Saturday, August 28, 2021

Stowaway by John David Anderson Blog Tour

Science fiction is a powerful genre. It allows our minds to travel into the unknown - exploring the things we think or believe may one day be possible through science. While we are there, we can contemplate philosophical and moral issues from our own day, but from the safety of a future "what if" scenario. Back in my very early blogging days (2012 seems like a lifetime ago, right?), I posted about the power of "what if" and science fiction. There are not nearly as many science fiction books published for middle grade readers as there should be!

I've loved every book I've read by John David Anderson, so when I heard that he was putting out the first book in a science fiction duology for middle grade readers, I jumped at the chance to read an ARC and share my thoughts about the book. 

Here is the publisher's summary:

About the Book:

The beloved author of Posted and Ms. Bixby's Last Day returns with the first book in a coming-of-age sci-fi duology about Leo, a kid trying to navigate the galaxy in order to save his family—and, possibly, the planet Earth.

When scientists discover a rare and mysterious mineral buried in the Earth’s crust, they have no idea that it just happens to be the most valuable substance in the entire universe. It’s not long before aliens show up to our little corner of the galaxy offering a promise of protection, some fabulous new technology, and entry into their intergalactic coalition—all in exchange for this precious resource. A material so precious that other alien forces are willing to start a war over it. A war that soon makes its way to Earth.

Leo knows this all too well. His mother was killed in one such attack, and soon after, his father, a Coalition scientist, decides it would be best for them to leave Earth behind. It’s on this expedition that their ship is attacked, Leo’s father is kidnapped, and Leo and his brother are stranded in the middle of space. The only chance they have is for Leo to stow away on a strange ship of mercenary space pirates bound for who knows where and beg the captain to help him find his father.

But the road is dangerous, and pirates, of course, only look out for themselves. Leo must decide who to trust as he tries to stay alive and save his family, even as he comes to understand that there aren’t many people—human or alien—that he can count on in this brave new universe.

My Thoughts:

I was the kid who made up and drew aliens in elementary school. I was the kid who brought home so many books about astronomy- and got my first paycheck for writing a review of one for a children's magazine. I was the kid who claimed to be "from Saturn" when my friends pointed out my weirdness. My inner child was delighted by this book. I haven't drawn anything in *coughs* quite a few years... but I was itching to pull out a set of colored pencils so I could draw some of the aliens I met along the way. 

Middle grade readers looking for an adventurous romp through the galaxy will love the energy and pacing of this tale. Readers who enjoy witty interactions between the cast of characters will find rewarding repartee in every chapter. Do they love figuring out little mysteries? Stowaway's story gives them the chance to piece together what happened on Earth through flashbacks. It also builds in a little surprise that some of those readers may not have anticipated, but will give others that satisfying "I KNEW it!" moment. 

Some students will be drawn to the tech and science in Stowaway. Maybe they'll decide to investigate more about the possibility of faster than light travel. Maybe the idea of new elements that could power our future will catch their eyes. Conservation minded kids will notice themes that weave throughout the tale - on Earth and on many other planets described and visited. 

Are you a teacher thinking of adding in a science fiction read-aloud in your elementary classroom this year? Stowaway would be a wonderful choice to introduce the genre, but will also engage and satisfy students who already love science fiction! You'll also find many "old Earth references" to entertain you and your class along the way.  

About the Author:
John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, One Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at

My personal side note "about the author". This is one seriously geeky guy. In ALL the best ways - and I mean that. He's taken time to connect with my students. He cracks me up. And I think he shares about 90% of my childhood and adolescent SciFi Fandoms. If you want to see what I mean, check out this post he wrote for Nerdy Book Club about the seeds of fandoms that helped him grow into writing Stowaway. Star Wars -- check. Wrinkle in Time -- check. Douglas Adams -- check.... Last Starfighter..... Okay, you get the idea. 

