Middle Grade Book Love: Stef Soto, Taco Queen

I read Jennifer Torres’s Stef Soto, Taco Queen as an ARC at the end of 2016 and loved it. I was making a list of some of my favorite middle grade characters the other day, and Stef Soto (and her family’s taco truck Tia Perla) came to mind almost immediately. There’s so much to love in this heart-warming debut novel. It’s a must read for middle grade kids and for their taco-loving parents and teachers.

Middle Grade Book Love | stef-soto-taco-queen | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comSeventh grader Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for her dad to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be put out to pasture. It’s no fun being known as the “Taco Queen” at school.

But just when new city regulations are proposed, and her family’s livelihood is threatened, she will have to become the truck’s unlikely champion.

 

 

Stef Soto, Taco QueenStef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful debut that’s sure to be a hit among middle graders. Stef Soto is a perfect middle-grade heroine – determined to get out from under her overly-protective immigrant parents’ thumbs, endlessly embarrassed by the family business (delightful Tia Perla, the taco truck), struggling to fit in at school – and full of love and support for her family and friends. This book is full of great friends, a fun goal, and an authentic portrayal of middle grade life. And tacos! A beautiful book that teachers and students are sure to love.

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For readers

  • A kid you can totally relate to.
  • Great friendships (and believable rivalries).
  • Tacos!

For teachers

  • A bilingual protagonist
  • A true-to-life financial problem that will make for a good discussion topic.
  • Author-created Activities and Resources.

STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN is available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

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Middle Grade Book Love: Rules of the Ruff

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (heck, even if this is your first ever visit to my website)  you know I love dogs. I don’t own a dog (YET!), but I adore them, which is why I eagerly snapped up an ARC of Heidi Lang’s latest middle grade novel, RULES OF THE RUFF. It has everything I love in a middle grade book – family drama, friendships, a yearning for something just out of reach, and a bit of a mystery. Plus, it has dogs. Lots and lots of dogs!

MG Book Love | rules-of-the-ruff | www.patriciabaieyauthor.comTwelve-year-old Jessie is in for a long summer at her aunt and uncle’s house. Her cousin Ann has a snotty new best friend, which leaves Jessie all alone. But Jessie is industrious, and—not content with being ignored all summer—she convinces Wes, a grouchy neighborhood dog walker, to take her on as his apprentice.

Sure, dog walking turns out to be harder than she expected, but she has Wes’s dog-walking code, the Rules of the Ruff, to guide her, and soon she’s wrangling her very own pack. But when a charismatic rival dog walker moves to town, she quickly snatches up most of Wes’s business—and Jessie decides she isn’t going to take this defeat with her tail between her legs.

 

Rules of the RuffRules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a fun book! Smart and funny in all the best ways – with a character who doesn’t always do the right thing, but is so easy to root for you can’t help but going along for the ride (or, in this case, the walk). Rules of the Ruff is a realistic look at how sometimes good intentions can lead you astray and how even the worst people may be better than you think.

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For readers

  • A pitch-perfect age-appropriate sort-of romance. Kinda.
  • A easy-to-relate to main character who is far from perfect.
  • Dogs! Lots of dogs!

For teachers

  • Some subtle lessons on growing up taught through dog-walking rules.
  • Complicated family and friend relationships that will prove to be good conversation starters.
  • Good descriptions of what’s required to be a responsible pet owner from the eyes of a kid.

RULES OF THE RUFF  is available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

You can learn more about Heidi’s other middle grade books by checking out an interview I did with her and her writing partner here.

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Middle Grade Book Love: The Last Great Adventure of the PB and J Society

I’m celebrating my birthday week by highlighting a great friend and a great book! (Bonus, this friend also shares a birthday month with me. Yay fellow Aries!) I read THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB AND J SOCIETY shortly after meeting Janet, and I knew immediately we were destined to by friends. She’s smart, funny, and thoughtful in all the best ways – and so is her book!

