Books · REVIEWS

Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella

“The ones you hold dear never leave you.”

Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone growing in his yard is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit to the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find, he’s sure to win the grand prize.

But, oddly, the bone doesn’t appear in any photos. Even stranger, it seems to be growing into a full skeleton . . . one that only children can see.

There’s just one person who doesn’t find any of this weird–Stanly’s little sister. Mischievous Miren adopts the skeleton as a friend, and soon, the two become inseparable playmates.

When Miren starts to grow sick, Stanly suspects that the skeleton is responsible and does everything in his power to drive the creature away. However, Miren is desperate not to lose her friend, forcing Stanly to question everything he’s ever believed about life, love, and the mysterious forces that connect us.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

With mystery, adventure, and resilient character, Skeleton Tree is a welcome experience for young readers.

Stanly found a skeleton bone in their backyard, which turns out not just an ordinary bone. The skeleton is growing from the ground like an actual tree with life of its own. Stanly thought this discovery will make him win a contest, and a chance to see his father again and travel with him. At first, he intend to keep the bone a secret, but soon without so much choice, he told about the bone to his younger sister, Miren, and his best friend, Jaxon. Even their caretaker Ms. Francine eventually knows about the Skeleton. The only person who isn’t aware about it is Stanly’s mother. For some reason, his mother cannot see the Skeleton, a mystery that Stanly did not understand at first.

Miren get to spend a lot of time with the skeleton, since she’s always at home due to her sickness. Miren seems enjoying her time with the Skeleton, and become friend with him. But Miren’s health condition is not getting better, and Stanley think that the Skeleton is to blame. Is there anything he can do to stop the Skeleton?

For a debut novel, Skeleton Tree is an impressive one. Kim Ventrella successfully delivered a sensitive topic for middle-grade readers with care. Death is inevitable, as an adult that is clear to many if not all of us. But for children, it is not an easy subject to deal with. So putting it out there with this book, give chance to openly discuss the topic. An imaginative story that can be useful for parents and children. With Skeleton Tree, Kim not only creatively and sensitively handle heavy topic, but also manage to be realistic and whimsical at the same time.

Few pages in, readers will see how Stanley taking care of his sister, Miren. Which makes Stanley adorable in my opinion. He tried to understand and even tolerate Miren. He even has Slurpy, an imaginary zombie in Stanley’s head whom he feed all his frustrations and anger.

At a very young age, Stanley is obviously smart and perceptive. He understand his family’s situation – how his mom is trying her best for them, his sister’s health condition, and his missing father. In his own ways he tried to help, like by tolerating his sister, understanding their situation, and trying his best not to add to his mother’s worries.

“She did the best she could, only keeping a whole family together wasn’t supposed to be a one-person job.”

But no matter how he tried to be a good boy, things doesn’t always go to his wishes. At a young age, Stanly learned that sometimes we have to accept the inevitable. Life happens and we have to embrace it.

“Love is a funny thing. Sometimes it is long and slow and rolling. A lazy river of love. Other times, it’s over so fast, you blink and you might miss it. Both things are love, Stanly. Don’t forget that.”

On the whole, Skeleton Tree is a bittersweet story about family, love, loss, and life. It’s a beautiful book that should be introduce to younger readers with parental presence to add more understanding about the important and heavy topic it sensitively delivered. This whimsical book is a welcome addition to the middle-grade shelves.

* This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for my honest opinion about the book.

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Books · REVIEWS

Deadzone (Horizon, #2) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

“…if we’re going to be a single team, then we’re going to function like one.”

The survivors have made it out of the jungle, but they may be sorry they ever left when they stumble upon a whole new ecosystem, populated with entirely new threats. And the greatest threat of all may come from within. Because one of the kids is changing . . .

The seven-book series begun by #1 New York Times bestseller Scott Westerfeld only gets bigger and bolder under the frenzied imagination of bestselling, critically acclaimed author Jennifer A. Nielsen!

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Deadzone is a survival story with a video game vibe and mystery, that will keep young readers at the very edge of their seats.

