Posted in Meet the authors

Susan Ross

My name is Susan L Ross, and I’m an author from Maine and Connecticut. For more information about my two middle grade novels, Searching for Lottie and Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story, you can visit my website at: www.AuthorSusanRoss.com. I’m also on Twitter @SusanRossAuthor.

My new book, Searching for Lottie, is a modern mystery about a 12 year girl named Charlie who tries to discover what happened to her grandmother’s sister, Lottie — a young violinist who disappeared during the Holocaust. Charlie knows that Lottie probably perished, but the more she learns, the more she wonders: Is is possible that Lottie survived? Much of the story is based on my own family’s history. My first book, Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story, is about a refugee Somali girl and boy in Maine and was inspired by my childhood home in Maine.

  1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read? When I was young, I didn’t just like to read — I LOVED to read. My main interest was horses, and I would devour any horse-related book I could find: Black Beauty, Misty, and The Black Stallion were among my favorites. There was just one thing that I liked even better than reading — and that was writing! I wrote my first novel in fourth grade. It was called Diablo, and the story was about — you guessed it — a horse. I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. MacDonald, who even let me stay inside at recess and write.

2. What was your favorite story? As a kid, another favorite book was The Little Engine that Could. In Searching for Lottie, Charlie’s Nana Rose is always full of optimism, in spite of early tragedy and hardship. She has encouraging sayings for almost everything. Like Nana Rose, Charlie keeps going when things get tough. She thinks about The Little Engine That Could and repeats to herself:  “I think I can, I think I can…!”

3. How do you get your ideas? I usually get my ideas from a real-life setting or something that is true. Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story was inspired by the many Somali families who have settled in my childhood home in Maine and my belief that books can help make our world a kinder, better, place by letting kids experience different cultures through diverse characters and stories. I want my readers to feel as if they are a character within each story and in this way, build empathy for the characters around them. The idea for Searching for Lottie came from my own family’s experiences during and after the Holocaust — and seeing how much it meant to my kids to learn about our family’s history.

4.  What author do you really like right now? I am an enormous, life-long fan of Patricia Reilly Giff, who won two Newbery Honors with her wonderful books. Her newest middle grade novel is Island War. Pat wrote the lovely blurb for the jacket of Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story.

5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? A “newer’ author whom I admire is Anna Crowley Redding, the author of Google It: A History of Google. She writes about STEM subjects, something I am definitely not good at — so I love learning from her books! 

6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Here is my advice for a kid who wants to be an author (and guess what? It’s the same advice for adults!) KEEP WRITING! It takes a really long time to write a book and can feel exhausting sometimes, but don’t give up. Remember, so much of writing is thinking about your stories — and then, revising your drafts. Like Nana Rose always says in Searching for Lottie: “If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again!

7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I love doing school visits and hearing from my readers. For World Read Aloud Day, I was able to Skype with many schools on the same day — it was SO cool talking with kids from Iowa to Ontario. I felt especially happy after reading a review of Kiki and Jacques from a Somali girl in Australia; she was excited because she rarely sees books about her culture. Best of all, she thought I got the details right. Since authors do a lot of research — I met with Somali teens over several years to learn about their lives and was tremendously inspired by them — I was delighted she felt that way.

8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? The story behind Searching for Lottie is based on my own family’s experiences, so if I had a portal, I think I’d use that to find out even more about our family’s history. My son did a school project about my refugee mother’s journey to America, and I began to realize that although many years had passed since World War II, in some ways, it felt like our family history had actually gotten closer and more accessible because of the Internet and because kids can ask questions today that were sometimes too painful for my generation. All families, whatever their backgrounds, have stories — and it is so important for kids to save these memories for the future.

Many thanks and let me know if there’s anything else you need — I love your blog and think you are amazing!

Posted in Book Review

Jordan and the Dancing Hippo

Written by Jo Kusi

Illustrated by Arnav Mazumdar

Book Source: provided for review

Book Status: Available

This book is about a boy who on his birthday thinks everybody has forgotten. Then he takes a nap. When he wakes up there are presents. Toys, toys, toys, and more toys, oh and if you were wondering, a hippo 🦛.

