FAST FORWARD FRIDAY – Caroline Gertler

Hi, Caroline, and welcome to MG Book Village! Your middle grade debut, MANY POINTS OF ME, is one of the first books I’ve read to be released in 2021, and I fell in love with Georgia and her journey to discover who she is after her dad’s death.  Can you share the synopsis with the readers, please?

I’m excited to be here today, Kathie, and I’m glad you loved the book!

MANY POINTS OF ME is about Georgia Rosenbloom, who’s grieving the loss of her father, a famous artist. She feels like she shared so much of him with the world, especially with her best friend, Theo, who’s also an aspiring artist. When Georgia finds a sketch that Dad made of her before he died, she sets out to prove that he intended to paint her for his last, great unfinished painting. Set in New York City, this is a story of creativity, grief, friendship, and finding the many different points of yourself.

One of my favorite things about this story is how clearly the reader feels Georgia’s longing to know that she mattered to her father. Did this story find its inspiration in a character, or was there something else that drove you to write it?

I actually set out to write more of a caper, an art mystery. But as I got to know Georgia and her world better, it became a deeper emotional story of self-discovery. I’m lucky not to have experienced the kind of loss that Georgia has, but when I started writing this book, my family was going through a challenging time, and I dug in to those feelings.

Your passion for art definitely comes through in your writing, and not only do you have a background in art history, but you also give tours at The Met! Is there an aspect of the art world that it was important for you to incorporate into the story?

I love how stories like FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER and UNDER THE EGG and MASTERPIECE give children a magical connection to the Met. I wanted to write my own ode to the Met, which is an institution close to my heart. I wanted to capture the magic of being intimately acquainted with its art and spaces.

I was also intrigued by stories of artists like Mark Rothko and the lesser-known Paul Feeley, who died young, leaving children behind. I wondered what it would be like to grow up in the light (or shadow) of an artist’s legacy.

Lastly, statistics show that women’s artwork comprises a low percentage of the total art market and museum acquisitions and exhibitions. So I made sure to spotlight women artists in the book.

What do you hope a young reader might say after they read your book?

I hope that readers might find empathy for how Georgia treats Theo; some readers might find her unlikable at first. I was particularly interested in writing from the perspective of the friend who’s doing the changing and growing apart, rather than from the perspective of the one being pushed away. Georgia realizes she has many different “points” of herself that can all exist together; I hope understanding that concept helps readers accept their own many points. Life is a process of growth and change and acceptance.

Are you working on another writing project at the moment?

Yes! I’m grateful to have gotten a two-book contract, and my editor is currently reading a draft of my second novel for middle grade readers.

Oh, that’s great news! Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

Check out my website, www.carolinegertler.com. It includes a virtual tour of Georgia’s New York City world and the Met. I’m also active at instagram, @carolinegertler, and on twitter, @cmgertler.

Thank you so much for joining me today, and I wish you all the best with your book’s release in January!

Thanks to you, Kathie, for these thoughtful questions. MG Book Village is an incredible resource, and you’re so generous and enthusiastic in your support of middle grade authors!

Caroline Gertler has an MA in art history, and gives tours of Old Master paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is a former children’s book editor, and Many Points of Me is her first novel. Caroline Gertler lives with her family in New York City.

FAST FORWARD FRIDAY – Chrystal Giles

Hi Chrystal, and welcome to Fast Forward Friday! I recently had the chance to read your debut MG book, TAKE BACK THE BLOCK (releases January 26, 2021), and I thought it was such a great read. Can you tell our readers a little bit about it, please?

Hi Kathie, thanks so much for having me! And thank you for reading TAKE BACK THE BLOCK, I am so glad you enjoyed it. It is my debut middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old boy named Wes who makes activism personal when his neighborhood is targeted by a powerful developer. Readers will follow Wes on a journey of trying to save his home and navigate his changing friendships.


Your story takes place in a place called Kensington Oaks, which is a predominantly Black neighborhood. I love how you bring it to life with details like the slideshow with pictures of special memories from events held there. Is it based on a real place, and if not, how do you make it feel so real?

I am so glad the Oaks came alive for you! The Oaks is not a real neighborhood and I can not say it is directly based on a real neighborhood. It is however based on a combination of neighborhoods in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. I really wanted readers to be enveloped by Wes’s surroundings. For the Oaks to resonate it needed to feel real, almost like a character itself–so that was my goal, to introduce the Oaks and have readers get to know it, little by little. I slowly revealed small components of the neighborhood throughout the story just like I did with the other side characters.

This is such an important time in kid’s lives because of changing friendship dynamics, and Wes has not only emotional but physical distance from his tight-knit group. Which relationship was the most challenging for you to write? 

