Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Spotlight on PAINT BY STICKERS KIDS & Giveway

Every so often an activity book comes along that surprises me. As a mom of two pretty crafty kids who love to get new activity books, but love-love to NOT actually use them, when I saw paint+stickers, I'll admit, I was skeptical. In my house, art and creativity is always encouraged. I'm even okay with the mess it brings. But me and paint (on my table... on my carpet...) and stickers (on my walls... on my car windows...) have a love/hate relationship.


Find the sticker, peel the sticker, place the sticker. And sticker by sticker, a koala appears! Or an elephant, frog, red panda, puffin, peacock, snake, giraffe, tiger, or gorilla. (And no mess to clean up!)

Designed for children ages 5 and up, Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals uses low-poly art—a computer style that renders 3-D images out of polygon shapes—and removable color stickers so that kids can create 10 vibrant works of art. The stickers are larger, as befits the younger audience, and the card stock pages are perforated for easy removal, making them suitable for displaying.

The scene...

It had been a long, rainy autumn day. My daughters are ages ten and twelve and we homeschool. We'd been stuck inside all day. And they'd been bickering most of the day. We'd baked. We'd read. We'd watched a movie. We'd done schoolwork. And we were pretty much over everything. I was about to throw in the towel, cross my fingers, and send them outside in rain boots and with umbrellas when I remembered the activity book I'd received... Picture rays of sunshine beaming down from the sky miracle-style onto the book. Like I said, I was skeptical, but my girls went through each picture one by one and quietly, peacefully, beautifully finished the ENTIRE book.

And they both had things to say...

S (10 years old): "Paint by sticker was challenging, but fun and quicker than I thought it would be."
A (12 years old): "This was a fun challenge. I'm going to hang my finished pictures on my wall."

Want your very own? (Hint: Yes, yes you do!) Enter to WIN a copy of PAINT BY STICKER KIDS ZOO ANIMALS!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I’m so excited to share DEAR POPPY with you today, and I’m especially thrilled to share this book with young readers.


For one, I love the story. Poppy deals with issues that matter to middle schoolers… friendship, bullies, and learning that your parents are actually human beings who were once middle schoolers, too! Wouldn’t it be great to get a glimpse inside of your parents heads when they were your age?

The second reason I can’t wait for kids to read this book is that they’ll go back in time to the totally rad ‘80’s. Shoulder pads! Big hair! The Breakfast Club! Poppy is introduced to all of these things as she learns more about her mother’s childhood, and her connection to Poppy’s experiences now.

Don’t you wonder what some of your favorite people were like when they were younger? I did, and so I asked the Kidliterati team to share some of their ‘80’s pics with us today.

Hold onto your Aquanet, friends, because these are going to blow your leg warmers off...


Paul probably has a Motley Crue shirt under his stripes…


Little ‘80’s Becky knew it was all about the bangs and the bow… in that order.


Jo and her hair both knew that girls just want to have fun.


‘80’s Rhonda knew that the upturned collar would be perfect with her (surprisingly adorable) bowl bangs


Even ‘80’s Brooks could rock the accessories! I wonder what color his socks are.


Yes, that is a genuine Duckhead T-shirt. And scrunchies. And a dangly glitter earring (but only one because that’s how we rolled in the ‘80’s).


Dana could probably fly across the country with those fancy wings.


Nobody puts Baby in the corner... and nobody does the mullet better than our young Jessika.


While Jean might be all over the court, an entire can of hairspray will make sure that her hair isn’t going anywhere.


That belt. The shades. The make-up. Karen was clearly the coolest one of us!


We can’t even make fun of him because he’s just so darn cute… in the ‘80’s, and now.


Laurie’s bangs are permed to perfection.


Because Jen did the ‘80’s right, she probably needed another limo to the dance for just her hair.


Little Gail is too young for the prom, but her great hair and polka dotted dress are sooo ready.


‘80’s Brian knew how to shout, shout, let it all out.


Of course her fabulous shoes were dyed to match her fabulous dress. And Ella rocked ‘80’s hair in a big way.


