Discussion: The Power of Middle Grade Novels

Hi guys! I haven’t posted a discussion post written by myself in such a long time, but I finally have one ready for you all! As the blog is rapidly expanding these past few months, I have become acquainted with so many amazing MG authors that have inspired me to become more involved in the MG community. Yes, I am a primarily YA-based author, but there’s so much power in MG novels! I want to give a big shout out to Jarrett Lerner, author of Enginerds, for inspiring me to finally post this discussion. It’s been way overdue, and I hope you enjoy it!


MG Novels

When you think of middle grade novels, what do you think of? Series such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid come into mind. As an elementary school student growing up, I didn’t read those series, honestly–except Harry Potter, which I read all seven books in either fourth or fifth grade. I had the mindset that I did not want to read anything that had a low reading level (what caused it? AR!), and because of that, I ended up reading only classics and Encyclopedia Brown books. This is what caused me to not read at all in middle school–I felt so constrained to classics that I just did not want to read more of them anymore. I focused my free time on Lego’s and video games instead.

As a kid, I always had the misconception that middle grade books had little literary value and were “taboo” since I had a higher reading level than many kids. In seventh grade, I read only ten books. There was a special party for those who read and wrote about ten books, and I crammed A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a weekend (which was too much for me as a non-reader) as the tenth book under my belt. (I completed 91 books in 2017, which I never would have foreseen back then!)

When I became a blogger, I slowly transitioned into being primarily YA/MG-based. Since the moment I first read Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz and Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, I realized the power middle grade novels have not just to the high school student but to adults, too. Middle grade is NOT just for kids–in fact, anyone can learn from its lessons.

Continue reading “Discussion: The Power of Middle Grade Novels”

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This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! I am super excited for this month’s LILbooKtalk! I had the amazing opportunity to read both of these excellent debuts, and they share so many similar themes and conflicts that I had to invite both of the authors in our February panel. Today, we have Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise, and Leslie Hauser, author of Chasing Eveline, on the blog today to talk about “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families.” It was definitely a fun chat to moderate, and I hope you enjoy it!


About Almost ParadiseAlmost Paradise

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she’s the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn’t always mean going back to where you came from.

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About Chasing EvelineChasing Eveline

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.

Goodreads


LILbooKtalk 3

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Corabel Shofner, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Southern Festival of Books last October. Her Middle Grade debut novel Almost Paradise released last summer, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in a day! Could you describe to us a bit about your book and yourself?Almost Paradise

Corabel: ALMOST PARADISE is a Middle Grade contemporary novel with lots of whimsy, humor and heartbreak. In some ways it is a reverse coming of age story, since Ruby Clyde had taken on the adult role in her family and needs to reclaim her childhood. I am a wife and mother who lives in Nashville, TN. I had a very colorful life before I settled in the suburbs and I love it out here. ALMOST PARADISE is my debut novel although I have written law, short stories, essays and such.

Kester: Thank you, Corabel! It’s so great to be having a local Tennessee author here on the blog! We also have the amazing Leslie Hauser, who I was able to interview on my blog last summer. I loved her Young Adult contemporary debut Chasing Eveline, which I also devoured in a single day! Would you also like to share with us a bit about your novel and your background?

Leslie: Hi! Thanks for having me here. CHASING EVELINE is about 16-year-old Ivy HIggins and her desire to reunite her mom’s favorite 80s band. She thinks it may be the only way to find her mom who left Ivy and her dad several years prior, but also the music is a way to keep her mom present in her life. It also has some humor and heartbreak–sounds like a good companion to ALMOST PARADISE! I am a middle school English and history teacher in California and CHASING EVELINE is my debut novel.

Kester: Chasing Eveline and Almost Paradise are definitely great companions! (And you provided the perfect segue for my next question, Leslie!) That’s why as I read both of your novels, I noticed that each of your main characters share the common goal of healing their broken families. How do you want readers to be impacted by Ivy’s attempts at finding her long-lost mother or Ruby Clyde’s actions to help her mother avoid being imprisoned? How do your characters learn what it means to love those around you?

