Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cover Reveal: YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL by Rachele Alpine

Today I'm super excited to share the cover of Rachele Alpine's YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL! Rachele is the author of the middle grade novel OPERATION PUCKER UP and the young adult novel CANARY. I loved both of these books, and I can't wait to get my hands on YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL. I'll let Rachele take it from here . . .

I’m so excited to share the cover of YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL with all of you today! Thanks, Kidliterati, for hosting me! Hip hip hooray!

One of the scariest things about writing a book for me is the cover. I’m always so nervous about what it will look like. When I finally get it, a million thoughts run through my mind. What if it looks nothing like what I envisioned? What if I don’t like it? What if everyone hates it?

I was so nervous with my first cover that I waited almost five hours to open the e-mail and then made my husband look at it first! It’s a good thing I loved it, and I can say the same about the cover for YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL because it’s adorable!

And now I get to show it to you! Yay!

Super cute, right?!

I’m pretty sure my cover artist peeked into my brain when she drew my main character Gabby! And her shoes! My matching pair should be arriving any day now because who doesn’t want to rock pink Chucks!?!

I’m so excited for all of you to read it!

In the meantime, here’s what the book is about:

Gabby is ready to have the Best. Summer. Ever. Her softball team is rumored to win the championship and she can’t wait for her dad to see her strike out anyone who tries to stop the team from making that happen, after all, he’s the one who taught her everything she knows about playing ball.

Except, when her dad is deployed overseas and her mom decides to move the family to stay with Gabby’s grandma while he is away, her summer quickly turns into the Worst. Summer. Ever.

That’s because when Gabby arrives to her mom’s hometown, she is devastated to find out that because all the girls are more interested in competing in the annual Miss Popcorn Pageant, there’s no girls’ softball league this year. And after one, terrible, horrible miscommunication, Gabby accidentally signs up for the pageant and her mom, a past beauty queen herself, is ecstatic. For a girl who would rather rock a pitching glove over princess gowns, this is very very bad.

But this doesn’t mean Gabby is giving up on her softball dreams. No girls’ team? No problem. She decides to disguise herself and sign up for the boys’ team instead. Her pitching can rival any boy or girl, and she is determined to keep her promise to her dad.

Of course, Gabby’s balancing act is not as easy as she thought. Can she learn how to perfect her pitching and pageant skills? Or will her big plan strike out?

More about Rachele:

Rachele Alpine is a lover of sushi, busting a move on the dance floor, and any and all reality TV. One of her first jobs was at a library, but it didn’t last long, because all she did was hide in the third-floor stacks and read. Now she’s a little more careful about when and where she indulges her reading habit. By day she’s a high school English teacher, by night she’s a wife and mom, and she finds any time in between to write, write, write. Her words are almost always created with the companionship of the world’s cutest dog, Radley, a big cup of coffee, and a full bag of gummy peaches. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, but dreams of moving back to Boston, the city she fell in love with while attending graduate school there.

You Throw Like a Girl will release in Spring 2017 from Aladdin M!X/Simon & Schuster. It's perfect for ages 8-13. You can add it to your Goodreads shelf, and you can find out more about Rachele and all of her books on her website. Follow her on Twitter as @ralpine, on Facebook, and on Instagram as rachelealpine for even more fun stuff!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

K10: Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

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 name is Julia and I'm 11 years old. My favorite ice cream? Oh my gosh, this is hard. My favorite is... candy cane ice cream made by my mom. She made some last week and it was awesome!

What book did you read and why did you choose it?
I read Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

Can you describe this book in one word?

What was your favorite part of this story?
After Hurricane Katrina, the family is on the roof because the house is floating in the middle of nowhere and then the puppy starts chasing her tail. She chases her tail like crazy until she falls off the house and into the water. Then the brother jumps off to rescue the puppy. 

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?
I would not jump off the house!

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?
Some of my friends have already read it. But I'd say it has a lot of turns so you never know what's coming.

What do you think about the book's cover?
The artwork is a pair of muddy boots, and you can't really tell if they're on the floor or on a wall. I thought it was very, very interesting since you can't tell where the boots are sitting and you can't tell what's coming up next in the story. The cover doesn't give a clue about what will happen. You're not in a hurricane everyday.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?
Yes. The characters are in a really hard position, but the girl, Armani, is sassy and funny and she makes me laugh. So, it's not all serious. 