April (with her sassy suspenders) is actually playing classic Nintendo!


It’s obvious that Stefanie’s date digs her smooth velvet dress and perfectly poofy hair.


Is that Tears for Fears? No, even better! It’s Chris during his stint with the band “Shouting Under Water!”

And here I am circa 1980-something. The feathers. The eyeshadow. The baby blue fuzzy sweater.

Thanks for kicking it old school with us! And feel free to join Poppy on her journey back in time!

by Ronni Arno

When twelve-year-old Poppy moves to the country, she discovers a secret stash of letters that give her a unique connection to her late mother in this novel about friendship, first crushes, and family drama.

City girl Poppy has always wanted a best friend, but never felt enough of a connection with anyone to gain BFF status. Even without a BFF, Poppy is horrified when her father decides to move her and her older brother out to the family farm. Away from her beloved city and away from memories of her late mom—a fresh start for everyone.

And after a weird first week at her new school, Poppy is convinced she is destined for a boring year—until she finds a stack of letters from 1985 hidden in the barn of the old farmhouse that they move into. Even better? Those letters are addressed to Poppy...from her mom. Poppy doesn't know what supernatural event brought these letters to her, but she doesn't care. All she knows is that she finally has the connection she yearns for. Plus, her mom seems to understand everything that Poppy is going through: not quite fitting in, the desire to put down roots, and the heartbreak of losing a loved one. Has Poppy discovered the friend—and acceptance—she’s always wanted?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: The Dark at the End by Susan Adrian

The Dark at the End by Susan Adrian
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Dark at the End is the sequel to last year's Tunnel Vision, and picks up very soon after the first book left off. The main character, Jake, has the ability to "tunnel" to people -- basically, to be inside them and see everything they do, think, and feel, and can even control their actions. This makes him valuable to government agencies and people doing not-so-upstanding work. When the book opens, Jake and his family are on the run, hiding from everyone who wanted to keep Jake for themselves in the first book. 

Jake thinks he has only one more step and he’ll be free: he has to get the serum to stop his ability to tunnel. But Jake’s contact has been killed, and there's no sign of the serum. Then his mom and little sister Myka are kidnapped, right under his nose. With the government, his power-mad father, and the terrifying Mr. Smith all after him while he still has his power, he doesn’t have anywhere to turn. But he'll do anything to get his mother and sister back.

If you haven't read the first book in this series (Tunnel Vision), I'd start there. Both books are twisty and fast-paced with short chapters. The Dark at the End alternates point of view between Jake, his sister, and his girlfriend Rachel, which adds to the story since the three are often separated. What I love most about these books is the pacing -- just as you think something is going to work in Jake's favor, there's another twist. They're hard to put to down, and I often found myself reading way past the time I should've been asleep. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Reaching Readers: Ina Claire Gabler & Personal Tie-Ins

Ina Claire Gabler is the author of two chapter books and two textbooks for secondary schoolers. Her young adult fiction has featured in Scholastic and Pearson publications as well as YM magazine for teens. Her stories for adults are collected in Unexpected Return with each one of the 28 pieces having a different style and flavor. She is particularly passionate about making the reading experience more personal for young readers and in creating a more reader-centered context for the story.

Welcome, Ina Claire! It’s a treat to interview a scholarly author about the craft of writing for young readers.

You’ve written two books for young readers, Magic &Potatoes and Buddy, which both involve dealing with challenging circumstances and relationships. How have your stories reached readers in similar situations?

ICG: I’ve received feedback from my stories, especially "The Test," published in Scholastic Scope. Because it was read in classrooms nationally, I had the good fortune to learn from various teachers that their students loved discussing the story and its moral dilemma. A quiet, teenage Mercedes has to choose between helping her handsome, popular boyfriend cheat on a final exam, or not cheating and losing him. She decides not to cheat and keeps her self-respect, even though she loses Carlos. Students identify with issues that apply to them: peer pressure, social acceptance, principles and the rights of love.  I'm gratified there are teachers who've kept the story and still use it. 

