Interview with Karla Manternach

Hi, Karla! Thank you so much for joining in today to tell us a little bit about your upcoming book, NEVER FEAR, MEENA’S HERE! (March 24, 2020 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). Before we talk about your new book, can you tell us about your debut book, MEENA MEETS HER MATCH, that came out in January 2019?

Sure! Meena Zee is a scrappy, imaginative third grader who wants to make the best Valentine box in her class. She especially wants to beat Sofía, who was her best friend until Sofía inexplicably stopped playing with her at recess. Meena starts scavenging in the neighborhood recycling bins for supplies, but when an unexpected seizure sends her to the ER, her parents and teacher won’t leave her alone long enough to work on her big idea. The scarier Meena’s diagnosis looks, the more frantically she works to create the winning box. But she can’t see how her trash-picked project can compete–or how she’ll ever outshine Sofía if her own body is a mess.

Did you know you were going to be writing a sequel at that time?

I wrote the first book as a stand-alone, but when Krista Vitola at Simon & Schuster made an offer on the book, she asked for a second one, too. I was thrilled for a chance to follow Meena on a new adventure and see what she got up to next!

I just had the opportunity to read NEVER FEAR, MEENA’S HERE!, and I truly enjoyed it. I love that Meena is so headstrong and spirited, and yet there is some truly important subject matter covered as Meena accepts what it means to have epilepsy. How would you describe this book in your own words?

In the new story, Meena finds an unusual object that seems to give her superpowers. She spends a lot of time trying to figure out what her powers are and how to use them. She’s also starting treatment for epilepsy, and she sees that as a weakness. I’d say it’s a story about Meena confronting her sense of grandiosity. On the one hand, that’s a quality I love about her. She is single-minded and fearless in going after what she wants. On the other hand, she needs to learn to learn to think about how her actions affect other people and to consider her friends’ feelings instead of bulldozing over them. She also needs to learn that her medical condition won’t stop her from doing great things–but that sometimes small acts of kindness and solidarity have the biggest impact of all.

I love the cover of this book. Can you tell me a bit about the design team?

Tom Daly at Simon & Schuster designed both books. I love the playfulness and exuberance of his vision! Rayner Alencar illustrated the first book. He has a very eye-catching, anime-inspired look that was the perfect way to introduce readers to Meena as a character. Mina Price illustrated the new book. She did an amazing job of creating something that is faithful to the original yet still very much in her own style–and in a way that hints at the story to come. I feel very fortunate to have hit the illustrator jackpot twice!

I know the subject matter of the book is close to home for you. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this series?

My daughter Amelia started having seizures when she was nine years old. It was a scary time for our whole family, especially at the beginning while she was being tested for a possible brain tumor. Amelia taught me a lot during that time about how young children deal with fear and uncertainty. They feel and think about it deeply, but they also find ways to cling to their “kid-ness.” I really wanted to explore that in the first book.

In the second book, I wanted to develop the sibling relationships, especially between Meena and her little sister, Rosie. I’m a middle child myself. I have an older sister, and I am an older sister, so I feel like I have insight into both experiences. My daughter Mara is the little sister in our home. I wrote the second book for her. Even though Rosie isn’t the title character, I wanted to give her a chance to shine and to help Meena grow and learn something about herself. Completely by coincidence, the book comes out on Mara’s birthday. I couldn’t have planned that, but to me it’s perfect.

If there’s one thing you’d like our readers to know, what would it be?

I’d like them to know that the new book expands and develops Meena’s whole web of relationships. We get to know all the other characters better, especially Sofía, Rosie, and cousin Eli. I’d also like to keep reminding everyone that books about girls are not just for girls. I think that might be an adult hang-up even more than it is for kids. When I go to book signings, most adults bring their daughters and granddaughters and nieces along. I love that they do. I’m grateful they think the girls in their lives will connect with the book. But I want them to know that boys do, too. When I go to schools, the boys I meet are every bit as enthusiastic about Meena’s story as their female classmates.