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?
The I Survived Hurricane Katrina and other disaster stories. But all the other books about Katrina were serious. They didn't have fun characters like Armani.

If you could ask the author one question about this book, what would it be?
Where did you come up with the character? Her personality is so different. Even though she's in a disaster, she's still cracking jokes inside her head. 

We can't find an interview where Julie T. Lamana talks about her characters. However, we found out that after Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Lamana worked in after-school programs to help the children who were displaced by the disaster.  

Thank you, Julia!

by Julie Lamana

Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. All her friends are coming to her party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten is a big deal to Armani. It means she's older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm.

A powerful story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the miraculous power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper JungleGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here’s the truth.
Andrew Smith could publish his grocery list and I’d probably still find it compelling and hysterical.

There hasn’t been an Andrew Smith book I’ve read that I haven’t devoured. So it was with great excitement that I sat down to read Grasshopper Jungle, even though the bizarre synopsis had me scratching my head: The rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa can only be stopped by a sexually confused teenage boy and his best friend.

Alrighty then.

But this is Andrew Smith. And I’d read (loved!) THE ALEX CROW which had a similarly bizarre backdrop, so I wasn’t too concerned when faced with GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE.

And I fell in love with this book.

I could not put it down.

I had company over this weekend and instead of being the happy hostess, I was asking myself, “When are these people going to leave so I can get back to reading?” That’s how good GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is.

At the story’s core is teenager Austin Szerba. Smith’s portrayal of a sexually frustrated and confused boy is authentic and hysterical. Even when faced with saving the world from an army of unstoppable mantises, Austin must fight his raging hormones first. Seems reasonable, right?

I wish I could say more, but you’re just going to have to trust me and read this book. Here’s the truth: This book is crazy. Really. Truly. Crazy. I loved every ridiculous word.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Perfectly Troublesome Characters

Creating characters is a lot like falling in love. You give her the hair you wished you had, and the dreamy eyes of that boy who was in your AP history class. You grant her confidence and a quirky little talent for correctly guessing people's favorite books. You love hanging out with her in your imagination because she's funny and smart and just so... perfect!

Whoa. Did someone say perfect?

It doesn't seem like that would be a problem because almost everyone wants to be perfect. But believe me, it's a BIG problem. Here's my top four reasons why perfect characters are trouble.

REASON NUMBER FOUR: It's hard to like "perfect" people.

Don't you just love trying to keep up with that "perfect" friend or neighbor? Keeping your yard, house, family, pets, car, job, toenails, social media, meals, fashion, all in great shape is stressful!

And then there's that bit of jealousy to deal with because no matter how hard you try, you can't be as perfect as you perceive that person to be. It's no surprise then, that perfect main characters aren't that lovable. Not only are they annoyingly successful at weathering every storm, but they make you wish you were just as capable.

For example, a neighbor of mine used to be convinced I was the perfect mom. She thought that not only was I good with my kids, but that I kept my house clean (Not!), and I also cooked a wholesome meal every night (Definitely not!). So one evening when a pizza delivery guy pulled into our driveway, she stood in her yard, her eyes wide. "But I've been dying of jealousy this whole last year," she said the next day. "I thought you were like the perfect cook!" When I admitted how often I didn't cook dinner, we both laughed hysterically. That whole bonding over takeout pizza thing - it's totally true!

REASON NUMBER THREE: Perfect people are mythical creatures.

Seriously, they don't exist. Perfection is like a puddle in the desert - it's an illusion.

You have an idea of what perfect looks like and set goals to reach it, but once you get there, you realize there are other flaws you hadn't thought about. You work to fix those, but still - THERE ARE FLAWS. No one is perfect because perfection is unobtainable.

Which brings us to....

REASON NUMBER TWO: Since no one is perfect, no one can connect with a perfect character.

When we read, we're looking to identify with the character. But the way we connect is not through the outer journey but through the inward journey. We read many books with a wide range of characters, settings, and plot lines. It's always a delight if you are a lot like one of the characters, or the story takes place in your home town. But, most of the time connection comes from emotion. When a character makes a mistake or looses her temper it resonates because we've made similar mistakes too.