Middle Grade Book Love | the-last-great-adventure-of-the-pb-and-j-society | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comWhen her best friend’s house is threatened with foreclosure, young Annie Jenkins is full of ideas to save the home: selling her appendix on eBay, winning the lottery, facing down the bankers . . . anything to keep Jason from moving. But Jason’s out-of-work dad blows up at the smallest things, and he’s not very happy with Annie’s interventions, which always seem to get them into more trouble. But when Annie tracks a lost treasure to Jason’s backyard, she’s sure the booty will be enough to save Jason’s family. Pirate treasure in the Midwest seems far-fetched, even to Annie, but it could be the answer to all their problems. Now all she has to do is convince Jason. As the two hunt for answers and the pressure gets to Jason and his family, Annie discovers that the best-laid plans aren’t always enough and there are worse things than moving away.

For readers

  • Humor. It’s funny with lots of laugh out loud moments.
  • A great friendship.
  • A main character who makes mistakes you can relate to.

For teachers

  • A smart, funny, and realistic handling of tough topics.
  • A fierce boy/girl friendship.
  • A detailed Discussion Guide.

THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB AND J SOCIETY is available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

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Author Spotlight: Amanda Hosch Talks About Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying

Author Spotlight | Amanda Hosch Talks About Mabel Opal Pear } www.patriciabaileyauthor.comToday I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Amanda Hosch and her debut novel Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying.

Title: Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying

Genre: Middle Grade Mystery

Age Range: 9 to 12

Launch Date: October 1, 2017


Please tell us a little bit about your book.

Fifth-grader Mabel (code name Sunflower) wrote the Rules for a Successful Life as an Undercover Secret Agent, so when her parents leave town abruptly she is not too worried–but when her beloved Aunt Gertie is arrested, and her objectionable Uncle Frank and Aunt Stella (Frankenstella) and her annoying (but clever) cousin Victoria take over her house and the family’s private museum, Mabel begins to smell a rat and she is determined to find out what her suspicious relatives are up to.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I’ve always loved mystery and detective stories. Mabel’s voice came to me one summer. It was very strong and very sure. Her parents were secret agents, she knew their secret, and was struggling with balancing their secret and trying to live a normal fifth-grade life.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

Usually, I write the first two or three chapters to see if the narrator has a story to tell. If I find it interesting, then I plot out the rest. Mabel’s voice was so strong in the first few chapters that I was able to outline the book in a day since I knew exactly what she would do. The short outline had perhaps two or three sentences for each chapter. The first draft took about six weeks. After I was done the first draft, I double-checked some of the fact and trivia, and then revised (of course) and revised some more.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

How much time do you have? Seriously, so many people encouraged my love of reading and writing, starting with my mother.

Miss Linda from the Nix branch of the New Orleans library system. She let me hang out in the “teen” section, which was only two bookshelves and always recommended new books for me. She taught me about the wonders of interlibrary loan. In fact, I was a library volunteer during the summers of my middle school years.

Mrs. Lee Klebba and Mrs. Sandra Fassnacht at Mercy Academy both encouraged my writing.

 What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

Mabel is a typical fifth grader and she’s studied US geography and state capitals (which come into play for the plot), but her secret super power is observation. She really sees what’s going on and trusts her instincts. I’d love to see MOPRS used as a way for students to strengthen their own powers of observation.

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

When I was about three, we brought home a shaggy black street mutt from Audubon Park. His real name was Reginald, but I called him Puppy. He was the smartest and most loyal dog ever. He was a street mutt at heart so he would eat anything (crayons, rubber bands, bananas, loafs of bread, frozen whole fish). However, he was also super-obedient. One day, my brothers and I put our full lunch plates on the kitchen floor, told him “no,” and walked into the other room. He sat next to the plates, quivering, but not eating a bite. My mother was not pleased with our experiment, and we had to give Puppy the ham from our sandwiches as reward for his restraint.

Author Spotlight | Amanda Hosch Talks About Mabel Opal Pear } www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

 

Author Spotlight | Amanda Hosch Talks About Mabel Opal Pear } www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI’m an EFL/ESL teacher (English as a Foreign Language/English as a Second Language) and taught abroad for almost a decade: Canada, South Korea, Czech Republic, and Taiwan. Originally from New Orleans, I now live in Seattle with my husband, our two daughters, and a ghost cat. We recently added two former shelter cats to our family. When not writing, I volunteer at the school library or work with struggling readers.

https://www.amandahosch.com/

https://twitter.com/AmandaFaeremom

Thanks, Amanda!

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Author Spotlight: Melissa Roske Talks About Kat Greene Comes Clean

Author Spotlight | Melissa Roske Talks About Kat Green Comes Clean | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comToday I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Melissa Roske and her debut novel KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN.

