Tag Archives: Laurie Friedman

Author Website Page Update

Kids love finding out about their favorite authors. Here are some popular middle grade writer and series websites for them, their families and their teachers to check out!

From Kwame Alexander to Dav Pilkey and Jacqueline Woodson, these authors are all about interacting with and providing fun content for their young readers.

This is an update to the list, and we plan to update it again in the near future, so if you’d like to find out more about an author not here, let us know in the comments section.

Laurie Friedman Interview and Giveaway

PHOTO BY-- RAUL RUBIERA Laurie FriedmanI’m thrilled to welcome Laurie Friedman back to the Mixed-Up Files blog. Laurie is the author of over 30 award-winning books for children, including the popular Mallory McDonald chapter book series for 7-10 year olds. Published by Lerner Books, the twenty-first book in the series, Three’s Company, Mallory will be out this January. Laurie has a new journal format series for older readers entitled The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair. The second book in the series, Too Good to be True, will be released in January as well. Laurie has also written many rhyming picture books. She lives in Miami with her family. You can find Laurie B. Friedman on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also visit Mallory’s Facebook page or Laurie’s website.


In your last Mixed-Up Files interview, you talked about how you came up with the idea for your Mallory series and how it helped kids take the leap into middle grade novels. How did you come up with the idea for your new The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair series, and how many books will be in the series?

When I was thirteen, my parents didn’t like my attitude, so they nixed my plans to go to summer camp with my friends, bought an RV and forced me to go on a family vacation with my little sisters for two-weeks of “re-bonding.” The best thing about the trip was that it gave me lots of material to write about! It’s all there in Can You Say Catastrophe?, which is the first book in The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair series.

So far, there will be four books in the April series and hopefully more. The first book takes place as April is finishing seventh grade and extends into the summer between seventh and eighth grades. The next three books in the series cover her year as an eighth-grader.


Was it hard to begin a new series after writing Mallory’s story for so long?

It was a lot of fun!  I have always been a series reader. As a young girl, I would curl up in my favorite chair (still in my office today) and wile away the hours with stacks of Nancy Drew and Ramona books by my side. As my own kids grew, we read through Harry Potter, Twilight, Lemony Snicket and The Hunger Games together, and I loved every minute of it. So as an author, writing series books has felt very comfortable to me.

I just finished writing the 23rd book in the Mallory series and there are going to be more. I’ve been writing Mallory books since my daughter was in second-grade and now she is graduating from college! Mallory has been such a big part of my life and I love writing about her, but the challenge of creating a new character and series has been amazing. The April books are longer than the Mallory books so I have learned a lot about how to structure a novel. They are written in journal format which is one of my favorite ways to write.  Also, April is older, and she and Mallory are very different. When I write, I compartmentalize my Mallory time and my April time.  It’s literally like wearing two different hats!


Wow, it’s amazing that you’ve already written twenty-three books in the Mallory series. What are some of your favorite Mallory moments?

That’s such a hard question to answer! I really have loved writing about Mallory from the moment she moved to Fern Falls and left behind everything she knew and loved, including her best friend, Mary Ann. I think the moments I love best are the ones when Mallory knows she’s made a mistake and feels terribly about it.  She’s got a big heart and when she does wrong, she always wants to find a way to make good. Some of the most fun moments to write about are when Mallory does things that I want to do (and haven’t!) like being on a reality TV show (Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York) and going on a wedding cruise (Mallory on Board).  I’d have to say that my favorite book to write was Campfire Mallory.  When I was growing up, I seriously loved going to summer camp.  Writing about it was the next best thing!


What types of adventures will April face in her series?

Poor April.  She has a knack for finding trouble or is it that trouble has a knack for finding her? The answer to that depends on who you ask. April definitely has her opinion.  In the first book, April comes to terms with the idea that her family, though far from perfect, is hers and they’re always there for her. In the second book, April is torn between two boys. Her boyfriend, Billy, is the perfect guy. Sweet, cute, thoughtful, and fun.  But then there’s her mysterious, new next door neighbor, Matt. Everything in her life seems so clear, until he shows up. The second, third and fourth books in the series explore her feelings about both boys and how her decisions affect her relationship with her best friend, Brynn.


How are Mallory and April alike? How are they different?

One of the most notable differences between the two of them are their ages. In the first eight books in the Mallory series, Mallory was in third grade, and then moves on to fourth.  The April series starts when April is in seventh grade and continues as she finishes middle school.

The experiences of a 3rd/4th grader and a 7th/8th grader are obviously very different and I work hard to make sure the situations that both Mallory and April find themselves in are reflective of what girls at these very different stages of development are experiencing. As a growing girl, I was a meticulous journal keeper. My mother saved the stacks of notebooks I filled with the daily goings on of my young life. Referring back to what I did or felt at a particular age helps me write characters that feel true to their ages. I also spend a lot of time visiting classrooms and talking to students about the plots and characters I’m creating. Their reaction to what I’m doing is the best gauge I know to keep my writing real and fresh, and to ensure that my characters will resonate and feel distinctive for my audiences.

