Interview with Xiran Jay Zhao about ZACHARY YING AND THE DRAGON EMPEROR

Kathie: Hi Xiran, and welcome to MG Book Village! Thanks for taking some time to chat with me about your debut middle-grade book, Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor, which comes out on May 10th from Margaret K. Elderry Books. I recently had the opportunity to read it and I loved it! Can you tell our readers a bit about it, please?

Xiran: Hello, Kathie! Zachary Ying is a middle grade adventure I pitch as Chinese Percy Jackson meets Yugioh. It features a 12-year-old Chinese American boy who’s not really connected to his Chinese heritage, but is compelled to go on a journey across China to fight historical and mythical figures and heist real artifacts after the First Emperor of China possesses his AR gaming headset.

Kathie: What five words would you use to describe Zack, and what do you think makes him such an appealing character?

Xiran: Shy, awkward, sensitive, gloomy, determined. I put a lot of my younger self into him, and I hope that his character arc shows what it means to stand up for yourself and break free from the impossible expectations of others.

Kathie: I really love the way you used technology to connect the past to the future, especially since connecting with others plays such a big part in your life with social media. If you had an AR gaming headset that would connect you to anyone, who would it be and why?

Xiran: I’d want to connect with the First Emperor’s famous chancellor Li Si, who supposedly betrayed him on his death bed and faked an edict to execute his assumed successor (his firstborn son, Prince Fusu) and pass the throne to his youngest son Huhai instead. This ultimately caused the fall of the Qin dynasty because Huhai was so irresponsible. But there are a lot of questions surrounding these events, and I’m so curious that I’d demand to know what really happened from Li Si. Also, he’d be able to tell me what kind of treasures were buried in the First Emperor’s mausoleum! The terracotta soldiers we know so well are only an insignificant part of his burial grounds, after all.

Kathie: There is so much interesting Chinese history packed into your story! What was your research process like, and did you know about these historical figures and events before you wrote the book?

Xiran: Yeah, pretty much all the historical tidbits were stuff I already knew and put in the book out of excitement. I didn’t do much extra research other than to confirm that the details were correct.

Kathie: Growing up in the Canadian school system, I’m amazed by how much world history I missed out on. What advice do you have for young readers who want to know more than they’re taught in the classroom?

Xiran: Don’t shy away from historical stories from non-Western societies! Often, they can be even more fun to learn about, since you’re not getting graded on them. HistoryTubers like Oversimplified and Cool History Bros make great animated videos on history. Or, if you don’t mind longer videos, there’s my own channel too 😛

Kathie: What’s one question you’d love to be asked about your book and why?

Xiran: What’s my favorite quote from the book? It’s “This isn’t even close to the worst thing I’ve ever done! I don’t know why we’re being punished for it!” Peak Qin Shi Huang right there.

Kathie: Are we going to see more of Zack’s story, and if so, is there anything you can share with us?

Xiran: There is definitely going to be a sequel. Maybe even multiple sequels…? Stay tuned!

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

Xiran: I’m on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Tumblr, all under @xiranjayzhao!

Kathie: Best of luck with your book’s release, and I look forward to hearing what young readers think of it!

Xiran: Thanks so much for inviting me to chat, Kathie!

Xiran Jay Zhao (they/them) is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Widow series. A first-gen Hui Chinese immigrant from small-town China to Vancouver, Canada, they were raised by the internet and made the inexplicable decision to leave their biochem degree in the dust to write books and make educational content instead. You can find them on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, TikTok for fun short videos, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is their first middle grade novel.

Interview with Karina Evans about GROW UP, TAHLIA WILKINS!

Kathie: Hi Karina, and welcome to MG Book Village! Your middle-grade debut novel, Grow up, Tahlia Wilkins, comes out on April 19th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?

Karina: Hi! Thank you for having me! Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! is a fun, coming-of-age romp all about friendship, puberty, and growing up—in all its awkward glory. 

Kathie: I absolutely loved the humor in this story, and that it’s SO relatable. What made you decide to write a book focusing on a girl getting her first period?

Karina: Oh, thank you so much!! Growing up, I really loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume because it talked about periods, crushes, and friend dynamics—all must-read subjects for me. I remember looking for books that were similar to it, but struggling to find stories with protagonists that had the same body-changing anxieties I did. When I decided to write middle grade books, I knew I wanted to write stories that would fit into that same ‘figuring out puberty’ vein.

Kathie: You did an excellent job educating readers while entertaining them. Why do you think many girls are still so unprepared given the resources?

Karina: There is still such a stigma around discussing puberty—specifically periods—with others. I think many people believe periods are something that should be endured and experienced privately (which is completely fine if that is your personal choice!). But if kids don’t have ‘what is going on with my body’ conversations with their peers and adults, then they may not be mentally or emotionally prepared for all the changes we go through.

Kathie: I love how creative Tahlia and Lily are with their solutions. Are you the type of person who plans ahead, or do you like to wing it as you go?

Karina: Hmm… tough question! Part of me is pretty meticulous when it comes to planning things like parties and trips, but another part of me (probably a much bigger part) is a total wing-er. I wrote the first draft of Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! without an outline, so I had to come up with all Tahlia and Lily’s crazy plans on the fly. I had a rough idea where I wanted the story to go, but had no idea how I was going to get there. Luckily, after many revisions, the story came together! However, I do not write without outlines any more. Too stressful. 

Kathie: What’s one thing you’ve learned as a debut author that you think would be helpful for others to know?

Karina: Ask questions! A lot happens between writing the book and having it on shelves, so it’s good to remember that your agent and editor are there for you. In both puberty and publishing, you should always feel comfortable to ask a trusted person “is this normal?”

Kathie: What’s something you’d like readers to know about your book?

Karina: After signing with an agent but before going on submission, I added nearly 15k words to the original story!

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

Karina: You can find me on Twitter: @karinaewrites, Instagram: @karinaevanswrites, and my website: karinaevans.com

Kathie: Thank you so much for answering my questions today, Karina, and I can’t wait to purchase your book for my collection and start hearing from young readers!

Karina: Thank you so much for reading, Kathie!!