When I was a kid, I strongly identified with Anne Shirley. I too, lived in a world of imagination. And just like Anne, I was full of good intentions, but that spark of imagination coupled with a bit of impulsiveness, landed me in quite a few mishaps.

Anne taught me that I could get into trouble, but still be a good person. If Anne had been a "perfect" girl, she would not resonate with so many readers and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES would not still be on bookstore shelves today - a hundred and eight years after its first printing.


Perfect characters have no internal story arc!

Oh, they can have adventures, but perfect characters don't grow from them. How can a character gain new knowledge if they don't have any lessons to learn? Perfect characters can experience pain and loss, but they handle it so well, readers struggle to empathize with them. Worst of all, this means the "AH HA!" moment never happens.

This is the powerful point in the story when the character has lost everything and finally digs down deep to challenge and defeat the flaw that has kept him from his goal. This is often the most resonant moment in a book and if it's not there, the reader can't experience the revelation and joy of overcoming personal obstacles. And really, isn't that emotional journey and insight the whole point of a story?

Creating rounded, flawed characters is hard work, but the rewards are worth the effort. Take time to study your favorite characters to see how they are flawed. Pay attention to the challenges they face and how they are forced to confront their flaws. You will likely find that you love these characters not because they are perfect, but because they are beautifully flawed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Screaming Statue Blog Tour & Giveaway

How lucky am I that my first, new, and shiny Kidliterati post is an interview with a talented author, her co-author, and a surprise character for the second book in the fantastical series, CURIOSITY HOUSE!

Check out all of the wonderful, quirky, awesome that is this series and don't forget to enter the GIVEAWAY for copies of the books, a deck of cards, and a button! THE SCREAMING STATUE releases May 3rd, 2016!

Also be sure to visit the other amazing blogs on this blog tour! Before Kidliterati in the line up is: and coming up after us is:

~The Book~

Four orphans with extraordinary abilities and questionable pasts—Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max—are happy to be out of harm’s way now that the notorious villain Nicholas Rattigan is halfway across the country in Chicago. But unfortunately their home, Dumfreys’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, is in danger of closing its doors forever.

But their troubles only get worse. The four friends are shocked when their beloved friend, famous sculptor Siegfried Eckleberger, is murdered. As they investigate, they find clues that his death may be tied to the murder of a rich and powerful New York heiress, as well as to their own pasts.

In this second book in the exceptional Curiosity House series by bestselling author Lauren Oliver and shadowy recluse H. C. Chester, the four extraordinary children must avenge their friend’s death, try to save their home, and unravel the secrets of their past . . . before their past unravels them.

You can find Curiosity House, Book 1 here: THE SHRUNKEN HEAD

~The Interviews~

Lauren Oliver

1. What inspired you to write the Curiosity House stories?

I was inspired by a series of old postcards--you can see them at!---which prompted me to begin researching the dime museums that were so prevalent during the early decades of the last century. Many of the characters in the Curiosity House have their inspiration in real people.

2. What collections do you have or wish to one day have?

Unlike Mr. Chester, I am not much of a collector--unless you count high heels! I do collect mugs, though, with funny sayings on them. I need a lot of extra help when I get up in the morning, and drinking coffee from a fun mug helps.

3. How was the experience of collaborating with Mr. Chester? Since he rarely leaves home, did you work mainly over the phone? Through letter writing? Email?

Initially, Mr. Chester had neither email nor a working telephone (he was surprised to learn that his phone had been disconnected back in 1984), but we wrote letters and did a lot of in-person visits. I at last prevailed on him--miraculously--to get an iPhone, but only by pointing out he could use it to take lots of pictures of his dog, Trudy. 

4. I've heard you hate bananas. What is your favorite meal?

Pasta, pasta, more pasta! I could eat pasta for every meal. Gross but true: for a real, throwback, comfort-food meal, I will eat plain pasta with ketchup on it, or pasta with butter, hot sauce, and parmesan. Yum!