Chasing EvelineLeslie: Losing someone is difficult. I realized after my aunt passed away that every year, the memories became dimmer. It’s to the point now where I can’t even see parts of these memories (like the picture in Back to the Future! If you’re familiar with that movie.) Ivy’s quest to reunite Chasing Eveline is her way of dealing with loss and trying to keep her mom present. I wanted to write a story that shows that there are productive outlets for grief. I would hope readers would see that as a takeaway.

Corabel: Hi Leslie, I haven’t written anything with music as an element but I love the way Ivy seeks her mother through her mother’s favorite 80’s band. Reminds me a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy where he’s stomping through puddles listening to his mother’s old music, on an old player. Ruby Clyde is a self possessed little thing. She willingly steps up to care for her fragile mother but when the Catfish (mother’s rascal boyfriend) launches off on a cross country trip and gets them both arrested, Ruby Clyde is consumed with a longing for home and a growing realization that she might not be able to single handedly save her mother from prison. I want my readers to feel brave. Bravery is contagious.

Leslie: Sounds like Ivy and Ruby both have to step up in their families. Ivy feels compelled to take care of her dad in her mother’s absence. Bravery is definitely important when dealing with these struggles.

Corabel: Everybody loves the precocious child, the ‘little mother’ or the one who takes care of everything because a parent is damaged. People should realized that these children pay a price by losing their childhood. My sister did that in our family and it did not end well. I’ve since seen other children try to play this role and it breaks my heart. But their old personalities in the miniature bodies is often hilarious.
Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser”

Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds

Hi guys! I am super excited to share today’s interview because the author I’m inviting today is super awesome and has inspired me to become more involved in the MG community (which is also very amazing). Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, a book that is next on my to-buy list once I get out of my current buying ban, and he is also the co-founder of MG Book Village, a site dedicated to promoting and helping out the MG community. Please go check out his debut novel and the Village! We’d love to see new faces in the MG community!


About the AuthorEnginerds

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!

Goodreads


Jarrett Lerner Interview

1. Your MG debut novel EngiNerds, which released last year in September, follows Ken and his group of best friends—the EngiNerds—as they fight against farting robots with insatiable appetites. Why do you believe it is important to instill into young readers a love for STEM using literature? How could adults such as teachers and parents help foster a love for math, engineering, and the sciences into their kids?

For a book to be worth writing and reading, I don’t think it has to have a mission beyond the basic, beautiful one of telling a good, gripping story. However, with kids’ books especially, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a story’s specifics to teach young readers about various things outside of and beyond the book – STEM included.

More important than any one area of focus, though, is the lesson that books can be sources of ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance. To teach a kid (or to provide the opportunities and careful input so that they learn themselves) that they can use a book to get new ideas, to find a new hobby, to gain vicarious experience, to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t, to guide them through a tricky or trying situation, to help them reflect on and reevaluate their behavior and beliefs and relationships – that is of paramount importance.

2. If you could build your dream robot, how would you design it? What would you program it to do?

My dream robot would take care of the two daily tasks that I dislike the most: shaving and cleaning the cat’s little box.

3. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I fell in love with stories before I fell in love with writing. Really, I’ve always loved them – listening to them and then reading them and then, eventually, telling them, too. Stories are, I believe, the closest things us humans have to actual magic. They can be exciting, entertaining, and enchanting. They can let you see through the eyes of someone whose life you otherwise might not get to know a single thing about. They allow you to experience things – distant lands, made-up lands, moments both painful and triumphant – by simply moving your eyes across a page and using your imagination.

I started making up stories of my own when I was fairly young, first making comic strips and then longer comic books. I also had this big thick notebook that I called my “world notebook,” and in it I’d draw different made-up planets and then list all the crazy creatures and weird plants you could find on it. It was a sort of atlas of my imagination.

