Don’t Check Out This Book! Spotlight

Get to the Bottom of Appleton’s Juiciest Scandal.

Praise for Kate Klise & M. Sarah Klise’s Three Ring Rascal Series:

“The Klise sisters are no newcomers to the world of children’s fiction. Their work is cute and fun with a great message”

-New Orleans Advocate (The Show Must Go On!)

Entertaining [and] ‘smafunderful’ (smart + fun + wonderful).”

Kirkus Reviews (The Show Must Go On!)

“True to form, sisters Kate Klise (author) and M. Sarah Klise (illustrator) use clever jokes, wordplay, and adorable illustrations to guide their readers.”

-BookPage (The Show Must Go On!)

In the fully illustrated epistolary novel Don’t Check Out This Book!, fifth-grade reporters follow a trail of phone messages, emails, articles, texts, letters, reports, receipts, and more to clear the name of their beloved librarian and clear the local school board of bad apples with criminal intentions. Behind text and images ripe with laugh-out-loud humor and abundant wordplay, including too many puns to count, lies an important message about censorship and readers’ rights to choose their own books. Sisters and collaborators Kate Klise (writer) and M. Sarah Klise (illustrator) have been publishing visual novels for middle-grade readers since long before the current graphic novel explosion. Together, they’ve created more than twenty award-winning books for young readers, including Regarding the Fountain, the 43 Old Cemetery Road series, and most recently the Three-Ring Rascals series. 

In Don’t Check Out This Book!, Appleton Elementary School has a new librarian, Rita B Danjerous. Not everyone in Appleton likes her unconventional methods or her infamous Green Dot Collection, which allows students to borrow books discreetly, without actually checking them out. Under Rita’s influence, students like Reid Durr and Ben Thinken, and even the absent-minded principal, Noah Memree, are staying up way too late reading. While Rita inspires the students and faculty alike, the new school board president and impeccably mannered shop owner Ivana Beprawpa is busy working to shut down the library and force students into uniforms available only at Beprawpa Attire. But what’s behind Ivana’s school uniform policy? A team of fifth-grade sleuths is determined to get to the bottom of Appleton’s juiciest scandal ever. 

Author Kate Klise’s books are “fresh, funny, and a delight to read” (School Library Journal). Here she uses her skill and wit to introduce kids to serious topics, such as censorship and abuse of power. “I was really motivated to cook up a book-banning character who could embody all the pettiness and corruption we see in the world today,” Klise says. “I also wanted to create some book-loving characters who could prevail in the end.” 

Beneath Appleton’s mystery, there is a pure, unabashed celebration of words, and the rights of all readers to choose their own books. Hilarious, empowering, and exciting, Don’t Check Out This Book! is filled with clever winks to the audience, as if to say “You’re a reader. You get it.” And by the end, we do. 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Kate Klise is the award-winning author of more than 30 books for young readers, many of which are illustrated by her sister, M. Sarah Klise. On her way to becoming an author, Kate Klise worked as a babysitter, waitress, ice-skating instructor, and rosebush pruner. She was also a journalist and spent 15 years reporting for People magazine. When she’s not working on a new book, she enjoys traveling around the country, sharing her best writing tips and tricks with aspiring authors of all ages.

M. Sarah Klise has always had a fondness for creating colorful book reports, which began in elementary school with yarn-bound volumes on states and countries. In college, she enjoyed writing heavily illustrated letters home to her mother. Years later, she still does variations of all that when she illustrates books for young readers. She also teaches art classes in Berkley, CA.

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

Bestseller and author of the popular middle grade series Confectionately Yours Lisa Papademetriou is back with a magical, page-turning adventure for readers of all ages—a touching tale about destiny and the invisible threads that link us all, ultimately, to one another.

Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.

Magic is my favorite thing in a story. I get to see how it works in the universe and how it affects the characters. Magic in a modern day world, like the one in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, where cell phones and blogs make a regular appearance, always intrigues me. How will magic and technology interact? Will one negate the other, or will they work in highly unusual harmony?

I promise I’m not telling everyone how much I loved A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou because I met her during my first semester at Sierra Nevada College. It’s because the story of Kai and Leila is so heartfelt and runs much deeper than one might initially think.

Kai and Leila are both headstrong girls, lost in the surrounding newness they have found themselves in. Kai is on her own for the first time with her great-aunt in a town she’d never been to, and Leila is halfway across the world visiting family in Pakistan by herself for the first time. Then both girls find a magical book and a new story that connects them in an unusual and slightly magical way begins to unfold.

Leila gets herself into some trouble regarding a bad translation and a goat on her first time in town on her own. She has to find a way out of it and in the process changes from the self-conscious, self-doubting girl she was into a strong and well-rounded young girl.

Kai finds a friend with a strange obsession–moths, of all things!–and she finds the key to her friend’s success means revisiting her failures. When she travels down the hard path of her past, she finds it easier to navigate with a friend at her side.

