Posts Tagged American Girl Books

Who Really Wrote Your Favorite Series?

Many books for middle-grade readers are part of a series. Often one author writes all the books in series. Other times, several authors share a series.

Some of these series name the actual author on the cover. For example, the American Girls historical series has various authors, but each one wrote a different character. Connie Porter wrote the Addy books, and Valerie Tripp wrote the Josefina stories.

Other books series are written under one pen name. The series might have many different authors, but only one name appears on each cover. The Nancy Drew books are part of a well-known series written by multiple writers. Yet all the books have only one name on the cover—Carolyn Keene.

Another series like this is Warrior Cats. The name on the cover of each book is Erin Hunter. But that is only a pen name for several different authors, such as Vicky Holmes, Kate Cary, and Cherith Baldry.

(Whitney Sanderson)

If you’re wondering why a publisher would choose to put all the books under one pen name, it’s because they can keep a series going or put out more books by adding new authors. Even if one or more of the authors leaves, the series can continue. In addition, one name is easier for readers to remember when they buy or borrow a book. Also, when the books are shelved by authors’ last names in bookstores or libraries, it means all the books in the series will stay together.

I also worked on a series like this, called Second Chance Ranch, which is written under the pen name, Kelsey Abrams. I got to see how it worked when an author needs to come up with a storyline and characters that connect to a story by other authors. It can be a challenge sharing a series.

(Laurie J. Edwards)

It helps if you get along well with your co-author. For me, it was a nice surprise to learn the name of the author who would be sharing the series with me, Whitney Sanderson. I already knew her, so I could tell we’d work well together.

(Whitney Sanderson)

The publisher had some ideas about what they’d like to see in the series. They chose the series name and the pen name. Then they told us the books would be about a family in Dewberry, Texas, who rescued animals. The Ramirez family had a mom, dad, and two daughters, Abby (10) and Natalie (12). They also had two adopted twin daughters, Grace and Emily (9).

Whitney chose to write about the two oldest girls, and I took the twins. Once we had that information, we had to create personalities for the girls we were writing about and come up with interesting story ideas that involved rescuing animals. We also had to develop the world they lived in – their schools, house, barn, community, and pets.

Because all four sisters appear in every book, their personalities and likes/dislikes and hobbies needed to stay the same in all the books. We also needed to keep track of what animals were on the ranch. We created a shared document, called a “bible,” where we wrote down all the information about our characters and added new animals the family adopted.

(Laurie J. Edwards)

If Whitney wrote that they decorated their house in Southwestern style, I needed to be sure I didn’t change the furniture style in my book. If I wrote Emily liked to paint and Grace played soccer, Whitney made sure to use those details in her books. Because Emily and Abby dislike spicy food, but Natalie adores fiery hot dishes, we kept that consistent in all the books.

Our bible grew as we added information about the parents, the girls’ friends and classmates, their neighbors, and community events. By the time our first four books came out in January 2018, we felt like we knew each other’s characters. Now we’re busy writing four more books (two each, one about each sister) that will come out in Fall 2018. With every book we write, we note new facts, and our bible grows and grows. We learn so many new facts about our characters as we put them in new and difficult situations.

Is your favorite series written by one author or several? Here’s one way you can tell. Look on the copyright page. Often the authors real name can be found there. Sometimes it says, “Special thanks to…” That is the name of the actual author. Once in a while, you’ll find the real author’s name on the title page under the pen name. It might say, “Text by…” That’s another indication of the real writer’s name. Search for clues in your favorite series. What did you find?

Leaping Into Literature: How Books on Dance Fueled My Passion for Reading and Writing (Book Giveaway)

I’ve had two artistic passions in my life: dancing and writing. After spending more than twenty-five years in dance studios, studying and then teaching ballet, tap, and jazz, I realized my stronger passion was for prose rather than pirouettes. Yet, I’ve always loved to read books on dance. In fact, I can still recall the excitement I felt back in elementary school when I first discovered Noel Streatfeild’s novels Ballet Shoes and Dancing Shoes. I tore through them and went on to read more of Streatfeild’s books: Skating Shoes, Theater Shoes, and others. Back then, my interest in dance brought me to Streatfeild’s books on the library shelves. But once I found them, that passion led to another–the love of reading and writing.