Throughout middle school and high school, I always enjoyed my writing assignments, and outside of classes I often took on writing projects by myself or with friends. I wrote some plays and scripts, in large part because my brother, who’s seven years older than me, was obsessed with movies and doing the same. Despite all this, though, it wasn’t until college that I ever realized I could maybe one day become an author. All those years, I’d carried around this assumption that authors were a special sort of person, and that to become one took something that I didn’t, and never would, have. Which is ridiculous, of course. But it took the convincing of friends and professors – and my meeting some authors myself – to believe that.

This is why so much of the work I do outside of my actual writing involves connecting with kids and shining a light on the awesome things they’re creating. I want to demystify the idea of the author/creator. We’re just normal people who love stories and playing around with words – or, in the case of illustrators, who love playing around with colors and lines. Everyone, on some level, is an author, even if the only stories they tell are the ones about themself that, from one day to the next, constitute and further shape their identity. And everyone can, if they put in the work and remain persistent, become an author professionally.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds”

Exclusive Interview with Eliot Sappingfield, MG Sci-fi Author of A Problematic Paradox

Hi guys! We have an amazing lineup of 2018 debut authors in store for you this year, and we’re kicking off all the #2018debuts with Eliot Sappingfield, author of A Problematic Paradox! I loved this book so much because it gave me so many laughs and hilarious moments, and I am glad I have the opportunity to interview the author about it! Hope you enjoy!


About the BookA Problematic Paradox

Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this wild, warm-hearted, and hilarious sci-fi debut about a brainy young girl who is recruited for a very special boarding school.

Nikola Kross has given up on living in harmony with classmates and exasperated teachers: she prefers dabbling in experimental chemistry to fitting in. But when her life is axially inverted by a gang of extraterrestrials who kidnap her dad and attempt to recruit her into their service, she discovers he’s been keeping a world of secrets from her–including the school for geniuses where she’s sent for refuge, a place where classes like Practical Quantum Mechanics are the norm and where students use wormholes to commute to class. For Nikola, the hard part isn’t school, it’s making friends, especially when the student body isn’t (entirely) human. But the most puzzling paradox of all is Nikola herself, who has certain abilities that no one understands–abilities that put her whole school in greater danger than she could have imagined.

A Problematic Paradox releases tomorrow January 23rd from G. P. Putnam’s and Son’s!

Goodreads


Eliot Sappingfield Interview

 

1. Your debut MG sci-fi novel A Problematic Paradox is releasing on January 23rd from G. P. Putnam and Son’s, and it follows Nikola as she is sent to the School, concealed from the outside world and filled with extraterrestrial creatures and futuristic technology, after her father is kidnapped by a group of aliens called “the Old Ones.” If you had the opportunity to become enrolled in the School, would you go? What classes would you want to take, and what would you be most looking forward to as a student?

Absolutely! Practical Quantum Mechanics sounds like a lot of fun to me, even if I might not be able to keep up with the actual geniuses there.

There’s also the fact that since I wrote the place, I’d be kind of like a god, and could control reality and bend others to my every whim. I’d be cool about it, though.

2. Nikola struggles to both fit in as a genius in her old school and as a human in her new school mostly comprised of parahumans, extraterrestrial creatures with extraordinary capabilities. How do you want A Problematic Paradox to impact young readers, especially regarding the themes of bullying and fitting in?

I wanted it to be realistic. A lot of times, especially in those middle school years, kids find themselves in impossible situations and are given terrible advice for dealing with it. It’s not that adults want to give bad advice; it’s just that every situation is different and what works for one kid doesn’t always work for others.

Since that’s just a fact of life for some, what I really wanted to do was to focus not on overcoming bullies, but on not letting them make your whole world as ugly as they are. It can feel safer to close yourself off, and avoid people altogether, but that stops you from connecting with the wonderful people that are all around us, sometimes dealing with the same issues.

I had a tough time in school myself, but was lucky enough to make friends that made it all worthwhile. Today, looking back, I can’t recall the face of a single bully, because they’re ultimately forgettable (which might be why they’re bullies in the first place) but I still speak to some of the friends I made back then.

