Posts Tagged Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin Interview + Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to interview Melanie Conklin about her new novel Every Missing Piece. It was great hearing about her writing process as well as the fabulous Everywhere Book Fest, which she helped create. Read the interview below and then write us in the comments section for a chance to win a copy of the book (U.S. residents only). I’ll pick a winner Saturday night at 11:59 PM and announce on Sunday. Enjoy the interview and good luck!

First, here’s a bit about Melanie and her book.

Maddy Gaines sees danger everywhere she looks: at the bus stop, around the roller rink, in the woods, and (especially) by the ocean. When Maddy meets a mysterious boy setting booby traps in the North Carolina woods, she suspects the worst.

Maddy is certain she’s found Billy Holcomb–the boy who went missing in the fall. Except, maybe it’s not him. It’s been six months since he disappeared. And who will believe her anyway? Definitely not her mom or her stepdad . . . or the chief of police.

As Maddy tries to uncover the truth about Billy Holcomb, ghosts from her own past surface, her best friend starts to slip away, and Maddy’s world tilts once again. Can she put the pieces of her life back together, even if some of them are lost forever?

 

 

Melanie Conklin grew up in North Carolina and worked as a product designer for ten years before she began her writing career. Her debut middle grade novel, Counting Thyme, is a Bank Street Best Children’s Book, winner of the International Literacy Association Teacher’s Choice Award, and nominated to four state reading lists. Her second novel for young readers, Every Missing Piece, was published this week with Little, Brown. When she’s not writing, Melanie spends her time doodling and dreaming up new ways to be creative. She lives in New Jersey with her family. Connect with her on twitter @MLConklin.

 

What was the inspiration for Every Missing Piece?

The funny thing is that when I begin to write a story, I often don’t know why I’m writing it, and I usually haven’t discovered what my inspiration actually is. When I started writing Every Missing Piece, I had this question in my mind as to what would happen if you found a missing child. Especially if you were also a child. As the plot of the story came together, I found that I was writing about a family facing a very difficult time. Somehow, that is always the story I tell, just in different forms.

You’ve been praised for your “fine Southern storytelling” in reviews. Can you tell us a little about how your own upbringing in North Carolina played a part in your writing of this novel?

My first book, Counting Thyme, had a lot to do with how I felt about living in New York City for the first time. In Every Missing Piece, I wanted to tell the story of what it felt like to grow up in North Carolina. My parents were from up North, so we didn’t always fit in with the expectations of a small Southern town. It was difficult for me to deal with being an outsider as a kid, but over time I also experienced the affection and loyalty of a close-knit community. I hope those good reviews mean that I managed to communicate these qualities in a genuine and honest way, because I have a lot of love for North Carolina.

I know many readers and writers are fascinated by the process of writing and publishing a novel. Can you tell us a little bit about your title and the first line of the novel? Did you have both before you started? Did they evolve? If so, what were some of the titles and first lines that you didn’t use?

The title of Every Missing Piece used to be “All the Missing Pieces.” I tweaked the title during revisions with my editor, Tracey Keevan. That’s not a very big change, but it felt big to me! I usually figure out my titles very early in the writing process and they stay the same the whole way through. I like thematic titles that give the reader multiple meanings as they read. Originally, Every Missing Piece had a completely different opening chapter, but we cut it during revisions because it wasn’t needed. Sometimes less is more.

I love the idea of thematic titles. Do you find that there are themes in common with both of your novels that are important to you?

Themes are interesting. I remember learning about themes back in grade school and wondering how authors managed to wind thematic ideas throughout their stories. Now I know that themes aren’t something you plan in advance. Themes just happen organically, and yes, I tend to revisit the same ones over and over. Some common themes you’ll see in both of my books: family, secrets, friendship, and food. There is always a strong thread of food as comfort and community in my stories. Probably also because I’m always hungry!

Ha! I love reading and writing about food as well. Why have you chosen to write for the age group of middle-grade readers?

I wasn’t very familiar with the term “middle grade” when I first started writing, but it didn’t take long to figure out that I like stories set in middle school. There’s a part of me that’s still that age, I think. It’s such a tough time in a kid’s life, when you are growing up whether you want to or not. I certainly never felt ready to grow up. I think I was the last girl in sixth grade to buy a bra! And that was only because my best friends basically forced me to. So it makes sense that I tend to revisit those times in my life, when I was learning how to be a friend, how to be a daughter, and how to be me. I love that middle grade stories always have a sense of wonder and adventure to them. We are in a golden age of middle grade literature for sure! Some recent recommendations from me: Love Like Sky by Leslie Youngblood, Just South of Home by Karen Strong, and Ultraball by Jeff Chen.

Thanks for those recommendations. What would you like readers to come away with after reading Every Missing Piece?

