Review: El Deafo by Cece Bell

el deafo by cece bell

Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I actually read this on the recommendation of an advanced younger reader, and I have to say, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I can see other kids enjoying it, but the writing was just a little bit too off for me. The narration sounded stunted and awkward, and I couldn’t truly connect with Cece’s character. I sympathized with her, but I didn’t connect with her.

I think this is an amazing book to help readers learn about people with disabilities in a way that builds empathy and understanding, but outside of that, it wouldn’t be my first choice for anything. The artwork felt really awkward, and there was nothing especially beautiful or stunning about it. If anything, I laughed at many segments of it. For that, I note its humor, but I wasn’t too impressed by the art.

As for the story, this book follows Cece over the course of 4 or 5 grades. She struggles with her hearing and many different people who treat her differently because of it. She explores her disabilities, and I enjoyed following her through her ups and downs, and I wanted to hug her through it all. She gets taken advantage of or unintentioanlly made fun of by many people, and a lot of El Deafo consists of Cece learning to stand up for herself. By the end of the book, she starts learning to advocate for herself, and it was great to see that.

All in all, I would recommend this one. It’s definitely not the greatest disability book I’ve ever read, but it’s one of the first in middle-grade that deals with deafness. I think this book could do great things for younger readers, along with R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and Sharon M. Draper’s Out of My Mind. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 248

Tweens Read August Recap Post

As I mentioned in the information post for Tweens Read August, one of my goals for this blog in 2016 was to run an event like 14 Debuts, Silver Words Week, and Thankful for Words. When given the opportunity, I don’t always take Tweens Read Too as seriously as my YA blog because it’s much lower maintenance, but I wanted to change that this year.

First of all, this event was so much fun! It was amazing to work with these great MG authors, and I hope that I can do this event again next year.

I vaguely remember doing a post entitled something along the lines of “What the MG World Has to Learn from the YA One” a while ago, somewhere between my two blogs. In the post, I noted how the MG community doesn’t seem like a community, mostly because it doesn’t have the kind of elements that draw would-be bloggers to the YA genre. In doing this event, I learned a lot more about the MG community and how it’s different from YA. For those of you who are curious, here’s one huge difference:

MG Writers Are Generally More Willing to Make Time for You

Not that I’m complaining. I love working with YA authors. So many of them are amazing people, but they forget blogger deadlines all the time, and I’m gotten used to sending out initial emails for these kinds of things three or four months in advance. It’s not anyone’s fault; it’s just that we all have busy lives.

What surprised me was that MG writers were completely different. The majority of them got their posts to me way ahead of schedule or on time. They gave me their media files without me having to ask. They’re willing to change their posts for a blogger.

mind blown gif

I’ve never once had a single YA author ask me if their post was “okay”, but I had several MG ones ask me over the course of planning this event. As a note, none of the posts were changed, but I wanted to say that it was super sweet of those authors to consider the content coming out on a blog.

Here’s the list of authors and posts:

I thanked you all individually in your posts, but I can’t say it enough:

thank you gif

Without you, this project wouldn’t have been possible. I still can’t believe I got to feature the 14 MG authors I was most excited for this year, and it was much more painless than I thought it would be. I’m sad that it’s coming to an end. The only piece of unfinished business left is who won the giveaway! If your name is listed below, I’ve emailed you, and I need a response as soon as possible so I can get that out to the authors for shipping.

  • Kaitlin S.
  • Audrey S.
  • Jaina
  • Theresa W. S.
  • Timothy W.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of this event, and Happy Tweens Read August!

Tweens Read August Day 14: Tricia Clasen & The Haunted House Project

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the last day of Tweens Read August :( this event has been so much fun, and I hope you had as much fun with it as I did. Be sure to enter the giveaway below before it’s over! I’ll be doing a recap post in a day or two, but for now, let’s celebrate the ending with an excerpt from Tricia Clasen’s middle-grade upcoming debut The Haunted House Project!

Here’s a little bit about it:

the haunted house project by tricia clasen

Release Date: September 6th, 2016

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Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house…or adults, for that matter.

When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.

For anyone who loved Counting by 7s, The Haunted House Project is a journey through loss and grief, but ultimately a story of hope and self-reliance. As much as Andie has been changed by her mother’s death, the changes she makes herself are the ones that are most important.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Excerpt

After class starts, Isaiah turns toward the front of the room and gives all his attention to the teacher. After about twenty minutes of being forced to pretend that chemical bonds are exciting, the teacher announces that we have the rest of the class to work on our projects. We’re supposed to be learning about the scientific method. So, we have to do background research on a science topic, plus do our own simple experiment where we create a hypothesis and figure out the variables. Isaiah and I have been brainstorming for a week, and we still haven’t decided what we’re going to research.

“Are you into the environment?”

“Huh?” I ask.

“You know, like the ozone layer, or recycling.”

“We used to compost,” I say, too quickly. Please don’t ask me why we stopped, I think. His eyes narrow, but he doesn’t say anything else about it.

