I am thrilled to welcome Andrea Pyros to the MG Book Village for the cover reveal of her latest novel…. PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS!  A big thank you to Andrea for letting us host the reveal and for taking the time to answer a few questions about PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS.

~ Corrina

Hi Andrea – we’re so excited to welcome you to the MGBookVillage today! Before we reveal your cover, can you tell us a bit about Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas?

Thanks for inviting me to chat with you at MGBookVillage!
Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas (Capstone, pub. date 2/1/19) is a middle-grade book about a seventh grade girl named Josephine who is dealing with friend stuff and boy stuff and divorced parents stuff and twin brother stuff. In other words, normal life stuff! Then her mother tells her that she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, and suddenly nothing about Jo’s life feels normal anymore. At all. 

Your novel is set in middle school – what was that time like for you?

Those years are HARD! I still remember being self-conscious about my changing body and feeling so uncomfortable in my own skin. And in sixth grade, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was scared and also embarrassed — I hated thinking people would pity me. It took me a long time to tell even my closest friends about my mom, and in fact, the only reason it came out was because my mom was friends with one of my friend’s parents.

Who is the artist that designed your cover?  And what did you think when you saw the final version?

The Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas cover was designed in-house at Capstone by the talented Kay Fraser, using design elements from Shutterstock. I absolutely fell in love with the final art when I first saw it. They’d been playing around with type-only, which looked cute (and is what’s on the ARC), but when Kay pulled together this final illustrated look, it grabbed me. It’s so fresh and modern and fun, and I’m delighted (and very grateful).


Andrea –  I LOVE IT!! Thank you for letting us get a peek at the cover of Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas!  When can readers get it, and where is a good place to preorder?

Thanks so much for letting me talk to your readers today, Corrina! Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas  comes out Feb. 1, 2019, with pre orders available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 IguZEe6QAndrea Pyros was born and raised in New York City, and she’s still sad that she’s never spent the night in any of the city’s museums. Andrea now lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two children and works as a freelance writer for a variety of publications. She is also the author of MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK, a middle-grade novel about friends, crushes, and a 7th-grade rock band named The EpiPens. You can find her online at and on Twitter @AndreaPyros.

STEM Tuesday Spin-Off: School Lunch Edition

Today kicks off a new guest blogger addition to the MG Book Village blog, The STEM Tuesday Spin-Off. On a bi-monthly basis, members of the STEM Tuesday group at From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle Grade Authors will share a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) post that ties middle grade STEM books, resources, and the STEM Tuesday weekly posts to the familiar, everyday things in the life of middle graders.

We’ll look at the things in life we often take for granted. We’ll peek behind the curtain and search underneath the hood for the STEM principles involved and suggest books and/or links to help build an understanding of the world around us. The common, everyday thing will be the hub of the post and the “spin-offs” will be the spokes making up our wheel of discovery. As my STEM Tuesday Craft & Resources cohort, Heather L. Montgomery often says, we’ll “Go deep!” on a common subject and take a look at its inherent STEM components.

For the inaugural post, we will take a closer look at something near and dear (and sometimes feared) by the average 8-14-year-old.

School Lunch!

The Hub: School lunch

Spoke 1: Nutrition & Menu Design

Contrary to popular belief, school lunch just doesn’t happen by accident nor is it a random offering of what foodstuffs are on hand. Believe it or not, even that turkey tetrazzini or the mystery meatloaf is part of school lunch by design. Over the past several decades, the spotlight on the importance of school lunch has garnered a bounty of attention. Heath, brain development, wellness, and food insecurity are now vital components of the one place in a school that is often taken for granted—the school cafeteria.

Performance nutrition

Spoke 2: Cafeteria Design & Engineering

The days of bland, boring, and institutional cafeterias and lunchrooms may be behind us. The cafeteria as a place to relax, unwind, refuel, and socialize is happening. And it’s pretty darn awesome. So awesome, I may have to re-enroll in elementary school to make up for all the brown bag bologna sandwiches I endured back in the day.

Spoke 3: Food Preparation Science/Food Disposal Science

Making good food is fun. Making good food for hundreds and perhaps even thousands of school kids safely is a challenge day after day after day. After all the food is prepared, served, and consumed, then something has to be done with all the waste, right?

Culinary Arts

Food Safety

I’m a microbiologist. I could probably bore you to tears with talk of Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli O157:H7, Aeromonas hydrophila, and other food pathogens. Wait! You’re already crying tears of joy reading this post? (I guess I should shelf the microbial talk and get back to business before I get booted from the MG Book Village.) Food safety is important. Food touches so many people in so many positive ways but it can also affect people negatively by causing illness. Take the case of cook Mary Mallon and the spread of Salmonella typhi in 1907 as an example of the importance of safely serving food.