Those of you who have visited this blog for some time probably know that Jennifer Nielsen’s The Ascendance Trilogy is a favorite middle grade series of mine. It’s one of those fantasy books I love to read and reread. Which put Jennifer Nielsen to my auto-buy list. I’ve been looking out for her latest releases, hoping that she’ll create a new character like Sage/Jaron of The Ascendance trilogy. But in this new book of her, Deadzone, I didn’t actually expect a character like Jaron. Since the series is basically a collaboration from different authors, I know that Jennifer will have to continue the previous author, Scotte Westerfeld’s story. Which only means, same characters to play and expand for Jennifer.

Team Killbot – Kira, Yoshi and Akiko are still stranded in the arctic rift, trying their best to survive. Together with other survivors they have to cross the Blood Sand with the hope to finally find safety and answers. But crossing the Blood Sand is not an easy task. There are dangers and risks involved which may cost not only their energy and sanity but also their lives.

For a sequel of a series with different author from the previous book, Deadzone offers a same feel of read. Jennifer Nielsen continue the story from Scott Westerfeld’s Horizon with ease. She manages to deliver the same urgency if not more engaging. Unlike with the prequel, Jennifer doesn’t have to set-up the ground for the storyline anymore, giving her more space to push the story forward. Which she successfully did by giving readers and the characters new playing grounds, and more difficult battle to face.

With relatively diverse characters, Jeniffer weaved a compelling story in this sequel. The characters are not only struggling to survive the situation they are into but also each of their personal issues. Moly had to embrace her leadership role for the team Killbot; Yoshi has to accept his mother’s reason for sending him to Japan; while Kira and Akiko has some language barrier that they need to overcome in order to contribute more for the team.

Overall, Deadzone is a solid follow-up to Scott Westerfeld’s Horizon. Jennifer Nielsen not only moves the story arc forward but also set a higher stakes for the characters.

* This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for my honest opinion about the book.

Celebrating Debutantes · FEATURES · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (Author Interview + Giveaway)

I’m super excited to welcome new author Karina Yan Glaser on the blog as part of Celebrating Debutantes 2017 blog event. Karina answered few questions for me about her upcoming debut middle-grade contemporary novel, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I have read the book few weeks ago and I really love it. It has a classic-old-vibe feel to it, which makes me missed my younger days where my dad used to tell me stories during bedtime. This is a perfect read-out-loud book for kids, and also a perfect holiday read since the story is set around Christmas.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street releases on October 3rd, so there’s plenty of time to pre-order a copy from your favorite book stores and receive it on release day. And if you’d like to know more what I thought about this book, stop by  again a week before the book release for my review.

Following the author interview is Karina Yan Glasers’ author bio along with places where to find her online. Then there’s also the book description and where to pre-order copies of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

And if you would like the chance to win a signed advance readers copy of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, buttons and stickers, Karina is giving away below. Just enter the rafflecopter form a bit further down in this post. I hope you all enjoy the interview.

Interview with Karina Yan Glaser

Please tell us a bit about your journey with your book, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?
I began writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in November of 2013. My youngest daughter had just started preschool, and since she only went there for three mornings a week, I would walk over to the local Coffee Bean and park myself at a table and write. I drafted the entire book during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It was a terrible draft, but it gave me something to work with! I took some writing classes, got feedback, and wrote revision after revision in the next year and a half. When I finally felt like the manuscript was ready, I began querying for agents and the wonderful Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown offered representation in the summer of 2015. We went on submission in the fall of that year, and it got picked up by Ann Rider (best editor ever!) at HMH within a couple of weeks.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street have a strong focus on family and community. How much does this reflect on your own life?
I live in Harlem with my husband and two kids, and like a lot of people I know that live in New York City, we don’t have a lot of family that live nearby. There’s no support network, which was really hard especially when our kids were young. As a result, we developed family relationships with friends and neighbors that really influenced the setting where the Vanderbeekers lived.

I love your characters, they are diverse and charming (even the bunny, Paganini). Which of them is the most fun to write?
Oh, that is a hard one! Hmm, I loved each character, but it was particularly fun getting into Laney’s head. I love the uncomplicated way she sees the world.

