to the characters in my early books: “Sorry—I wrote your story as well as I was able to back then; I really do wish I could have done it better!” And sometimes my own life experiences make me see how brave my characters were; how glibly I forced them to grow up and take responsibility. Sometimes I want to apologize for that, too.
With the publication this winter of Children of Jubilee—the third and final book in the Children of Exile series—I’m saying goodbye to yet another set of beloved characters: Rosi and Bobo, Edwy and Kiandra and Enu… I’m sure they will be fine, out in the world (or in their case, out in the universe) on their own.
I will miss them. But I won’t stop thinking about them. And I look forward to hearing from readers who are thinking about them, too.
December 3rd — Beach Bound Books
December 4th — Ms. Yingling Reads
December 5th— Christy’s Cozy Corners
December 6th— Crossroad Reviews
December 7th — A Dream Within A Dream
December 10th — Book Briefs
December 11th — Chat with Vera
December 12th — Bookhounds
December 13th — Java John Z’s
December 14th — Unleashing Readers
Follow Margaret: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Kiandra has to use her wits and tech-savvy ways to help rescue Edwy, Enu, and the others from the clutches of the Enforcers in the thrilling final novel of the Children of Exile series from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.
Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.
But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.
About the Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.
- One (1) winner will receive the complete Children of Exile trilogy: Children of Exile, Children of Refuge, and Children of Jubilee
- US/Canada only
“Things Sure Were Different In My Day”
I caught myself saying something the other day that I never thought I would say to my children, and I’m still reeling from the sheer horror of how those words felt as they spilled out of my mouth. In my defense, my kids had been complaining—in high-pitched, whiny voices that could crack the most ardent saint—how bored they were. As I looked around at their toys, their bikes, their swing set in the backyard, their books, their tablets, without even thinking I said, “How can you girls be bored with so much stuff to do? You should be grateful for all this entertainment because things sure were different in my day.”
That’s right, I said the dreaded phrase: THINGS SURE WERE DIFFERENT IN MY DAY.
The girls looked at me like I was a dog walking on my back legs. I could almost see them trying to calculate what “in my day” looked like, their eyes blinking and squinting as numbers and Greek symbols flashed above their heads like a cartoon. Maybe they saw cavemen walking around in mammoth-skin skinny jeans, or those old-timey gangsters hanging out in saloons with cigars dangling from their lips drinking kombucha teas from Starbucks. It had to be some strange, foreign amalgam of their own reality and the reality they could only assume their screamy old mom came from.
But the truth is, my day was very different. My childhood was arguably simpler. There was no online shopping or Prime deliveries and certainly no social media. Kids “in my day” were not as connected as kids are today, with information at their fingertips. This makes our children much more knowledgeable, and this is great for learning and exploring. Whenever we have a science project or a social studies report due, my girls and I head to the web. We have found loads of practical and fun information. It is also very easy to stay in touch with our friends and family. For anyone who has moved and left behind people they care about, social media can be a wonderful tool to preserve friendships. But as with all wonderful things in this world, there are disadvantages, too. Our tightly connected and information-saturated world means our kids know a lot more about tough realities.
This difficult knowledge hit home when my oldest child’s class practiced emergency protocols. She often would come home and tell me what she would do when “code red” was activated. Her demeanor was calm and even happy as she described the role she would play. One day she happened to see coverage about a school shooting. The reporter spoke about the different ways that students and teachers worked to save the lives of their fellow classmates and staff. The actions they described, such as barricading doors and hiding in closets, were similar to what her class had been practicing. I could see her brain making the connections, and this led to inevitable questions and a very difficult conversation. While this was something I never wanted to talk about with my little girl, it was a conversation that was necessary. Children are exposed to and must face difficult realities.
Difficult Realities for Developing Kids
Kids begin to develop their own identities almost as soon as they are born. They say “no” to gooey green baby food and later wear black lipstick to their grandma’s 80th birthday party. Or maybe that was just me? Regardless of the black lipstick, healthy emotional, physical, and spiritual development is rooted in the development of one’s identity. Difficult circumstances such as school violence, bullying, and even divorce can destabilize or strengthen their identity.