Check out other books by John David Anderson that I've posted about on my blog: 

Disclaimer: I received free access from the publisher to a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts about the novel.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The House That Wasn't There -- Blog Tour

 Welcome to the next stop of the blog tour for The House that Wasn't There, by Elana K. Arnold!

I'm so excited to share my thoughts with you about this amazing new book!

About the Book (from the publisher)

Alder has always lived in his cozy little house in Southern California.

And for as long as he can remember, the old, reliable, comforting walnut tree has stood between his house and the one next door.


That is, until a new family—with a particularly annoying girl his age—moves into the neighboring house and, without warning, cuts the tree down.


Oak doesn’t understand why her family had to move to Southern California. She has to attend a new school, find new friends, and live in a new house that isn’t even ready—her mother had to cut down a tree on their property line in order to make room for a second floor. And now a strange boy next door won’t stop staring at her, like she did something wrong moving here in the first place.


As Oak and Alder start school together, they can’t imagine ever becoming friends. But the two of them soon discover a series of connections between them—mysterious, possibly even magical puzzles they can’t put together.


At least not without each other’s help.


Award-winning author Elana K. Arnold returns with an unforgettable story of the strange, wondrous threads that run between all of us, whether we know they’re there or not.

My Thoughts:

This last year of quarantining has been really hard on my ability to focus on books, but I devoured this one. It was filled with the absolute realities of life as a sixth grader, with all of the awkwardness and self-discovery that I remember being so painful that year.  

The counterpoint, which my current and former weird self adored, was a story of teleporting kittens. Yes, you read that correctly. Teleporting kittens! I mean... what could be better? 

A mysterious house that both exists and doesn't exist? We have that. 

A taxidermied opossum named Mort purchased from the Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop? Umm..... yeah. We have that too. (And now I have a new spot on my bucket list, since that shop actually exists.)

In addition to all of the wonderfully quirky items mentioned above, this novel is packed with so much heart. Alder is sweet, sensitive, and loving. His knitting earns bonus points from this yarn lover, and I adore how his hobby becomes a sweet part of his personal journey in friend making. Oak's struggles to settle into her new home and learn to stand up for her needs with her mother resonate. So many kids at this age just want their parents to listen, right? 

The mysterious and the ordinary intertwine in ways that just feel right. In the end, the truths that are uncovered about friendship, family, and growing up lead to a fun and satisfying ending.

I highly recommend this book for middle grade readers, and will be book talking it with my own middle grade students.


Want to hear about another great series by Elana K. Arnold? Check out my blog posts about A Boy Called Bat and Bat and the Waiting Game. This series features a sweet main character named Bat - who loves animals a lot! Great for younger readers. I didn't blog about it, but Damsel was also amazing (best for older readers). Apparently I had a photo of my cat with this book from when I read it!

About the Author:

Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.

Be sure to visit the other stops on the Blog Tour!

March 28 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub

March 29 YAYOMG @yayomgofficial

March 30 Unleashing Readers @UnleashReaders

March 31 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read

April 2 Maria's Mélange @mariaselke

April 7 Bluestocking Thinking @BlueSockGirl

April 10 A Library Mama @librarymama

April 12 Storymamas @storymamas

I received a free early copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not influence my opinions about the novel.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Blog Tour for The In-Between by Rebecca KS Ansari

 Welcome to this stop of the Blog Tour for The In-Between by Rebecca K. S. Ansari!

First, let's take a look at the book synopsis from the publisher:

A dark, twisty adventure about the forgotten among us and what it means to be seen, from the acclaimed author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly.

Cooper is lost. Ever since his father left their family three years ago, he has become distant from his friends, constantly annoyed by his little sister, Jess, and completely fed up with the pale, creepy rich girl who moved in next door and won’t stop staring at him. So when Cooper learns of an unsolved mystery his sister has discovered online, he welcomes the distraction.

It’s the tale of a deadly train crash that occurred a hundred years ago, in which one young boy among the dead was never identified. The only distinguishing mark on him was a strange insignia on his suit coat, a symbol no one had seen before or since. Jess is fascinated by the mystery of the unknown child— because she’s seen the insignia. It’s the symbol of the jacket of the girl next door.