“Space?”

I crinkle my nose and shake my head.

“Oceans?”

I shrug.

“Ghosts?”

My mouth drops, and I punch him in the arm. I’m so mad I wish I could I have hit his face instead.

“What?” he asks.

“Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m not. I mean it. We could study paranormal activity.”

“For science?”

“Sure, why not?”

My heart rate picks up and I sit a little straighter.

I open my notebook and start writing. We talk fast, and I can barely keep up with my notes. The ideas are flowing. “Hold on,” I say as I try to get them all on paper.

It’s quiet for a second while I try to draft a potential thesis statement.

“Can I ask you a question?”

Something about the tone of his voice makes me stop writing and look up. Usually Isaiah is loud and pushy, but his voice is quiet and slow, and this feels more personal.

“Do you ever see her? Or hear her? Or anything?”

He doesn’t have to say who for me to know he means my mom. I don’t respond at first. I just stare at him.

“Like, do you think she’s a ghost?”

With anyone else, I would probably grunt or run out of the room or something, but the curiosity in his eyes doesn’t scare me. It’s kind of nice actually. He really seems to want to know. “No. But I keep looking for her.”

He sighs. “Yeah, I would, too.”

It’s possible Isaiah just went from the geeky kid I have to sit next to in science class to my favorite person in the whole world.

About the Author

tricia clasen author photo

Tricia is a college professor of communication at University of Wisconsin-Rock County. She is co-editor of Gendered Identities: Critical Readings of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, forthcoming Fall of 2016 by Routledge.  She grew up in a small town in Wisconsin.  Always a lover of a good story, she spent her days reading and dreaming of being a writer, though she never wrote any fiction until much later. After many years off exploring, she returned to her much-too- frigid home state where she lives with her husband and two girls, her parents, and what seems like small zoo.  Most of her time goes to shuttling her kids to dance and trying to get the glitter off the kitchen floor as well as planning trips to much warmer destinations. Her debut novel, THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT, will be published in October by Sky Pony Press.


Giveaway

Thanks to Tricia for being a part of Tweens Read August and sharing an excerpt with us! If you’re interested in more, add The Haunted House Project to Goodreads! Thanks to all of you for being a part of Tweens Read August and be sure to check out all the great posts as well as the giveaway going on.

Tweens Read August Day 13: Melanie Conklin & Counting Thyme

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the 13th day of Tweens Read August, and today, Melanie Conklin is here to talk about censorship in the genre of her debut (which I loved!).

Here’s a little bit about it:

counting thyme by melanie conklin

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

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When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Censorship in Middle-Grade Lit

Thanks so much for inviting me to join you for Tweens Read August!

Today I’d like to talk about the topic of censorship in middle grade fiction. I know we hear that word, “censorship,” and think, “There must be big, serious stuff coming!” Yes, that’s true—the idea of censorship is polarizing from the get-go, and there is often a lot of debate about what constitutes censorship in the first place.

To me, censorship means suppression. It is the act of judging and repressing as one sees fit. This question of fitness is what divides us—which subjects are fit for young readers? Are there any subjects that are out of bounds? Well, the answer to those questions varies tremendously from individual to individual, because we all live by our own unique moral codes, and there is no single authority to which we all defer.

Sometimes, censorship is visible and painful: authors Kate Messner and Phil Bidner both experienced school visit cancellations based on objections to their work. But censorship is not always so obvious. More often, it is quiet. It is a single, quick decision about whether or not to order a “controversial” book. It is assuming that kids don’t need “sad” books. It is believing that “fluffy” stories aren’t as worthy.

Middle grade readers rarely purchase books for themselves, so their choices are often dictated by the adults in their lives, both at school and at home. My personal philosophy is, “The more books the better!” Let the children choose for themselves.

Why?

Because I’m a reader, and I know that I’m not in the mood for every kind of story on every single day. Some days I want fantasy with swords and politics. Other days I want real world kids who will make me weep. Every once in a while, I even like to read thick, literary tomes that take ages to finish. My brain collects these stories like charms on a necklace—each one varied and unique and utterly necessary. I am challenged by the stories I read. They become a part of my story, too. Reading, thinking about, and relating to other peoples’ stories creates truth within me.

When we take away certain kinds of books, we deprive children of experiences that may be crucial to their individual truths. How many times have you read a book and afterwards marveled at what that particular story brought to your life? When you connect with a story, it can feel like it was written for you and you alone. As a child, I often felt this way. I laughed with The Babysitter’s Club, I shouted at Black Beauty’s cruel owner, and I cried my heart out when Old Yeller died.

Did I know ahead of time what books I wanted to read? Not really. Usually, I browsed the shelves at the public library until a cover caught my eye, or I pilfered books from my Dad’s stacks of science fiction and fantasy. Did I read books that were inappropriate for my age? Sometimes. My parents didn’t read most of the books I read, but when I came to them with questions, they were always willing to talk about whatever I’d encountered. I felt great freedom as a reader, but also great security because the adults in my life supported my choices.

