Thursday, May 26, 2016


Today, we are so excited to host the cover reveal for THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING by J. Anderson Coats! Her first novel, The Wicked and the Just, was one of Kirkus’s Best Teen Books of 2012, a 2013 YALSA Best for Young Adults (BFYA) winner, and a School Library Journal Best Books of 2012 selection. THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING tells the story of a headstrong girl with big dreams who boards a steamship bound for Washington Territory, as part of the Mercer Expedition of 1866. Publication is set for spring 2017.

Before we get to the gorgeous cover, here is a special message from the author:

Every writer has that moment when they realize the book they’ve been working on for months--and maybe years--isn’t theirs anymore. From that moment on, “their” book belongs to readers.

For me, this moment comes when I see the cover. A person who has had nothing to do with the writing or editing process has read my book and come up with a specific picture in their mind. They’ve identified exactly what about the book captures their imagination, and that concept is translated into an image intended to introduce my story to the world.

The team at Atheneum couldn’t have chosen a better artist than Matt Rockefeller. The landscape of the Puget Sound is such an important part of Many Reflections, and Matt’s ability to capture the flavor and intensity of pioneer Seattle fully does justice to the region and the moment in time. Not just in obvious ways, either--like how the sky is at least six different shades of gray, but your eye moves to the patch of blue over the hill--but in subtle ways too, like how the buildings are painted white and some are on stilts. Jane seems small against the sweep of land and sky, but she’s moving forward and taking it all in, and her braids dance with such energy--Matt has captured her determination and curiosity just in the tilt of her chin.

Although if you could see Jane’s face, she’d be wondering where all the palm trees and sandy beaches are. You know, the ones she traveled four thousand miles to see.
Washington Territory, pioneer Seattle, and a girl with big dreams? Sound wonderful to us! Without further ado, here's the cover reveal:






What do you think? We love the way Jane is walking into this new world, taking us with her. It looks wet and cold, but there's a warm light in the window up ahead. We can't help wondering if there's a promise of refuge for Jane, and how she will find her way in this strange new place.

With this author's impressive track record in YA, we can't wait to learn more about her new foray into historical middle grade! Be sure to add this one to your TBR list!

J. Anderson Coats is the author of historical fiction that routinely includes too much violence, name-calling, and petty vandalism perpetrated by badly-behaved young people. Her first novel, The Wicked and the Just, was one of Kirkus’s Best Teen Books of 2012, a 2013 YALSA Best for Young Adults (BFYA) winner, and a School Library Journal Best Books of 2012 selection. It also won the 2013 Washington State Book Award for Young Adults. Her short story, “Mother Carey’s Table,” appeared in A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers, and Other Badass Girls (Candlewick, 2016). The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, a middle-grade novel set in Washington Territory in the 1860s, is forthcoming in 2017 from Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reaching Readers: Summer Reading

It’s the end of the school year, and summer dreams fill the air. In less than a month, kids everywhere will be running free as they leave the classroom, teachers, and homework behind for a few glorious months.

Unfortunately, the end of school often means the end of reading. Kids who aren’t avid readers may not touch a book all summer, and this could be a big problem. The National Education Association (NEA) tells us that "children, especially those from low-income families, can lose up to three months of reading progress over the summer months, and that loss has a cumulative, long-term effect."

So how can we keep kids engaged in reading, while not making it seem like a chore?

Here are a few tips!

Let kids pick their own books - They’ve probably been reading assigned books all year long. Summer is the time to explore the things that they’re interested in. Studies show that children who choose their own books are more likely to become lifelong readers. It’s okay if kids don’t choose the classics. Even an adaptation of a popular movie, for example, still counts!

Schedule reading time - If you do something regularly, it becomes a habit. Reading is no different. My kids read before bedtime. They shower, brush their teeth, read, and then get tucked in. They’ve been doing this pretty much since birth, so it’s as much a part of their routine as getting their pj’s on. You can establish this routine during the summer months, when kids generally have more free time, and it may even last the entire school year!

Explore summer reading programs at your local library - Many libraries have summer reading programs and challenges. Kids log their reading time, and in return, the libraries may offer incentives and prizes. Contact your local library to see if they have a program near you.

Audiobooks - Planning a road trip this summer? Long car rides are the perfect excuse for audiobooks. You can often get books on CD at your local library, or use an app such as Audible, which allows you to play books through your phone or tablet.

Read the same book as your child - I started doing this when my kids began reading on their own, and it’s so much fun! Not only are middle grade and young adult books full of awesomeness, but the opportunity to talk with your kids about them create bonding moments that will last a lifetime.

