May 31, 2018

Review: Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

Title: Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Author: Liesl Shurtliff
Copy Obtained: From publisher for an honest review

Ever since he was a dwarfling, Borlen (nicknamed "Grump") has dreamed of visiting The Surface, so when opportunity knocks, he leaves his cavern home behind.

At first, life aboveground is a dream come true. Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.) is the best friend Grump always wanted, feeding him all the rubies he can eat and allowing him to rule at her side in exchange for magic and information. But as time goes on, Grump starts to suspect that Queen E.V.I.L. may not be as nice as she seems. . . .

When the queen commands him to carry out a horrible task against her stepdaughter Snow White, Grump is in over his head. He's bound by magic to help the queen, but also to protect Snow White. As if that wasn't stressful enough, the queen keeps bugging him for updates through her magic mirror! He'll have to dig deep to find a way out of this pickle, and that's enough to make any dwarf Grumpy indeed.

Ok so I've never read a book by this author before even though I have them in my media center.  I will now be recommending them a lot! This book was just fun and cute and everything that is an enjoyable middle-grade read.  

I'm not always one for a retelling of fairy tales.  So I was a bit hesitant, but it was so cute.  I really like stories where a character is different from the whole group.  Grump doesn't completely fit in with the other dwarves because he doesn't feel as comfortable in the deep underground.  This sets off a whole series of events that puts in into the middle of the Snow White story.  It kinda reminded me of the Lion King movie that shows the story of Pumba and Timon - where you get to see the other side of the story.  I think kids will get a kick out of that, and even better than can read more by this author. 

The story itself was well done.  It had the right amount of tension and pacing.  It didn't seem to drag which is very important when it comes to middle-grade books.  I pretty much zipped through it.  And pulling it along - Grump.  Loved that character.  It was flawed and determined and wanted to do what was right.  Great character!

Final thought: Great little book that I will be pointing out to many students now!
Library Thoughts: For sure I'll be adding it to the collection  

May 30, 2018

Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine Excerpt and Giveaway!

Do you love the Ink and Bone series by Rachel Caine? Would you like a chance at a great giveaway? 

Want to read an excerpt? 

I've got stuff for you!

Smoke and Iron comes out in July

To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making...if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

First I've got an excerpt from Smoke and Iron!  Read below!

SMOKE AND IRON by Rachel Caine
It had all started as an exercise to fight the unending boredom of being locked in this Alexandrian prison cell.

When Jess Brightwell woke up, he realized that he’d lost track of time. Days blurred here, and he knew it was important to remember how long he’d been trapped, waiting for the axe to fall—or not. So he diligently scratched out a record on the wall using a button from his shirt.

Five days. Five days since he’d arrived back in Alexandria, bringing with him Scholar Wolfe and Morgan Hault as his prisoners. They’d been taken off in different directions, and he’d been dumped here to—as they’d said—await the Archivist’s pleasure.

The Archivist, it seemed, was a very busy man.

Once Jess had the days logged, he did the mental exercise of calculating the date, from pure boredom. It took him long, uneasy moments to realize why that date—today—seemed important.

And then he remembered and was ashamed it had taken him so long.

Today was the anniversary of his brother Liam’s death. His elder brother.

And today meant that Jess was now older than Liam had ever lived to be.

He couldn’t remember exactly how Liam had died. Could hardly remember his brother at all these days, other than a vague impression of a sharp nose and shaggy blondish hair. He must have watched Liam walk up the stairs of the scaffold and stand as the rope was fixed around his neck.

But he couldn’t remember that, or watching the drop. Just Liam, hanging. It seemed like a painting viewed at a distance, not a memory.

Wish I could remember, he thought. If Liam had held his head high on the way to his death, if he’d gone up the steps firmly and stood without fear, then maybe Jess would be able to do it, too. Because that was likely to be in his future.

He closed his eyes and tried to picture it: the cell door opening. Soldiers in High Garda uniforms, the army of the Great Library, waiting stone-faced in the hall. A Scholar to read the text of his choice to him on the way to execution. Perhaps a priest, if he asked for one.
But there, his mind went blank. He didn’t know how the Archivist would end his life. Would it be a quiet death? Private? A shot in the back? Burial without a marker? Maybe nobody would ever know what had become of him.

