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1. Weekend Reading #11

I will admit that a couple of things have really slowed down my reading this summer.  
First of all, Stranger Things on Netflix completely captivated me.  I binged on that really hard this week.
Secondly, I am playing Pokemon Go.  I adore this game, but my very favorite thing is that my son will ask me to drive him and his friends around to play.  When your 18 year old, about to go to college son wants you to go out and play a game with him, you go out and play that game!

Anyway, I am going to focus on some reading this weekend.  These are the two books I am currently reading.  I am participating in a blog tour for The Secret Sea in August.  I like the alternate reality aspect of this book.  I also received The Gallery in the mail and this cover is so gorgeous I bumped it to the top of my TBR.  I love the feel of this book in my hands.
(I am also going to Star Trek this weekend, can't wait!!)
What are you reading this weekend?

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2. Blog Tour: The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne AUTHOR GUEST POST

Please welcome author C.C. Payne to GreenBeanTeenQueen! She's here to talk about her latest novel, The Thing About Leftovers and her favorite books featuring food.

About the Book: (From Goodreads): Fizzy is a good Southern girl who just wants to be perfect. And win the Southern Living cook-offThe being perfect part is hard though, since her parents’ divorced and everything in her life has changed. Wary of her too-perfect stepmom and her mom’s neat-freak, dismissive boyfriend, she’s often angry or upset and feels like a guest in both homes. She tells herself to face facts: She’s a “leftover” kid from a marriage that her parents want to forget. But she has to keep all of that to herself, because a good Southern girl never yells, or throws fits, or says anything that might hurt other people’s feelings—instead she throws her shoulders back, says yes ma’am, and tries to do better. So Fizzy tries her best, but it’s hard to stay quiet when her family keeps getting more complicated. Fortunately, the Southern Living cook-off gives her a welcome distraction, as do her new friends Miyoko and Zach, who have parent issues of their own. 

My Top Five Food-Themed Books:

 1.) The Thing About Leftovers by C. C. Payne (that's me!): In the South, we love you with our food. In this novel, 12-year-old Fizzy Russo does just thatattempting to love her parents, new stepparents, and new friends with fried chicken, cheese grits, Kentucky Hot Browns (an open faced sandwich with Texas Toast, turkey, ham and bacon, covered with Mornay sauce, smothered in cheese, topped with a slice of tomato and baked until gooey and browning at the edges) and the like, and to win their love in returnnot to mention The Southern Living Cook-Off. Fizzy believes that winning the cook-off that will cause everyone to forgive her and love her more. (I listed my own book first because if you stop reading here, I hope it's to go buy my book, and because I can't yet afford to be the kind of author who humbly never mentions her own workbut I TOTALLY aspire to be that kind of author, so please buy the book!)

2)  Close to Famousby Joan Bauer: 12-year-old Foster McFee is making the world a sweeter place one cupcake at a time! She makes some unlikely friends with her fabulous cupcake creations (I told you food is love!) including a retired, reclusive movie star, a would-be documentary filmmaker, and the folks down at Angry Wayne's Bar & Grill who sell her cupcakes for her. I love the way Foster overcomes, pushing herself, practicing, and persevering . . . in baking and in life.

3)  Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary: I wouldn't dare make a list without including this classic, Newbery Honor Book. Most chefs say they can tell a lot about another chef simply by what he or she does with an egg. And so it is with Ramona Quimby, who cracks an egg on her head in the school cafeteria. Plus, the food at her family's favorite restaurant, Whopper Burger, sounds deliciousI'd definitely like to have my next birthday party there!

4)  For a younger crowd, I recommend Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett because . . . mashed potato snow? Hamburger storms? Pancakes floating down from the sky? Sign me UP for that! This imaginative picture book, with detailed, delightful drawings, and great humor, remains a fave in my familyit's one that you truly never tire of reading aloud.

5)  For older readers, I recommend Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray, because when the going gets tough, the tough get baking! Ruth's first step to dealing with any problem is baking a cake"sweet potato bundt cake with rum-plumped raisins and spiced sugar glaze" or "apricot almond pound cake" and the like. And she shares her recipesas well as humor, warmth, and wisdomas she deals with her teenage daughter, college-student son, out-of-work husband, live-in mother, estranged father, and financial strain. 

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3. My Thoughts: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

4 yummy yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Cover Love:  I love this cover, it's colorful and whimsical and includes so many elements from the book.  I adore it!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
When this book first came out, I saw a lot of comparisons to Savvy, which was a book I adored.  It went on my TBR list, but I wasn't able to get it read until now.  Wish I had started sooner!  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady's past and how she became an orphan. If she's lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent. 
Romance?: No.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.  The style it is written in makes for a quick and easy read:  short chapters told from different points of view.  The author nails all of the characters voices.  I love that the Talents each person can be simple, like accurate spitting, or more advanced, like baking the perfect cake for a person.  I bet the author had a great time deciding how people in this world can be Talented.

I loved little Cady and rooted for her through the whole book.  But while Cady felt like the main character, this was a book with multiple characters whose storylines are woven together so smoothly.  It was easy to keep track of who was who and what each one was doing.  And while I was able to make some educated guesses about where the story was going to end up, I was constantly and pleasantly surprised by the turns in the story.  And I LOVED how everything was woven together so beautifully at the end!

And all the recipes!  I am going to try some of these cakes.  Look for a future "Food From Fiction" post on that!

To Sum Up:  Awesome middle grade read.  This one is easy to get into the hands of the younger readers in my school!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a pack of Lisa Graff paperbacks!  Check out this post to enter.

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4. Interview Time! John Patrick Green in Conversation with Eric Colossal

Who? What? Where? When? Why?

It’s a blog tour, kiddos!  A tour of bloggy goodness.  More than that, it’s a graphic novel blog tour done to celebrate Children’s Book Week in all its fancypants glory.

The subject of today’s interview is none other than Eric Colossal.  Colossal, if the name is new to you, is the author of the danged funny RUTABAGA series.  I’m a big fan of those books as they combine two of my favorite things: quests and eating.  And in a bit of a twist, I won’t be doing the interview here today, though.  That honor goes to John Patrick Green, author of the upcoming HIPPOTAMISTER.

Take it away, John!

  • Colossal, EricYour series is about a plucky adventurer who constantly finds himself in sticky situations that he manages to get out of by cooking delicious foods. How did this concept come about?

Growing up, I loved fantasy stories filled with weird beasts and mystical magic but I was always confused about why no one talked about the food in these lands. I mean, here in the real world we eat some pretty strange stuff. We eat bee barf and call it honey, we grind up a rock and put it on our food and call it salt. How come people who live in these magical lands never eat the strange beasts they fight in the bottoms of dungeons? So I created Rutabaga to do just that!


  • At the back of each book are a few complete recipes that readers can cook. How do you come up with those? I’ll admit, even the fictional recipes Rutabaga makes on his quests look tasty! Where do you get the ideas for those?