Karina Evans studied English at the University of Delaware before going into a career in the entertainment industry. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! is her first novel. You can visit her online at karinaevans.com

Interview with Jarod Roselló about THE CURSE OF THE EVIL EYE

*Thanks to Adrianna Cuevas for this sharing her interview with Jarod

I’m excited to chat with the amazing Jarod Roselló today for Middle Grade Book Village! Jarod’s upcoming graphic novel, Red Panda and Moon Bear: The Curse of the Evil Eye is full of hijinks, mayhem… and Cuban food!

What is your favorite part of creating the Red Panda and Moon Bear series?

I love telling stories that surprise me. My challenge to myself as a writer working on Red Panda & Moon Bear has been to open new mysteries and introduce new questions more than answer existing questions. It’s really fun to add elements in the background or into the story that I don’t know anything about. It gives me things to think through and try to solve in later chapters or books. The world of RP & MB is so magical and ever-growing, so this feels narratively relevant and appropriate for this series. 

Did any surprising challenges present themselves as you worked on this second book that hadn’t appeared in the first?

Working on a sequel means there’s a momentary panic at the start of the writing process where I realize I need to honor the first book, but also change some things. I was worried about not getting the tone right or altering the characters too much. I feel like my cartooning and drawing has gotten more sophisticated between the two books and so I wanted to try out new visual and narrative elements, but I didn’t want book 2 to feel really far off from book 1. So you’ll definitely notice some cool new things. 

I also wanted to incorporate more Spanish and Cuban culture into book 2. I’ve always been sheepish about my Spanish which is, admittedly, not great. So I had to be extra mindful of what I was doing and how. 

Probably the most challenging part of RP&MB2 was writing the ending. I didn’t know how to end it! I spent hours on the phone with my editor, Leigh Walton, working it out. A great editor knows how to help you through these issues without taking over. I’m grateful to get to work with Leigh, because we ended up with the perfect ending for this book. 

My son recently came home and told me that his school librarian only lets students check out graphic novels and comics if they also check out another book along with it because those are ‘dessert books.’ What are your thoughts on this view of comics and graphic novels?

Of course, I think it’s ridiculous! Anyone who has read graphic novels knows they’re complex narratives that rely on multiple modes of reading, interpretation, analysis, and reflection. Text in graphic novels tends to be advanced because we have images to scaffold and contextualize the narrative. Adults who discourage graphic novel reading probably aren’t reading graphic novels themselves and so don’t know how to appreciate them or understand them. Comics are also pop culture artifacts which rely heavily on the literacies and artistry of other media. This means they belong to children as much as they belong to adults—even though we’re the ones making them. Some adults are uncomfortable ceding control to children. But when it comes to comics, they’re almost certainly the experts. 

Are the characters in Red Panda and Moon Bear inspired by anything in your life?

Yes, they are! They were originally drawn as silly versions of my own children. But I became immediately invested in them as characters and started imagining what kinds of stories and adventures they would find themselves in. My daughter (who is ten now) used to complain that in children’s movies and books the adults never listen to the kids, and the kids always end up being right (it was actually a monster, the house is really haunted, their teacher is actually a shape-shifting slime-beast from Planet Q, etc.). I wanted to make a book that honored children’s agency and knowledge, where the kids were always right. 

What advice would you have for aspiring comic creators?

Make short comics! Start with comic strips. Put them up online or make copies to give to your friends. Practice drawing by mimicking your favorite comics and figure out what style feels right to you, then RUN WITH IT! Make lots of little things and when you feel comfortable, challenge yourself to tell longer stories. But most importantly, have fun! Drawing comics is hard and can be really tedious. If you don’t design a creative process you enjoy, you’ll never stick with it. 

What’s coming up next for you?

Red Panda & Moon Bear (Book 2): The Curse of the Evil Eye comes out this April! I have an early reader graphic novel series, Hugo & Dino, that comes out in 2023 from Random House Graphic. It’s about a boy who transforms himself into a dinosaur to go on adventures with his best friend, who is also a dinosaur. I’ve also been working in animation lately, which is really cool. I just finished my first pilot script for a top secret project. I hope I’ll be able to talk more about next fall. 

Jarod Roselló is a Cuban American writer, cartoonist, and teacher. He is the author of the middle-grade graphic novel Red Panda & Moon Bear, a Chicago Public Library and New York Public Library 2019 best book for young readers, and a 2019 Nerdy Award winner for graphic novels. His young reader graphic novel series, Hugo & Dino, is forthcoming from Random House Graphic in 2023.

His graphic novel, The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) be Found, was a 2015 Honorable Mention in the Publishers Weekly Graphic Novel Critics Poll, and his chapbook, The Star, was the winner of the 2015 Epiphany Magazine chapbook contest for graphic literature.

Jarod holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction, both from The Pennsylvania State University. Originally from Miami, he now lives in Tampa, Florida, with his wife, kids, and dogs, and teaches in the creative writing program at the University of South Florida.

Fresh Starts by Diana Renn

Fresh Starts by Diana Renn

It’s launch day for my new middle grade novel, Trouble at Turtle Pond, and I’m delighted to celebrate here at Middle Grade Book Village. Thank you for hosting me!

Trouble at Turtle Pond is a friendship-centered eco mystery. When eleven-year-old Miles moves to Marsh Hollow, he’s desperate for a fresh start, eager to leave his troublemaking reputation behind. In his new neighborhood, nesting turtles are on the move. His neighbor, Pia, convinces him to join the Backyard Rangers, who are working to protect them. Miles and Pia discover clues to crimes against endangered Blanding’s turtles. Worse, a pair of foster turtle hatchlings in Pia’s care go missing at a town event. Suspecting poachers, the Backyard Rangers investigate a string of suspects. But when Miles becomes a suspect himself, he has to convince his new friends he’s not who they think he is, and stop the crimes before more turtles — and people — get hurt.

My road to publishing this book started with a turtle. When I moved to a new town, I nearly ran over one. I quickly discovered that turtles were among my neighbors. My human neighbors taught me how to move a turtle safely across a road. I also learned about other dangers turtles face, including predators and habitat loss.

Our local schools partnered with a conservation group to restore the population of Blanding’s turtles at a nearby wildlife refuge. Kids and teachers cared for hatchlings in their classrooms. Whenever I volunteered to help with turtle-related activities, I was in awe of how much advocacy was kid-powered, from hands-on care, to fundraising, to educating our community.

