Monday, September 16, 2019

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for My Jasper June, by Laurel Snyder. I was so excited to be asked to join this tour, as I read my advance copy of the book this past June. I was in the middle of my own life changes (a huge move across the country), and the beauty of the writing and the friendship within were just what I needed along the way. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom and enter for a chance to win a copy of this book - which will be sent to the winner by the publisher. 

My Thoughts:
When your life has changed drastically, as Leah's life has when we first meet her, you can feel like you've been left behind by everyone to whom you had been deeply connected. Leah is clearly walking around in a daze. In her numbness, she's narrating her life inside her head, instead of really feeling anything. Snyder does a wonderful job of showing that to us, and I immediately felt the ache of her loss of normalcy. Leah glides through neighborhood and friendship traditions, but she knows she just doesn't fit anymore. "I had been a part of something, a puzzle piece, and now it was like a bit of me had broken off and I didn't fit the puzzle anymore."

I love how deeply we feel this loss with her. We see her acknowledge the changes, and we see her decide to let go of old friendships and connections that just aren't working anymore.

The best part for me, though, was seeing the power of the hope she feels once she meets Jasper. The magical friendship that hadn't been part of her old life gave her the chance to begin to make new choices. When Leah takes the tiny step of sharing her name with Jasper, I knew she was on the path to a new beginning.

Another thing I appreciated about this book was how no one was the "bad guy". Leah's parents were loving and human. The way they coped with their family's loss was unhelpful for Leah, but didn't come from a place of trying to harm her. They were hurting too, and it took the outside influence of Jasper's own situation to snap them out of it. Leah's friends and neighbors were also just trying their best. The truth is that no one really knows how to help someone who is grieving, and so a lot of us get it wrong. I was thankful for those portrayals in the story and I hope that it will help me - and all of those who read the book - as we attempt to be there for those we love in times of loss.

Losses separate us. Secrets separate us. Numbness separates us. Yet there will come a time when something will crack and let the light in. My Jasper June shows us that we can be the light that slips into those cracks, as long as we are looking for them.

Who will love this book?
Honestly, I think there is something in this book that is so desperately needed for all of the upper elementary and early middle school students I've ever taught. Currently, I can think of a few students I would like to immediately give it to. Those are my students who hunger for what they call "real stories". They really want stories about regular kids working through real life situations. Hand it to them first.

If you are giving this book to a child who loves to write, be sure to have them read Laurel Snyder's blog post about this book. It is called "FAILURE IF YOU LET IT: A TALE OF EXTREME REVISION".

How can I use this book in the classroom?
I'm so glad you asked! My Jasper June would make a wonderful read-aloud that showcases the power of beautiful writing as well as empathy and friendship. It would also be fabulous for small book groups. Walden Pond Press has a teacher's guide available that has some excellent discussion questions and activities you can use as a starting point.

About the Book
Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with another unforgettable story of the moments in which we find out who we are, and the life-altering friendships that show us what we can be.

The school year is over, and it is summer in Atlanta. The sky is blue, the sun is blazing, and the days brim with possibility. But Leah feels. . . lost. She has been this way since one terrible afternoon a year ago, when everything changed. Since that day, her parents have become distant, her friends have fallen away, and Leah’s been adrift and alone.

Then she meets Jasper, a girl unlike anyone she has ever known. There’s something mysterious about Jasper, almost magical. And Jasper, Leah discovers, is also lost.

Together, the two girls carve out a place for themselves, a hideaway in the overgrown spaces of Atlanta, away from their parents and their hardships, somewhere only they can find.

But as the days of this magical June start to draw to a close, and the darker realities of their lives intrude once more, Leah and Jasper have to decide how real their friendship is, and whether it can be enough to save them both.

R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder, had this to say: "This book is a treasure -- a touching story of friendship, loss, and finding beauty in the everyday, with characters who stay with you long after you've turned the final page. I absolutely loved it." 

About the Author
Laurel Snyder is the author of picture books and novels for children, including National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at

Visit other stops on the Blog Tour...
September 4 Open Book Reviews
September 5 Teachers Who Read
September 6 Nerdy Book Club
September 9 Read Wonder
September 10 About to Mock
September 11 Novel Novice
September 12 Create Explore Read
September 13 Book Monsters
September 16 Maria's Melange
September 17 Writer's Rumpus
September 18 Bluestocking Thinking
September 19 Storymamas
September 20 Amber Kuehler

I was given an advance copy of this book by the publisher, Walden Pond Press. The thoughts in this post are my own opinions. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Library of Ever - Author Q&A

I read this fun adventure while on the plane heading toward my OWN adventure. You see, I'm a lifelong Pennsylvania gal who is moving to Austin, TX this summer. I'm sure I'll need to hit up my new local library to learn more about my new home, and I also had some questions for the author. Read his fun responses below!