In that way, censorship comes down to trust. Can you trust a child to choose an appropriate read? Yes, if they’ve been given the tools to make that choice. Sure, they’ll make mistakes, but children are quick to adjust. They’re good at self-guidance.

I think that oftentimes, it’s we adults who struggle with the ever-changing world. We encounter something new, and we’re afraid. We want to protect young readers from harsh realities, when in fact we may not know the realities of their lives to begin with. The very book we question may be the story that child has been waiting for.

Choice is essential. As is trust. Give young readers choices, and trust that they will find their way.

About the Author

melanie conklin

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs. Counting Thyme (Penguin, April 2016) is her debut middle grade novel.


Giveaway

Thanks to Melanie for being a part of Tweens Read August! This is a topic I’ve touched upon on a few different occasions, and it’s really important to me. I’m glad Melanie talked about it, and she had some very valid points. You can find her and Counting Thyme at the links below! The author being featured tomorrow is Tricia Clasen.

Find Melanie: Website Ξ Twitter Ξ Goodreads Ξ Amazon Ξ

Tweens Read August Day 12: Robin Yardi & The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the 13th day of Tweens Read August, and today, Melanie Conklin is here to talk about choosing books for middle-grade readers!

Here’s a little bit about her debut:

the midnight war of mateo martinez by robin yardi

Release Date: March 1st, 2016

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Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don’t hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. His parents keep telling him to hold his sister’s hand when crossing busy streets, even though she’s the one who always runs ahead.

And last night, two skunks stole Mateo’s old trike.

Wait—two skunks stole his trike?

Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he’s about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves. A quest that starts in the middle of the night!

Description taken from Goodreads.

Choosing Books for Young Readers

It’s summer reading crunch time. Do you have a morose child draped over your couch? Is the summer reading quota giving you stress? Stop. Seriously, stop stressing!

As an avid kid reader, an elementary school teacher, a parent, and an author I know that reading should be approached with excitement. Stress and pressure just won’t do anything for your young reader. So here are my no stress tips for choosing books for young readers.

1. Don’t choose for them. The most empowering thing you can do for a young reader is to let them choose for themselves. I know sometimes they only want to read books with kittens on the cover, or they only want to read picture books, or they only want to read graphic books. I don’t care and you shouldn’t either. If they are excited to read, be exited for them too.

2. Think outside! As a teacher I love taking reading to the museum or the beach… or the backyard. My field guides are beloved books and they absolutely count as reading. I’ve led kids on outdoor reading adventures with scavenger hunts, picnics, pet shop stops, beach walks, and stargazing.

3. Read socially… and share. I have to admit that my own kids are strongly influenced by what their friends are reading. I can try to push a book in my daughter’s direction for years with no success. She doesn’t care that I loved it. I’m her mom. But the second she finds out her best friend loves it she gets sucked into a magic book portal. I’m always trying to lead the conversation to books when other kids are around and I encourage my kids to swap books with friends!

4. Read aloud. Kids do not outgrow this. Ever. Reading the beginning of a book aloud and passing it on to a kid is a great way to invite them their next book. Get a stack of books, read the first paragraphs aloud, and see where they choose to dive in!

5. Read with relevance. What’s going on in your kid’s life? What are you celebrating? Where are you going, back to school or on a trip? When you choose books that are relevant in some way to your kid’s day-to- day life there can be built in interest!

6. Research read-alikes! In this age of the internet finding read-alikes is easy. What was the last book your young reader loved? Just search for that title along with the term read-alike!

7. Ask a librarian or a bookseller. There are people out in the world who have book-choosing magic. They can eye a kid up and down, ask a couple of questions and find them the perfect book. It’s like a super power. Don’t be shy. These people are just waiting to be asked!

8. Yes, use incentives! Whether it is through a local library reading program or your own ingenuity, offering incentives for meeting reading goals is great. I’ve always been a sucker for pretty pencils, silly stickers, and strawberry scented erasers. And remember, incentives don’t need to be fancy… they need to be fun!

9. Watch the movie… but only after you finish the book! This is our house rule and it’s great fun. We make finishing a book into a celebration—pop some popcorn and snuggle up! We’ve done Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Holes, Harry Potter, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe… you get the moving picture!

10. Have fun! I’m a big advocate for fun. If a book is boring (to your kid), let them put it down and choose again. Be silly. Read outside. Read together. Read in a tree. Read upside down. Read in a fort. Read with flashlights. Read by candlelight. Whatever you read, however you read, remember to have fun… it’s summer!

About the Author

robin yardi

I live in California with some chickens and a juvenile Sulcatta tortoise.

I’m a children’s book author, credentialed teacher,Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Backyard Naturalist volunteer, and a mom. My kids are always muddy and we are usually out in the garden. Coyotes cruise by stealing chickens, hawks dip in the sky looking for lizards, the quiet deer nibble from fruit trees, and every year new quail chicks are born out in the scrub!