H.C. Chester

1. I've heard you prefer to be indoors and rarely leave your home. What hobbies, other than collecting, do you enjoy?

I must take issue with the very premise of your question. Collecting is not a "hobby" for me. It is my life's work.  My collection of ancient Assyrian pottery shards, for example, is recognized by ancient Assyrian pottery shard scholars both here and abroad as, perhaps, the finest in existence.  My pursuit of such treasures leaves little time for hobbies, though, in my rare hours of leisure, I enjoy assembling jigsaw puzzles with my companion, Trudy.

2. Is there anything you haven't yet acquired for your collection that you're desperate to find?

As I am sure you aware, I possess what is arguably the world's largest collection of stuffed Peruvian fruit bats and, for many years, have served as president of the Stuffed Peruvian Fruit Bat Association of America.  Among my fellow members of the SPFBAA, rumors have long circulated that there exists in the deepest recesses of the Peruvian jungles a giant albino fruit bat that we have nicknamed, with the rollicking humor for  which we are renowned, "Moby Bat." It goes without  saying that obtaining such a specimen would be the apex of my collecting career.

3. Since you keep minimal social interactions with the outside world, how was your experience  collaborating with Ms. Oliver?

My collaboration with Ms. Oliver was exceedingly pleasant, particularly since it was largely conducted through postal correspondence and thus necessitated only the smallest degree of human interaction, which, as you observe, is something I prefer to avoid as much as possible, my emotional needs being more than fulfilled by my companion, Trudy .

4. I read your mother was an... adventurous cook, particularly her canned-tuna-and-fruit-cocktail casserole. What is your favorite meal?

You must keep in mind that, while planning my weekly menus, I must take into account not only my own culinary desires but those of my regular dining companion, Trudy, who has a marked preference for dishes composed primarily of squirrel meat.  I must say in all modesty that my "Casserole de Squirrel avec Sautéed Kibble Bits" is unsurpassed.

If you're curious, you'll find more on the authors here: THE AUTHORS

Howie, The Owl Boy

With his brighter-than-the-sun smile, perfect hair, and enormous eyelashes, Howie looks more like a model than a freak…until he swivels his head around 180 degrees to check his back for Kick Me signs.

1. When did you first discover your unusual talent?

All the members of my family were, thankfully, born with one of several "odd" features of their neck and spines. For example, my cousin Virginia is a world-famous contortionist (and, I have to say, much better than Thomas). Both my parents can rotate their heads as I can, which made it extremely difficult to sneak cookies behind their backs.

2. Must you do certain stretches or exercises to keep your neck limber?

I begin every day with a series of head-rolling exercises, taught to me by my uncle, the famous Hawk-Eyed Hank, who once served as secret service for the president. 

3. Do you ever use your talent for practical jokes?  

Of course not. My natural talents are no laughing matter. 

4. Do you collect any interesting trinkets or items like Mr. Chester?

I wouldn't call them "trinkets," but I do keep correspondence from some of my many famous admirers, including heads of state, movie actresses, and the man who invented the cereal box.

5. Owls are known for feasting on mice, rats, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bats, and weasels, among other things. What is your favorite meal?  

Steak, very rare. And a glass of milk over ice.

For a most unique experience and to visit the other characters from the museum, go here: OTHER CHARACTERS


If you're craving more treasures and curiosities and would like to visit the online version of Dumfrey's Dime Museum, there's lots of fun and fantastic here: DUMFRLEY'S DIME MUSEUM


Monday, April 18, 2016

Ancient Secrets and THE BLACKTHORN KEY

I was a weird kid. I know, what a surprise, given that I've become a weird adult!

My life took a huge turn one day at the age of 10, when I went into a dark and ancient bookstore reeking of mildewing print. (It was a Barnes & Noble.)

My dad said I should pick something out, and I was immediately and uncontrollably drawn to a book whose cover glowed in a magical gold. (It had a pretty yellow cover.)

That book changed the course of my life. It was:


Something subtitled "The Joys and Perils of Mathematics" may not draw in your 10-year old, but what about the story of an ancient hoard of treasure, buried centuries ago, with three encoded clues leading to its location? One of the codes was broken many years ago, but the remaining two remain encrypted.

