Posted in Meet the authors

Jacqueline West


  • Author website/social media:; Instagram: jacqueline.west.writes; Facebook: Jacqueline West, Author


  • Tell me a little about yourself:

    Hi! I’m Jacqueline, and I’m a writer. My middle-grade fantasy series, The Books of Elsewhere, began in 2010 and got a bunch of lovely accolades, including a CYBILS award and a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list. My new middle-grade fantasy, The Collectors, will be released on October 9, 2018, and I’ve got two more middle grade novels and one YA novel coming out in 2019. I live in Minnesota with my husband and our son, plus one bouncy brown dog named Brom Bones. 


  1. When you were my age, did you like to read?

    YES. I was the kind of kid who got in trouble for reading too much—like when I was supposed to be paying attention in class, or when it was two hours past my bedtime, or when I completely missed my bus stop because I was so absorbed in my book. But it was all worth it!


  2. What was your favorite story?

    As a young reader, I loved stories that mixed fear and funniness, mystery and magic. Some of my very favorites were The Hobbit, the Bunnicula series, Alice in Wonderland, and everything by Roald Dahl.  


  3. How do you get your ideas?

    I’m an idea collector. Everywhere I go, everything I read, everything I see or hear or overhear becomes material for the story collage. The real trick is putting those ideas together… 


  4. What author do you really like right now?

    Oh, I love SO MANY authors, I can hardly choose. I’ve never read anything by Kate DiCamillo that I didn’t think was fantastic. Same goes for Jewell Parker Rhodes and Laurie Halse Anderson. 


  5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors or illustrator you would suggest?

    Diane Magras’s MG debut, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, just came out this spring, and it’s one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in a long time: breathtaking adventure, a fascinating historical setting, and a main character I adored. 


  6. There is a lot of talk about the need for multicultural books. What do you think about this?

    I think the discussion is long overdue, and I’m glad it’s happening. Readers of all backgrounds need and deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read, and authors of diverse backgrounds deserve the chance to tell their stories. On top of that, reading creates empathy. When you read a story, you’re stepping inside of someone else’s life for a while—and what a world-changing experience that is! We might never be able to completely understand the experiences of someone whose life is very different from our own, but the more stories we share, the closer we get. 


  7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author/illustrator?

    Read like crazy. Write like crazy. Repeat. 


  8. As an illustrator/author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

    Yes, I get a lot of mail from readers, and it’s incredibly cool! Most of a writer’s work is pretty isolated—in my case, it’s usually just me, in my house, in my wrinkled pajamas, scribbling or typing away. Hearing from readers reminds you that your books are traveling all around the world to places where you’ve never been, that your stories and characters exist in the imaginations of people you’ve never met. And that’s like magic. 

    The Collectors Cover 

Jacqueline West
The Collectors (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2018)
Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions (Alban Lake, 2018)
Dreamers Often Lie (Dial/Penguin, 2016)

The Books of Elsewhere (Dial/Penguin, 2010 – 2014)


Posted in Book Review

The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines


By Adam Gidwitz

Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Book Source: Borrowed from Library

Book Status: published

This book is about two kids named Uchenna and Elliot, who go on a field trip to the Jersey Pine Barrens. They see a Jersey devil. When it is time to leave, the Jersey devil gets on their bus. Uchenna tries to catch it but it escapes. The kids need to find it and keep it safe!

This book is called Unicorn Rescue Society but they never rescue one in the book. I do like that they rescue mythical creatures. Maybe they rescue an unicorn in one of the upcoming books.

Kids will enjoy the adventure because there are lots of twists and turns. The mythical stuff is fun because there are no rules. Anything could happen in the story.

Posted in Meet the authors

Eileen Beha

Beha Closeup Pine EB19 (1).jpg

Social Media
Twitter: @eileenbeha
Google+: Eileen Beha, author
Instagram: eileenbehabooks

Tell me a little about yourself. I live with my husband, Ralph, and our beloved mutt, Daisy, in a 100-year-old house in Minneapolis, MN. We are the parents of four adult children and five grandchildren. Besides writing novels for young readers, I love to read (a lot!), take long walks with Daisy along Minnehaha Creek, create collages, bake cookies, and make buttermilk pancakes for my grandchildren when they come to visit. I also enjoy the multitude of theaters, art galleries, museums, music venues, and diverse cultural activities in the Twin Cities. September is my favorite month, perhaps because I’ve always loved “going back to school.” I like to think of myself as a lifelong learner.

