Category Archives: Middle Grade

Exclusive Q&A with Deadly Delicious author K.L. Kincy

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As part of our week-long feature on Deadly Delicious,today we bring you an exclusive Q&A with the author, K.L. Kincy!

Karen - author photo2DEADLY DELICIOUS was your first foray into middle grade. Did anything surprise you while writing MG?

Deadly Delicious was supposed to be a young adult book, actually! When I started writing it, I realized that Josephine was younger than I’d thought. Then I revised the book to make Josephine officially 12 years old. Everything started to click after that. The sweet romance, the friendship drama, and the growing pains of a witch.

I love the idea of mixing magic with cooking … I mean, a good recipe really CAN taste like magic! If you had powers like Josephine and her mom, what sort of conjure would you cook up for yourself? 

I would totally bake some DeLune DeLuxe doughnuts. Who wouldn’t want happiness, confidence, and good luck in a delicious doughnut?

The setting for DEADLY DELICIOUS is really great, and your descriptions of it are so vivid. Have you traveled to those areas? Did you research the locations? How did you bring them to life? 

My grandparents live in Sikeston, Missouri, and I know the Kincy family has lived in the area for over a hundred years. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by all the katydids, Osage oranges, stick insects, and magnolias. While writing Deadly Delicious, I also collected inspirations on a Pinterest board.

Deadly Delicious - ebook coverI adore your cover. How did you get such an awesome cover? 

My cover artist, Kirbi Fagan, did an awesome job. You can see some of the earlier drafts of the cover on her website.

What are you working on now? 

I’m writing dieselpunk romance for adults, and I’m also drafting a young adult regency that involves ladies with a tendency to transform into cats.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

I’d say the 1950s, for writing this book. ;)

Must-have writing snack?

Cherry cream cheese danishes at a local cafe, but sparingly!

Favorite Disney movie? 

Aladdin. I loved that movie when I was a kid, and watched the old VHS tape almost to death.

The beach or the mountains? 

Beach! Mountains involve climbing and panting for breath.

Song that can always get you dancing? 

“Lose Yourself to Dance” by Daft Punk, with Pharrell. Once I was getting ready to run a 5K race and the song came on, so my whole running group started skipping to the song.

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible

I have my writing notebooks by my computer and a few toys. The hedgehog came from a Japanese bookstore in Seattle. The stingray came from the aquarium in Denver. I got to pet and feed real stingrays there, and they felt like wet mushrooms!

 Karen's writing stuff

Book Review: Deadly Delicious by K.L. Kincy

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One spunky heroine. A dash of romance. A sprinkle of magic. And one horde of cake-craving zombies. Those are the winning ingredients to K.L. Kincy’s charming and delightful new middle grade novel, Deadly Delicious.

Deadly Delicious - ebook coverTwelve-year-old Josephine DeLune can’t take the heat this sweltering summer of 1955, and she was out of the kitchen long ago.

An awful cook, she ruins recipes left and right, and she certainly can’t compete with her family’s reputation for extraordinary food. Her daddy’s parents ran one of the best restaurants in all of Paris, but Josephine lives in Paris, Missouri. On her mama’s side, she’s up against a long tradition of sinfully delicious soul food. Rumor has it, her Creole ancestors cooked up some voodoo to make tasty even tastier. Josephine knows the secret ingredient: she comes from a long line of conjure witches with spellbinding culinary skills.

Disenchanted, Josephine works as a carhop at Carl and Earl’s Drive-In. Just plain old hamburgers, hot dogs, and curly fries, nothing magical about them. She’s got bigger fish to fry, though, when a grease fire erupts into a devilish creature who hisses her name with desire. Turns out he’s the Ravenous One, the granddaddy of all voodoo spirits, and he’s hungry for her soul. Josephine thinks he’s got the wrong girl—she’s no witch—but a gorgeous, dangerous night-skinned lady named Shaula sets her straight. Josephine is one of the most powerful witches alive, so overflowing with conjure that her out-of-control cooking simply catches fire.

Josephine would love to laugh this off, but Shaula warns her that she must learn to master her magic before the Ravenous One devours her soul. Spurred into action, Josephine breaks out her grandma’s old conjure cookbook and starts cooking. Nothing grand, just the usual recipes for undying friendship and revenge. But soon Josephine can’t escape the consequences of her conjure. When the people of Paris start turning into zombies with a strange fondness for cake, Josephine looks pretty responsible for their undead reawakening…

I was charmed right away by Kincy’s voice in Deadly Delicious – with a slow drawl inside my head as I read the narrative of young Josephine. I was transported to the South — hearing the cadence and rhythm of people’s speech, feeling the clammy heat, and soaking up the atmosphere. Every time I picked up this book to continue reading, I found myself happily whisked away to Josephine’s world.