There are two criteria I have for making a recipe to share: Does the recipe contain a fun activity and does the final product look unique. For instance, there’s nothing new about dipping grapes in chocolate but taking that idea and adding steps to the recipe that make the final product look like a chocolate spider with a big ol’ squishy butt, that’s a perfect recipe for Rutabaga! In fact, that recipe is in book 2 and it’s one of my favorites! 


  • What is your creative process like?

9781419716584I watch a LOT of documentaries on food and food culture. My favorite ones talk about why people eat what they eat. Sure it’s fun to find out HOW to cook something but if you tell me WHY a culture has the diet it has you don’t just learn about food, you learn about people, and stories are about people. Other than that, most of my time is spent at my computer writing and drawing. I make the entire book digitally which is really handy when you have 2 cats who like to chew on paper!


  • Which do you love more: food or comics? Please explain your answer in a piechart. Or maybe just a pie.

It’s a tough choice but I’m going to have to say I love food more. A comic can take up to a year to write, draw, and color but you can cook a huge 3 course meal in about 2 hours. Imagine if it took a year to make breakfast! And just for fun here’s that pie chart you asked for:


  • What else are you working on? Can we expect further adventures of Rutabaga and his trusty kettle, Pot? Maybe an entire cookbook?

I have so many Rutabaga stories to tell, you have no idea! I probably have enough material for at least another 8 books! As long as there are people who want to read about my goofy little chef and his metal pal, I’ll keep making them!

  • What comics or children’s books are you currently reading?

Below the RootThe last book I read was a young adult book called “Below The Root” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It’s an older book about a society of people who live in cities built on gigantic trees. They wear long flowing robes that allow them to glide around in the air to get from branch to branch. They’re an extremely peaceful race, they don’t eat meat, they don’t fight, they won’t even write on paper because it would hurt a tree to make the paper. The books follow a group of children as they uncover the history of their people and the sinister things that have been done in the name of protecting them. It’s a three book series and I greatly enjoyed it!


Thanks for the interview, guys!  And what a fantastic book to end on.  Honestly, it would have been even more awesome if you’d mentioned the Commodore 64 game of Below the Root that was based on the book (to the best of my knowledge, the ONLY children’s book to be adapted into the Commodore 64 gaming system format), but we’ll let it slide.


Want to read more of these interviews?  Here’s the full blog tour:

Monday, May 2ndForever YA featuring Gene Luen Yang

Monday, May 2nd  – Read Write Love featuring Lucas Turnbloom

Monday, May 2ndKid Lit Frenzy featuring Kory Merritt

Tuesday, May 3rdSharp Read featuring Ryan North

Tuesday, May 3rdTeen Lit Rocks featuring MK Reed

Wednesday, May 4thLove is Not a Triangle featuring Chris Schweizer

Wednesday, May 4thSLJ Good Comics for Kids featuring Victoria Jamieson

Thursday, May 5thThe Book Wars featuring Judd Winick

Thursday, May 5thSLJ Fuse #8 featuring Eric Colossal

Friday, May 6thSLJ Scope Notes featuring Nathan Hale

Friday, May 6thThe Book Rat featuring Faith Erin Hicks

Saturday, May 7thYA Bibliophile featuring Mike Maihack

Saturday, May 7thSupernatural Snark featuring Sam Bosma

Sunday, May 8thCharlotte’s Library featuring Maris Wicks

Sunday, May 8thThe Roarbots featuring Raina Telgemeier

Thanks to Gina Gagliano and the good folks at First Second for setting this up with me.



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5. My Thoughts: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

4 Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cover Love:  To be totally honest, I don't love this cover.  But I know it appeals to young readers because when I display this book it gets checked out a lot.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This is one of those books I bought when it first came out because I knew I would want to read it myself (one of the biggest benefits of being a librarian).  Then it got buried in my immense TBR pile.  I have had quite a few students check out this and book #2 (The Mad Apprentice), but I still hadn't gotten around to reading it until I was contacted about book #3 and taking part in Penguin's blogging event around the release of book #3 (The Palace of Glass).  I read The Forbidden Library and am hooked on this series!  Here is the synopsis:
Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy

When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.
My Thoughts:
This was such an inventive idea.  There is a little of Inkheart, in that a person can read themselves into a book.  But it's not like they go into the story, it's like they become the story, or a big part of the story.  These people are called Readers.  And they can't go into just any book, it has to be special books.  Alice discovers she is Reader quite by accident.  But, as you get to know Alice you realize, SHE CAN HANDLE IT.  She is amazing, on the level of Hermione Granger.  She is practical and smart and keeps her head about her.  I LOVED Alice!  She is a problem solver and that makes for the best kind of Reader.

The catch with this awesome ability is that the books that Readers can enter are basically prisons for all manner of creatures and the only way for a Reader to get out is for another Reader to get them out...or they can defeat the creatures.  Along the way Alice meets Ashes, a talking cat, Isaac, another young reader and her "uncle" Geryon.  There are several other characters as well, and you just know that nobody is telling Alice the whole truth and that everyone has different motives for using Alice and her powers.  There is also a little of a "there can be only one" attitude by some of the older and more powerful Readers.

Alice has her own mystery to solve, that of what happened to her father.  This world she is thrust into would me many a person curl up in a corner and wait for death, but no Alice.  She takes it on and makes it her own.

To Sum Up:  Great middle grade fantasy book with interesting characters and an awesome premise.  I will be finishing this series soon!

Penguin has offered up a copy of each of the books in The Forbidden Library series including the third book, The Palace of Glass, which was just published.  Please enter below (US only).  I will pick a winner on Saturday April 23.

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6. Blog Tour: Let's Fangril Over... TELL ME THREE THINGS by JULIE BUXBAUM

Blog Tour: Becca TELL ME THREE THINGS By Julie Buxbaum Hardcover: 336 pages Publisher: Delcorte Press (April 5, 2016) Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and up Goodreads | Amazon Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about

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7. BLOG TOUR: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas // Phenomenal and 110% Un-put-down-able..

By Becca.. THE DARKEST CORNERS by Kara ThomasHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (April 19, 2016)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon For fans of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become. There are ghosts around every corner in

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8. Normal Norman - Riding the Blog Tour Train

Normal Norman, written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. britt, is a study in normalcy ... or not. I hear that word normal a lot, and in education, it's not a good word. What is a "normal" student? When we see unexpected behaviors you'll hear "That's just not normal." One size fits all doesn't work in the classroom, and it certainly doesn't work in the real world. And that's really an important point in this book, because normal means being true to yourself, not to the expectations the world holds for you.

We're at the tail end of this blog tour, and lots of other folks have written great reviews of this book (see schedule at end of post for links), so I want to take this in another direction. Here's where my mind went when I first read this book.