You've also written two books on Constructivist learning theory, which suggests that young readers learn best when they build a personal understanding with a story using their experiences and reflections. How can this approach be used to reach more young readers?

ICG: Such an important question. What situations, dilemmas and conflicts do young people relate to? Your story’s setting, time and culture may be different from theirs, even foreign, but the issues cut through the differences. Being able to identify with characters of all stripes engages young readers and develops their understanding of our shared humanness across circumstances. When I write a YA story—about a paraplegic pre-teen boy or a lonely, young girl—I engender my characters with the needs and perceptions of most young people. And so I strive to make the fiction relatable to the YA/MG readers who are physically able and outgoing as well as those who, for any reason, may be on the social margins.

We often hear how reluctant readers don’t like the fact that books require them to just sit there and read passively. In what ways can parents and teachers use Constructivist techniques to make reading be more interactive?

ICG: Ask questions! They should range from literal understanding of what happens in the story to comprehension of the issues related to the reader. Then evoke critical thinking about the story: What are the higher principles at stake? Would you benefit from knowing the characters? Why or why not? Does anonymous kindness matter more than public acclaim? What does it mean to win or lose beyond appearances? Also, it’s best not to embed the answer in the question. Instead of "Did Mercedes value her self-respect more than she loved Carlos?" try "What did Mercedes struggle with?"

How can middle grade and young adult writers use Constructivist approaches in their in storytelling to engage young readers better?

ICG: A major Constructivist goal, whether in YA mainstream fiction, science fiction or fantasy, is for the author to consider events and themes that relate to young people, motivating them to critically think about life’s challenges. For example, are moral decisions fixed as an unbending principle, or conflicted between two opposing worthy actions, or dependent on extenuating circumstances? Whose needs take priority? Engage your readers so they can imagine what they would do in that same situation and for what reason. Try to create YA fiction with sparks for lively discussions or quiet, individual reflection that widens the young readers’ points of view.

As a sneak preview for our readers, what can you share with us about your upcoming novel? 

ICG: It’s an all-ages fantasy brimming with real-life issues. A hero quest in a long ago time, with the flavor of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy without wizards or dragons.

Thanks for an interesting interview, Ina Claire. We’ll keep an eye out for your upcoming fantasy book. All the best, Chris Brandon Whitaker!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Interview: Erin Petti

The Kidliterati team is so excited to welcome Erin Petti, MG author of THE PECULIAR HAUNTING OF THELMA BEE!

The blurb:

Ghost-story lover and debut author Erin Petti has written a quirky story for fans of The Goonies, Goosebumps, and Coraline.

Eleven-year-old budding scientist Thelma Bee has adventure in her blood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a ghost kidnaps her father. Now her only clues are a strange jewelry box and the word "Return," whispered to her by the ghost. It's up to Thelma to get her dad back, and it might be more dangerous than she thought--there's someone wielding dark magic, and they're coming after her next.

We got a chance to talk to Erin about all things creepy. Here's what she had to say!

Why did you want to write a ghost story?

I'm fascinated with folklore, legends, and ghosts - I always have been. The world has a historical treasure trove of totally inspiring creepy crawlies that's never exhausted. Almost every town has a spooky story to tell if you dig a little. Also, in a weird way I think that there's something alternately mundane and exhilarating about the idea that spirits could be all around us every day, and that there's a veil that can be lifted.

Who came first - the ghost or the other characters in Thelma Bee?

Thelma came first, then her friends, then the otherworldly characters! I knew I wanted her to go on an adventure, but the type of adventure it would be unfolded as I created the world.

Do you have any advice for writers who want to write a spooky story?

Think about what scares you. Like, what really gives you the chills? Something I've been unreasonably frightened of since childhood is a mirror in a darkened room. Probably has to do with some awful story a first grade classmate told about Bloody Mary. But that root of fear provided some great inspiration for one of the major scenes early on in the book.

What are some of your favorite ghost stories?