In my science-themed middle grade book, Quantum Quagmire, I cover the topic of divorce. Serafina Sterling learns her best friend, Tori Copper, is going through a difficult time when she starts to lose interest in her most beloved hobbies, bug hunting and pizza eating. And what’s troubling Tori is more difficult for Serafina to understand than cold fusion: Tori’s parents are getting a divorce.
Serafina turns to her friends and science to try to figure out how to prevent the divorce. Using the scientific method, trial and error, and one disastrous release of a dangerous class pet, Serafina realizes her beloved science has reached its limit. Or has it? In the end, Serafina is able to understand a very important quantum principle and use it to help Tori accept the inevitable split. Serafina and her friends realize that while they may not be able to prevent a divorce, they have the tools to understand and accept the difficult reality.
The purpose of this book was not only to convey one of my favorite quantum concepts, quantum entanglement, but to also help kids navigate through difficult realities they may face. Especially in today’s information heavy world.
Change versus Acceptance
We all have some control over our lives. Where we live. The job we have. What’s for dinner? We can’t, however, control the weather, what our neighbors are like, and who our bosses are. Kids have even less control. They can’t vote. They can’t get their own place. And they can’t understand what they can and can’t change without some guidance.
In Quantum Quagmire, I emphasize the importance of acceptance. Serafina and her friends try to reunite Tori Copper’s parents. When those efforts fail, her mother helps her understand that sometimes bad things happen in a person’s life. Serafina was able to take these lessons and help Tori accept the change. More importantly, she helped her see that even though her parents would not be living in the same house anymore, they would always be connected as a family.
Sugarcoating is Good. Perspective is Better.
My hope is that my entire Serafina Loves Science! series helps lay the groundwork for difficult conversations with children. Our kids will face a lot of challenges and failures in their lives, just as we have “back in our day”. Their relative success or failure in life will be the result of how well they can navigate, recover, and later thrive because of those bumps in the road.
When my oldest daughter recently lost her front tooth and was concerned she would “look weird” in class, I tried giving her a sugarcoated answer. I told her that the little hole in her face was “cute” and that at least she had a very handy soup strainer until her grown-up tooth came in. Those answers seemed to placate her for about 10 minutes. But as I stared at my gap-tooth seven-year-old, with her arms folded tightly across her chest and her brows pinched into a tight knot, I realized she was onto my bogus mom answers. I took a deep breath and tried to put it into perspective for her. I told her that, in my day, I also had been self-conscious about looking like a piano missing a lot of keys, and that her friends probably felt the same way. I listed some of her friends who also were missing their front teeth. She seemed to respond to this and even gave me a hug.
While having a missing tooth isn’t as difficult as divorce or school violence, the method of providing perspective remains. Kids are smart, and they are growing. Providing them with truthful, honest, and loving guidance can make a difference. It certainly did for Serafina and her friends!
Serafina Loves Science
Published by Absolute Love Publishing
Series Summary: Serafina Loves Science! is a middle grade fiction series that focuses on 11-year-old Serafina Sterling. Serafina is just like other kids who have to deal with issues like annoying older brothers, cliques at school, and parents who restrict her use of noxious chemicals. But she has a secret … Serafina loves science! Her passion for all things scientific helps her make new friends and figure out the old ones, understand her family, invent new devices for space travel, and appreciate the basic principles of the universe.
Cosmic Conundrum Summary: See Kellee’s review from Friday!
Quantum Quagmire Summary: Serafina suspects something is wrong when her best friend, Tori Copper, loses interest in their most cherished hobbies: bug hunting and pizza nights. When she learns Tori’s parents are getting a divorce and that Tori’s mom is moving away, Serafina vows to discover a scientific solution to a very personal problem so that Tori can be happy again. But will the scientific method, a clever plan, and a small army of arachnids be enough to reunite Tori’s parents? When the situation goes haywire, Serafina realizes she has overlooked the smallest, most quantum of details. Will love be the one challenge science can’t solve?
About the Author: Cara Bartek, Ph.D. lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. The Serafina Loves Science! series was inspired in part by her career path and in part by her two little girls. Her hope is to make this world a more equitable and opportune place for her daughters one silly story at a time. Visit www.carabartek.com.
Thank you to Cara and Absolute Love Publishing for sharing this awesome outlook into the changes in childhood in the 21st century and how Serafina deals with these changes!
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