Who longs for all the knowledge of the universe at their fingertips? Who KNOWS they would make an excellent Librarian, even if they need to start as "Fourth Assistant Apprentice"? Who loves maps and penguins and tardigrades and ... well, you get the idea.

Is that you? Is that a child you adore or a student in your classroom? If so, then The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander is the perfect book for you!


1) Do you have a special library memory? I'll share some of mine below, but I'd love to hear about yours!

I have many, as I was fortunate to live near a wonderful library when I was a young child. One of them is a memory of seeing Halley’s Comet at an evening viewing arranged by the librarians. This has nothing to do with books, or even being inside the library, but a simple memory of an experience the library provided outdoors at night, and likely another step on the road toward my lifelong love of astronomy. We become whoever we are because of moments like these. Telescopes make an appearance in The Library of Ever as a result. Most everything in the background of the story comes from one of my personal library experiences.

2) What is your favorite "world library"? Are there any you'd love to visit but haven't been to yet?
There are an infinite number I’d like to visit (as they keep making new ones, fortunately). That is impossible, but I’ll do my best. One of my favorite library visits was to the Haus Potsdamer Straße library in Berlin, which was such a memorable setting in Wim Wender’s film The Wings of Desire, with angels reading over the shoulders of patrons and listening to their thoughts. ( for a clip)

3) I love how maps figure prominently in the book as well. Do you have any favorite maps? Are they real world or from books?
I have many books of maps, of both real and imaginary places. Some of the books have imaginary maps of real places, because we have very little to go on as to what those places actually looked like. Many of these maps can be found on the walls of the Cartography section through which Lenora adventures in the Library.

4) What were some of your sources of inspiration for this book?

The dreamworld logic of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the fantastic cityscapes found in Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.

5) What snacks do you like while reading and/or writing?
Coffee, coffee, coffee. Coffee makes an appearance in Book Two of The Library of Ever series — Rebel in the Library of Ever, launching in April 2020. I never eat until after my morning’s writing is finished!

Kaylee knows SHE would make a fabulous Librarian!
As promised - here are some of my own favorite library moments..

1) Walking to my local library on weekends and many days over the summer. It wasn't a close walk - a bit over a mile - but it was worth it.
2) Summer library programs. We even did plays each year - and one year I got to be the ring leader for a Three Ring Circus themed production.
3) Visiting the Trinity College Library in Dublin. Seeing the Book of Kells wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped, due to big crowds, but walking through the rest of the library was an almost religious experience.

Check out more information, as well as some excellent quotes and reviews, on the Macmillan site..

(I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not influence my review)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Blog Tour for Finding Orion by John David Anderson

As always, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of John David Anderson's latest book. I've enjoyed everything he's written - and I've participated in blog tours to celebrate almost all of them! Take a look at the synopsis of the book, then check out my thoughts about this latest release.

FINDING ORION by John David Anderson
Publishing on May 7, 2019 by Walden Pond Press, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-26489-6

(Overview from publisher)
Sometimes you need to lose something in order to find yourself.

Beloved author John David Anderson returns with a heartwarming, heartbreaking and unforgettable story of the true power and limits of family.

Ron Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jelly beans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always onstage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.

He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays, handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially since his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.

Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but fell that that’s not the end of the story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.

He doesn’t know how right he is.

My Thoughts...

I'm a sucker for quirky kids, and this family really earns the name Kwirk. I also love the kids who want to NOT be seen as quite as unusual -- and the kids who sometimes straddle that line. I loved how we slowly learned more about Rion's grandfather, and I think my students will also love the slightly mysterious path the family takes on that journey. 

Personally - I adored Rion's mother. I think it's great to be able to share a book with students where we all can find deep connections. Rion's mother's love for space brought me back to my childhood passion for NASA. (Yes, I have a favorite constellation and it is ORION. I also idolized Sally Ride.) 

Anderson nails both the humor and the tender emotions in this story. This is a loving family that has some normal and not-so-normal challenges. This is a story about how we may not really know what we think we know about our families. Maybe Rion's story will help us learn to open our eyes and hearts to those around us. To really SEE them for all of their complexities and foibles. To assume less and accept more. To seek and find the good hearted reasons behind behaviors we may not like or understand. After all, aren't more acceptance and understanding some of the best outcomes from a good book?

This would be a WONDERFUL title for a small group read, for a read-aloud, or to hand off to any child who is looking for a realistic fiction title with humor and heart. 

