Posts Tagged book lists

Author Spotlight: Eileen Moskowitz-Palma + a GIVEAWAY!

Eileen Moskowitz-Palma and I first crossed paths more than a decade ago, at the Backspace Writers Conference, in New York. I can’t remember which panels I attended, but one thing stands out: meeting Eileen. We were sitting in a large, well-lit room, waiting for the keynote to begin, when she turned around and smiled at me. It was the warmest, friendliest smile I had ever seen, and naturally I wanted to bask in her… Eileen-ness.

It didn’t take before she and I became fast friends, chatting about our daughters (we both have onlies); our writing styles (we both err on the side of funny), and our diminutive statures (Eileen is half an inch taller than I am, which she never lets me forget.) 🙂

Her debut middle-grade novel, THE POPULARITY PACT: CAMP CLIQUE, which Kirkus describes as “{a}…solid mix of s’mores and girl empowerment… encouraging but never saccharine,” is out now from Running Press Kids. Here is a brief summary:

In the blink of a summer, Bea goes from having a best friend and a place she belongs to being dropped and invisible, eating lunch alone and only talking to teachers. The end of sixth grade and the start of Camp Amelia can’t come soon enough. 

But then the worst part of school, ex-best friend Maisy, shows up in Bea’s safe place and ruins it all. Maisy lands in the same bunk as Bea and summer suddenly seems dire. Never having camped a day in her life, Maisy agrees: it’s hopeless. She should be at home, spending time with her little sister and hanging out with her super popular crew of friends–not at this stupid adventure camp failing everything and being hated by everyone. In a desperate bid to belong, Maisy offers Bea a deal: if Bea helps her fit in at the camp, she will get Bea into the M & M’s, their town’s popular clique, when they enter seventh grade in the fall. The Popularity Pact is born.

 MR: Hi, Eileen! Before we start, can I say how excited I am about this novel? It’s your first middle grade!

EMP: Thank you for that wonderful introduction Melissa. You are one of my first real writing friends and the best take away from that conference! When we met all those years ago, I introduced myself as a rom-com writer, and I really thought that’s what I was. I even published a rom-com back in 2014. But one day the idea for The Popularity Pact series came to me. I was two pages in to the manuscript when I realized I finally felt at home as a writer.

MR: CAMP CLIQUE is told from the alternating perspectives of two ex-BFFs, Bea and Maisy, who strike a mutually beneficial deal in the name of popularity. Is the quest for popularity an issue that affected you as a tween? If so, how did it shape your experience in middle school, and beyond?

EMP: Middle school wasn’t about popularity for me as much as it was about navigating strong and meaningful female friendships. For most kids, late elementary school into middle school is when friendships feel more important than anything else in their world. I loved having a best friend and the certainty that came with knowing I had someone to sit with at lunch or pair up with on a school project, but most importantly I loved having someone I could talk to about anything. I lived for those after-school hangouts, and phone calls and sleepovers. As long as I had my person, I felt a strong sense of belonging. But when my best friend and I had an argument, it felt like the floor had been ripped out from under me. In The Popularity Pact series, I wanted to tap into those complicated dynamics of tween friendships, the intensity of both the good and bad moments.

MR: In addition to popularity, Maisy has other issues on her mind: troubles at home, and acute anxiety. She seeks out the crunchy-granola camp therapist, Dr. Beth, for help. Do most camps have therapists in residence now? If so, what kind of research did you have to do to see how these therapists work with campers? (i.e., short-term vs. long-term therapy; reporting to parents, etc.).  I would imagine it’s very different from therapy done in a more traditional setting.

EMP: From the small bit of research I did, it seems like more and more camps are recognizing the need for mental-health support that extends into the summer months. It makes perfect sense for a child who is undergoing therapy during the school year to seek the same supportive care while at camp. I didn’t extend my research into how therapy is typically done at most camps, because Camp Amelia is unique. Instead, I imagined what type of therapy environment would work for a kid like Maisy who was resistant to therapy, and anxious about talking about her issues at home. Dr. Beth was born because I thought she had the perfect personality and out-of-the-box methods to get Maisy to open up about the secret she had been keeping for over a year. Dr. Beth shares her therapy cabin with a menagerie of rescue cats. The way she holds back and lets the cats come to her is similar to the way she gets through to Maisy.

