Category Archives: Giveaways

Swing Sideways!



Swing Sideways is a story about love, friendship, and hope that takes place when two girls meet at the exact moment when they need each other the most. They quickly develop a friendship that will rival that of Tom and Huck, Jess and Leslie, or Charlotte and Wilbur. It is a book that will make you want to call your best friend, then go out and pick a basketful of wild berries and dip your toes in the cool water of a creek. It is a book that will show you how your life can change in one instant when the truth of a well kept secret is revealed. School Library Journal said, “This is a summer neither Annabel nor readers will ever forget.”

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Amie: Welcome to The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy! We’re so glad to have you hear today and learn more about you and your books. What lead you to become a children’s author? And why middle-grade books?

Nancy: When I was four we lived in England. Our neighbor gave me a vinyl record of Vivien Leigh (think Scarlett O’Hara) narrating the story of Peter Rabbit. I played that record over and over so many times, my older brother broke it in two so he didn’t have to listen anymore. (I have since forgiven him). Within minutes (like as soon as I stopped crying) I asked my mother to write down a story I wanted to tell, because I knew that by creating it myself, no one could take it away. I wrote my first “novel” when I was nine, and still have it, complete with crayon drawings of a wild horse. That same year, I read Black Beauty and when I closed it after reading the last page, I knew I would become an author someday.

It is such an honor to write for middle grade readers. Try this: ask an adult what their favorite book was when they were a kid. Don’t specify age. Nine times out of ten, they will give you the name of a book they read between the ages or 8 – 13. Why? Because those are the books that make or break us as readers. How awesome is it to be the author who changes a child’s life that way?

Another major factor for me was because I wanted to be able to teach kids about writing, and encourage them to tap into their own creativity. I can do this through presenting workshops in schools and libraries, which is something that makes my heart swing sideways.

Amie: Wow! Older brothers can be tough like that, can’t they? Admittedly, so can moms. I remember when my children would insist on listening to a song or watching the same movie repeatedly, I’d hide the cd or dvd so I wouldn’t have to endure it just “one more time.” I know, I know. *hangs head in shame*

I love that you recognize how important middle-grade books are and their lasting impact on readers. Why are you the perfect person to tell Annabel’s story in Swing Sideways?

Nancy: Annie is a dreamer who was being stuffed into a mold by outside influences (Mom, Dad, teachers, school friends, Tommy, a resort community, etc). In order for Annie to discover who she truly is as a person, and in order for her to have the strength and courage to break free and fly solo, the person who told her story had to know how it felt to be her from the inside. There had to be a friend like California to give her “permission” to be herself, to accept her for who she was and not what someone else wanted her to be, to show her how it looked to march to her own beat. We all need a California in our lives at that age. Perhaps part of Swing Sideways was written out of my need to go back and change some of the things I didn’t like about myself at that time in my own life, and who else can do that but me?

Amie: Change has to come from within. It’s important for readers to recognize that at every age. If you could visit any place on earth where would it be?

Nancy: Scotland. I know that probably sounds unimaginative to some, but my ancestors come from Scotland. There is a remarkable story about one of them, Robert St. Clair, who, as a little boy, was kidnapped by gypsies and taken by ship . . . oh, wait, I can’t tell you that story just yet. Anyway, I am now living in the place where I was always meant to be, so I would love to see some of the old castles and craggy cliffs and shores of Scotland where part of my family’s history originates.

Amie: I think that would be an incredible place to visit! Last question, Nancy. It’s an important one so pay attention. Mashed potatoes and gravy or rice and beans?

Nancy: Totally mashed potatoes and gravy. And, if I’m not feeling too terribly fat, a nice big pat of sweet cream butter between the potatoes and the gravy would be like digging in to a piece of Heaven.

Amie: I’m suddenly very hungry. Maybe I’ll cook up some…*focus, Amie, focus!* Oh, I mean, thanks for joining us here at The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy!



Nanci Turner Steveson writes for middle grade readers and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She studied under the mentorship of award winning authors Kathi Appelt, Patty Lee Gauch, and Bethany Hegedus.