3. Since Nikola’s primary passion is science, why do you believe it is important to portray more empowering girls pursuing STEM-related careers as protagonists and deuteragonists in Middle Grade fiction?A Problematic Paradox

That was actually where the idea for the book came from initially. I wanted to write a science fiction story with a female hero, but one that wasn’t a “girl book”. My daughters complained that there weren’t enough science books with girl heroes, and challenged me to come up with one. I’ve heard the middle grade years are when a lot of young women turn away from the sciences and start embracing what they think are gender-normative goals, so I really loved the idea of creating a world where a girl being brilliant and deeply interested in science isn’t just possible, it’s the norm.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Eliot Sappingfield, MG Sci-fi Author of A Problematic Paradox”

This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz

Hi guys! Today starts off the first full week of school for me, so I’m going to be a bit less active on social media since this semester is going to be hectic. Already, I have my DECA District Career Development Conference next Tuesday, so wish me luck in my competition! Today, I am also sharing with y’all my second ever LILbooKtalk (this will be a monthly post, so look out for February’s soon!), and I am so excited to have Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz here to talk about “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so I am super stoked to let you all read this discussion. Enjoy!


About Midnight without a MoonMidnight without a Moon

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.

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About A Sky Full of StarsA Sky Full of Stars

After the murder of Emmett Till, thirteen-year-old Rose is struggling with her decision to stay in Mississippi. Torn between the opinions of Shorty, a boy who wants to meet violence with violence, and Hallelujah, her best friend who believes in the power of peaceful protests, Rose is scared of the mounting racial tension and is starting to lose hope. But when Rose helps Aunt Ruthie start her own business, she begins to see how she can make a difference in her community. Life might be easier in the North, but Mississippi is home and that’s worth fighting for. Mid-Century Mississippi comes alive in this sequel to Midnight Without a Moon

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About Among the Red Stars30122938

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

Goodreads


LILbooKtalk 2

(Questions are in bold; HF = Historical Fiction)

Kester: The first author we have today is Linda Williams Jackson, who wrote the stunning Rose Lee Carter series, which comprises of Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars. A Sky Full of Stars just released last week on January 2nd! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novels?Midnight without a Moon

Linda: Hi Kester. Thanks for doing this chat. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, which is where my novels take place. It is also where the Emmett Till murder occurred. That murder and the swift trial and acquittal of the accused are the historical part of my “historical” novel.

Kester: Thank you so much, Linda! I really loved both of your novels, and I am super excited to have you here today! Alongside Linda, we have the wonderful Gwen C. Katz, who I had the pleasure of interviewing back in October about her debut novel Among the Red Stars. Would you also like to share with us a bit about your book and your background?

Gwen: Hey Kester. Thanks for having me. I’m Gwen Katz and I wrote about the Night Witches, an all-female bomber regiment who served on the front in Russia during World War II. It’s one of those really cool yet inexplicably neglected historical topics and I just wanted more people to know about it.

Kester: That sounds awesome! I’m really looking forward to reading Among the Red Stars! This month’s LILbooKtalk theme is “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Why do you both believe that it is critical for children and teens to be exposed to history through literature? How do your novels achieve the purpose of enlightening readers on the struggles of the past while conveying themes that could inspire generations?

Linda: I think it’s a more intriguing way to learn about history rather than in a textbook. As far as young readers are concerned, I think they would probably prefer reading a novel over reading a biography or a nonfiction book. HF also lends itself to tell stories that might get overlooked, such as the story Gwen has unfolded in Among the Red Stars. There is only so much space in those history books, so it’s up to us to tell the stories that get left out. And we can do this in an engaging way via HF.

Kester: Right. I definitely agree with you! Sometimes it’s hard to connect with history when I’m reading it from a textbook rather than a fiction novel.

Gwen: I think it’s important to expose young people to historical fiction because it allows them to make a personal connection to history. Historical events like wars and battles are often taught as a dry list of dates and locations and it’s easy for it all to feel very distant. Fiction helps us remember that every one of those war casualties was a real person with their own life, their own family, and their own dreams.