Are there more Meena stories on the way, or do you have another project on which you’re working right now?

I don’t have plans for another Meena story right now, but I’d love to revisit her world some day. I spent the last year working on a new middle grade novel. It’s a middle-school friendship story and deals with some tough themes related to real life versus virtual life and our need for connection versus the importance of standing on our own two feet. It is very much the book of my heart. I can picture the cover so clearly that it almost hurts. I hope I get to see it in print some day!

Some helpful links: media handle: @mskarlam (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Thank you so much for joining us today, Karla!

Karla Manternach grew up in small-town Iowa, a grubby kid in tube socks who once stopped a parade by running in front of a fire truck for candy. When she was older, Karla detasseled corn, read Star Trek novels, and studied languages nobody speaks anymore. Today, Karla lives with her family in small-town Wisconsin where she creates books for young readers and works as a freelance writer. She is currently at work on a new middle grade novel.


Thank you so much for participating in Fast Forward Friday, Stacy. I’m so glad you could stop by the Village and talk to us today.

Kathie, I’m so happy to be here! MG Book Village has long been a place I go to for book reviews and to learn more about upcoming releases. It’s a thrill to be interviewed for the site! 

FOREVER GLIMMER CREEK is scheduled for release on April 7th. Can you tell us what it’s about?

Sure! FOREVER GLIMMER CREEK is set in a town where a Miracle happens every year. 12-year-old Rosie Flynn decides to make a documentary about the Miracles in the hopes of proving they’re real and connecting with her absent father. Along the way, she faces obstacles in her filming, navigates changing relationships with her friends and Mama, and faces doubts about her own beliefs. In the end, she discovers the true meaning of Glimmer Creek’s Miracles and learns a great deal about herself in the process.

Glimmer Creek is a delightful town with a touch of magic that runs through it. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

The town of Glimmer Creek is based on the small towns along the water in the Northern Neck of Virginia where my family has a cottage. I’ve always believed there was something special about this area. One night, I witnessed neon green bioluminescent plankton streaking through the river. They looked eerie and fantastical and otherworldly. That very event got me dreaming about a town with small doses of magic and thinking about which kinds of people would believe in the miracles associated with that magic. From there, the idea for Rosie and Glimmer Creek were born! 

I loved Rosie; her determination to film scenes for her movie despite the obstacles before her (including silly things like laws!) made me laugh but also admire her. Did you have a favorite character to write?

Well, I love all my characters, especially Rosie! But I think I may have loved writing Mama the most. I lost my mom when I was a young adult, and writing that character and her relationship with Rosie really brought back wonderful memories with my own mom. It was such a gift to write those scenes. 

Rosie learns some important lessons in this story about relationships, both with her family and with her friends. Can you share one lesson you learned while writing this book?

This story got me thinking about kindness in its many forms and how small acts of generosity and compassion can make an enormous difference in someone’s day, even their life! I’m sure this will sound a bit sappy, but I think that theme made me want to show more kindness in my own life. 

If you could choose any of the Glimmer Creek miracles for you own, which would it be and why?

There’s a lot of Glimmer Creek Miracles I’d like to have including always staying warm and finding money wherever I went! But if I absolutely had to choose, I suppose I’d wish for a Miracle that would make me an exceptional singer like Miss Lily. I used to dream of being on Broadway when I was younger so a Miracle that made that dream come true would be wonderful!   

If readers want to know more about your book and your writing, where can they go to follow you?

They can go to my website –

I’m also on twitter: @hackney_stacy

And instagram: @stacyhackneybooks 

Thanks again for chatting with us today, Stacy!

Thank you for having me, Kathie! 

Stacy Hackney grew up in Virginia where she spent her early years reading everything she could get her hands on, and singing in the school choir. She graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in English and received a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four sons, and their rescue dog named Albert. Forever Glimmer Creek is her first novel. Learn more at

Cover Reveal: THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM, by Kim Ventrella

Hello, Kim! Thank you so much for stopping by the MG Book Village to reveal the cover of one of your upcoming releases, THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM!