Title: KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

Genre: Contemporary MG

Age Range: 8-12

Launch Date: August 22, 2017, from Charlesbridge


Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. When Mom isn’t scrubbing every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s boiling the silverware or checking Kat’s sheets for bedbugs. Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the school play, and Mom’s decision to try out for Clean Sweep, a TV game show about cleaning, and what’ve you got? More trouble than Kat can handle—at least without a little help from her friends.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I first got the idea from a fortune cookie. It said, “A winsome smile is your sure protection.” I wasn’t sure what it meant quite honestly, but I liked the sentiment. So I started freewriting, and Kat Greene – a smart, kind, funny 11-year-old – popped out!

In terms of the mom’s character, that is more complicated. As you know from reading the book (thanks, Trish! J), Kat’s mom suffers from a cleaning compulsion—a symptom of her OCD. She’s also afraid of germs and contamination. It wasn’t until I was done writing the book that I realized that the mom is actually based on my dad. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me, at least on a conscious level. My dad, however, is the opposite of Kat’s mom. He is extremely messy and keeps everything. I actually found a datebook in his apartment from 1973! He also hasn’t been diagnosed with OCD, although his behavior certainly points to it. He’s a checker, for instance, which means he can’t sleep until he’s checked the front-door locks at least three times. I too have some OCD symptoms, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they adversely affect my life. They’re just annoying—to my family, and to myself.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

I try to write every day, even if it’s for 15 minutes. That’s not to say I actually do it, but the operative word is try! I also like to do a little prewriting before I sit down to work. I have a special journal for this purpose, and I use it to test out ideas, explore plot points, and to ask myself plenty of “What if” questions. For instance, there’s a scene in my book where Halle is blabbing on and on about her crush, Michael McGraw.  I wasn’t sure how Kat should react, so I asked myself: “What if Kat told Halle to put a lid on it?” From there, the scene developed fluidly. Also, I don’t work from an outline, but I do write a synopsis before I tackle a project. I like to have a roadmap, even if I don’t follow it. It keeps me focused, and on track.

In terms of research, I had to do quite a lot, because I wanted to make sure that the mom’s OCD was portrayed fairly and accurately. Therefore, I read many books on the subject—including Traci Foust’s excellent Nowhere Near Normal: A Memoir of OCD—and I interviewed psychologists and psychiatrists. I wanted to be respectful of those who suffer from this disorder, as well as family members who suffer as a result.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

I can’t choose one teacher because there were so many (!), but I can say that my love of writing was definitely nurtured and encouraged by my teachers at the City and Country School, the century-old progressive school, in New York’s Greenwich Village, on which Kat’s school is loosely based.  City and Country taught me to think outside the box, and to work independently. We didn’t have homework, or tests, or grades—yet we managed to “learn by doing,” the guiding principle of the school, coined by C&C’s visionary founder, educator Caroline Pratt.

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

I think KAT works well in a classroom, because most of the action takes place in the classroom—namely, the Village Humanity School, Kat’s ultra-progressive elementary school. That’s not to say that Kat’s classroom experience will mirror that of a more traditional classroom, but there are certain themes that are universal: coping with conflict; working out differences; respecting others; kindness.            

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

I am a huge fan of my friend Irene’s bulldog, Bo Hwang. He has a sweet disposition, a cute wrinkly face, and a fierce sense of style. He has his own Facebook page too.

Author Spotlight | Melissa Roske Talks About Kat Green Comes Clean | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

Author Spotlight | Melissa Roske Talks About Kat Green Comes Clean | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comBefore spending her days with imaginary people, Melissa Roske interviewed real ones, as a journalist in Europe. In London, she landed a job as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine, where she answered hundreds of letters from readers each week. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest, and got certified as a life coach. She lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and the occasional dust bunny.You can find Melissa on the web at:

WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram

Thanks, Melissa!

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Author Spotlight: Kristi Wientge Talks About Karma Khullar’s Mustache

Author Spotlight | Kristi Wientge Talks About Karma Kullar's Mustache | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comToday I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Kristi Wientge and her debut novel KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE.