Volunteering with the conservation group turned into a family endeavor. We went turtle tracking with field biologists to locate nests. We fostered ten hatchlings for a month. I knew I had to write about turtles. My mystery-writing brain kicked in.

Previously, I had published three YA mysteries featuring globetrotting teens, and an international art heist thriller for adults. I now felt a strong pull to write mystery for younger readers, and to write about conservation issues closer to home. Like Miles in my story, I wanted a fresh start.

At first, I wasn’t sure I could write a “turtle thriller.” Would people find turtles as thrilling as I did? Then I hit plot snags. Who would be out to get turtles? Nobody in my real-life network seemed remotely capable of harming turtles or sabotaging a biologist’s efforts. Crafting criminals for this kind of mystery proved more challenging than I imagined.

Delving into research on wildlife crimes and consulting with experts gave me some real-life prototypes to consider, though. After a few false starts, the crime angle took shape.

I then realized this wasn’t really a thriller.Instead, I had all the ingredients for a cozy mystery: the quirky small town of Marsh Hollow, a team of young investigators with a cardboard box ranger station, a string of suspicious characters around town, and themes of friendship and belonging. So cozy mystery became another dimension of my fresh start.

Fresh starts are not without risks. The editor I’d worked with for three books had left for a fresh start of her own, so I’d be sending this out on submission. Then it turned out this book wasn’t a good fit for my agent. We agreed I should seek different representation for my books for younger readers. This was an unexpected fresh start. But I began querying for the first time in a decade, got some good feedback, some close calls, some no’s . . . and then the pandemic hit, greatly slowing the process down. 

I generally have some patience with slowness. Heck, I wrote a book about turtles. But the pandemic made querying timelines feel even less certain. It also brought a fresh sense of urgency to my desire to publish this book. I had a feeling that people might become even more interested in goings-on right in their own backyards, and that books with a grassroots conservation theme might become desirable, even helpful.

I decided to look into publishers that would take unsolicited manuscripts. A friend of mine loved her publisher, Regal House, and recommended I look at their expanding children’s book imprint, Fitzroy Books. I liked what I saw. They were a smaller traditional press, but mighty, growing, putting out excellent books that were getting great reviews and winning awards. Their values aligned with mine, even down to their sustainability statement on their website. They also moved quickly. They requested my full manuscript within 24 hours of my query.

By the end of July 2020, I had a signed contract in hand. It’s been an honor to work with the fantastic team at Regal House, and to get to know other authors there. There’s a wonderful collaborative spirit to marketing and promotion at this press, a true community effort, that reminds me very much of my grassroots work with the turtles.

In the process of getting the word out about this book, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with so many educators, bloggers, authors, and other readers, as well as scientists and conservationists. So publicity, too, has been a collaborative process that has energized me. Every day I feel that I’m still helping turtles by writing and talking about them.

It takes a lot of people to keep their eyes out for turtles and help them safely cross roads. It also takes a lot of observant, dedicated people to help a little cozy mystery about turtles find its readers in a busy marketplace. I’m happy I took some risks, tried a fresh start, and found my path forward with this book. I’m profoundly grateful to all the people who’ve taken an interest in Trouble at Turtle Pond and helped it along its journey!

Diana Renn is the author of the middle grade novel Trouble at Turtle Pond (Fitzroy Books / Regal House) as well three young adult mysteries: Tokyo Heist, Latitude Zero,and Blue Voyage (Viking / Penguin Random House). She also works as an editor and book coach. Diana lives outside of Boston with her husband and son, on a street she shares with turtles. Visit her online at www.dianarennbooks.com.

To find out more, or to get in touch with Diana:

www.dianarennbooks.com

Twitter @dianarenn   https://twitter.com/dianarenn

Instagram @dianarennbooks    https://www.instagram.com/dianarennbooks/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/58320997-trouble-at-turtle-pond

Order a signed copy of TROUBLE AT TURTLE POND from Silver Unicorn Bookstore:

https://silverunicornbooks.com/item/htJG23OV3XA0ea7u-jC1rw

Order TROUBLE AT TURTLE POND wherever books are sold!

https://bookshop.org/books/trouble-at-turtle-pond/9781646032273

Interview with Shawn Peters about The Unforgettable Logan Foster

The Unforgettable Logan Foster

Hello, Shawn! Your debut MG novel is great! I’m so glad you’re here at MG Book Village to chat about The Unforgettable Logan Foster, which hit shelves in January. I’d love to start with you giving readers a brief summary of the novel.

Shawn: Hi Anne! I’m thrilled to be back at MG Book Village (where I did my cover reveal about nine months ago)! The book is about an undersized, neurodivergent, 12 year-old orphan named Logan who has an eidetic (photographic) memory, zero filter, and an abiding belief that someday he’ll find the younger sibling he was separated from when he was three years old. When a seemingly boring couple, Gil and Margie, bring him home, Logan notices some odd details. While he’s trying to put his observations together to form a rational explanation, the family is attacked by an earthquake-making super villain and he realizes his foster parents are superheroes. Superpowers are real!

Anne: I love it. One of the book’s themes is that superheroes live among us, or to put it another way, it’s the sense that everyone has a superpower inside them. Did you start writing with this theme in mind? What was the spark that ignited Logan’s story for you?

Shawn: I most definitely believe that superpowers are real in the sense that everyone has something about them that may make them feel different, but also (if they lean into it) feel special. So yes, from the start I wanted to include that meta-message. When I visit classrooms, I do an improv-inspired exercise where we create a fictional superhero, then make up an adventure and our superhero has to save the day using their one special skill or trait. It’s silly and fun and I get the kids to do sound effects, but the real message is that in the right circumstances, anything that makes a kid different could be super valuable.

Anne: Oh, I’d love to be in that classroom! Your novel is action-packed and reads like a comic book come to life. Were you a big reader of comics when you were a kid? Did you collect them? Are you still a comic-book lover?

Shawn: When I was young, I was a reader… not a collector. I bought comic books to get lost in the stories and the art. I grew up with nasty allergies and a pair of tonsils that liked to swell up every time the wind changed, and on sick days, my parents would run to the store and pick up a stack of comic books for me. So comics were comfort reads for me, and also made me a lover of nerdy mythology. I devoured “Marvel Universe” which was basically an encyclopedia of every hero, villain and other significant character in the Marvel comics. Recently, I’ve felt nostalgic over the resurgence of interest in Marvel and DC comics and superheroes. I don’t really read comic books anymore, but between streaming and movies and articles online, I’m still steeped in it.