What scene in The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street are you most proud of, and why?
I really loved writing the climax of the book. I won’t give anything away, but it was a scene that played itself out over and over in my head before I actually wrote it.

What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?
Middle grade readers are the best! It’s such a beautiful age for discovery. Kids that age are full of questions about the world and their place in it. Middle grade books were the ones that made me fall in love with reading, and they are still my favorite books to read now as an adult. I count myself as very lucky to be able to write for these kids.

Where do you see your work going after the release of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street? Do you think you’ll stick with middle or branch out into something else? What are your writing career ambitions?
I plan to stick with middle grade, but I might want to try writing early chaper books. I have three more middle grade books with my Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, so that will keep me busy for awhile!

Thanks for having me on your blog!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Originally from California, Karina came to New York City for college and has stuck around for nearly twenty years. She has had a varied career teaching and implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters and recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under resourced areas around the world. Now as a mother, one of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can’t go anywhere without a book. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, dog, cat, and house rabbit.

Find Karina

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

The Vanderbeekers of 141st StreetTitle: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 03, 2017
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover, eBook

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.

Book Links

Amazon | BAM | Book Depository | Goodreads | IndieBound

Giveaway:

What’s up for Grab?

  • signed ARC of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
  • Buttons and Stickers

  The Rules:

  • Open to US only
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends September 22nd, 2017
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.

Books · REVIEWS

Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales by Kiersten White

“…spelling matters.”

Once upon a time, a girl skipped into the forest and became a zombie.

Wait, no, that’s not how this story is supposed to go. Let’s try again.

Once upon a time, a boy did a horrible job as a sheep-sitter and burned his tongue on stolen pie.

No, children in these stories are always good and virtuous. From the top.

Once upon a time, a king and queen tried to find a princess for their son to marry, and he wound up fleeing from a group of very hairy vampires.

Hmmm…

What about, once upon a time, a bunch of fairy tales got twisted around to be completely hilarious, a tiny bit icky, and delightfully spooky scarytales… in other words, exactly what fairy tales were meant to be. Grab some flaming torches, maybe don’t accept that bowl of pease porridge, and get ready for a wickedly fun ride with acclaimed author Kiersten White and fairy tales like you’ve never heard them before.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales is a twisted fairy tale collection for kids. It’s scary, fun, creative and delightful.

Having read the first two books of Kiersten White’s The Conqueror’s Saga, I am eager to try her other works. So when I get the chance to read this latest novel, Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales, I just couldn’t pass that chance. Add the fact that the book promise a delightful read with all the fantasy and retelling, I just have to read the book.

In Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales, Kiersten White not only turn the familiar fairy tale characters to their twisted version, but also managed to make their story surprisingly dark and fun at the same time. In here, will get Kiersten White’s fun side with her twisted sense of humor. Though I have to admit, as much as I enjoy this one, I have few reservations, especially considering the book is for kids. So fair warning, the book is bit spooky and there is one off-putting scene, especially if you have a vivid imagination like me.

The familiar characters we all love such as Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and others get a new, twisted and frightening look. Snow White is a vampire, Red Riding Hood is a zombie, Goldilocks is a thug, and Cinderella and Prince Charring are pyromaniacs. There are also twisted version of kids rhymes in each chapters, and sketches made by Karl Kwasny that adds creativity as well as balance to the creepy story.

Overall, Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales is a gorgeously looking, delightful, fun and spooky middle-grade fiction. Kiersten White not only manage to make the classic fairytales new but also bring the familiar characters into a different light. With horror, humor, fantasy, Middle-grade readers will surely enjoy this one. A perfect gift for kids during Holloween season.

* This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for my honest opinion about the book.

Celebrating Debutantes · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: How To Stage A Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly (Character Interview and Giveaway)

 

Today I am absolutely thrilled to share to all of you my interview with the main character of How to Stage A Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly. If you haven’t read the book yet today is your chance to meet the main character, Sidney Camazzola.

And If you’d like to know a bit more about the book, How to Stage A Catastrophe the descriptions and places to find copies online are below. Also, if you’d like to know more about the author, Rebecca Donnelly’s bio and links to find her online are just after my interview with Sid. And if you’d like the to win a copy of the How to Stage A Catastrophe just enter the rafflecopter form a bit further down in this post for a chance to win one. Open to everyone where book depository ships.

