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Hello everyone! Welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, librarians, parents, and anyone who loves middle grade books!
I believe in the power of stories to change our mood – make us laugh, cry, or… creep us out in the best possible way! My goal is to help you connect kids with those fabulous books and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.
I am your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of a 9 and 11 year old, a 5th grade teacher in Central New York, and spending a few hours each week phone banking!
This is episode #61 and today I’m booktalking three recent paranormal reads that will get you and your kids in the perfect fall mood, and sharing a conversation with Pablo Cartaya about his latest novel, Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish!
Before we jump into things, a few updates:
The Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick for October is The Three Rules of Everyday Magic by Amanda Rawson Hill and The Hotel Between by Sean Easley is the November pick. And – I just got sneak peek at the first four MG at Heart picks for 2019 and they’re fantastic. In fact, one of the authors, was recently featured on the show.
Also remember to check out #MGBooktober to check out all the great discussions around middle grade and connect with other educators, librarians, authors, and fans.
And remember that Monday nights at 9pm EST is the #MGBookChat Twitter chat! This month some of the topics are: Building Vocabulary with Middle Grade Books, and Taboo Roll Call: Does anything go in Middle Grade now? We always have a great time a leave with tons of suggestions for the kids in our lives. And…of course, ourselves!
Book Talk – 3 New Paranormal Releases
This week I am sharing with you three new paranormal releases that are perfect for the fall – or anytime, really! They are Edison Beaker Creature Seeker by Frank Cammuso, Sheets by Brenna Thummler, and Small Spaces by Katherine Arden.
Edison Beaker Creature Seeker
Let’s start with Edison Beaker Creature Seeker. This full-color graphic novel is the first in a new series by Frank Cammuso – author of The Knights of the Lunch Table series and the Misadventures of Salem Hyde series. This book is about a young boy named Edison who has always been afraid of the dark. When his mom has to go out of town, Edison and his little sister, Tesla, go to stay with their Uncle Earl. Uncle Earl is an exterminator and he reluctantly takes the kids on a late-night “emergency” job where they end up going through a door to a shadowy other-worldly place where Edison has to confront his fears and lots of bizarre creatures! Here are three things to love about Edison Beaker Creature Seeker:
- Tesla’s hamster, Scuttlebutt! He is so stinking cute!! And gets into so much trouble – or rather, gets everyone else into trouble when he rolls away in his ball into the darkest, most dangerous corners.
- How FUNNY this book is! I was at the park with my daughters when I finished it last week, and I just could NOT help laughing out loud – even though I knew I was getting weird looks. The word play, especially, is so much fun. Already the names Edison and Tesla are awesome – but another example, the portal to the other realm is through the Night Door which is found in an old building called the Wherehouse. And so the creatures call their underworld – the UnderWhere. And as you can imagine – the conversations around that are THE BEST.
- This intriguing little creature called Knox who is this fierce, cute little purple scavenger with a blue mohawk. I. LOVE. HER. She’s complicated and tough and vulnerable – and clearly has a much bigger part to play in future books.
Edison Beaker Creature Seeker is a fantastic graphic novel that you will definitely want to add to your collection. It’s sort of like a mix between HiLo and Amulet. So if you have kids who loved those two series, this is one to introduce them to next.
Next up this week is another graphic novel – Sheets by Brenna Thummler. This story is about 13 year-old Marjorie who is responsible for running her family’s laundromat. She has a lot going on – dealing with her father’s depression, taking care of her little brother, middle school drama – and the horrid Mr. Saubertuck who is trying to close down the family business. And then, in floats Wendell – a ghost (sheet and all) who accidentally ends up in Marjorie’s laundromat and creates his own complications. Here are three things to love about Sheets:
- The ghosts! Even though they all wear a sheet, they each have their own personalities – some wearing hats, or glasses.
- The parts about the laundromat business. I love stories that get you behind the scenes of how things run.