The front endpapers - As soon as I opened the book I knew I had a great example my science class. Have you ever taken the DAST? The DAST is the "Draw A Scientist Test." It is designed to get students to think about who scientists are, what they do, and where they do it. Most students draw something similar to what is seen in the front endpapers. What most picture when they hear "scientist at work" is a space similar to a chemistry lab, with beakers and test tubes, equations on the wall or board, the periodic table, etc. This scene is no different. That's okay, because I like breaking down the stereotype.
The opening - The book opens with this introduction.
Hello and welcome to "Normal Norman."
This is my first time narrating a book.
I'm a bit nervous. I hope it goes well.
My assignment today is to clearly
define the world NORMAL.
On the facing page is a picture of the Head Scientist (a man sitting behind a desk bearing a sticker that reads I science) and the Junior Scientist, our intrepid narrator. Clearly, the goal here is to come up with an operational definition. This can be a tricky concept for students, as an operational definition is a clear, concise detailed definition of a measure. By the end of the book it's clear that one does not exist for the word normal.

The narrator - Most students completing the DAST draw men at work in science, not women. I love that the junior scientist and "humble narrator" is a young girl, tasked with observing and describing Norman.

The science - Science experiments and demonstrations sometimes don't go as planned. They often provide unexpected results. They can be frustrating, particularly when they don't go your way. Our narrator learns this lesson very quickly. Scientists can't make results go their way, no matter how hard they try. And boy, does the narrator try to get Norman to act normal.

The language - I'm quite taken with the way Lazar has managed to use context clues to help define terms. Here's an example.
In fact, we selected Norma because our
scientists found Norman to be the most
average animal on earth. Regular.
Ordinary. A common, everyday creature.
Return from the brief interruption - Not all work scientists do happens in a lab. In fact, quite a bit of it happens in the field. When Norman asks the junior scientist to join him and his friends in their natural habitat, she naturally says yes, and the scene moves outdoors.

The ending - The fact that the head scientist picks up the clipboard and writes in some results is most satisfying. I won't, however, give away this perfect ending.

The back endpapers - The head scientist and junior scientist look a bit startled to find that Norman is now observing them. I had to chuckle. It was a wonderful contrast to the front endpapers.

Text ©2016 Tara Lazar, all rights reserved. Illustrations ©2016 S. britt, all rights reserved.

I thoroughly enjoyed NORMAL NORMAN and can't wait to share it. Thanks to Josh Redlich for including The Miss Rumphius Effect in this tour.

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9. Celebrating World Read Aloud Day AND The Knowing Book

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Boyds Mills Press, 2016

We are thrilled to be celebrating a wonderful new book that is destined to become a classic read aloud...on World Read Aloud Day!

The Knowing Book takes the reader along on the main character's journey from the comfort of home, out into the world to live and grown and learn, and then back home again. It is a wise book, a book of the heart, a book that will surely be given at many baby showers and graduations, and read aloud at important milestones in children's lives.

We were lucky enough to ask the author and illustrator some questions about the book and their process. Interspersed between the Q/A are some early sketches by Matthew Cordell.

When you wrote the book, what were your hopes for readers?

That they would find some comfort in knowing they aren't alone, that there are things they can always count on, that there are universal miracles that no one can ever take away from them; the sky, the stars, the overwhelming oneness and the magic of knowing the world is big and wide and always waiting, whether it be with a new adventure or a new hope in a hopeless situation. More than anything I hope they feel untroubled in some way. –Rebecca

Did you work together as author and illustrator? Can you talk about the process of creating this book together or separately?

Typically authors and illustrators do not work together in a close collaboration. The editor and/or art director of the book is the point person and all comments and communication are ran through that channel. But it was an open channel, and Rebecca and I were both very open to any thoughts and suggestions from each other. Our editor, Rebecca Davis is incredibly insightful and thoughtful and caring too. It was just a wonderful, wonderful process--beginning to end--of fine tuning this book to get it just right. –Matthew

I agree with everything Matthew said. And I love how he refers to it as "an open channel." We both felt so deeply about this book, and I think put so much of ourselves into it, in ways I'm still figuring out. To get each detail, each nuance right, we all had to listen to each other and be open to and respect what the other's artistic expression and heart wanted to share on the page. We were very lucky that our editor was a two-way guiding light. –Rebecca

This book, although a picture book, seems to have a strong message for people of all ages and in all stages of life. Who were you thinking of when you had the idea for this book?

When I had the idea, the feelings and emotions had come from where I was emotionally, and that was sad and a bit hopeless. But then I immediately thought of children who might feel somehow lighter, less burdened, more hopeful if they really, really thought about the universe always being there for them. But after it was all written and rewritten and I looked at it with new eyes, I realized it could be for anyone, any age. —Rebecca 

The title is brilliant. Was it the first idea you had or did it evolve?

Thank you, first of all! I would have said it was The Knowing Book from the start. But as I was putting together all of my drafts and correspondence having anything to do with the manuscript into its own box (I keep labeled boxes for each book) I saw a draft that had The Always Book jotted down, then crossed out with The Knowing Book written next to it. The "always" would have referred to the line "it is what you will always know." But I remember now repeating the word know, know, know, over and over and realizing that was the most important thought I wanted the reader to gain; that these are the things they will always know. –Rebecca 

How did you decide to illustrate this as a bunny rather than a child? What process did you go to to decide on that?

We went through a series of tests before I began illustrating the book. I wanted the character to be universal. I wanted all boys and girls (and grown-ups too) of all different backgrounds and ethnicities to be able to plug her or himself into this book and these words. In my experience, making the character an animal--if it works--is a sure fire way to do this. I tried a few different animals at first. A bear, a mouse, and a rabbit. The bear and mouse had the sweet sincerity I wanted, but they were almost too cute. And this book is not about being cute. It's much more honest than that. Of the three, the rabbit had the most insightful and inner wisdom and worth. We did also try a child, for the sake of trying. I did some sketches of a child that might be construed as a girl OR a boy. Depending on who might be reading it. But in the end, the rabbit was a unanimous choice. –Matthew

The illustrations and text work together to be serious and hopeful. How did you accomplish that?

I'm so glad to hear you say it that way. Because that's how I hope readers will see it. I think everyone who worked on this book saw and wanted for the same things. It really was such a good fit! If anything ever strayed from that path, it was gently corrected back into place by someone. From the moment I read Rebecca's manuscript I had a vision in my mind of how it would play out. I never wanted this book to be silly of funny or even sweet. Joyful, yes. But even dark at times, in a poignant sort of way. Real. Because that is real life for all of us. Children and adults. –Matthew

I'd like to add that my hope had been for The Knowing Book to be illustrated in a thoughtful, serious ("joyful" is perfect) way mixed with a whimsical spirit roaming through the pages. And Matthew made it happen. –Rebecca

It seems like your work is so perfect together! Will you do more books together, do you think? 

Gosh, I sure hope so! I love Rebecca's writing. It was an honor to be chosen to illustrate KNOWING, and I hope it's not the last!  –Matthew

I second that. I have my hopes that down the road there will be a very special book I write that might be just right for another Matthew Cordell pairing, and that he'll say yes when he sees it! –Rebecca

Thank you, Rebecca and Matthew for joining us on your blog tour, and congratulations on a fabulous collaboration.

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10. Interview: Suzanne Nelson

Please welcome to the blog author Suzanne Nelson, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category for her novel Serendipity's Footsteps.