Have fun reading the interview!

Interview with Sidney Camazzola of How To Stage A Catastrophe

To start things off, can you please introduce yourself so everyone will know more about you?
I’m Sidney Cammazola–Sidney Horatio Cammazola, if you want my full name. I live Hatahatchee, Florida, the best town on Earth, and I help out with all the props at the best theater on Earth, the Juicebox. One day I’m going to be the director there, when I’m old enough, but I guess twelve isn’t old enough yet. I have one big sister, May, one little sister, Pen, a mom, a dad, and a karaoke-singing grandma, and that’s about as good as life can get.

The Juicebox Theater is about to close, what makes you think you can save it?
It’s only going to close if we can’t earn enough money to keep it going, and like my best friend Folly says, There’s money out there if you know where to find it. We just have to figure out where the money is. Maybe we’ll earn enough money selling Useful Household Goods, like Folly suggested. The Juicebox is a children’s theater, and it’s not big or fancy, but it means a lot to all the kids who go there. We can’t let it close down. We’re going to figure something out, don’t worry.

You aspire to be a theatre director, can you tell us what your dream project is? Any particular actors you want to work with in project?
My sister May would probably kill me if I didn’t pick a musical so she could sing in it, but I’m sorry, May, I’m not picking Phantom of the Opera. I’m going to pick A Year with Frog and Toad, because I know my little sister would like that, and because I think it would look really good with some puppets made by my friend Jelly Baby. Plus, there are songs, so May can sing if she really wants to. She could be Frog and Neil Patrick Harris could be Toad.

If you could write yourself into any one play, which one would you most like to be part of and what role would you play?
Didn’t you see me freeze up on stage during our Variety Show? I’m pretty sure I’m made to be behind the curtain, not in front of it, but if I had to pick something, I’d pick one where I get to hide. (No, May, wearing the Phantom’s mask doesn’t count as hiding.) Did they make a play out of Where’s Waldo? He’s really hard to find.

You and Folly are pretty close, is there anything you want to tell Folly after all the crazy adventures you’ve both gone through?
Mostly I want to tell him thanks for being my best friend. Thanks for teaching me how to have a winning smile. Thanks for helping me figure out this whole mysterious mess and always being the good guy. You deserve the Golden Bowtie, Folly!

Anything you want to say to interested parties, curious stander by’s, friends and foes?
Yep. I’d say, don’t miss the next season at the Juicebox. If you don’t live in Hatahatchee, go catch a show somewhere near you! And make sure you buy something from the concession stand. Just watch out for meringues, sneaky orange dogs, greedy guys with crowbars, and very shallow trap doors.

Thanks so much Sid for answering all my questions and thank you also to Rebecca for allowing Sid to the interview.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Donnelly was born in England and has lived in California, Florida, and New Mexico. These days she writes and runs a small rural library in upstate New York. Her debut middle-grade novel, HOW TO STAGE A CATASTROPHE, will be published by Capstone Young Readers in April 2017.

Find Rebecca

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

Title: How to Stage a Catastrophe
Author: Rebecca Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Press/Random House
Publication Date: April 1, 2017
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover, Paperback

Sidney plans to be the director of the Juicebox Theater when he grows up. For now, he handles the props, his best friend Folly works the concession stand, and his sister May hangs out in the spotlight. But the theater is in danger of closing, and the kids know they need a plan to save it and fast. When they join a local commerce club to earn money, Sid and Folly uncover some immoral business practices, and it gives them a great idea for saving the theater. That is, if you can call extortion a great idea. Hilarious and heartwarming, the mission to save a failing community theater unites a riotous cast of characters in this offbeat middle-grade novel.

Book Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | IndieBound

Giveaway:

What’s up for Grab?

  •  How to Stage a Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly

The Rules:

  • Open to international where book depository ships
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends August 1st, 2017
  • Prize will be sent via book depository

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.