Linda: I love that answer, Gwen.

Gwen: And I definitely agree with Linda that a novel feels a lot more accessible to young people (and, for that matter, readers of all ages). Why shouldn’t learning about history be entertaining as well as informative?

Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz”

The First Ever LILbooKtalk!!: “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction” with Emily Blejwas and Brooks Benjamin

Hi guys! It’s exactly one week until Christmas, and it’s also the first full week for me out of school! I still have a few performances I have to do with my choir today and tomorrow, but then it will all be just resting and relaxation these next couple of weeks! I’m really excited about Christmas this year–I’m going to spend the days before with friends at a few get-togethers and parties and with my family the weekend of. And I am going to try and read as many books as I can before the year ends!

Today I am posting the first ever LILbooKtalk! LILbooKtalks are online discussion panels in which two authors chat about a certain topic that relates to both of their novels. I wanted to try something new because I love going to author panels and I love interview authors, but why not ask questions to multiple authors at the same time? Why not have author panels online for many to access them? This is a new “skit” I’m trying out, so I definitely hope you will enjoy our first every LILbooKtalk on “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction.”


About Once You Know ThisOnce You Know This

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol, stick together at school, but at home Brittany’s granny is sick, her cat is missing, there’s never any money, and there’s her little brother, Tommy, to worry about. Brittany has a hard time picturing her future as anything but a plain white sky. If her life is going to ever change, she needs a plan. And once she starts believing in herself, Brittany realizes that what has always seemed out of reach might be just around the corner.

This debut novel by Emily Blejwas is perfect for readers who love emotionally satisfying books. Thoughtful and understated, it’s the hopeful story of a girl who struggles to make her future bright . . . and the makeshift family that emerges around her.

Goodreads


About My Seventh Grade Life in TightsMy Seventh Grade Life in Tights

LIVE IT.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

WORK IT.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

BRING IT.

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

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LILbooKtalk 1

(Questions are bolded)

Kester: Today we are having our first ever LILbooKchat, an online discussion panel with authors from all sorts of genres! The first author we have is the lovely Emily Blejwas, who has recently released her MG debut novel Once You Know This a few months ago. I had the wonderful pleasure to be able to meet with you at Southern Festival of Books back in October! Could you tell us a little bit about your book and your background?Once You Know This

Emily: I grew up in Minnesota and have lived in Alabama since 2004. Once You Know This started with a scene from my work as a domestic violence victim advocate in Chicago, and a lot of the content comes from experiences working with people really struggling to get by.

Kester: Thank you, Emily! Your book sounds super amazing–can’t wait to read it! Next, we have the awesome Brooks Benjamin, whose MG debut novel My Seventh Grade Life in Tights released last year. I also had the chance to meet you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Fest back in March, and I really enjoyed reading your novel just recently! Could you also share with us a bit about your book and yourself?

Brooks: Sure! I’ve lived in Tennessee my whole life, always tucked back into the woods somewhere. I currently teach 4th grade at the only school in my town. I formed a dance crew back in middle school and we danced exclusively to New Kids on the Block (I know…I know…). That was the inspiration for M7GLiT which is all about a seventh-grade boy who wants to try out for a summer scholarship to a dance studio, much to the dismay of his dance-crew friends.

Emily: I love how you were NKOTB exclusive! That’s commitment!

Brooks: Haha! Right, Emily! We were, if nothing else, quite loyal to those guys.

Emily: Hey, loyalty is critical!

Kester: I definitely wished I knew how to dance like that back in middle school, or even now!

Brooks: You know? I wish I knew how to dance back in middle school, too, haha.