I truly loved the interwoven stories of both Kai and Leila, not to mention the third story hidden within the Exquisite Corpse, the magic book. And while we don’t get a closed ending in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, we do get an open ending: there are plenty of things that could happen after the closing of the story, lots of places for the reader to imagine the possibilities that might befall Kai and Leila after their jaunt with the Exquisite Corpse is all said and done. The only question is whether it’ll be highly unusual, or highly magical.

The Okay Witch

Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl in this hilarious, one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town and is doing her best to survive middle school now that she knows everything!

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress.

Emma Steinkellner, The Okay Witch
September 3, 2019

Maggie’s Review

I love all things witchy. And oh man, is The Okay Witch an amazing witchy coming-of-age story. Not only is the art in this graphic novel beautiful and colorful and expressive, but the story is endearing and magical all in one.

Moth is such a compelling character: a girl who’s an outsider and a bit of a weirdo, whose family holds an ancient secret that she only discovers when she accidentally steals the mouths right off the faces of a pair of bullies! MAGIC IS WONDERFUL.

Moth struggles to accept not just her new layer of weird–uncontrollable magic–but also grapples with her mother’s history and their hometown and how it all affects her family. And on top of it, she finally makes a new friend and now she’s got to come around to figuring out how to be a good friend and a good witch at the same time.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a talking cat that’s possessed by the spirit of Moth’s Russian neighbor? It’s all super cute and incredibly deep with twists and stellar worldbuilding.

The Okay Witch is a must-read for all witchy fans and graphic novel fans and just anyone who loves a cute, tries-her-best main character.

Jessica’s Review

The Okay Witch is adorable from start to finish. If you don’t love it for the art, you’ll love it for Moth and her journey of self-discovery.

Moth Hush is a weird, friendless outcast who discovers that her family isn’t at all what it seems. Putting magic in place for the consequences of our emotional outbursts, Moth literally steals the mouths right off some bullies’ faces.

The Okay Witch features all kinds of teenage witch favorites: talking cat, cool best friend, family secrets, and other realms.

I really loved watching Moth figure out the extent of her powers reveling in her triumphs and reacting to the uncontrollable nature of her magic. An especially empowering scene comes near the end when Moth decides to make a commitment to herself and her magic in her own way, telling both her mother and her grandmother that it’s hers to discover.

Which is a great coming-of-age message that no two people will get through the same experience in the same way.

The Okay Witch is a must-read for everyone, adults and kids.

Maggie’s rating:
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Jessica’s rating:
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Mesmerist

Thirteen-year-old Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists—until they discover that Jess is a mesmerist and that she really can talk to the dead. Soon she is plunged into the dark world of Victorian London’s supernatural underbelly and learns that the city is under attack by ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners. Can Jess fight these powerful forces? And will the group of strange children with mysterious powers she befriends be able to help? As shy, proper Jess transforms into a brave warrior, she uncovers terrifying truths about the hidden battle between good and evil, about her family, and about herself.

Ronald L. Smith, The Mesmerist
February 7, 2017

Jessamine works with her mother pretending to be spiritualists—until the day where the pretending becomes real and she finds out she has mysterious powers. Ronald L. Smith has made a dark and memorable middle-grade story in The Mesmerist.

Set in Victorian London, The Mesmerist tackles many dark stories: death, vengeance, and violence. Jessamine Grace lived a normal life with her mother until the day they found out that Jess was actually a mesmerist—someone who can read people’s thoughts and communicate with the dead. She joins the mysterious League of Ravens in order to fight necromancers.

A great story with a strong voice, The Mesmerist is sure to please any lover of middle-grade stories. With many familiar story ideas, young readers will love it.

My one gripe with the story was that it seemed to be trying to capture too many storylines in one book. And at less than 280 pages, there wasn’t much room to play with multiple storylines. With death and retribution being in the top spot, it was quickly followed by mystery, the Plague, and social-political statements that bog down the story and make it a little hard to keep one plotline straight.

Jess was a bright character and fiercely loyal and strong, and I fell in love with her immediately. While a lot of familiar tropes seem to fill the pages of The Mesmerist, and it did seem to border on cliche, it’s bound to become a staple in a young reader that loves dark stories and supernatural tales.

Debian Perl Digital Detective: The Memory Thief

Megalopolis used to be the city hub for all the makers, doers, and dreamers. It was a better time according to Debian Perl, a technomancer known for her out-of-date computer programming skills. Now the city streets are filled with “Egg-heads,” those in thrall to the ease and simplicity of new technology as opposed to Debian’s way of doing things. Digits is one of those Egg-heads. She is a young social media guru and knows her way around all the newest, latest technology.