As for the individual personalities of Mallory and April, they are just so very different. (You will have to read both series to find out how!)  There is a point where Mallory and April intersect and that is that they both have flaws, hopefully loveable ones. Perfect people who always make the right decisions don’t exist in life (and if they do, no one likes them anyway) and shouldn’t in books either.


Can you share some tips for writing a series?

Whenever I start a new book in a series, the first thing I do is a rough story outline. Once that’s done, I do the math. For a person who thinks more creatively than analytically, that’s always a challenge, but there’s a structural component of successful series that cannot be ignored. One of the reasons readers return to series they love is because they know what kind of reading experience to expect when they pick up the latest installment. As a series writer, I think it’s critical to think through issues like word count, chapter length, and plot structure on the front end. Once my “blueprint” is in place, the art of the creative process, creating voice, characters and situations that ring true for each age group, can begin.


Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Laurie. I loved learning more about Mallory and April!

Want a chance to win a signed copy of one of Laurie Friedman’s books? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and one lucky winner will receive a choice of Three’s Company, Mallory (which means the winner can read it before it’s even out in stores) or Can You Say Catastrophe? The winner will be announced on Saturday, December 7. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the giveaway.


Here’s some info about each of the books to help the winner decide which to choose:

Threes Company Mallory

Three’s Company, Mallory

Some simple math: One + One + One = One too many! From the day we were born, Mary Ann and I have been best friends. We’ve always been a two-some. But now, there’s a new girl in town, and what used to be just us two has turned into three. If you ask me, things just don’t add up!



Can You Say Catastrophe?

Can you Say Catastrophe

April Sinclair just wants what any normal thirteen-year-old would want: to disown her parents and obnoxious little sisters; to escape to summer camp ASAP with her two best friends, Billy and Brynn; and to make a good impression on Matt Parker, the hot new boy next door.

Unfortunately, Matt witnesses April’s utter humiliation at her birthday party. Then Billy kisses her. Just as April is trying to figure things out, her parents cancel her camp plans in lieu of a family RV trip. A summer of babysitting her sisters and re-bonding with her family isn’t how she imagined life as a teenager. And it certainly won’t help her straighten out her feelings about Billy or Matt. Is there any silver lining to a road trip in The Clunker with her family of misfits?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Laurie Friedman will stop by the Mixed-Up Files blog again later, so leave a reply if you have a comment to share or a question to ask her.


Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her thirteen and fifteen year-old daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s blog or Twitter to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Books That Help Kids Take the Leap Into Middle-Grade Novels

In my last post, I interviewed author Laurie Friedman and mentioned that her Mallory books help kids make the important (and sometimes scary) transition into novels.  Not only is Mallory a fun character kids love, but she starts off as an eight year-old in the series and finishes at age ten, so she takes the leap into middle-grade along with readers. My pup, Lolly, loves listening to chapter books and middle-grade novels.  She can’t wait until she can chew…um, I mean read them along with her favorite picture books.  Longer books can seem scary at first, but there are so many amazing characters and worlds to discover.  I especially love funny books that have a quirky main character with a voice that jumps out at you and put together a list of fun books that can help kids make the transition from picture books and early chapter books into middle-grade novels.

Ellie McDoodle Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw (there are two other great books in this series).

I laughed my way through this book that’s loaded with funny and creative pictures, plus instructions for games you can play.

Description from Indiebound:

When Ellie’s family moves to a new town, she’s sure she won’t fit in. Nobody else likes to read as much as she does, the other kids tease her, and even the teachers can’t seem to get her name right. But when the students need someone to help them rally against unfair lunch lines, it’s Ellie to the rescue! And if shorter lines and better food prevail, can friendship be far behind?

And for the second book: Just in time for the back to school season, Ellie McDoodle takes pen in hand again as she chronicles the woes—and the happy surprises—of being a new kid. Chock-full of cartoons, diagrams, lists, games, and plenty of witty asides, this charming follow up to Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen,Will Travel will ease the new kid blues–and perhaps inspire some creative doodling, too.

Geek Chick: The Zoey Zone by Margie Palatini

Imagination, illustrations, and fun word fonts pop from the pages of this funny, quirky book.

Description from Indiebound:

Meet Zoey.  She’s eleven. Well, almost eleven. Okay—halfway to eleven. And Zoey’s got a few problems: She has the lowest possible score on the coolability meter, a  bad     hair situation, and growing earlobes. What Zoey needs is a fairy godmother who can give her a very chic makeover and a seat at the primo lunch table. Will Zoey be able to pull it all off? Tune in!