Celebrating Debutantes · FEATURES · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: Under Locker and Key by Allison K. Hymas (Author Interview and Giveaway)

Welcome to another feature for Celebrating Debutantes 2017. Today I’m joined on the blog by new author Allison K. Hymas to answer few questions about her debut middle grade novel, Under Locker and Key. This book is like mission impossible for middle grade readers.  It’s fun, clever and captivating story for everyone to enjoy.

Following the interview with Allison is her bio along with places where to find her online. Then there’s also the book description and where to buy copies of Under Locker and Key.

Also, don’t forget to check the giveaway at the bottom and enter the rafflecopter form for a chance to win fabulous prizes from Allison.

Here’s my interview with Allison. Enjoy reading!

Interview with Allison Hymas

Can you tell us a bit about your journey with Under Locker and Key? Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you write? And how was the publication process goes for you?

Under Locker and Key had a strange process for me, since it was a book that I didn’t take seriously for a long time. I first started it as part of an assignment for a college class on writing for children and adolescents. I had to develop a middle grade character, and that’s when I first met Jeremy. I liked him so much I wrote a short story about him, and I liked that story so much (and other people did too) that I turned that short story into a novel.

I worked on Under Locker and Key in my spare time as a backburner project when my other writing projects got too hard or I just needed a break. It was fun and easy for me to write; it fit my voice and style well. But I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Then, one of my teachers encouraged me to workshop it in his class, and that’s when I started to think that maybe I could publish this silly, fun story I’d just worked on for fun.

So I entered the book into a state-wide writing contest. I lost. In response, I queried agents like crazy out of determination and a little bit of spite. A couple agents responded, I chose the one I liked best, and she helped me find a publisher. It’s still strange, but not unwelcome, that the silly book I wrote but didn’t expect to publish ended up becoming my debut novel.

Why middle-grade? Do you think it is easier to write for younger audience than YA and adults?

Under Locker and Key was the first MG novel I’ve even drafted. As for why middle grade, I’m still not sure why I enjoy writing it so much. I suppose I like the fun I can have with this age group. Middle schoolers are at the beginning of a transition; they’re not yet teens, but they’re not elementary school children either. They’re losing their childhood identity and gaining a new one, which means that some, like Jeremy, can try to invent themselves as whatever they want. That means I can write adventures with heroes and villains as the kids try to decide who they’re going to be but don’t yet have the self-consciousness of teens about how that’s all going to work for them.

I don’t know if it’s easier to write for a younger audience, but I know it works well for me. I like humor and adventure, and Jeremy’s, a middle grade voice, comes easily to me.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing Under Locker and Key? Are there any fun things you discover during your research?

I’ve learned a lot about how to break the law while writing about Jeremy’s adventures. I have not picked a real lock (yet) or cracked the combination on a locker (yet), but I know how to do all these things in theory. I learned is that it’s not much like the movies. Picking locks takes a long time, and figuring out a locker combination takes quite a bit of patience and luck. You can climb through an air duct but they’re cramped, dark, and dirty. I’ve also been learning a lot about real-life hacking for later books.

However, my favorite thing that I’ve learned is how to lie convincingly and how to recognize a liar. Too much eye contact or not enough eye contact, touching the nose and near the mouth…clues like those. I can actually use this research in my life!

Do you have a favourite scene to write? And what scene are you most proud of, and why?

My favorite scene to write was the climax. I won’t give spoilers here, but I loved the way the story came together at the end in a nice, dare-I-say-clever solution.

But the scene I’m proudest of is the scene in the band room, when Jeremy is hiding from Becca. Some writers have to push their characters into trouble. Not me—Jeremy gets himself in trouble and I go crazy trying to figure out how to haul him out of the fire yet again. This scene gave me so much grief because I couldn’t figure out how to realistically resolve it for the longest time, but in the end, it worked out and because it was tricky, it turned out better than I expected with more suspense.

If Jeremy could turn the tables on you and write a story based on your younger years, what would the title of that book be and what would be the first line?

Oh, my. That’s a scary thought. I was pretty energetic and got into some trouble as a young child, but by the time I was Jeremy’s age I had mellowed out and was the shy, quiet girl in class who liked to read and write. I suppose the title would be something like Born to Be Mild and the first line would be, “See that girl reading over there? She has some stories to tell, some of them true.”

