Author Archives: S. A. Larsen

Happy Clerihew Day!

What is a Clerihew, you ask?

It’s a comical poem made of four lines – two couplets and a specific rhyming scheme, aabb. It was created by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) at the age of 16 and duly named after him. In a Clerihew poem, the first line names a person with the end of the second line rhyming with the person’s name. Most often, these poems make light of or take the serious out of the person being focused on. They’re funny and light-hearted.

If you’re unfamiliar with rhyming scheme and all the differences, here’s an informative video for you to peek at.

How does Clerihew poetry play into middle schoolers reading and writing? Just that – play. And it can actually play into more than the R and W of school, too. Clerihew poems are all about being silly and causing giggles. They’re all about fun and seeing things in a different way.

Everyone is probably familiar with Garfield the cat. He’s lazy, overweight, has an aloof attitude about life and pretty much everything. His constant picking on Odie in the comic strips is presented in a silly or funny way, even though some of Garfield’s actions really aren’t funny.

That’s what a Clerihew poem does. It takes a person (most of the time famous or well-known) and sheds them in silly or humorous shadows, presenting them in an altered way. It makes light of who they are and shows the flip-side of that person in a nice way. By doing this, it forces the writer to see more than is visibly there, plugging into their creative mind and exploring possibilities. What a great exercise to have middle grade readers/writers do. And they can be silly to boot!

Here’s an example:

Garfield the cat
On his rear he sat.
Eating lasagna galore
All about the decor.

Copyright © 2000 James & Marie Summers

Here are a couple videos about the art of Clerihew poems I think you might find helpful. Here & Here. Take a view and then try an exercise with your students or kids. I remember doing exercises like this with my kids to pass the time as we traveled to yet another of their travel hockey or soccer games.

Have you ever written a Clerihew poem? Why not give it a try in the comments and share? We’d love to read!

May 2017: New Releases

April showers bring May blossoms, barbecues, & books! This is a great time to start compiling that summer middle grade reading list. You can read one on your porch, sunning by the pool, or even in the car – Well, as long as you’re not the one driving. And what better way to read a book then together? Take a peek at some of these new tales just waiting for you to welcome them along your summer journey.

Mia Measures UpMia Measures UP by Coco Simon

Mia is being cyber-bullied, and she’s determined to find out who is responsible in the latest addition to the Cupcake Diaries series.

Mia is upset when her parents tell her she’s too young to go to a concert without adult supervision. She’s old enough to help run a cupcake business! Why can’t her parents see that she’s also responsible enough to do whatever she wants? And just when she’s reached a compromise with her parents (her older brother Dan will go to the concert with her), Mia finds out she’s being cyber-bullied on social media. It’s the Cupcake Club to the rescue as they all help Mia solve her online bullying mystery!

Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink

Fifth grade was the worst year of Marc’s life. He stunk at gym class, math was too hard for him, the school lunch was horrible, and his class field trip was ruined because he couldn’t swim. But what was most awful thing about fifth grade? Kenny Williamson, the class bully, who calls himself the “King of the Jungle.”

When Marc’s mother tells him that his Uncle Jake is coming to stay for the whole summer, Marc can’t wait. Uncle Jake is a for real, super-cool Navy SEAL. And Uncle Jake has a plan.

He’s going to turn Marc into a warrior.

Becoming a warrior isn’t easy. It means a lot of pull ups, sit ups, pushups, squats, swimming, eating right, and studying harder than ever before! Can Marc transform himself into a warrior before school starts in the fall – and finally stand up to the King of the Jungle himself?

