Monday, November 4, 2019

#MMGM Review: SHINE! by JJ Grabenstein & Chris Grabenstein

From the Publisher: 

Everyone deserves to shine in this sparkling new book from the New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Chris Grabenstein, and coauthor J.J. Grabenstein--just right for fans of Word of Mouse and The Fourteenth Goldfish.

"Who do you want to be?" asks Mr. Van Deusen. "And not when you grow up. Right here, right now."

Shine on! might be the catchphrase of twelve-year-old Piper's hero--astronaut, astronomer, and television host Nellie Dumont Frisse--but Piper knows the truth: some people are born to shine, and she's just not one of them. That fact has never been clearer than now, since her dad's new job has landed them both at Chumley Prep, a posh private school where everyone seems to be the best at something and where Piper definitely doesn't fit in.

Bursting with humor, heart, science, possibilities, and big questions, Shine! is a story about finding your place in the universe--a story about figuring out who you are and who you want to be.


My thoughts: 

I was really looking forward to reading SHINE!, and it did not disappoint. I loved Piper, the sweet message (while still providing plenty of depth in plot and character).

I've been a big fan of Chris Grabenstein's work; I think SHINE! shows a new side to his writing I really love. JJ Grabenstein clearly should have started writing long ago! Such a great book, one that gets it right on all levels: plot, character, setting, and theme.

I could see SHINE! being a great classroom read, at-home read for a family, and perfect for all ages. Highly recommend.


**NetGalley provided e-copy for review**



Tuesday, October 8, 2019

2019 National Book Awards Finalists -- Young People's Literature

In case you want to elevate your reading, here are the finalists for the 2019 NBA in Young People's Literature. Not sure if any of these are mysteries; I'll have to read them and report back...

Young People’s Literature

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Random House/Make Me a World)

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illus. by Alexander Nabaum (Atheneum/Dlouhy)

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Penguin/Kokila)

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler (Bloomsbury)

Get the full list of nominees for all categories here



Thursday, October 3, 2019

October News

It's October! If you're like me, you've probably already busted out all your fluffy sweaters and random orange décor, like these little pumpkins. I love fall, October especially because it's the it's-still-nice-out kind of weather.

What I've Been Up To

Although the blog has been kind of quiet, that doesn't mean that all I've been doing is lounge by the pool this summer. I've actually been hard at work, editing my top-secret middle-grade mystery. I've been dying to tell everyone about it, but for now I still need to zip it. More soon, I promise.

Otherwise, I'm enjoying reading all the Kidlit, including chapter books and picture books, with hopes of writing my own. It's harder than it looks, people...

What I'm Reading

I've never been a huge fan of spooky things (I don't like being scared), but I'm kind of coming around from that point of view. I'm enjoying horror movies and TV--much to the entertainment of my husband and kids, who laugh when I jump at the scary things), and am checking out spooky MG. I even found this website dedicated to spooky middle-grade.

We spent the night at the Colorado Hotel last month, which was old and very spooky. Check out these twin doors--made me think of The Shining...

And of course I had to read The Institute by horror master Stephen King. Not spooky all that much, but scary and good.

Where To Find Me

Other than school visits and Skype visits, I'm happy to say I'm spending my time by the fireplace. Starting Oct. 21st, I'm also teaching an online class on writing YA--it's short and fun, perfectly timed for NaNoWriMo...

Happy October, all!. Here's a picture of Luna, who is always ready for sweater weather (check out all that fluff)




Wednesday, July 10, 2019

KidLit 101 WriteBrain for Colorado Friends

I'm tearing myself away from summer for just a second, to let my Colorado friends know about a free WriteBrain (this is where you get smart, clearly) workshop I'm hosting for Pikes Peak Writers. Here are the details:



Kidlit 101
Date: July 16th, 2019
Time: 6:15-8:15 PM
Place: Library 21C, Colorado Springs, CO
So you have this great book idea for kids… But is it a picture book, middle-grade, or YA—and what do all those terms even mean?

Whether you’re a new writer or an experienced author interested dipping your toe in the growing kidlit market, author Fleur (F.T.) Bradley will explain the ins and outs, how to write for kids (like how to format a picture book, word count and content for each segment), and what to understand about marketing to the young set, from practical experience.

This is an in-depth A-to-Z look at the kidlit market, from writing to publishing.

I hope you'll join me! Now, back to some summer fun...

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday Teen Book Review: That Night by Cyn Balog


Publication Date: June 4th, 2019Hailey wants to know the truth, but there are some secrets that are best left buried…

Hailey is determined to find out all she can about her boyfriend's suicide. She knows Declan wouldn't kill himself, even if she can't remember a lot of what lead up to that fateful night.

Kane, Declan's stepbrother and Hailey's best friend, wants to move past what happened—not dig up bad memories. But the more Hailey searches for information, the more she remembers.