Read non-fiction books, too - Is your kid fascinated by poop? There’s a book for that! Does your child adore swamp animals? There’s a book for that! Don’t limit summer reading to fiction. There are so many fascinating non-fiction books out there. You are sure to find one that interests your child.

I wish you a summer filled with relaxation, recreation, and reading!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We SawWhat We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One wild party threatens to tear the town apart.

Kate Weston was there but it was mostly a blur. She was pretty wasted. Luckily, her boyfriend Ben made sure she got home safely. Then a picture of one of the girls at the party starts making the rounds on social media, and Kate wonders if everyone is telling the truth about what happened.

In this ripped-from-the-headlines plot, Hartzler heads straight for the issue of sexual consent and does not flinch. Add in the standard rumor mill and the residual evidence left on social media and WHAT WE SAW hits uncomfortably close to home. But this book tackles the subject head on and doesn't settle for the easy answers. Ultimately, it finds it's way to an honest and brave conclusion.

While WHAT WE SAW dismantles the rape culture arguments, it also provides a tender moment of positive consent. Kudos to Hartzler for providing this contrast for readers. While we need to speak bluntly about what isn't consent, we also need to be clear about what consent is. This book does both.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Author to Author: Interview with MAYDAY author Karen Harrington!

Today I’m super excited to welcome acclaimed author Karen Harrington to Kidliterati! I had the pleasure of reading her newest release, MAYDAY, while I flew across the country for my first ever literary festival. It was a fitting read, given that the novel centers on a tragic airplane crash that creates a lot of unanswered questions for Wayne Kovok, the hilarious, twelve-year-old star of the story. As an author and a fan, I was thrilled for the chance to ply Karen for answers to all my burning questions about her newest book. I hope you enjoy our conversation on writing and reading stories for young readers! First, here's a summary of the book:

 A powerful coming-of-age story about the importance of finding your voice

Wayne Kovok lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice.

Wayne has always used his love of facts to communicate ("Did you know more people die each year from shaking a vending machine than from shark attacks?"). Without his voice, how will he wow the prettiest girl in school? How will he stand up to his drill-sergeant grandfather? And how will he share his hopes with his deadbeat dad? It's not until Wayne loses his voice completely that he realizes how much he doesn't say.

Filled with Karen Harrington's signature heart and humor, Mayday tackles an unforgettable journey of family and friendship.

Melanie: The plane crash at the opening of MAYDAY leaves Wayne without his voice, which he normally uses as a shield in social settings, and the burial flag for his beloved uncle, who was recently lost in combat. Not only does Wayne take these challenges on over the course of the story, he does so with utter charm and wit. How do you develop your character’s voice?

KH: The development of each book has been different, but the one common denominator is that I write in a spiral notebook for weeks as if I’m writing his/her journal. Slowly, the voice and tone comes through. With Wayne, the process was unique because I’d met him in COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS, where he’s a minor character. It was fun to write his journal after that book. I learned that he came from a military family, which I didn’t know several years ago.

Melanie: Wayne’s family is complicated. His parents are divorced, and after the crash his grandfather comes to live with Wayne and his mom. Wayne’s father isn’t that great at being a dad, and Wayne’s grandfather is tough on him at first, too. What motivates you to write about complex family relationships, which have equal measures of love and strife?

KH: Well, there’s a beautiful complexity to every family I’ve ever seen so I suppose I want to reflect what I see in life. Wayne’s family is probably like a lot of families in that they are flawed, loving and doing their best. I lean toward big questions that I personally wrestle with in life. It’s been said better by other minds, but I often find myself writing pages to figure out what I think.

Melanie: MAYDAY is rich in themes, and I love how many of the small elements tie together to reinforce the central ideas of finding the things we’ve lost and learning to find our voices in the toughest situations. Death also plays a role in the story. As you know, death is a major theme in Counting Thyme, and I often receive questions about how much we should share with kids about serious topics. What’s your take on that as an author?

KH: Atticus Finch’s parenting of young Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD had a big influence on me. It made me recognize that kids understand serious topics at an age appropriate level – that they want to be told the truth more than they want to be shielded from it. I think good stories that reflect real life are great for kids. They can read a beautiful story such as COUNTING THYME and gather hope when they realize “Hey, if she can get through this, maybe I can, too.”

Melanie: One of the ways Wayne copes with sticky social moments is through distraction. He likes to share facts. There are so many fascinating and funny facts in this book, which I know kids will absolutely LOVE. Was Wayne always a fact collector from the beginning? Do you also collect facts?

KH: I got to know Wayne as a minor character in COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS. In that story, he always had the right fact at the right moment and I loved that about him. And, as readers will learn in MAYDAY, Wayne began collecting, even absorbing facts, in elementary school. As for me, I’m a former speechwriter. My first role in our speechwriting department was as a researcher. I got paid to gather facts and interesting stories to support our speakers. I still love a great fact.