Ages of Oz: A Fiery Friendship by Gabriel Gale; Lisa Fiedler 

Lions, and tigers, and bears, not quite Travel down the red brick road with the world’s most iconic Good Witch, Glinda, as she embarks on a brave adventure in Oz in this start to a brand-new series from Gabriel Gale and Lisa Fiedler.
On her Declaration Day, a day meant for celebration and happiness, Glinda’s peaceful life in Oz is shattered when her mother is imprisoned for practicing forbidden Magic. As she is ripped from her home by a fearsome bounty hunter sent by Aphidina, the Witch of the South, Glinda soon uncovers a startling truth: the Oz she’s always know is not good and right–it’s a world governed by the wickedest of the wicked, overrun with tyranny, corruption, and dark power. And Glinda’s mother? She is actually a high-ranking member of a secret society whose mission is to overthrow the four Wicked Witches and set the stage for the return of the rightful ruler of Oz.
With the help of a feisty, purple-haired girl named Locasta, Glinda sets across the unforgiving landscape to rescue her mother. They are soon joined by Ben, a revolutionary New Yorker, and a mysterious girl called Shade. Armed with their individual gifts, these unlikely heroes mount an epic attack on Aphidina to free Glinda’s mother…and save the future of Oz from the Wickeds before it’s too late.

Hamster Princes: Giant Trouble by Ursula Vernon

A magical beanstalk leads to a GIANT surprise in book four of the series that’s chock-full of girl power and perfect for fans of Princess in Black and Babymouse.

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone doesn’t go looking for trouble. She prefers to think of it as looking for adventure. But when she climbs to the top of an enormous beanstalk and sneaks into the castle at the top, Harriet finds plenty of both. The castle is home to one very poetically challenged giant rabbit with two unusual prisoners—a girl who is half harp, half hamster, and an extremely large goose. This calls for a heroic rescue, and Harriet is just the hamster for the job.

The fourth installment of the critically acclaimed Hamster Princess series turns the story of Jack and the Beanstalk upside down, with plenty of laughs along the way.

How to Be a Supervillain by Michael Fry

Victor Spoil comes from a long line of famous supervillains and he’s fully expected to join their ranks one day. But to his family’s utter disappointment, Victor doesn’t have a single bad-guy bone in his body. He won’t run with scissors, he always finishes his peas, and he can’t stand to be messy. Hopeless!

As a last-ditch effort before they give up and let him be a–gasp!–civilian, Victor’s exasperated parents send him to apprentice under a disgraced supervillain called The Smear. This matchup starts off as a complete disaster, but Victor and The Smear eventually find that they have a lot to learn from each other. When the stakes get high as Victor is forced to choose between his mentor and his family morals (or lack thereof)…what will the world’s nicest bad guy do?

In this rollicking middle-grade adventure, Michael Fry’s witty text and hysterical artwork combines superhero action with classic fish-out-of-water humor.

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

In this compelling and thought-provoking fantasy set in the world of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Newbery Honor-winning author Gail Carson Levine introduces a spirited heroine who must overcome deeply rooted prejudice—including her own—to heal her broken country.

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Latki—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Latki-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

Love You Like a Sister by Robin Palmer

Four soon-to-be-stepsisters must learn to work together as they try to make their parents’ wedding day a day to remember in this witty M!X novel in the tradition of Bridesmaids.

When Avery was two, her parents divorced, and it’s just been Avery and her mom ever since—the Two Musketeers. Until Avery opens her email—on a non-holiday and not her birthday—and receives a bombshell announcement from her father. Not only is he moving back to the New York area, he is remarrying—and his soon-to-be wife has three daughters. Avery’s future stepsisters. Holy. Moly.

Avery’s father is determined to make them all one happy family, so he and his fiancée ask the girls to be the bridesmaids in the upcoming wedding. And they want the girls to help with the something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Meaning that Avery and the girls—who clearly want nothing to do with her—are going to be forced to spend time together.

It’s one (hilarious) disaster after another as Avery tries to help and get to know her future stepsisters—who are all dealing with their own issues with the wedding. From spilling a chocolate-y drink on a very expensive dress when they go dress shopping, to turning her future step-mother’s hair bright blue days before the wedding. Can they all manage to make the wedding a day to remember—or will it be memorable for all the wrong reasons?

Science Comics Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared by Alison Wilgus

Take to the skies with Flying Machines!