Title: KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE

Genre: Contemporary

Age Range: MG

Launch Date: August 15, 2017


Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Karma is entering middle school and is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend, or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima, or that her daddy is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mom to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip. With everyone preoccupied, Karma has no one to turn to, and must figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

Being a hairy girl, I’ve always wanted to read about a hairy girl, but no one ever wrote a book about this topic. It was only after I attended a master class at a writing conference in Singapore that I was inspired to come up with an interesting character name and once I had the name Karma Khullar, the rest of the story fell into place!

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

For a story to really take off for me, I have to start with the voice. I just tried to put some voice into a manuscript that I love, but lacked voice and it didn’t work. I pretty much struggled for a year trying to squish voice into it. For me, I can have the plot, the emotional arcs, even know the ending, but if I don’t have a strong voice, I’m not going to be able to do the story justice.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

This question is so easy for me. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Clark, was fresh out of college and brimming with ideas. She encouraged creative writing and let me and a friend put on plays for the class. She submitted my work to a publication for children’s writing. My short story Salt and Pepper was accepted and I just knew I was on my way to a Newberry!

What makes your book  a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

I’m not sure if the topic of facial hair is classroom worthy. As much as I wanted to read a book about another girl with facial hair as I was growing up, I would have been mortified if we’d read a book about it in class. I’m sure everyone in the classroom would be staring at me! What I would like to see teachers do is share this book with the girls they think it would help. Karma is dealing with more than just facial hair, she’s got family problems and friend problems and even if a girl isn’t hairy, I think it’d make the reader more empathetic towards girls they notice with hairiness issues.           

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

I had a very dog-eared copy of BENJI by my bed for years and years growing up. I can still picture it in my head!

Author Spotlight | Kristi Wientge Talks About Karma Kullar's Mustache | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

 

Author Spotlight | Kristi Wientge Talks About Karma Kullar's Mustache | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comKristi Wientge is originally from Ohio, where she grew up writing stories about animals, including (her favorite) a jet-setting mouse. After studying to become a teacher for children with special needs, she spent several years exploring the world from China to England, teaching her students everything from English to how to flip their eyelids. She’s spent the last twelve years raising her family in her husband’s home country of Singapore, where she spends her days taking her four kids to school, Punjabi lessons, and music class. You can find her at kristiwientge.com and on twitter at @kwientge

Thanks, Kristi!

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2017 Debut Book Love: I Am Fartacus

2017 Debut Book Love | I Am Fartacus | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI AM FARTACUS: The title kind of says it all.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book with this many bathroom jokes in it. Maybe never. Still, the ARC of Mark Maciejewski’s middle grade debut, I AM FARTACUS, had me laughing right out loud more than once.

I’m pretty sure classrooms full of kids are going to be cracking up in 2017.

Mark gives us an interesting character in his bald, anti-hero Chub. Bent on revenge against Alanmoore Middle School’s most popular boy, (yep, Alanmoore – and that’s not the only reference to The Watchmen which only adds to the fun) Chub and his cadre of mischief makers plan and prank their way toward justice. But sometimes it’s hard to tell where the good guy ends and the bad guy begins.

I Am FartacusI Am Fartacus by Mark Maciejewski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A funny middle grade debut with a great cast of secondary characters. It’s tough not to like this short, bald anti-hero and his Cadre of Evil.

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A funny middle grade debut with a great cast of secondary characters. It’s tough not to like this short, bald anti-hero and his Cadre of Evil.

View all my reviews

For readers

  • A fun cast of secondary characters. The Colonel may be my favorite adult ever.
  • Pranks, fart jokes, and more pranks.
  • Fun references to comics and movies.

For teachers

  • A anti-hero worth studying.
  • Discussion about the fine line between heroes and villains, bullying and getting even.
  • A main character who happens to be an immigrant.
  • A cast with a diverse set of family situations.

Another April debut, I AM FARTACUS is released April 18, 2017. It is available for order now at Amazon.

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Author Spotlight: Allison Hymas Talks About Under Locker And Key

Author Spotlight Interview | Allison Hymas talks Under Locker and Key | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comToday I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Allison Hymas and her debut novel UNDER LOCKER AND KEY.

Title: Under Locker and Key

Genre: Middle Grade Crime/Mystery

Age Range: Ages 9-13

Launch Date: April 18, 2017

Please tell us a little bit about your book?