Anne: The word unforgettable has more than one meaning. (Great title!) At first I thought it meant others would never forget Logan, and that might be true, but along the way I realized that it refers to Logan’s photographic memory. Did you have this title from the get-go, or did your title change during the writing and publishing process?

Shawn: The title most-certainly has that dual meaning and it was the first and only title the book ever had… at least for me. Early in the editorial process, my editor at HarperCollins, David Linker, challenged me to come up with some other titles that might give potential readers more of a sense that the book was an action adventure and related to superheroes. I totally understood his point, and even though I loved my original title, I think I sent him about fifty other options over a matter of a month. But after going through that exercise, we settled on the original title and I’ll admit, I’m really glad.

Anne: Logan is really funny and quirky, and his voice is endearing. One of my favorite lines is his foster mom Margie saying, “You don’t let other people’s views on what’s an ability or what’s a disability define you. You define you.” Perfect. What made you decide to tell this story from the point of view of a neurodivergent 12 year-old?

Shawn: I was inspired a bit by the movie The Incredibles and the idea of a superhero family, and I started noodling on what it would be like for someone without superpowers to be part of that family. Around the same time, my best friend’s son was diagnosed as autistic, and our families spent a lot of weekends together. I had numerous conversations with my friend’s son and came to appreciate and even admire the way he looked at things. At the same time, I was coaching youth sports and Destination Imagination (a team creativity-building competition) and kept coming across kids whose minds processed the world in amazing ways. These kids opened my eyes to how often people, myself included, expected them to change to fit the expectations of neurotypical people. So I decided I’d write about a neurodivergent kid and put him into a big adventure, then explore how his way of doing things could be a strength instead of a disability. Voilà! Logan was “born.”

Anne: Logan loves to find, watch, and classify cat videos according to what each cat is doing. Ha! How about you? Got any hobbies?

Shawn: Okay, I have to admit that yes, Logan’s fixation on cat videos is based on me. I’ll often see something humorous and say, “Wow… that’s funny” without laughing, but put a cat video in front of me and I fall apart. I asked a sensitivity reader to review a draft of Logan’s story, and she suggested Logan needed an area or two of hyperfixation. I wanted to give him something that wasn’t a trope, and was authentic to me. Solution: cat videos!

As for my hobbies, they’re a mix of the nerdy and the dad-tastic. I play Dungeons and Dragons every week and make D&D and superhero dad-jokes online. I also golf poorly and enjoy a nice, New England IPA from time to time. In truth, working full time in advertising and working another 20+ hours a week writing and promoting books has greatly impacted hobby-level pursuits.

Anne: I hear there’s a sequel in the works. What can you tell us about it?

Shawn: Yes, indeed. The second book in The Unforgettable Logan Foster series is due out on January 3rd, 2023. I know this will sound like an author “promoting”, but I think it’s better than my debut. There are more complexities and twists, and fewer pages getting to know the characters. Also, Logan’s best friend Elena gets a big piece of the spotlight, and I love writing her. Throw in some fun new friends and villains and I feel like Logan lovers will be on board from page one.

Anne: I can’t wait! Finally, where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Shawn: My website is www.shawnpeterswrites.com and my twitter is @shawntweeters. On TikTok, folks can find me @writtenbyshawnpeters, but only show up if you love superheroes and peak dad humor. And of course, if anyone reads the book and enjoys it, a rating on GoodReads or Amazon would make them a superhero in my book… metaphorically speaking. 

Shawn Peters

Shawn Peters has written a little bit about a lot of things in a lot of places. Ads for huge premium cable networks and all kinds of small businesses. Movie ideas that ended up on the shelf and domestic date-nights that ended up in the newspapers. Columns about fantasy sports and books about a neurodiverse hero in the making. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, who is the best teacher on the planet, two kids, a dog, and a cat that made him retype this by walking across the keyboard.

Anne (A.B.) Westrick is today’s MG Book Village interviewer. She’s the author of the older-MG novel Brotherhood. You can learn more about her at https://abwestrick.com/

COVER REVEAL for Ghosts Come Rising by Adam Perry

Kathie: Hi Adam, and thanks so much for letting us be part of your cover reveal today! Your third middle-grade book, Ghosts Come Rising, comes out in September from little bee books. Please tell us a bit about it.

Adam: Ghosts Come Rising takes place in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, shortly after the Spanish Flu pandemic and WWI. At that point in time, there was a resurgence in Spiritualism, a movement that believed the living could communicate with the dead.

Liza and John Carroll both lost their parents to the flu, and are living with their uncle, a con man who uses them to create fraudulent spirit photographs for clients. They move from town to town, eventually stopping at a commune called the Silver Star Society.

Because Liza helps her uncle in his lies, she doesn’t believe Spiritualism is real, but she begins to see things at the Silver Star Society that make her question herself, and fear for the safety of her and her brother.

Kathie: This book is a different genre from your last novel, THE THIEVING COLLECTORS OF FINE CHILDREN’S BOOKS (which I loved!) Can you tell us one way in which writing this story was different from your earlier books, and one way in which it was similar?

Adam: In my previous books, I often rely on humor and narrative tricks. In The Magicians of Elephant County, I had two competing narrators who would often disagree with each other, and in The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, I had the narrator actually become a character in the book midway through.

I really wanted to try something different with this book.

Ghosts Come Rising isn’t funny, and there isn’t a narrative gimmick. For that reason, this was the hardest book I’ve written so far, and the one that I rewrote the most. Structure-wise, it’s the simplest and most straightforward, which I had thought would make it easier, but it was exactly the opposite.

Kathie: What sort of reader you would recommend this book to?

Adam: I place this book in the upper-middle category, so most likely a 10-13-year-old. It is scary, but hopefully not too scary, and I think it will leave them feeling hopeful rather than terrified. It may be too scary for an 8-10-year-old, which I realize will probably make them want to read it more. And I’m OK with that.

Kathie: What’s one thing you enjoyed about writing the characters in this story?