Follow the famous aviators from their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, to the fields of North Carolina where they were to make their famous flights. In an era of dirigibles and hot air balloons, the Wright Brothers were among the first innovators of heavier than air flight. But in the hotly competitive international race toward flight, Orville and Wilbur were up against a lot more than bad weather. Mechanical failures, lack of information, and even other aviators complicated the Wright Brothers’ journey. Though they weren’t as wealthy as their European counterparts, their impressive achievements demanded attention on the international stage. Thanks to their carefully recorded experiments and a healthy dash of bravery, the Wright Brothers’ flying machines took off.

5 Worlds Book I by Mark Siegel; Alexis Siegel

The #1 New York Times bestselling creator of Amulet, Kazu Kibuishi, hails this first book in this groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy adventure series as -a magical journey, as fun as it is beautiful – Think Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves–and more to their worlds–than meets the eye. . . .
– The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
– A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
– Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?
When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

“A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true.” —Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

For readers who loved Sara Pennypacker’s Pax and Lois Lowry’s The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.

One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

Hero: Hurricane Rescue by Jennifer Li Shotz

The action-packed follow-up to Hero, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Li Shotz.

When a dangerous hurricane strikes town and Jack and his puppy, Scout, go missing, retired search-and-rescue dog Hero is the only one who can track them down.

Hero and his human, Ben, set off into the woods, but when the storm surges out of control, the group is suddenly trapped with no way out. Now it’s up to Hero to get everyone home safe and sound. Together, Hero and Ben fight for their lives—but can Hero battle his way past alligators, mudslides, and raging floods?

Join Hero for another epic adventure and discover what a dog will do to save his best friend. This edition is a paper-over-board hardcover.

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

Kids vs. parents! An epic treehouse sleepover! An awesome group of friends! An exciting new book from National Book Award finalist Lisa Graff.

Winnie’s last day of fourth grade ended with a pretty life-changing surprise. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced and decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time perfectly evenly between them. It was the day Winnie’s seed of frustration with her parents was planted, a seed that grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.

By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decides that the only way to change things is to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses—and her friends decide to join. It’s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten kids in one treehouse, all with their own demands, things can get pretty complicated pretty fast! Even if they are having the most epic slumber party ever.

In the newest novel by beloved National Book Award finalist Lisa Graff, kids have turned the tables on their parents, and all the rules have been tossed out the window. But does Winnie have what it takes to hold her ground and keep everyone happy?

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts by AVI

In the seaside town of Melcombe Regis, England, 1724, Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes to find his father missing and his house flooded by a recent storm. He’s alone in his ruined home with no money and no food. Oliver’s father has left behind a barely legible waterlogged note: he’s gone to London, where Oliver’s sister, Charity, is in trouble. Exploring damage to the town in the storm’s aftermath, Oliver discovers a shipwreck on the beach. Removing anything from a wrecked ship is a hanging offense, but Oliver finds money that could save him, and he can’t resist the temptation to take it. When his crime is discovered, Oliver flees, following the trail of his father and sister. The journey is full of thieves, adventurers, and treachery—and London might be the most dangerous place of all.

In the tradition of his Newbery Honor book The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi mixes high adventure and short, page-turning chapters with a vivid historical setting featuring a cast of highwaymen, pickpockets, and villainous criminal masterminds.

A Trio of Tolerable Tales by Margaret Atwood

In Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes, Ramsay runs away from his revolting relatives and makes a new friend with more refined tastes.

The second tale, Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda, features Bob, who was raised by dogs, and Dorinda, who does housework for relatives who don’t like her. It is only when they become friends that they realize they can change their lives for the better.

And finally, to get her parents back, Wenda and her woodchuck companion have to outsmart Widow Wallop in Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery.

Young readers will become lifelong fans of Margaret Atwood’s work and the kind of wordplay that makes these tales such rich fare, whether they are read aloud or enjoyed independently. These compelling stories of resourceful children are a lively introduction to alliteration.