UNDER LOCKER AND KEY is about a 12-year-old “retrieval specialist” named Jeremy Wilderson who steals back things for the kids in his school. Since doing his job requires a certain amount of lying, cheating, con artistry, and straight-up burglary, Jeremy has made an enemy of the school’s private investigator, a girl named Becca Mills, who has made it her mission to personally take Jeremy down. When Jeremy accidentally places the key that opens every locker in the school in the hands of an aspiring eighth-grade kingpin, he must team up with Becca Mills herself to get it back.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I actually started this story as part of a class for writing for children and adolescents. I had to come up with a character and write a one-page introduction for the character in his or her voice. At the time I had been reading a lot of middle grade mysteries and watching TV shows about thieves and criminals. I realized that I had found many books about middle grade detectives, but not as many about the criminals they chased. That led to me thinking about what a criminal protagonist would be like, whether he would see himself as a thief or as a hero, why he’d do what he did, etc. I decided he’d see himself as a hero, not a thief, so I wrote the sentence, “First off, I am not a thief,” and Jeremy Wilderson jumped off the page. From there, it was easy to develop Becca, the straight-laced detective antagonist who opposes Jeremy but maybe has more in common with him than she thinks. It has been fun writing a story with a good-guy thief protagonist because I can have him opposed by both the law and by bad-guy thieves.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

When I’m starting a new story, I tend to think about it a lot before I sit down to write the first page. I’ll do lots of prewriting, which I find very fun because it feels like solving a mystery to me. I’ll write up profiles for my characters and experiment by imagining them in different situations and seeing how they’ll react. I’ll start basic plotting for the novel before I write it by listing possible events that could happen in the story and why they would, based on my characters’ personalities and motives. Before I start writing, I will develop a very basic outline for the story; I know major events that need to happen, but am less sure about the details in between. Then I sit down to write, and when I write, those details come. I’m okay changing the major outline if the story works better in a different way.

My first draft is very rough. I write it fast, just to have something to work with later. Most of my good writing comes in revisions as I shape the story to fit what I want it to be best. I tend to discover more about my plot and my characters as I write, so that first fast draft is important for me to understand better what my story is about. As for research, I will do some preliminary research during the prewriting stage, but will research again as I need it during writing. For example, I may learn a little about picking locks before starting the story, but as I write the lock-picking parts I may look for research about what it takes to pick a certain kind of lock or try picking a lock myself so I know how it feels to do it.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

My parents have always been very supportive of my writing, so I think they deserve a nod here. There were two teachers, my fifth grade teacher and my sixth grade Language Arts teacher, who encouraged my writing and told me I was actually good at it, so I credit them with the change from thinking, “I’d like to be a writer, but that’s just a dream,” to “I might actually be able to write as a career.” In college, Dr. Chris Crowe was a professor who really mentored me as a writer and encouraged me to eventually publish my work.

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

Well, since my book is about preteen criminals, this question is a little hard to answer! Jeremy has an elevated vocabulary for a 12-year-old, though not overly so for the age group, and he’s fond of language and words, so it could work as a book used to teach vocabulary to a middle grade audience. I’d prefer, though, for the book to be used more to discuss crime and justice, doing the right thing, and interacting with people who have different views on subjects than you do than just for vocabulary. The book deals with these things in a way that is (I think) appropriate and entertaining for young readers.

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

Growing up, I had a dog named Snoopy. He was a beagle-basset hound mix and was very energetic and affectionate. We ended up giving him away, but I loved him and learned a lot about caring for another creature from having him. My favorite story about Snoopy was the time I came home to find that he’d caught and killed a rabbit in the back yard. We didn’t want him killing anything, and I had to clean up the mess, but Snoopy looked so proud of himself and was leaping around with a doggy smile on his face, so thrilled that he’d hunted a rabbit for me, that I couldn’t bring myself to say anything but a half-hearted, “Good job, boy,” as I disposed of the poor bunny’s remains.

 

Author Spotlight Interview | Allison Hymas talks about Under Locker and Key | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

As a middle schooler, I was a law-abiding citizen (except for the occasional offense of reading under my desk when I should have been listening). I now hold an MFA from Brigham Young University and currently live in Utah. Under Locker and Key is my first novel. I’m hard at work writing Jeremy Wilderson’s further adventures.

You can learn more about Allison and UNDER LOCKER AND KEY at her website, and you can visit with her on social media at the following links:

Blog
Facebook
Goodreads
Twitter
Instagram

Thanks so much, Allison!