I love this question. I’m tempted to say Kari and Wes’s relationship was the most challenging to write, but I will go with the relationship between Wes and Brent. In the opening of the story, Wes and Brent were very close (best best friends) and then transitioned into a bit of a back-and-forth before things took a turn for the worse. Creating those small cracks in their relationship was challenging for sure. We know that friendships don’t always go through change on a consistent path, so highlighting the ebbs and flows was difficult at times (and fun too).

There’s a very strong theme of social activism that runs throughout this story, which I found very inspiring. What do you hope your young readers will take away from your story?

In short, I hope readers walk away with the knowledge that their voice matters! I would say directly to readers: “You can create change. YES YOU! It doesn’t take a huge cause or a large group–it takes one person, one voice. Speak up, speak out, take action!”

I really loved that your book is a great length, with short chapters, and it has an appeal to a wide audience range. Is that something you purposely tried to do, or did the story just take shape that way?

I’d love to say I had a master plan, but I didn’t. I like to read shorter middle-grade novels so I naturally wrote a shorter novel. My earlier drafts were even shorter than the version that will be published; it was beefed up a bit during each edit. After listening to educators, I have learned that books under 250 pages with shorter chapters are a need in the middle grade space and I am happy TAKE BACK THE BLOCK can help to fill that need.

OK, what is one question that I haven’t asked you but that you would like to answer?

I’d like to talk a little about how fun this book is. TAKE BACK THE BLOCK will inevitably be coined as timely and important, which is true but I would like to emphasize the humor and everyday realness of the characters. I tried really hard to balance the tough topics with levity. Wes and crew have moments of just hanging out, playing video games, and super funny banter–I hope readers will remember those moments too.

Are you working on another writing project right now, and where can our readers go to connect with you?

Yes, I have another stand-alone middle-grade novel that will be published in 2022 by Random House. Readers can find me on Twitter @creativelychrys, on Instagram @chrystaldgiles, and at my website, www.chrystaldgiles.com.

I’m so glad we had a chance to chat today, Chrystal, and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you again, Kathie, for having me and for asking incredibly thoughtful questions!

Chrystal D. Giles is a children’s book author and champion for diversity and representation in children’s literature. She is making her middle-grade debut with, Take Back the Block, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Chrystal was a 2018 We Need Diverse Books mentee, and her poem “Dimples” appears in the poetry anthology Thanku: Poems of Gratitude (Millbrook). Chrystal lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and son.

Interview: Charise Mericle Harper

Hi Charise! Thank you so much for stopping by the MG Book Village to share about your recent release, SO EMBARRASSING: AWKWARD MOMENTS AND HOW TO GET THROUGH THEM! Before we get to the book, would you care to introduce yourself to our site’s readers?

Hello Readers!  This is always hard for me, I’m not super comfortable with listing off accomplishments.  When I do school visits, I have a sidekick character to help me explain things.  He’s an animated book, and we give the presentation together.  I guess he’s not going to be much help today.  Okay, so I’m on my own, here it goes. I like to make things. I make picture books, graphic novels, and chapter books.  I the draw pictures and I the write words.  Sometimes I to do both together and that is always my favorite.  I love making comics!

You did great! 🙂 Okay, so: SO EMBARRASSING. Where did the idea for such a book come from?

Well, it really was a collaborative project with my editor, Chris Duffy at Workman.  I wanted to make a book filled with comics and factual information, and wanted the content to be helpful to kids.  This is an unusual book, so it took some work to figure out how all the pieces were going to fit together.  There isn’t a big central story, but reappearing characters and two dedicated narrators helped give it a framework.  Then the fun started – I got to make comics!

Were you easily embarrassed as a kid? Did you ever want to stick a paper bag over your head?

Absolutely!  And I am a blusher!  While I’m not an expert on embarrassment, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of that moment when it happens and the horror of it all.  How you just want to disappear. It’s awful. On the other hand, I’m always predisposed to look for humor in a situation, and this topic has a lot of opportunities for humor. 

Do you think, as we grow up, that we stop doing so many embarrassing things, or do we just stop getting embarrassed as easily?

Wait!  Are you saying that adults don’t get embarrassed? No one told me! I’m still operating at full kid level.  Let me take a second to let that sink in.

I’m pretty sure that no one likes the feeling of being embarrassed, so I suppose that adults might be good at avoiding potentially embarrassing situations. They have years and years of practice. So they know to say, No thanks, I won’t get on that electric scooter while you have a camera pointing at me. Also, perhaps the adult brain can understand that embarrassment isn’t such a big deal, that if you can laugh it off – you win.

