Category Archives: Middle Grade

Introducing My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder

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Today, we kick off our March 2015 Book of the Month, featuring a fantastic new middle grade story from one of our favorite authors: My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder. Below, learn more about this wonderful book (now in stores), but first, grab our March desktop wallpaper calendar!

As always, click to view full-size, then right-click to save:

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secret guide to paris alt coverHere’s more about My Secret Guide to Paris:

From the author of the Charmed Life and It’s Raining Cupcakes series comes a novel of family, friends, and a Paris adventure that readers will never forget!

Nora 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?

Book Review: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

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The powers of imagination, friendship, and love are the driving force behind The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, a whimsical and delightful new middle grade book, lovingly enhanced with original illustrations by Emily Gravett.

imaginary, theRudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn’t exist, but nobody’s perfect.

Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?

A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

The Imaginary is a powerful story about the will of children and their endless imaginations. From start to finish, this is just a beautiful book: a beautiful story, beautiful writing, and beautiful illustrations. The combination is a timeless classic that will endure for years to come, and find a place in the hearts of readers both young and old. It’s a reminder that the imagination is a truly powerful tool — a gift to be cherished and honored and utilized for as long as you can hold on to it.

Harrold has crafted a truly charming story, packed with whimsy and heart. And though the story itself already leaps from the pages, The Imaginary comes to life in even more ways with the beautiful illustrations from Gravett. Her drawings capture the charm of Harrold’s story, and makes the world come alive. The combination of story and illustration makes for a truly stunning package, and a book that will not soon be forgotten.

The Imaginary hits store shelves on March 3rd, and should not be missed.

Exclusive Cover Reveal & Contest: The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton

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Today, we are so excited to be hosting the exclusive cover reveal for The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton — the author of Neversink. But before we get to the INSANELY GORGEOUS cover, here’s a little bit more about The Vanishing Island:

Does  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.

Sounds exciting, no? And if that’s not enticing enough, then get ready … for one … amazing … cover …

Are you ready?

Here it is …

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So fantastic!!! I am in LOVE with this cover. It’s gorgeous, engaging, and so enticing. It just draws me in and makes me want to start reading immediately!

And to celebrate, we’re giving away a signed copy of Barry’s previous book, Neversink to one lucky reader! To enter, just tell us in the comments what you think of The Vanishing Island cover & then fill out the Rafflecopter form here.

Contest is open to the U.S. only, and runs through midnight (PT) on Tuesday, March 3rd.

Countdown Zero Blog Tour Giveaway

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Today, we are so thrilled to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Countdown Zero by Chris Rylander, the second book in the Codename Conspiracy series. We’ve got lots of great info about the book, plus your chance to win a signed copy of Countdown Zero. So let’s get started …

VIDEO GOES HERE

Countdown ZeroAbout COUNTDOWN ZERO by Chris Rylander:

There are people in this world who live secret lives. There are people who fight the evil that lurks in the shadows so that the rest of us can live free from tyranny and fear. There are people—perhaps the person who is sitting across from you on the bus or waiting tables at your favorite restaurant—who put it all on the line for us, every day, whose names we’ll never know.

None of these people is Carson Fender.

At least, not since he was let go by the secret agency that enlisted his services to help foil a nefarious plot perpetrated by one of their former agents. Carson is back to hanging out with his friends, pulling pranks, and not having to lie to everyone about how he’s spending his days. And that’s for the best. Isn’t it?

Of course, this was all before a note showed up in his school lunch, informing him that Agent Nineteen has three days left to live, and that there might still be someone inside the Agency working against them. Carson has always been able to rely on his friends—but what happens when there’s no one left to trust?

Chris Rylander - Author PhotoFind Chris on Twitter and his website.

ISBN/ISBN13: 0062120115/9780062120113

About Chris Rylander: 

Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall Saga and the Codename Conspiracy series.  A fan of brown shipping boxes turned on their sides, dance-offs to win a girl’s heart, and rice, he lives in Chicago.  You can visit him online at www.chrisrylander.com.

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We’re giving away a signed copy of Countdown Zero thanks to the folks at Walden Pond Press. Contest is open to the U.S. only and runs through midnight (PT) on Thursday, February 26th.

Comment below & tell us why you want to read Countdown Zero to get started, then fill out the Rafflecopter form here to officially enter the contest & find more chances to win.

Book Scavenger: 50 Books to 50 States Contest

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This afternoon, I wanted to tell you about a really fun contest from Mac Kids Books to celebrate the upcoming June 2nd release of Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. The book features a scavenger hunt, riddles, adventure, and – best of all – BOOKS!