There you have’em! Hope you enjoy your reading time during the month of May!

A Chat With Author Trudi Trueit & A Giveaway of My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts!

Please give a warm Mixed-Up welcome to Author Trudi Trueit and her latest release My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to interview Trudi. Plus, this is my first post for MUF, so if I sound overly-excited don’t worry. It will eventually wear off.

Twelve-year-old Kestrel must battle evil twin sisters and overcome her own worst fear to prevent the foreclosure of her grandmother’s beloved lodge in this fresh, funny M!X novel.

Description: Kestrel and her family are headed out to Vancouver, BC, to help out her grandmother at her beautiful ski lodge. It’s been in the family for generations, but the business is in trouble—and there are lots of people looking to take over the property.
Kestrel is determined to help her family retain their precious business—one that her grandfather built literally from the ground up. But two evil twins—who happen to be the daughters of a property developer determined to drive the lodge out of business—prove to be her nemeses in every way possible. Can Kestrel help save the lodge and beat the twins at their own game?

Sounds amazingly sweet, doesn’t it? Well it was. Want to know how I know that? Trudi was gracious enough to share a copy with me. Feel free to read my thoughts HERE.

Hi Trudi! It’s wonderful to have you here. I’m intrigue by writers who are successful in writing both fiction and non-fiction. Mind sharing  your reasons and inspirations for writing fictional tales, and how do those differ from your nonfiction work? 

I’ve always loved to read! As a kid, I couldn’t wait for the Scholastic Book Club order to come in so I could lug home my stack of new books. I started writing stories and plays when I was in early elementary school, inspired by writers I admired, such as Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, E.B. White, and E.L. Konigsburg. Although I adored the book Mixed Up Files, my all-time favorite book is Kongisburg’s Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. I identified closely with the main character and it taught me the most powerful thing a story can have is relatable characters.

Fiction and nonfiction have more in common than you might think. With both genres, you must be clear and succinct, write lively prose, and tell a good story. Fiction is the ultimate in creativity; there are a million different choices you can make about where the plot will go at any given point. You are in complete control. With nonfiction, you are telling stories that aren’t your own, yet you still have decisions to make about the angle, the narrative, and what to include (and leave out). I especially enjoy the research aspect of nonfiction; interviewing experts and unearthing new gems of information. Can you tell I was a TV journalist before I wrote for children? Also, nonfiction can have as much lasting power as fiction! A book I wrote on the water cycle more than a decade ago is still being used in school curriculums today.

Great point about writing techniques being the same. And those SBC order forms … Yes! I always had a hard time dwindling my choices down to one or two. 

I’m a character name fanatic and the name Kestrel is definitely unique. What about this character told you her name should be Kestrel?

I am a character name freak, too. I try to select a name that reflects personality and struggles. Several years ago, I met a Native American woman named Kestrel. She was a volunteer at a wildlife rehab facility, helping injured eagles and hawks (a kestrel is a type of falcon). I tucked the name away with the idea that one day I would give it to a character, who needed to spread her wings. When I started thinking about my main character in Dares & Don’ts, who was small in stature and hiding behind her fears, I knew she needed a name to aspire to. She had to discover she had it within her to fly! Kestrel seemed like the perfect fit. BTW, Kestrel’s grandmother is named Lark – another bird!

Kestrel’s desire to help her family is admirable. How important is it to you, the author, to include a middle grader’s family and interactions with them in your books? Have you found it makes a difference to your readers?

It’s everything! Your family plays an integral role in your values and how you identify with the world. Unless you’re doing a story about an orphan, you can’t have a well-rounded story about a 12-year-old without giving him/her a sense of family (even then, an orphan’s friends become his/her family). Plus, it’s our intimate relationships that reveal who we truly are. If you read about a girl, who is kind to her friends but viciously insults her little sister, it speaks volumes about the person she is. There’s no better way to show readers the heart of a character than to peer behind the doors at home. And I do think it matters to readers. After my last book, The Sister Solution (the story of two sisters who are as different as night and day) I got many letters from readers saying, “This is exactly how my sister and I relate to each other!”