At home in Wyoming, Nanci is on the Board of Directors of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, and is the Teen Creative Writing Instructor at the Teton County Library in Jackson Hole. She works as a Stage Manager for Off Square Theatre Company, with her heart tied closest to the annual Youth Musical Production. One of Nanci’s greatest ambitions is to work with kids and inspire them to become two-fisted readers, like herself, and allow their own creativity to soar through the beauty of creative writing.

A life-long horse girl, Nanci lives in a historic meadow cabin in the shadow of the Teton mountains with two horses, two dogs, and an assortment of elk, moose, great gray owls and the occasional black bear who wander down from the national forest outside her back door. After a profound experience in 2009, Nanci is dedicated to getting books into the hands of homeless people, especially in shelters that house children, through her Literacy for Hope Project.

Swing Sideways (HarperCollins), Nanci’s debut novel has received stellar reviews from important publications and was launched in May, 2016. Her second novel, Georgia Rules, is scheduled for publication May 2, 2017. She is represented by Al Zuckerman, the founder of Writers House, LLC., and can also be reached through her website at

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Would you like to win a copy of Swing Sideways? Well, all you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter form and you’re automatically entered!

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Amie Borst is the author of Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and the soon-to-be-released, Snow Fright. You can find her on twitter, facebook, and her website.

An #iLoveMG Tour & a Giveaway!

I Love Middle GradeYou know we love all things Middle Grade, so of course we were excited to learn that some of Algonquin Young Readers’ MG stars are touring the country the fall as part of its #iLoveMG Author Tour. Tell us why you love MG in the comments below to be entered to win a copy of Kelly Barnhill’s amazing new MG, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

If you enjoyed the Mixed-Up Files interviews with authors Tracey Baptiste, Kelly Barnhill and Brian Farrey, don’t miss an opportunity to see them in person during the tour. And watch for upcoming interviews with some of the other authors participating in the #iLoveMG tour.

Wednesday, September 21st
Wild Rumpus
Minneapolis, MN
Authors: Kelly Barnhill, Brian Farrey

Saturday, September 24th
Odyssey Books
South Hadley, MA
Authors: Adam Shaughnessy, Tania Unsworth

Sunday, September 25th
Clinton Book Shop
Clinton, NJ
Author: Kelly Barnhill

Sunday, September 25th
An Unlikely Story
Plainville, MA
Authors: Adam Shaughnessy, Tania Unsworth

Monday, September 26th
Jersey City, NJ
Authors: Kelly Barnhill, Tracey Baptiste, Adam Shaughnessy

Tuesday September 27th
Community Bookstore
Brooklyn, NY
Author: Kelly Barnhill

Wednesday, September 28th
Blue Bunny Books
Dedham, MA
Authors: Adam Shaughnessy, Tania Unsworth

Wednesday, September 28th
Darien Public Library
Darien, MA
Author: Kelly Barnhill

Tuesday, October 4th
Watermark Books
Wichita, KS
Authors: Kelly Barnhill, Brian Farrey

Thursday, October 6th
Novel Neighbor
St. Louis, MO
Author: Kelly Barnhill

Sunday, October 30th
Brookline Book Smith
Brookline, MA
Author: Tania Unsworth

Wednesday, November 9th
RJ Julia
Madison, CT
Authors: Adam Shaughnessy, Tania Unsworth

Even if your home town isn’t on the list above, tell us us why you love MG in the comments below and you could win a copy of Kelly Barnhill’s amazing new MG, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Nonfiction Books with Diverse Characters–An Interview with Author Annette Bay Pimentel & Giveaway!

Children’s books with diverse characters are in high demand these days. They should be. Every child who reads likes to identify with the character in the book, which means that they need to represent every race, creed, color, and ethnic background. Authors are responding to this need by writing about some AMAZING people who have made great contributions to our world.



I’m happy to have one of those author with me here today. Annette Pimentel writes picture book- biographies for young middle grade readers. She loves to discover people in the corners of history and then find their stories. She writes nonfiction picture books in Moscow, Idaho.


Her book is Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans and Helped Cook up the National Park Service by Charlesbridge Publishing




The true story of a Chinese American mountain man who fed thirty people for ten days in the wilderness–and helped inspire the creation of the National Park Service.

