Category Archives: Middle Grade

Book Review: Gabby Duran & the Unsittables by Elise Allen & Daryle Conners

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Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey may have had their fair share of drama — but I’m guessing the original members of the Baby-Sitter’s Club never had to deal with intergalactic toddlers. Enter Gabby Duran, baby-sitter to the stars — and now, to alien kiddos in Gabby Duran & the Unsittables by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners. 

gabby duran and the unsittablesCase File: The First Unsittable

Summary: The Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings (hereby known as A.L.I.E.N.) has a new member. After months of investigation, Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, has proven herself to be a babysitter extraordinaire. Her celebrity clients fly her around the country to care for their rambunctious little humans. Our spy, Associate 4118-23432B, otherwise known as Edwina, believes Gabby can be trusted with the truth: aliens are living among humans on Earth. And here at A.L.I.E.N we believe that even extraterrestrials need a babysitter now and then. No one was up to the task until now.

After accepting the top-secret position, Edwina has paired our new associate up with her first charge, a little girl from the planet Flarknartia. The timing for associate 4118-25125A is less than ideal. It’s a school day on Planet Earth, Gabby’s audition for the solo part in the band is tonight, and this tiny alien is a bit more than meets the eye.

Can Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, First Sitter to the Unsittables, keep her otherworldly charge safe in the unpredictable halls of middle-school and keep A.L.I.E.N hidden?

The book gets off to a bit of a slow start as we are introduced to Gabby and her miraculous, natural talent for babysitting even the most difficult children — and as the premise for her new assignment is laid out. But once Gabby’s role as a babysitter for aliens living hidden on Earth is established, the book really takes off on a fun and hilarious ride.

The premise is wacky, and it makes for some really entertaining scenes as Gabby learns to juggle the unpredictable nature of alien children. But she also learns that alien kids and human kids have a LOT in common — and it’s fun to see the different ways her alien ward interacts with both Gabby and the other humans she encounters.

The groundwork is clearly laid for a series of Gabby’s future adventures in alien babysitting, and this first entry is a really entertaining and funny first foray.

The Baby-Sitter’s Club meets The X-Files, Gabby Duran & the Unsittables is in stores now.

More Middle Grade from My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder

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Looking for more great middle grade books from My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder? Look no further! Here are her other middle grade titles:

charmed life1Caitlin’s Lucky Charm

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

Caitlin would stay at summer camp forever if she could. Her new best friends in the world, Hannah, Mia, and Libby are there. And at home? Everything’s different: Her dad is worried he might be losing his job; her mom is repainting the whole house and making the kids volunteer at a soup kitchen; and Caitlin is starting sixth grade at a new school, where none of the girls are as fun or friendly as her Cabin 7 BFFs. But Caitlin has a good-luck charm — or a good-luck charm bracelet anyway. The Cabin 7 girls bought it together, and Caitlin is taking the first turn wearing it. She’s sure it will help turn her luck around . . . but when?

charmed life2Mia’s Golden Bird

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

Mia loves two things: surfing and photography. When she breaks her foot, she tries to stay busy, making scrapbooks, but she’s still bored. Then one day Mia’s scrapbooks catch someone’s eye: the famous actress Lacy Bell! Lacy likes to go birdwatching with her grandma. She offers to pay Mia to be their photographer. It’s perfect — until the kids at school start gossiping. Mia’s glad she has her BFF’s charm bracelet — she’s going to need it!

charmed life3Libby’s Sweet Surprise

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

When she’s not hanging out at her family’s sweetshop, Libby loves walking her dog around London. She always meets the most interesting people — like Cedric, who’s her age and also has a dog. They become fast friends, until Libby finds out his family are the new owners of a competing store! Libby tries to keep her parents’ business a secret, because she really likes Cedric and wants to be his friend. But the secrets start adding up, and Libby needs the charm bracelet she shares with her besties to bring her some luck . . . right now!

charmed life4Hannah’s Bright Star

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

It’s finally Hannah’s turn to wear the lucky charm bracelet–and not a moment too soon!

Hannah’s parents have a surprise for her, and she’s sure it’s her dream come true: a horse of her own. Instead, they’ve gotten her a mule!

