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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Train To Impossible Places Blog Tour - Author Guest Post

The Train to Impossible Places: A Cursed Delivery
by  P.G. Bell (Goodreads Author)

(Book description from Goodreads)
A train that travels through impossible places. A boy trapped in a snow globe. And a girl who’s about to go on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Impossible Postal Express is no ordinary train. It’s a troll-operated delivery service that runs 

My book loving kitties loved this
special delivery!
everywhere from ocean-bottom shipwrecks, to Trollville, to space.

But when this impossible train comes roaring through Suzy’s living room, her world turns upside down. After sneaking on board, Suzy suddenly finds herself Deputy Post Master aboard the train, and faced with her first delivery―to the evil Lady Crepuscula.

Then, the package itself begs Suzy not to deliver him. A talking snow globe, Frederick has information Crepuscula could use to take over the entire Union of Impossible Places. But when protecting Frederick means putting her friends in danger, Suzy has to make a difficult choice―with the fate of the entire Union at stake.

Post by P.G. Bell

I noticed in Peter’s author bio that he mentioned he is a fan of Doctor Who. Since I also love the Doctor, I asked Peter to let us know how his fandoms inspire his writing.

The things I love probably influence me in more ways than I realise, but there are a few things I drew on very deliberately when writing The Train To Impossible Places. If I've done my job properly, there's a healthy dose of Terry Pratchett's Discworld in the trolls and their weird, half magical, half industrial city of Trollville. I also did my best to echo bits of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams in the book's general tone. And my favourite TV show, Doctor Who, gets a few passing references as well!

Visit the other stops on the tour…

Post Master (Conductor)
Guest Post
Engine Room
Guest Post
Mail Room
Antique Goods Coach

Guest Post
I received an ARC of this book, but was under no obligation to post or review. I got no compensation for joining this blog tour. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Treasure of Mad Dog Magee Blog Tour -- with book and SKYPE giveaway!

Okay, friends.... this is such a good blog tour! Not because of anything I did, though. What I have for you is a SUPER fun Q&A with the author and an AMAZING giveaway. This giveaway includes FOUR signed copies of the book and a full class period SKYPE! I mean.... really... that's pretty cool!

Read this post, because this is one of the most fun sets of answers I've gotten from an author, and then be sure to go all the way down to the end to enter to win. (Prize provided by the publisher and the author.)

Published by Walden Pond Press
ISBN: 978-0062345134
The small, run-down town of Eden is the only place Jenny Burns has ever called home. The roots of the trees are in her bones, the air of the mountains is in her breath, the lakes and rivers are in her blood. And that’s why, when her father loses his job and tells Jenny that they may have to move on from Eden, she knows she can’t let that happen.
The fever of New Zealand’s Central Otago gold rush still runs in the veins of Eden, and everyone knows the legend of Doc Magee: how he found the largest gold nugget anyone had ever seen and hid it somewhere in the hills before he disappeared. Jenny and her best friend, Pandora, know that if they can find the gold it’ll solve all their problems. But the way is fraught with mysteries, riddles and danger—and those are just the threats they know about. Before her quest is over, Jenny will have to face challenges from within as well as from without.

And now for a Q&A with Elinor Teele!

Did any particular childhood fascinations help spark ideas for the story?

I learned about the broad outlines of the Otago Gold Rush during high school summers in Arrowtown—our family often used to hike up Sawpit Gully and similar tracks in Central Otago. At the time, I was woefully unfit, so my experiences of the mountains were more in the line of Pandora than Jenny. I’d visited the Lakes District Museum and seen the abandoned mining works along the rivers. (And listened over & over to Banjo Paterson’s bush poetry on the car trip from Christchurch.)

After I learned how to get up a mountain, I gained a deeper appreciation for the landscape that Jenny adores. When I was writing my doctoral thesis and working remotely, I spent a fair amount of hours rambling in the area. I particularly love the Arrow in the autumn.

But the idea for the book didn’t come together until I was on a road trip with my brother to the West Coast (of New Zealand). It was raining—just for a change—so we decided to duck our heads into the Hokitika Museum. It had a great display on the Gold Rush, including vignettes of its one-of-a-kind characters.

I briefly thought about centering the book on the West Coast, and then I realized, duh, there’s a diverse & fascinating history on your parents’ doorstep.

Note: If anyone’s interested, there are some wonderful New Zealand novels (for adults) about the South Island during the Gold Rush years.

What bits of research for this story were the most interesting for you? Was there anything that was especially hard to find out? Were there any cool tidbits you loved but weren't able to fit into the story?

When I started, I knew next to nothing about the Chinese-Kiwi experience in the 19th century. I’m still learning, but at least I’ve had a glimpse! It was a real pleasure to correspond with Charlie Chin, who acted as a consultant. I particularly enjoyed digging (pardon the pun) into Kam’s experience with his garden—what kinds of herbs & medicinal remedies he might have used, his ideas of balance & healing, even how he would have ordered seeds in the 1870s.