What inspired you to write Serendipity's Footsteps? Did you plan from the onset to tie various plotlines together through a pair of shoes, or did the characters' individual stories come to you first?

There were so many inspirations for Serendipity's Footsteps. Versions of Ray and Pinny had been in my mind for over a decade, and I'd even tried once, years ago, writing a vastly different rendition of their story where they were biological sisters. Sixty or so pages into that story, though, I realized it wasn't working and shelved it. Then, a few years ago, I saw a single red slingback sitting atop a boulder in my town. It spurred a conversation with my sister about lost shoes. We tried to unravel the mystery of all the shoes we spotted hanging in trees or laying abandoned on roadsides. What were their stories? Who'd left them behind? It was my sister who asked me to write a novel about lost shoes. She's always loved shoes and told me, "Just write it for me." Because she's my best and most loved and trusted friend, I began writing for her. Then, as I wrote, without me even being fully aware of how pieces were falling into place, Dalya and her story were born. Once Dalya came to me, Ray and Pinny appeared beside her. Maybe they'd been waiting for her the whole time. Needless to say, I knew that these three heroines needed to come together. They each needed families and love, and the story's pale pink shoes became the key to their unbreakable bond. Really, writing the book was as much about serendipity for me as it was for my three heroines. I love Dalya, Ray, and Pinny and consider them kindred sisters and family. They exist for me, real as any other people, and so do the shoes they love.

Dayla, Ray, and Pinny have distinct personalities and voices. Is there a little piece of you in each of them? My Knopf editor and dear friend Michelle Frey tells me that she sees some of me in each of my three heroines, so it's probably true. I can't say with confidence that I could ever possess Dalya's resilience, because I've never experienced anything like her tragedies. Still, I admire her strength of spirit, her loyalty to her faith, culture, and family, and her deep capacity for love. I'd like to believe I carry some of those traits within me, too. I'm as passionate about writing as Ray is about her music. As a teenager, I sometimes wished to escape my life like Ray does. But who doesn't dream of running away at some point or other? The idea of reinventing yourself in a new place and starting fresh without obligations to anyone or anything can be appealing, until you start thinking about how lonely it would be. I have some of Ray's selfishness and outspokenness, too, although maybe I've learned to temper those shortcomings through the years (only my family can tell you how successful I've been in my efforts.). As for Pinny and her quest for the "More of Life," the joy she finds in so much of the world around her--I strive to find "More" joy and love in my life each and every day. I'm not as much of an optimist as she is, but I believe in magical thinking and sucking the marrow out of every moment life has to offer.

Did you model any of the characters after people you know or admire?

None of the characters are based directly on people I know personally. However, the emotions Dalya experiences in the wake of her losses, and the decisions she makes in her personal life to preserve and honor her family and her Jewish heritage and identity, were informed by some close friends who shared their family's Holocaust survival stories with me. I have such great admiration for these friends who continually work to protect their family's histories and faith and I hoped to convey some of this with Dalya's character. Pinny's character and story, as well, were influenced indirectly by an experience I had as a teen. My senior year of high school, I tutored a three-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. The afternoons I spent with Troy were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my adolescence, and I've stayed in touch with the Drake family through the years. Troy and his parents opened my eyes to the challenges so many people with special needs face in finding meaningful employment and independence. It was so important to him and to his family that he work in a field he truly loved. Troy is in his twenties now and has his own Etsy business, Doodle Duck Design. Talking with the Drakes about their journey to find ways for Troy to live his "More of Life" helped me develop Pinny's story. I hope Pinny's search to find fulfillment in her life and work reflects that.

What are the biggest challenges - and rewards - when writing and researching historical fiction?

Research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing historical fiction. I love it so much that for me, the biggest challenge of researching is knowing when to stop! Then there's the problem of having to choose which pieces of research to include in my story, and trying to glean what facts will hold the most interest for readers. It's a time-consuming process, but one that I truly enjoy.

What resources did you use while writing and revising Serendipity's Footsteps?

With Serendipity's Footsteps, I read letters, diary entries, and first-hand accounts from Jewish children and teen refugees who came to the United States prior to and during World War II. From the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, one thousand Jewish children were brought to our country from Europe as part of an American kindertransport. All of those one thousand children left their parents behind in Europe and many never saw them again. They were placed with foster families around the country. Many of the children didn't know English when they arrived, were placed in school classes with younger students, and struggled with loneliness and coping with the grief of the terrible losses of the families they left behind. Learning about the obstacles they overcame and the strength and courage they had in such tragic circumstances helped me portray the difficulties Dalya faced in her transition to America.

Although my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp took place years ago, that visit has always haunted me. I drew on my memories of it when writing the novel. I also contacted two lovely professors, Dr. Buser and Dr. Ley, in Germany who were experts in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and its history, and they answered my numerous questions about that specific camp. Dr. Joselit, Professor of Judaic Studies and History at George Washington University, also gave me wonderful insight into Jewish life and culture in 1930s and 40s New York City. In the end, I was fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable people, here and overseas, guide my research and am so grateful to all of them for their help.

Your modern day romantic comedies include Cake Pop Crush, Hot Cocoa Hearts, Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight. Did you always plan for these stories to be a connected series?

This series started out as a single book, Cake Pop Crush. My Scholastic editor and I were so thrilled to see how popular that book became, and the other companion books followed as a result. Even though the books all have some fun baking theme, they each have different characters and a distinct plot, so they don't have to be read in any specific order. There will be a fifth foodie romance book coming in 2017, titled Donut Go Breaking My Heart. The style of writing for this series is very different from the style of Serendipity's Footsteps. The baking series is lighter and geared towards a younger, middle grade audience. It's fun writing the baking books because it gives me a break from the more serious topics and themes I'm drawn to in my other novels for older readers.

Do you like baking? If so, what are your specialties?

I am giggling at this question, because the honest truth is that I am not as much of a baker as my Cake Pop series might lead readers to believe. When I was experimenting with cake pop recipes for Cake Pop Crush, I actually set a bowl of candy melts on fire in my microwave. I had to run out onto my back porch with the flaming Tupperware to extinguish it under the pouring rain! My family thought it was hilarious.

Cake pop mishaps aside, I do enjoy baking with my three kids. I have a particular weakness for gooey brownies and white chocolate chip cookies and gobble them warm straight out of the oven. My five-year-old daughter is especially passionate about baking, and her love for it rubs off on me. We made some cupcakes a few weeks ago that had mountains of fluorescent icing so high they could've rivaled Mount Everest.

You have also worked as a book editor. How did your work as an editor inform your writing, and vice versa?

I don't think I ever would have become a published author without having been an editor first. Learning the ins and outs of the publishing process and working with other authors on their manuscripts was the best education I received as a writer. Because I was able to see what needed to be revised or reworked in other people's manuscripts, I learned how to view my own writing with a more critical eye. I also learned that you have to write what you're passionate about but also what fills a need in the current book market. Being a writer as well as an editor also gave me great empathy for other struggling writers, and when I had to reject a submission I tried to do it as nicely and encouragingly as I could.