Were there any issues or anecdotes that didn’t make the cut — that were removed from the book, say, during revisions?

I don’t think there were any big cuts to the book, but it was good that that we had a limited number of dedicated pages per chapter.  I could have easily made more comics with additional time and pages.  I didn’t include any of my own big embarrassment stories in the book, but inspired by the book, I made some comics about them and added them to my website.  The time my car caught on fire was pretty embarrassing, as was the time I fell in the middle of the street while walking my dogs.  That last one happened only last year. Yikes!

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

Well, first off, I hope they will smile and laugh.  There are some facts in the book, so I’m hoping those might be interesting and helpful. Also, knowing that you are not alone is a big help when facing an uncomfortable situation.  No one talks about embarrassment, what to do when it happens, and why it happens, yet it is something that we’ve all experienced.  When I was just starting this book, I was at a school visit with about sixty fifth graders. I told them about the new book I was working on, shared my own embarrassment story, and then asked if anyone wanted to share a story of their own.  I thought two or three brave students might put a hand up, but I was wrong.  More than half the class wanted to talk about something embarrassing that had happened to them. I couldn’t believe it.  It was fun, it was high energy, and it gave me confidence in my subject matter.  Embarrassment equals a good story.

SO EMBARRASSING is a marvelous mishmash — there are comics, lists, charts, facts, and at different points, the book reads like a self-help survival guide, a confession-filled memoir, an illustrated informational text, and a handful of other things besides! How did you come to use this approach? Are there any other topics that you could see making a book about in such a fashion?

You use the word mishmash and that was the exact recipe I used.  I put all the things I like to do together, mixed them up, and then made them fit.  A fair amount of it was not pre-planned, but just appeared as I kept working through the pages.  I’m really thankful to my editor for letting me play around with the format.  Not every publisher is going to be so comfortable with that.  I am looking for new topic right now.  I’m not sure if it’s going to be exactly like So Embarrassing. I might have to invent something new.  I felt very comfortable making this book. I’d love to make more.

Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

My website holds more information than anyone could want.  There’s information about all my books, free comics to read, and free crafts to make.  You can find all this at www.chariseharper.com  Come on by!


Charise Mericle Harper is the author and illustrator of many children’s books, including the Just Grace series, the Fashion Kitty series, and the Next Best Junior Chef series. She lives in Oregon. She can be found at chariseharper.com.

FAST FORWARD FRIDAY – Megan Freeman

Welcome to Fast Forward Friday, Megan. Your debut book, ALONE, comes out on January 12, 2021. I recently had a chance to read it, and it’s such a unique story that adventure lovers are really going to enjoy. Can you tell our readers a bit about it, please?

Thanks so much for having me, Kathie. I’m delighted to be here.

Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, ALONE is a novel-in-verse that tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.



When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.



With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.



As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day.

One of the things I loved about this story is that it’s written as a novel in verse, and moves very quickly. Why did you decide to write it in this format?

The earliest drafts of the book were actually written in prose, in third person voice, and in past tense. After many rounds of revisions and feedback, I decided to tap into my experience as a poet and I rewrote the entire story in verse, using first person voice and present tense. This allowed me to get inside Maddie’s head and explore the solitary and sensory nature of her experience. The poetry freed the story and I felt much freer as a writer.

One thing I noticed is how little dialogue there is since Maddie spends so much time alone. Did that make it easier or harder to write?

The lack of additional characters and dialogue initially made the writing very challenging, but once I introduced George, the rottweiler who stays with Maddie throughout the story, it got easier. George became someone she could interact with and talk to, and that eased the burden of the story being all inside Maddie’s head. The problem was also made easier by writing in verse. The poetry leant itself to expressing her various moods and states of being—things that might otherwise be revealed through dialogue and interaction with other characters—and it offered me a way in to Maddie’s inner experience.

If you’d been in a similar situation to Maddie, what’s one thing you think you would have done differently?

Wow, that’s a tough question, and one I’ve asked students before but no one has ever asked me. When I was twelve I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to drive, so I might have taken the car and tried driving out of town to see if I could find other people. I don’t know if I would have had Maddie’s foresight to consider the possibility of running out of gas and being stuck in the middle of nowhere.

I can also be pretty extroverted, so I might have decided to reveal myself to the looters immediately instead of waiting and watching to see if they were safe the way Maddie does. I guess it would just depend if my fear of them was greater than my eagerness to be with people again. But would interacting with them be a smart choice in the long run? Hard to say. There are real risks with every decision and the stakes are very high.

What would you like young readers to take away from your story?

I’ll quote James Patterson here and say I hope young readers love it so much that it makes them want to go right out and read another book. The more kids love reading the more books they read, and I want my book to be part of the cycle that creates enthusiastic lifelong readers.

I also hope they will be intrigued by the what ifs of the story. What if they were left behind like Maddie is? What might be challenging and what might be exciting? What kind of animal would they want as their companion? How might they solve some of the problems Maddie faces? What problems might they encounter that she doesn’t have? The question what if opens the doorway to imagination and it’s really fun to walk through. I hope my book is an invitation to imagination.

Can you tell us where to find out more about you and your writing, please?

At MeganEFreeman.com, readers can find more information about me, as well as information about author events and how to find ALONE in bookstores. It also has links to my social media, where I love interacting with readers directly.

Thank you so much for joining us today, and I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.

I loved it, and I really appreciate everything Middle Grade Book Village does for readers, teachers, writers, and families. Thank you so much!

Megan E. Freeman attended an elementary school where poets came into the classrooms every week to teach poetry, and she has been a writer ever since. She writes middle-grade and young adult fiction as well as poetry for adults. Also an award-winning teacher, Megan has decades of experience teaching in the arts and humanities and is nationally recognized for presenting workshops and speaking to audiences across the country. Megan used to live in northeast Los Angeles, central Ohio, northern Norway, and on Caribbean cruise ships. Now she lives near Boulder, Colorado.

FAST FORWARD FRIDAY – Basil Sylvester

Hi Basil! I’m so glad you could join me today on Fast Forward Friday. Your middle grade debut, THE FABULOUS ZED WATSON!, is co-authored with your dad, Kevin Sylvester, and comes out on January 26, 2021 with HarperCollins. I was delighted to have a chance to read an ARC, and I absolutely loved this story. It’s funny, uplifting, original, and who can resist a road trip to search for a long lost book? Can you give us a bit of a synopsis of it, please?

Hi Kathie! Thanks for having me! I definitely can; the book is about an energetic kid named Zed who is obsessed with finding a long-lost manuscript called The Monster’s Castle. They have to go on a road trip to gather all the clues to find it, except they don’t have a car—so they have to go along with their neighbour, Gabe, and his sister Sam. It’s a book filled with road-side stops, bad puns, ice cream, clues, new friends, and lots of fictional monsters!

Zed is such an entertaining character. I especially liked when they did something we weren’t expecting, such as thinking like a corpse, or dancing in the Potato Dance Off. Yet I also learned a lot from Zed about what it means to be nonbinary while they explained it to their friend, Gabe, and the challenges they’ve faced. How did you find that balance between educating and entertaining as you wrote them?

I’m really glad you liked their weirdness—the corpse moment was one that Kevin wrote separately, and I laughed out loud when he showed it to me! I think it’s important to have conversations in the book that sound like people would actually talk—if we just went for a straight lecture or information session, it wouldn’t be realistic anyway. So that’s kind of where some of the Own Voices element comes in, because when people ask me about gender or lgbtq+ stuff, I tend to address it with humour/levity. I also think that if trans and/or nonbinary kids read this book, they would get bored if it was just an info session for the uninitiated, so addressing stuff like this with humour means it’s more engaging for everyone and just a better read.

What was it like to co-author a book with your dad, and how did the collaboration work in terms of the writing process? Did you also have input on his illustrations?

It was so fun, honestly! We wrote an outline super quickly—we just seemed to be on the same page so to speak. Then we split it up in parts—Kevin would write a certain part if he was excited about it, I would write the gender stuff and a lot of the character-driven conversations, and so on. Then we got together and read everything out loud, and edited as we wrote. While I was reading, he would illustrate—I had a lot of input, he was very generous about that. He originally drew a couple character designs for Zed and I remember I mainly directed him on that—I said I wanted Zed to be short and wearing lots of oversized stuff, and to be a bit chubby, like me.

I’m always drawn to a story where there’s a hunt for missing items, but I could never solve a single clue. Do you enjoy scavenger hunts, and how did you come up with such creative clues?

As a kid I absolutely loved them! in fact, my dad and my mom used to make scavenger hunts for us and hand-write notes from different fictional characters that would lead us around the house and backyard. There’s something so incredibly special about solving a clue yourself and getting a reward for it! I’m a bit self conscious about the clues in Zed because I worry they’re a bit opaque, but sometimes the fun is just watching Zed and Gabe run around and doing zany things. The clues were all about places, and initially it was all going to be stuff just from The Monster’s Castle, but we realized that wouldn’t be as fun since the reader wouldn’t know it. So we added the plant/flower clues to make it a bit more complex and also so that you could learn things while watching them solve it!

What’s one thing that’s surprised you about the publishing process?

I would say for our book the thing that surprised me the most was the trust they put in me with a lot of the aspects of the design, even though I’m an unknown to them! For instance, they sent a cover mock-up and I suggested a different style of font—which they then allowed me to do! Me! I’m really proud of the cover we did—it was based on my original idea and then I, who is in no way a professional artist or any kind of artistic talent, got to do the cover lettering and the lettering on the spine! It was very exciting to work with our editor and the art department on that, and I feel really great about how it turned out!

What would you like to hear a young reader say after they’ve read your book?

I just hope they enjoy it, and like Zed. I hope some LGBTQ+ kids will see themselves and have fun reading a book where the main character is like them and gets to do all kinds of cool things. I hope they say that it inspired them to learn something else—like, I don’t know, gardening or the history of pulp horror novels, or maybe that it inspired them to write. I think I’d like that a lot.

Do you have another book on which you’re working right now?

Basil: Not exactly—I’m trying to finish my bachelor’s degree (sigh). But I am toying with writing an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, possibly for YA readers. I’m not sure yet, and I don’t want to jinx it! But I can tell you there will be a queer element to it, most definitely.

Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

To be honest, I am not all that active on social media, but I am trying to update my writing Instagram account more, @basiltheowrites (Theodore is my middle name).

Thank you so much for talking with me today, Basil, and I wish you all the best with your book’s launch in January.

Thanks so much Kathie! What an honour, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! The published version is going to be even better—we caught a few mistakes in the ARC—so look out for that on January 26! Have a great weekend everyone, and happy reading!

BASIL SYLVESTER is a nonbinary bookseller. Their favourite monsters are vampires. They live in Toronto. The Fabulous Zed Watson! is their first book. 

Cover Reveal for BEA IS FOR BLENDED, by Lindsey Stoddard

Welcome, Lindsey, and welcome to MG Book Village. I’m so happy you could join us today to reveal the cover for your upcoming book, BEA IS FOR BLENDED, which is set to be released by HarperCollins on May 4, 2021. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?

Hi, thank you for having me! Yes. In the book, it has always been eleven-year-old Bea and her mom. But now, Bea’s mom is marrying a man named Wendell who has three sons, two dogs, and a cat. As Bea learns to adapt to life in a new, busy house with a new, bigger family, she also runs into new obstacles at the beginning of middle school. For example, Aileyanna-people-call-me-“A” moves right across the street and has a fancy bounce-back soccer net in the front yard, and a killer left foot. Bea’s always been the town’s “most valuable girl,” and there isn’t room for another left-footed midfielder. But when they arrive on the first day of sixth grade and learn that this might be the first year enough girls are interested in soccer to field their own team, A and Bea must learn to drop the competition and fight together for what they deserve: a team, with a coach who takes them seriously, and a town behind them.

Really, this is a story about coming together and lifting each other up.

I’m curious to how this story came to you, and how much the story changed from the original concept during the process of writing it?

For all of my books, I reflect back to my own childhood and some of the big emotions I remember feeling then. Each book is then powered by that seed emotion. For BEA IS FOR BLENDED it was a moment when the boys’ soccer team at my school dressed up like girls for team spirit. They wore sports bras over their jerseys, stuck their hair in little ponytails all over their head, smeared terrible lipstick across their mouths, and flitted around the halls pretending they had broken a nail. I remember feeling angry and humiliated, but I also remember feeling the pressure to laugh along with the boys, because the “cool” girls were the ones who could take a joke. I had a non-reaction then. I went about my day not laughing along with them, but also not confronting them and I remember my silence feeling so wrong. But now I have BEA and this book is, in part, my reaction to that behavior. Throughout the writing of the book, I stayed true to that seed emotion, and built the story from there.

Is there a character with whom you would have been friends as a middle grader?

I think middle school Lindsey would have gravitated towards A’s confidence. In fact, my real middle school best friend, Lauren, has some of A’s qualities, and I drew on my friendship with Lauren so much for this book. We couldn’t have been more different. I played every sport under the sun while Lauren sang in her church choir, recorded her own CDs for Christmas presents, and played the piccolo. I wore soccer shorts and t-shirts to school. She had a knack for doing hair into complicated updos. But we were inseparable. My friendship with her taught me what to strive for in strong girl friendships: No judgment, lots of humor, and someone who will link arms with you to lift you up, and make you stronger. This is what Bea and A learn to do over the course of the book.

This is your fourth middle grade novel, but the second one you’ll release during the pandemic. What are some ways that readers can best help support authors right now?

Yes, this has been a difficult time for launching books. What I miss most are the in-person school visits. I miss connecting face-to-face with young readers, feeling their excitement, seeing their classrooms, and their projects, meeting their teachers, hearing their questions. Besides buying their books, anything you can do to reach out to an author to let them know their book landed in the perfect reader-hands is always so appreciated. I LIGHT UP when I hear about a reader who fell hard for one of my books.

Did you have any input in the cover, and who is the illustrator?

Jen Bricking, the amazing illustrator, initially sketched a few options for the cover and together with my agent and editor, we decided on one. It was a tough decision because all of her sketches were beautiful and thoughtful, but this one just felt right. I love it. Jen captures so much beauty and just the right amount of storytelling and intrigue.  

OK, it’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for….

Oh wow, Lindsey, this is so bright and colorful. I think kids will definitely gravitate toward it.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your book?

There is no such thing as a girl book or a boy book. I hope that kids, regardless of gender, find strength in Bea’s story and that they find hope and courage in Bryce’s character. I hope they find comfort in Bea and Maximilian’s friendship and I hope they all want to take down Principal Meesley.

I love this! Where should people go if they want to know more about you and your writing?

You can visit my website www.lindseystoddard.com or follow me on Twitter @lindseystoddard or Instagram @lindseystoddardwrites

Thanks again for stopping by the Village today, Lindsey, and allowing us to be part of your cover reveal. All the best to you and the release of your new book.

Thank you so much for having me!

Lindsey Stoddard was born and raised in Vermont. She spent twelve years living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, teaching middle school English, before returning to the Green Mountain State with her husband and two young children. She is also the author of Just Like JackieRight as Rain, and Brave Like That

Cover Reveal for SOL INVICTUS by Ben Gartner

Hi Ben! I’m so glad you could drop by the Village today and tell us about the sequel to your debut novel, THE EYE OF RA. What’s the name of the next book in the series, and can you tell us a bit about it, please?

Thank you for having me, Kathie! It’s an honor to be featured on MGBookVillage. You and the others do such great things for the middle grade community. Thank you.

My new book is SOL INVICTUS and picks up where THE EYE OF RA left off, specifically following John and Sarah. In book two, I tease a bit more about the overall series arc, but the meat of the adventure is when John and Sarah travel back to an ancient Roman frontier town called Aventicum in modern day Switzerland. They’ve been given a cryptic message that they must unite the Roman emperor of Gaul with one of the Alemanni (Germanic) “barbarians” if they wish to fulfill their quest. Along the way they have to survive in the Alps, battle fearsome wild beasts in the gladiator ring, and evade capture during a chariot chase. And all while dealing with their own internal struggles around the balance between independence versus being part of a whole, and how those two things can coexist.

How did writing the second book differ from writing the first one, and what’s one thing you did differently this time?

I plotted a lot more from the outset with this book. I love to just sit down and write and let my mind wander and follow the movie along, so to speak. That is how book one started, in collaboration with my sons. Then, of course, once we had some meat to a story, I did outline the whole thing and went back and revised heavily so that the outcome is different than it was when we started. But with book two, while I did brainstorm with my boys for ideas, I completed a more thorough outline before diving in to the writing. I also plotted more of the overall series arc and completed a skeleton for book three at the same time as book two. The day I stop learning is the day I die and this writing process is no exception!

Do you find that feedback from your readers influences the direction of the series, or do you have an idea ahead of time where it’s going?

Definitely both. I love to hear feedback about what worked well and what maybe didn’t excite as much. You can learn from both types of feedback. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything, and I certainly need to remember that this is my story and story-telling can be a subjective art, but I do incorporate a lot of the ideas from my readers (especially my sons, of course!) because often they are brilliant ideas! For one example, my sons introduced the idea of a puppy into the mix and that spawned my thinking about a wolf, and research led me to the story of Fenrir, and… Well, I do like to keep some surprises…

Have you changed your writing schedule over the last few months, and if so, how has that impacted you?

Well, my writing schedule has changed quite a bit, but not primarily because of COVID per se, which is what I think you’re driving at. What has most impacted my writing schedule is the various multi-tasking necessary with having multiple books in various stages of development or production. I’m still marketing my first book, but that’s taking a bit of a back seat because I’m now focusing more of those efforts on Sol Invictus – this cover reveal, contacting ARC-reviewers and bloggers, etc. And I’m also writing the third book. To be honest, I don’t love the marketing aspects of book selling. Or, said more accurately and in the positive: I most enjoy the writing part of being an author. 🙂

Let’s talk about the new book’s cover. I know you have the same illustrator; can you tell us about the experience of working with them?