Or maybe he’d end up facing the noose after all, and the steps up to it. If he could picture himself walking without flinching to his execution, perhaps he could actually do it.
He knew he ought to be focusing on what he would be saying to the Archivist if he was called, but at this moment, death seemed so close he could touch it, and besides, it was easier to accept failure than to dare to predict success. He’d never been especially superstitious, but imagining triumph now seemed like drawing a target on his back. No reason to offend the Egyptian gods. Not so early.

He stood up and walked the cell. Cold, barren, with bars and a flat stone shelf that pretended at being a bed. A bare toilet that needed cleaning, and the sharp smell of it was starting to squirm against his skin.

If I had something to read . . . The thought crept in without warning, and he felt it like a personal loss. Not having a book at hand was a worse punishment than most. He was trying not to think about his death, and he was too afraid to think about the fate of Morgan or Scholar Wolfe or anything else . . . except that he could almost hear Scholar Wolfe’s dry, acerbic voice telling him, If only you had a brain up to the task, Brightwell, you’d never lack for something to read.

Jess settled on the stone ledge, closed his eyes, and tried to clearly imagine the first page of one of his favorite books. Nothing came at his command. Just words, jumbled and frantic, that wouldn’t sort themselves in order. Better if he imagined writing a letter.

Dear Morgan, he thought. I’m trapped in a holding cell inside the Serapeum, and all I can think of is that I should have done better by you, and all of us. I’m afraid all this is for nothing. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being stupid enough to think I could outwit the Archivist. I love you. Please don’t hate me.

That was selfish. She should hate him. He’d sent her back into the Iron Tower, a life sentence of servitude and an unbreakable collar fastened tight around her neck. He’d deceived Scholar Wolfe into a prison far worse than this one, and an inevitable death sentence. He’d betrayed everyone who’d ever trusted him, and for what?

For cleverness and a probably foolish idea that he could somehow, somehow, pull off a miracle. What gave him the right to even think it?


That was the sound of a key turning in a heavy lock.

Jess stood, the chill on his back left by the ledge still lingering like a ghost, and then he came to the bars as the door at the end of the hall opened. He could see the hinges move and the iron door swinging in. It wasn’t locked again when it closed. Careless.
He listened to the decisive thud of footsteps against the floor, growing louder, and then three High Garda soldiers in black with golden emblems were in front of his cell. They stopped and faced him. The oldest—his close-cut hair a stiff silver brush around his head—barked in common Greek, “Step back from the bars and turn around.”

Jess’s skin felt flushed, then cold; he swallowed back a rush of fear and felt his pulse race in a futile attempt to outrun the inevitable. He followed the instructions. They didn’t lock the outer door. That’s a chance, if I can get by them. He could. He could sweep the legs out from under the first, use that off-balance body to knock back the other two, pull a sidearm free from one of them, shoot at least one, maybe two of them. Luck would dictate whether he’d die in the attempt, but at least he’d die fighting.

I don’t want to die, something in him that sounded like a child whispered. Not like Liam. Not on the same day.

And suddenly, he remembered.

The London sky, iron gray. Light rain had been falling on his child’s face. He’d been too short to see his brother ascend anything but the top two steps of the scaffold. Liam had stumbled on the last one, and a guard had steadied him. His brother had been shivering and slow, and he hadn’t been brave after all. He’d looked out into the crowd of those gathered, and Jess remembered the searing second of eye contact with his brother before Liam transferred that stare to their father.

Jess had looked, too. Callum Brightwell had stared back without a flicker of change in his expression, as if his eldest son was a stranger.

They’d tied Liam’s hands. And put a hood over his head.

A voice in the here and now snapped him out of the memory. “Against the wall. Hands behind your back.”

Jess slowly moved to comply, trying to assess where the other man was . . . and froze when the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his neck. “I know what you’re thinking, son. Don’t try it. I’d rather not shoot you for stupidity.”