Giveaway

Thanks to Robin for being a part of Tweens Read August! You can add The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez to Goodreads here! The author being featured tomorrow is Melanie Conklin. This post and the one coming up tomorrow are two of my favorite posts to come out of this event. Choosing books for young readers is something I’ve touched upon a few times, but Robin put it all together in a great list. And if you’re looking for more ideas, here’s a cute bingo chart she put together for summer reading:

robin yardi summer reading bingo

Tweens Read August Day 11: Lauren Magaziner & Pilfer Academy

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the eleventh day of Tweens Read August, and today Lauren Magaziner is sharing top ten tips for all the writers out there! She’s the author of Pilfer Academy, which came out on February 16th, 2016.

Here’s a little bit about it:

pilfer academy by lauren magaziner

Series: Bounders #1

Release Date: February 16th, 2016

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Troublemaking George has never heard of Pilfer Academy, a top-secret school for cultivating young crooks, until he’s kidnapped as its newest student. The teachers are kooky at best, and naughty does not even begin to describe his sneaky, smart, and morally bankrupt new classmates. Between disguise classes, cracking safes, and DIY gadgets, George becomes an expert bandit and finds true friendship with Tabitha, his new partner-in-crime. But everything is ruined when George comes to a shocking realization: He is just too good-hearted to be a thief!

Unfortunately, not thieving is not an option at Pilfer Academy, and “misbehaving” students face Dean Deanbuggle’s favorite punishment—the Whirlyblerg! In order to gain their freedom, George and Tabitha must pull the biggest heist the school has ever seen and reveal their true colors not as thieves, but as kind (and, okay, mischievous) kids.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Top Ten Tips for Breaking Writer’s Block

Have you ever opened a word doc and felt like your brain was in a vat of glue? Have you ever wanted to shout AUGH! when looking at your current work in progress? Have you ever felt like you had no idea what to write or how to write it or why you ever thought about writing something in the first place?

If you answered YES, then it appears you have had writer’s block!

Here’s a not-so- secret secret: me too.

So without further ado…

10. Take a break. (Run away with us for the summer! Let’s go upstate!) Hamilton lyrics aside, sometimes taking a breather from your writing can allow you to come back to it with fresh eyes and a more relaxed brain. So, go take a walk! Go people watch in a crowded place! Go refill your creative well with books and TV and movies and music!

9. Retrace your steps. Sometimes I find that getting stuck is a warning sign that I made a misstep a few chapters earlier. When I turn back to an earlier chapter, I look for anything that could be tripping me up later on. And, like a puppet master, I play with the strings of my manuscript, searching for places where I can increase stakes and tension.

8. Force yourself to write anyway. Sit in front of the blank page and “free write.” Meaning: write whatever comes into your head, whether or not it is relevant to your story. Sometimes just getting words on the page will start your flow and open you up to new ideas.

7. When that doesn’t work, bang your head against a keyboard until you make words.

6. Hang upside-down from the ceiling like a bat to dislodge any ideas that got stuck in your cranial cavity. If you turn red, you’re nearly there. If you turn purple, a EUREKA! moment is sure to follow*

*results not 100% guaranteed

5. Give in to the writer’s block. It will make you feel inadequate as a writer, so of course, the only natural thing to do to become a real writer is to devote your all to playing the role of An Author. You sever relationships with friends and family, move out into the mountains, live off of the wild Earth and berries, and become a hermit in a cave. You will write hundreds of amazing novels in your isolation, albeit all of them might be the same sentence written over and over again: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

4. Stab a book with a basilisk fang until it bleeds ink. Sacrificing books to the Goddesses of Muse will cause them to smile upon you, thus blessing you with words.

3. Pilfer someone else’s idea. (I actually don’t know if I recommend this… but as the author of a book about a school for thieves, I’m contractually obligated to say it.)

2. Open Pokemon Go and catch a new idea with a Pokéball.

1. Hunt down inspiration. Akin to catching ideas with Pokéballs, but not quite…

Many authors say that inspiration is irrelevant because writing is a job; writers must do that job, whether or not they feel inspired. That’s both true and untrue. True in the sense that some days, writing is easier than other days, and when you have a job to do, yes, you must do it. Even on the tough days. Untrue in that: if you are having a truly miserable writing experience, it will show. If you feel like you’re slogging while writing, it will read like a slog. Because inspiration—that wily creature—is heart of your story. And if you’re stuck or listless, then it may mean you need to remember what that heart is. Why are you writing this story? What does it mean to you? At its core, what is this story about? Why are you the writer to write it? Remembering WHY you write—and why you write this story in particular—will bring joy and momentum again.

When you rediscover the heart of your story, you’ll unearth passion again. Patience you must have, my young padawan. The words will come.

About the Author

lauren magaziner

Lauren Magaziner is the author of humorous middle grade books: Pilfer Academy (2016), The Only Thing Worse Than Witches (2014), and the upcoming Wizardmatch (2017). She is a proud graduate of Hamilton College and spent two years working in the magazine world (a serendipitous job considering her last name). Lauren is originally from New Hope, Pennsylvania, though she currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes full-time.


