Category Archives: Middle Grade

The Vanishing Island Blog Tour: Flash Questions with Barry Wolverton

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Today, we are so pleased to be hosting a stop — the FINAL stop — on the official blog tour for The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton.

For today’s stop, Barry stopped by with his responses to some of our favorite FLASH QUESTIONS! Check out his answers below, then keep reading to learn more about The Vanishing Island, in stores September 1st.

Barry Wolverton Author PhotoFavorite villain?

Montgomery Burns, The Simpsons

Pen or pencil?


Favorite piece of clothing?

A vintage-thrift-store-find Schott NYC leather jacket

Song you can’t get out of your head right now? Autumn Leaves (the Miles Davis recording)

Most recent vacation?

New York, in February, for my girlfriend’s birthday

5 things that are always on your desk or in your backpack?

On my desk: Paper & Clay handmade ceramics; Macbook; Peterson Field Guide to Birds of the Eastern U.S. + binoculars (my office looks out into my wooded backyard); books; Charlie, aka Mr. Grey, my cat who helpfully keeps papers and whatnot from flying off my desk by sprawling all over them.

about the bookvanishing islandDoes  the Vanishing Island really exist? And if so, what treasure—or terrible secret—was hidden by its disappearance?

It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere. That is, until his repeated attempts to run away land him a punishment worse than death—cleaning up the town vomitorium.

It is there that Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. But to get there he will have to tie his fate to a mysterious Dutch admiral obsessed with a Chinese legend about an island that long ago disappeared from any map.

Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined, and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive. Barry Wolverton’s thrilling adventure spans oceans and cultures, brings together the folklore of East and West, and proves that fortune is always a double-edged sword.

about the authorbarry wolvertonBarry Wolverton is the author of Neversink. He has more than fifteen years’ experience creating books, documentary television scripts, and website content for international networks and publishers, including National Geographic,, the Library of Congress, and the Discovery Networks. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee. You can visit him online at

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Be sure to visit the rest of the blog tour stops for more great content & chances to win a signed advanced copy of The Vanishing Island:

6/15/2015 Blue Stocking Thinking        
6/16/2015 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
6/17/2015 Small Review                     
6/18/2015 Maria’s Melange               
6/19/2015 Unleashing Readers          
6/19/2015 The Hiding Spot                             ​
6/22/2015 This Kid Reviews Books    
6/23/2015 Mundie Kids                      
6/24/2015 Page in Training              
6/25/2015 Novel Novice                    

Book Review: Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White

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A story about what courage really means, Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White is the heartfelt story of two sisters facing tragedy upon tragedy — and the strength they must find to persist in the face of overwhelming odds.

survival strategies of the almost braveAfter their mother’s recent death, twelve-year-old Liberty and her eight-year-old sister, Billie, are sent to live with their father, who they haven’t seen since they were very young. Things are great at first; the girls are so excited to get to know their father – a traveling photographer who rides around in an RV. But soon, the pressure becomes too much for him, and he abandons them at the Jiffy Company Gas Station.

Instead of moping around and being scared, Liberty takes matters into her own hands. On their journey to get home, they encounter a shady, bald-headed gas station attendant, a full-body tattooed trucker, free Continental breakfast, a kid obsessed with Star Wars, a woman who lives with rats, and a host of other situations.

When all seems lost, they get some help from an unlikely source, and end up learning that sometimes you have to get a little bit lost to be found.

Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave is a beautiful story about the unique bond between sisters — and the lengths they will go to protect each other. Liberty and Billie’s situation is heartbreaking, but it is empowering to see the girls come together against the odds and continue fighting to find their way home.

The girls’ circumstances make the story difficult to read at times, but those hardships make the book’s ultimately uplifting ending all the more powerful and empowering. Because this truly is a story about being brave, and finding the inner strength you didn’t know you had. It’s also about how you can find love and family and hope in the most unlikely of places.

Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave is in stores now.

Book Review: The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

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A fantasy adventure filled with heart and humor, The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson introduces a charming cast of characters and sets the stage for many more hijinks to come.

Dungeoneers cThe world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler’s earnings, Colm can’t help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It’s just a question of how far you’re willing to go to get it.

In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin’s Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in their quest for endless treasure. But not all families are perfect, and even as Colm hones his skills with fellow recruits, it becomes clear that something from outside threatens the dungeoneers–and perhaps something from inside as well.

Indeed, Thwodin’s Castle is reminiscent of a more criminally-minded Hogwarts — wherein students learn “dungeoneering” — that is, how to raid dungeons for gold and other assorted treasure. And while Colm focuses his lessons on being a “rogue,” his fellow students study the likes of magic, hunting, and more. Not so noble as the school for witchcraft and wizardry, but certainly filled with colorful teachers and dangerous situations.

The story is quite slow to unfold — and this is, perhaps, I think where my adult taste kept me from fully enjoying this book as much as a younger reader would — with lots of time spent developing characters, establishing the world, and following Colm and his friends as they learn the ropes at Thowdin’s Castle.

That said, the action really does pick up towards the end — and shows promise for more adventures for Colm and his friends in possible future books in the series. And these characters are what really make The Dunegoneers so delightful — they give the story meaning, purpose, and heart.

Look for The Dungeoneers in stores June 23rd.

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?