The whimsical storyline is also equally enchanting, and it’s fun to see how Kincy has crafted this particular brand of magic — using recipes to conjure spells. A colorful cast of supporting characters add to the magic of Deadly Delicious, and really bring Josephine’s story to life.

At first, I wasn’t 100% sure the romance was necessary to the story — and it certainly takes a backseat to the main plot, and Josephine’s growth as a character. But the blossoms of first love, as Kincy has so lovingly captured them here, add a nice finishing touch — like the frosting to the cake that is the rest of the story. And while younger readers may not connect to this aspect of the story, there’s nothing that will stop them from enjoying Deadly Delicious on the whole.

Deadly Delicious is available now.

Introducing Deadly Delicious by K.L. Kincy

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Today, we’re kicking off a week-long feature for the fun middle grade fantasy, Deadly Delicious by K.L. Kincy. All week, we’ll share our thoughts on the book, a sneak peek, a Q&A with Karen, plus give you a chance to win your own copy! But for now,we’re starting today off with all the basics. Here’s what the book is about:

Deadly Delicious - ebook coverTwelve-year-old Josephine DeLune can’t take the heat this sweltering summer of 1955, and she was out of the kitchen long ago.

An awful cook, she ruins recipes left and right, and she certainly can’t compete with her family’s reputation for extraordinary food. Her daddy’s parents ran one of the best restaurants in all of Paris, but Josephine lives in Paris, Missouri. On her mama’s side, she’s up against a long tradition of sinfully delicious soul food. Rumor has it, her Creole ancestors cooked up some voodoo to make tasty even tastier. Josephine knows the secret ingredient: she comes from a long line of conjure witches with spellbinding culinary skills.

Disenchanted, Josephine works as a carhop at Carl and Earl’s Drive-In. Just plain old hamburgers, hot dogs, and curly fries, nothing magical about them. She’s got bigger fish to fry, though, when a grease fire erupts into a devilish creature who hisses her name with desire. Turns out he’s the Ravenous One, the granddaddy of all voodoo spirits, and he’s hungry for her soul. Josephine thinks he’s got the wrong girl—she’s no witch—but a gorgeous, dangerous night-skinned lady named Shaula sets her straight. Josephine is one of the most powerful witches alive, so overflowing with conjure that her out-of-control cooking simply catches fire.

Josephine would love to laugh this off, but Shaula warns her that she must learn to master her magic before the Ravenous One devours her soul. Spurred into action, Josephine breaks out her grandma’s old conjure cookbook and starts cooking. Nothing grand, just the usual recipes for undying friendship and revenge. But soon Josephine can’t escape the consequences of her conjure. When the people of Paris start turning into zombies with a strange fondness for cake, Josephine looks pretty responsible for their undead reawakening…

Karen - author photo2About the Author:

K. L. Kincy (Kirkland, Washington) loves zombies, though she hopes to meet only the cake-eating kind. Deadly Delicious is her first book for children. She has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College.
K. L. Kincy also writes for teens and adults as Karen Kincy.
Find her online at:

The Wig in the Window Review

middle gradeI’m so excited about the release of The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher. When I find an adventure that has great action, believable characters (no stereotypes) and page-turning mystery, I’m hooked.

Official synopsis:

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a wig in the windowgame out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.”

Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with Middle Grade mystery is the simplicity of the plots. When my 12 year old niece is insulted by an easily solvable story-line, it’s hard for me to get on board. But this is not the the case with The Wig in the Window. Kristen Kittscher takes her time with her characters, building an unforgettable friendship, with character flaws and motivations that weave complication in an adventure that takes the reader on a ride of hilarity, danger, and ultimately a test of loyalty.

Middle graders will love it, and any adult who loves mystery should pick it up too.

 

Middle Grade Monday is BACK!

middle gradeOur regular Middle Grade Monday post has been on a rather long hiatus and we’re finally back! Stay-tuned for regular reviews beginning next week. In the meantime, check-out these two exciting new Middle Grade titles, both released this month (reviews to follow in the coming weeks)!

The Wig in the Window

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a wig in the windowgame out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.”

The Thing About Luck

“There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what The Thing About LuckSummer must do to save her family in this novel from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.

Summer knows that kouun means “good luck” in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan—right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.

The thing about Obaachan and Jiichan is that they are old-fashioned and demanding, and between helping Obaachan cook for the workers, covering for her when her back pain worsens, and worrying about her lonely little brother, Summer just barely has time to notice the attentions of their boss’s cute son. But notice she does, and what begins as a welcome distraction from the hard work soon turns into a mess of its own.

