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.)

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)