The guard had a familiar accent—raised near Manchester, most likely. His time in Alexandria had covered his English roots a bit, but it was odd, Jess thought, that he might be killed by one of his countrymen, so far from home. Killed by the English, just like Liam.
Once a set of Library restraints settled around his wrists and tightened, he felt strangely less shaken. Opportunity was gone now. All his choices had been narrowed to one course. All he had to do now was play it out.

Jess turned to look at the High Garda soldier. A man with roots from another garden, maybe one closer to Alexandria; the man had a darker complexion, dark eyes, a neat beard, and a compassionate but firm expression on his face. “Am I coming back?” he asked, and wished he hadn’t.

“Likely not,” the soldier said. “Wherever you go next, you won’t be back here.”

Jess nodded. He closed his eyes for a second and then opened them. Liam had faltered on the stairs. Had trembled. But at the end his elder brother had stood firm in his bonds and hood and waited for death without showing any fear.

He could do the same.

“Then, let’s go,” he said, and forced a grin he hoped looked careless. “I could do with a change of scenery.”

One winner will receive this Great Library prize pack including:

Signed hardcover copy of Ink and Bone (Book 1)
Signed hardcover copy of Paper and Fire (Book 2)
Signed hardcover copy of Ash and Quill (Book 3)
Advance copy of Smoke and Iron (Book 4)
"Old Books" handmade candle
Handmade notebook
Hieroglyphic wax seal and wax
Antique statue of Pericles (for Classical inspiration)
Book keepsake box

Thirty runner-ups will receive a copy of INK AND BONE. 

All post information and giveaway provided by the publisher. 

May 29, 2018

The Great American Read Blog Tour for Dover Books +GIVEAWAY #greatreadgiveaway

Very excited today to be a part of the Great American Read blog tour hosted by The Children's Book Review!

Dover is partnering with PBS for the Great American ReadAmerica’s Most-Loved Novels.

Hosted by Meredith Vieira, PBS’s 8-episode documentary, The Great American Read, celebrates America’s 100 most-loved novels — and Dover Books publishes a wide variety of these essential works as Thrift Editions, Evergreen Classics, deluxe hardcover Calla Editions™, and other affordable formats for readers of all ages.

As an English teacher and major, I was super excited to be able to share this with you!

Enter For A Chance To Win A Set Of 7 Titles From The Great American Read List, As Well As The Five Great English Novels Boxed Set!

Two (2) grand prize winners receive:

A set of 7 titles from The Great American Read list:
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
The Story of Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Adventures of Don Quixote, by Argentina Palacio

A Five Great English Novels Boxed Set:
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
The Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Value: $51+

Three (3) runner-up winners receive:

A set of 7 titles from The Great American Read list (as above)
Value: $33+

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About The Books

Alice in WonderlandAlice In Wonderland
Written by Lewis Carroll

Publisher’s Synopsis: One adventure follows another in this delightful tale as Alice changes size unexpectedly, attends a tea party given by the March Hare, visits a garden of talking flowers, and acts as witness at the trial of a thief who has stolen some tarts. Along the way, she meets such unforgettable characters as the Mad Hatter, the grinning Cheshire Cat, the tearful Mock Turtle, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, the autocratic Red Queen, and other fanciful folk.

Alice in Wonderland is one of the world’s most-beloved works of fiction, charming children and adults alike with Alice’s adventures and Carroll’s audacious puns and wordplay — but at the same time it is a clever satire, lampooning Victorian education, literature, and politics. Now this enchanting fantasy, enhanced with all 42 original illustrations by John Tenniel, is ready to charm readers of all ages in this unabridged Evergreen Classics edition.

Anne of Green GablesAnne Of Green Gables
Written by L. M. Montgomery

Publisher’s Synopsis: Life is forever changed at Green Gables, a tranquil farm on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, with the arrival of a redheaded chatterbox named Anne. The spirited, precocious 11-year-old orphan finds “scope for imagination” everywhere she looks, transforming the lives of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, her elderly guardians, with her merry doings and misadventures. Anne — spelled with an “e,” as she gravely informs new acquaintances — builds a world of enchantment around Green Gables and its surrounding woodlands, lakes, and valleys. Thanks to the freckle-faced girl’s imaginative musings, the rustic region’s natural wonders blossom into a fairyland of endless romance. Anne’s inspired prattle, goodwill, and joie de vivre win her a warm circle of friends, just as they have won the hearts of readers around the world.