Food Disposal/Recycling

Spoke 4: Food Production

Where does all that food come from? So much in the life of everyone depends on safe, nutritious, and tasty food finding its way onto the tables in homes and in school cafeterias everywhere.

Production Resources

  • United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service: Food and beverage manufacturing
  • I could watch this Most Amazing Food Processing Machines video over and over.

Spoke 5: Seed Science and Genetics

The science of food has been with us as long as we’ve been hanging around on this planet. Producing better crops, livestock, fruits, and vegetables have led to some of the greatest scientific advances of humanity. Production improvements and protection are vital to our future food security. Farmers and researcher are now using high-tech methodologies, satellite imaging, advanced weather and soil sensors, genetic data, performance data to predict and refine agriculture.

Seed Science Resources

Spoke 6: Hunger & Taste

At the end of the day, when you talk about school lunch, you got to talk taste. Hungry kids love the food but truthfully, how many sixth graders have you seen be excited about a sticky scoop of overcooked white rice plopped into their bowl? Food that tastes good = happy kids. Happy, healthy kids = a better world.

Can we talk about food and leave out dessert? NO WAY!

  • Author Interview: CHOCOLATE: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg


After researching this post on school lunch, my TBR pile has ballooned to a record high level. Some of this information I’ve read, some I am looking forward to reading ASAP. Dear trusty, MG Book Village reader, can you add additional books, comments on the listed books, and/or resources to any of the STEM Tuesday Spin-Off School Lunch spokes? If so, please do! We need all the details we can get our inquisitive hands on.


The true power of STEM doesn’t reside in the formulas, pathways, measurements, lines of code, or the blueprints we often associated with science, technology, mathematics, and technology. STEM lives and breaths in observation with an eye toward understanding and innovation. STEM is a way of looking at the world around us.

As we can see by taking a closer look at something ordinary like school lunch, STEM is all around us every day! There are multiple STEM stories around virtually every, single thing we interact with during the course of our day. There are also STEM books and resources to help explain most of these STEM stories we encounter.

Be curious. Think about the world around you. Figure out what makes it tick and work to make it better.

I want to read that story!

All this talk of school lunch has made me hungry. Now, where did I put that bologna sandwich?

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! STEM Tuesday is hosting a CoSTEM Contest to celebrate one whole year of STEM Tuesday blogs. The CoSTEM Contest is a mash-up of literacy and STEM costumes. So drag out your favorite books, take a good look at the theme, then create an amazing, one-of-a-kind, spectacular costume. Most important, there will be book prizes! Yes, book prizes! Check out the details HERE.


Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at and writer stuff at Two of his essays will be included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books release later this month. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.


Cryptozoology: Pseudoscience or Gateway Science?


In my MG debut novel, THE CRYPTID CATCHER, I explore the world of cryptozoology, which is the study of ‘hidden animals,’ like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.  Many consider cryptozoology a pseudoscience, like ghost hunting and ufology, because there’s no scientific evidence these beasts exist. But can reading books about The Yeti be an educational tool for kids? I believe the answer is…absolutely yes!

What if we pretend for a moment that cryptids might be real and explore them as such? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. After all, 18,000 new animal species are discovered by scientists every year. Okay, most of those are insects and not Ottermen or Sea Kraken. But still, just recently a trout thought to be extinct was found swimming along just fine in Colorado. In this world that is beginning to seem over-explored, where kids can find the answer to any question by asking Alexa, isn’t it exciting to think that there are still some things left to be discovered?

So what do kids learn by studying cryptids? Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, states, “Cryptozoology is the gateway to biology, zoology, ecology, anthropology, paleontology, and other life sciences. In the 1950s, a fascination with dinosaurs was later replaced by all sorts of scientific interests. Now, people want to know more and more about cryptozoology and are exposed to a vast universe of sciences full of animals and mysteries.”

Cryptozoology and its connection to other sciences is all around us. Just recently, yet another search of Loch Ness was done by scientists using environmental DNA to try to find proof of Nessie. And in Montana, a rancher shot a creature that nobody, not even the local wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks could identify. Theories abounded about what the beast was, and cryptozoologists were interviewed about its potential identity, which ranged from the Direwolf to the Dogman. Alas, the animal turned out to be a standard gray wolf, but for a time the discovery about what this beast could be made science very exciting!

Whether or not you believe in the existence of these legendary creatures, studying them with kids can be a gateway science and help create our next generation of anthropologists, marine biologists and conservationists – because who wouldn’t want to protect the home of the Ugly Merman in Russia? Cryptids are the new dinosaur, and a child’s curiosity about the chupacabras or snallygaster could lead to an interest in other life sciences.



Lija Fisher is the author of THE CRYPTID CATCHER, a middle grade humorous adventure novel with Farrar, Straus & Giroux that received a starred review from Booklist and is a Junior Library Guild selection. THE CRYPTID KEEPER is forthcoming.   Lija was the Writer in Residence in 2017 with Aspen Words.