“…our intimate relationships that reveal who we truly are.” I love this. Great note for writers. If you could take Kestrel and drop her into a different book which book would it be and why?

I’d love to drop Kestrel into Stealing Popular, another title of mine. It’s the story of a girl, Coco, who decides to play Robin Hood in her middle school. She ‘steals’ from the popular kids to give to the misfits and outcasts, who never seem to get any breaks. Coco finds a way to get her best friend on the cheer staff and the least popular girl in school voted as Fall queen. With Coco’s courage and Kestrel’s tenacity, they’d make a great team!

What makes this book different from some of the other stories you’ve written?

This book, more than any other, tapped into my life during a very dark time – my mother’s death. After she passed, it took me a while to find my desire to write again, but I knew she wouldn’t want me to wallow. She was my first reader ever and my champion until the very end. The random thoughts I wrote down after her death sowed the seeds for Dares and Don’ts. Often, the first time kids face death is through the loss of a grandparent. In the book, Kestrel didn’t know her grandfather well (my grandfather died before I was born) and she doesn’t know how to comfort her grandmother through the grieving process. Kestrel is afraid she’ll say or do the wrong thing. She’s scared she may make things worse. Still, she doesn’t back away from Grandma Lark, which would be the easiest thing to do. She hangs in there and, in doing so, discovers it’s not her words or actions that matter – it’s her mere presence, her love, that is helping her grandmother heal.

I can only imagine. I’m sure it was tough to get back to writing, but we’re all glad you did. <3 

How do you navigate the social arena and connect with your readers when most of them are at an age where they aren’t connected via social media?

That is true, many young readers aren’t on social media but most do spend some time on the internet. The best way I can connect with them is by making it easy to find me. I have a kid-friendly web site, www.truditrueit.com where readers and their parents can log on to find out about my titles, read my bio, and drop me a note. I also put out an e-newsletter twice a year so they (or their parents) can subscribe to that to keep up on news or join my reader street team (a street team is a group of kids willing to read and review a new release). Another great way to reach readers is through the incredible people, who put my books into their hands: librarians! So I share news and run giveaways through social media channels like Facebook (facebook.com/truditrueit) and Twitter (@truditrueit)

This is fabulous! Again, writers take note.

Let’s leave your readers and writing admirers with your most valuable piece of writing advice in a tweet + hashtag.

Your first idea is rarely your best. Think of another. And another. #writersdigdeep @truditrueit

LUV! Guess what I’m hopping off to tweet? Lastly, what can your fans expect from you next?

I just finished (as in two days ago!) the first book in an action/adventure middle grade fiction series for National Geographic, which should be out this time next year. It’s an exciting project and I can’t wait to share more about it soon!

Oh wow! That sounds amazing. Looking forward to reading it. Thank you for joining us and for sharing your wisdom, work, and excitement. All the best to you always.

Trudi Trueit knew she’d found her life’s passion after writing (and directing) her first play in the fourth grade. Since then, she’s been a newspaper journalist, television news reporter and anchor, and freelance writer, but her favorite career is what she does now—writing for kids and tweens. She’s published more than100 fiction and nonfiction titles for young readers, including My Top Secret Dares and Don’ts, The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular (Aladdin MIX) and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series (Aladdin). She loves all things chocolate and lives with her husband and two cats north of Seattle, WA. Visit her

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Simon & Schuster Author Page | Trudi’s Fiction on Amazon

And guess what, Mixed-Up Files readers? Trudi is offering up a copy of My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts to one lucky winner! (US only.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are two more sweet reads by Trudi!

 

 

 

Click on the images for more! 

S.A. Larsen, known to family & friends as Sheri, is the author of the award-winning  middle grade novel Motley Education, numerous community interest stories, young adult shorties, and her soon-to-be released young adult novel Marked Beauty.