Posts Tagged Mary E. Lambert

Distress Signal: A Chat with the Author + Giveaway

Looking for a fresh adventure book? I had the pleasure of reading Distress Signal, set in Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona, and interviewing the author, Mary E. Lambert. Be sure to read to the end for a chance to win a signed copy of her book.

Distress Signal by Mary E. Lambert


Thank you, Mary, for sharing Distress Signal with me, which just came out October 20. I love a good adventure, and I learned so much about survival skills.

About the Book

Can you give us a short summary about Distress Signal?

After a flash flood separates Lavender and three of her classmates from the rest of their sixth-grade campout, the four feuding friends must find a way to work together if they want to make it out of the wilderness alive.   

About the Author

You mention in your book’s About the Author that you grew up using a ham radio. Was that something you were interested in or that your parents had you to do?

While I grew up around ham radio, I was not actually licensed to use it. My grandpa, my dad, and both my brothers had their licenses, but I never took the test. I was intimidated by the amount of studying required, which is probably why I was so proud of my niece when she became the first girl in our family to earn her license. This really motivated me to write a story with a young female protagonist who embraces amateur radio as a pastime.

Mary sent me this great picture and caption: “Here I am—all ready to hike! Behind me, you can see the ‘Wonderland of Rocks’ that make this national monument so famous.”


Tell us about your writing journey: Did you enjoy writing as a child? What did you write about?

I’ve always loved stories! I think I’ve been trying to write them ever since I learned to hold a pencil. One of my very, very early attempts was a picture book called What If We Let All Gravity into Space?

As a child, I had this idea that gravity was some sort of gas that we could bottle up and jettison into outer space. I thought that if we just got rid of it, then all our problems would be solved. We could fly everywhere like Peter Pan, and wouldn’t that be amazing?! My imagination tended to run away with me, and I wrote some pretty silly stuff. But I always had fun doing it!


How much of Lavender is similar to you?

For me, fifth and sixth grade were tricky years. Social interactions change as kids start to become teenagers, and it can be very difficult to navigate friendships gracefully throughout this period of life. Like Lavender, I really struggled to figure out my place with my peers and to accept changing relationships as everyone around me started growing up.


For Teachers & Writers

How can teachers use this book in their classrooms? (And, teachers: this would be a great book when you are teaching the National Parks!)

There are so many different directions that a teacher could take this book in a classroom! With the novel’s unique setting, a classroom teacher could make tons of connections to social studies and geography.

Chiricahua National Monument is a sky island with incredible biodiversity. It lies at the intersection of four major ecosystems, and five distinct biomes. So, this book could also be a really useful staring point for discussions about climate, topography, and other earth science topics.

Teachers could also connect this novel to the physical sciences with discussion of radio waves, frequencies, and wavelengths. I personally love when teachers relate literature to mathematics or science, and I really hope Distress Signal offers some exciting opportunities to do so!


It is always fascinating to learn how a book got its shape. What would you say was the spark for Distress Signal? What came next? And what components organically fell into place later on?

Mary’s oldest niece with her ham radio.

Like so many stories, I think Distress Signal started as a combination of two ideas or events. In August 2017, my nine-year-old niece got her ham radio license, and I was incredibly proud of her. It’s a difficult test, and there seem to be far more men involved in the amateur radio community than women. I was so impressed that not only was the first female in our family to get licensed, but she passed the test at a fairly young age.

At the same time, there was terrible flooding in Texas and Louisiana due to Hurricane Harvey. With communication limited by the storm, rescue workers in some areas relied on assistance of ham radio operators to coordinate relief. These two ideas came together, and I remember thinking, I should write a story about a girl who uses ham radio to save her class from some kind of natural disaster.


Many people are often surprised how much research goes into writing fiction. What kind of research did you do? Were there any interesting things you learned that didn’t make it into the book?

As I researched for Distress Signal, I read news articles, watched YouTube videos, purchased survival guides, and took a trip to Chiricahua National Monument. Of course, I had been there multiple times before, but I wanted the setting as fresh in my mind as possible. I also interviewed several people, so I could ask really specific things related to certain scenes in the story.

I learned so many interesting things that didn’t really fit with this story! Lavender and her friends are not survival experts, so they do a lot of things wrong and it was frustrating sometimes to study what a person should actually do if lost in the wilderness and then write characters who were doing the exact opposite.