1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read? Absolutely. All the time.

2. What was your favorite story? Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery was my favorite story as a child—so much so that I have visited Prince Edward Island, where the story takes place, more than twenty-five times, and, for many years, owned a small, seaside cottage on the south shore. The Call of the Wild by Jack London was my second favorite book.

3. How do you get your ideas? By paying attention, I’d say. My first (unpublished) novel began when, in my mind, I heard the voice of a ten-year-old girl named Cora speaking to me. My second novel, Tango: The Tale of an Island Dog started with a single image: a small dog who’d washed up on a beach, nearly dead, tangled in a lobster trap. The spark for The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea was the moment when a fan gave my son-in-law, a rock musician, a hand-sewn sock monkey in his likeness.

4. Your book – was it easy or hard? The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea was the most difficult book to write of the three I’ve written. I’d struggled with manuscript for almost three years before I realized that I hadn’t yet found the true heart of my story. Nor was I clear about what I wanted Annaliese and Throckmorton’s story to “say” to my reader at a deeper lever, and why.

5. What author do you really like right now? The author that I really like right now is E. B. White, who wrote three classic children’s books: Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan. I’ve read these books before, but this time I’m analyzing White’s storytelling craft as I write my new tale of animal adventure featuring a rabbit. Why have these children’s books endured in the hearts and minds of readers? I ask myself. What is their universal, timeless appeal?

6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? I very much enjoyed the two books that were selected by the children in the state of Minnesota as the Division I and II winners of the 2017-2018 Maud Hart Lovelace Award: Fort by Cynthia DeFelice and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I also highly recommend Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth by Sheila O’connor, which was released in April, 2018. And, I’m very much looking forward to Rebecca Ansari’s debut, The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly, to be released in March, 2019.

7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Read. Read. Read. Learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. The more you write the better writer you will become. Never underestimate the power of your imagination!

8. As an author, do you hear from readers? What do you like about that? Yes, I do hear from readers, usually emails sent to my author address: Because I’m not a “famous” author, I don’t receive an excessive amount of mail from readers. I can take the time to communicate personally with each “fan,” and at times, in multiple exchanges. This summer, in response to their parents’ requests, I arranged to meet two different elementary-aged readers at prearranged dates and times at our local children’s bookstore, Wild Rumpus, for a personal “meet and greet.”

9. If you could portal into any book (your or another person’s) what book would it be?
This is a fascinating question!
Hmm . . . .
I do believe that I’d like to travel to Friendly Corners Trailer Park in a small town in Florida, the setting for Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie. I would enjoy getting to know India Opal Buloni, her father, the preacher, and of course, Winn-Dixie, the stray dog that Opal rescued. I’d also get to meet the cast of characters who became Opal’s new friends: Otis, Miss Franny Block, Sweetie Pie Thomas, Gloria Dump, and the Dewberry boys.

Posted in Meet the authors

Monica Brown

Monica Brown_Credit Josh Briggs.jpg
Photo by Josh Briggs

Author website/social media:


When you were my age (9), did you like to read?

 I loved to read when I was young. I always had a book in my hand. I had an aunt who was a kindergarten teacher and she gave me a variety of books. I remember reading Nancy Drew, Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and Judy Blume’s Blubber. I particularly loved books with adventurous kids and animals too.

 What was your favorite story?

I never had just one favorite story!  The lovely thing about books is how many different kinds of adventures they can take us on. I like stories with witches and monsters, and quiet stories set in nature. I like stories about nerds and about misfits and about rebels.

 How do you get your ideas?

I’m a curious person, so I read a lot, and listen to others, and observe the world around me. There’s so much beauty and wonder, I’ve always been able to come up with interesting ideas and characters. Sometimes, fictional characters, like Marisol McDonald and Lola Levine, are drawn from my own family and life, and at other times, they come from a question asked by a child. For example, the character of Chavela Chavez from Chavela and the Magic Bubble was inspired by a question my daughter Isabella asked me: “Where does bubble gum come from?”  With my new Sarai series, I was inspired by Sarai Gonzalez herself! She’s a bold, caring, creative girl who wants to change the world and leave it a better place!