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Author Spotlight: Kristin Gray Talks About Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge


Today I’m
finalcover Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge shining the Author Spotlight on Kristin Gray and her debut novel VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE.

Title: VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE

Genre: Contemporary Middle-Grade

Age Range: 8-12

Launch Date: March 7, 2017

 

Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

Vilonia’s story morphed over time. After shelving an unsuccessful manuscript, I knew I wanted to write something lively and with heart. I had the idea of a young girl adopting and nurturing a puppy who had been born preterm. But as I  researched, I came across more and more articles about pet therapy and how dogs help us. So Vilonia’s story quickly evolved into one of a dog helping her family overcome their grief. So yes, dogs can be therapy. (Though sometimes, my dogs drive me bananas, but I love them anyway.)

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

I write in batches of scenes. Sometimes I only have half an hour, while I’m waiting on my kids at their various activities, but if I know the next scene, I’ll write it. Here’s the honest truth, I was stuck for almost three months because I didn’t know how (spoiler!) the chicken coop caught fire. Then fortuitously, I was out working at a local café one morning. A man at the table next to me was retelling the story of how his family’s hen coop had burned down. I eavesdropped for a bit and then introduced myself. I wrote the rest of the chapter that afternoon, and the rest as they say is history. So wherever you are, Dan with the hen coop, thank you! (Though I did not use the exact turn of events, it served as a springing board for my imagination.)

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

Oh my goodness. Mrs. Babbs was one of my librarians. I remember her reading WHY MOSQUITOES BUZZ IN PEOPLE’S EARS and parts of CADDIE WOODLAWN. I remember my 3rd and 6th grade teachers reading STUART LITTLE and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH to us before the last bell. I was transfixed by those stories.

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

I’d like to think Vilonia would make a fun read aloud. That was my favorite part of the school day, when teachers read to us. What a dream it would be to have my own words read in a classroom!    

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about  your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

Oh, I adore my two dogs! Lucy is an eight-year-old Border Terrier. Roxie is a two-year-old Airedale. They are so funny together. Lucy is rather lazy, so Roxie makes sure she gets her exercise. May I attach a photo?

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screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-55-46-am Author of Viloina Beebe Takes ChargeKristin L. Gray drinks coffee (cream, no sugar) and writes books (funny, not sad) from her home in northwest Arkansas. She loves to read, walk her dogs, and eat cake for breakfast. Kristin’s fourth-grade self would never believe she has five children, two dogs, one fish, a bearded dragon, and a shy gecko. Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge is her first novel.

You can learn more about Kristin and her books by following her on:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/kristinlgray

Insta: http://instagram.com/kristinlgray/

FB: www.facebook.com/kristinlgray/author/

Web: www.KristinLGray.com
You can buy VILIONA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE at bookstores or online at:

Amazon | B&N | Powells |

 

Thank you so much, Kristin!

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2017 Debut Book Love: The Ethan I Was Before

Book Review | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comOne of the things that’s been a little bit strange and a lot wonderful about getting to read books before they are published is getting to experience them before all the reviews (both the good and the bad) come out and try to shape your opinion. I got to read Ali Standish’s THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE late last year and I got to read it with the same clean slate I read books like Bridge to Terabithia  and The Summer of the Swans when I was a kid. Which means I read it the same way I read books back then – straight through, sneaking in pages while I folded the laundry, waited in line at the post office, and even while I ate lunch (sometimes being a grown up pays off).

Ethan’s story is a deeply moving one. In THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE Ali Standish perfectly captures the time right after a life has changed irretrievably and just before it’s transformed into whatever is going to come next. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a well-deserved star for how it handles grief, guilt, and forgiveness. I’d say it’s a modern classic.

The Ethan I Was BeforeThe Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful of story of friendship, family, and loss, Ali Standish’s wonderful debut grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let me go until I saw Ethan through to the end. Strong characters, a spot-on setting, and great details bring the story to life. THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE is a soon-to-be classic. Readers of all ages will love this book, and teachers and librarians will be sharing it for a long time.

View all my reviews

For readers:

  • A strong, and likeable cast of characters.
  • A great, true-to-life sibling relationship.
  • Friendship and adventure.

For teachers

  • An exploration of the grief, guilt, and forgiveness.
  • A vivid setting.
  • A great example of building suspense by withholding information.

THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE is in bookstores now.

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