Author Archives: Beth McMullen

A Wonder Women Summer

This will always be the summer of Wonder Woman. Finally, a superhero with box office clout who just happens to be…female. I left the theater buzzing with the thrill but also with my fingers crossed that this opens the door to more strong female characters making it to the screen.

Because what girls and boys see up there matters. And what they read matters, too.

I’ve been feeling lucky on behalf of middle grade readers these days because there is an abundance of adventure stories out there with girl protagonists. No longer the side kicks, these mighty girls are driving the story. Full of thrilling action, whip smart characters and a touch of good old fashioned chaos to keep things interesting, this is summer reading at its best.

I have lots of favorites but I don’t want to blow up the blog so I’m limiting my list to a few recent releases:

 

Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy

by Gareth Wronski

I laughed out loud at this adventure of mistaken identity. Holly is determined to do well in school so she can enter the prestigious Falstaff Academy. This does not endear her to her classmates. When three strangers show up and ask Holly if she’s ‘important’, she says yes. This results in kidnapping by space pirates, not your everyday kind of problem. They think she is a princess and whisk her away into a world of aliens and other bizarre space creatures. School Library Journal describes it as ‘An intergalactic romp filled with humor and adventure.’ And I couldn’t agree more. A perfect addition to your summer reading.

 

A Dash of Dragon

by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

A novel written by sisters has to be fun and this one delivers. Lailu Loganberry is an expert at hunting dangerous beasts. And she’s even better at cooking them. At thirteen years old, this master chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, cook the perfect dragon cuisine, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in a novel full of fantasy, humor, adventure and action. Lailu is just the sort of feisty heroine that goes perfectly with summer reading.

 

Rules for Thieves

by Alexandra Ott

Another novel full of action and adventure and featuring a smart, resourceful girl in the lead. A recent escapee from an orphanage, twelve-year-old Alli Rosco is just getting by on the streets. But after a run-in with one of the city’s Protectors, she’s marked by a curse that’s slowly working its way to her heart. And the cost of the cure is well beyond her reach. Her only hope lies in the legendary Thieves Guild. To join, all she has to do is pass a trial assigned by the King of Thieves. And this is where it gets really interesting! Alli will add heart pounding excitement to your lazy days of summer.

Happy #SummerReading Everyone!

 

 

 

 

Let’s Keep This Party Rolling!

It’s the 3rd week of our 7th Anniversary Celebration and there are 8 AMAZING authors giving away their books right here, right now.  Check out the books and mini author interviews below. Get all the way to the end and enter to win!

KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, by Melissa Roske (www.melissaroske.com)

Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. 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 have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle—at least, without a little help from her friends. (release date August 22nd)

Question: How are you like your main character?

Melissa: Kat and I both have a parent with OCD (in my case, it’s my dad); we’re both huge fans of Louise Fitzhugh’s classic 1964 novel, Harriet the Spy; we both like to collect Snapple caps; we both love sushi; and we both have a dry, slightly sarcastic sense of humor. (Okay, more than slightly!)

 

INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, by Dusti Bowling (www.dustibowling.com)

A move across the country, a friend in need of help, and a mystery to be solved. Aven Green is about to discover she can do it all… even without arms. (ARC)

Question: How are you like your main character?

Dusti: I like to think that, like Aven, I don’t give up easily. As a writer, that’s a really important trait because there are so many times when it’s tempting to give up, especially with how much rejection a writer can go through.

 

ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, by Leah Henderson (www.leahhendersonbooks.com)

An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this captivating debut novel laced with magical realism.

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Leah: The goat. In my debut, there is a wonderful family goat named Jeeg, which means lady in Wolof. Early critiques said she was not integral to the story and should be taken out, but for me, she was everything. Each time she was on the page I could smell her little hairs and sense her eyes taking in all that was around her. She was a link to the mother that I thought was too precious to lose. I was determined to keep her in the story and I am so happy that I did. Jeeg makes me smile.

 

THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKOW, by R. M. Romero (www.rmromero.com)

In the land of dolls, there is magic and in the land of humans, there is war. Everywhere there is pain—but together, there is hope. (ARC)

Question: What’s one event from your life that you’ve never worked into a story but you’d like to?

R.M.: I take care of a feral (stray) cat colony with five members—Snow White, Cow

Cat, Socks, Harvey, and Whisper—and they’re fascinating to watch. They have squabbles and best friends, and they all look out for one another like they’re part of a little furry family. Each cat has such a distinct personality that it’s easy to imagine them being characters in a story I write someday! (Snow White is my favorite. She’s a beautiful white cat who loves everyone.)

 

AHIMSA, by Supriya Kelkar (www.supriyakelkar.com)

In 1942 after Gandhi asks each family to give one member to the Indian freedom movement, 10-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father joining. But he’s not the one becoming a freedom fighter. Her mother is. (ARC)

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Supriya: I really enjoyed writing about Anjali’s cow, Nandini, because their bond is so strong.

 

UNDER LOCK AND KEY, by Allison K. Hymas (www.allisonkhymas.com)

When 12-year-old retrieval specialist (not “thief”) Jeremy Wilderson botches a job and puts the key that opens every locker in the school in the hands of an aspiring crime kingpin, he must team up with his nemesis, 12-year-old private detective Becca Mills, to get it back.