Everyone says she can still ride the mule, even in the 4-H parade, but how silly will that look? Hannah is so embarrassed, and she needs the luck from her Cabin 7 BFFs’ charm bracelet more than ever!

it's raining cupcakesIt’s Raining Cupcakes

Twelve-year-old Isabel is dying to get out of her small town of Willow, Oregon, and travel like her best friend, Sophie. But when Isabel’s mother decides to open up a cupcake shop across town, Isabel is once again stuck in Willow for the summer…until she learns of a baking contest where the finalists get an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to compete in the final bake-off. But Sophie is also entering the contest, and Isabel’s mother has reservations. Can Isabel finally realize her dreams of leaving Willow without hurting two of the most important people in her life?

SprinklesandSecrets_cvrSprinkles & Secrets

In this companion novel to It’s Raining Cupcakes, twelve-year-old Sophie has a dream come true when she’s offered a TV commercial spot. She’s not just happy about the opportunity, she’s over the moon happy!

But then she finds out what exactly she’ll be advertising: the delectable, ever-popular brownies from Beatrice’s Brownies, which just so happens to be the number one competitor to It’s Raining Cupcakes, a cupcake shop owned by her best friend, Isabel’s, family.

Sophie has a tough choice to make: Follow her dreams or crush her best friend. What’s a girl to do?

frosting and friendshipFrosting & Friendship

Has Lily bitten off more than she can bake? A sweet treat from the author of It’s Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets.

On a scale of one to ten, twelve-year-old Lily Hubbard is a zero when it comes to baking. Her cookies turn out salty, her cakes tend to lean, and things are always overcooked.

When Lily is invited to be a part of a mother-daughter book club called The Baking Bookworms, she is excited—and terrified. It seems like she’s the only one who didn’t inherit the baking gene.

But she does have the music gene, which is why she’s forming a band that will audition for their school’s annual Spring Fling. If, that is, Lily can balance her priorities. Because Isabel, one of the Baking Bookworms, has asked Lily to help plan a surprise party for their mutual friend Sophie. And the task is…creating a showstopping, mouthwatering, thirteenth-birthday-party-worthy dessert. Uh. Oh.

Soon, Lily finds herself knee-deep in sugar and sheet music as she tries to juggle her responsibility to her bandmates AND give her friend the best party ever.

Exclusive Q&A with My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder: Part 3

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Today, we conclude our exclusive three-part Q&A with My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder. If you missed it, catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

lisa schroeder2Favorite villain?

Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz

Pen or pencil?


Favorite piece of clothing?

My Anthropologie cardigans that tie in the back. So cute and comfy, I wish I had 20 of them.

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

“Bright” by Echosmith

Most recent vacation?

Disney World!

5 things that are always in your purse?

Notebook, pen, chapstick, lipstick, library card

Thanks, Lisa!

Exclusive Q&A with My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder: Part 2

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Today, we continue our exclusive three-part Q&A with My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder. If you missed it, catch part 1 here.

lisa schroederSay you were going to give someone the “Secret Guide” treatment for Portland, OR. What places would you include?

Ooh, that would be fun! Powell’s Books, VooDoo Doughnuts, the Grilled Cheese Bus, the Rose Garden, the Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop’s Close (a tucked away little gem), Kyra’s Bake Shop, and Pittock Mansion. Don’t you like how three of the places are food-related? And that’s me being restrained!

secret guide to paris alt coverDo you have any thoughts on future adventures for Nora? Or do you feel as if her story is done?

Nora’s adventures are probably done, but I am hoping there may be other stories that involve a fun adventure around a big city. London, perhaps? Stay tuned!

What are your favorite French treats to enjoy?

I don’t know – I haven’t had many. I’ve tried macarons from a couple of different places in Portland. One batch was good, the other batch, not so much. I have a friend who went to Paris last August with her family, and she said their rental was near a bakery, and every morning they went and got fresh croissants, and they were the best they’d ever had. I think if I went to Paris, I would just spend the entire time eating my way around the city.

Tune in for part 3 of our Q&A on Friday!

Exclusive Q&A with My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder: Part 1

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Today, we kick off our exclusive three-part Q&A with My Secret Guide to Paris author Lisa Schroeder. We know Lisa is super busy these days, so we’re happy she took the time to chat with us. Thanks, Lisa!

secret guide to paris alt coverWhat was the first idea that inspired SECRET GUIDE?

Stephanie Perkins did really well with her book set in France, and I thought, why not do something for the younger crowd? Paris is one of those places that a lot of people dream of visiting, and I know it’s something lots of girls are enamored with. As I thought about what to do, I kept coming back to the idea of some kind of treasure hunt around the city – a girl looking for something based on clues. It took a while to figure out how it would all work, but eventually, after quite a few revisions, it all came together.

lisa schroeder2What sort of research did you do while writing SECRET GUIDE? Any “business trips” to Paris?