Adam: I really enjoyed writing a character who is as conflicted as Liza. She believes what she’s doing is wrong, but needs to help create fraudulent spirit photographs to keep her and her brother in the good graces of her uncle, Mr. Spencer. She believes she’s a liar, and it colors the way she sees the world and other people in it.

Kathie: I was so pumped when I saw the cover for your book. Please tell us about the illustrator and your reaction when you first saw it.

Adam: That’s a difficult one, because the illustrator and I did not get along, and in fact had many … ahem … discussions about what should be shown/not shown. I really hope I don’t have to work with him again because it was quite an unpleasant experience, and …

OK, I will admit, I was the illustrator.

Ghosts Come Rising has ten images throughout the book, created to look like spirit photographs or other images related to the story. I made them by creating composite images from old photos of that time period. To do that, I searched through thousands of images in the Library of Congress’s collection. At the beginning of that process, I found an image of the woman who would become the ghost on the cover behind Liza, and was drawn to it. I downloaded it and used it to test my creative process. That image doesn’t exactly depict a scene from the book, but I liked the way it looked and showed it to the team at Little Bee who liked it enough to use it for the cover!

Since I created the image, my reaction was a bit less surprised than in the past when I’ve first seen one of my covers. I will say, I loved the lettering of the title, which was done by Natalie Padberg Bartoo, who also did the title for The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books.

Kathie: Oh wow, that is SO cool. I think that’s the first time I’ve interviewed an author who created their own cover image.

Let’s do a big drum roll and show everyone what it looks like?

Kathie: What a creepy cover! Do you have a favorite element, or is there a detail you can share with us that ties to the story?

Adam: The ghostly woman behind Liza is the grandmother of a woman named Ms. Eldridge, the owner of the Silver Star Society. The two of them (if you believe Ms. Eldridge) are linked and can communicate through the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Much like photography, in the story, I play on the idea of the two worlds being positive and negative. On the cover, the shadowy ghosts in the background are actually negative images. If you invert the images, you would see something like this:

Kathie: What would you like readers to know about this book that we haven’t talked about so far?

Adam: While the book is fictional, with many completely fabricated elements, it does pull inspiration from real-life locations and events. I did a lot of research on spiritualism and communes.

The main inspiration for The Silver Star Society was a place called Camp Silver Belle, located about twenty minutes from where I live. While it’s no longer in operation, they were famous for mediumship and spirit photography in a similar timeframe. Here are some “real” spirit photographs from Camp Silver Belle:

There’s something about the topic that has always interested me, particularly looking at it with modern eyes. It’s so obviously fake, and some people are clearly taking advantage of others, but there’s real sincerity and humanity behind it. My emotions are conflicted, which is what I think makes a good basis for a story.

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

Adam: My website is adamperrybooks.com and I am active on twitter and Instagram @misterperry, and am on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/adamperrybooks.

Kathie: I’m anxiously awaiting September because this synopsis has piqued my interest, Adam! Thanks for chatting with me today. 

Adam: Thank you so much!

Adam Perry is the author of The Magicians of Elephant County and The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books. The son of an elementary school librarian, he discovered a love of stories at an early age. He lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his wife, children, and a growing collection of children’s books. Find out more at adamperrybooks.com.

Interview with Suzanne Meade about A TERRIBLE TIDE

*Thank you to Salma Hussain for conducting this interview

Hi SUZANNE! Congratulations on your historical fiction, MG novel, A Terrible Tide, which came out Sep 2021 from Second Story Press. What is the “elevator pitch” about your book that you would give a young reader to convince them to read it?

In two hours, everything 12 year old Celia knows is washed away. An earthquake, followed by the rising waters of a tsunami, devastates Celia’s small village in Newfoundland. Facing cold, hunger, injuries, and other dangers, will the villagers survive until help can arrive?

You credit your “Nana” for inspiring you to write about Newfoundland. Could you tell us more about what made you focus your novel on the tsunami that occurred in Newfoundland in 1929?

My father’s family is from Newfoundland, and Nana was my last living grandparent. After she died, I wanted to write a book set in Newfoundland so I started doing some research and learned about the tsunami. Right away it struck a chord. I knew there were stories to be told about what happened, so I dug deeper and ended up with the story that became A Terrible Tide.

This is your first MG book. Can you tell us about the journey of this book from idea to publication?

I’ve been amazed by how quick the journey was. After my initial research about big events in Newfoundland where I learned about the tsunami, I started researching more about what happened and what life was like in the fishing villages during that time period. It took a while to find the right voice for Celia, but once I did everything clicked. I wrote the first draft in about 6 months, then took another 6 months to make some changes I knew needed to be done. I shared the draft with writer friends and got some feedback from them as well. Two years after I finished the first draft, I sent the manuscript to some publishers. Second Story was the first publisher I heard back from and they’re the ones who ended up publishing the novel. Then there were some more edits to do before the final version. Overall, it took about 3 years from starting the first draft to getting the contract.

Can you tell us a bit about your research process. Where did the most helpful sources of information come from? And some unexpected sources of information?

One place that I found really useful is a website called “Newfoundland’s Grand Banks”. It’s a genealogy and historical records collection that I’ve used for researching my family tree, but I found some wonderful first-person accounts of the tsunami that helped me shape the story. I also searched for photos of the aftermath of the disaster to help me picture what the characters would see. Some of those photos were included in the published book.

I love your cover. Can you tell us a bit about your illustrator and your thoughts on the cover?

I was so grateful to have some input into the cover. Second Story Press asked me for ideas on the design when I first signed the contract, so I went looking through some of their titles to find things that I liked. I sent my suggestions and a while later they sent me three sketches for feedback. I loved them all! The one thing that I said had to be on the cover was Celia’s dog, Boomer, because he’s such a big part of her story. I think the illustrator, Hayden Maynard, captured the feeling of the story very clearly.

You work as an elementary school French teacher. Can you tell us some of the ways teaching impacts and/or influences your writing and vice versa?

When I’m writing for middle graders, I think about what I know about that age group. What are they interested in? How easily will they understand the vocabulary that I’m choosing? How can I inject a bit of humour into the story? Some of my current students have read A Terrible Tide and they all seem to be enjoying it. It’s amazing to get that kind of direct feedback from the kids.

I try not to “write down”, or simplify the language too much, but it helps to be aware of it so that I can make sure the writing isn’t too complex. I want the story to be accessible but also something that adults can enjoy.