Having thoroughly disappointed her grandmother, Summer figures the bad luck must be finished—but then it gets worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan. Because it might be the only way to save her family.”

 

21 Perfect Middle Grade Books for Summer Reading

MG summer reads 2014
Summer is the perfect time to explore some great new books — especially for those in the magic age of “middle grade.” You know, before teachers start piling on ridiculously large required summer reading lists?

Here are our picks for some perfect middle grade books & series to read this summer.

Charmed Life Series by Lisa Schroeder

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This brand new series follows four girls who meet at summer camp and bond over a bracelet they believe is lucky. Each of the four books in this series focuses on one of the girls. The first two books are out now, with another out at the end of July, and book four out in October.

The Hero’s Guide Series by Christopher Healy

Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle hero's guide 3

The hapless adventures of the four Princes Charming are among my all-time favorite books ever written, ever. Period. This hilarious trilogy has now been published in full, so this summer marks the perfect time to binge read all three. Kids will devour them in no time, I am certain – and will surely adore the illustrations by Todd Harris, as well as Healy’s brilliant and witty prose. Adults will probably like them, too. I certainly did.

Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes and The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier; Doll Bones by Holly Black

Peter Nimble Night Gardener, The doll bones

These first two books, both by Auxier, are not part of a series and can be read independently — but they are both excellent and excellently written. Gorgeous, dark, creepy tales perfect to get immersed in during the long, hot summer days.

Speaking of creepy … Doll Bones has it in aces and spades. Three kids, an old bone China doll, and one wild adventure will leave young readers spellbound and spooked.

Coraline and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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One more set of recommendations for kids who like creepy! Though both written by Gaiman, these books are not part of a series — but both offer plenty of moody atmosphere and age-appropriate chills for middle grade readers.

It’s Raining Cucpakes series by Lisa Schroeder

it's raining cupcakes sprinkles and secrets frosting and friendship

Not only do all three books in this tantalizing series entertain – they inspire! Once you’re done reading the books, hit the kitchen for some baking (Schroeder includes a couple recipes in the books). Sharing of your books and baked goods with friends is highly encouraged.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel and Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

boundless, the stay where you are and then leave

If it’s historical fiction with a high-stakes adventure you seek, look to one of these excellent novels by two of the best in their class. Oppel’s The Boundless sees readers searching for a killer on board a majestic cross-country train trip, while Boyne’s World War II drama follows a boy seeking the truth about his father, who disappeared from combat.

The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky and Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

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If fairy tales are your thing, both of these middle grade books from publisher Walden Pond Press beautifully capture the magic of those classics in a contemporary setting. Let your imagination run wild this summer, and let these books help take you there.

Vanishing Acts by Philip Margolin & Ami Margolin Rome and The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson

vanishing acts The Fellowship of Alient Detection

If super-sleuthing is more your style, check out Vanishing Acts, a fun middle grade mystery, with a kid detective. I love that it was written by Phil Margolin (best known for his adult legal thrillers) and his daughter, who works in education.

More kid detectives abound in The Fellowship for Alien Detection, a fun science fiction adventure from Kevin Emerson, about two kids on a road trip to save the planet from an alien invasion. Hijinks ensue.

Skeleton Creek series, Floors series, and Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman

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Look, Carman is good at what he does. His fans are rabid, and for good reason. Just pick up one of his popular middle grade series and see for yourself what all the fuss is about. Take advantage of the summer to binge read one or all of them!

For the comments: What other middle grade books would you recommend for summer reading?

Book Review: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

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Channeling the best of classic gothic horror, Jonathan Auxier delights with his new chilling middle grade fairy tale, The Night Gardener.

Night Gardener, TheThe Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.

I fell in love with Auxier’s writing and masterful storytelling in his debut novel Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes. Auxier brings all of those skills to light again with The Night Gardener, this time drawing obvious inspiration from the likes of Henry James and Washington Irving. Auxier has created a truly chilling story that, even as an adult, gave me the spooks while reading.

From first page to last, Auxier maintains a mood to his writing that just fits the story in every aspect: the abandoned Irish twins, the creepy English manor and its sickly family, the unseasonably autumn-like weather. Auxier weaves together a whole mysterious temper that pervades every page of The Night Gardener,creating a moody and atmospheric reading experience.

And of course, the story is brought to life by the vivacious characters — with the twins Molly and Kip leading the way. Their emotions and determination make them a delight to follow, as they slowly uncover the dark mystery surrounding their new home and everything found within its grounds.

Packed with plenty of heart, mystery and drama of The Night Gardenermakes a reading experience that both young readers and adults alike can enjoy and find pleasure in.

The Night Gardeneris in stores May 20th.