Describe your current favorite go-to pair of shoes for daily wear.

Right now we're in the depths of winter here in Connecticut, and I have this enormous pair of brown fuzzy boots that I wear to wade through the snow and ice. They're so comfortable and warm. For the most part though, because most days I work from home, I keep my feet toasty in some snug slippers. Boring? Maybe, but absolutely essential for my creativity and productivity!

How about your most fun pair of shoes?

I have a pair of glam handmade shoes that are decorated with peacock feathers and another pair of glossy, cherry red peep-toe heels that make me feel beautiful inside and out every time I slip them on. Walking in them feels akin to teetering on a tightrope, but they're absolutely worth it!

List ten of your favorite books. Any genre, any style.

Disclaimer: This is an eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, adult and children's literature. I could easily add another hundred titles to this list (there are so many incredible books in the world!), but these ten are stories I turn to again and again.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (And really anything written by Kate DiCamillo!)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Holes by Louis Sachar
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Congratulations to all of the recipients of The Sydney Taylor Book Award! Follow the blog tour featuring the 2016 gold and silver medalists all this week, February 8th-February 12th, hosted at a variety of blogs. Click here for the full blog tour schedule.

Learn more about the Sydney Taylor Honor Award.
Visit the People of the Books Blog.
Visit Suzanne Taylor's website.

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11. Blog Tour & Food From Fiction: Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Etsby Dagg

Today is my stop on the SWEET HOME ALASKA blog tour.  I adored this book and will be reviewing it in a couple days.  Today I am welcoming the author to my blog for a Food From Fiction post.  The main character, Terpsichore, loves to cook and bake and when we meet her she is the main cook for her family due to a deal she made with her mom.  A lot of food is mentioned in this book and more than once I got to thinking about making cookies after reading a few chapters.  I asked for a recipe from the author and she provided one that is discussed in the book.  Thanks for visiting today Carole!
Since the old-timer, Mr. Crawford, recommended this recipe and it is the star of Terpsichore’s best-selling cookbook at the Palmer Fair, the obvious choice is Jellied Moose Nose. 
After all, in the wilds of Alaska, you don’t want to waste a smidgen of the moose you just shot. 
If you actually make it and eat it, you will have earned the right to milk and cookies for the rest of your life. 

From the Recipe Book of Terpsichore Johnson 
Jellied Moose Nose 
Put a large kettle of water on to boil. 
Hack off the upper jawbone of the moose just below the eyes and boil it for forty-five minutes. 
Dip the jawbone in cold water and pluck the hairs from the nose. 
Wash the nose thoroughly. 
Boil the nose again in fresh water with chopped onion, garlic, and pickling spices until tender. 
Cool overnight in the water it was boiled in. 
The next morning, remove the meat from the broth and remove the bones and cartilage. 
Thinly slice the meat, pack it in a glass dish with high sides, and cover with the broth. 
Season with salt, pepper, or vinegar to taste. 
As the mixture cools, it will jell so it can be sliced. 
P. S. I’m a pescatarian, so that’s my excuse for never having tried it.
I am not a pescatarian, but I still don't think I would try it because I am also not an adventurous eater!
Pick up a copy of Sweet Home Alaska today. You will enjoy thoroughly enjoy Terpsichore and her adventurous, positive spirit!

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12. Weekend Reading #8

I am finishing up SWEET HOME ALASKA.  Next week I will be part of the blog tour for that book.  So excited for that post (on February 4!)

THE YEAR WE FELL APART has gotten good reviews and I love a good contemporary romance.  This is the physical book I am reading right now.

I started THE CRESSWELL PLOT the other day and am not quite sure how I feel about it yet.  Castella seems really immature, but then again, she has been raised in the woods by a crazy father.

I am enjoying all three of these books and am looking forward to getting some reading time this weekend.  I might have to enforce some SSR on myself!

What are you reading this weekend?

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13. THE 100 {Blog Tour} - 6 Reasons Why BELLARKE Is The Ultimate OTP

From Becca... Welcome to Reading Teen's stop on The 100 tour, hosted by The Irish Banana. We have lots of exciting things in store like the part where I'm going to explain 6 reasons why #BELLARKE is the ULTIMATE OTP (that's One True Pairing), and then there's this fan-freaking-tastic giveaway at the bottom! Be sure to enter! Clarke Griffin and Bellamy Blake are MEANT TO BE.

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14. Currently 1-24-16


Watching:  Schitt's Creek.  This is a Canadian comedy that I have been waiting to watch since I first heard about it last spring.  Right now the first season is on Amazon Prime Video and it's hysterical.  Seriously.  Give this one a try.  It's only 13 episodes and I predict you will find yourself watching them more than once.

Listening:  A friend of mine recommended this podcast and I am really enjoying it.  It's just two next door neighbors sitting around discussing a topic of the week.  Since I am in the car more and more by myself (Max got his license, by the way) I have more time for podcasts.  I love discovering new ones to enjoy!

Reading: I was invited to be part of a blog tour for this book, Sweet Home Alaska.  It's actually a very fascinating book.  It takes place at the end of the Great Depression and is the story of a family that takes part in an Alaska settlement program.  I had no idea this even happened so I am learning new things as I read!

What are you currently enjoying?

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15. Teen Frankenstein Blog Tour: High School Horror Stories & Giveaway!

Welcome to my stop on the Teen Frankenstein Blog Tour!  High school can be one long horror story for some people.  In fact, I am pretty sure I just blurred out my first two years because as I wracked my brain for a horror story I came up with several cringe worthy moments.  Like the time, during my sophomore year, when I finally got some playing time in a varsity basketball game.  I was pretty excited and after our team meeting went bounding up the bleachers to chat with my parents.  Gracefully, I slipped and fell very hard on the old wooden bleachers.  In front of several senior boys, one of whom I had a crush on. Came away with quite the colorful bruises! 

Or the night after a volleyball game, when my parents had finally decided they had enough with my slouching, so my dad came up with a catalog to discuss how many models don't have boobs, so even though I didn't have any, I should still stand straight and be proud of myself.  MY DAD!!  Yes, that happened (Luckily didn't happen in front of any friends or schoolmates, I still cringe, and it still was during high school).