I really enjoyed your book and without giving away any spoilers, will we follow this set of characters through their upcoming adventures in another book? Or are you working on a new story completely? Can you tell us a bit about your next project.

I have several things I’m working on. One of them does involve the Matthews family! I am also interested in writing about characters who survive other disasters, so I have notes and ideas for a few different stories in that vein. There’s also my long-term passion project – an adult novel that I define as “historical fantasy”. All of these projects are either in development or partially drafted. I hope to have something finished soon.

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

You can find me on Facebook (Suzanne Meade Author), Instagram (@suzannemeade.author), or at my website www.suzannemeade.ca.

Suzanne Meade is a Canadian author specializing in historical fiction. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she is passionate about telling stories that connect with girls, women, and other marginalized communities. In her spare time, she enjoys genealogy, yoga, reading, watching sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies, and playing video games. She currently teaches elementary school French and lives with her family and pets in Hamilton.

Book Review: WITCHLINGS, by Claribel A. Ortega

For this reader, a fantastical world is more alluring when it allows me to suspend disbelief as elements of our real world are woven seamlessly with the fantastical and magical circumstances presented in the story.  Claribel A. Ortega’s Witchlings offers readers exactly that, elevating the experience to new heights by creating the magical canon of The Twelve Towns, the major setting in Witchlings, based on the Spanish language and mythical beings that will be familiar to Latinx readers.  

What readers will experience when immersing themselves in the world of Witchlings

A Sense of Belonging

Wouldn’t it be magnificent if there was a club, a hobby, a group, for every one of us?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know with absolute certainty that you belong somewhere? But reality is hard, and hits kids especially hard, when our interests or personalities don’t align with any of the established school, community or social groups available.  Author Claribel Ortega, places this slice of reality into the lives of her main characters within the first few pages of this book. On the most important evening of a witchling’s life,  the night where they are sorted into covens, Seven, Valley and Thorn, are coven-less.  They are categorized as Spares, and let’s be honest, being an understudy, an extra, in the real world or a spare in the town of Ravenskill, is no one’s ultimate dream. Through the main characters, readers will explore two different paths– accepting fate as it is dealt or believing that regardless of how it’s always been in a community or society, one can create a safe space  and find others, though odd as the choices may seem at first, to welcome into that space.

The Fallout of Avoiding Confrontations 

Inventing the intentions of others is a default young and old turn to, rather than braving a confrontation that could clarify for all concerned the impact that words and actions have had.  Seven believes she has been the victim of bullying because of her interactions with Valley and the outcomes she’s suffered. She doesn’t allow herself to consider Valley’s perspective; maybe Valley doesn’t pick up on social cues, maybe her way of engaging with peers isn’t what Seven has experienced before; considerations that might have created an opportunity for Seven to share how Valley’s actions have made her feel and also allow Valley to disclose her intent, explain, maybe even apologize.  When Seven invokes the Impossible Task as a way to avoid her fate as a Spare, she commits not only herself but Valley who she hates, and Thorn who she barely knows, to become a team and endanger their lives. Readers will feel just as squeamish as Seven does at the prospect of depending on her tormentor to complete the Impossible Task and be part of a coven. Readers will also witness what we misconstrue when we default to inventing others and their intentions.  Isn’t this at the root of so many middle school real-life dramas?

Latinx Representation 

Latinx readers will feel like Claribel Ortega’s fantasy world was built with them as the intended dwellers- with spells like zarpazo,volcán and machete, to name just a few, and Cucos, the night monster that will come and get you in Latin American countries if you don’t fall asleep when your told,  as one of the monstruos the witchlings have to battle.  Readers who are not Latinx won’t feel unwelcomed, many magical book worlds use Latin as the language of their incantations, and with the amount of cognates shared between Spanish and English, they might understand exactly what the volcán, veloz, and other spells do!  

The representation of strong Latinx female main characters amplifies Latinx voices and their right to occupy space, be the heroes, and also offer readers from other cultural and racial backgrounds the opportunity to center their attention on kids they share the world with.  As readers get to know Seven and her family, they will also develop kinship and empathy for what they have in common.  

Learning to Lead by Being Led

Seven is a natural leader and believes she is entitled to take control and make decisions for the group, without conferring with her team.  She definitely does not want to give any leadership opportunities to her nemesis, Valley. As their plans to complete The Impossible Task fail, Seven begins to reflect on how Thorn and Valley’s knowledge and abilities could have created successes instead of failures. Maturity plays a big role in how Seven is able to cede control to the girls and be led by them, and also in how Valley and Thorn patiently wait for Seven to trust them and in how they communicate their frustrations without hurting each other’s feelings.  A great model for young readers to follow as they begin to see these leadership dynamics develop within their friendship circles. 

Tell Someone

At any age, being the confidant of a victim of abuse entails holding that person’s story and trust protectively.  For kids, learning that a classmate, a friend, or a family member is suffering abuse puts them at the crossroads Seven finds herself in when she witnesses Valley’s father being physically and emotionally abusive towards her.  Seven wants to help Valley, to keep her safe, but she also does not want to betray Valley’s trust.  Ortega skillfully navigates Seven’s decision making process, her telling a trusted adult about Valley’s situation, and Valley’s response to Seven’s decision to not honor her wish for secrecy.  Kids often trust their friends with this type of personal suffering before they trust adults, reading about characters their age doing what’s best is an important step towards knowing what to do.

The Thrill of a Whodunit Adventure

Once The Impossible Task is invoked the girls only have 3 weeks to accomplish it.  When a witchling becomes a Spare they are doomed to a life of servitude and the loss of magic. When a witchling invokes The Impossible Task, which doesn’t happen often, the consequence of failing is harsh.  For Seven, Valley and Thorn, the outlook is grim, if they fail they will be turned into toads, forever.  Ortega’s Spares mirror the creation and treatment of marginalized communities in the real world, giving readers an opportunity to explore this issue as they begin to empathize with the girls and root for their successful completion of what, by its very name seems impossible. 

As the Witchlings spend time researching in the library, around town, and putting plans into action they learn that each has an ability needed to the success of their task, and success is possible but only if they learn to trust each other and work as a team that values the individual while working for their collective goal.  As they analyze what they observe and research, as they go over their encounters with monstruos and their failed plans, they begin to notice things that do not fit with what they’ve learned of the history of their town, their town’s leadership, and the behaviors of Cucos and Nightbeasts.   Claribel Ortega leaves readers a trail of breadcrumbs that isn’t obvious, yet adds up as the story progresses and reaches its climax.  Readers will enjoy putting these clues together and coming up with their own list of suspects and motives, add the additional exhilarating element of a countdown, and readers will be staying up past their bedtime! 

I hope that we have many more installments of Seven, Valley and Thorn’s stories in The Twelve Towns, and I am sure young readers will be hoping for the same as they fly through the pages of Claribel Ortega’s Witchlings
Your readers will probably want to find out which coven they belong to! Take the Black Moon Ceremony Quiz to find out! 

Ro Menendez is a picture book collector and teacher-librarian in Mesquite, TX.  After thirteen years in the bilingual classroom she decided to transition to the library where she could build relationships with ALL readers on her campus. She enjoys the daily adventure of helping young readers develop their reader identity by connecting them with books that speak to their hearts and sense of humor! Ro’s favorite pastimes include reading aloud to children and recommending books to anyone who asks! She is also very passionate about developing a diverse library collection where all readers learn about themselves and those around them. You can find her on Twitter at @romenendez14.

Interview with debut author Sonja Thomas

Anne: Thank you, Sonja, for joining us at MG Book Village to chat about your debut novel, Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence, which hits shelves tomorrow, March 22. Would you please start by giving readers a very brief summary of the story?

Sonja: Hello! Thanks so much for having me. Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence is about a twelve-year-old scientist named Mira Williams who will stop at nothing to save her sick cat when her parents can no longer afford to treat his diabetes. It’s a story about friendship, family and the power of persistence.

Anne: And the cat’s name is Sir Fig Newton! Now, a friend calls Mira “stubborn,” but she prefers “persistent.” I love that! My question is whether you are at all like your protagonist? Are some parts of Mira’s story autobiographical? (If so, which parts?)

Sonja: Ha! Being stubborn—I mean persistent—is one of several things that Mira and I have in common. Just like Mira, I’m a biracial Black female (my father’s Black and my mother’s White); I grew up in a small Central Florida town, in between Orlando and Cocoa Beach; and I love listening and dancing to music. We’re both Orlando Magic fans and I too had a chonky gray cat diagnosed with diabetes.

Anne: You open with Mira trying to explode grapes in a microwave, hahahaha. Did you try that, yourself? Did you try all of the experiments mentioned in the book?

Sonja: I did try the grapes in a microwave! But after several attempts, the only result I got was smoke and a “charred, sugary stench.” I tried some of the other experiments mentioned, but not exactly in the same way that Mira did them. I purchased two National Geographic experiment kits: crystal garden and catapult (these were two of the experiments Mira did during STEM Girls camp). I hadn’t done experiments like these in a long time and they were so much fun. It was very satisfying to see my paper trees blooming with colorful crystals and watch my catapult successfully launch a cat sparkle ball across the room!

Anne: Very fun! In the story I enjoyed the mention of tee shirt slogans (such as “Never trust an atom, they make up everything”) and references to highway signs (like the one from NASA: “Curiosity is Out There”). Are these for real, or from your imagination?

Sonja: It’s a little bit of both! Most of the fun tee shirt slogans I either found online or I own the shirt (like “Otter Space”). But the shirt slogan “STEM Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and all of the highway signs are from my imagination.

Anne: Mira often wrestles with tough questions related to faith. Could you share a bit about your own thinking as you were drafting those scenes? When it comes to issues of faith, what do you hope readers will take away from this novel?

Sonja: When I began writing this story, I didn’t set out to include tough questions related to faith. It happened organically. At first I wanted to reveal Mira’s scientific beliefs—her faith in the facts. But then as I was going through some very rough times myself, I realized I wanted to show readers that even though we don’t have control over a lot of the hard stuff we encounter in life, we are never alone. There’s always something bigger than ourselves to help us move through it.

After reading this story, I hope readers will feel empowered to discover their own beliefs and that finding their faith will help them find themselves.

Anne: That’s great. The story also sheds light on the problem of diabetes (both in people and in cats). How much research did you have to do to understand this disease, and how did you decide how much to put in the story (diabetes is complicated!) and what to leave out?

Sonja: Luckily, I didn’t have to do a ton of research. Not only did my father and two uncles have Type 2 diabetes, but the story is loosely based on my real-life relationship with my cat, Whiskey, and our struggles when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007. I was fortunate enough, however, to be an adult with a great paying job so that I could afford the large vet bills.

It was difficult to decide how much to include and what to leave out. I did my best to stay focused not only on Mira’s main goal of saving her cat, but also to stay in her point of view. I’m very thankful for my editorial agent and amazing editor, who helped me keep the story focused, fun, and full of relevant-to-the-story information.

Anne: On your website, you reveal that your original title was “Mira and Whiskers.” When did you change the title, and why?

Sonja: As I mentioned, the story is loosely based on my cat, Whiskey. I called my fictional cat Whiskers (to make the name kid-friendly) and named Mira after my paternal grandmother, Elmira. One of my early readers pointed out that Mira the scientist would most likely have a different name for her cat and I immediately agreed. So after some fun brainstorming, Sir Fig Newton came to be.

When I was sending queries to get an agent, the title was Sir Fig Newton & the Greatest Scientist That Ever Lived (after Einstein, of course). My agent suggested I shorten the title and after more brainstorming, Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence was born. Although it wasn’t much shorter, we both agreed that it fit with the story’s theme, and it’s a fun title.

Anne: It IS a fun title! Finally, where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Sonja: Readers can visit my website, bysonjathomas.com. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter at @bysonjathomas. Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence is available at all the usual retailers, including Bookshop and IndieBound, and at some of my favorite local indie bookstores, Annie Bloom’s Books, Vintage Books, and Powell’s Books. For readers who don’t have it in their budget to buy a book, please consider requesting Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence at your local library (if it’s not already in stock)!

Anne: Thank you so much for stopping by MG Book Village, and for writing such an engaging story!

Sonja: Thank you so much for having me. I had the best time answering your thoughtful and fun questions and I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. I hope your readers will love Mira and Sir Fig’s story too!