MR: I actually went to two sleepaway camps as a child: the artsy Camp Hillcroft, where I made enamel jewelry and sang folk songs around the campfire, and sporty Camp Gilford, where I was bullied mercilessly and wished I had a Dr. Beth to talk to. Did you go to sleepaway camp? If so, how did the experience shape the novel? Maisy and Bea’s characters specifically?

EMP: I never went to sleepaway camp because my family spent most of the summer at a cottage in Twin Lakes, Connecticut, an area of the Berkshires which is home to several summer camps. When I was building the world of Camp Amelia, I thought of the white Birch trees that I always associate with the woods that surround Twin Lakes. I pictured the fireflies zapping across the summer sky and heard the sound of the crickets. I remembered how it was always cold there at night, not matter how hot the days were. I thought of the feeling of the wet dirt path under my feet after swimming in the lake. That cottage was my safe place away from any drama I had waiting for me back home. It was the one place where the stressors of my school life couldn’t permeate. I thought about what it would feel like if an ex-best friend showed up there, and it was easy to think about how Bea would feel when Maisy permeated her camp life. For Maisy’s perspective, I thought about some of the uncomfortable parts of country life, like how cold the lake water is, or how scary it can be to see little creatures running across a dirt path. I imagined what it would be like for an anxious kid like Maisy to get sent to camp in the woods against her will.

MR: Camp Amelia is an adventure camp, with the focus on team spirit and athletic ability. There’s even a camp-wide sports competition (“the Cup”), where winning is everything. Were you sporty like Bea, or anxious like Maisy? Perhaps an amalgam of both?

EMP: I was definitely not sporty. I was a tiny, uncoordinated kid with asthma who got picked last in P.E. In fact I was so unathletic, that my P.E. teacher would have to give me multiple tries to pass each section of the mandatory yearly fitness challenge. Like Maisy, I am an anxious person, so I was always scared of getting hit with the ball, whether it was a dodgeball or a basketball. I always try to think of ways to add more natural drama and tension to a story. I came up with the camp idea first, but then I thought…What if it’s an adventure camp? And what if Maisy was anxious and unathletic like me? In every scene where Maisy has to confront a fear at adventure camp, I was able to think about how I would feel in that situation and it made it very easy to write.

 MR: Book Two, THE POPULARITY PACT: SCHOOL SQUAD, comes out on October 6. Can you give us a teaser?

EMP: I would love to! Bea kept up her end of the bargain by getting Maisy “in” with the girls at camp. Now it’s Maisy’s turn to fulfill her promise to ingratiate Bea with the popular girls. When Bea is accepted into this new inner circle, she begins to lose sight of what true friendship is all about. As Bea seems prepared to sacrifice anything to be “cool,” Maisy realizes there’s more to life than hanging out with a bunch of mean girls. Can she convince Bea that the popularity pact was a mistake? Can these former friends find their way back to each other?

MR: And finally, what’s your wildest camp story? I know you have one…

EMP: It took over 40 years for me to finally have my own camp experience. When my book tour was canceled because of COVID-19, I was devastated about the school visits that weren’t going to happen. I had been looking forward to connecting with readers in the classroom because of my experience as a former elementary school teacher. At the same time, my social media feed was filling up with posts by desperate parents who were suddenly juggling multiple homeschooled kids, while also working from home. I realized I could help. My husband and I brainstormed the idea of a free virtual writing camp. I would give kids a multi-session program that was positive, educational, and creative, while also allowing their parents a reprieve that they didn’t have to feel guilty about. In four days, I had a roster filled with 75  kids from all over the country, and a growing wait list for the next session. I have just completed my first camp session, and it has been just as healing for me as it has been for the kids. It gives me a sense of purpose and allows me to serve others in a time when I have been feeling helpless. For more information about my writing camp, or other writing resources for children during this time, please visit my website (see below).

MR: Oh!!! One last thing! A MUF author interview wouldn’t be complete without a lightning round, so…

S’mores or bug juice? S’mores

Friendship bracelets or French braiding? Not to brag, but I am really good at braiding, so French Braiding of course.

Favorite camp song? I actually wrote my own camp song for Camp Clique, which I am very proud of.