Question: How do you select the names of your characters?

Allison: Funny story, actually. I liked the name “Jeremy” because I thought it was everyman while still being a little spunky. But, when it came to the last name, I was stumped until I went to class and my teacher wrote “wilderson” on the board instead of “wilderness.” I know a freebie when I see it!

I picked the names based on how I liked the sound, as I usually do, but when I looked up what their names meant later, I was happily surprised. “Jeremy” means “appointed by God” and “Wilderson,” as far as I can tell, means “to deceive or lead astray.” Not a bad name for a thief-like character who is trying to do the right thing. “Becca” means “snare or trap” and “Mills” could come from a word meaning “warrior,” which also suits my intense little detective.

 

UNDER SIEGE! by Robyn Gioia (www.robyngioia.com)

Two 13-year old boys most help save the Castillo de San Marcos fort from the English or the town will perish.

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Robyn: The alligator in Under Siege! because it brings the reality of hunger and survival to the surface.

 

THE GHOST, THE RAT, AND ME, by Robyn Gioia (www.robyngioia.com)

Bell wanted to be 8th grade president. What she got was a dead rat, a clue, and a ghost from the past.

Question: What’s the BEST writing advice you’ve ever received? (Or . . . what’s the WORST writing advice you’ve ever received?)

Robyn: It seems so simple, but the best writing advice I ever got was from my critique writing group in England. “How can I make this interesting for my readers?”

 

THE SECRET DESTINY OF PIXIE PIPER and PIXIE PIPER AND THE MATTER OF THE BATTER, By Annabelle Fisher (www.annabellefisher.com)

Poetry whiz kid, Pixie discovers she’s a descendant of Mother Goose and that her rhymes have special powers. But to join the Goose Family and protect their legacy, she must be ‘braver than brave’ and’ truer than true’!

 

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Annabelle: Writing about Pixie’s goose, Destiny was a lot of fun. Since Destiny first appears as an egg that Pixie finds in the woods, I got to go through the process of hatching a gosling in a home-made incubator, along with my character. I did a lot of research about pet geese and their humans. They have lots of personality! Pixie and her gosling have an amazing bond. It made me want to get a pet goose!

ENTER TO WIN!  There are 7 different ways to earn entries! You can leave a comment below, follow MUF on Twitter, share about the giveaway on FB, and more. Give yourself loads of opportunities to win by earning all 7 different types of entries. The giveaway closes at midnight (ET) on Tuesday, June 27th. Be sure to check back on Thursday, June 29th, for our final MUFiversary giveaway! (Eligible only to U.S. addresses.)


Special thanks and congratulations to Monica Hodges who entered last week’s just-for-schools MUFiversary drawing and won a collection of new books for the library at JEFFERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Mount Vernon, WA!


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Spies Like Us

When I was a kid, my grandmother took me to see The HMS Pinafore, a Gilbert and Sullivan musical that premiered roughly one hundred and thirty nine years ago. It’s a story of mistaken identity that takes place on the high seas. Never mind that the elaborate costumes and high heeled shoes seemed utterly impractical for sailing, I was mesmerized. One thing in particular caught my attention and still drifts along behind me to this day. Buttercup, who the plot reveals to be an epic failure as a nanny (think the anti-Mary Poppins), sings a song called Things Are Seldom What They Seem. In the song, she offers a slew of ridiculous examples in support of this statement: skim milk masquerades as cream; highlows pass as patent leathers; jackdaws strut in peacock’s feathers.

Other than the milk reference I had no idea what she was going on about but the thought that what you see is not always what you get lit up my young imagination like a match in a gallon of gasoline. Imagine my delight to discover there were a number of authors taken with this idea, too. They wrote about spies. Who knew there were people out there in the world whose job it was to pretend to be something other than themselves? It’s no wonder that a geeky elementary school student who often wanted to blend into the walls would find this appealing. I started in on the spy novels and never looked back.

To this day I read and write about spies and spying and how things are never quite as they appear. And lucky for us, middle grade is chock full of spectacular spy writing. In no particular order, some of my current favorites. They’re not top secret so feel free to share.

  1. Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs (first in a series). Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he’s already pegged his dream job: C.I.A. or bust. So he’s thrilled when he’s recruited to the C.I.A.’s top secret Academy of Espionage. Only, it turns out, Ben hasn’t been brought in because the C.I.A. expects him to succeed. Instead, he’s been brought in as bait to catch a dangerous enemy agent. Now, Ben needs to step up his game before he ends up dead. Can he solve the crime, get the girl and save the day?
  1. Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz (first in a series). They told him his uncle died in a car accident but fourteen year old Alex Rider knows that’s a lie. Still, nothing could prepare him for the news that his uncle was really a spy for MI6 , Britain’s top secret intelligence agency. Recruited to find his uncles killers, Alex finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
  1. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead. When 7th grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a 12 year old coffee drinking loner and self appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?
  1. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. First published in 1964, this novel is the grandmother of all middle grade spy books. Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?

Do you have a favorite spy novel? I’d love to hear about it! Until then, make sure no one is following you…