People should read this book because it is a good book about patience. This book and the book on Monday are a nice combination for a class.

Posted in Meet the authors

Elly Swartz

Author website/social media:

Site:  www.ellyswartz.com

Twitter: @ellyswartz

Instagram: @ellyswartzbooks

Webseries with author Victoria J. Coe: #BooksintheKitchen

 

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

When I was 9, I loved to read. At bedtime, I would use a flashlight and read under my covers until my mom made me promise I’d turn it off and go to sleep.

 

2. What was your favorite story?

When I was growing up, I loved stories about strong girls with lots of heart and a dash of humor. My favorites were: Ramona the Brave, Pippi Longstocking, and Eloise. I also loved every book by Judy Bloom. Her stories always made me feel all the feels.

 

3. How do you get your ideas?  

Life is happening all around me. So, I try to pay attention to the beautiful, weird, interesting, unique, scary, gross, and funny. I jot these things down in my notes app on my phone. I’ve done this on a hike, bike ride, at a restaurant, even in yoga class. I never know when one of these seeds is going to sprout into an idea. 

 

I also use objects to ground my stories. For instance, I have a perfume bottle on my desk. It was my mom’s. And ever since she passed away, I keep it close. It reminds me of her and all the things I loved most. And miss tremendously. So, in Finding Perfect, I used this perfume bottle to anchor Molly’s story. It representsMolly’s longing to be with her mom when her mom leaves the family to take a job far away. It reflects Molly’s desperate desire for things to be the way they were. Before the leaving. The missing. And the hurt.

 

4. Best part about kids’ books today?

What I love about kidlit today is that there are amazing authors writing incredible stories that reflect so many different readers’ experiences. I love that more readerscan see themselves and their lives reflected on the page. Truly, it is so important for all kids to feel seen, heard, and respected. For all kids to feel connected. For all kids to feel valued. And loved.

 

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

My advice is to read everything. And write because you love it. Because you have a story to tell. Write what matters to you. If you write from that place of true authenticity, the place that tugs at your heart, your words and your story will connect with your readers. 

 

Then follow your dreams and embrace the journey! 

 

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

I hear from readers often. And I love it! I love kids’ honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to share. And, sometimes what they share fills my heart. One reader sent me a letter that opened with, “I just want you to know that you changed my life.” A teacher shared how her student realized after reading, Finding Perfect, that she had OCD and was now getting help and resources to cope. And recently, I received a letter from a boy who confided that my books had become a place where he sought refuge from anxiety “like an anchor in an ocean.” 

 

I always knew that books mattered. Made a difference. But it wasn’t until I became an author, that I felt the true impact of a story.

 

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

Oh, I love this question. I have 2 books that I’d wantto be dropped into. One is my new book, Give and Take (out in October, 2019). In that story, you meet 12-year-old Maggie who has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. And when she has to say goodbye to Izzie, the newborn baby her family fosters, Maggie’s collection of things under her bed and in her closet grows out of control. Eventually, with the help of her pet turtle Rufus and Baby Izzie, Maggie learns that sometimes love means letting go. 

 

I’d love drop into Maggie’s world so I could hug her and tell her that she doesn’t need to hoard rocks and sticks and gum wrappers to remember the memories that are attached to those things. Her mind and heart will hold onto what’s important. And remind her that sometimes we love, not to be remembered, but because we can. Because it is the best gift we have togive.

 

The other book I’d love to swoop into is Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. I’d love to spend time with Rose and, when her dog Rain goes missing, help her findhim.

Posted in Book Review

What if…? Then we…

By Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Illustrated by Fred Koehler

Book Source: Provided for review as part of book tour

Book Status: Available

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This book is about 2 polar bears who find what-if scenarios and answer them. For example,

(Polarbear1) ” What if… the ocean drained?”

(Polarbear2) ” We would wander around the sand, day and night.”

It’s really nice to read it, because it is written beautifully. The illustrations are very nice too.

This is a good book for people with anxiety who worry about everything. This book helps you see there are solutions to everything. It may not be what you think but could be cooler.

This is a book I would like to share with my therapist. I think she would like it and it could help other kids.

I really really like how it was written. It is a poem and I love poetry. Kids need more poetry!