Since its first appearance in 1908, the novel has led generations of children to laugh and cry — but mostly laugh — along with this beloved story’s vivacious heroine. Now this inexpensive edition, complete and unabridged, introduces new readers to the ageless charm of a fanciful world made real by love and friendship. The inspiration for 2016 PBS movie and the 2017 CBC/Netflix Anne mini-series.

Reprint of a standard edition.

Little WomenLittle Women
Written by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher’s Synopsis: This American classic is as fresh and meaningful today as it was when it was first written in the 19th century. Largely based on the author’s own childhood, Little Women is a timeless tale of the four young March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — who grow to maturity in their mother’s tender but strong care. As different in their personalities as they are alike in their devotion to each other, the girls vow to support their beloved mother, Marmee, by behaving their best while Father is away, serving as an army chaplain in the Civil War.
Literary-minded tomboy Jo develops a fast friendship with the boy next door, and pretty Meg, the eldest, finds romance; frail and affectionate Beth fills the house with music, and little Amy, the youngest, seeks beauty with all the longing of an artist’s soul. Although poor in material wealth, the family possesses an abundance of love, friendship, and imaginative gifts that captivate readers time and again.
This inexpensive, complete and unabridged edition of this beloved novel is sure to delight a generation of new readers, as well as those reacquainting themselves with its warmth and charm.

Reprint of a standard edition. This classic was the inspiration for the May 2018 PBS three-part adaptation.

The Adventures of Tom SawyerThe Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Written by Mark Twain

Publisher’s Synopsis: Like most boys, Tom Sawyer would rather play hooky than go to school. But Tom’s lively imagination and thirst for adventure lead him into the most extraordinary situations, from a search for buried treasure to the accidental witness of a murder in a graveyard. All of his exploits — tricking his pals into whitewashing a fence, sharing his medicine with the family cat, disrupting a church service with a pinching insect — are flavored with the humor for which his creator, Mark Twain, is justly famed.
In writing this great American classic, Twain drew upon his own memories of life in a small Missouri town before the Civil War. Since the book’s 1876 publication, generations of readers of all ages have laughed at Tom’s hijinks and taken him into their hearts, along with Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly, and other memorable characters. This new Dover Evergreen Classics edition offers a fresh introduction to the lovable scamp and the enduring joys of his escapades.

Reprint of a standard edition.

The Call of the WildThe Call Of The Wild
Written by Jack London

Publisher’s Synopsis: This triumphant tale of survival, the greatest of Jack London’s works, relates the adventures of Buck, half-St. Bernard and half-Scottish sheepdog, who is forced into the brutal life of a sled-dog during the heady days of the Alaska gold rush.
Set in the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Far North, the story follows Buck as he grows daily in strength, savagery, and cunning, adapting to his hostile circumstances by responding to the stirring of his primitive ancestral traits. This unabridged edition offers young readers a fine introduction to the excitement of the classic adventure novel.

Reprint of the Macmillan Company, New York, 1903 edition.

The Story Of Frankenstein
Written by Mary Shelley

Publisher’s Synopsis: With his debut nearly two centuries ago, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster captured the popular imagination and never let go, haunting even those who have never read this classic of horror fiction. This specially adapted children’s edition retains all of the excitement of the original version yet makes the enduring Gothic fable accessible to youngsters.

The brilliant scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein indulges his curiosity about the hidden laws of nature when he happens upon the secret to the animation of lifeless matter. Piecing together the detritus of butcher shops and dissecting rooms, the doctor fashions an eight-foot-tall creature whose loathsome appearance fills even his creator with repulsion. Abandoned by his maker, rejected with fear and disgust by everyone he encounters, the enraged and embittered monster goes on a murderous rampage, determined to destroy Frankenstein by striking at those closest to him.