About the Author

John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s never eaten seven scoops of ice cream in a single sitting, but he thinks it sounds like a terrific idea. You can visit him online at

Check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Blog Tour May 6-14 2019
May 6 Nerdy Book Club
May 7 Bluestocking Thinking
May 8 The Book Monsters
May 9 Maria’s Melange
May 13 This Kid Reviews Books
May 14 Kirsti Call
Unleashing Readers

**I received a free, advance copy of this book from the publisher. This did not impact my review of the book**

My posts for his other titles...

Dungeoneers (Q&A)Dungeoneers (fun author post)
Sidekicked (review) .    Sidekicked (fun author post) 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly - Blog Tour

Welcome to the latest stop on the blog tour for 
The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly!

(from publisher)

Charlie O’Reilly is an only child. Which is why it makes everyone uncomfortable when he talks about his brother.

Liam. His eight-year-old kid brother, who, up until a year ago, slept in the bunk above Charlie, took pride in being as annoying as possible, and was the only person who could make Charlie laugh until it hurt.

Then came the morning when the bunk, and Liam, disappeared forever. No one even remembers him—not Charlie’s mother, who has been lost in her own troubles; and not Charlie’s father, who is gone frequently on business trips. The only person who believes Charlie is his best friend, Ana—even if she has no memory of Liam, she is as determined as Charlie is to figure out what happened to him.

The search seems hopeless—until Charlie receives a mysterious note, written in Liam’s handwriting. The note leads Charlie and Ana to make some profound discoveries about a magic they didn’t know existed, and they soon realize that if they’re going to save Liam, they may need to risk being forgotten themselves, forever.

My Thoughts:

I know so many people have started out their review of this book by pointing to the opening - but I'm going to jump on that as well. I mean - the first page of a story is SO IMPORTANT. It sets the tone. It dumps us into the world the author has created. It hooks a reader. Ansari does all of that from the very first page. 

After reading just one page ...

     -- We know
There is a weirdly mysterious event in Charlie's life.
Charlie's relationship with his little brother sounds like one almost any sibling could recognize.
Charlie is organized, stubborn, and sure of what he knows to be true.

     -- We wonder
If Liam really exists. Did Charlie make him up, or is everyone else missing this piece?

I loved how the story explored themes of guilt, regret, trust, and forgiveness in both children and adults. I loved the friendship between the main character and his best friend Ana. I love how she supports him even though she also doesn't remember his brother Liam. 

My one caution to adults is to make sure students also have other stories or information that talk about depression. Charlie's mother's depression in this story feels very real in many ways, but the resolution (without giving too much away) is often not how things end for those with depression. It works for this story, absolutely, but I'd want to make sure kids understand that depression in the real world has many causes and many long paths to recovery or remission. 

The story itself is filled with places I stopped and wondered about what, exactly, was happening. As little tidbits become clearer, it was fun to think back on the clues Ansari left for us along the way. I love stories like that. Stories where I can also help students really dig back to see the kind of craft authors use to set us up for a surprise that also "clicks" as it happens. 

Overall, The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly is a book I can't wait to get into my classroom. It's filled with mystery, suspense, creepy vibes, and friendship. I look forward to seeing how my students react to this novel! 


Rebecca K.S. Ansari is a former ER doctor. The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly is her first book. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, four sons, and some seriously massive pets.

Teacher's Guide

Don't miss any pieces of the blog tour!!

March 8 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
March 9 The Book Monsters @TheBookMonsters
March 11 LitCoach Lou @litcoachlou
March 12 Bluestocking Thinking @BlueSockGirl
March 13 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust @bethshaum
March 14 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke
March 15 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders
March 18 March Middle Grade Madness at Word Spelunking @wordspelunker
March 29 Writers’ Rumpus @kirsticall

Disclaimer - I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to publish this review, and receiving the copy did not alter my thoughts on the book!

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu Blog Tour

As I was beginning to mentally process what I wanted to share about this amazing book, there was a flurry of social media activity about it. Anne Ursu posted a lovely photo of a stack of author copies of Lost Girl and received a response of “Excellent. But how do we keep boys reading?”. That response was from a man - but I have seen similar thoughts expressed by women. This exchange prompted a storm of responses, and I think it is important to remember one vital thing…


Oh, I’m sorry --- was I shouting? Yes…. yes…. I was shouting.

Will boys read books about girls? Yes… yes they will. As long as WE don’t make it an issue. How do we book talk a book? Do we say “This is a book girls will like?” If so… we need to knock that crap off.

So - how could you book talk Lost Girl in a way that will interest your readers?

“The Lost Girl is about a set identical twins. Twins who support each other. Twins who are identical only in appearance. Twins who know they have “better outcomes when they are together”. Then comes the year when the adults in their lives decide they need to learn to be apart. It’s a challenging start to the first school year with different teachers, different after school activities, and strange events. This is a story with a giant crow, an opinionated cat, an ogre for a teacher, and a hint of magic. This is a story about finding yourself, finding your voice, and finding your friends. This is a story for everyone.”

See? How hard is that? I didn’t even mention gender in that book blurb.

Now - it IS TRUE that this is also a book about girl power. It’s about girls who find their power, and about girls who knew they had power all along. But we expect girls to read books about boys finding their power all the time (*cough* Hero’s Journey *cough*). Why don’t we have the same expectations for boys?

When you have a moment, go ahead and read this blog post that Anne Ursu wrote in 2013 about this topic. On Gender and Boys Read Panels (Gah…. maybe someday we’ll stop having to talk about this!!)

I was going to blather on and on about all the things I loved about this book… but I think I can keep it simple…

-- Do your readers like a hint of magic in a real world setting? They’ll like this book.

-- Do they like stories about how sometimes adults mess things up because they don’t really understand a kid’s perspective? They’ll like this book.

-- Do they like stories with intriguing narrators, odd animals, and mystery? They’ll like this book.

-- Do they like books with creative kids, smart kids, and kids who sometimes make mistakes and need to make amends? They'll like this book.

-- Do they care if the word “boy” or “girl” is in the title? It’s your job to help them shed that misconception. They’ll like this book. (Oh, and P.S. -- I also loved her book called The Real Boy… and I recommended it to ALL my readers - not just boys. Read my review of that one as well)


Once upon a time, there were two sisters, alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different.

When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it’s decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them: things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.


Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. She is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at


“The Lost Girl is a jewel of a book—hard, bright, sharp, and precious. It reminds us of the boundless and subversive power of sisterhood and the inherent magic of girls.”—Kelly Barnhill, Newbery-Medal winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“I raced through The Lost Girl, breathless. And when I was finished, I found myself full of hope. It’s a beautiful, riveting, important book.”—Laurel Snyder, award-winning author of Orphan Island

“When the world makes no sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. When the world makes all the wrong kinds of sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. If you crave a story with the wit, wisdom, and magic to unriddle the world, then you need to read The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.”—William Alexander, award-winning author of A Festival of Ghosts

“A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories.” Booklist (starred review)


FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
MONDAY FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 10: Fat Girl Reading
MONDAY FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club

Disclosure - I received a copy of the ARC from the publisher. This did not impact my review of the book.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Perilous Journey Q&A with Christopher Healy -- Bonus Post!

I'm so excited to share a Q&A with Christopher Healy! I loved this book so much that I just got three copies so I can use it with a small group. I plan to pull in nonfiction about women in science as we read the story. You can see some of my suggestions, along with a description of the book, at my previous post....

Questions and Answers....

1) Which inventors or ground-breaking scientists inspired you the most? Was there any fun information you learned while researching for your book that you'd like to share with my blog readers?

Honestly, I find the women in the book most inspirational. Take Margaret Knight, for instance. She had over 80 US patents. The woman must have been inventing nonstop! And all different kinds of creations too—from lid-removing pliers to combustion engines. All of which is even more impressive when you consider all the obstacles that were facing her as a woman in the 1880s. She almost didn’t get credit for her most famous invention—the flat-bottomed paper bag, which we still use today—because a man stole her designs and tried to patent them for himself. Thankfully, Knight fought him for rights to the invention and won.

Hmm, that’s not exactly a fun fact, though. Okay, here’s a fun one: In Thomas Edison’s laboratory, he kept jars of stuff that made it sound like he was mixing magic potions. He had cocoons, deer horns, tortoise shells, various kinds of hooves, and hair of humans, horses, hogs, cows, rabbits, goats, minx, camels, and more. That’s fun, right? Or maybe just weird.

2) Do you have any pressing problems you think we need an invention to help us solve? What ideas would you have to solve them?

Backpacks are a problem! They’re so heavy. They make our backs hurt. So how about a backpack with built in massager to relieve the pain the backpack itself is causing? I’d buy that!

3) I love the humor in your books.... so can you give us the real scoop.... how do you nail the funny lines? Do they come as you write or do you need a bunch of revisions to really refine them?