I'm reading the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud now and am in LOVE. L.O.V.E. He's done such a fantastic job building a richly drawn alternate London with a serious "visitor" problem. I'm on the edge of my seat every other page. Strongly recommend!!

What are you working on next?

Editing up Thelma's book 2 and outlining book 3!

Do you believe in ghosts?

Yes! Or I think so. I'm a little like Fox Mulder on this - I want to believe. What about you, Abby? :)

I'm not sure - but I hope if they exist, they're the nice kind!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Guest Post: One Day, Three MG Debuts!

Today we have a very special interview with three debut middle grade authors: LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY by Jill Diamond, LIKE MAGIC by Elaine Vickers, and FINDING PERFECT by Elly Swartz. All three novels will find their way to a shelf near you on October 18, 2016. Read on to learn their secrets, and enter below to win a copy of ALL THREE signed hardcover books!

1. If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them?

Jill: I’d ask Pea to help me pick out a fabulous outfit for the LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY launch party!

Elly: If I could sit down with any character in FINDING PERFECT, it would be Molly’s little brother, Ian. And, the question I would ask him would simply be, “Are you okay?” While Ian is Molly and Kate’s youngest sibling, he understands Molly in a way most don’t. He sees her. The real her. As I wrote Molly’s story, I worried about him. He’s little. He sees the changes in Molly, but can’t help her on his own. Just like he can’t bring his mom home. He sees it all, but can’t fix any of it. So, if given the chance, I’d want to give him a big hug and make sure he was okay.

I’d ask my girls the same question I ask my kids each day: How was school? This story brought them right to the eve of starting at a new school where they could really blossom. Because my kids all started at new schools this year, I care so much about each kid feeling like they truly belong at school.

2. Share your main character’s favorite book or author.

Elaine: For Grace, I think Princess Juniper of the Hourglass by Ammi-Joan Paquette would be a story she would absolutely lose herself in and read again and again.

For Jada, something with a little sass and spunk like One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia or Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.

For Malia, I’d say Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams—a lovely MG set in Salt Lake City about a family that’s going through something similar to what Malia’s family encounters.

Jill: Lou Lou and Pea love to read! Lou Lou’s favorite picture book is The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle because it’s about horticulture. Pea’s favorite is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson because Harold draws his world and Pea is an artist. Of course, they also both love middle grade stories about friendship and mystery!

Elly: Molly has 2 favorite books. One is Where’s My Stuff, The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide by Samantha Moss and Lesley Schwartz. Molly’s playbook. The other is Eloise by Kay Thompson. Eloise is messy and precocious and confident in her uniqueness. While Molly is nothing like Eloise, she admires Eloise’s strength and absolute comfortability with mess.

3. What are you working on now?

Elly: I am in the middle of a few new projects. I am revising a middle grade novel about an 11-year-old named Frankie. A story about family with a splash of mystery. I am super excited about this project, and while I can’t share more at this time, I can say, stay tuned. Good news coming! I am also diving into the picture book world and kicking off another new middle grade.

Elaine: My second book is in copyedits now (coming fall 2017!), so I’m actually starting on a brand new book! This story idea started with an early morning run with my son, an unfortunate accident, and an absolutely perfect text from a good friend.

Jill: The second book in the LOU LOU AND PEA series, which will be released in the winter of 2017.

4. Can we see a “right-now” picture of your workspace?

Elaine: We are currently living with my in-laws while we build a house, so the only space I really have is my office at the university where I teach. If you look closely, you’ll see molecular models, safety goggles, and chemistry books, but also some art that inspires me. There’s a big window with second-story views of a grove of gorgeous old trees. It’s actually a wonderful place to write.

Jill: I live in a small city apartment, so my workspace is actually part of my kitchen. I think this is a good thing because I always know if someone has cookies to share. As you can see, it’s very colorful. I love wallpaper and this is definitely my favorite. It’s also cozy, and my husband built the amazing desk to fit in the space. Full disclosure: it’s not usually this neat. I tidied it up for the photo!

Elly: My work space is a pretty good depiction of the way I view the world and the things that are important to me. My desk is under a window, so I get the sun and the rain and slivers of the sky all day long. And, it is surrounded by photos of my sons, husband, and those I love who are no longer with me – my gram, my father-in-law and my mom. Reminders of how lucky I am to have (or have had) these people in my life. I also surround myself with quotes. My favorite, “If you can dream it. You can do it.” –Walt Disney. And, finally, there’s Lucy. Always, hanging out on my lap or near my desk.

Thank you to Elly, Jill, and Elaine for a very fun interview! We at Kidliterati are looking forward to each of these great new middle grade stories. For more information on each author and their debut, read below, and don't miss your chance to win a hardcover of all four books on the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post!

Jill Diamond has loved children’s literature for as long as she can remember, thanks to her school librarian mother and the long, cold winters in Maine. When she’s not writing, Jill practices law, dreams about her next travels, eats soft serve ice cream, and wears cowboy boots. Jill now lives in San Francisco with her husband and their son. Visit her at or on Twitter @jillinboots.

 Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Indiebound

Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendships, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. You can find her at, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook. Be sure to check out the FINDING PERFECT curriculum guide and audio trailer!

FINDING PERFECT: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound

Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

LIKE MAGIC: Amazon  | Barnes and Noble  | Indiebound

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE by Christina June

It Started With GoodbyeIt Started With Goodbye by Christina June
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christina June’s young adult book IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, charmed me from the start, and I found myself sitting comfortably in the author’s beautiful writing, like an old friend sharing a story. Familiar, and relatable, this was a fun contemporary take on the Cinderella story, which explores finding your place in life, even when it feels everyone’s against you.

Falsely accused of a crime, sixteen-year-old, Tatum Elsea (TLC) winds up under house arrest. Her father leaves town, leaving Tatum with her step-monster, Belen, and perfect stepsister, Matilda, who won’t even look at her, much less speak. Her best friend, Ashlyn, has been sent to a boarding school since the criminal charge and isn’t writing back. Tatum tried reaching out to her. It wasn’t Tatum’s fault. Ashlyn’s questionable new boyfriend, Chase, got them into serious trouble, and now they face grand larceny charges.

“In terms of life events, my getting arrested was either pretty horrible timing or pretty perfect, depending on who you were talking to.”

Sentenced to probation and community service, Tatum’s thankful it’s the end of the school year, and wouldn’t have to listen to the rumor mill blow everything out of proportion for long. Maybe it would help her focus on the budding graphic design business, new friend Abby suggested, after the great work Tatum did on her blog.

Abby encourages Tatum to find more clients. Tatum’s inspired. When her stepsister, Matilda, the ballet dancer has a recital, she takes the opportunity to leave the new business cards at the school that didn’t accept her art portfolio. She literally bumps into a mysterious and keen-witted boy, and the two have an inspired conversation while critiquing the art on the walls. Tatum flees before either catches the other’s name. A student from her stepsister’s school, she wouldn’t dare tell either, wanting to stay anonymous. She also wants to keep her budding graphic design business under wraps for now.

Waiting for her best friend Ashlyn to write back, and with her stepmother watching every move and calculating her car’s mileage, the boy at the gala fades into the background. Tatum begins corresponding with SK, her latest client. Leaving her business cards at Matilda’s school proved fruitful. He plays cello and she begins work on creating the perfect promotional flyer for him.

But Belen, the stepmother, pulls the reigns in tighter, and the only recourse Tatum has, is her step-grandmother, Blanche, who came to stay and help Belen keep tabs on her. She has wise words to share, compliments of The Golden Girls. A breath of air in Tatum’s otherwise suffocating life. Blanche lessens the blow of her daughter, Belen’s unreadable demeanor. Tatum soon discovers she’s not the only one in the house, keeping secrets. A wonderful young adult debut for all ages, and I look forward to the author’s next work.

Expected publication: May 9th, 2017 by Blink/HarperCollins

View all my reviews


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...