Thanks so much for having me!

What’s THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM all about?

How far would you go to be with the people you love—even after they’re gone?

After Sam’s dad dies in a car accident, he’s shuttled off to the dusty town of Holler, Oklahoma to live with a long-lost aunt. He misses everything about his old life—fishing in the swamps, drinking warm cans of Orange Crush and, especially, listening to Pa weave his famous tall tales.

He hates everything about Holler, with its empty fields and dead grass, until he encounters a strangely familiar cat who leads him to a mysterious tree—a tree that turns out to be a portal, letting him return to his old life for a few minutes a day, and be with Pa once more.

Sam’s visits to the bayou become stranger and stranger. Pa’s old stories unfold around him in beautiful but sinister detail, and Pa is not quite himself. Still, Sam is desperate to find a way for them to stay together—until he learns the bittersweet lesson that sometimes loving someone means having to say goodbye.

Certain themes or motifs seem to pop up in all of your work. Most notably (to me, at least): magic, darkness, and nature. Can you tell us a bit about your tendency to approach tough, dark topics and situations with magic or fantastical elements? And is there a reason why that magic is, in your work, so often combined or rooted in the natural world?

I like to think that I tackle difficult topics with big doses of whimsy, humor and hope. It’s true that from a very young age, I’ve always been drawn to dark stories. I had a tough childhood, and I always found myself yearning for stories that reflected my experience, preferably in the guise of a fantasy. Rather than make me sad, these stories made me feel accepted and understood. They validated my experience and gave me courage. That’s not to say that SAM is a sad story. It’s not! More than anything, it’s about the healing power of friendship and family.

As for my stories melding nature and magic, I’ve never really thought about that before, but you’re right! Notably, both my first book, SKELETON TREE, and SAM involve trees with magical properties. In retrospect, I think this connection totally makes sense, because what’s more magical than nature? Not only is nature full of mind-blowing plants and animals, but it’s full of mystery! There’s so much we have yet to discover.

What do you hope your readers – especially the young ones – take away from THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM?

SAM is about so many things: new friendships, reconciling with family, losing someone you love and, ultimately, hope. I want readers to come away inspired to tell their own stories. I see this book encouraging readers to be more understanding, to focus on friendships and, of course, to look at the world in a more magical way.

Many of our site’s readers are teachers of Middle Grade-aged kids. Is there anything you’d like to say to them – in particular those planning to add THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM to their classroom libraries?

I always love to connect with classrooms, either digitally or through in-person school visits! If your class is reading one of my books, or would just like to chat with an author, let me know. You can find more info at:

Okay, on to the cover! Were you at all involved in the process?

I created a Pinterest board with some ideas for aesthetics and gave feedback on the initial sketch. The illustrator, Brandon Dorman, did an amazing job capturing the essence of the novel in a single image. He has also done some super impressive MG series, like LAND OF STORIES and FABLEHAVEN, so I knew I’d be in good hands.

Let’s check it out. Here it is!

It’s FABULOUS! Full of mystery and movement! Wow. What was it like for you seeing the cover art for the first time?

It’s always a little nerve-wracking, but also fun. Thankfully, Brandon Dorman is awesome! The image inside the alligator is so perfect and sweet and teeming with nostalgia. It’s really fantastic how he incorporated so many story elements seamlessly into this single scene.

When can readers get their hands on THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM?

It comes out 9.29.2020 with HarperCollins!

Where can readers find you online, and how can they learn more about you and your work?

Readers can visit me online at or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @kimventrella.

KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novels Bone Hollow and Skeleton Tree (out now), as well as Hello, Future Me and The Secret Life of Sam (coming soon). She is also a contributor to the anthology, Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (9.1.2020). Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer and French instructor, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera.