Believe it or not, I think that the faster I write, the funnier the stuff I come up with. Other people may beg to differ, depending on their sense of humor, but I find that the lines that make me laugh the most (and yes, I do laugh—audibly— while writing), tend to come when I’m in a real groove, fingers pounding rapidly at the keyboard, and the words are flowing freely without a lot of thought. The majority of what I write when I write fast like that will probably end up needing to be revised—but the laugh lines will shine. The really good jokes don’t tend to materialize for me when I’m sitting silently, working my brain hard to come up with exactly the right words. That’s when the good plot twists come.

4) Can you give us a glimpse into your writing process? My students love to hear about how authors work!

I tend to write in layers. I start with a very basic outline—just bullet points, not even full sentences. I might outline a single chapter this way or an entire novel. Then I go back and add some connective tissue so that those basic points I want to hit have some way of fitting together. Then I go back another time and add in some necessary details, maybe a few key bits of dialogue. It’s still pretty sketchy at this point, but it’s a decent quick synopsis of what I want to happen. Then I go back to the beginning again and do all dialogue, almost like I’m writing a script (that’s usually the fast writing when the funny comes). Then I layer that dialogue into my sketchy plot, and fix everything into full sentences with functioning grammar and good stuff like that. Then I go back again and add even more details. Then I add another layer. And another. This continues until I have a finished piece of writing worthy of being read by another human being.

-- I love audiobooks. Reading with my ears makes all my drives more entertaining. Check out a clip from the audiobook here! Audiobook Clip

Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, as well as its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at

Friday, September 28, 2018

A PERILOUS JOURNEY OF DANGER & MAYHEM - nonfiction connections and educator guide sneak peek

By Christopher Healy

Publication Date September 25 2018
ISBN: 978-06-234197
It is 1883—the Age of Invention! A time when great men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicola Tesla, and George Eastman work to turn the country into a mechanical-electrical-industrial marvel: a land of limitless opportunity. And it all happens at the world famous Inventors Guild headquarters in New York City—a place where a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck can find you rubbing elbows with these gods of industry who will usher humanity into the bright promise of the future.

Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Molly Pepper, daughter of brilliant but unknown inventor Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother in New York. By day, they make ends meet running a small pickle shop; but by night, they toil and dream of Cassandra shattering the glass ceiling of the Inventors Guild and taking her place among the most famous inventors in America. In an attempt to find a way to exhibit Cassandra’s work at the 1883 World’s Fair, they break into the Inventors Guild—and discover a mysterious and dastardly plot to destroy New York. The evidence points to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous inventors, and now it’s up to Molly, Cassandra, and a shop hand named Emmett Lee to uncover the truth—even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed Hero’s Guide series, returns with the first book in a rip-roaring adventure about the inventors history remembers—and more than a few that it’s forgotten.

My Thoughts:
The missing contributions from women through the ages has been on my mind quite a lot over the past few years. I read Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone a few years ago and almost lost my mind. I was OBSESSED with the space program as a young girl in the 80s, and I had NEVER been told about the women who tried to join the space program in its earliest stages. Then Hidden Figures hit the big screen and I lost it again! Thankfully, it seems like we are entering an age of finally getting off our butts to acknowledge many of the women who have helped shape our world. I know my head will continue to explode as I learn about and share the lives of so many of these women with my students.

So this fictional tale of women inventors was right up my alley. It is filled with the kind of snarky humor I've come to love from Healy. My students and I adored that about his Hero's Guide series. The story is fun, adventurous, and clearly makes its point about how the competence of women has been ignored. Healy also manages to toss in a TON of references to real people and places from the time period. I think this will be a wonderful way to guide kids to some of that nonfiction! 

On that note, here is a photo of some of those books - these are the ones I was able to easily grab off of my classroom library shelf at work.

I also wanted to add a book about Nellie Bly. I was so excited to see her mentioned in A Dastardly Plot! I don't own a book about her - yet - but I tapped my favorite Lois Lane author (Gwenda Bond) to get a recommendation. She recommends this one if you want to learn more about Nellie. It is listed as being for middle grade readers, and I know I plan to snag a copy for myself!

There will also be an educator's guide to go along with Dastardly Plot. It is awaiting final approval to be uploaded to the Walden Pond site, but I got a sneak peek of it for this blog post. I'm sure you'd also love a glimpse, right?

There are discussion questions that range from exploration of character traits to relationships between the characters to helping students understand the history of women's struggles to gain equal status in America. I love how the questions include rich language from the text, and how many of them also include specific quotes to help students dig back into the story for evidence to help them in their discussion.

There are also extension activities, including this one that has a link to a video about the Brooklyn Bridge! 

Definitely check out the full educator guide once it goes live! 

Meet the author...

Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, as well as its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at