Giveaway

Thanks to Lauren for taking part in Tweens Read August! I know how hard writing block can be, and these tips can be really helpful for breaking back into your story. This book sounds great, and I’m interested to see the different aspects to it. Make sure to add Pilfer Academy to Goodreads, and follow Lauren’s other amazing reads! The author being featured tomorrow is Robin Yardi.

Tweens Read August Day 10: Monica Tesler & Bounders

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the tenth day of Tweens Read August, and today I’m interviewing Monica Tesler about her space adventure series Bounders!

Here’s a little bit about it:

bounders

Series: Bounders #1

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Add to Goodreads

In the tradition of Michael Vey and The Unwanteds, twelve-year-old Jasper and his friends are forced to go up against an alien society in this first book in a brand-new adventure series!

Thirteen years ago, Earth Force—a space-military agency—discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together the first team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as high-level astronauts.

Twelve-year-old Jasper is part of this team being sent out into space. After being bullied back on Earth, Jasper is thrilled to have something new and different to do with other kids who are more like him. While learning all about the new technologies and taking classes in mobility—otherwise known as flying with jetpacks—Jasper befriends the four other students in his pod and finally feels like he has found his place in the world.

But then Jasper and his new friends learn that they haven’t been told everything about Earth Force. They weren’t brought to space for astronaut training, but to learn a new, highly classified brain-sync technology that allows them to manipulate matter and quantum bound, or teleport. And it isn’t long before they find out this new technology was actually stolen from an alien society.

When Jasper and his friends discover the truth about why Earth Force needs them, they are faced with a choice: rebel against the academy that brought them together, or fulfill their duty and protect the planet at all costs.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Interview with Monica Tesler, Author of the Bounders Series

Tell us a little bit about BOUNDERS! How does it stand out in MG science fiction?

BOUNDERS is the story of the first class of cadets at EarthBound Academy for quantum space travel. When the cadets arrive at the space station for training, they soon realize that Earth Force’s plans for them are far different from what they’ve been told. These kids have always felt different, but they never suspected they held the key to saving Earth from an alien threat.

One of the unique things about BOUNDERS, is it fits in many different storytelling boxes. It’s a science fiction adventure story, but it’s also a story about school and friendship. The core of the story is a mystery, as the kids search for answers about a huge secret they discover when they arrive at the space station and what that means for them as Bounders.

What’s your favorite thing about BOUNDERS?

My favorite part of BOUNDERS is the unlikely friendship that develops between the five main characters—Jasper, Cole, Lucy, Marco, and Mira. As the story progresses, the kids learn to work together through their own unique strengths and challenges. Their bond is what ultimately saves the day.

What can we look forward to in the second book of the series, THE TUNDRA TRIALS?

Excitement, danger, and adventure await the cadets in THE TUNDRA TRIALS which is scheduled to release on December 13, 2016. Most of the book takes place on Gulaga, the Tunneler planet. There are more aliens, more Earth Force secrets, and a space elevator!

What kind of research did you have to do to write this series?

I love to read about current developments in science and technology. The space travel used in the series—bounding—is loosely based on quantum entanglement principles. I read several articles on quantum entanglement so that I had a basic understanding of the science.

I once read a post about a theoretical space elevator that could transport goods and even people from the surface of a planet or celestial body to outside the atmosphere. That’s how I got the idea for the space elevator in THE TUNDRA TRIALS. Of course, in real life, space elevators are just in the concept/design stage, but maybe one day scientists will build one!

What advice would you give to aspiring science fiction authors?

The best advice I can give aspiring authors is to write something they enjoy and let go of outcomes. It’s important to learn how to finish projects, set them aside, and start something new. Get connected with other writers and gain an understanding of the business of publishing while writing, but don’t let that become too much of a time drain. Twitter will take your day away if you let it.

Reading is a necessity for all writers. For aspiring science fiction writers, I recommend reading widely within the genre and also keeping informed about current developments in science and technology. There is a long history of science inspiring science fiction and vice versa.

And most importantly—have fun!

 

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Eli! I hope you and your readers enjoy BOUNDERS! Watch my website, www.monicatesler.com, for information about a preorder giveaway for THE TUNDRA TRIALS as we get closer to the December 13 release date! You can also find me on twitter and instagram as @MonicaTesler.

 

About the Author

monica tesler

Monica Tesler lives south of Boston with her family. She can often be found hiking or biking with her boys, writing on the commuter boat, or trying to catch a quiet moment for meditation. The first book in her debut middle grade science fiction series, BOUNDERS, released in early 2016 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. The second title, THE TUNDRA TRIALS, will release December 13, 2016.


Giveaway

Thanks to Monica for taking part in Tweens Read August! This book sounds great, and I’m interested to see the different aspects to it. If you’re looking forward to reading it as much as I am, add Bounders to Goodreads! The cover for The Tundra Trials, the second book in the series, is coming out soon too, so be sure to follow Monica on Twitter for all the latest news about that. The author being featured tomorrow is M.G. Leonard.