Are you working on other stories as of the moment? Could you tell us about it?

I’m working on a couple other stories. One is a sequel to Under Locker and Key, and the other is a YA science fiction about a boy who goes into other people’s dreams and learns that a girl in his town is in danger.

Thank you!

Thanks so much Allison!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a middle schooler, Allison K. Hymas was a law-abiding citizen (except for the occasional offense of reading under her desk when she should have been listening). She now holds an MFA from Brigham Young University and currently lives in Utah. Under Locker and Key is her first novel. Allison is hard at work writing Jeremy Wilderson’s further adventures.

Find Allison

Website | Blog |Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

Title: Under Locker and Key
Author: Allison K. Hymas
Publisher: Alladin
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Eleven-year-old Jeremy Wilderson teams up with his rival crime fighter to stop the stealing spree that’s wreaking havoc on Scottsville Middle School.

Jeremy Wilderson is not a thief. In fact, he is his middle school’s one and only retrieval specialist. Confiscated cell phones, stolen lunch money—he’ll discretely retrieve it before the last bell rings. Business is good, and if it weren’t for the meddling of preteen private investigator Becca Mills, he’d be happier than a gym teacher on dodgeball day.

But a new job shatters his comfortable lifestyle. Now, thanks to Jeremy, the master key to the schools’ lockers is in the hands of an aspiring crime kingpin who doesn’t exactly have Jeremy’s strong moral character. Soon not even combination locks can protect the students’ textbooks and jackets. Retrieving the key is too big a job for one crime fighter, and only one person wants the key returned as much as Jeremy does: Becca Mills.

Lockers are being robbed, the teachers are looking for the culprit, and the only person Jeremy can turn to is the girl who most wants to see him in the principal’s office. Will Jeremy be able to trust Becca enough to get the key back in the right hands? Or could he end up in detention until the end of high school instead?

Book Links

Book Page | Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound | Goodreads

Giveaway:

What’s up for Grab?

  • Signed copy of Under Locker and Key by Allison K. Hymas
  • Under Locker and Key Bookmark
  • Retrieval Specialist” pair of sunglasses 

The Rules:

  • Open International
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends July 12th, 2017
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.

Celebrating Debutantes · FEATURES · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla (Author Interview and Giveaway)

Welcome to another feature for Celebrating Debutantes 2017. Today I’m joined on the blog by author Sally Pla to answer few questions about her debut middle grade contemporary novel, The Someday Birds. This especial book will give readers not only memorable characters but also beautiful story that is heartwarming, hopeful and fun.

Following the interview with Sally is her bio along with places where to find her online. Then there’s also the book description and where to buy copies of The Someday Birds. And for a chance to own a signed copy of the book and some bird related swags, check the bottom of the post and enter the rafflecopter form.

Here’s my interview with Sally. Enjoy reading!

Interview with Sally Pla

Can you tell us a bit about your journey with The Someday Birds? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?

​When my three sons were young, we took them on many summer-vacation road trips across the country. From our home in Wisconsin, we went west to Yellowstone one summer, and east to Colonial Williamsburg the next. These trips weren’t very easy on my middle son, who’s autistic. He likes the comfort of his home, and doesn’t like change. When we traveled, he subsisted mainly on chicken nuggets, to the point his big brother said something that struck me deeply one day. He jokingly said, “Nate, with all the chicken you’ve eaten on our trips, you should write a travel journal and call it ‘Chicken Nuggets Across America.'”

The idea stuck in my head — a journal of surviving change.

It was years before I actually sat down to write, but that was the seed. I thought it would be a humorous, lighthearted tale, based on our family experiences. But as I wrote, the story got deeper and richer. It turned into a true tale of my heart.

Regarding the timescale: It took me nine or ten months to finish the first-draft manuscript. I started Feb-March 2014, finished and found an agent in November, went on submission in March 2015, struck a book deal in May 2015. The book was published a year and half later in Jan 2017. I think that’s a fairly standard publishing time frame.