Since its 1817 publication, this incredible and imaginative fantasy has held generations of readers spellbound. This new, specially abridged edition, enhanced with illustrations by Thea Kliros, will satisfy young readers’ appetites for gripping suspense and ghoulish thrills.

Original abridgment of a standard edition.

Adventures of Don QuixoteAdventures Of Don Quixote
Written by Argentina Palacio

Publisher’s Synopsis: “Once, there was a man who went crazy from too much reading. He only read books about knighthood; that was the problem.” So begins this charming retelling of Don Quixote de la Mancha, one of the most entertaining books ever written. Young people will delight in the hilarious adventures of the idealistic would-be knight and his “squire,” Sancho Panza, as they set out to right the wrongs of the world. Ms. Palacios, a talented storyteller, captures all the flavor and irony of the original as the two heroes ride forth to conquer evil. Along the way the well-meaning but addled knight-errand mistakes a miserable inn and its keeper for a castle and its lord; imagines an ordinary peasant girl to be the noble lady Dulcinea, perceives windmills as giants to be overcome, and gets enmeshed in other cases of mistaken identity. These, and many more incidents and adventures are retold here in a beguiling, easy-to-read version, enhanced by six new black-and-white illustrations by Thea Kliros. This edition is sure to delight today’s youngsters, just as the original has enchanted countless readers since its publication nearly 400 years ago.

Reprint of The Knight and the Squire, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1979.

5 Great English Novels Boxed SetFive Great English Novels Boxed Set

Publisher’s Synopsis: Five volumes of landmark fiction by noted English authors include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Housed in an attractive slipcase, each of these classic tales is presented complete and unabridged.

Dover Original.

Per FTC guidelines, post information and giveaway provided by The Children’s Book Review and Dover Books.

May 22, 2018

Down a Dark Hall Movie Trailer!!!!!!

Lois Duncan was my most favorite author when I was growing up.  I read and reread her books.  I own them all now!  And my favorite - Down a Dark Hall. Loved it so much.

Well, they have made a movie out of it! Yes, yes it's not completely the story.  I can they've changed quite a bit BUT it still keeps the basic of it! And whenever I go into a movie based on a book, I go in knowing it will be different. 

Here's the trailer!


Here's about the movie



In Theaters, On Demand, and On iTunes August 17th

Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), a difficult young girl, is sent to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School when her heated temper becomes too much for her mother to handle. Once she arrives at Blackwood, Kit encounters eccentric headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) and meets the school's only other students, four young women also headed down a troubled path. While exploring the labyrinthine corridors of the school, Kit and her classmates discover that Blackwood Manor hides an age-old secret rooted in the paranormal.

Based on the classic gothic YA novel of the same name by Lois Duncan - author of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" - and produced by Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight, The Host), DOWN A DARK HALL is a supernatural thriller directed by Rodrigo Cortés (Buried), from a screenplay by Mike Goldbach and Chris Sparling, and stars AnnaSophia Robb (Soul Surfer, The Carrie Diaries), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Victoria Moroles (Teen Wolf), Noah Silver (The Tribes of Palos Verdes), Taylor Russell (TV's Falling Skies), Rosie Day (Outlander), and features a truly memorable turn by the iconic Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vols. I & II).

Summit Entertainment presents, a Temple Hill / Fickle Fish / Nostromo Pictures production.

Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Isabelle Fuhrman, Victoria Moroles, Noah Silver, Taylor Russell, Rosie Day, and Uma Thurman
Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés
Produced by: Stephenie Meyer, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, Meghan Hibbett, Adrián Guerra
Written by: Mike Goldbach and Chris Sparling
Genre: Horror
Distributor: Lionsgate Premiere

Can't wait until August!!!

May 14, 2018

Captian Superlative by J.S. Puller: Interview and Review

Today I'm happy to share with you a great new book I was introduced to called 

Captian Superlative by J.S. Puller.  

About the book

"Have no fear, citizens! Captain Superlative is here to make all troubles disappear!"