You can find her on Twitter @LijaFisher, or

Write What Scares You


We’ve all heard the tenet: Write what you know.

But let’s go further.

Write what scares you.

In The Reckless Club, five kids spend the last summer day before beginning high school serving detention at a nursing home. During the course of this one day, a Flirt, an Athlete, a Drama Queen, a Nobody and a Rebel reveal what they’ve done to earn detention, who they are when their labels are yanked away, and what they’re going to do now.

The Reckless Club has fun characters, a lot of humor, and experiences inspired by my own life. And, just as with every other book I’ve written, its themes are an exploration in what scares me.

Those fears include feeling unworthy, shouldering loss, hurting loved ones, losing friendship, and being judged. I put my characters through difficult, heartbreaking, awkward experiences. And you know what? They come out okay, giving me and, I hope, readers an understanding that they would, too.

When I began this project, I wanted to delve even deeper. To not only write what I know and what scares me, but also to step out of my comfort zone in how I write. This had always been first person, one perspective, past tense.

The Reckless Club was spread amongst five characters. Could I pull off having not just two but five viewpoints?

While I had always written first person, this book needed to be third person for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that each character was carefully guarding a secret. Could I handle that, too?

The Reckless Club is a middle grade homage to “The Breakfast Club,” particularly that realization of how a person’s whole perspective can shift in just the course of a few hours. Present tense would be the best way to conjure that anything-could-happen-any-moment mentality. But that would require yet another huge step out of my comfort zone.

I remember sitting at my kitchen table, where I had been plotting ideas for The Reckless Club, leaning back in the chair, and letting out a big breath. Tiptoeing out of my writing comfort zone was one thing. This project would require giant leaps. Could I do this?

I looked down at my character sketches. In my mind, Jason, who starts the story known as a Nobody and pushes himself to become a leader by the end, raised an eyebrow.

Yeah, I can do this. I reminded myself that I had written eight other books (eleven if you counted those first three that now live in a dusty drawer). Each one had been scary to send into the world. Each one had pushed me further as a writer and a human. Each one had been worth facing the fear.

Besides, I told myself. I now had a tried-and-true regiment of word count goals, a favorite corner table in the local coffee shop, and a group of friends who could talk me off the literary edge at a moment’s notice. With a support system like that in place, there was no better time to challenge myself.

Within weeks, contract with my amazing editor Julie Matysik of Running Press Kids and YA signed, it was time to write. And that’s when we found out that our family would be moving from our quaint little New England town to a sprawling suburb of Dallas.

Soon I was packing bulging boxes and saying painful goodbyes. We loaded up the car and drove fifteen hundred miles in three days. My son held his prized LEGO Millennium Falcon, my daughter carried a prized mini rosebush, and I clutched a fat, squirming dog prone to stress farts. (Only the dog survived the journey.)

The move not only meant losing that support system I had been relying on, it also ate up time, adding to deadline pressure.

I felt lost navigating this new space, surrounded by faces I didn’t recognize, all while staring my fear of incompetence straight on. Just like my characters.  

I leaned into that connection, letting it root me, forcing that tenet of “write what you know” to truly braid with “write what scares you.” While I don’t necessarily encourage writers to move across the country on deadline, I do encourage you to occasionally leap from your comfort zone. Allow yourself to become unmoored and anchor yourself all over again.

The Reckless Club, just like its author, is stronger for the experience.

9780762460400_Vrabel_credit 179 Pictures.jpg


Beth Vrabel is the award-winning author of Caleb and Kit, A Blind Guide to Stinkville, A Blind Guide to Normal, and the Pack of Dorks series. She can’t clap to the beat or be trusted around Nutella, but indulges in both often, much to the dismay of her family. She lives in Texas, in the Dallas area.


Kate DiCamillo (Louisiana’s Way Home): Books Between, Episode 60

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi and welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, librarians, parents, and anyone who loves middle grade books! I believe in the power of stories to lift us up and help us discover who we really are.  My goal is to help you connect kids with those incredible books and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.

I am your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of two preteen girls, a 5th grade teacher in Central New York, and really, really glad that September is over.  I always feel like, for educators, September is a little bit like childbirth and having a newborn. Somehow you forget the utter exhaustion and work and lack of sleep every time. And instead you focus on the fresh start! Getting the room set up! Getting to know new personalities and a chance to get right THIS time what you you struggled with last time. And you forget that it took you MONTHS to get them into a decent schedule. And that the first weeks are just…. triage.   So… in solidarity with all the exhausted and overworked teachers and parents out there – I see you. I feel you. I AM you.

And after 15+ years of teaching, I did two things this September that helped my stress level a bit.