As they uncover more information— and mounting evidence of the girl’s seemingly impossible connection to the tragedy—Cooper and Jess begin to wonder if a similar disaster could be heading to their hometown.

My Thoughts: 

I mean - is it any wonder that I jumped on the opportunity to snag an advance copy of this book and share my thoughts with you? 

I've discovered that one of my favorite types of novels, for any age group, are those that weave a realistic setting with something "otherworldly". The In-Between definitely fits that bill.  

The realistic part of the story is filled with heart and empathy. Cooper's anger and detachment from his old friends feels deeply true. When you go through something as challenging as he has, with his complete loss of his father to his "new family", it can be almost impossible to face the people who knew you before. Ansari does a good job showing that this disconnect wasn't really anyone's fault. His old best friend keeps reaching out gently, but Cooper just isn't ready yet. When a new student, Gus, shows up on the bus, I felt so happy for Cooper to have that opportunity to make a new connection. In this way, the emotional heart of the story reminded me a lot of My Jasper June, by Laurel Snyder. (Which I also loved!)

Cooper's mother and sister are deftly written and understandable. The normal sibling conflict between Cooper and his sister, Jess, is made more challenging by their parents' divorce and Jess' recent diabetes diagnosis. While we don't really learn what happened to make their father abandon them, it was refreshing to see the message reinforced that sometimes the best thing for our own mental health can be to let people go. Cooper's mom is hard-working and needs to rely on Cooper to help support his sister. I loved how all of those things are just part of the fabric of their lives. Jess and Cooper's bond strengthens as they work to uncover more information about the mysterious deaths that Jess discovered. Sometimes an "annoying little sister" can become a valued friend. 

I'd love to share more about what I enjoyed about the mysterious and otherworldly elements, but I don't want to spoil anything for you! The girl next door is tied to the title of the novel, and the concept of the "In-Between" was deliciously spooky and intriguing. I was emotionally connected to Jess, Cooper, and Gus enough to feel genuine anxiety as they faced their final challenges. The ending felt satisfying, hopeful, and true. Those things, to me, are the true measure whether or not I've connected with the story.

Don't just take my word for it! The quotes of praise you see here definitely reflect my feelings about The In-Between. 


About the Author:

Rebecca lives in a very loud house in Minneapolis with her husband, four boys, and her seriously massive pets. After twelve years as an ER doctor, she shed her scrubs to write magical and mysterious worlds for middle-grade readers. She is drawn to any story that evokes, "Please, Mom! Just one more chapter!" and she strives to craft the same. Rebecca was the winner of the Minnesota SCBWI Mentorship for 2015. When she isn't writing, you can find her biking, cooking or escaping "up north" with family, friends, and a stack of good books.

Blog Tour 1/27-2/2

January 27 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius
January 28 Michele Knott @knott_michele
January 29 Writer's Rumpus @writersrumpus
January 30 Maria's Melange @mariaselke
February 1 StoryMamas @storymamas
Charlotte's Library @charlotteslibrary
February 2 A Library Mama @alibrarymama
Iowa Amber Reads @iowaamberreads

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of the book for free from the publisher. This did not influence my thoughts about the book.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


I'm so excited to be able to show you this cover, y'all. Am I using that term correctly? I'm a relatively new transplant to Texas, and I'm still getting the hang of the terminology....

The photo to the right isn't the cover, of course. It's just the fun stuff I'm acquiring to decorate my house now that I'm a Texan....

Keep Scrolling down for the cover of the upcoming middle grade novel, The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas, by Kimberly Willis Holt....

 <-- Check out more information about the book here!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Blog Tour for One Last Shot by John David Anderson

I'm so excited to join the blog tour for John David Anderson's latest middle grade novel! Be sure to check out the giveaway toward the bottom of the post. Enter your information before May 21st to win a copy (sent from the publisher). 

by John David Anderson, published by Walden Pond Press, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 978-0062643926

About the book: (summary from publisher)

The beloved author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted returns with a humorous, heartwarming story of family, friendship, and miniature golf.