Tweens Read August Day 9: M.G. Leonard & Beetle Boy

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the ninth day of Tweens Read August, and M.G. Leonard is here to share her top ten writing tips with us!

Here’s a little bit about her debut, Beetle Boy:

beetle boy by m.g. leonard

Series: The Battle of the Beetles #1

Release Date: February 23rd, 2016

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The glorious start to a middle-grade trilogy about a brilliant boy, his loyal friends, and some amazingly intelligent beetles that brings together adventure, humor, and real science!

Darkus Cuttle’s dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They’re an amazing, intelligent super species and they’re in danger of being exterminated. It’s up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they’re up against an even more terrifying villain–the mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won’t let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus’s dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Top Ten Writing Tips

I love writing Top Tens. When Eli invited me to write a top ten, I considered telling you ten reasons to love my book Beetle Boy, but readers like to make up their own minds about what is good about a story, so I decided against it. Next, I considered writing about my top ten beetles, but I couldn’t reduce 350,000 species to a top ten. I’ve included thirty types of beetle in Beetle Boy and even then I felt bad for leaving out some super awesome ones.

Eventually, I decided to tell you my top ten writing tips, because people who love reading stories often go on to writing them. That is how I started. So here they are:

1) READ EVERYTHING

I know that sounds obvious, but you can only learn what you do and don’t like in stories by reading every book you can get your hands on. This can get expensive, so use your local library. If something is dreadful you have my permission not to finish it, but think about why it sucks.

2) DAYDREAM

Imagining is an important part of writing that is unique to all of us. Give yourself permission to stare out the window and imagine wild and crazy people and places.

3) EXPERIENCE DIFFERENT FORMS OF STORY

A book is not the only way to tell a story. Notice the different ways to tell a story, look at art, graphic novels, music, plays, dance, opera, films, animation and poems to see how they tell stories. Are you sure you want to write a book? Perhaps you want to write a film.

4) GET A NOTEBOOK

Scribble everything down. There is no right or wrong way to do this. It can be doodles, a line of dialogue you heard on the bus or a paragraph describing a city in the clouds. Your notebooks contain the ingredients for future stories. Mine are full of messy drawings, post-it notes, instructions, character descriptions, questions in capital letters and inspiring things other people have said. You cannot make a cake until you have all the ingredients; it’s the same with a book.

5) IGNORE OTHER PEOPLE’S ADVICE

Teachers said my handwriting, grammar, punctuation and attitude towards writing was bad through-out school. I have been beset by people helpfully advising me to give up, telling me how hard it is to write a book and how no one ever gets published. I ignored them and did it anyway. If you have stories to tell then you should go ahead and tell them.

6) TALENT IS ANOTHER WORD FOR HARD WORK

I thought you had to have a natural talent to do anything, but I have discovered that talent really means working hard. You will only have a talent for something you truly love because you will want to work hard at it. I love telling stories. I live for it. I love working hard and getting better at it. Working hard at something you love is rewarding.

7) DON’T GET IT RIGHT, GET IT WRITTEN

If you try and make each sentence perfect as you write it, you’ll never get to the end of your story. Write your story as fast as you can, without thinking about it too much. Get to the end. Then put it down and go and do something else. Come back to it later and read it, noting down all the things you need to do to make it better. It’s much easier to improve a story until it’s perfect than to write a perfect one first go.

8) READ YOUR WORDS OUT LOUD

When you read your writing out loud you notice words you have missed out, when your sentences are so long you run out of breath, when you use the same word three times in a sentence. If you are brave enough to read it to someone, then you’ll also notice if they get bored. All useful to help you improve your work.

9) LISTEN

When you are happy with something you’ve written, give it to someone you trust to be honest and ask them to read it and give you honest feedback. Be prepared to want to cry and shout at them, but don’t, instead, listen. This is what an editor at a publishing company does for an author, and we want to cry and shout, but instead we listen and see if we can address the problems they point out. This always makes the writing better.

10) LEARN

I have learned so much from all the mistakes I made writing Beetle Boy. I’m editing my second book Beetle Queen right now. It’s much easier because I have learnt from my mistakes, but I am making a whole host of new ones. I think Beetle Queen will be an even better book than Beetle Boy, but I know I’ll always be learning.

About the Author

m.g. leonard
M.G. Leonard is Senior Digital Media Producer at the National Theatre of Great Britain, where she creates podcasts and documentaries about making theater. Beetle Boy is her debut novel and the first book in The Beetle Trilogy. She lives in Brighton, England with her family. You can visit her online at http://www.mgleonard.com. Follow her on Twitter @MGLnrd.


Giveaway

Thanks to M.G. for being a part of Tweens Read August and coming up with this list of tips! Be sure to add Beetle Boy to Goodreads and enter the giveaway above. The author being featured tomorrow is Monica Tesler!