I wish I could say I’ve been to Paris, but I actually haven’t been. Hopefully someday!! Google Earth is an author’s best friend, and I used it a lot while writing this book. I also read books set in Paris and read lots of “interesting places” type of articles on the web.

Mother-daughter relationships are a big part of SECRET GUIDE. How does your family influence your writing?

I’m not sure I really think about my family much when I’m writing, but I’m sure my experiences growing up do seep into my books sometimes. The middle-grade years are often when kids are realizing they can and do have opinions and ideas different from their parents, and it can be difficult sometimes trying to figure out how to navigate all of that. Some kids keep their opinions to themselves while others are more vocal about it. And similarly, some parents are better than others about letting their kids know it’s all right to think or feel differently from them on an issue. I’ve now written eight books for the middle-grade crowd, and I hope with each one there are different family dynamics represented.

Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday!

My Secret Guide to Paris: 5 Drool-Worthy French Treats

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Aside from its landmarks & iconic museums, its fashion and culture, something Paris is incredibly well-known for is its food. And I love food. Who doesn’t love food? So today’s post, in honor of My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder, is dedicated to five of the most drool-worthy French treats we could find.


There is something so deliciously enticing about the smell of a freshly-baked baguette. I love the crunch of the crust, and the soft fluffiness of the inside. Honestly, I could devour an entire baguette all by myself. They’re so delicious!


These buttery, flaky pastries are one of my favorites. A French bakery here in Portland, Saint Honore, makes my favorites. They are perfectly crispy on the outside and so light and fluffy inside.


These colorful meringue-based sandwich cookies come in all manner of flavors, and are filled with ganache, jam, or buttercream.


For a decadent dessert, try profiteroles – light puff pastries filled with custard, whipped cream, or ice cream. They often come dusted in powdered sugar, and/or drizzled in chocolate or caramel sauce.


This is another puff pastry, which is filled with whipped cream, or a flavored custard, and then covered in icing.

For the comments: What are your favorite French treats?

Your (Not So) Secret Guide to Paris – Part Deux

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On Monday, we highlighted several spots around Paris that are featured prominently in Lisa Schroeder’s My Secret Guide to Paris. Today, we’re spotlighting a few other Paris landmarks mentioned in the book:

The Eiffel Tower

A Parisian landmark, tourists can grab an iconic photo op from the Champs de Mars — and then take a trip up to the top for a birds-eye view of Paris.

The Louvre

Home to the Mona Lisa and countless other works of art, the Louvre is perhaps the world’s most famous art museum.

Arc de Triomphe

Another famous Parisian landmark, the Arc de Triomphe can be found in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. It is a monument to honor those who fought and died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Beneath the Arc is France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. Visitors can go to the top of the Arc, where there is a small museum and amazing panoramic views of Paris.

Notre Dame

notre dame
Notre Dame Cathedral is located on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité, one of two natural islands found on the Seine River in Paris. An active parish, the cathedral has been featured in works of fiction, perhaps most famously The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

Pont des Arts

The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge spanning the Seine River in Paris. It is, perhaps, most famous these days for the “love locks” — in which couples attach a padlock with their names or initials on it, and then toss the key into the river as a symbol of their love. However, the locks have been causing major problems and damage to the bridge, prompting the city to replace many panels where locks cannot be attached.

Le Musée de la Poupée

musee de la poupee

The Musée de la Poupée is a private doll museum in Paris. It is featured in My Secret Guide to Paris because Nora’s mother is an avid collector of dolls, and visits the museum in the book.


Found in Paris’s Latin Quarter, the Pantheon was originally built as a church for St. Genevieve. It now functions as a secular mausoleum and is home to the remains of renowned French citizens, such as Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.

For the comments: What other places would you visit in Paris?

Your (Not So) Secret Guide to Paris

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In our March Book of the Month, My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder, Nora’s grandmother leaves her a series of notes that take her off on a journey of the City of Lights. Today, we’re giving you a not-so secret guide to Paris, inspired by the locations featured in Lisa’s book!

Here are the locations that Nora’s grandmother sends her to visit through the messages in her letters.