Favorite sporty activity? Running

Favorite artsy activity? Painting

The ideal care package? Beauty products and chocolate…lots and lots of chocolate: 🙂

Best camp prank? I have never done a prank in real life. BUT, I had a lot of fun writing a prank scene that the Sunflower bunk girls play on their rival bunk the Dandelion Bunk.

And now… a camp-tastic


Eileen has generously offered to gift THREE lucky readers with an autographed copy of Camp Clique, a bookmark, and two friendship bracelets! Just comment on the blog for a chance to win!

When EILEEN MOSKOWITZ-PALMA double majored in Elementary Education and English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she thought she would have to choose between a career as a writer or a teacher. It wasn’t until she was almost 40 that she realized she could do both. Now, Eileen divides her time between writing middle-grade novels and teaching Beginner Novel Writing and Writing for Children and Young Adults at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Eileen lives in Westchester, New York, with her husband and daughter. Learn more about Eileen on her website and follow her on Instagram.

STEM Tuesday — Earth Day 50th Anniversary Celebration– In the Classroom


It’s interesting that we’re celebrating Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in the midst of a pandemic that has much of the world shut down. As I write this post, my state is under a Stay-At-Home order, and has been for a while. While COVID-19 has been devastating for people, in a way, it’s been a gift to the Earth. With people taking a step back from their daily hustle and bustle, the Earth has breathed easier, and animals have felt safe to come out of hiding. Before the world restarts, it’s a good time to step back and take a look at our relationship with the Earth.

The books on this month’s list cover a wide range of topics, from inspiring environmental activists…

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One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet
by Anuradha Rao
With stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, this book profiles twenty environmental activists of color from around the world. Their individual stories show how they went from kids who cared about the environment to leaders in their communities.


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Friends of The Earth: A History of American Environmentalism with 21 Activities
by Pat McCarthy
A collection of inspiring stories about the women and men who had the foresight to preserve Yosemite, Mt. Ranier, the Grand Canyon, and the Florida Everglades. Through these stories, young readers form a picture of American environmentalism and conservation. McCarthy helps kids act with 21 eco-activities.


…to understanding the complexities surrounding environmental policy…

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Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines
by Paul Fleischman
This Green Earth Book Award title offers a wake-up call for middle-grade and young adult readers as they try to make sense of the flood of environmental news. Readers discover there is more at work than merely wanting to help — money, politics, history, and psychology are all connected.


…to things you can do in your everyday life to help the Earth.

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Human Footprint: Everything you will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime
by Ellen Kirk 
A powerful visual tool from Ellen Kirk and NatGeo that helps kids visualize the extent of their consumption. Did you know we each consume 13,056 pints of milk; take 28,433 showers; and eat 12,888 oranges, 14,518 candy bars and buy $52k,972 of clothes in our lifetime?

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Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living An Eco-Friendly Life
by Linda Sivertsen
Sure, we want to be eco-friendly, but how do we accomplish that? Siversten offers dozens of tips on how to shop, dress, eat, and travel with a lighter carbon footprint.


Even if you are quarantined and don’t have easy access to these books, you can still dig in to some activities that celebrate Earth Day.

Research How COVID-19 is Helping and Hurting the Environment

Practice your internet searching skills to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the environment. (Be sure to look for reliable sources of information.) In some ways, it seems to be helping. Air quality has improved dramatically in many areas due to the lack of cars on the road. In other ways, it may be hurting. A lot of recycling has been suspended because of the Stay-At-Home orders. How else is the pandemic helping or hurting the environment?

On a more personal note, think about how you are living right now. What things are you doing (or not) that are beneficial to the environment? Are you doing anything that is more harmful?

Take Action In Your Own Life

Very few of us live a life that doesn’t impact the environment in negative ways. Often times, we don’t even think about how what we’re doing affects the Earth. One of the best gifts we can give to celebrate Earth Day is to make changes in our own lives to be more environmentally friendly.

To start, you need to be aware of how you impact the Earth. Take a look at how you use resources. You can make it simple or you can track your usage over a period of time – a week or two or even a whole month. Resources to look at include food, water, fuel (including gas for your car and energy for your house), clothing and other items.

Here are some questions to help you think about how you live.

  • How many resources do you use? How much of each?
  • Where do your resources come from?
  • How much do you waste?
  • What do you do with resources when you are done with them?

Once you’ve taken a look at how you use resources, think about things you can change to live a more environmentally friendly life. Here are some examples.