Tweens Read August Day 8: Brooks Benjamin & My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the start of the second week of Tweens Read August, and today I’m interviewing Brooks Benjamin about his debut novel, the fabulous My Seventh Grade Life in Tights.

Here’s a little bit about it:

my seventh grade life in tights

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

Add to Goodreads

LIVE IT.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

WORK IT.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

BRING IT.

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Interview with Brooks Benjamin, Author of My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

Is there anything you want readers to know before reading My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

I’d love for them to know that this book was written out of a deep love of dance. And it was written for those people who have a passion for something that others might laugh at. And just like dance, it’s an all-inclusive book that not only embraces friendships and commonalities, but all the wonderful differences that make us unique and wonderful.

What do you love most about Dillon? 

I love his honesty. He has a chance to hide some things from his friends, but he chooses not to.

Is Dillon’s story based on your own experiences? 

In part. I started my own dance crew back in middle school and I desperately wanted to learn how to dance. I was…not a good dancer back then. Like, at all.

You have a conversation with your favorite book character. Ever. How does it go? 

I’ve talked with them all! As a group and individually. And I get a lot of funny looks when I do because sometimes I’m out in public when it happens.

Is there any possibility of a sequel to My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

There is a possibility! I have an outline for it, ready to go. So keep those fingers crossed that Dillon and the Dizzee Freekz will be back, dancing their way onto the shelves again one day!

What’s your writing fuel?

Black coffee in my Ug Chug mug. And pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.

Who’s your favorite supporting character in My Seventh Grade Life in Tights?

Oh, that’d definitely be Carson. He’s so fun and full of life. He’d be the one I would’ve loved to hang out with in middle school because he’d always have something entertaining for us to do. And we’d probably get into trouble because of it. But we wouldn’t care. :)
What’s your favorite book that released/releases this year? 
GAH! That question is so hard to answer! There are so many amazing books this year. I could literally put every title into a hat and draw one and be okay with what I picked. But I won’t do that. That’s cheating. So I’ll pick…Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson. That book has all the heart of Bridge to Terabithia and just as many moments that made me laugh, smile, and cry.

About the Author

brooks benjamin

In sixth grade, Brooks Benjamin formed a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called the New Kidz. He wasn’t that good at dancing back then. But now he’s got a new crew—his wife and their dog. They live in Tennessee, where he teaches reading and writing and occasionally busts out a few dance moves. He’s still not that good at it. MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS (Delacorte/Random House) is his first novel.


Giveaway

Thanks to Brooks for taking part in Tweens Read August! I love dance too, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s portrayed in a middle-grade novel. If you think so too, add My Seventh Grade Life in Tights to Goodreads! The author being featured tomorrow is M.G. Leonard.

Tweens Read August Day 7: James R. Hannibal & The Lost Property Office

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the seventh day of Tweens Read August, and today, James R. Hannibal is here to talk to us about the unique superpowers in his MG mystery/adventure The Lost Property Office!

Here’s a little bit about it:

the lost property office by james r. hannibal

Release Date: November 8th, 2016

Series: Section 13 #1

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James R. Hannibal presents a thrilling adventure through history, complete with mysteries, secret items, codes, and a touch of magic in this stunning middle grade debut.

Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things. Not just a missing glove or the other sock, but things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace.

But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries—and membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance.

Now the only way Jack will ever see his father again is if he finds what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Will Jack be able to find the Ember and save his father, or will his talent for finding things fall short?

Description taken from Goodreads.

Birth Defects and Superheroes

Maybe you’ve seen The Lost Property Office already, even though it doesn’t come out until November. I hope you have.

Big black cover.

Enormous clockwork beetle.

You can’t miss it.

The story opens a new series of London-based adventures filled with mystery and magic, science and history, secret societies and stern-faced old spinsters—elements of plot and milieu that were loads of fun to write. But it is the character of Jack and the way he sees the world that are most important to me. I want Jack’s experience to open up a conversation.

Thirteen-year- old Jack Buckles is a new take on the Holmesian, hyper-observant detective. Jack has a “birth defect” known as synesthesia, although you’ll never see the word in the book. He doesn’t know he has it, much like thousands of kids today who don’t know they are “synesthetes,” and are thus misdiagnosed as unfocused, or even ADD.

Synesthesia is a lack of walls between the senses. For a synesthete, sounds, smells, or pain may invoke colors and textures. Other synesthetes might hear whooshes and clacks while seeing movement or flashes of light. There are several varieties, and many synesthetes only experience one pair of crossed senses. Some of us, however, are cross wired through and through. I am a synesthete. Did I mention that? My synesthesia is debilitating at times, empowering at others. It has sent me running from my mother’s kitchen and helped me catch a terrorist. It has made me feel powerless and afraid and helped me put a bullet through a target from two miles away.

Knowledge shifts that balance.

To give you an idea why it is critical to identify child synesthetes early, let’s take a look at a well-known kid who might also have been considered “different.”