Posted in Book Review

Catwad

By Jim Benton

Book Source: sent by Scholastics for review

Book Status: Available on March 26, 2019

One day Lil Brother was in a super duper awful grumpy mood. This book just showed up at our door. Mom started reading outloud with him. She was Blurmp and he was Catwad. Very quickly he was laughing out loud and I wanted in on what they were reading. So do I have to say more about this comic style book of two cats with very different personalities?

I think people on a grumpy day will like this. Kids learning to read will find it fun. It has some potty humor so kids my age will enjoy it.

Posted in Book Review

Rabbit & Bear

By Julian Gough & Jim Field

Book Source: Provided by Media Masters Publicity for review purposes

Book Status: available

This book was super fun to read out loud!!!

This book was about a bear who wakes up from hibernation, only to find that its winter!! later Bear finds a grumpy rabbit! Bear appreciates Rabbit even though he gives her an old moldy black carrot, and rabbit head also stolen bears food!! He also eats his poop!!!

It’s a very nice thing for Valentine’s Day because it’s about a friendship!!

Kids who need a laugh should read this!!!

Posted in Meet the authors

Dana Levy

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

I did — I was an early reader, and I loved to read. At nine I was really into historical fiction, and I loved Little Women, and dozens of other Louisa May Alcott books that were less well known, as well as Anne of Green Gables and the rest of that series. (If I’m being honest, I really wanted to own a hoop skirt at this stage of my life, which, needless to say, never happened). But I will also say that I know a several authors who didn’t love reading when they were kids, either because they had an undiagnosed learning difference, or because their lives were really complicated and the books they read didn’t interest them, or some other reason. But eventually — and it might not have been until high school or even college — these folks find that one book. And it might be a graphic novel, or a nonfiction story, or an audiobook, but it blew their minds and changed their thinking, and led them to become readers! So even though for me books were always a big part of my life, I tell kids I meet that even if they don’t like reading now, it doesn’t mean they won’t find a book that changes their mind!

2.     What was your favorite story?

Growing up there were so many books I adored, from Wrinkle in Time to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, to Anne of Green Gables and so on! It’s hard to imagine choosing one. I was and am a big rereader…I reread my favorites again and again!

3.     How do you get your ideas?  

Every book I write starts with two questions: the first is “What if?” — What if there were a family with four boys and two dads (like The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher)? What if a family took a cross-country train trip (like This Would Make a Good Story Someday)? But the second question is “So what”? — why does the story matter? What are the ways that the characters grow and change? So when I get an idea that seems fun, I ask myself “so what?” and try to make sure that there is a reason to dig into the story.

4.     What author do you really like right now?

There are so many wonderful authors! It’s hard to narrow it down. But Jason Reynold’s books are awesome, and he writes faster than lightning, I think, because there are so many great books of his in the world. Also Grace Lin’s books — both her chapter books and her picture books — are wonderful. 

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

Kelly Yang, who wrote Front Desk, is definitely a new author to watch! And I think Ellen Wittlinger’s books are wonderful. Kat Yeh writes awesome middle grade books. If you like spooky stories, Tracey Baptiste’s The Jumbies and Ellen Oh’s Spirit Hunters are just the right kind of scary. And I am really excited for Aida Salazar’s The Moon Within, which comes out this month.

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

Read. Read read read read! It’s really the only way to learn the language of stories. And remember there is no rush! If you are a kid who wants to write, you can certainly find some contests and options for trying to get short stories published, but that is not a requirement. Unlike getting a letter for Hogwarts or being an Olympic gymnast, there is no age limit! Don’t feel you have to rush. You can write, and practice, and tell stories, and get better, without worrying about being published. As you get into high school and college there are opportunities to learn about the publishing industry and understand the business of being a published author. But first of all, you have to love to write!

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

I really do! Writing can be lonely — we work for months and years on a project, then eventually it becomes a book and goes out into the world like a message in a bottle. And until we hear from readers, it’s hard to know if it’s reaching anyone! So hearing from readers makes a huge difference! It reminds me why I tell my stories.

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

Probably Harry Potter. But not books five, six, or seven. Because…well, you know!