If you notice a lot of your food is being transported from across the country or world, commit to getting more of your food from local farms. Look into participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

How much of the food you buy gets thrown away? Think of ways to reduce your food waste. In our family, that often includes planning meals for a week and having leftover nights to eat food that didn’t get eaten the day it was cooked. You can also look into composting. Instead of throwing out potato peels and apple cores, throw them in a compost bin. Use the resulting compost to improve the quality of soil in your gardens.

Do you throw out clothes when you are done with them? If so, look into alternatives. You can pass them along to a friend or relative. There are also lots of opportunities to donate them to charities. You can even hold a clothing drive where you can help people recycle their clothing and earn money for a school or service organization.

There are lots of resources that can help you find ways to live a more Earth-friendly life. This includes several of the books on this month’s list.

Help Your Favorite Animal

Perhaps you’d like to do something further afield. What’s your favorite wild animal? Do some research. Where does it live? What environmental issues does it face? Are there charitable organizations that are working to help these animals? Once you know what issues there are, you can come up with some ways to help.

Perhaps that means donating to an organization dedicated to helping that animal. To help even more, ask for people to donate to that organization rather than giving you birthday presents. Or run a fundraiser to collect money to donate.

Maybe you can participate in a citizen science project that will help the animal. Enlist your friends and family, too. Here are a few resources that can help you investigate what citizen science activities are out there:

No matter what you’re doing these days, I hope you’ll take some time to celebrate the Earth. Wishing you, your family, and the Earth peace and good health.


Janet sometimes helps out with conservation projects – here she’s helping cut reeds to stock an insect hotel.


Janet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and (well) everything, which she then turns into a book. She has spent many hours helping out on environmental projects, including transforming her yard into a native plant oasis (a work in progress). To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website:

Indie Spotlight: The Bookworm, Omaha NE

Note:   In response to the virus crisis, The Bookworm will be open for its usual hours, but with the following changes to help everyone shop safely. They are postponing all in-store book clubs, to be resumed in the future.  Staff is increasing cleaning of surfaces, credit card machines, door handles, bathrooms, etc. For those keeping their distance, The Bookworm will ship books anywhere in the country at $2 less than the going shipping rate, and will ship orders of $100 or more for free. They will make free contact-less courier deliveries three days a week within nearby zip codes. Customers may also arrange to pay by phone and get curbside pick-up. For further information, please go to

[This interview took place before the Coronavirus became pandemic, so some of the discussion below of book clubs and nearby sites to visit should be kept in mind  for the future.] 

What better place for a bookworm to visit than a store called The Bookworm? We’re talking today with their Children’s and Young Adult’s Manager, Hannah Amrollahi.
MUF: It’s always a delight to see an independent bookstore that’s been going for a while (since 1986). You’re not only surviving, but thriving.   What keeps you going?
Hannah: Community support allows the Bookworm to thrive. We can host programming of all kinds and stock magnificent books, but without community support and engagement we wouldn’t be here. Omahans continue to show they want vibrant, physical spaces, and we are so appreciative. People drive everything we do.

MUF: What do you want readers to experience when they visit The Bookworm? You and your staff seem to have especially strong backgrounds in books and education. How do you help readers find their next favorite book?
Hannah: We strive to greet every person as they enter the store and offer assistance before they leave, because that is a basis of hospitality. Conversations between people, readers and booksellers, are personable in a way algorithms cannot be. Our favorite question to ask customers is “what was the last book you read and loved?” and let the conversation flow from there. We offer the opportunity to find something similar, but equally important, something new, niche, or related. When readers visit, I hope they leave with a sense of wonder, energy to carry into their reading, and a book they will love.
A strong background in education helps booksellers find the right books for a burgeoning reader, where their reading level and interest has taken root. The majority of sales in children’s are gifts, they are not for the customer themselves, and so we want to bring that expertise to assist. The Bookworm has a strong staff connection to Montessori, and independent learning, teaching, and reading are also strongly connected.

MUF: What’s a good day at Bookworm for you?
Hannah: The best moment I have is when I hand a book to a child and their eyes light up in excitement. A very close second is handing a book to an adult and hearing them say, “oh, this is perfect!” for the child in their life. This interaction looks a lot of different ways now that I manage as well as hand-sell. Sometimes it’s an email to a local school letting them know the books for their author event have arrived. It can be the jitters in a volunteer’s hand picking up advanced readers donations for a local charity. If we’re having an event it can be the hectic pace in a line. Regardless, it is always the best part of my day.