Red mask, blue wig, silver swimsuit, rubber gloves, torn tights, high top sneakers and . . . a cape? Who would run through the halls of Deerwood Park Middle School dressed like this? And why?

Janey-quick to stay in the shadows-can't resist the urge to uncover the truth behind the mask. The answer pulls invisible Janey into the spotlight and leads her to an unexpected friendship with a superhero like no other. Fearless even in the face of school bully extraordinaire, Dagmar Hagen, no good deed is too small for the incomparable Captain Superlative and her new sidekick, Janey.

But superheroes hold secrets and Captain Superlative is no exception. When Janey unearths what's truly at stake, she's forced to face her own dark secrets and discover what it truly means to be a hero . . . and a friend.

J.S. Puller was kind enough to respond to a few questions I asked about!!

I work with Middle Schoolers. Can you talk about your middle school years and how (if it did) it made its way into the story?
Middle school was definitely a tough time for me.  I was going through a lot of difficult transitions, including the death of a grandparent, a close friend moving away (in the ancient
times before Skype and Google), and most of all having to face a great deal of bullying.  A lot of these struggles ended up on the pages of CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE, in both Janey and Paige’s struggles.  I’ll also freely admit I said some things that I definitely regret, now.  Dagmar gets some of those lines.  Most significantly, in terms of CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE, though, I developed a habit that drove my friends crazy!  I started arriving early to school and opening the doors for people.  Just like Captain Superlative herself.  To this day, I can’t really tell you why I did it.  Maybe I wanted to feel important.  Maybe I wanted to help.  It could really have been anything.  But I kept doing it.  In spite of funny looks, random insults, and my friends’ bewilderment.  I think, more than anything else, it was because in middle school, I was on a desperate quest to start learning who I was.  And a part of that became doing things like holding doors.  For no other reason than because I wanted to.
The book looks at "superheroes".  What is your idea of a superhero? Who were your superheroes throughout your life? 
A superhero, to me is someone we mere mortals should aspire to be like, who teaches us critical human virtues, not by lecturing at us or commanding our behavior, but by leading by example.  CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE is dedicated to the two greatest superheroes I’ve ever known, my parents.  My mother never told me “You need to be a kind person.”  She simply was kind and showed me how to do it.  My father never told me “You need to work hard.”  He worked hard.  And I followed in his footsteps.  Now, that said, I was your typical, kind of stubborn kid who refused to believe that my parents were awesome so, growing up, my greatest hero and the person whose example I followed was…Kermit the Frog. “It’s not easy being green,” he would lament.  But ultimately, he always decided it was what he wanted to be.  Himself.  Is there a better lesson?

My students always want to know how an author writes a book - can you tell me about your writing process for this book?  How long did it take? 
Writing CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE was definitely not a “normal” journey (although I might argue that “normal” is just a setting on a dishwasher).  It started one evening when I was visiting a friend.  She asked me to sing a song for her grandmother and I sang “A Little Gossip” from Man of La Mancha, the musical version of DON QUIXOTE.  I remember thinking to myself that it was a shame the role of Sancho, Don Quixote’s sidekick, was always played by a man.  I thought it would be fun to play as a woman.  The idea never really left me.  And then, over a weekend back in 2013, I decided I wanted to write a play about bullying.  The play became an adaptation of DON QUIXOTE, from the point of view of a modern Sancho, a girl named Janey, who was a constant bystander in life.  The play got developed.  Produced.  And as a challenge to myself, I decided to turn it into a novel.  I wrote the first draft in a month, then took a class at the University of Chicago to polish the manuscript.  And sent out over fifty query letters before I signed with an agent and did additional rewrites.  From there, it was auctioned to Disney Hyperion and I worked with an editor on even more rewrites.  From the first outline of the play to the final manuscript was a period of about four years!

Thank you so much for sharing!  I love hearing how her struggles in middle school made it into the book.  What a great thing for kids to hear! 