But, I made survived!!  I was given this "horror story" to post by a Macmillan employee who shall remain nameless!  As you can see, we definitely had something in common in high school:

It was 1997 and, for some strange reason, I didn't have a boyfriend. I was confused. If you asked me, I was pretty fly. My braces were color coordinated to match my glasses. My hair was a lovely shade of pale orange (thank you, Sun-In). I owned purple jorts! What more could you want?
'Well,' a friend said after I expressed these doubts at a sleepover, 'it's probably your lack of development...in the chest.' And just like that, my abnormally robust confidence was thrown into a tailspin. It was true. No amount of Bonne Bell lip gloss could make up for the fact that I was as flat as an ironing board.
But I was a woman of action. And if my pituitary glands weren't going to cooperate, I was going to take matters into my own hands. And this began a life of deceit. It started with wads of paper towels, stuffed into the ample space my training bra still provided. When I got tired of that itchy discomfort, I graduated to rolled up athletic socks.
And wouldn't you know it, it worked. Less than two weeks after I 'went sock,' whose attention should I catch, but that of Clive Schindler, one grade below me, but a foot taller, and exponentially more attractive. We met at a roller rink, and one 'couples skate' to KC and JoJo later, we were officially an item. Our relationship mostly consisted of awkward weeknight phone calls and one movie date, chauffeured by my father, who gripped the steering wheel so hard, I thought it might cease to function. Ah, young love was a glorious thing.
And then came the Day of Reckoning. It was actually a day I'd been looking forward to for some time- Trampoline Day in gym class. Unfortunately, it hasn't occurred to me that my, er, 'girls' might need some extra security. As I waited in line for my turn, I had no idea that my life was about to be irreparably changed. When my turn came, I executed my pike jump with enthusiasm that turned to dread as I hit the trampoline...because as I flew back up into the air, so did my carefully placed athletic socks, right out of my shirt. The left one hit poor old Ms. Zazanis in the head.
It was all over. By the last bell of the day, Clive had given me the ‘let’s just be friends’ speech. And while it was in many ways a valuable lesson about self-acceptance, I’ll never look at a trampoline the same way again.
Teen Frankenstein is written by Chandler Baker (who is so darling I  have a hard time believing she ever had a hard day in high school--seriously, check out her instagram--DARLING!).  Here is the synopsis from the Fierce Reads website:

Tor Frankenstein is, let’s call it obsessed, with reanimation or resuscitation, but experiment after experiment with lab rats fails. But on a dark and stormy night Tor hits a boy with her car. And kills him. Instead of calling the cops and ruining all her chances of winning a Nobel Prize by the time she turns eighteen, she decides to try her experiment out on him. It’s a success. But the experiment isn’t over yet. She must incorporate him into daily high school life for it to be a true success, and when students start being murdered, she fears the worst. We’ll leave the rest up to you to find out what happens to Tor and her monster.
Get to know Chandler at her website or on Twitter or Instagram.

I also get to give a copy of Teen Frankenstein away!  If you'd like to win a copy fill out the form below.  I will pick a winner on January 20th after the last stop of the tour. (US only please)!Loading... Read the rest of this post

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16. PASSENGER By Alexandra Bracken // Blog Tour, Review, & TWO Giveaways You DON'T Want To Miss!!

by Becca... Woot, woot! Today is a great day, because I FINALLY get to spread all my Passenger love around! Thanks Hannah for organizing this amazing blog tour, and Disney-Hyperion! I'm so excited to be apart of it, and share ALL THE FEELS with our readers today with my review, a giveaway of Passenger, AND a super special (cough painted by me cough cough) giveaway, exclusively for

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17. Interview: Laurel Gale

Happy Monday! Today, I'm interviewing Laurel Gale, whose debut novel Dead Boy was recently released. "I wondered what it would be like for a 'live' dead boy to try to make friends," she said. "I had no idea what would happen next, so I kept writing to find out."

Congratulations on the release of Dead Boy! Where did your main character, Crow Darlingson, get his name?

Thanks! While writing Dead Boy, I sometimes worried that the main character’s name was a little too on the nose, but I loved it too much to change it. His first name is Crow because crows are often associated with death, and he is dead. Of course, he wasn’t dead when he was named, so from his point of view, it’s a rather lucky (unlucky?) coincidence. I also happen to like birds, and I think Crow is a very cool name for a boy. His last name is a variation on the surname Darlington. Crow is his parents’ darling son.

The story of Dead Boy takes place around Halloween. Do you like dressing up and/or passing out candy on Halloween?

Halloween is the best! I always dress up. This year, I actually had three different costumes, one for Halloween itself and two other events. I was a pirate, a ferret, and a steampunk skeleton.

When I was a kid, my friends and I once went trick-or-treating in the middle of the summer. We were bored, so we dressed up. Then we decided that we should do something with our costumes, so we started going door to door. The neighbors laughed and searched their cupboards for candy for us. I don’t think we could have gotten away with it a second time, though.

What inspires you to write for young readers?

Children’s literature can get pretty dark and serious at times, but it’s always exciting and optimistic, and this makes it a lot of fun to read and to write. I enjoy books for young readers, so it’s natural for me to write them. But I think these books are important, too. Children are developing their lifelong reading habits, but they’re also developing so much more than that: their identities, their morals, their goals. The right book can have a huge influence, and I’d like to be a positive part of that.

Was Dead Boy your first completed manuscript?

I have several earlier manuscripts stored on flash drives sitting in drawers, where most of them will remain forever. I should probably just delete them, but I don’t think I could actually bring myself to do that.

I don’t think new writers should expect the first thing they write to be publishable. Writing is a skill that takes time to develop, so most people will need to complete a practice novel or two (or ten) before producing anything that others will enjoy reading. My advice to aspiring writers is to commit to the long haul and not expect instant success.

Can you divulge anything about your next project?

I’m working on another middle grade fantasy. I’ll put more details up on my website when I can.

Do you often find yourself working on multiple projects at once, or do you prefer to focus on one story at a time?

I prefer to focus on one story at a time, but reality sometimes interferes. Manuscripts go through multiple rounds of editing before being published. The process takes months, and between edits, I want to keep writing. As a result, I find myself bouncing between projects. I still like to focus on and immerse myself in a project as much as possible, though.

What kind of music, art, and films inspire you? Have you read/seen/heard anything good lately?

Books inspire me, of course, but so do a lot of movies and television shows. I devour Doctor Who, Supernatural, and anything by Joss Whedon. My musical tastes are pretty varied, but right now I’m really into Of Monsters and Men, especially the songs Dirty Paws and Little Talks.

Tell me ten of your all-time favorite books.

I’m so glad I get to pick ten instead of one! In no particular order, some of my favorite books are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Among Others by Jo Walton, Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and the Harry Potter box set by J. K. Rowling. A box set counts as a single choice, right?

Lightning round!
Cocoa or egg nog? Egg nog.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
Hardcover or paperback? Hardcover.
Homecooked meal or takeout? Homecooked.

And now for the most important question of this interview...
Who is your favorite doctor on Doctor Who, and why?
(Mine is the Tenth Doctor, brilliantly portrayed by David Tennant!)

David Tennant’s doctor is brilliant, but my favorite doctor is the eleventh doctor, played by Matt Smith.


Like Crow, Gale resides in the Nevada desert. She lives with her husband and a band of furry monsters that might actually be ferrets, her favorite animal (even though they don't make an appearance in Dead Boy). Learn more about Laurel and her books at her website: http://www.laurelgale.com

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18. Dan Hanna – Illustrator Interview

I am changing up my Wednesday series just a little today to join in Debbie Diesen and Dan Hannah’s blog & book tour of THE NOT VERY MERRY POUT-POUT FISH, the latest hardcover children’s picture book from The New York … Continue reading

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19. #HeadsWillRoll Blog Tour Feat. Texts to ANNE & HENRY...