Melanie: Finally, as an author and a reader, I absolutely love middle grade stories that show how people can grow and change—and that people are ALWAYS growing and changing. How do you feel that you are growing and changing as an author, now that your third middle grade novel is out in the world? Have your processes changed? Does it all finally feel real?

KH: I think the biggest writing change is that I trust the drafting process. I have faith that large chunks of writing will be pruned from a draft and that they will be replaced by better or different material. There’s great freedom in knowing that. My processes haven’t changed much. I barrel through a first draft without looking back. I like to get that first wobbly draft on the page to see what ingredients I have to work with in the long run.


Are you as funny as Wayne in real life? Because he’s HILARIOUS.

KH: Do you know why aliens don’t eat clowns? Because they taste funny.

Are you afraid of flying?

KH: No, I learned from Wayne that 80% of all air crashes are survivable.

Do you have any military personnel in your family?

KH: Our family tree includes Harrington’s serving in the Revolutionary War to present. In fact, my oldest nephew was sworn into the Marines last month. Ooh Rah! (Did you know that this Marine battle cry means “charge”?)

What’s your favorite pen to write with?

KH: Paper Mate InkJoy. I buy them in bulk and they come in ALL colors, which makes me happy. (Did you know that in 1949, The Frawley Pen Company invented an ink that dried instantly, thus the pen that included this ink was so named “The Paper Mate”?)

Do you have a new middle grade story in the works?

KH: Yes, but it’s so unformed I’m scared to say anything about it. It includes a tornado and an English chef, though.

Thank you for having me here in Kidliterati!

Karen Harrington is an author and former speechwriter. Her books include SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY (2013), COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS (2014) and MAYDAY (2016) all from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Her books have appeared on nine state reading lists. Sure Signs of Crazy was also a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year, a 2014 Notable Children’s Book selection from the Children’s Literature Assembly and a 2014 Bank Street Children’s Book Committee Best Book of the Year.

Karen lives in Dallas, TX with her family, where she enjoys reading, writing, cooking and long walks with her rescue dog, Sam.
Website | Twitter

Thanks for a wonderful interview, Karen!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

K10: I FunnyTV: A Middle School Story

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

Tell us a little about yourself: what is your first name, how old are you, and what is your favorite flavor of ice cream? My first name is Sophia, I’m 13 years old, and I like mint chocolate chip ice cream.

What book did you read and why did you choose it? I read 
I Funny TV: A Middle School Story by James Patterson and I chose it because it looked very interesting and funny (hence the title.)

Can you describe this book in one word? Rollercoaster.

What was your favorite part of this story? My favorite part of the story was when the main character, Jamie, got to be on Saturday Night Live!

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do? The main character's problem was he had a show that he had the chance to do. It was all about his life and called Jamie Funnie. The reason why he got a chance to do this show, was he won a comedy contest and the prize was 1 million dollars. So, he signed a contract claiming the million dollars. What he didn’t know was that he also signed to be on the TV show. So, he either had to be on the show, or give back the million dollars (most of which he already spent on his family). If I were in this position, I would probably do the TV show. I wouldn’t want to give back the million dollars, especially if I had already spent a lot of it on my family.

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book? I would tell them how funny it is and how it would cheer them up if they were having a bad day.

What do you think about the book's cover? It has really eye-catching colors (red and yellow) and the title is a speech bubble that looks like Jamie is saying it. It definitely caught my eye.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not? I definitely would. The characters are so interesting and funny and I feel like there’s a lot more to learn about, which I could learn in another book.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one? Probably Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. They’re similar because the main character in both of them is facing a physical disability, yet they don’t give up.

If you could ask the author one question about this book what would it be? If I could ask James Patterson one question, it would be ‘Most of your books are crime/mystery stories. What inspired you to write a kids comedy book?’
Thank you, Sophia!
by James Patterson

Jamie Grimm has finally accomplished his dream of proving himself the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic, and the sky's the limit from there. Enter a couple of TV executives with a huge plan for Jamie: a new show about Jamie and his oddball friends! But when Jamie struggles to learn the acting ropes, will it be an early curtain call for the biggest show of the decade?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Celebrating THE UNMOVING SKY by Karen Lee Hallam!

Today we get to welcome another Kidliterati book into the world! And it couldn't have been written by a more amazing person. That's right, folks. Today shall henceforth and forever be known as...


Karen is one of the most supportive writers we've ever known. She's always there to celebrate, to listen, to support in any way possible every person she's ever met. And what better way to say thank you than to tell the world about her incredible book? So let's get to it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm honored to formally introduce you to THE UNMOVING SKY by K.L. Hallam:

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.