Just as one artistic pursuit influenced another in my life, perhaps these books on dance will have the same effect on you, your child, or your student. And, for those who prefer sitting in the audience: these books will give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of all those jetés, jives, and jazz hands.


Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

This novel was originally published in 1937 and is still going strong. It’s about three British orphans, Pauline, Petrova, and Posie, who turn to the performing arts to support their new family. The story relates their successes and failures as they come to find their true passions. It was made into a movie with Emma Watson in 2007.

51jB6c7gSaLDancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Twenty years after Ballet Shoes, Streatfeild published this novel about orphans, Rachel and Hilary, who join their Aunt Cora’s dance troupe, Wintle’s Little Wonders. Misunderstandings, high drama, and a spoiled cousin named Dulcie, who is anything but the sweetness her name implies, infuse this story with humor and heart.

81xUxysTEYL._SL1500_To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel (illustrator)

This graphic novel is a memoir of the author’s desire to be a professional ballerina. It portrays the journey from her childhood in Puerto Rico, where she dreamed of becoming a dancer, to her eventual debut with the New York City Ballet.

91t2npP8+9L._SL1500_Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Thirteen-year-old Nate dreams of starring in a Broadway show. When he learns about an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, he shuffles out of Jankburg, Pennsylvania and hops on a bus bound for Broadway. With a little help from a long lost aunt and his friend Libby at home, his journey to the Great White Way is eventually a rousing success.

81-i-FyC5ZL._SL1500_Five, Six, Seven Nate by Tim Federle

This companion novel to Better Nate Than Ever finds Nate on Broadway, rehearsing for E.T.: The Musical. But as the second understudy for E.T., Nate finds the road to stardom littered with struggles as well as successes. From Nate’s determination to make his one spoken word (“Blurb”) a showstopper to his eventual performance, his hilarious narration doesn’t miss a beat.

51rBYphzWHLBallerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, illustrated by Frank Morrison

This Step into Reading book is the true story of Michaela DePrince’s journey from war-torn Sierra Leone to the United States, where she was adopted by an American family and began her ballet training. The story depicts how her strength and perseverance resulted in the fulfillment of her dream of being a ballerina. Michaela was also featured in the film documentary First Position.

51yDdgkZmzLAlicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Raul Colón.

This beautifully illustrated biography of Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso tells her story of overcoming partial blindness and reaching stardom in both Cuba and the United States.


51MSasopx9LIsabelle by Lawrence Yep

One of the popular American Girl series, this book features Isabelle, who starts her first year at Anna Hart School of the Arts. Along the way, she learns not to compete with others, but to find her own personal best if she wants to succeed as a dancer.

51QQXkhcrQLSugar Plum Ballerinas by Whoopi Goldberg

When Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson moves from her small town in Georgia to Harlem, her mother forces her into ballet lessons. After several bouts with rivalries, clumsiness, and stage fright, Alexandrea eventually finds success on the stage. This is the first in a series, written by actress Whoopi Goldberg.

51xnyvk59yLBallet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca.

In this award-winning book, the authors tell the behind-the-scenes story of Martha Graham’s 1944 dance composition, Appalachian Spring. The story describes how the collaboration between Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and set designer Isamu Noguchi led to this iconic work.

If you have a favorite book about dance, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. Two lucky winners, drawn from comments made from now until March 18 at midnight, Eastern Standard Time, will receive a signed copy of either Better Nate Than Ever or Five, Six, Seven, Nate.

Dorian Cirrone is the author of several books, including the young adult ballet novel, Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You, as well as the forthcoming middle-grade novel The First Last Day  (S&S/Aladdin, May 2016). Subscribe to her blog for writing tips and giveaways at: