Monday, August 14, 2017
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited, though not as much as her best friend, Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel would just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at the Slice.
But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister, Mina, has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have Mina back but anxious about her sister getting sick again.
Hazel is changing, too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and has crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong things. She wants to be the perfect new Em. But who is that really?
Author Jen Maschari was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book, which will hit shelves on August 22:
Jen, can you tell Middle Grade Minded readers a bit about your inspiration for this book? Did you go through any of Em’s family/friendship issues when you were in middle school?
I knew I wanted to write a story about sisters and also the difficult years of middle school. In some ways, I feel like I’ve never left middle school. I write about it, and I am currently a 7th and 8th grade teacher! I did go through some of the same friend issues Emily faced. I was not part of the group that was considered “cool” and I remember those middle school years being pretty tough (especially my 8th grade year). But like Emily, I also found friends who were the right fit: people who accepted and valued me for who I was.
I loved the metaphor of Em’s science project, showing the movement of the changing Earth over time as it connected with the shifts in Emily’s own life. Did you think of this correlation ahead of time, or did it evolve as you drafted the novel?
Thank you Stefanie! This correlation definitely came later as I worked my way into the story. Maybe it appeared in draft three? The heart of this story was always the same – the bond between sisters and finding out who you are – but the story itself changed dramatically during revisions. It started as a camp story (spoiler: there’s no camp anywhere in the finished book) but evolved into a book about facing all kinds of change. I’ve always been fascinated with science and thought the evolution of the changing Earth and Emily’s journey went well together. (and, growing up, I loved school projects so I thought it would be fun to put one in the book)
Your debut, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, received a starred review from School Library Journal. What was the road to publication like for your second novel? How was it different/similar from your first book?
The writing of this book was very difficult. Between drafts two and three, I scrapped all but approximately 12 pages. It was daunting but needed to be done; it resulted in a much better story! With CHARLIE, I was writing that on my own time, while teaching. With THINGS I worked faster, but I sometimes didn’t allow myself the necessary thinking time I needed in the early drafting stage to work out plot and character knots. I learned a lot of good lessons from writing a second book that I will hopefully apply to my third!
Thanks so much, Jen!
To order Things That Surprise You, go here:
To learn more about Jen, go to: www.jenmaschari.com
Monday, August 7, 2017
Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!!!
Kat deals with a lot of issues familiar to kids. What was your inspiration for Kat?
Like Kat’s mom, my dad has OCD. His compulsions are the opposite of Kat’s mom’s, though, because my dad is a hoarder who keeps everything. (I recently found a datebook in his apartment from 1973!) He’s also a checker, which means he must check the front-door locks, and the gas jets on the stove, multiple times a day. I too have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.
Kat Greene Comes Clean releases on August 22nd!!! How are you going to celebrate?
On the actual day, my daughter, Chloe, and I will have a leisurely lunch and then visit as many bookstores as humanly possible—to gawk, and to sign books. A week later, I’m having a launch party at The Corner Bookstore, a wonderful little shop on Madison Avenue and 93rd Street. There will be an after party, too!
What advice do you have for young aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! Writing is hard work, and it’s likely you will encounter many stumbling blocks along the way—including crushing rejection. But rejection can be overcome. Giving up on a dream cannot.
Finish the sentence:
Kat is the perfect book for…Readers who like some funny with their serious.
You should have asked me…To demonstrate my archery skills. Surprisingly, it’s one of my hidden talents!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Melissa! I can't wait to buy my copy of Kat Greene Comes Clean!!!
To find out more about Melissa and Kat, visit Melissa online at: http://www.melissaroske.com/
Monday, July 31, 2017
I am thrilled to review Danielle Davis' debut middle grade novel, Zinnia and The Bees today!
I got a chance to read an ARC of this book and adored it!
Talk about having a lousy day. While Zinnia's seventh grade classmates are celebrating the last day of school, she's cooped up in the vice principal's office, serving detention. Her offense? Yarn bombing a statue of the school mascot. And when Zinnia rushes home to commiserate with her older brother, Adam, who also happens to be her best friend, she's devastated to discover that he's left home with no explanation. Just when it looks like Zinnia's day can't possibly get any worse, a colony of frantic honeybees mistakes her hair for a hive and lands on her head! Told from the alternating perspectives of Zinnia a humorous young loner and knitter and an unintentionally comical hive of honeybees, this quirky, heartfelt novel will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt alone, betrayed, or misunderstood as it explores the challenges that come with learning to trust yourself and the often messy process of discovering the true meaning to home.