I also learned a little history of the area, and I was sad that nothing about the Native Americans from this region made it into the manuscript. Lastly, there were some really unique animal facts from this area that just weren’t a part of this story. For instance, did you know that jaguars actually lived in the Chiricahua Mountains? Who knew that they inhabited areas so far north? Or, if you’re into entomology, be sure to look up the vinegarroon (also, known as the whip spider). I had one of those in my manuscript at one point and they are really intriguing arachnids.


What ended up taking more time than you anticipated when researching/writing/revising?

For this manuscript, the revision definitely took more time than anticipated. I’ve lost count of how many versions this story has had! In it’s first iteration, the flash flood happened at the very end of the book. Now, it’s occurs near the start of the story.


How can we learn more about you? [website, social media, etc]

You can learn more about me at my website You can also pick up a copy of my first novel, Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes. My sister and I are very close friends, and since it’s a story about two sisters, it’s very near and dear to my heart. I think I actually have quite a bit more in common with Annabelle than I do with Lavender.


Author Mary E. Lambert

Mary E. Lambert will be giving a copy of Distress Signal to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway is only available in the United States (please, no P.O. Boxes).

And the winner is…Danielle Hammelef! Congrats!

Mary E. Lambert is a middle school English teacher from Tempe, Arizona. In her free time, she is usually grading an endless pile of essays, but sometimes she puts down the red pen to write something of her own. She recently adopted a scruffy little mutt, and now whenever she tries to grade papers or type the next chapter of a novel, Ollie Duke is somewhere nearby…usually nipping at her ankles. 

Distress Signal is available here:


October New Releases

The leaves are crunchy and the air is filled with the scent of pumpkin spiced lattes and wood smoke. That very specific combination means only one thing:  It’s October. Time for crisp days, cool nights, and cabinets full of mini candy bars. Sounds like a perfect time curl up with a sweet snack and one of these October New Releases.

And a special shout-out to From the Mixed-Up Files’ own Rosanne Parry. Congratulations on the release of A Whale of the Wild <3


A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry
Lindsay Moore (Illustrator)

In the stand-alone companion to the New York Times–bestselling A Wolf Called Wander, a young orca whale must lead her brother on a tumultuous journey to be reunited with their pod. This gorgeously illustrated animal adventure novel explores family bonds, survival, global warming, and a changing seascape. Includes information about orcas and their habitats.

For Vega and her family, salmon is life. And Vega is learning to be a salmon finder, preparing for the day when she will be her family’s matriarch. But then she and her brother Deneb are separated from their pod when a devastating earthquake and tsunami render the seascape unrecognizable. Vega must use every skill she has to lead her brother back to their family. The young orcas face a shark attack, hunger, the deep ocean, and polluted waters on their journey. Will Vega become the leader she’s destined to be?

A Whale of the Wild weaves a heart-stopping tale of survival with impeccable research on a delicate ecosystem and threats to marine life. New York Times-bestselling author Rosanne Parry’s fluid writing and Lindsay Moore’s stunning artwork bring the Salish Sea and its inhabitants to vivid life. An excellent read-aloud and read-alone, this companion to A Wolf Called Wander will captivate fans of The One and Only Ivan and Pax.

Includes black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map, and extensive backmatter about orcas and their habitats.



Mr. Wolf’s class ventures out on an exciting field trip to the forest!
Mr. Wolf’s students are going on a field trip! Everyone gets to sleep in log cabins, come up with fun camp names, and journey through the great woods. They’ll be learning about the oldest and largest trees in the forest, exploring an abandoned ghost town, and toasting s’mores over a campfire. On top of all that, there are kids from a different school to meet!

Meanwhile, Aziza and Randy must learn how to work through an argument, and Abdi is worried that he can’t keep up with Henry and his new friends.

There’s much to do, see, and learn in the outdoors!


My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzi Eszterhas

As a young girl, Suzi Eszterhas knew she wanted to be a wildlife photographer. But how did she go from snapping pictures of cats in her backyard to taking photos of cheetah cubs in Kenya? In this nonfiction picture-book biography, Eszterhas invites readers to find out what her life is like behind the lens.

Spectacular photographs of animals paired with compelling anecdotes will instantly draw readers in. Each section of the book explores a unique part of Eszterhas’s job with energetic and engaging language. Along with photography tips and stories about life in the field, Eszterhas’s sections on conservation and treating animals with respect will enhance readers’ awareness of these issues. End matter includes answers to common questions Suzi has been asked.

Filled with adorable animals, stories from the field, and subtle lessons on resilience and female empowerment, the story of Eszterhas’s wild life asks readers to pursue their passions, while treating the natural world with curiosity, kindness, and respect.