Why do you think multi-cultural (including bilingual) books are important?

Multicultural books are important because they reflect our world and our reality. I love bilingual books because I think it’s neat to see two beautiful languages side by side on the page. I also think being bilingual, or trilingual, is something to be celebrated! The more languages we know the more people we can connect to, and life is all about relationships and friendship.


What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

 Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Revise. Revise. Revise. And don’t give up! Keep writing and believe in yourself, even if nobody else does! Write the stories you want to read.


As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

 It’s always a lovely gift to hear from my readers! I like knowing that I’ve made them laugh or think or that I’ve given them the enjoyable experience of reading a good story.


If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?

 My Lola Levine series is inspired by my family, so it’s certainly a place I enjoy being in—if only in my mind when I write. My children are grown up and at college, so it’s fun to remember the times when we were all at home together. But I supposed if I could portal into a book, I might choose one where there’s magic, like Cornelia Funke’s Inkspell or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, because who wouldn’t like to be magical?


Posted in Book Review

Sarai Series


Both books by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown

Book Source: provided to me in exchange for a review

Book Status: Released

This is a double book review of the two new books by Sarai Gonzalez. She is a young girl who became famous on YouTube. She is a little older than me and has released two books with more coming in 2019.
In Sarai and the meaning of awesome, her grandparents have to leave their home because they can’t pay the rent anymore. The owner would like to sell the house. Sarai decides to take action and does stuff like a lemonade stand to raise money for her grandparents.  She learns that no matter how lemonade stands or dance concerts she does, she wouldn’t be able to raise enough money for the house.  It is an important lesson about how grownup life is.
Sarai in the spotlight is about her entering in a school talent show. She can’t be with her sister because their grades are separated. They have to be in different talent shows.  There is also a new girl who she doesn’t know well but they become friends. The new girl likes to write in her journal at recess instead of playing. The girls partner up for the talent show. This is a book about teamwork.
These books remind me of Jasmine Toguchi and her adventures. Both are also diverse books written by authors from that culture. They really understand what is feels like to be the character. That helps the book be more interesting, valuable and unique. It also is a strong reason to have these in your library.
The Sarai books are quick chapter books like Jasmine Toguchi. They would be great for kids just into chapter books or looking for an easy read. For me, these books would fall into my book candy category (but they meet my reading teacher’s log rules so YEA).
Posted in Book Review

Legend of Greg

By Chris Rylander

Book Source: July OwlCrate Jr

Book Status: Published

This book is about a boy named Greg who finds out he’s a dwarf and his best friend is an Elf after his dad’s store was destroyed in an elven attack. Quick dwarf history lesson: ELVES ARE ENEMIES AND ELVES ARE TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, and his dad’s being held hostage by some elves.

This book is unique because I’ve never seen a book where elves and dwarves are enemies. It’s kinda like a new take on fantasy.

I recommend this book to kids who are sick of the oh everybody’s friends except for the evil witch and her henchmen.

Posted in Book Review

Try This!

By Karen Romano Young

Photographs by Matthew Rakola

Book Source: provided by Media Masters Publicity in exchange for review

Book Status: published

We received this book before school ended to review and it got misplaced. Mom had put it away so we didn’t do experiments by ourselves. Then we couldn’t find it till September. A heat cancelled school day was a great day to do experiments.

We tried the following experiments:

  • Cool glow sticks
  • spin wool into yarn
  • Elephant toothpaste
  • Color explosion
  • Instant slushie
  • Orange oil lamp
  • The experiments were easy to do with a grownup. We did projects based on what we had at house. We will do some other experiments in future. We needed some other things to do them!
  • Along with the instructions, the book explains what the science is. For example, elephant toothpaste is an exothermic reaction and decomposition. It was warm to the touch!
  • The color explosion is about emulsion. The food coloring shows how the suspension is broken up. We even dipped paper in this to make cool marble paper.
  • Note: We didn’t have regular milk in house (dairy allergic) so we used almond milk. The color explosion worked fine.
  • Cool glow stick shows how cold affects items.
  • Teachers should have this book. The projects were fun and easy to understand.