Continue reading “The First Ever LILbooKtalk!!: “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction” with Emily Blejwas and Brooks Benjamin”

Exclusive Interview with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor Author of The War that Saved My Life

Hi guys! Today marks the last day of the last full week of school for the semester! I am finally so glad that it’s almost over–I can finally take a big breather from all the busyness of the holiday and finals season. I am planning on relaxing, reading, and blogging more over the break and catching up on some needed-to-be-written posts and reviews. Today, I have for you an exclusive interview with another author I met back at the Southern Festival of Books (let me tell you, after book fests, I usually invite many of the authors I meet onto the blog–look at all the SE-YA author posts!). Funny story, I actually met Kimberly in the line for a Korean food truck there and noticed her name badge and realized that she was having a panel with Alan Gratz. I loved meeting with her, and she’s a Tennessee author, which is awesome! Here is our exclusive interview, and I hope you enjoy!


About The War that Saved My LifeThe War That Saved My Life

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

Goodreads


About The War I Finally WonThe War I Finally Won

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

Goodreads


Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Interview

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

Wow, a tough question right off the bat. Why does anyone love anything? I was born loving both stories and books—I definitely loved reading before writing—but honestly, it’s just who I’ve always been.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I like to think I have my own style. Childhood favorites included Madeleine L’Engle and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Right now I’m loving Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Laura Amy Schlitz, among others. When I’m not reading children’s lit I like historical fiction and oddball nonfiction.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Writing is the only job I have, so in that sense it’s full-time, but I don’t physically write 8 hours a day. There’s lots of research, for one thing. And I write best in 2-3 hour spurts. I work one afternoon a week at a local social justice center, and I ride my horse (and take care of our barn) and read a lot.

4. The War That Saved My Life is one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read, and I loved following Ada as she discovers her strength and potential when she and her brother Jamie are evacuated to the English countryside and placed in care of Susan Smith, who at first does not want to take them in. How did you first stumble upon the mass evacuations of children in the United Kingdom at the start of World War II? What are some of the most interesting or surprising facts you’ve learned from your research?The War That Saved My Life

For me it wasn’t something I stumbled on—it’s a background fact in novels I read as a child, including Bedknob and Broomsticks and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Interesting facts—mmmm—well, I discovered why British people used to commit suicide by sticking their heads in gas ovens, but Americans never did and British haven’t since the 1960s—before that, British stoves ran on coal gas instead of natural gas, and coal gas is 10% carbon monoxide.

5. Ada was born and grew up with clubfoot. Why do you believe it is important to realistically portray characters that are going through both physical and mental challenges and their trials in MG and YA fiction?

Because children are going through physical and mental challenges.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor Author of The War that Saved My Life”

Middle Grade Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh Talks About the Process of Writing Her Latest Book – Elsie Mae Has Something to Say + GIVEAWAY!

Hi guys! Happy Labor Day everybody! Today I am finishing up my 5-day weekend from school, and (hopefully) I got a lot of things done. September is going to be a crazy month for me- it usually is one of the busiest throughout the year- but I am so glad to have an amazing lineup of authors this month! Please give a warm welcome to Nancy J. Cavanaugh, author of Elsie Mae Has Something to Say, which I reviewed a few weeks ago as an ARC! She’s also giving away a signed copy of her book, so please don’t miss that!


About Elsie Mae Has Something to Say34006756

Elsie Mae is pretty sure this’ll be the best summer ever. She gets to explore the cool, quiet waters of the Okefenokee Swamp around her grandparents’ house with her new dog, Huck, and she’s written a letter to President Roosevelt that she’s confident will save the swamp from a shipping company and make her a major hometown hero. Then, news reaches Elsie Mae of some hog bandits stealing from swamper families, and she sees another opportunity to make her family proud while waiting to hear back from the White House.

But when her cousin Henry James, who dreams of one day becoming a traveling preacher like his daddy, shows up and just about ruins her investigation with his “Hallelujahs,” Elsie Mae will learn the hard way what it really means to be a hero.

Goodreads


Nancy J. Cavanaugh

My Writing Process for Elsie Mae Has Something to Say

So excited to be stopping by to do a guest post on Lilbooklovers!  I’m thankful for the opportunity to share a bit about my process in writing my most recent book, Elsie Mae Has Something to Say.

My basic formula for writing this particular book was to take one cup of inspiration, combine it with many cups of research, fold in a couple of cups of personal experience, then simmer and stir into a pot of creative imagination for about twenty years to yield one middle grade historical novel.