Anne Glenn (http://anneglenndesign.co.uk/) is a very talented and distinguished illustrator and designer. She’s worked with a lot of big names and big publishing houses so I feel very lucky to be working with her. Her beautiful work speaks for itself!

It’s time for the big reveal!

Oh wow, there are so many great details in this cover; it looks like an action-packed ride!

What is it that you hope young readers will take away from your books?

The thing I loved about reading when I was a kid (and still do, of course) was the ability of a book to transport me to another time and place, or even to within another body, to see the world outside of my own horse blinders. I could be and do anything. I love the adventure, the possibilities, and the learning that come with that shift in perspective. And, though maybe I didn’t fully grok it at the time, reading let me work through my own “stuff.” In the best books, I could empathize with the character. They may be completely different from me, but I subconsciously learned from our shared humanity and shared challenges. I feared with them, I reveled with them, I overcame with them.

And besides, a little escapism isn’t such a bad thing, as long as there’s a good story wrapped inside of all the thrills.

Are there more books to come in the series, and if so, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on right now?

I am working on book three now! All will be revealed about who John and Sarah really are, and why they’ve been traveling in time. Their character growth will ratchet up along a self-actualization curve and bring them more into their own skins.

For the core of the adventure, they’ll be traveling to the time of the Aztec people (who actually called themselves the Mexica) in modern-day central Mexico, around the ancient city of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City now resides). One of my challenges with this third book will be the names! For example, Huitzilopochtli was the sun god (among other things) and a primary deity for the Aztecs. Yes, I listened to pronunciation guides.

Where can people go to find out more about you and your writing?

BenGartner.com is the best place. I’m active on Twitter (@BGartnerWriting), and less so on Instagram (BGartnerWriting) and Facebook (BenGartnerAuthor).

Pre-orders for SOL INVICTUS coming February 2021 are available now:

All the Digital: https://books2read.com/sol-invictus-ben-gartner

Print pre-orders: Coming soon! You can sign up for my newsletter to learn more here: http://bit.ly/ben-gartner-mailing-list

Thank you for allowing us to be part of your cover reveal, Ben.

It has been my pleasure! Thank you so much. And thank you again for all the time and effort you volunteer for our middle grade community – authors, readers, teachers, librarians, thank you!

Ben Gartner is the award-winning author of The Eye of Ra adventure series for middle graders. His books take readers for a thrilling ride, maybe even teaching them something in the meantime. Ben can be found living and writing near the mountains with his wife and two boys.

2021 MG Debut Authors

We believe it’s important to support debut authors, especially during such challenging times. We created a list of 2021 MG debut authors and their release dates, along with links to their books on Goodreads. A huge thank you to Sam Subity for sharing his resources with us, and making our job very easy! We will update the information as more becomes available, and you can access it any time as a heading on the main page of our website.

If you are a traditionally published MG debut author and would like to be added to the list, or if this information needs to be updated, please feel free to send us an email.

Cover Reveal: THE ODDMIRE, BOOK THREE: DEEPEST, DARKEST, by William Ritter

Hi, Will! Thank you for stopping by the MG Book Village to reveal the cover for your new book, THE ODDMIRE, BOOK THREE: DEEPEST, DARKEST, which comes out June 22, 2021! Can you tell us a bit about the book?

Thanks for having me! DEEPEST DARKEST is the third adventure of the Burton boys, a human and a goblin changeling raised as brothers, who continue to barrel into danger with the help of their friends Fable and Evie. A running thread from the very first book has been the mystery of what happened to the boys’ father, who disappeared when they were just babies. In this book, they are determined to finally find an answer, but digging too deep will uncover more than they were prepared to handle.

This is the third book in a series. Can you share what your experience has been like writing a series? Have your characters changed since the first book in any ways that have surprised you?

There are some ideas that I knew would be a part of the story all along, and it’s nice to finally get those onto the page after years of having them just rattle around in my head. But yeah, there are definitely things that surprise me along the way. There are whole characters I didn’t know were going to be so integral to the story, and there are depths to characters I originally considered minor. Sometimes they push their way into the narrative in ways I didn’t plan, and the best thing I can do is let it happen. As for Tinn and Cole, they have both become stronger and more independent over the years, which was an intentional direction for the story—but they also have very human insecurities that run deep. Part of letting them grow bigger, paradoxically, has been letting them experience those things that make them feel the smallest.

Much of this book takes place underground. What made you decide to give this book such a strange and *ahem* creepy setting?