Sonja Thomas (she/her) writes stories for readers of all ages, often featuring brave, everyday girls doing extraordinary things. Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence is her debut middle grade novel. She’s also a contributing author for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic. Raised in Central Florida—home of the wonderful world of Disney, humidity, and hurricanes—and a Washington, DC, transplant for eleven years (go Nats!), she’s now “keeping it weird” in the Pacific Northwest with her roommate and four pawesome cats.

Anne (A.B.) Westrick is today’s MG Book Village interviewer. She’s the author of the older-MG novel Brotherhood. You can learn more about her at https://abwestrick.com/

COVER REVEAL for Ham-Let: A Shakespearean Mash-Up by Jim Burnstein and Garrett Schiff

* Thanks to Supriya Kelkar for conducting this interview

Hi Jim and Garrett! Welcome to MG Book Village. I’m so excited to chat with you about your middle-grade debut, HAM-LET: A SHAKESPEAREAN MASH-UP, illustrated by Elisa Ferrari, set for release March 29th from Dark Horse. With this retelling, you’ve made Hamlet accessible and fun for so many younger readers. What inspired you to tell this version of the story?

Ever since college we have loved all things Shakespeare. So, when Dark Horse Comics came to us with the idea of writing a graphic novel about Hamlet as a pig, we jumped at the chance and decided to write a Shakespearean Mash-Up that would introduce readers to all of Shakespeare’s most famous tragic characters in a fun way. In our version, they are now part of a fledgling theater company led by Horatio the Rabbit where every one of them wants to be the star of the show. In order to win his kingdom back, our Pig Prince Ham-let must teach this troupe the valuable life lesson that the play of life is bigger than just your part. If there’s a method to our mash-up madness, it is simply this: to transform tragedy into comedy and to show the very thin line that separates the two. But this too, of course, is one of Shakespeare’s greatest lessons. That’s why we wanted to include Nick the Donkey from A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a member of our band of animal players.

Can you tell us a bit about your work in Hollywood and what it was like writing a middle-grade graphic novel? Did you approach it the same way you write a screenplay?

We have written and sold well over twenty screenplays to virtually every studio in Hollywood, including Shakespeare-inspired screenplays like Renaissance Man, which was based on Jim’s personal experience teaching Shakespeare to soldiers. Like Shakespeare, we have written comedies, tragedies, and dramadies or what Shakespeare would call tragicomedies. We approached Ham-let very much the way we would a screenplay. What does the protagonist want? What obstacles does he have to overcome? How does his emotional journey evolve over the three acts? Shakespeare himself provided us with the blueprint. Still, writing a graphic middle-grade novel is one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. It is like writing and directing a movie at the same time. Every panel functions as a single shot in a film. And that’s before the illustrations are done! We loved working with our graphic artist, Elisa Ferrari, and were excited to see her sketches, pencil drawings, color pages and finally the lettered drafts. The editing process at times felt like a new mountain we had to climb. But thanks to our editor Megan Walker, we hope to climb that mountain again soon. As readers will note at the end of Ham-let, the sequel is hopefully set…

A sequel? How exciting! I can’t wait. What do you hope your readers take away from HAM-LET: A SHAKESPEAREAN MASH-UP?

We hope our readers develop a lifelong interest in Shakespeare and that by the time they get to college they will have a real desire to study Shakespeare. That being said, we believe that parents and educators alike who are familiar with Shakespeare will appreciate the humor and the many Shakespeare references and jokes throughout. Sort of like a Shakespearean scavenger hunt.

And now…for the big reveal!

The cover, designed by Diego Morales-Portillo and illustrated by Elisa Ferrari.  

What did you think when you first saw the cover art?

What did you think when you first saw the cover art? Our first reaction to the cover art created by Elisa Ferrari was one of pure delight. The superhero font of the title was the perfect way to attract readers to this classic tale. We absolutely loved Valerio Alloro’s vibrant colors, the lettering by Frank Cvetkovic and the design by Diego Morales-Portillo. All of this made our vision come to life and the book feel very real!

Thanks so much for introducing us to Ham-let and his world. Where can educators learn more about you and your work?

Garrett is on Instagram @garrettschiff and on Twitter @yumpaschiff

Jim is on Twitter @jimburnstein

Jim Burnstein, Professor and Director of the University of Michigan’s nationally acclaimed Screenwriting Program since 1995, managed to beat the odds and make it as a successful Hollywood screenwriter without moving from his home in Plymouth, Michigan. Burnstein’s screen credits include Renaissance Man, the 1994 comedy directed by Penny Marshall and starring Danny DeVito; D3: The Mighty Ducks;  and Love and Honor, starring Liam Hemsworth and Teresa Palmer, co-written with Garrett K. Schiff of Los Angeles. Other Burnstein and Schiff credits include Ruffian starring Sam Shepard (ABC/ESPN) and Naughty or Nice starring George Lopez (ABC). Currently in the works is The School of Jeff, a television series with Big Bang Theory exclusive director Mark Cendrowski atttached to direct and produce. Burnstein and Schiff are delighted to see their first middle grade graphic book, Ham-let: A Shakespearean Mash-Up written for Dark Horse and published by Penguin now availabe to students and educators everywhere! It is the first of what they hope will be many such comedic Shakespearean mash-ups!

Garrett Schiff is a writer/producer of narrative films, television, documentaries and now graphic novels. After selling a TV show to Viacom while still college, Garrett sold his first screenplay to Universal, wrote animated projects for Disney Animation and Dreamworks, then partnered with Jim Burnstein to write and produce Love and Honor starring Liam Hemsworth and Teresa Palmer,  Ruffian and the George Lopez movie Naughty or Nice for ABC and ESPN, as well as selling screenplays to nearly every studio in town. Currently in the works is The School of Jeff, a television series with The Big Bang Theory exclusive director Mark Cendrowski atttached to direct and produce. In 2018, Garrett produced the Academy Award winning short documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” This year he produced “Long Line of Ladies” which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival.  Garrett and Jim are thrilled to see their first middle grade graphic book, Ham-let: A Shakespearean Mash-Up written for Dark Horse and published by Penguin now availabe to students and educators everywhere! It is the first of what they hope will be many such comedic Shakespearean mash-ups!