The Someday Birds is both charming and heartwarming story that is full of hope and ha​s​ a strong focus on family. How much of this does reflect on your own life?

​My family, like Charlie’s, is eccentric, humorous and quirky — but in different ways. Getting through tough times with humor and pragmatism, and facing challenges with honesty: this is important to me in real as well as fictional family life! ​

Charlie is such a charming and sweet character. How did you go about putting yourself in his mindset especially with his condition? What are the challenges you encounter in writing his story?

Interestingly, Charlie’s voice came to me, one day, clear as a bell. I didn’t have to do a thing to put myself in his mindset. I started out thinking I was writing to honor my autistic son’s life experience. But I think I was honoring my own. As a result of writing The Someday Birds, I reflected back deeply on my own childhood. ​

What is your favorite part about writing your debut novel, The Someday Birds?

​I love the process of writing, the sense of immersion and flow. Now that the book is finished, I love ​
​getting fan letters from young readers. and talking to them during school visits. There is nothing like meeting students who are so excited to talk about their own stories.

What is the message that you want readers to pick up from The Someday Birds?

​That the important movement of “We Need Diverse Books”​
​includes a need for “NEURO-Diverse Books”​ as well. I just met with 250 6th graders today. I asked, “Who here knows or knows of someone with autism?” Every single hand was raised. We don’t have enough books written from neuro-diverse perspectives, and I hope many more writers join me in trying to rectify this.

Also, the message that living life fully entails risk — and is worth the risk. That we live in confusing and stressful times, but when you get out in the world, there is so much kindness and caring to be found, even in the most unexpected strangers.

You’re currently working on your second novel, JOHN LOCKDOWN IS IN THE BUILDING. How’s it coming along? Do you think you’ll stick writing middle-grade contemporary or branch out into something else?

JOHN LOCKDOWN IS IN THE BUILDING is due out with HarperCollins in Feb 2018, and I am so excited about it. The hero, Stanley, is sharply funny, highly anxious, and afraid of EVERYTHING. He’s also a comics trivia fanatic, and there’s a wild treasure hunt in the book that challenges Stanley to the max. Comics are also interspersed throughout the story.

I have a young children’s picture book coming out with Lee & Low in 2018 as well — BENNY, THE BAD DAY, AND ME. It’s about two little brothers, one with autism, during a very grumpy day.

And I’m working on a YA novel, currently. I’d love to try my hand at adult literary fiction some day… Many plans!

The one thing I think my work will always include, in one way or another, large or small, is the notion of neurodiversity.

Because it’s a big, varied, unusual world out there. And fiction of diversity helps us make our embrace of it wider — and better.

Thanks so much Sally and congratulations for getting many books deals. I’m looking forward for those in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sally J. Pla is the author of The Someday Birds (HarperCollins 2017), a Junior Library Guild Selection and starred Publishers Weekly review. Kirkus called it “hopeful, authentic, and oddly endearing. Booklist called it “a delight from beginning to end.” A second middle grade novel, John Lockdown Is In the Building, as well as a children’s picture book, will publish in 2018. Sally lives near lots of lemon trees in Southern California, where she’s hard at work on the next story.

Find Sally

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

Title: The Someday Birds
Author: Sally J Pla
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Charlie wishes his life could be as predictable and simple as chicken nuggets.

And it usually is. He has his clean room, his carefully organized bird books and art supplies, his favorite foods, and comfortable routines.

But life has been unraveling since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. And when Dad gets sent across country for medical treatment, Charlie must reluctantly travel to meet him. With his boy-crazy sister, unruly twin brothers, and a mysterious new family friend at the wheel, the journey looks anything but smooth.

So Charlie decides to try and spot all the birds that he and his dad had been hoping to see together in the wild. If he can complete the Someday Birds list for Dad, then maybe, just maybe, things will turn out okay…

Equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an unusual boy, and portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

Book Links:

Amazon | B&N | BookDepo | IndieBoundGoodreads | Publisher

Giveaway:

What’s up for Grab?

  • signed copy of The Someday Birds + some bird-related swag

The Rules:

  • Open US/CA
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends July 6th, 2017
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

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