For as long as he can remember, Malcolm has never felt like he was good enough. Not for his parents, who have always seemed at odds with each other, with Malcolm caught in between. And especially not for his dad, whose competitive drive and love for sports Malcolm has never shared.

That is, until Malcolm discovers miniature golf, the one sport he actually enjoys. Maybe it’s the way in which every hole is a puzzle to be solved. Or the whimsy of the windmills and waterfalls that decorate the course. Or maybe it’s the slushies at the snack bar. But whatever the reason, something about mini golf just clicks for Malcolm. And best of all, it’s a sport his dad can’t possibly obsess over.

Or so Malcolm thinks.

Soon he is signed up for lessons and entered in tournaments. And yet, even as he becomes a better golfer and finds unexpected friends at the local course, be wonders if he might not always be a disappointment. But as the final match of the year draws closer, the tension between Malcolm’s parents reaches a breaking point, and it’s up to him to put the puzzle of his family back together again.

My Thoughts: 

Quarantine was supposed to be a time for me to get so much reading done, right? Apparently my brain hasn't gotten that message. There have been a lot of books I've started but struggled to really fully immerse into. I'm happy to report that One Last Shot had a story that blasted right through that fuzziness in my brain. I loved it from start to finish.

The characters: I absolutely loved Malcolm. Anderson has a knack for creating main characters who are delightfully quirky. Malcolm is the kind of kid I would have enjoyed hanging out with as a kid (yeah, I was also kinda quirky). He's also the kind of kid I would adore having in my classroom now. He's kind, but doesn't always fit in well. He doesn't enjoy the things his father loves, but he struggles with admitting that because he doesn't want to hurt his dad's feelings. Of course, Malcolm isn't the only character I adored. He becomes friends with Lex, and it's the sweetest meeting and friendship ever. She's another odd duck that I'd love to have in class. I mean, I had a ton of cool pins when I was her age, too. I wonder if she'd trade pins with me? (Fun side fact - my favorite pin *I* owned as a tween was one that said "I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person)

The structure: I'm a sucker for books that dive back and forth a bit in time. We experience the story with Malcolm as he's in a mini-golf competition, and we see all the things that led to this day along the way. I find that a structure like that keeps my interest high. I'll see a clue, and then later see how it all fits together. I think will also enjoy the structure.

Overall, this is a wonderful read. I highly recommend picking this book up for the middle grade readers in your life! (John David Anderson consistently puts out great novels. Scroll down to see links for reviews I've written for many of his other titles)

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!
May 4 Nerdy Book Club
May 7 Teachers Who Read
May 8 A Library Mama
Kirsti Call

May 10 Bluestocking Thinking
May 12 Unleashing Readers
May 13 Maria’s Mélange
May 14 The Book Monsters

**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) 

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Treacherous Seas by Christopher Healy Blog Tour

Welcome back to my blog - I'm so excited to tell you about Christopher Healy's latest release!

Remember this classic 80s commercial? If you aren't quite as old as me - take a quick peek. I'll wait...

Instead of "you got chocolate in my peanut butter".... I like to think of Healy's latest series as

"You got humor in my historical fiction! You got historical fiction in my humor!" 

Let me tell you- it's a delicious combination. 

Don't get me wrong - I do love regular historical fiction. I've read stories from so many time periods. Take me back to the middle ages to travel with a troubadour. Let me feel the fear of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Bring me the thrill of the early space program or the agony of watching the Berlin Wall go up. I'll read it all. But one thing that hasn't been a common factor of any of that powerful historical fiction is humor.

Healy has proven himself a master of the crack-me-up. His Hero's Guide series proved his ability to craft characters and plot that make me giggle. So when I picked up his first Danger and Mayhem book, I knew I was in for a treat. (My thoughts on book one (with nonfiction connections) 

The Treacherous Seas is the same kind of rip-roaring adventure tale. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves the age of inventors, adventure stories, learning about amazing women from the past, or even just kids who want to laugh. You'll get your dose of history in a spoonful of sugar... and that makes it go down easy! 