The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky: Exclusive Illustration Reveal & Giveaway

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Today, I am pleased to share an exclusive reveal of an illustration from the gorgeous new middle grade novel, The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky. Be sure to keep reading below for more about the book, and your chance to win a signed copy!

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Artwork © 2014 by Brian Thompson

Beautiful, no? There are even more stunning illustrations like this woven throughout The Dyerville Tales,which really help bring the magical story to life.

Dyerville hc cThe Dyerville Talesis in stores now. Here is the official synopsis:

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline meets Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs in M. P. Kozlowsky’s The Dyerville Tales, a powerfully imaginative middle-grade novel that blurs the line between fantasy and reality, from the author of Juniper Berry.

Vince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and father in a fire when he was young. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was interned in a group home, dreaming that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. When a letter arrives telling Vince his grandfather has passed away, he is convinced that if his father is still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for the small town of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a fantastical story of witches and giants and magic, one that can’t be true. But as Vince reads on, he finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.

Its unique voice and ability to combine creepiness with great story and character development make The Dyerville Tales a real standout middle-grade novel.

About the Author:

M. P. Kozlowsky is also the author of Juniper Berry. A former schoolteacher, he lives in New York City with his wife and daughter. Visit him online at mpkozlowsky.com

Learn more about The Dyerville Talesand other excellent middle grade books from Walden Pond Press online:

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Now enter for your chance to win a signed copy of The Dyerville Tales. Just submit your entries using the Rafflecopter form here. U.S. only. Entries are due by midnight (PT) on May 15th.

See more exclusive content from The Dyerville Talesand get more chances to win by visiting the other stops on the blog tour:

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy

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The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy is a swash-buckling conclusion to the wayward, hilarious and sometimes heroic adventures of the four Princes Charming.

hero's guide 3The League of Princes returns in the hilariously epic conclusion to the hit series that began with Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the more clever, hilariously successful incarnations of the current literary rage to rip apart and rewrite fairy tales.”

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don’t you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they’re on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar’s murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.

Reading 'The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw' poolside on my honeymoon to Walt Disney World earlier this year.

Reading ‘The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw’ poolside on my honeymoon to Walt Disney World earlier this year.

It’s a little bittersweet to be writing this review, honestly – because as much as I enjoyed The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw (and all of the preceding books), I am sad to see this trilogy come to an end. Through each volume, Healy masterfully and hilariously tackled the traditional fairy tale trope, turning it upside down and all around with his wayward adventures of the four Princes and their companions. Each book in this series has been an utter delight to read, and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw was no exception. In fact, I read it on my honeymoon earlier this year! (It seemed fitting, since our wedding was fairy tale-themed.)

In this final installment of the saga, the four Princes find themselves facing horrific (and false) accusations. Only by becoming outlaws can they prove themselves true heroes — and of course, there is plenty of blundering and preposterous-ness in store, as one would expect from the League of Princes.

Through each outrageous scenario, Healy stays true to what has made all of the Hero’s Guide books so successful: brilliant writing, a smart plot, endearing characters, and perfectly-timed humor — all lovingly enhanced by the always beautiful and so charming illustrations by Todd Harris.

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw is in stores today!

 

Book Review: The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky

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M.P. Kozlowsky’s new middle grade adventure, The Dyerville Tales, is a beautiful story about hope, magic, and love.

dyerville talesVince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and his father in a fire when he was young, but beyond that, his life hasn’t been much of a fairy tale. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was remanded to a group home, where he spun fantastical stories, dreaming of the possibility that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. But it’s been a long time since the fire, a long time since Vince has told himself a story worth believing in.

That’s when a letter arrives, telling Vince his grandfather has passed away. Vince cannot explain it, but he’s convinced that if his father is somehow still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for his grandfather’s small hometown of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a story that could not possibly be true, a story of his grandfather’s young life involving witches, giants, magical books, and evil spirits. But as Vince reads on and gets closer to Dyerville, fact and fiction begin to intertwine, and Vince finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.

M. P. Kozlowsky, the author of Juniper Berry, has crafted a powerfully imaginative novel of the spaces in life where fantasy and reality intersect, a touching story of the things we give up to recover the things we’ve lost.

Kozlowsky elegantly captures the battle between hope and belief and magic we feel as a child, and the brutal onslaught of reality and disappointment that we face as we mature. Left orphaned at a young age, Vince is even more susceptible to this depression — and yet, armed with the waning belief that his father is still alive, and the stories his grandfather has left for him, Vince soldiers on. He faces his fears and anxieties, and embarks on an incredible journey.

Along the way, Vince learns that hope and belief and magic are not something he has to give up in order to grow up. He learns that sometimes hope is the most powerful magic of all.

The Dyerville Tales is in stores April 22nd.