BookScavenger3d-635x979Jennifer announced the 50 Books to 50 States promotion this morning at Mac Kids Books; basically, she’s created a real-life version of the Book Scavenger game in the novel — and here’s what it entails:

HOW THE GAME WORKS

Step 1: Read the Book!

Step 2: Hide the book in a public place for another reader to discover. Report the hidden book on BookScavenger.com so others know to seek it out.

Step 3: Help spread the word that a book has been hidden by sharing on social media using #BookScavenger

HOW TO WIN AN ARC [through February 25th]

  1. Share the following on Twitter and/or Facebook: Win an arc of #BookScavenger in the 50 Books to 50 States Giveaway! Plus help launch a book hunting game! http://bookscavenger.com/2015/01/50-books-50-states/ #YourState
  2. “Like” Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Facebook Author Page and comment or private message with your state.
  3. Visit BookScavenger.com and comment on the “50 Books to 50 States” post. Make sure to leave your state and a way to be contacted if you are the winner. (Email, Twitter handle.) Or check back at the end of February for the list of winners.
  4. Send an email to garrisongriswold@gmail.com with “50 Books to 50 States” as the subject and your state in the text of the email.

Here’s more information about Book Scavenger:

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold’s attackers make them their next target.

5-Year Anniversary: Middle Grade Contest

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We’re celebrating our 5 Year Anniversary here at Novel Novice throughout the rest of January, and we’ve got a new prize pack every weekday for you to enter as the festivities continue.

Today’s prize pack features Middle Grade, and includes:

  • NICK & TESLA’S SUPER-CYBORG GADGET GLOVE by Bob Pfugfelder & Steve Hockensmith
  • THE WITCH’S BOY by Kelly Barnhill
  • An ARC of ARCHIE GREENE & THE MAGICIAN’S SECRET by D.D. Everest (on sale 4/21/15)
  • An ARC of THE ARCTIC CODE by Matthew J. Kirby (on sale 4/28/15)

All prize packs also include a Novel Novice “Book Nerd” tote bag, a Novel Novice button (assorted colors) & a set of four Novel Novice bookmarks, plus a random assortment of other YA bookmarks & swag.

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To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form here, and tell us your favorite middle grade book or series in the comments below.

Contest is open to the U.S. only, and runs through midnight (PT) on Wednesday, February 4th.

Best Middle Grade Books of 2014

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Yesterday, we posted our picks for the Best YA Books of 2014. Today, we’re spotlighting our favorite Middle Grade Books of 2014. In no particular order, here are our picks:

hook's revengeHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I adored this whimsical twist on the classic Peter Pan story, in which Captain Hook’s daughter comes to Neverland to exact revenge on the crocodile that killed her infamous father. Schulz has crafted an insanely clever and witty story, and the book’s illustrations add just the perfect extra touch of whimsy. Funny and heartfelt, this is a book both kids and the adults in their lives will enjoy.

fleabrain loves frannyFleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

This charming tribute to Charlotte’s Web is full of heart and history. Rocklin brilliantly marries a wealth of historical information about the polio epidemic and the creation of the polio vaccine, with a sweet story about one girl’s unique friendship with a magical flea. Rocklin lovingly captures Franny’s journey from polio patient to hero.

Night Gardener, TheThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Auxier weaves a dark and twisted tale about an enchanted manor, and the two orphans who become unlikely heroes against a mysterious evil. I love Auxier’s writing, and he crafts the perfect moody atmosphere for his story. And if you’re worried this tale might be too dark for your kids, don’t be. Auxier certainly weaves a dark story — but it’s never inappropriate for the book’s intended audience.

stay where you are and then leaveStay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

A brilliant historical drama about one boy’s quest to learn the truth about his deployed father’s fate during World War II. The book is a beautiful portrait of love, strength, and how far we’ll go to save the ones we hold most dear. Boyne paints a captivating portrait about life during the war, captured through the lens of one boy’s determination to find his father and save him.

rain reignRain Reign by Ann M. Martin

As if anything written by Ann M. Martin wouldn’t be brilliant? Rain Reign is a beautiful story about a girl on the autism spectrum, and the unique bond she shares with her dog. The book shows us her anxieties and her fears and her struggles, but also her strength, determination, and bravery.

cartwheeling in thunderstormsCartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Adventure, freedom, and the enormity of growing up are at the heart of this book, which bears echoes of A Little Princess — as one girl is transported from her home on the plains of Africa to the confines of a boarding school in England. With a message that is ultimately liberating and reassuring, the book shows that there are different ways to be yourself and find freedom, while conforming to society’s needs for children to grow up.

For the comments: What are your favorite middle grade books from the past year?

Book Review: Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

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A beautiful tribute to love, friendship, family, and Charlotte’s Web, Joanne Rocklin’s Fleabrain Loves Franny is a charming and whimsical read that will appeal to readers of all ages.

fleabrain loves frannyThis gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.

Rocklin has captured the essence of childhood friendship and imagination. With Fleabrain Loves Franny, she pays homage to Charlotte’s Web — while giving her own smarter-than-usual insect a life of his own.

But while her unique and magical friendship with Fleabrain offers the book much of its charm, the real appeal of Fleabrain Loves Franny is seeing Franny overcome the challenges of her illness. After recovering from polio, she is left unable to walk — and many of her friends refuse to see her, fearing she is still contagious (she’s not).

As much as Fleabrain Loves Franny is a whimsical account of a girl’s friendship with a brilliant flea and his magical serums, the book is also an historically accurate look at the polio epidemic and the hard work that would eventually lead to the March of Dimes foundation, the polio vaccine, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming at once, Fleabrain Loves Franny is certainly SOME BOOK! It is in stores now.

Blog Tour Q&A + Contest: Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson

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Today, I am so pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, featuring an exclusive Q&A with the author about his whimsical new middle grade series.

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pennyroyal academyI love the idea that a princess can be a hero. How did your definition of a princess, as we see in PENNYROYAL ACADEMY, come about?

Pennyroyal Academy began as an animated television series. In the early days, it was a pretty straightforward parody of “Disney princess culture.” The initial idea I had was that Cinderella and Princess Peach (of MarioKart) lived together as roommates, and then it became “What if all the princesses lived in the same place?” which then led to the idea of a military-style princess training academy. But as I started planning to write it as a book, I realized there might be a way to do the idea with a bit more substance. So I tried to strip away a lot of the parody elements and general silliness and create a more substantial world around the idea of a princess training academy. I focused in on Grimms’ Fairy Tales because they’re such dark, rich, substantive stories. I knew that if the girls in my book were going to train to become princesses, they would need an enemy to fight against. That led me to the idea that only a princess can defeat a witch. They are the last line of defense for the people of this world when the witches start rolling in. What I particularly liked about this as an overarching conflict was that it allowed me to create a world that joined all the Grimms’ tales together. Cinderella and Snow-White both live in the world of Pennyroyal Academy. Maybe not at the same time or in the same place, but the characters in my book have heard of and idolize these princesses of the past. Think of them as the George Patton and Douglas MacArthur of this world. Legendary military heroes, only in horse-drawn carriages instead of tanks.

MALarson_authorphotoYou’ve written a lot for children’s television, including Disney. Did your experience in children’s TV influence your work on PENNYROYAL ACADEMY? In what ways?

I never would have thought of the idea if not for my television writing. Before I moved to Los Angeles, I was writing dark, indie screenplays that no one would ever want to produce or probably even watch. When I moved out west, a friend of mine who I’ve known since kindergarten was an animator at Cartoon Network, and the show he was on needed writers. I wrote a couple of spec scripts and got the job. I’ve never been particularly picky about what age level or genre I write for, so animation writing, happily, became my job. And the best way to have longevity in a TV career is to create your own show. I was constantly trying to think of ideas to pitch, and Pennyroyal Academy was one of them. In more general terms, writing for children’s animation has been invaluable. You have to churn out so many scripts and concepts that you quickly learn to not be too precious about your ideas. And you deal with so many notes from so many different parties that you learn to accept rejection as just something that happens. A lot. It’s not personal, it’s just part of the day when you’re someone who comes up with stories. Some will work, some won’t.

Family was a theme that really stuck with me, reading PENNYROYAL ACADEMY—both the family you’re born with, and the family you make for yourself. What sort of impact did your family have on PENNYROYAL ACADEMY?