About the Book (text from the publisher) 

Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem #2: The Treacherous Seas
by Christopher Healy

It is 1883—only a few months after Molly Pepper, her mother, Cassandra, and her friend Emmett, saved New York from an attack by the megalomaniacal Ambrose Rector while managing to preserve the reputations of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, whose technology was manipulated in Rector’s scheme. Their selfless heroism will finally earn them a place in the Inventors’ Guild, alongside the greatest minds of their generation.

Unless, of course, no one knows that they did any of that. Left with nothing but empty promises and a struggling pickle shop after the government chooses to cover up the crisis, Molly, Cassandra, and Emmett have no idea where to turn—until they learn of a daring expedition to the South Pole, where an meteorite of mysterious power is embedded, and where Emmett’s father, explorer and ship captain Wendell Lee, disappeared years ago.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, our heroes commandeer an experimental seacraft to make their play on the pole. But the trip is more treacherous than they realize, and there’s no guarantee that they will return successful—if they even return at all.

About the Author:

Christopher Healy is the author of the novels A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem #1: A Dastardly Plot, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw and the picture book This Is Not That Kind Of Book. 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

Check out other Melange posts that feature Christopher Healy's work...

Be sure to visit the other stops on the BLOG TOUR!

November 6
December 2
December 3
December 4
December 5
December 6
December 17

Monday, October 28, 2019

If Elephants Disappeared -- Q&A with Lily Williams

I was so excited to be able to ask Lily Williams some questions for this blog post. It was even better because I was able to set aside some time to have my fifth grade students at ACE Academy (in Austin, TX) create the questions. We read Lily's first two books - If Polar Bears Disappeared and If Sharks Disappeared. Then we looked at some of the information on her author site to give us better ideas for questions. My students were fascinated. A few made the connection to some of the current activities going on around the world to call attention to climate change, and we had a good discussion about that.

I highly recommend all three of these picture book titles. The information is shared in a way that captivates kids and gets them excited about learning. The illustrations are amazing!

Here are the questions my students created, along with Lily's answers...

Do you use reference photos for illustrating?

A. I always do for my If Animals Disappeared series. Even though my style is "cartoony", it is crucial that the plants, animals, and ecosystems be accurate just like the words are scientifically accurate.

Do you have favorite snacks while working?
A. Fruit, probably. I love all fruit.

Have you always cared about environmental issues? What got you started?

A. I absolutely loved sharks my whole life and this series started with a set of infographics I made to help people understand why sharks are important. I wrote and illustrated it in a way where someone like myself (a person who has often struggled with traditional teaching methods) could understand. Then my editor saw them online and loved them and asked me to write a book, which turned into a series. So it all started with a desire to explain something to myself, out of a love for a favorite animal.

How do you plan out your illustrations?

A. I start with thumbnails which are very small, then I go to sketches, and then finals. I often collect my reference images when I am in the sketch phase so that when I go to final illustration, I have all of the reference images I need ready.

What do you hope students will do with this information after reading?
A. I hope it first sparks some thinking and discussion about our planet. Talking about issues is a great way to spread the word and maybe even educate those around you! I always include a list of things that kids can do in the back of the books so that they feel empowered by their own voice and ability to make a change after reading.

What do you plan for your next book? Have you already started?

A. I am almost finished with If Bees Disappeared!

How do you draft? (type, hand write)

A. A combination of both.

Who was your favorite author as a child?

A. Kevin Henkes, JK Rowling, and so many more... I have tons of favorites!

Check out Lily Williams' website for more information about her books, her art, and what she hopes we will all do with this information!

Since we created these questions, I received a copy of her newest book - If Elephants Disappeared. I can't wait to share that one with my students as well!

(I purchased my own copies of her first two books and received a copy of the third from the publisher.)