From Becca... Today we are hosting a stop on the #HeadsWillRoll Blog Tour for Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius! I'll be reviewing the book in texts to the book rather than writing a letter, because I thought since I was reviewing a modernized tale, I should modernize my reviews. Check it out, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!  ANNE & HENRY  by Dawn Ius Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 1,

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20. LOCK & MORI Blog Tour.... Review & Giveaway

From Becca I'm so happy to announce that Reading Teen is the stop for today's Lock & Mori Blog Tour. I really enjoyed Lock & Mori, and I can't wait to get my friends to read it too! Check out my review and don't forget to enter the giveaway! LOCK & MORI by Heather W. Petty Series: Lock & Mori (Book 1) Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 15, 2015) Goodreads |

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21. Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler Blog Tour-Author Guest Post

Please welcome Sonia Gensler to GreenBeanTeenQueen

(photo credit: Eden Wilson Photography)

Writing horror for young readers

Growing up is scary and painful, and violent, and your body is doing weird things and you might, to your great horror, become something beastly and terrible on the other side. 

—Greg Ruth, “Why Horror is Good for You (and Even Better for Your Kids)”

Every day young people deal with horror landscapes, both physical and psychological. They face the gauntlet-like labyrinth of school hallways, and the confinement of overcrowded classrooms. They defend against emotional and/or physical bullying, all while feeling haunted by the “stupid” things they’ve said or done. In fact, young people often feel downright monstrous—their bodies are changing too quickly, or not quickly enough, their emotions are fraught with ups and downs, and the world just doesn’t make sense. 

I know all this from having been a teenager, and also from having taught young people for ten years. These experiences have somehow led me to write a certain kind of horror.

A lot of horror is about gore, grotesquery, and jump scares—and there’s a cathartic benefit to that experience. I try to write the horror of mystery and dread. Gothic horror is all about dealing with extreme transitions, facing the uncanny, and acknowledging repressed emotions that insist on spilling out against your will. I write this sort of horror for the apprehensive teen that still lives inside me. Mostly I just wish to entertain, but I can’t help hoping that teen and tween readers will recognize parts of their own experience, see themselves in the protagonists who overcome their fears, and somehow feel less strange and alone. 

About the BookThings that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!

Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.

Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.

As the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard house, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?

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22. First & Then Superlative Blog Tour and Author Guest Post: Books Most Likely to Make You Cry On Public Transportation

I love the idea of a superlative blog tour for First & Then by Emma Mills-such a fun blog tour! I was given the superlative of "Most Likely to Make You Cry on Public Transportation" and of course, I had to ask Emma herself which books make her cry:

I would have to say Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is the book that makes my cry the most! My father first read this book to my sister and I when we were kids, and I remember so clearly the overwhelming sense of loss I felt right along with Jesse. A beautiful—but tough to take!—book about grief.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – it has wrung the most book-fueled tears from me in my adulthood. Hazel’s relationship with her parents really gets to me.

Marrying Malcolm Murgatroyd by Mame Farrell—I first read this in junior high and shed more than a few tears. Very bittersweet, lovely middle grade story.

Before I share my own list, I first need to tell you something-I don't cry too often at books. Which honestly, I find a bit strange because I'm an emotional person and I cry at just about everything else, but books really have to get me to get me bawling. And these books did! So fair warning when reading on public transportation (or anywhere!):

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling-OK, I admit this one is cheating a bit, because seriously, what HP fan can read this one (or pretty much any book from 4-on) without bawling like a baby?

If I Stay by Gayle Forman-I cried so much at the end of this book and had to mourn that it was over. So I was incredibly grateful for the sequel-which yes, also make me cry.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley-Oh my goodness, this book just gets you in every emotional way and just tears at your heartstrings and makes you laugh and cry and smile all at the same time.

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern-I actually listened to this one on audiobook while driving-bad idea. It turned me into a blubbering mess and it was hard to sob and drive at the same time!

What books make you cry?

About the Book: Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

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23. How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don’t Have a Clue + an interview with Jess Keating


by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015)

Sometimes you meet people on the internet who are instantly your kind of people. And all of a sudden they aren’t a tiny square avatar, but a real friend who sends you ketchup chips from Canada and the best gifs to your email. They support you on this whirling road of publishing, and they make you laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and you wish that Canada and California weren’t so far away.

Let me introduce you to my friend Jess Keating. She’s got great books and she’s a better friend, and I’m so happy to have her here today to celebrate her newest story in the My Life is a Zoo series, How to O

And also, it’s not just me. These guys liked her too . . .

“With her trademark kid-oriented wit and lighthearted touch, Keating leads readers through the daily emotional ups and downs of the typical just-turned-teenager who is trying to juggle hormones, parents, schoolwork, and, most importantly, her friends…A sweet reminder that being middle school girl is about far more than boys and makeup.” –Kirkus, starred review

So: here she is!

Hi Jess!

Hello, my dear Carter! Thank you for having me!

Can you give us some backstory on Ana? Is there any young-Jess-Keating wrapped up in her?

There is definitely a lot of young-me in Ana. I’ve always been an animal nut, and I was raised on Kratt’s Creatures, Crocodile Hunter, and Jane Goodall. Savvy readers might notice that Ana’s middle name is Jane—both she and her mother share this name to honor Dr. Goodall!

As a kid, it was my dream to live in a zoo, surrounded by strange animals. Obviously, my parents thought this would be rather hazardous, so instead they let me decorate my room to look like the rainforest. I even stuck plastic lizards and poison arrow frogs to my walls. Sometimes I even pretended I was David Attenborough, narrating my way through the day with a bad British accent.

Ana is also a giant nerd, who struggles with feeling like an outsider a lot. I think that’s something a lot of us share (particularly as teens and tweens), and I was no exception. It takes guts to share your passions, you know? I think Ana is also a very lucky kid, in that she’s surrounded by intelligent people who challenge her to pursue her dreams. We have that in common too.

Which do you most identify with: having untied shoelaces, missing a snorkel, or not having a clue?

Untied shoelaces!



What’s your ideal writing scenario? Snacks? Tunes?

Yes to snacks! I’m a big fan of popcorn and chocolate chips. Together or separately, really. My awesome agent Kathleen Rushall introduced me to Songza, which I’ve found to be perfect for playing background music while I write. I listen to mainly movie scores and video game soundtracks.

I like to move around a lot as I work, so I have a standing desk that’s really just a wooden crate that props up my laptop. That’s about it! Oh, and Post-It notes. Millions and millions of Post-It notes.

Which came first, these characters or their scenarios?

The characters came first, for sure. I think once you’ve got characters you know well, especially their flaws, it’s really a matter of plunking them down with some challenges and letting them find their way. I’ve always had such a clear picture of Ana, Daz, and Shep, so they seem to run the show. With each book, I have a general idea of a setting I’d like to explore, but I like to give them some freedom in getting there.