  1. I went to bed. And if you know me at ALL – you know how hard this is for me. I am a night owl. I am most inspired between 9pm and 1am. But when I have to get up for work at 5:15 – it was killing me.  Probably literally.
  2. I cut myself some slack. I DID NOT have my classroom “picture ready” on the first day of school. For the last few years, I have decorated my door with all the books I’ve read over the summer with favorite quotes. Nope – not this year. I just couldn’t pull it off. And that was…. honestly disappointing, but I think we need to give ourselves some grace with that stuff. I think we internalize all those Pinterest/Instagram ideas of what an “ideal” teacher and classroom should be and we give ourselves crap when we fall short of that imagined perfection. When in reality – NO one has it all together. Not the “education thought leader” with hundreds of thousands of followers, not the educator with the inspiring YouTube videos, not the teacher with that amazing new book out – NONE of them are living up to what we’re all “supposed to” be doing. Something is falling through the cracks. And I find the ones who admit that are really the ones worth listening to.

So, it is now October. I’m more rested and sooo ready to dive back into things – including bringing you some fantastic interviews this fall!

This is episode #60 and today I’m sharing a conversation I had this past summer with Kate DiCamillo about her latest novel, coming out tomorrow – Louisiana’s Way Home!

Before we dive into that, I want to give you a few updates.

The Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick for October is The Three Rules of Everyday Magic by Amanda Rawson Hill and The Hotel Between by Sean Easley is the November pick.

Also – #MGBooktober is BACK!!  The MGBookVillage is hosting a month of awesome middle grade related book prompts. We hope that you and your students will join in the fun. Just use #MGBooktober to post your responses and to find everyone else’s pics.


And finally – remember to set yourself a reminder for Monday nights at 9pm EST so you don’t miss the #MGBookChat Twitter chat!  This month some of the topics are: Teachers as Readers, Middle Grade Spooktacular (Why Scary Stories Matter), Building Vocabulary with Middle Grade Books, and Taboo Roll Call: Does anything go in Middle Grade now?  Those all sound amazing – so see you Monday nights!

Kate DiCamillo – Interview Outline

Our special guest this week is Kate DiCamillo – author of Because of Winn-Dixie, Tiger Rising, Flora & Ulysses, The Tale of Despereaux, among so many other incredible books. I KD_2014_RGB_72got the opportunity to chat with her this summer about Louisiana’s Way Home– the follow-up to her 2016 novel, Raymie Nightingale. We talk about why she decided to write a sequel, Pinocchio, bologna sandwiches, and of course her latest novel – Louisiana’s Way Home.  


Take a listen…

Louisiana’s Way Home

Your latest novel, Louisiana’s Way Home, is coming out this October. I had the opportunity to read an ARC and simply fell in love this story. It has so much depth and so much clarity all at the same time.  For our listeners who have not yet read the novel, can you tell us a bit about it?

This is the first time you’ve revisited the world of a previous novel.  What was your journey to decide that you wanted to go further into Louisiana’s story?

Early on in the book, Louisiana observes that “There are the rescuers in this world and there are the rescued.”  Which one are you?

My daughter would like to know – do you like bologna sandwiches?

You are known for your vibrant character names but in this book – you have three characters with the same name!

bk_louisiana_198pxThroughout the novel there is this small thread about the book Pinocchio and how most people don’t remember that Pinocchio kills the cricket at the beginning of the story! It made me think that perhaps adults don’t remember how dark the stories they grew up with actually were…

You’ve mentioned before that when you are writing, the trajectory of the story or the characters will often surprise you.  Were there any unexpected parts of Louisiana’s Way Home?

**BONUS SPOILER SECTION: Kate and I discuss the ending of the novel, and if you’d like to hear that conversation, I moved that part of the recording to after the end credits of today’s episode at the 36:18 mark.

Your Writing Life

Was it challenging to write a novel that would be satisfying for readers of Raymie Nightingale but that would also stand on its own?

If you can talk about it….. what are you working on now?

Your Reading Life

One of the goals of this podcast is to help educators and librarians and parents inspire kids to read more and connect them with amazing books.  Did you have a special teacher or librarian who helped foster your reading life as a child?  And if so, what did they do that made such a difference?

What were some of your most influential reads as a child?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?


Kate’s website –

Kate on Facebook:


Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Pinnochio (Carlo Collodi)

The Juniper Tree, and Other Tales from Grimm (Illustrated by Maurice Sendak)

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)

The 21 Balloons (William Pene du Bois)

A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)

Stuart Little (E.B. White)

Black Beauty (Anna Sewell)

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)

Polly & Buster (Sally Rippin)

The Borrowers (Mary Norton)

Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)

The Search for Delicious (Natalie Babbitt)

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (Rita Williams Garcia)



Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!


Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.