Continue reading “Middle Grade Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh Talks About the Process of Writing Her Latest Book – Elsie Mae Has Something to Say + GIVEAWAY!”

Review: 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop

Hi guys! I’m so backed up with reviews lately since I’ve read more books and written more reviews than I can post! I’m so glad that I’m able to have the opportunity to post them! Today’s book review is on 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop. I had Jenn on the blog a few months ago, in which you can find the link here, and she sent me a copy of her latest book to review, also. I’m so glad she did because I loved it, and you can see why below!


About the Book32319718

The night of the sixth-grade dance is supposed to be perfect for Maddie; she’ll wear her beautiful new dress, she’ll hit the dance floor with her friends, and her crush, Avery, will ask her to dance. Most importantly, she’ll finally leave her tiny elementary school behind for junior high. But as the first slow song starts to play, her plans crumble. Avery asks someone else to dance instead–and then the power goes out. Huddled in the gym, Maddie and her friends are stunned to hear that a tornado has ripped through the other side of town, destroying both Maddie’s and Avery’s homes.

Kind neighbors open up their home to Maddie’s and Avery’s families, which both excites and horrifies Maddie. Sharing the same house . . . with Avery? For the entire summer? While it buys her some time to prove that Avery made the wrong choice at the dance, it also means he’ll be there to witness her morning breath and her annoying little brother. Meanwhile, she must search for her beloved dog, who went missing during the tornado. At the dance, all she wanted was to be more grown-up. Now that she has no choice, is she ready for it?

Goodreads


5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free signed copy of this book  (and some extra swag) in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review at all.

I did not expect 14 Hollow Road to be this amazing of a book. You normally think with MG books that they should be light and fluffy, like a YA summer contemporary novel, but not in this case. This book defies all those stereotypes, and it will stand out as one of my favorite, if not my favorite, middle grade read of 2017. I just couldn’t put it down, and it was so beautiful. I mean it, it was amazingly beautiful. *cue single teardrop* If I had to create a lesson for elementary school students (like in 4th to 8th grade), I would get them to read this book. This is a book that adults, young adults, and children should read because it truly has the potential to change your view on disasters and those affected.

Continue reading “Review: 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop”

ARC Review: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Hi guys! As you know, my junior year started last week, and I’m hoping for a great year ahead! Hopefully it won’t be as hard as everyone says it is, but I’m hoping it would be full of fun, books, music, and many great opportunities! Today I have another ARC review for you, and I’m so glad to be able to review Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s newest book Elsie Mae Has Something to Say! Last year, I reviewed her Just Like Me, which I loved, and I was able to interview her here! In a few weeks, I’ll have her back in an exclusive guest post, so don’t miss that! I hope you enjoy this review!


About the Book34006756

Elsie Mae is pretty sure this’ll be the best summer ever. She gets to explore the cool, quiet waters of the Okefenokee Swamp around her grandparents’ house with her new dog, Huck, and she’s written a letter to President Roosevelt that she’s confident will save the swamp from a shipping company and make her a major hometown hero. Then, news reaches Elsie Mae of some hog bandits stealing from swamper families, and she sees another opportunity to make her family proud while waiting to hear back from the White House.

But when her cousin Henry James, who dreams of one day becoming a traveling preacher like his daddy, shows up and just about ruins her investigation with his “Hallelujahs,” Elsie Mae will learn the hard way what it really means to be a hero.

Goodreads


A 4 Star

Disclaimer: I received a free signed ARC of this book and some swag from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review.

I tweeted out while I was reading this that I couldn’t stop grinning, and I couldn’t throughout the first half of the book. Cavanaugh has once again impressed me with her latest novel Elsie Mae Has Something to Say! I’m really going to reiterate and repeat this many times: This book will make you feel as if you’re transported into the Okefenokee Swamp and actually hanging out with the main cast of characters. It’s one that you don’t want to put down!

Continue reading “ARC Review: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh”