Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Zoo at the Edge of the World

The Zoo at the Edge of the WorldThe Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Marlin is a stutterer and the youngest of Roland Rackham's two sons.
Roland is the owner of the famous Zoo at the Edge of the World and has really high expectations of his sons (unfortunately for Marlin). Every day in Marlin's life is a constant struggle to communicate with humans and his interactions rarely end well. With animals however he has no problem at all or so he thinks until his father brings a Jaguar back from the jungle, to be newest and highly anticipated attraction.

I loved a lot of things about this book, including the writing, character and plot development.
However what I loved the most was how the story was not about fixing or finding a magical cure for Marlin's disability. Despite everything, Marlin took on many challenges and even surprised himself with how he handled it all. I was also impressed by how the animals were portrayed. I was able to empathize with them and struggled with whether or not they were friends, or enemies, or both.

I do know for sure that next time I go to the zoo, I will be thinking of this book for a lot of reasons.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Inside Scoop on February's Debut Middle Grade!

As you guys know, we're big fans of getting the inside scoop on books. In our K10 series, we ask kids to spill the beans about their favorite kidlit reads. And in our Secrets of Kidlit posts, we share tips on writing and interviews with inside sources in the book world (that's you, librarians!!!).

For 2016, we're adding the inside scoop on each month's debut middle grades! Not only will you find a clear summary of each of the debuts, but the authors are also providing a handful of tidbits about their stories or themselves. Read on to learn more about February's releases, and read previous months by searching the tag "Inside Scoop" at the bottom of this post!

By Victoria J. Coe

Fenway and his beloved short human, Hattie, are the perfect pair. She loves romping in the Dog Park, playing fetch, and eating delicious snacks as much as he does.

But when they move from the city to the suburbs, there’s bad news. While Fenway’s hard at work deterring intruders and battling a slippery floor, Hattie starts changing. She hangs out in a squirrely treehouse. She plays ball without him. What could be happening?

Crushed and confused, Fenway sets out on a mission. He’s going to get his Hattie back and nothing will stop him—not the Wicked Floor, not the dreaded Gate, not even a giant squirrel!

Get a dog’s-eye view of the world in this hilarious and heartfelt story about two best friends who learn that big changes aren’t always easy, but sometimes trying new things can get you everything you want.

Here's the Inside Scoop on this adorable MG straight from Victoria J. Coe:
1. The story is told from Fenway's perspective--through sights, sounds, smells, and a dog's understanding of life. Spoiler alert--Fenway's always on the lookout for evil. And treats.

2. But it's called Fenway and Hattie because Hattie has her own storyline, too. After they move, she faces her share of challenges and adjustments. But of course, the reader only gets Fenway's side of things!

3. Fenway and Hattie proves that there's more than one way of looking at the world. Except for squirrels, who are just plain evil.

By Jennifer Maschari

Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price's mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who's completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and a grief group that's anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too.

Just when Charlie thinks things can't get any worse, his sister, Imogen, starts acting erratically: missing school and making up lies about their mother. But everything changes when one day he follows her down a secret passageway in the middle of her bedroom and sees for himself.

Imogen has found a parallel world where Mom is alive!

There are board games, scavenger hunts, and Mom's famous spaghetti again, and everything is first. But something doesn't feel right. Whenever Charlie returns to the real world, things are different - and not in a good way. And Imogen wants to spend more and more time on the other side. It's almost as if she doesn't want to come back at all. If Charlie doesn't uncover the truth, he could lose himself, the true memory of their mother, and Imogen...forever.

Here's the Inside Scoop on this magical realism MG straight from Jennifer Maschari:
1. The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio where I grew up. It was so fun weaving in references to my favorite things: LaRosa's pizza, Skyline Chili (a chili that's very different than other chili you may have tried), and The Racer roller coaster at King's Island.

2. Charlie Price is part of a Mathletes team, and they have a big debate over what to write on their team t-shirts. I'm a former classroom teacher and one of my favorite things about moderating clubs was the t-shirt design!

3. There's a really great dog in the book named Ruby.

By Lee Gjertsen Malone

Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem. Four hundred and seventy-five of them. That's how many girls attend his school, St. Edith's Academy. 

Jeremy is the only boy left after the school's brief experiment in coeducation. And he needs to get out. His mom won't let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands: He's going to get expelled.

Together with his best friend, Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he'll get kicked out with minimum damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide whom he's willing to knock down on his way out the door. 

Written with equal parts humor and heart, Lee Gjertsen Malone's debut is all about fitting in, standing out, and finding the place where you belong.

Here's the Inside Scoop on this MG contemporary straight from Lee Gjertsen Malone:
1. The movie that Jeremy and his friends create is called “Captain Flynn and the Mission to Mars” and it is a sci-fi epic of extremely dubious quality.

2. There are a lot of pranks in this story. They start out funny and innocent, but get progressively worse. Be advised!

3. Despite being about a boy, there are a lot of different girl characters in this book. (But you might be able to figure that out from the cover)

We hope you enjoyed learning more about these books and their authors. Stay tuned for next month's roundup of middle grade debuts and Inside Scoops!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

K10: The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Kidliterati Ten is an interview series with young readers. We ask them about a favorite book and hope that you enjoy their answers.

Tell us a little about yourself: what are your first names, how old are you, and what are your favorite flavors of ice cream?

     My name is Lila.
     And I'm Victoria. 
     I'm 11.
     I'm 11 too. We're twins.
     I like chocolate and Victoria likes cookie dough.
     Uh huh.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?

     We read The Warrior Heir because we were in a Half-Price Books and our older sister handed it to us and said "Read this!" 

Can you describe this book in one word?


What was your favorite part of this story?

     Let me see. Probably when Jack and Ellen meet at Raven's Ghyll. I won't say why it was awesome because it'll ruin the book.
     I liked it when Leander Hastings killed two people and then buried them like 60 feet underground. By the school. Of course using magic. It was really funny.
     It was really funny.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?

     I'd probably run away. He had plenty of problems.
     I'd solve the problems with either my brain or with Shadowslayer.
     Yeah! That's the sword on the cover. Maybe.

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?

     It's exciting and suspenseful and magical and funny.
     (Victoria nods.)

What do you think about the book's cover?

     It really drew me in.
     It made me think it would be a good book for me.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?

     Yes! We've already read the next four!  

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?

     Maybe Revenge of the Shadow King.
     The Inkheart Series. 

If you could ask the author one question about this book, what would it be?


The Warrior Heir

An epic battle between good and evil...
Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great - until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.

Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: he is Weirlind, part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At their helm sits the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game - a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir.

As if his bizarre heritage isn't enough, Jack finds out that he's not just another member of Weirlind - he's one of the last of the warriors - at a time when both houses are scouting for a player.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cover Reveal: THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT by Tricia Clasen

We are so excited to host the cover reveal for THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT by Tricia Clasen! This is Tricia's debut novel and will be released in September 2016 by Sky Pony Press.

Before we get to the gorgeous cover, check out the blurb for this middle grade contemporary:

Since her mom died, Andie's family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie's afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She's not sure how long she can hide the fact that there's no food or money in the house...or adults, for that matter.

When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom - anything to tell her it's going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother's ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie's last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living. 

For anyone who loved COUNTING BY 7s, THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT is a journey through loss and grief, but ultimately a story of hope and self-reliance. As much as Andie has been changed by her mother's death, the changes she makes herself are the ones that are most important. 

Hands up - how many of you tried to haunt your own house? (We totally did!) Andie seems to have a really good reason though, and we can't help falling in love with her already! Without further ado, here's the cover reveal:






What do you think? We love the balance between mystery and hope in this cover. And that tent held up by a string of flags is as creative and adorable as Andie! Here's the inside scoop from Tricia about the cover design:

For me, the cover process began with a Pinterest board. My editor, agent, and I all pinned covers that we loved and that had some "feeling" that seemed consistent with THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT. It was a diverse lot of fantastic books and covers, and as I look at them now, there were probably two common threads: they were all illustrated and they typically had some form of silhouetting. From there, I had no idea what my publisher's designer would come up with. This final design sends me straight over the moon. It definitely captures the mood of the novel, and something of a split personality. It's a little sad and dark as Andie is facing so many very real and difficult challenges, but despite her initial loneliness, she is an action-oriented girl. I love how there are multiple points of light in the cover, which showcase hope, that there's always a way out. 

When I first started writing this story, I focused on Andie's older sister, Paige. I had envisioned a young adult story with her finding the way to bind her family together, but I kept coming back to Andie and what she would do to get everyone's attention. Middle-graders can be both so innocent and so savvy at the same time which really opened up the idea of haunting her dad and sister. This cover is the perfect manifestation of why I couldn't let go of Andie's point of view.

Tricia is a college professor of communication and THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT is her debut middle-grade novel. She lives with her husband and two girls, her parents, and what seems like a small zoo in the much-too-frigid Janesville, WI. Most of her time goes to shuttling her kids to dance and trying to get the glitter off the kitchen floor as well as planning trips to much warmer destinations.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Thanks, Tricia, for sharing THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT with us today!

Monday, February 1, 2016


The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Hazel lives in an unusual town called Fairfold, which is best known for its horned faerie prince who sleeps in a glass coffin. Although the prince attracts many tourists, the locals also have to deal with the other faeries that haunt the nearby woods. These are not wee sprites with butterfly wings, but rather faeries of old folklore: fierce, magical, tricky, beautiful, and brutal. Then one day, the horned prince awakens, and Fairfold erupts into an otherworldly battleground. Hazel must now become the brave knight she once pretended to be in order to save her family and high school friends from deadly harm.

Holly Black’s newest young adult novel is an eerie, edgy, and titillating coming of age fantasy set in contemporary times. At its center is an addled teenage heroine who struggles to make sense of her actions, relationships, and roles in the world. Hazel’s risk-taking and secrets make her both too forthcoming and too quick to run away. She is a delightful mix of impulse and regret, rebellion and limitations. But her complex relationships are at the heart of the story. Hazel’s interactions with her older brother Ben, her careless parents, and befuddled boyfriends are vivid and poignant.

Although the logic of the parallel stories in the endgame gets a little convoluted, this is a riveting blend of adventure and personal exploration. Hazel’s journey will resonate with most teenagers, and its fantasy elements serve as X-ray glasses to see into the inner workings of a teenage psyche. The Darkest Part of the Forest is an engaging and ultimately satisfying read.

View all my reviews


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Five Ways To Maintain Momentum

January is a challenging month. Many of us, myself included, tackle the new year with enthusiasm for our shiny new goals. We work hard, accomplishing far more than normal. It's exhilarating and we can't help hoping that we will be able to maintain this pace throughout the year. But...New Year's resolutions have a horrible history of draining away as we hit the end of the month, leaving us sad and disappointed.

But does it have to be that way?

Actually, no.

Even if you didn't make a New Year's resolution, this is a good time to re-assess goals and find the right momentum to keep writing. Here are five tips to keep you on track:


As it's nearly the end of the month, it's a good time to check in with the goals you made four weeks ago. The number one reason people fail to meet goals is that they have set multiple goals that are too ambitious and vague. It's overwhelming.

If you have a goal that states, GET PUBLISHED! Or, FINISH MY NOVEL BY JUNE 1st, it might be a good idea to spend some time figuring out the specifics of how you're going to get there. As you review your goals, make sure they are still things you want to achieve. This year, I wrote down some goals that I'm no longer interested in... and, I might have some timelines that may be a teensy bit too ambitious. If you have similar goals, adjust them to be more realistic.

Finally, check in with your long term goals every month (or every few months) to reassess. Not only will it stoke your ambition, but it will help you to stay focused.


Maybe you feel that you need to form better writing habits to reach your goals. Many authors write every day. Some write a thousand words a day. Some write even more. But how did they acquire that habit in the first place? Sheer willpower?


But that's not the only option. There's a mix of science and mysticism in the act of forming habits. On average, it takes a person sixty-six days to form a new habit. If your goal is to write every day, trying to keep your momentum going for that long (or longer!) is challenging. Fortunately, you can use rituals to help you achieve this goal. Rituals are activities that we do mindfully. They set our intention and signal our brain and soul that the work we are about to do is important. By performing a ritual before you start writing, you will soon find that your creativity awakens more easily.

Some writers light candles, or stretch their muscles. Some read or work on a crossword puzzle before they start writing. Others create playlists that are specific to their work. My ritual is to meditate. It's a peaceful way to clear my mind of distractions before I open my my laptop.