Intrigued? So have many thousands of people been, enthralled by the story of Thomas J. Beale, who entrusted his encoded letters to an innkeeper way back in 1885 and was never seen again. A friend of the innkeeper worked doggedly at them, and eventually cracked one using a pattern he found within the Declaration of Independence.

Real life "National Treasure"? Absolutely! And to this day, the remaining two ciphers are still uncracked. Could the person to eventually solve them be ... you?


There's something about ancient treasures and coded messages that taps into a deep level within me. When you throw in covert societies and secrets holding the key to immense wealth and power, you have yourself the elements of a great story. THE BLACKTHORN KEY is a great example of this.

Middle grade "puzzle books" are rare, and ones that actually lay out interesting puzzles that middle graders could actually solve are rarer still. Our young hero, Christopher, is an apprentice alchemist, and one day his master gives him a box with a present inside -- if he can figure out how to open it. Using knowledge of symbols and what he's learned about chemicals from his master, Christopher cracks it!

But that's just the start. When his master is murdered at the hands of a secret society, Christopher must use all his wits to trace what his master was working on, before the criminals beat him to it. One of the best MG puzzle books I've read.


Give that THE BLACKTHORN KEY was billed as "The Da Vinci Code meets ..." I had to include the latter, an oldie but a goodie for both adults and kids. It may be a bit too tension-filled for some middle-grade readers, but others will jump at the mathematical codes that Robert Langdon must crack.

I was skeptical when I first picked it up, given all the attention the book received, but a story line based on ancient societies protecting powerful knowledge hidden by codes and symbology? Yes, please!

As an added benefit, THE DA VINCI CODE uses extremely short chapters, each of which ends as a bit of a cliffhanger. Neat writing technique, which kept me reading late into the night.

In today's world in which computers, the internet, and information technology dominate many aspects of life, what better way to get kids interested than books about codes and ancient secrets?

And don't worry, being weird is a good thing when you get to be an adult.

That's what my mom tells me, at least.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Gift of THYME

In January of 2013, when I was a total newbie writer, I met a few writers through Twitter. Since we lived in the same geographic area, we thought it would be nice to have a "writer's retreat." We had visions of renting a house with a fireplace, on a lake, relatively close to where we all reside... when it occurred to me. I live in a house with a fireplace, on a lake, relatively close to where we all reside. So I invited these then complete strangers (Jen Malone, Melanie Conklin, and Alison Cherry) over for the weekend.

My friends thought I was crazy. You can imagine the conversations:

Friends:  You invited a group of people you don't know to your house for the weekend?

Me:  I know them. From Twitter.

Friends:  (blank stare)

Me:  I checked them out.

Friends:  Did you do a background check? Through the FBI?

Me:  No. I googled them.

Friends:  (blank stare)

Me:  They seem really nice.

Friends:  (blank stare)

But, I trusted my gut (after all, I met my husband online, and he turned out to be pretty awesome). So, Jen, Melanie, and Alison came over one foggy weekend in January. And it was incredible. Not only was I thrilled and humbled to be among such incredible writers, these women became my friends.

Mel and me

At the time, Melanie was revising a manuscript. I’ll never forget how she sat on my living room floor with colorful post-it notes, piles of notebooks, and creative doodles. Her process was pure genius.

That manuscript was COUNTING THYME, which was published on Tuesday. Watching a book being born is like watching a child grow up. I was there when COUNTING THYME walked across my living room floor. I celebrated when the book deal was announced. I read the first version and I read the final version. I've cheered for COUNTING THYME at all these milestones, because it has everything I love in a middle grade novel… an authentic voice and a story with a whole lot of heart.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

“Debut author Conklin writes with a pitch-perfect middle-grade voice… A nice choice for middle-grade readers who enjoy heartfelt and emotional novels.”—Booklist

“Thyme’s remarkable perseverance and resilience will inspire readers of Conklin’s compassionate tale.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[A] sweet book that will strum the heartstrings of readers.”—School Library Journal

“Conklin successfully weaves together the shifting dynamics of a loving family under crisis with the less dramatic but equally heartfelt turmoil of coming of age in a new environment.”—Publishers Weekly

And now, COUNTING THYME is out there for all of us, so go. Go get the gift of THYME. You'll be glad you did.


When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

To order your copy of Counting Thyme:


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