As the truth begins to unravel, Hailey finds herself unveiling secrets she never could have imagined—secrets that have the possibility of ruining everything...
 

From the Publisher:

Some secrets are best left buried...

It’s been a year since Hailey’s boyfriend Declan died, and Hailey is still far from okay. She’s lost almost all her friends, her grades are falling, and she pretty much lives wrapped up in bed. Everyone says Declan’s death was a suicide—after all, his father’s gun was found near his body—but Hailey knows that the happy, confident Declan she knew would never do that. She’s positive. The problem is, she can’t remember anything from the day he died.

Kane, Declan’s stepbrother and Hailey’s best friend, thinks that everyone should move on—why relive the pain? But when Hailey sees a strange picture with a threatening message amongst Declan’s belongings, she’s convinced she has proof that there’s more to the story. Hailey starts searching for answers and throws herself into memories her subconscious tried to make her forget…and the deeper she looks, the more she remembers.

But the truth she uncovers will be more dangerous and more devastating than she could have ever imagined. 

My thoughts: 

Such a good thriller and brilliant character study. I loved how the relationships were so complex in this book. There is a bit of unreliable narrator plot stuff going on—I kind of saw it coming as I’ve read Cyn Balog’s previous work, but still… A great mystery with a solid twist.

Recommended.

Caution: you might be up late reading this one…

**Publisher provided e-copy for review**


Monday, May 27, 2019

#MMGM Review: Can You Crack The Code? by Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Lily Williams

From the Publisher:
Codes can carry big secrets! Throughout history, lots of good guys and lots of bad guys have used codes to keep their messages under wraps. This fun and flippable nonfiction features stories of hidden treasures, war-time maneuverings, and contemporary hacking as well as explaining the mechanics behind the codes in accessible and kid friendly forms. Sidebars call out activities that invite the reader to try their own hand at cracking and crafting their own secret messages. This is the launch of an exciting new series that invites readers into a STEM topic through compelling historical anecdotes, scientific backup, and DIY projects.Codes can carry big secrets! Throughout history, lots of good guys and lots of bad guys have used codes to keep their messages under wraps. This fun and flippable nonfiction features stories of hidden treasures, war-time maneuverings, and contemporary hacking as well as explaining the mechanics behind the codes in accessible and kid friendly forms. Sidebars call out activities that invite the reader to try their own hand at cracking and crafting their own secret messages. This is the launch of an exciting new series that invites readers into a STEM topic through compelling historical anecdotes, scientific backup, and DIY projects.
My thoughts: 
Such a great addition to my collection of books on codes and ciphers. I'll be taking this one along on my school visits. The history text is the perfect length, with accessible text and narrative.
The illustrations are just perfect. And I loved the DIY projects—I could see these being a great project for the classroom.
Highly recommended for your middle-grade mystery and spy buff.


Monday, April 29, 2019

#MMGM book review and ARC giveaway: Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: James Armistead Lafayette

It's Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday! That means you can find a giant list of the latest MG reviews here at Greg Pattridge's blog Always in the Middle

Publication date: May 1, 2019


From the publisher:

Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette by Kyandreia Jones takes YOU to the heart of the American Revolutionary War. 9-12 year old readers will enact the life of an actual historic spy, James Armistead Lafayette, whose top secret espionage efforts were instrumental in helping the revolutionary forces defeat the British. And yet his story has been almost entirely left out of history books. Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette is an interactive adventure book in which YOU decide what happens next.

The year is 1781 and George Washington is commanding thousands of troops in Yorktown, Virginia, on the brink of the most important battle of the war. You are James Armistead, a brave and literate enslaved person in Virginia. Marquis de Lafayette, one of Washington's key officers, approaches you with the most critical choice of your life: do you join the Revolutionary army as a top secret spy or find freedom on your own terms? As a spy for the revolution, you might change the course of history, but whose liberty will you really be fighting for?

My thoughts: 

I loved choose your own adventure books as a kid, and I'm glad to see these more again now. This book is brilliant in that it has that active element of choosing your own adventure, while teaching you a lot of history along the way. Perfect for reluctant readers, and excellent timing for summer reading.

The back of the book gives you the story of James Armistead Lafayette and his work as a spy, despite his status as a slave. It also talks about his journey to freedom--fascinating and inspiring. I loved how the author really brings history (and James Armistead Lafayette as a person) to life in this book.

The book also gives you a short, by-year summary of the history of slavery and emancipation in the U.S.

I could see this making a great read-aloud for teachers--how fun to choose your own adventure as a class. Highly recommend.

**Publisher provided ARC for review**

GIVEAWAY UPDATE: winner has been chosen, thanks for stopping by!


#MMGM Review: SHINE! by JJ Grabenstein & Chris Grabenstein

From the Publisher:   Everyone deserves to shine in this sparkling new book from the New York Times bestselling author of Escape from M...