It came about organically, but the setting really did lend itself perfectly to the emotional core of the story. Threats that surround us and undermine our whole foundation are the most intimidating and difficult to navigate, and the kids in this installment really feel out of their depth both literally and physically as the weight of their situation presses down on them. It’s especially unsettling to find out bad things have been lurking beneath the surface for a long time, and that the people in charge have just let them keep going unchecked. I think that we as a country—especially young kids—can relate to those feelings in a big way right now.

Despite being an action-packed adventure, this book is driven by discussions of family and belonging. Why was it important to you to explore these themes in this series?

Adoption is an important part of my own family, and celebrating the many ways that families become whole has been central to the concept of this series from its inception. My own kids mean the world to me, and more so than any of my other works, this series is for them.

In this book, and in the first two books of the series, as well, there don’t seem to be any characters who are ALL bad or ALL good. How do you navigate the complexity of heroes and villains existing in that gray space?

In the end, it’s all about empathy. It’s never really as simple as hero vs villain—it’s empathy & love vs antipathy & hate. All people have the capacity for both sides within them, and I try to reflect that. If I allow a villain’s hate to make my heroes hateful, then hate wins. If I allow a villain’s antipathy to strip a hero of their empathy, then empathy loses. We don’t have to accept or excuse villainous acts, but we can denounce hate while extending love. The real trick is recognizing that all of us have heroes and villains inside of us, and the best anyone can do is to try to support and bring out the heroes in others, and not reinforce their villains by treating them as if that’s all they are capable of.

What do you hope your readers — especially the young ones — will take away from the book?

That they are worthy of love and that it is never too late to be a better you, even if you stumble.

Now, let’s get to the cover! You’re not only the author of THE ODDMIRE series, you’re also the illustrator! What was it like creating the illustration for this cover? Did you go through many versions before you arrived at this design?

So many! Yes. All of the covers have gone through a series of concepts and drafts, but I think this one went through the most. Various versions featured different moments from the story, different characters, different angles. With every cover I’ve done, I feel like I always set my target just slightly beyond what I know I can do—and then each time I end up frantically teaching myself how to draw all over again to meet the demands of the design. Carla Weise and Laura Williams, the art team at Algonquin Young Readers, have been stellar at giving me editorial direction along the way. In the end, I’m really happy with how this one came out.

Okay, let’s take a look!

WOW! It’s got so much energy! And speaking of angles — I think you went with the right one! Can we expect more adventures from Tinn, Cole, Fable, and Evie?

These characters are definitely not finished having adventures, but I will leave it there for now. Spoilers!

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

You can always visit my website (https://rwillritter.wordpress.com/), follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Willothewords), or find more information about The Oddmire, and my YA series, Jackaby, through the Workman site (https://www.workman.com/authors/william-ritter).

Thank you for allowing us to be part of your cover reveal, and all the best with your book’s release!

Thanks so much for having me!

William Ritter is an Oregon author and educator. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark. The Oddmire is Ritter’s first series for middle-grade readers. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Jackaby series for young adult readers. Visit him online at rwillritter.wordpress.com and find him on Twitter: @Willothewords.

Book Review: ICK! DELIGHTFULLY DISGUSTING ANIMAL DINNERS, DWELLINGS, AND DEFENSES, by Melissa Stewart

Looking for one of those books that makes readers say, “Ewww!”, “Oh my goodness!”, “That’s gross!” out loud or makes them slam the book shut, only to open it again to continue reading? Ick! is the book for those readers. This is the perfect book for those kids who love to learn about animals, especially what they eat, where they live, and how they defend themselves.

Now there are some animals you know are going to be included in this book, like spiders, rats, and snakes, and even with some new information, they are still just as gross as you expect them to be. However, the interesting thing about this book is that you will be surprised at some of the other animals that are highlighted, ones that readers may even admire or think are nice and cuddly.

And as expected from a National Geographic book, the photographs are awesome. They are vibrant, up close and personal, and usually include the thing that qualifies the animal as icky. Which is why there’ll be some strong reactions from readers as they read this book.

As far as the text goes, there’s not an overwhelming amount of text for kid readers who don’t want to be overwhelmed with a lot of specific vocabulary to wade through. Stewart does an excellent job of getting straight to the point explaining why the animal has earned its distinction and then gives a couple of other interesting facts for the reader to enjoy.

This is definitely one that students will love to pick up, put back down in disgust, and then pick it right up again. My kids (aged 9 and 11) and I love these kinds of books, so reading this was a no-brainer for us, and we were not disappointed!

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses by Melissa Stewart was released in June 2020.

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 raisingreaders.site or follow her on Twitter @DMetzke. She is also a member of #bookexcursion.