Exclusive Preview: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS, by S.M. Vidaurri and Hannah Krieger

Accompanying this morning’s interview with author S.M. Vidaurri about his upcoming graphic novel collaboration with Hannah Krieger, the MG Book Village is pleased to share this EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW of All My Friends Are Ghosts.

Click here to check out S.M.’s interview, and scroll down to see a handful of selected pages from the graphic novel, which will be available in comic shops on Wednesday, and in bookstores next Tuesday! Click on each page to get a closer look at the art and get a taste of the story!

Interview: S. M. Vidaurri

Hi there, S.M.! Welcome to the MG Book Village! Before we get to your new graphic novel, ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS, would you care to tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Hello! A bit about myself… Hm! I’m an author of a few books now, some of which I have done the art for, and others, like All My Friends Are Ghosts, I worked on with an artist. I’m also an illustrator, and have illustrated comics and book covers. I have written video games and in my spare time like to write prose! I have a cat named Ingrid, she’s a diluted calico. She’s very talkative! I like peach tea and superhero movies. I think that constitutes a bit!

How did you come up with the idea of having Effie, the main character in ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS, enroll in a school for ghosts?

When Hannah (the artist and co-creator) and I decided we wanted to work on a book together I asked her what she liked to draw. She said she liked spooky things like ghosts and Draculas and werewolves. I thought of a lot of different things but the one idea that stuck was a school filled with ghosts. We hadn’t figured out *why* they were filled with ghosts just yet, but that was the jumping off point.

Fascinating! And now, I have to ask — have you ever wished that YOU could be friends with ghosts? Or would you rather keep your interaction with them limited to the worlds of your fiction?

I’m sure most ghosts are very chill. I think I would be a cool ghost. I’d just probably haunt a movie theatre and see all the new movies. I imagine most ghosts just mind their own business and we only interact with the rude and scary ones.

Do you have a favorite character or relationship in ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS that was the most fun or rewarding to write?

I really loved Caim and Beulah’s relationship. How they went from being extremely at odds with one another to being friends. But I don’t want to ruin any of the story!

Ha! Lastly, we know that ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS will be available in comic shops in a couple days, on March 11th, and in bookstores on the 17th. But where can our readers find out more about your and Hannah’s work?

You can find my work at, and I implore you to check out artist Hannah Krieger’s work at as well!!

S.M. Vidaurri was born and raised in northern New Jersey. He lives and works in New York. He received a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His apartment is filled with many animals. He likes romance novels and superhero movies. His first graphic novel Iron: Or The War After  was published in 2012 and was nominated for the Graphic Album category in the Pépites 2013 Salon de Montreuil. His work was also featured in Locust Moon’s Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream which won for Best Anthology in the 2015 Eisner Awards. He is currently working on writing ‘Steven Universe: Harmony,’ a five issue miniseries starting in September 2018. His client list includes: Archaia Entertainment, BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, Editions Cambourakis, Image Comics, Paste Magazine, Z2 Comics, and many more.

. . .

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS, an original graphic novel from acclaimed writer S.M. Vidaurri (Iron, Steven Universe), artist Hannah Krieger (Psychic Mansion), and letterer Mike Fiorentino, about discovering what makes you special and believing in yourself, available in stores March 2020.

Effie feels a bit lost in her own life. Her mom’s always working, school sucks, and her teacher doesn’t get her fantastical fiction about werewolves and vampires. One day, when she realizes that no one will notice, she escapes from her everyday life… and discovers a school for ghosts in the nearby woods!

With the help of her new ghostly friends, she enrolls in Minourghast Middle School for Wandering Spirits, but just as she’s beginning to learn all about the amazing things that ghosts can do – like possession, poltergeist-ing, demon magic and more – Effie and her new spirited friends take on the challenge of tracking down and freeing a lost soul. But it’ll take more than ghostly powers to succeed. If Effie’s going to help, she’ll have to look deep within herself and trust the support of her friends.

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS is the latest release from BOOM! Studios’ award-winning KaBOOM! imprint, home to comics for middle grade and younger readers including original series like Just Beyond: The Scare School by R.L. Stine and Kelly & Nichole Matthews, Hex Vet by Sam Davies, Hotel Dare by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre, RuinWorld by Derek Laufman, Drew and Jot: Dueling Doodles by Art Baltazar, and Pandora’s Legacy by Kara Leopard and Kelly & Nichole Matthews, as well as licensed series such as Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Over The Garden Wall.

Print copies of ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS will be available for sale on March 11, 2020 at local comic book shops (use to find the nearest one), on March 17, 2020 in bookstores, or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies can be purchased from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and Madefire.

For more on ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS and other projects from BOOM! Studios, stay tuned to and follow @boomstudios on Twitter.


I don’t know about you, but for me, there was not a lot I could tell you about the 1920s beyond flappers and the 20th amendment. However, after reading Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties by Sue Macy, I feel a lot more knowledgable!

The way that author Sue Macy has this book organized is intriguing. The chapters are organized chronologically, each chapter covering a two-year span of the decade. The vintage pictures throughout the book appear to be authentically from that time period, along with timelines, both of which will appeal to readers. Speaking of authentic: there are short inserts throughout the book that are excerpts from actual newspaper articles about different female athletes. To help make sure the readers understand the context of what life was like in general during that time, Macy also gives engrossing information about what was going on in society during the 20s, things like political information or popular fads.

When it comes to the content of the book, I learned a ton! Although there are multiple stories in this book about how women were prevented from participating in certain sports or sporting events, using excuses like female health or a fear of women appearing masculine, there are also stories that are groundbreaking or triumphant. For example, soon after the game of basketball was invented, women were playing the game just like men were. Women were participating in the Olympics in the 1920s as well, and a woman took things into her own hands and brought the sport of field hockey to the United States from Europe in the 1920s. Macy made sure to also include African-American women in this book, and took the time to highlight occasions when sports appear to be integrated, and other times when discrimination or segregation were an issue.

When I started this book, I had no idea about the progress that was made in regards to women in sports during the 1920s, or the names of many of the specific women that helped make these progress. Due to the lack of other engaging middle grade books on this topic, I think that many young readers will be in awe of what they learn from Breaking Through, just like I was.

Deana Metzke, in addition to being a wife and mother of two, spent many years as a Literacy Coach, and is now an Elementary Teacher Instructional Leader for Literacy and Social Studies for her school district. In addition to occasionally sharing her thoughts here at MG Book Village, you can read more of her thoughts about kid lit and trying to raise children who are readers at or follow her on Twitter @DMetzke. She is also a member of #bookexcursion.


Hi Jessica! We really appreciate you stopping by MG Book Village to take part in Fast Forward Friday.

Thank you for having me, I’m so glad to be here!

I had the pleasure of reading your debut book, STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG, which comes out on March 17th, 2020, and I truly enjoyed it. Can you tell our readers what it’s about?

Sure! Shy and quiet eleven-year-old Yumi Chung wishes she had the courage to do stand-up comedy like her YouTube idol, Jasmine Jasper, but she can’t even stand up to her academic-minded immigrant parents. When a case of mistaken identity offers Yumi a spot in comedy camp taught by the incredible Jasmine herself, Yumi leaps at the chance. While her parents think she’s at the library studying for the upcoming scholarship exam, she’s actually going to camp at the Haha Club as her alter-ego, Kay Nakamura, who is confident, popular, and pee-your-pants hilarious. Basically everything Yumi wishes she were in real life.

When a new performing arts school with a comedy program opens up, Yumi dares to hope her new life could be permanent and yearns to audition for a spot. But her parents are dead set on her acing her exam and winning a scholarship to the prestigious private school instead. Unable to give up on her double life, Yumi’s lies grow bigger and bigger until she must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing everything and everyone she ever cared about.