Jean-Paul Hévin’s Chocolate Shop

jean paul hevin chocolate shop
Jean-Paul Hévin is a manufacturer of high-end chocolate, who actually owns FOUR shops in Paris, plus five in Japan and two in Hong Kong. Nora’s grandmother sends her to one of his shops in Paris to sample their hot chocolate.

Musée de l’Orangerie

orangerieorangerie-monet water lilies
The Musée de l’Orangerie is an art gallery located in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, and features impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Nora’s grandmother sends her here to view the eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet, among its other masterpieces.

Ile Saint-Louis

The smaller of two natural islands on the Seine River in Paris, the Île Saint-Louis is connected to the mainland by four bridges. It is also connected by bridge to the Île de la Cité, which is home to Notre Dame Cathedral. Nora’s grandmother sends her here to visit some shops and eat ice cream.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg
Today, the Jardin du Luxembourg is owned by the French Senate, which meets at the Luxembourg Palace. But originally, the palace and its gardens were built as a residence for Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France. The park today is famous for its vast lawns, beautiful flowers, and the Medici Fountain. Nora’s grandmother sends her here to see the beautiful garden, and catch a puppet show.

Place du Tertre

place du tertre
The Place du Tertre is a square in Paris’s Montmartre Quarter, famous for its many street artists, who set up shop in the open air every day and sell to tourists. Nora’s grandmother sends her here to visit a particular artist that she was fond of.

Grand Palais

grand palais
The Grand Palais, located in the Champs-Élysées, was originally built for the Universal Exposition of 1900. The large building houses an exhibition hall and a museum. Nora’s grandmother sends her here to attend a fashion show she helped plan, as part of her job.

For the comments: Have you been to Paris? What are your favorite places to visit? OR, if you’ve never been, where would you like to visit?

Book Review: My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder

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Once again, Lisa Schroeder has crafted an utterly charming story about family, friendship, and cherishing the little things that matter most, with her latest middle grade novel, My Secret Guide to Paris.

secret guide to paris alt coverNora has always wanted to see Paris, thanks to her Grandma Sylvia’s stories. But when Sylvia suddenly passes away just months before their planned trip, Nora thinks she’s lost everything.

Nora still dreams of Paris–and when she finds her own name on a set of clues to a Parisian scavenger hunt packed away in her grandmother’s room, along with plane tickets, Nora knows that Sylvia still wants her to go, too.

At last, Nora sets off on the adventure–and mystery–of a lifetime. What did Grandma Sylvia want her to find in Paris? Why do all the clues insist that Nora’s mother be with her? And could the key to healing and forgiveness be found at the top of the Eiffel Tower?

My Secret Guide to Paris is filled with whimsical adventures and the charming details that make each of Schroeder’s books so enchanting.

First, it’s like a little love letter to the city of Paris, which has never been more enticing to me than after reading this book. Despite never have visited herself, Schroeder captures the magic and romantic appeal of Paris in such a loving way. The city itself becomes a character in the book, and helps bring each moment to life — and bring the human characters together in meaningful ways.

But while My Secret Guide to Paris may focus on the grandeur and beauty of the city, the real heart of the book is the relationship between Nora, her grandmother, and her mother. These three generations of women connect in a beautiful, honest way — and Schroeder really captures the intricacies of these relationships. The dynamic between Nora and her mother, and their conflicted emotions over Nora’s grandmother, is really what sets this story apart. My Secret Guide to Paris is, more than anything else, a book about mothers and daughters, and the sometimes tumultuous road they must travel to reach understanding and unconditional love.

My Secret Guide to Paris is in stores now.

My Secret Guide to Paris: Secret Guide Writing Contest

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We have a really fun writing contest planned for this month’s book of the month. Inspired by My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder, we want you to write your OWN secret guide! Here are more details …

secret guide to paris alt coverThe Contest

In 250-500 words, write a “secret guide” to the city where you live (or where you grew up). Choose 5 places you’d send a visitor who’s never been there before. List each location, and explain why it’s special and why you would have someone visit that spot in particular.

Submit your personalized secret guide using the entry form here. Be sure to name the city and state you’re featuring!

The Prize

One winner will receive a signed copy of My Secret Guide to Paris from Lisa, herself!

The Rules

  • One entry per person
  • U.S. only
  • Must use the entry form
  • 250-500 words
  • Please use proper grammar and spelling

The Deadline

All entries are due by midnight (PT) on Tuesday, March 31st.

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments & we’ll reply!