MUF: Bookworm seems to be book club central! You have over a hundred external book clubs getting discounts and seventeen in-store adult clubs for many different interests. That suggests strong community connections. Last, but definitely not least, is your monthly Very Newbery book club for middle graders. What‘s the next selection Very Newbery is reading?Hannah: We love book clubs! All of our store ones are open to new members, so we are constantly meeting new people and enjoying the chatter about a book.
The Very Newbery club was started last summer and we’ll resume it in 2020! I would love to read the 2019 Newbery, New Kid by Jerry Craft, since it’s the first graphic novel in the category. It would be a joy to hear what kids think about this milestone.
Currently, we work with a local parochial school for the Chat N’ Chew bookclub and the University of Nebraska at Omaha for a Young Adult Literature class. Both have several titles, as they span across grades, but for February I love Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and Front Desk by Kelly Yang. The first is a zany and lesser-known title by a big-hit author (remember Because of Winn-Dixie?). The second is an own-voices title that paints a realistic and poignant picture of immigration in the United States in its highs and lows.

MUF: One of the great things about independent bookstores is that the books you carry are curated by people who know books and not just business. Please tell us some titles, new or old, fiction, poetry, or nonfiction you find yourselves recommending these days to readers ages 9-12?
Hannah: Nine to twelve is such a great age. Here are a few of my favorites.
New: Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwotiz is the type of book we have on hand because I fell in love with its quirky fun. A light read featuring an “evil” daughter dealing with a host of villagers, a sickly father, and a whittle-witch, it will enchant readers with variations on tried and true tropes while incorporating surprisingly real-world themes of privilege, family expectations, and reparation.
Old: A musty church. A mysterious visitor. The Letter for the King. I discovered this 1962 classic from Tonke Dragt, whose own life is a fascinating study of her time, after the Netflix movie announcement revived interest. It has so much to offer, amazing out-loud, fantastic syntax reflective of its translation from Dutch, short chapters that make it fit easily into any schedule, and truly endearing characters struggling with the most basic, and most important, moral decisions. When can you share a secret? To what do you owe a promise? An all-ages book I only wish I had read earlier so I could be re-reading it sooner!
Nonfiction: I have some newer titles I love, but All of Us: a Young People’s History of the World from Yvan Pommaux and Christophe Ylla-Somers is still my favorite world history for this age group. The over-sized, beautifully illustrated hardcover has the literal weight of history. The authors tell a linear story of humanity that focuses more narrowly on America and Europe only in the near present. Time becomes a third character that moves the book around the globe, placing the Bering Strait migration, the development of Chinese writing, the Indus Valley, and early Crete together on glorious spread. History is messy, but this book achieves a robust introduction and a questioning tone that will provoke curiosity.

MUF: If families visit your store from out of town, would there be family-friendly places near by for a snack or a meal after shopping? And if they can stay a little longer, what are some unique sites or activities they shouldn’t miss?
Hannah: Omaha makes an extremely family-friendly vacation. Down the sidewalk from The Bookworm is the Market Basket restaurant, a local establishment, and within a few minutes’ drive is a local bakery and restaurant, Le Quartier. For a longer day, there is the Joslyn Art Museum, a free-entrance museum with outdoor sculpture garden and children’s room, the Omaha Children’s Museum, and award-winning children’s theater company, The Rose. Area parks are spread out across neighborhoods, whose old “small town” main streets have kept their individual flavor as the metropolitan area grew. Dundee, Florence Mill, and the award-winning 24th Street Mural Corridor celebrate Omaha’s diverse communities.
Finally, The Old Market downtown features red cobblestones and vibrant businesses tucked into historic buildings. The Durham Museum downtown features full-scale historic train cars and interactive exhibits. Ending the downtown tour at Ted & Wally’s homemade ice cream and Hollywood Candy bookend the day. Check out Visit Omaha, Omaha Magazine, and Nebraskaland for features and ideas!

MUF: Now that we’re all trying to stay home, what a great time to read, and we hope you discovered some titles in this discussion.   It’s also a critical time to support independent bookstores like The Bookworm, yes?  Read and support, a win-win!