Right? I mean, this book is incredible. Suspense, thrills, mystery, danger. It has it all. And it's out today! So do yourselves a favor and buy this book. We'll even make it easy on you. Because that's the kind of team we are. The giving kind. Also the friendly kind. And good-looking. Also pretty-well-dressed. I mean have you seen Jeff Chen's shoe collection?


Here's where you can find THE UNMOVING SKY by K.L. Hallam:

Amazon    |    B&N    |    Goodreads

And today, when you see Karen around on Facebook, be sure to shower her with all the well-deserved congratulations. You'll find us over there doing the same thing. Sending out all the love for this book. Celebrating K.L. Hallam Day. Probably while wearing some of Jeff's shoes.

K.L. Hallam loves to write surprising, suspenseful, twisty, and moody stories or science-fiction that bends into fantasy. She'll try writing just about anything. An air force brat as a young child, who moved around to more schools than she can list, gathering the stories that would connect to her heart.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Spotlight on Christine Heppermann

The spotlight series brings to light authors’ approaches to writing for young readers and the secrets to their success. In this post, Christine Heppermann will tell us her secrets to writing stories in poetry, working with a co-writer, and walking the fuzzy line between contemporary and fantasy fiction. Heppermann is the author of books for both children and young adult readers, including the critically acclaimed Poisoned Apples, the more recent Ask Me How I Got Here, and the Backyard Witch series. She has also published non-fiction books on topics ranging from Whitney Houston, politics, and Twitter in addition to articles on children’s literature in nationally recognized newspapers and literary journals.
Welcome, Christine! It’s a treat to speak with such a lyrical author about the craft of writing for young adult readers. Your last two YA books, Ask Me How I Got Here and Poisoned Apples, are both written in verse. What’s your secret to writing accessible poetry about difficult topics?
CH: I guess it’s that I approach writing poetry much the way I approach writing fiction and nonfiction: my first goal is to tell a coherent story. With a poem, you don’t have a lot of space in which to do that, and I appreciate the challenge. Also, I tend to come at difficult subject matter from an ironic stance, one that emphasizes the absurdity of the situation, and that can soften the blow.                   
Ask Me How I Got Here is a contemporary YA for the most part, while Poisoned Apples is inspired by folktale. How do realistic and fantasy fiction differ in terms of figurative language in your work?
CH: They don’t, necessarily. Poisoned Apples blends contemporary concerns and perspectives into fairy-tale narratives. My intention in that book was to have no rigid lines between fantasy and reality. Even in Ask Me How I Got Here, the main character, Addie, writes poems that bring the Virgin Mary out of the realm of legend and imagine her as a real teenager—which she was! When she gave birth to Jesus, she was likely only fourteen or fifteen.
Your Backyard Witch series is co-written with Ron Koertge. What’s the secret to your success when collaborating with another author?
CH: Be friends first. Isn’t that the secret to any successful relationship? It also helps to have a similar sense of humor. Ron and I are writing for young readers, but we’re also writing to entertain each other. I don’t want to bore him; he doesn’t want to bore me.

Heppermann with daughters Audrey (12) and Claudia (17)
Most of the main characters in your books are female. What's the overall message you hope young women will take away from the challenges that your MCs face?
CH: Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or who you’re supposed to be. Set your own standards.
You’ve written about children’s literature for many years and continue to review young adult books for the Chicago Tribune. What’s the secret ingredient in the recipes of the five-star books that you’ve reviewed and in what way has writing about kidlit influenced your own work?
CH: Hmmm, the best books I review don’t stick to a given formula, they create their own. I would also say that voice is important to me. A strong narrative voice never fails to pull me in. In terms of my own work, I have to make sure, especially when writing a first draft, to turn off the reviewer side of my brain, or at least mute it. Coming at a project with too critical an eye can prevent me from getting words on the page. 
Is there some secret about you that our readers may be surprised to know?
CH: I don’t have many secrets—I’m kind of a blabbermouth. To illustrate, in middle school I planned a surprise birthday party for my best friend, but couldn’t help telling her about it in advance. Unlike me, she could keep a secret, so she didn’t tell anyone else that I’d blabbed and did a very convincing job of acting surprised when everyone jumped out at her.
As a sneak preview for our readers, can you share with us any secrets about upcoming projects? 
CH: It’s not poetry! It’s a straight-up novel. But it does blend fantasy and reality. One of my biggest fears when I was a kid was demonic possession. I like to face down my fears in my writing, and this is the fear I’m up against next.

Thanks for such a fun and interesting discussion, Christine. We’ll keep an eye out for your upcoming book, which sounds intriguing! In the meanwhile, everyone can check your website for updates at All the best, Chris Brandon Whitaker!


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