- Brenna Thummler’s illustrations! Such a gorgeous color palette in shades of blue, pink, and green. I love her backgrounds – the buildings, all the little details of the interiors, and especially her trees! I noticed this in her illustrations for Anne of Green Gables, too – Brenna’s trees and leaves are stunning.
Sheets is a great suggestion for kids who might be looking for a realistic fiction graphic novel with a twist of paranormal that it’s too scary.
And finally – a new middle grade novel you NEED to get your hands on – Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. It’s about a young girl named Ollie whose mother died under tragic circumstances last year, and understandably – Ollie is withdrawn and raw. She ends up with this creepy book that tells the legend of two local brothers who come under the influence of The Smiling Man – with horrific results. When Ollie takes a field trip to a nearby farm, she and her friends Coco and Brian end up in an other-wordly fight to survive the lure of those mysterious forces. I love what Betsy Bird said about this book: “Are you afraid of scarecrows? No? Well, bad news bucko. You’re about to be.” And oh is she right!! Here are three things to love about Small Spaces:
- It’s so immersive and atmospheric! I loved Arden’s lush descriptions of a gorgeous sunny autumn in Vermont that slowly turns dark and foreboding – scarlet sugar maples, the silvery gleam of the distant creek, and then fog descending over a broken-down bus.
- It is straight up terrifying! And the pacing is perfect – taking the tension up a notch bit by bit. Small things, then bigger and bigger. A thrown rock. A frightened woman at the watering hole. A mysterious book from 1895. The weird, bad story about the schoolhouse fire. And that’s only the first quarter of the book!!
- That twist at the END!!! Ahhh! It is SUCH a pleasure when a book truly surprises you!
Pablo Cartaya – Interview Outline
Our special guest this week is Pablo Cartaya – author of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora and his most recent middle grade novel – Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish. We talk about the people of Puerto Rico and their strength, we discuss why he included a character with Down’s Syndrome and the efforts he made to get that portrayal right, and we also chat about the proper storage of peanut butter – among lots of other things. And don’t forget that when you are done reading the book and you want to hear Pablo and I discuss the ending of Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, just wait until the end of the show after the credits and that bonus section will be waiting for you.
Take a listen…
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish is your second middle grade and has been getting all kinds of great buzz online!
For our listeners who have not yet read the novel, can you tell us a bit about it?
Would you mind reading a favorite passage?
One of the reasons I loved this book so much was that I felt like I was traveling through Puerto Rico right along with Marcus!
Can you talk a little bit about your research?
There is a fair amount of the novel that is in Spanish (a language I don’t speak) and yet somehow I never felt lost in the story.
What was your process like for deciding how much Spanish to include and where it would go?
In the novel, Marcus’ younger brother, Charlie, has Down Syndrome. What made you decide to include a character with Down Syndrome and how did you make sure to get that representation as authentic as possible?
In your acknowledgments, you thank your father for teaching you how to cook. What are some of your favorite things to make?
Where do YOU store your peanut butter?
**BONUS SPOILER SECTION: Pablo and I discuss the ending of the novel, and if you’d like to hear that conversation, I moved that part of the recording to after the end credits of today’s episode at the 59:50 mark.
Your Writing Life
I noticed that your first book was a picture book!
What lead you down the path of writing middle grade?
Do you think you’d ever write another picture book?
What are you working on now?
Your Reading Life
One of the goals of this podcast is to help educators and librarians and parents inspire kids to read more and connect them with amazing books. Did you have a special person who helped launch your reading life as a child? And if so, what did they do that made such a difference?
What were some of your most influential reads as a child?
What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?
Pablo’s website – http://www.pablocartaya.com
Information about Kokila Imprint
Books & Authors We Chatted About:
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)
Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
Sounder (William H. Armstrong)
The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say (Angela Dominguez)
Amal Unbound (Aisha Saeed)
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring (Angela Cervantes)
Alright, that wraps up our show this week!
If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.
Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network features podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com
Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.
Thanks and see you soon! Bye!
Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.
Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.