But sometimes writing can surprise you! Characters like Sugar and Bella were much quieter in my mind, and getting to know them better as the series continues has been extra fun.

What has been your most favorite scene to write and edit? Just don’t spoil us too much!

I love writing funny scenes, embarrassing scenes, and downright awful ‘fight’ scenes between friends. There’s just so much juicy emotion in these!

My favorite scene to write in OUTFOX revolves around Ana doing a Superman impression. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a scene I’ve wanted to write since the beginning of the series!

Describe Canada in one word.


What gif best describes your feelings for this book’s birthday week?

Ahh, you know how much I love gifs! I have so many feelings, I have to give you two! Publishing a book is a funny thing—it never stops being exciting. With every new book, I feel like Bilbo going on an adventure:

And this week especially, I’m so thankful and humbled that we get to continue Ana’s story in a third book. It takes so many people to get the story in your head on a shelf, and the readers who pick it up are really the reason we do this. So, I have a lot of love for everyone who works so hard to make these books, and those who have been with Ana from the start. Hence, hobbit hugs:

What’s coming next for you?

I like working on several projects at once, so I’ve got lots to keep me busy! My first nonfiction picture book is coming out in February, called PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH. It’s all about challenging the notion that “pink is for girls”, showcasing bizarre, dangerous, and unique pink animals. I’m tickled pink for this one! (Sorry.) This book is part of a new series called “The World of Weird Creatures”, so I’m also working on the next one! I can’t share the title yet, but I’ve definitely never seen anything like it before. Hee!

I’m also deliriously happy to report that we’ve just sold my first picture book biography! SHARK LADY is all about the life of Eugenie Clark, an incredible female scientist who studied—you guessed it—sharks. She is one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever come across, and I’m so excited to share her story!

Thanks again for having me!


The wonderful folks at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky are going to give away a complete set of Jess’s My Life is a Zoo series to a lucky reader! Head here to enter!

Good luck!


About the Author:

Jess Keating is a zoologist and the author of the critically acclaimed How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. Jess is also the author of the playful nonfiction picture book Pink is for Blobfish (Knopf Children’s, 2016). She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves writing books for adventurous and funny kids. Visit Jess at jesskeating.com.

You can also find her at these places:





(And you’ll be so glad you did.)


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24. Blog Tour: The Toymaker's Apprentice-Sherri L. Smith Author Guest Post

Sherri L. Smith's newest book is based on The Nutcracker. Taking on a classic story is always interesting and I love knowing how authors research and make a well known story their own, so I wanted to know more about the research process for The Toymaker's Apprentice.  

Most people don’t realize that the Nutcracker ballet has its origins in an E.T.A. Hoffman story, Nussknacker und Mausekönig published in 1816.  Some thirty years later, Hoffman’s strange story caught the imagination of Alexandre Dumas—the man who wrote The Three Musketeers and other popular novels.  It was Dumas’ version that Tchiakovsky based his ballet upon.  Luckily for me, as a kid, I fell in love with both the Hoffman story and the ballet.  As an adult, I found myself still daydreaming about the mysterious godfather Drosselmeyer, and the story behind the story.  So it wasn’t much of a stretch to think that one day I would tackle those questions for myself.
In my office is a blue binder stuffed to the gills with indexed pages:  18th Century Clothing.  Asia.  Turkey.  Arabic Cooking.  Clockmaking.  Nuts.  You name it.  When I finally decided to tackle this book, I amassed so much information that the novel sank.  It disappeared from view under the weight of too many possibilities, which took me ten years to assimilate and resurface with a story worth telling.
            It’s a strange thing when you are a writer.  The book the world sees is only one version of a multiverse of books I’ve written or imagined, all a different variation on the same story.  The version of Toymaker that you will read took several passes of research.  From that initial binder (I even recruited my mother into researching various time periods for me) to the last round of spelunking into the history and politics of 1815 Europe, and toy and clockmaking of the period, I did as much research as I could from libraries and a laptop in California.  I read up on lifespans of the various animals in the books, and the land speed of mice versus humans.  How to crack nuts.  Christmas traditions in Nuremberg.  I could give you a long list and sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump talking about shrimp. 
The idea is, you find out as much as you can, set it in the back of your mind, and then tell the story.  I find my brain will pull out the supporting details it needs to keep the story alive and moving forward.  Because of this method, which is rather like sifting for gold, I am always researching stories whenever I read or learn about something new.  I remember in patting myself on the back one day for inventing catacombs beneath the city of Nuremberg that worked perfectly for my story.  Then I went back and looked at my notes.  There are catacombs!  And they still work as if I made them myself! 
The best news for all us struggling writers out there is, if you’re midstream in a story and can’t come up with a good idea based on what you know, it doesn’t mean the story doesn’t work.  You just need to do more research.
About the Book: (from Goodreads) Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family.   


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25. New Jersey - The 50 States Fun Fact Blog Extravaganza!

New Jersey knows that it's the butt of jokes throughout the nation, but we also know that we've got a great state with unique features that no other state can match.  From the mountains to the shore, from the cities to the Pines, we've got a wealth of natural beauty, history, and culture.  It's like a well-kept secret.  But now, The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps, written by Gabrielle Balkin and illustrated by Sol Linero (Quarto, 2015) is bringing some of our secrets to light.

Take a peek at the New Jersey page, and then I'll share a few of my favorite NJ gems.

Three of my NJ favorites which are featured in The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps:
 BRIGHT IDEA In West Orange you can visit inventor Thomas Edison’s lab and house.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a fascinating place to visit.  In my opinion it beats visiting Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park, NJ and his winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida.  He didn't just invent the light bulb, he invented everything you need to use a light bulb - from the lamp to the power grid.  And of course, he invented much more than the light bulb.  Not a perfect man, by any means, but a perfectly brilliant inventor!
"Edison labs Main St Lakeside Av jeh" by Jim.henderson - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg#/media/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg

LUCY THE ELEPHANT In 1881 the U.S. Patent Office granted inventor James Lafferty the right to make animal-shaped buildings for 17 years. His first creation, Lucy, still stands in Margate, Atlantic City.
She's a whopping 6-stories high and 134 years old, and she sits right next to the beach.  And what a view from inside!  I'm not positive but I do remember that her interior paint color is "stomach," or something similarly intestinal.
By Harriet Duncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
FEBRUARY 1913: Silk workers in Paterson begin a six-month-long strike for better working conditions.
Paterson, NJ, may not be your first thought when seeking tourist sites, but it's well worth a visit.  Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is one of the nation's newest National Parks. The falls (one of the largest in the nation) and park sit in the midst of an urban city of more than 145,000 people. The falls and the people of Paterson were powerhouses of the U.S. Industrial Revolution.
Photo by L Taylor (c)
If you want to know more great sites in NJ, you'll have to come see for yourself. (BTW, Come See For Yourself, was once our state slogan. I think they should have gone with the more popular, "New Jersey - You got a problem with that?")

Book images and quotes were provided by the publisher.  I have no publisher or bookseller affiliations and received no compensation.  I am participating for love of state.

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