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat 

A unique account of the amazing Thai cave rescue told in a heart-racing, you-are-there style that blends suspense, science, and cultural insight.

On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary “ordinary” group. Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat–who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing–masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated with photographs, this page-turner includes an author’s note describing her experience meeting the team, detailed source notes, and a bibliography to fully immerse readers in the most ambitious cave rescue in history.


Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz

From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story.

With backlist sales of over 2.3 million copies, Uri Shulevitz, one of FSG BYR’s most acclaimed picture-book creators, details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance.

It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time. By turns dreamlike and nightmarish, this heavily illustrated account of determination, courage, family loyalty, and the luck of coincidence is a true publishing event.


Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan battles a new evil as a strange, frightening illness takes hold of Nevermoor in this captivating and heart-pounding third book of the instant New York Times bestselling series.
Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts, and control the power that threatens to consume her.

But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realizes it’s up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her — and everyone in Nevermoor — in more danger than she ever imagined.


Distress Signal by Mary E. Lambert

In this edge-of-your-seat survival story, four classmates are stranded in a desert wilderness after a flash flood separates them from the rest of their grade. Can they make it to safety?
Lavender’s class is on a field trip in the desert of Chiricahua National Monument, hiking down a ravine, when a flash flood strikesAs the water hurtles down the ravine, everyone sprints for safety. Lavender runs in the opposite direction as the rest of her class and scrambles up a tree while the torrential river rages by.
When the waters finally recede, Lavender finds herself stranded in the brutal heat of the desert with only her ex-best friend Marisol, mean-girl Rachelle, and a boy named John. They are shaken, disoriented, and have just one pack of supplies and the most basic wilderness knowledge. Can they find their way back to safety? They will have to learn to work together in spite of their differences — if they want to survive.

Muffled by Jennifer Gennari

A young girl learns how to cope with her noise sensitivity and step outside of her comfort zone in this heartwarming middle grade novel that’s perfect for fans of If This Were a Story and El Deafo.

Ten-year-old Amelia does not like noise. From subway brakes to squeaky sneakers, she is sensitive to sound, just like her dad. Amelia has always worn noise-canceling headphones, but now that she’s going into fifth grade, her parents want her to stop wearing them. To make matters worse, she must learn to play an instrument! Or, as Amelia sees it, make noise on purpose.

To help Amelia cope, her father gives her a pair of earmuffs to wear instead. Even with her new earmuffs, Amelia struggles at school…until she gets partnered with Madge in music class. Madge is loud and bold and goofy–everything Amelia is not. And so Amelia is surprised when Madge wants to be friends.

Still, it’s not long though before Amelia’s quiet nature clashes with Madge’s loud personality. And when Madge disappears after an argument, Amelia fears Madge might be in trouble. If she’s going to help her friend, she will have to find a way to let in the noisy world she’s muffled for so long.


The Silver Box: An Enchantment Lake Mystery by Margi Preus

In the final Enchantment Lake mystery, Francie’s search for the truth about her mother–and herself–plunges her into danger during a North Woods winter

When she wakes in her aunts’ cold cabin on the shore of Enchantment Lake, Francie remembers: everything about her life has changed. Or is about to. Or just might. Everything depends on the small, engraved silver box that she now possesses–if only she can follow its cryptic clues to the whereabouts of her missing mother and understand, finally, just maybe, the truth about who she really is.

Francie, it turns out, has a lot to learn, and this time the lessons could be deadly. Her search for answers takes her and her best friends Raven and Jay as far afield as an abandoned ranch in Arizona and as close to home as a sketchy plant collector’s conservatory and a musty old museum where shadows lurk around every display case. At the heart of it all is a crime that touches her own adopted North Woods: thieves dig up fragile lady’s slippers, peel bark from birches, strip moss off trees, cut down entire forests of saplings to sell for home d cor. But Francie is up against no ordinary plant theft. One ominous clue after another reveal that she possesses something so rare and so valuable that some people are willing to do anything to get it. When Francie’s investigation leads her into the treacherously cold and snowy North Woods, she finds out that she too is being pursued.


That’s a lot of great books to spend a cozy October day with. Let us know which October New Releases you are most excited about in the comments section. And, remember to click on the links for to shop at your favorite independent book store.

(If you’re looking for some scary reads to get you in a Halloween mood, check out Jonathan Rosen’s Creepy, Funny, Scary booklist.)