Even thought I’ve spent my career up until now writing for film and television, I always wanted to write books. My mom took my brother and I to the library all the time when we were kids. At first I would leave with a stack of Garfield books or whatever, but then on one visit I noticed a book with a picture of a rabbit on the front. It was Watership Down. I read that book over and over again, not even really understanding what it was about. I just knew it was magic. That was the switch flip that made me want to write books. My mom has done home daycare my entire life, so there were always dozens and dozens of books around the house, but it was those regular trips to the library that got me hooked. My dad was a radio DJ and a massive movie buff, so he was the driving force behind my love of cinema and music. To this day, Apocalypse Now is one of my top three films, and my dad showed that to me at a very young age. So his love of story also influenced me pretty heavily. I also have one brother who is just under two years older than me so needless to say, his interests were my interests. He introduced me to Stephen King when I was very young, and I became addicted to that sensation of being scared by a book. There’s a short story of his called “Graveyard Shift” that haunts me to this day. My brother also got me into Bunnicula and countless other more age-appropriate books. But you can see how vividly I connect stories to each member of my family.

We hear a lot about different fairy tales throughout PENNYROYAL ACADEMY. What were your favorite fairy tales growing up?

I have to admit, my exposure to fairy tales came primarily through Disney. I love most of the Disney fairy tales, actually. I think they get a bit of a bad rap these days. Sleeping Beauty is one of the most gorgeous things ever put on film, and The Little Mermaid will always be my favorite animated film. I didn’t sit down and read Grimms’ Fairy Tales until I started writing this book. And then I completely fell in love. Now I’ve read them all multiple times in multiple translations, and gotten into the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault and Oscar Wilde. There are little fairy tale Easter Eggs all throughout Pennyroyal Academy, most from fairly obscure Grimms’ stories. Everything from character names to scenes to subplots. I wanted the reader to be able to feel the fairy tales throughout the story, even if they aren’t familiar with the fairy tale itself.

I am hopeful that there will be a sequel to PENNYROYAL ACADEMY—it feels like we still have SO much to learn. Assuming there will be another book, what can readers expect?

I don’t want to say! I’m such a proponent of going in cold, knowing nothing. I guess I’ll say that there are even more Brothers Grimm elements in the second book, so fairy tale fans will have lots more Easter Egg hunting to do. And there might be giants. Maybe. We’ll see.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Song that can always get you dancing?

I loathe dancing. And yet “Groove is in the Heart” gets me every time.

Favorite Halloween candy?

Anything with peanut butter. In fact, hold the candy and just give me a jar.

Starbucks beverage of choice?

Boring. Venti Americano.

French fries or tater tots?

Tater tots are the one true prepared potato form.

Skill you wish you possessed?

Dancing.

Favorite member of the Avengers?

EMMA PEEL. I know that’s not what you meant, but there is no denying she is the greatest Avenger of all time.

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Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

Enlist today at PennyroyalAcademy.com!

Blog Tour Schedule:

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You can enter to win a Pennyroyal Academy Recruitment Kit by filling out the Rafflecopter form here!

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about the bookAnd here is more about Pennyroyal Academy, which is in stores now:

pennyroyal academyPennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academy masterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.

about the authorM.A. Larson (www.malarson.com) is a film and television writer who lives with his wife, daughter, and two dogs in a canyon in California. Larson has written for Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney UK, Discovery Kids Channel, The Hub, and Nickelodeon. As a writer on the cult sensation “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, he has been a guest at “brony” fan conventions from Paris, France to Dallas, Texas. Pennyroyal Academy is his first novel.

Worst Witch Series Halloween Giveaway

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We have a wonderful Halloween giveaway for you today, celebrating the BRAND NEW covers for the beloved Worst Witch middle grade book series by Jill Murphy. I grew up reading these books, and simply ADORED them. That’s why I’m so excited to see them packaged with shiny new covers, that still harken back to the editions I read, while having a fresh look for new readers.

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To celebrate the new covers, we’ve teamed up with Candlewick Press to offer one of you lucky readers a chance to win all 6 books in the Worst Witch series, featuring the new covers!

We’re giving away one set of all six books to one winner, with a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here & tell us below why you want to win the new Worst Witch books for your chance to win! The contest runs through midnight (PT) on Wednesday, October 22nd.

And if you just can’t wait, here are the titles & order of all six books in this beloved series:

  • The Worst Witch #1
    ISBN: 9780763672607
  • The Worst Witch Strikes Again #2
    ISBN: 9780763672577
  • A Bad Spell for Worst Witch #3
    ISBN: 9780763672522
  • The Worst Witch at Sea #4
    ISBN: 9780763672539
  • The Worst Witch Saves the Day #5
    ISBN: 9780763672553
  • The Worst Witch to the Rescue #6
    ISBN: 9780763669997

About The Worst Witch:

Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, and she’s making an awful mess of it. She’s always getting her spells wrong and she can’t even ride a broomstick without crashing it. Will she ever make a real witch?

For the comments: Did you read the Worst Witch series growing up? Who would you share these books with now?