My review of the book:I loved the book so much I read it in one sitting. Zinnia is having a terrible summer. Her beloved older brother Adam left home in the night to get away from their overbearing mother (whom Zinnia refers to using her formal name Dr. Flossdrop, she's on the outs with her best friends, her mom's just rescued the creepiest dog, and a strange boy has moved in next door. Oh yeah, and bees have nested in her head! A wonderful story about dealing with unresolved pain and fear, and learning to trust, this book, beautifully written by Danielle Davis, is sure to be beloved by all middle graders who read Zinnia's story. A true delight!
Where to find Danielle:
Capstone Publishing has graciously offered to give away a copy of Zinnia and the Bees! Leave a message below, between now and Friday, sharing your own experience with bees!
Friday, July 28, 2017
So how can you stack the deck? How do you make sure your query is on my list of "Yesses!"? How I pick my "THE ONE!" is honestly pretty personal, just whichever story I connect with for whatever reason. But you can do a lot of things to make sure you're at least one of the stories I agonize over not picking. So here are some of the most common issues I see in my submissions. You may noticed they go a bit beyond the basics, because, like I said, the qaulity in Pitch Wars is pretty high!
If you can stand out, explain the story in a way I can understand, include compelling emotions in your characters, with decent writing and it all fits into my wishlist, you'll very likely find yourself in my (much too long, I'm sure) want pile!
Monday, July 24, 2017
Trevor (the troublemaker), Devin (the internet star), Cameron (the genius), and Nika (the reserved) just won the Castleton's contest to be the first to ride the World's Greatest Adventure Machine, a new, state-of-the-art roller coaster. As the adventure unfolds, the four winners begin to suspect there's more to their fellow participants than meets the eye. And if trusting their fellow riders isn't enough, the ride seems to have a mind of it's own, putting Trevor, Devin, Cameron, and Nika on an wild and twisted adventure they couldn't imagine in their wildest dreams. But as they embark on their journey it seems the adventure machine has other plans for them and if they aren't careful they might never get off the ride.
The thing that stood out for me the most in this story were the characters. Each were unique and fun to follow in their own right. And as the reader learned more about them, it was easier to fall deeper and deeper into their story. It was fun to see what would come up in the adventure next and watch how the characters would react and affect how the story unfolded. It was also incredibly endearing to watch the characters get to know themselves better through interacting with each other through their experiences on the ride.
This story also had many great, entertaining, and unexpected moments. It kept the reader guessing about the characters and the plot as things progressed. It was almost impossible to predict what would come up next on the ride but was fun to experience it as the characters did.
This is an exciting story that middle grade readers will get lost in and love to follow Trevor, Devin, Cameron, and Nika through their adventure. There's humor, danger, and twists and turns to keep any young reader engaged from beginning to end. I recommend this for any Middle Grade reader looking for a fun adventure.
*ARC generously provided by Penguin Random House Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.
Monday, July 17, 2017
The book HYACINTH AND THE SECRETS BENEATH, by Jacob Sager Weinstein, reminded me a lot of those stories. Boiled down to its core, this book is a chase that only momentarily lets up long enough to let another part of the chase begin. It’s told in first person by a strong main character with a healthy dose of snark in her voice, and an even greater willingness to roll with all of the strange things happening around her.
Hyacinth is the type of girl who confronts the problems and changes that happen in her life, preparing herself for what may come by learning as much as she can. Someone in her family is an unreliable DIY worker? She teaches herself plumbing basics in case she has to fix things. She and her mother are relocating from America to live with her aunt in London? She reads about her new city to familiarize herself with its extensive history.
The problem is that after settling in at her aunt’s home, she quickly learns that almost everything she thought she knew about the city and its extensive history is completely wrong. There’s an enormous separate world filled with magic in the sewers just beneath London that drives and connects the fate of the city above. When Hyacinth learns she has unwittingly put the entire city in danger, she’s guided into this world to both try and repair her mistakes and rescue her kidnapped mother. She meets up with a collection of strange creatures and even stranger people throughout her adventure, many of them being not what they first seem.
The mystery that begins the adventure starts in the first pages of the book and continues relentlessly to the very end. I've seen too many students in the past few years abandon books because they weren't captured by the story in the very first pages. This would be a good book to match with readers looking for something imaginative and exciting that hits the ground running.