I love Yumi, and I think young readers will really be able to relate to her wanting to make her own choices about a future career, rather than pursuing what her parents what her to do. Which character was most challenging for you to write?

Absolutely, as a mother of a middle grade reader myself, I know all too well how common it is for young people to be at odds with their parents around this age. In this season of exploration and self-expression, kids might want to start branching out and pursue new things and sometimes parents aren’t ready for those changes. It’s no different for Yumi and her family.

The character that I spent the most time developing was the mother. I think I rewrote her at least five times. It was so hard because I really wanted to nail it. I needed her to be authentic but also multi-dimensional. Many times, the “Asian mom” character is portrayed in media as strict and unrelenting but I wanted to flesh out her incredibly loving side as well.

In many cultures, including my own, it isn’t quite as common to show affection with hugs and “I love yous” the way we see on TV. Signs of love are more often shown in quieter ways, like preparing favorite foods, providing the best opportunities, and being willing to sacrifice for your kids. These differences can be hard for Yumi and other American-born kids to understand and that disconnect often leads to an assumption that the parent doesn’t understand them or accept them as they are. Through Yumi’s adventures, she realizes that her parents have always been her biggest supporters, even when she didn’t know they were watching.

I love that Jasmine, Yumi’s comedy instructor, teaches her that comedy is most relatable when it comes from a place of truth. What’s one truth you’d like young readers to know about this story or its journey to publication?

Probably the biggest truth I’ve learned in the writing of this book is that there’s no such thing as failure. Really! It’s so counter intuitive but it’s true. So many of us live our lives afraid to take a chance because we don’t want to look stupid or we’d be so embarrassed if things didn’t work out but writing Yumi taught me that life is full of possibilities and if one thing doesn’t work out, we can always try something else!

I really loved that you showed the reader that children of immigrants often have higher expectations placed on them because their parents want them to have security. If Yumi came to you for life advice, what would you tell her?

I’m not sure if children of immigrants have higher expectations, per se, maybe just fewer options are showcased. And yes, the professions we know about are often the “secure” options (doctor, lawyer, engineer etc). When I was younger, I mistakenly assumed that our parents were just materialistic and wanted us to make a ton of money. Or maybe they just wanted bragging rights that their kid got into a fancy school. But now that I’m a mom myself, I see the challenges immigrants and people of color face in the workplace and in society, and I understand where this thinking comes from.

If Yumi came to me for life advice, I’d tell her that it’s a gift that she’s found something she’s so passionate about at such an early age. I’d also encourage her to keep chasing other interests and pursuits, including her studies. I’d tell her to be honest with her parents about what’s on her heart, to keep standing up for what she wants while remembering who she is and where she comes from. Most of all, I’d tell her that she’s doing great and that I’m proud of her and it’s okay to make mistakes.  

Are you currently working on another project, and can you let us know where readers can go to find out more about you and your writing?

Yes, I’m working on another contemporary middle grade fiction novel starring a Korean American tween! If you want to keep up with my writing journey you can follow me on Instagram at jesskimwrites or on my website I’m also on Twitter and Facebook under the same name.

OK, one last question: are you a comedy fan, and if so, could you share a joke with us before you go?

I’m a huge comedy fan but sadly my jokes are pretty corny. So, brace yourself. Here’s my go-to favorite:

What do you call a man with no nose and no body?

Nobody nose

Ha ha! Thanks again for joining us today, and I hope your debut year is filled with lots of laughs and happy moments.

Thank you so much, Kathie and MG Book Village for this chance to chat about STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! I hope you guys like it! 

Jessica Kim writes about Asian American girls finding their way in the world. Before she was an author, Jessica studied education at UC Berkeley and spent ten years teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades in public schools. Like Yumi, Jessica lives with her family in Southern California and can’t get enough Hot Cheetos, BTS, stand-up comedy, and Korean barbecue.