Kam is particularly close to my heart. He’s the oldest in his family, and a teenager, so I reckoned he would be hitting the big questions of adulthood. When you’re born in one country and grow up in another, how do you decide between obedience & honor & tradition (the old world) and freedom & nature & imagination (the new world)? How can you reconcile your dreams of independence with a father who valued Confucian ethics? That’s why Kam is relatively serious and careful in his speech. Thanks to advice from Shenwei Chang, his brother became more of a cheeky Kiwi kid.

In a perfect world, I would have liked to explore the experiences of the adult women—I wasn’t able to dive into all the diaries and letters written in the time period. In my head, there’s a three-part mini-series set in the Rush years that provides the entire backstory for Mrs. Quinn and Gentle Annie. I also have some ideas for the love story between Jenny’s mother and father.

I love unique chapter headings/quotes. Can you talk to us about how you chose yours?

Every chapter begins with an illustration and a quote from Galen’s Anatomy—it’s a textbook that plays a key part in the girls’ treasure hunt. Kids might notice that Galen is wryly commenting on the content of each chapter, particularly when the girls start exploring the territory.

For example, Chapter 10 begins with an illustration of the heart and Galen’s quote: “Where is folly bred? In the heart or in the head?”.

• At this point, the girls think they have discovered where the nugget is hidden—in the bank, the geographic heart of Eden. But it turns out this may be a foolish thought.

• It’s an emotionally charged chapter—many folks are in love, remembering past loves, or pretending to be in love. Somebody may even be having a “heart attack.”

• The bank has two atria. It’s also guarded by a statue carrying a sword, a reference to the xiphoid, a sword-like structure at the center of the chest.

• The quote is a riff on The Merchant of Venice—another work about the dangers of money. Mr. Grimsby, who appears in this chapter, is a former Shakespearean actor.

There’s a humorous chapter for the humerus, a mud-soaked chapter for the intestinal tract, and a trek down the Longshank for chapters involving the leg. It all goes back to the picture of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man in Magee’s office—the human body as a microcosm of the world.

I have some more clues on my website. My long-suffering editors had to work through an annotated draft where I noted all the Easter Eggs!

What would you pack as emergency or travel gear if you were going on a treasure hunt like Jenny?

First off, calories. Lots of them. Second off, an excellent pair of boots and two pairs of warm socks. Take care of your feet.

I’d also add a map, a collapsible shovel, wet weather gear, gloves, quick-drying layers, a Tilly hat, a wool hat, a sleeping bag, a water bottle, a pocketknife (shades of The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin), bandaids, sunblock, painkillers, tape for sprained ankles, a compass, a lighter & matches, a flashlight & batteries, water purification tablets, a toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, and soap.

If you’re Pandora, you’re going to insist on cheese and an emergency beacon. If you’re Jenny, you’re probably going to forget half of it.

Throw it all in a Macpac and you’ll be good to go.

And just for fun... there are many "what five things would you include to help others understand you" memes going around on Twitter. Here's my favorite: What five items would someone include in a salt circle to summon you?

Am I being summoned to heaven or to hell? (Sorry, the Shakespeare never ends…). I’d probably go with:

1. A fountain pen
2. Dark chocolate
3. Freesias
4. A vial of water from the North Atlantic
5. A scrap of a red velvet theatre curtain

About the Author
Elinor Teele is the author of The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin (Walden Pond Press, ISBN: 978-0062345103) as well as a playwright. She graduated with a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2005. Elinor lives with her family in New England. You can visit her online at

Explore the world of Elinor Teele's stories, plays, and HarperCollins books for kids.

Notification -- I received a free copy of this book with no requirement to participate in this blog tour. I received no other compensation.

US/Canada only
.... YOU can win a Skype with the author and FOUR autographed copies of the book! She is willing to do up to a full class period (50 minutes) with your class, and she'd love to chat with you ahead of time to plan it so that it can be fun and interactive for your class. This is an INCREDIBLE offer! My students adore Skyping with authors and it's such a wonderful experience!

Elinor just wants you to know that she's in a play in mid-November, so she'll be extra busy around then. 

For a chance to win (I'll pick a random winner on 9/29), please comment on this blog with your thoughts about the book or a possible Skype for your class. You can win an extra chance by replying and retweeting this post on Twitter (I'm @mariaselke). I'll email you or contact you via Twitter by 9/30 to get your specific information for the publisher. You'll have 24 hours to reply to me with your information or I'll move on to the next winner.

Check out the Educator's Guide on

Visit other stops on the Blog Tour September 10-21

Monday September 10 Novel Novice
Wednesday September 12 Book Monsters
Friday September 14 Walden Media Tumblr
Saturday September 15 Maria's Melange
Monday September 18 Writer's Rumpus
Thursday September 21 Bluestocking Thinking

Blog design by Imagination Designs using images from the No Monsters Under My Bed kit by Lorie Davison