It has been a long time since I truly fell in love with a middle-grade book.  I've had some books I really enjoyed, but not fully fell in love with.  I fell in love with this book. I LOVED Janey.  She was real.  She was a kid I could completely see living and breathing in one of my classes.  I felt for her.  In the book, she talks about being "air".  She doesn't want anyone to notice her or call attention and she knows that no one really does.  She is "air".  So fitting for so many kids I see each day.  Sad by true.  This is a book I could hand to them, and help them see themselves in a story.  My daughter would have related to her!  

Now the plot - I did have to set aside my teacher mind a bit and let go of some of the stuff with Captain Superlative.  I just know some might now have happened in real life BUT I was ok with that! I loved Captain Superlative too.  I wish there could be more like her.  I liked her theory about starting small doing good things and then making it a habit.  I think it's an idea that would connect with kids.  

Can I just say one of my other favorite characters was Janey's dad! What a positive parental role-model in a book.  He was fantastic.  So much could've been done differently with his role after Janey's mother died - so many stereotypical things.  But instead, Puller choose to make he a great dad that did the right thing and loved his daughter fully.  I just love that kids could see him in this story and learn from him.  He was the right amount of wise father without being too much. 

I won't say too much about the plot because it really needs to be revealed to each reader.  I'll just say that it's a story that kids need because it's something they deal with and see.  All of it - the bullying, the secrets, friendship - everything.  Is it serious at a point?  Yup, but not every kid has a life that is easy.  They need to see themselves in the story.  And maybe - to help them understand the world around them - they need stories like this too see and understand what is not a part of their life.  

In short: Loved it.  Will be recommending it to several kids I know. 
Library? Yes, I would add it in a heartbeat. 

May 9, 2018

What I Leave Behind by Allison McGhee Blog Tour: Guest Post +GIVEAWAY

Super excited today to be a part of the blog tour for 

What I Leave Behind by Allison McGhee!

The tour is hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 


After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each. Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house. When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn't left early— it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

About the Author
Alison  McGhee writes novels, picture books,  poems, and essays for all ages,  including the forthcoming novel  Never  Coming  Back  (out in October  2017) and the #1 NEW  YORK  TIMES  bestseller  SOMEDAY, illustrated by Peter  H.  Reynolds.  Her work has been translated into more than 20  languages.  She lives in  Minneapolis, California, and Vermont. 

I was able to ask Allison to share her thoughts on a topic for a blog post. Since I'm a middle school media specialist I know kids always want to know what authors were like in middle school. Here's what Allison had to say.

What was I like in middle school? I was full of happiness. I grew up way out in the country, and I loved it. I loved waking up to the sun coming up over the pine woods across the road. I loved making hay forts in the barn and keeping them secret from my sisters and brother. I loved building a treehouse that no one but me was strong and agile enough to climb into. I loved reading and writing and dreaming up worlds in my imagination.

I was full of doubt. Will I ever stop growing (I grew six inches in eighth grade)? Why are my toes so long? Does my hair look good? Should I have gotten different glasses?
I was full of sadness. My best friend in the world moved to Florida, and I missed her terribly.

I was full of questions. Why are there so many cliques? What is my place in the world and how do I figure it out? Is there a world beyond this one, and was there a world before this one, and did I live before?

I was full of anger and heartbreak. I rode the school bus to school, and it was a horror show of cruelty. Kids were so mean to each other, especially the ones who couldn’t fight back and had no resources of sharp tongue or humor to help them get by. The driver encouraged their meanness. In school, kids could be so mean to each other. Bullying was common. I tried to be kind, and I tried to defend, but I could never do enough. The injustice of the world was mirrored in middle school.

I was full of love. I loved my mother and father. I loved my sisters even though I wasn’t entirely sure they loved me back. I loved my little brother. I loved our dogs and cats. I loved my friends, and I loved the woods and the fields, and I loved the big sky and the smells of the earth and the clothes on the line and dinner cooking. I loved the sense that the world was full of possibility, and my life and everything I would do in it was also part of that possibility.

I absolutely love everything about this guest post! Especially the "full of anger and heartbreak". I know that for some kids the two toughest times of the school day are lunch and the bus ride. I hurt for some kids know what they face as they step on that bus. It's the one thing I wish I could stop forever as a teacher!

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