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (there are several more in this fun series).

Between the amazing voice and illustrations, it’s easy to immediately connect with Clementine’s spunky, larger than life personality.

Description from Indiebound:

Clementine is having not so good of a week.

  • On Monday she’s sent to the principal’s office for cutting off Margaret’s hair.
  • Tuesday, Margaret’s mother is mad at her.
  • Wednesday, she’s sent to the principal…again.
  • Thursday, Margaret stops speaking to her.
  • Friday starts with yucky eggs and gets worse.
  • And by Saturday, even her mother is mad at her.

Okay, fine. Clementine is having a DISASTROUS week.

Amber Brown Goes Fourth by Paula Danziger, illustrated by Tony Ross (check out all the other fun Amber Brown books)

Amber’s quirky personality makes me laugh (and feel for her when things don’t go her way).

Description from Indiebound:

Amber Brown isn’t entirely ready for fourth grade. She has her pens, pencils, new clothes, and new shoes. But the one thing she doesn’t have is her best friend, Justin       Daniels. Justin has moved away, leaving Amber utterly best friend-less. Amber knows Justin can’t be replaced, but she is on the lookout for a new friend. Brandi seems a likely choice–but does Brandi want to choose Amber in return? Will Amber Brown go fourth, and go forth, with a new best friend?

My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe (look for the other great books in this series)

I had fun reading the secret notes, and couldn’t wait to see things work out for Ida May.

Description from Indiebound:

As Ida May begins fourth grade, she is determined never to make another best friend–because her last best friend moved away. This is a doable plan at first. Thanks to bratty, bossy Jenna Drews who hates Ida, no one in class has ever really noticed her before.  It’s when the sparkly Stacey Merriweather comes to her school that her plan goes awry. Ida reaches out despite her fear, but doesn’t say hello—instead she writes Stacey anonymous notes. Soon their friendship develops without Ida ever having to reveal her real identity. Until she has no choice. And that’s when the true friendship begins.

* If you’re looking for books boys will love, I bet you’ll find some amazing ones below (and I think they’re great for girls, too).

Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat–also check out Bobby the Brave (Sometimes)

I laughed so much (and okay, a few tears escaped during one scene).  I love Bobby, the fish named Rover, and the static cling scene was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.  The expressions of the characters are amazing—the illustrations just leap off the page!

Description from Indiebound:

Meet Robert Carver Ellis-Chan — a perfectly normal fourth-grader who gets into perfectly crazy situations! Like when he was running for class president and discovered his big sister’s panties (static-)clinging to the back of his sweater. Or when he got stuck to the rare sticky (and stinky) Koloff tree on a field trip. . . . Then there’s his family — busy mom, ex-pro football player dad, a bossy older sister and an adoring younger one — and best friends (one of whom is a secret, because she’s a *girl*). Life may be complicated for Bobby, but it’s going to turn out just fine.

Prince of Underwhere by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Shane Hillman (check out the rest of this funny series)

Zeke’s quirky sense of humor immediately hooked me, and I love that this is such an unusual format—half novel, half graphic novel.

Description from Indiebound:

It’s tough to be Zeke.  He’s got his hands full: There is his prissy, know-it-all twin sister; his mean cousin Caitlyn, who’s house-sitting for his missing parents; and a bully making life tough at school (as though it wasn’t hard enough already). And now, thanks to a stinky, scruffy, good-for-nothing talking cat, he’s also got to cope with zombies, midget freedom fighters, devious spies, superstar rappers, and a whole weird world beneath our own where people wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes.

Lin Oliver writes incredibly funny series with voices that pop off the page.  I’ll list two of them below.

Hank Zipzer #1: Niagara Falls, Or Does It? (Hank Zipzer, the World’s Greatest Underachiever) by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

Description from Indiebound:

For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal’s office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on “What You Did This Summer.” Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he’ll show what he did. But when Hank’s “living essay” becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.

Attack of the Growling Eyeballs (Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?) by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

Description from Indiebound:

Meet Daniel Funk, a regular guy who’s stuck living in a house full of girls. Why couldn’t he have a brother instead of all those sisters? That would be so cool. When Daniel shrinks to the size of the fourth toe on his left foot, he discovers that he actually does have a brother. A little brother. A very little brother. He’s Pablo Funk, Daniel’s tiny twin, who is a toeful of trouble.

Wow, I could go on and on—there are so many fantastic books to help kids make the transition into middle-grade novels.  Here are a few others to check out (click on them for more info):

Author Laurie Friedman thinks that finding a character they like is what helps kids take the leap into more substantial middle-grade books.  Here are some of the series she thinks can help kids make this transition:  Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Ivy and Bean, and Captain Underpants.

Which books do you think help children take the leap from picture books and early chapter books to middle-grade novels?

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her ten and twelve year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.