If you find that you have only a few minutes of writing time, do your ritual anyway and write something - even if it's fifty words or a rhyme on a napkin. Keep training your brain to be creative after your ritual. After sixty-six days, you won't feel right if you don't follow your ritual. Which means... you won't feel right if you aren't writing! It's now a habit!


Success builds momentum. If you go to the gym for three days a week for a month, you are proud of that accomplishment and want to keep going. However, it's helpful to have a visual record of your accomplishment so you can point at it and say, "See? I did it!!!"

Popular forms of tracking your accomplishments include daily planners, calendars and stickers, or logging in word counts on a spreadsheet or Twitter. A few years ago, I found a method that works very well for me. I LOVE to-do lists. I'm the kind of person who will complete a task and if it isn't on my list, I'll write down just to check it off. But...when I tracked my work with just a to-do list, it didn't keep me motivated. It felt like my work was just another grocery list.

Then I saw someone's custom made planner and I fell in love. In a notebook, I give myself a to-do list, then leave the rest to explain what I did. One of my New Year's resolutions is to read three blogs on writing every week day. But on a simple to-do list, I'd just cross off the fact that I'd read them. Now, I have a log of what I read. I can jot down thoughts about what I've read or written that day and ideas for my next writing session. Sometimes, I even write down vocabulary words. I can, because I'm not restricted by space. If you haven't found a method of tracking your successes yet, I encourage you to give this one a try.


Another way to keep momentum is to find other writers. You can do this by joining a writer's group or by finding other writers on Twitter.
Our Writing Team
I have several online friends who keep similar writing hours as I do and we check in with each other almost every day. When several of us are drafting at the same time, we sometimes do word sprints to boost our word counts. We encourage and support each other - sometimes by encouraging someone to find their way out of a plot hole, or answering grammar questions. And, of course, we have our moments of pure silliness!

This is a great way to make sure you keep returning to your writing desk; when your friends are expecting you to write, it's hard to let them down.


It's okay if you stumble off the path every now and then. Because you will. We all do. Your job is to find your way back and return to your writing. Remember how habits take about sixty-six days to form? It also turns out that if you miss a day once in awhile, it isn't going to keep you from forming that habit. That's true of all of your goals. Life gets in the way of our best intentions all the time. Be kind to yourself by returning to what you love - writing. As long you keep showing up, you have a good chance of meeting your goals.

Happy writing!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Unmoving Sky by K. L. Hallam and Giveaway!

Wow, it’s finally here! Super excited to share my book cover reveal on Kidliterati. 

THE UNMOVING SKY publishes with Leap Books Shine imprint for fast paced, emotional YA and NA novellas that are a bit edgier than other Leap titles.

Last summer, my publisher sent a form, asking me to describe how I might see the cover for TUS. I’ve always loved vintage graphic book covers, in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions (A favorite book) I love that the whimsical and colorful visual contrasts with the subject matter of TUS. So I narrowed down the choices and picked one. I’m pretty happy with it and enjoyed having a voice in my book’s cover design. Thank you, Ashley Postonfor creating such a cool cover!

There is nothing darker than the woods ...  until you meet your worst fear.
Jackson Bower has a lot on his mind lately. His younger brother hasn’t been the same since his mother’s death. His father’s drinking is out of control. Then there’s Jackson’s girlfriend and the grief that ties them together even as it threatens to drive them apart.
He distances himself, hoping for a little perspective at the family lodge. But when their father gets drunk and dangerous, he and his brother escape into the woods.
Night creeps in, and the rains come fast. Artie slips down a ravine. He’s wounded and the brothers seek shelter in a cave, only to find someone else already taking refuge there.
A desperate man with plans to destroy their town.
Jackson must get him and his wounded brother out of the cave and over the mountain to warn everyone in time. Without getting them both killed first.

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Publisher: Leap Books, Shine
Release Date: May 16, 2016

I love my book trailer! The first, and second time I watched I cried. My editor, Judith Graves helped in creating the trailer. Actually, she did most of the creating, and my dear friend, guitarist, Bruce Edwards of Dark Tone Music infused it with his musical magic. He's amazing if you ever need commercial tunes! 

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