Imagine you are young Clark Kent. You have no idea why you struggle so hard to fit in. The other children at Smallville Elementary seem to have no trouble keeping their feet on the ground.

Their pencils never snap in their hands like yours do. Their deskwork never spontaneously combusts.

Maybe they’re all just smarter than you are.

When you finally get up enough courage to ask another boy how he manages to open every door without ripping the knob off, he stares back at you like you’re crazy. Word spreads. Soon the other kids are pointing and giggling when you walk by.

The teachers aren’t much better—yours especially. “Oh, I love little Clark,” Ms. Moore tells your mom in a voice that says she really doesn’t. “But he’s always bouncing off the walls. I have to pull him down off the ceiling twice a day. I have to literally pull him down. If he doesn’t quit leaping the language annex in a single bound, I might have to put him in the special class.”

The special class?

The coach likes you, though—as much good as that does.

“Who? Kent? Sure, he’s a space cadet. Head in the clouds all the time. But you should see him boot that kickball. I don’t care what they say about him. Kid’s gotta future.”

Future? What future? You’re going to be the kickball star from the special class. Great.

Now see yourself as a child with synesthesia:

You do your best to concentrate on the lesson but a bird chirps outside the window. Pinkish- white spikes fly across your vision. You can’t suppress them. Nor can you suppress the feeling that Ms. Moore is watching you.

How do all the other kids ignore the spikes? You can’t take Ms. Moore’s stink-eye anymore. You look down at your hands, willing the bird to shut up, then glance up again. Ms. Moore is still locked on. She’s waiting for you to crack.

A moment later, old Mr. Guthrie fires up his vintage lawnmower outside. It growls and coughs as it gobbles up the grass, and your battle for focus is over.

Resistance is futile.

A few others are distracted by the mower, too, but your brain is completely taken over. A bumpy gray mass with rust-colored rods poking out of it closes around you. You’re not imagining things. The mass is there—unsolicited, uncontrolled—you can feel it thumping your head and shoulders.

Ms. Moore sees you hunkering down and moves in for the kill. You barely process the question. You wouldn’t know the answer anyway. Margie Wutherford does. Her hand shoots up, making you look as stupid as you feel. How does she do it? How does she ignore Mr. Guthrie’s killer blob?

Life isn’t all bad. You’re absolutely brilliant at math and memorization. Letters, numbers, and dates have colors and textures that never change. They fly around your head in purple wisps and gold ribbons. You max every test—assuming you did the reading. You don’t understand why the other kids can’t do the same thing, but you don’t ask, not after what happened in fifth grade. You told Margie about the dates spent last spring as crazy-pink- January boy.

Memorization isn’t your only skill. The school nurse says you’re some sort of audio-prodigy. Your hearing is off the charts. Really? How could anyone miss those pink, brown, and blue blobs. You don’t have to hear the tones. You can see them. It doesn’t matter. The nurse doesn’t like you despite your super hearing. You’ve been in her office three times in three days this week alone for throwing up in the lunchroom. “You’re not sick,” she tells you. “If you keep making yourself vomit, you’re going to do permanent damage.”

You’re not making yourself do anything. Peas and onions have been on the menu all week. To smell them is to wade through slimy black mush. You can’t tell that to the nurse. Or your teacher. You heard Ms. Moore. Any more screw-ups and they’ll put you in that special class.

This was very much my life as an undiagnosed child synesthete. And this was very much Jack’s life before he came to London in search of his father—before he discovered his gift had a name.

By the way, that name is not synesthesia, not in my world.

Jack isn’t deficient. He doesn’t have an underdeveloped brain. Jack Buckles is a tracker.

Child synesthetes can have a birth defect, or they can be super heroes. Let’s start the conversation. Let’s give them the choice.

Addendum: We (the publisher and I) just received an advance review from a respected journal that illustrates my point. In the review, amid some nice compliments, the librarian/reviewer diagnoses Jack as “exhibiting behaviors on the autistic spectrum” even though autism is never mentioned and synesthesia is explained right there on the back cover. This innocent and well-intentioned mistake is a prime example of why this book is necessary, and why we need to talk about children and synesthesia in this country.

 

About the Author

james r. hannibal
James R. Hannibal is the author of the 2016 BEA Buzz Book The Lost Property Office, a middle grade mystery/adventure coming from Simon and Schuster Young Readers November 8. As a former stealth bomber pilot and drone pilot James has been shot at, locked up by a surface to air missile system, and aided the capture of High Value Targets. He is also the Thriller Award nominated author of the Nick Baron series from Berkley Books.


Giveaway

Thanks to James for being a part of Tweens Read August and doing this guest post! It was definitely thought provoking, and it made me think about the way I consider disabilities and superpowers in books and other media. Enter the giveaway above to enter an ARC of The Lost Property Office, a $25 bookstore giftcard, and other awesome swag, and be sure to add The Lost Property Office to Goodreads! You can also pick it up from stores on November 8th, 2016. The author being featured tomorrow is Brooks Benjamin!