Debian and Digits cross paths when they both stumble across a 100-year-old lost robot named Ray-Bot. They soon learn that Ray-Bot’s CPU was suspiciously overclocked, leaving him unable to perform basic functions and commands. To find out where the robot came from, Debian must teach Digits everything she knows about computer coding and programming. Along their journey to bring Ray-Bot home, they begin piecing together the mysterious puzzle about his malfunction and uncover some sinister secrets.

Debian Perl: Digital Detective is a five-book series in which middle-grade readers will join Debian and Digits on mystery adventures all while building practical knowledge of coding, algorithms, algebra, and logical problem-solving.

Goodreads, 2019

OKAY. WOW. HOW CUTE. I LOVE THIS. THERE’S SUBTLE QUEERNESS. THERE’S CODING AND SCIENCE AND THE ART. IS. AMAZING.

*cough* Ahem. Now. Onto the review.

This was seriously one of the cutest graphic novels I’ve read this year. I LOVED the art style–the poppy, bright colors, the funky future-punk designs. It was just a JOY to experience.

The story itself is pretty straightforward: someone’s stole a robot’s memory card, thus hiding a serious crime. What I loved the most was the blending of old and new tech, of the general educational feel of this story, and the subtle (and some not-so-subtle) themes of acceptance, sentience, and the good of all.

This graphic novel is PERFECT for teachers, librarians, and any kid looking to learn a little more about coding. It’s got so many great things to it and I can’t wait for the next in the series!

My rating: ★★★★☆

An Interview with Emma Steinkellner

This week we talked with Emma Steinkellner, author and illustrator for the graphic novel The Okay Witch,  coming to you September 3rd. 

The Okay Witch

Sabrina the Teenage WitchmeetsRoller Girlin this hilarious, one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town and is doing her best to survive middle school now that she knows everything!

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress. 

Partners in PenHaving an artist on the podcast means playing some fun art games! Don’t worry. We’ve got pictures for you.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora ★★★★☆

25226215.jpgDefinitely one of my favorite pieces featuring a second language since Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost.

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.

Ice Wolves ★★★★★

35068585I’ve only ever read one other book by Amie Kaufman, and that was IlluminaeSo when I saw she had a middle grade piece about kids who turned into wolves and dragons well… I needed to get my hands on it! And Elementals: Ice Wolves did not disappoint!

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragonsare sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.

So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.

In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.

booked.jpg

Twelve-year-old scrappy orphan kids who suddenly become animals and have to join the institution they’ve been avoiding all their life? Oh, and one of them transforms into a dragon and is whisked away from her brother? A brother who depended on his sister for years while they lived on the street? Yaaaasssss.

This was such a cute book and a wonderful story about a little boy who turns into a confident kid when his life turns upside down. I couldn’t put Ice Wolves down for a second! It was not just cute, but Kaufman has a way with words. She doesn’t talk down to the kids that would be reading her book; she weaves a masterful story that’s intriguing and unforgettable.

So often, a middle grade piece sacrifices either a complex story or its vocabulary to be made “appropriate” for it’s intended demographic. People often forget that kids are smart and want deeper, complex books with a narrative that doesn’t talk down to them.

Ice Wolves didn’t sacrifice a thing. It showed the hardship of growing up on the streets, how hungry Anders and Rayna go when they’re not able to steal food or the sort of trouble they would face if they were caught pickpocketing. It shows how other kids on the street look out for one another.

And when Anders enters the Academy, he notes how everything there is more than he might have ever had in his life; the overabundance of food, a warm place to sleep at night, an education.

I loved the sense of found family Anders had with his pack, and how he never wavered in his quest to rescue his sister, despite finding out that she didn’t need rescuing after all.

And when I hit the last page, I was incredibly upset. Not because of the story, but because it was over and I knew it’d be at least a year before the second book came out.

So don’t hesitate to pick up Ice Wolves right now. You’ll thank me for it. Also, I won’t be alone in my suffering while I wait for book 2!

Ice Wolves
Amazon Barnes&Noble . BooksAMillion

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Episode #31: An Interview with MarcyKate Connolly

Jessica's Bigger Better Blog Header (2)

http://bookedallnight.podbean.com/e/episode-31-an-interview-with-marcykate-connolly/

Listen to this episode and other episodes of the podcast on Podbean.

This super special (totes late but you’ll love it) episode we were joined by none other than MarcyKate Connolly, author of Shadow Weaver, Monstrous, Ravenous, and more! If you’re unfamiliar with her work we highly recommend Shadow Weaver. You can, of course, listen to us gush over it in Episode #25 (which we also recommend).

Join us as we talk about middle grade literature, writing, Shadow Weaver, and play a little game of Burn, Re-write, Re-Read.

Granted ★★★☆☆

grantedIt was definitely an adorable idea, but the slow pacing really got to me.

Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, there is someone out there who hears it.

In a magical land called the Haven lives a young fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. Ophela is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day.

It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do, and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes gets granted.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today, Ophelia is going to get her very first wish-granting assignment.

And she’s about to discover that figuring out how to truly give someone what they want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.