When millionaire Stephen Mather began his quest to create a national park service in 1915, he invited a group of influential men—writers, tycoons, members of Congress, and even a movie star—to go camping in the Sierras. Tie Sing was hired to cook. Throughout the trip, Tie Sing fed not just the campers’ bodies, but also their minds, reminding them to remember and protect the mountains.


Overall, this pencil and watercolor illustrated and eloquently written account of a Chinese American will satisfy every taste. For any library wishing to enhance its diversity and inclusion collection.
– School Library Journal

A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history.
Kirkus Reviews

Paragraphs of straightforward text are more advanced than typical picture books, but the soft, expressive watercolor illustrations, some of which are based on historical photos, are a pleasing accompaniment. Ideal for the classroom, particularly this year, when the NPS celebrates its centennial.
– Booklist



Annette, thanks for joining me today on the blog. I have a few questions for our readers about your writing process and books.


Why narrative nonfiction biographies?

Fictional novels describe how people could be. Nonfiction biographies describe how people really are. I love the shiver of excitement I feel when I read what remarkable real people really did.

How do you choose your subjects for your books?
When I discover something new and immediately want to tell someone about it, I know that I have a promising topic. I’m especially interested in stories that surprise me and suggest that the way I’ve been thinking about the world is askew.

What led you to Tie Sing’s story?
I stumbled on photos of the Mather Mountain Party of 1915 while I was researching something else. I was startled to see in the photos an Asian man posing next to famous government officials and tycoons. I had always assumed that national parks, like other American institutions, were created by powerful white men. The photos suggested I only knew part of the story.

You do not have a Chinese heritage, so how did you make sure to include Tie Sing’s true voice and experiences?
I wish Tie Sing had kept a diary, but he didn’t. To be sure the secondhand descriptions of him were in historical context, I researched race relations in 1915. I also relied on experts like the book’s artist, Rich Lo, who, like Tie Sing, grew up bilingual in Chinese and English. The book’s expert reviewer was Park Ranger Yenyen Chan, who brought to the project deep professional knowledge as well as broad personal knowledge of Chinese American culture.

Can you talk about how important it is to ensure that diverse characters are given a true representation?
It’s important that every character in a piece of nonfiction is represented truly! But it’s extra tricky to accurately represent characters, like Tie Sing, who didn’t leave much documentary trace and who come from a culture different from that of the people who wrote about them. Despite the difficulties—maybe because of the difficulties–those people deserve to have their stories told! Without their stories we are left with an inaccurate picture of our shared history.

You have another book in development which features a Puerto Rican character’s life. Why do you think diverse books like these are important?

Children are in many ways marginalized in our society. I think that every child feels, at times, like an outsider. Stories about unexpected people doing remarkable things reassure and encourage kids that their own lives matter. And, of course, books about women and ethnic and cultural minorities give all of us a more nuanced and true picture of our history.

Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?
I spend hours and weeks and months on research. I interview my subjects or people who knew them when I can, but usually I rely on archival research—letters, papers, photos, etc. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find an autobiography. I love the US Census for the quirky information it gives me about my subject. And of course I use academic articles to provide historical context and to answer specific questions that arise as I research.

Why is back matter useful for readers?
Back matter extends my conversation with the reader and allows my book to speak to multiple audiences. Some readers only want the story in the main text. That’s find. But others want more, and back matter provides it. Back matter feels to me like a cozy dialogue, where I as a writer, get to share the fascinating details that didn’t belong in the story.

Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?
In 2018 Nancy Paulsen Books will publish Girl Running, the story of an amazing female marathoner and in 2019 they will publish Ann Brooks Goes West (with her piano) the story of a feisty pioneer. I also have another book in the works that I’m very excited about, but I have to wait to talk about it.

Can you think of a few other diverse nonfiction books that would be good for young middle grade readers?
I loved Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford for its lyrical language and its sensitive handling of the theme of slavery



Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood for its story of creativity beating back against poverty



and Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy for the most inspiring basketball story I’d never heard.


For more great nonfiction picture books for young middle grade readers, including diverse titles, check out Annette’s blog at

Annette has graciously offered a giveaway of her new book. To win a signed copy, please leave your name in the comments below.

******Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 nonfiction books for kids. Mostly about Science, Technology, and Engineering, because… well, STEM ROCKS!