I hope that readers come away from Every Missing Piece with love in their hearts for flawed characters, because we all have flaws. I tend to write about grownups who have made bad choices. As a kid, it took me a while to learn that grownups can make mistakes, too. In this story, I explored the idea of what makes people good or bad quite a bit. Life is not always that simple. People are complicated, and they don’t fit neatly into boxes. Hopefully this story gives readers some food for thought, and they are excited to discuss it with their friends.

Can you give our readers who also write one of your best pieces of writing craft advice?

My favorite piece of writing advice is to be kind to yourself. As writers, we are encouraged to accept criticism of our work, and often that can lead to being super critical of ourselves all the time. When you are drafting, do your best to put your inner critic to bed. There will be time for analysis later. Drafting should be about exploration, so let your subconscious take you where you want to go and enjoy yourself!

Great advice! Would you like to tell us a little about the Everywhere Book Fest?

I was in the midst of cancelling my book tour when my friend Christina Soontornvat (A Wish in the Dark) asked me if I would like to help her and Ellen Oh (The Dragon Egg Princess) create a digital book festival in place of Covid closures. I wasn’t doing anything at the time, so I said yes! LOL. We had no idea that Everywhere Book Fest would grow to be such a signficant event in the publishing world, but I’m so happy that viewers found the sense of community and celebration that we were hoping for. If you missed the festival, all of our content is still available on our website and Youtube page!

Thanks, Melanie, for a great interview!

To get to the Everywhere Book Fest Youtube Page, click here.

To order a signed copy of Every Missing Piece, click here.

And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a copy of Every Missing Piece.

New School Blues

CountingThyme

Moving is always a challenge, especially when it involves a new school. Take it from this shy girl who went to three different kindergartens alone and moved more times than she cares to count. Whether it’s a new town or making the leap from elementary to middle school, here are some books to make life easier in the great unknown of a new home.

COUNTING THYME by Melanie Conklin (Putnam 2016) 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.

With equal parts heart and humor, Melanie Conklin’s debut is a courageous and charming story of love and family—and what it means to be counted.

HootHOOT by Carl Hiaasen (Yearling 2006) Unfortunately, Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t been sinking his thumbs into Roy’s temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and–here’s the odd part–wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.
Roy has most definitely arrived in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida.

TheTroubleWithRulesTHE TROUBLE WITH RULES by Leslie Bulion (Peachtree 2008) For Nadine Rostraver, fourth grade means peer pressure and new social rules she hadn t anticipated. For one thing, girls aren t supposed to hang out with boys anymore. So where does that leave Nadine and her best friend Nick?

Then Summer Crawford arrives at Upper Springville Elementary and Nadine s life goes from bad to worse! Nadine loses her job as the art editor on the class newspaper The Springville Spark and gets in some serious trouble with her teacher, Mr. Allen.

But Summer is a free spirit who marches to her own beat. Slowly Nadine realizes that life can be a lot more fun if you call your own tune. Together Nadine, Nick, and Summer decide breaking the rules is sometimes the best thing you can do. Especially when the rules don t allow you to be yourself.

Author Leslie Bulion s sensitive, realistic look at adolescence and her humorous slant on its unique struggles will resonate with young readers who will recognize themselves and their own dilemmas in her well-drawn characters and their responses to a complicated world.

MovingDayMOVING DAY by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Jennifer Emery (Boyds Mills Press 2006) The traumas and trials of moving away are poignantly expressed in new poems from a respected writer. Fletch’s new Diamondback mountain bike and his brother’s new hockey outfit are unexpected gifts from Dad. When Dad announces, “We’re going to move to Ohio,” Fletch’s heart drops to his stomach. Leaving means selling the house, abandoning his best friends,and living next to Lake Erie. . . . Hey, didn’t that lake catch on fire? Ralph Feltcher’s poems evoke what’s hard about moving away as well as what makes moving day, well, maybe, okay.

SchooledSCHOOLED by Gordon Korman (Hyperion 2008-from Booklist’s red review) Homeschooled on an isolated “alternate farm commune” that has dwindled since the 1960s to 2 members, 13-year-old Cap has always lived with his grandmother, Rain. When she is hospitalized, Cap is taken in by a social worker and sent—like a lamb to slaughter—to middle school. Smart and capable, innocent and inexperienced (he learned to drive on the farm, but he has never watched television), long-haired Cap soon becomes the butt of pranks. He reacts in unexpected ways and, in the end, elevates those around him to higher ground. From chapter to chapter, the first-person narrative shifts among certain characters: Cap, a social worker (who takes him into her home), her daughter (who resents his presence there), an A-list bully, a Z-list victim, a popular girl, the school principal, and a football player (who unintentionally decks Cap twice in one day). Korman capably manages the shifting points of view of characters who begin by scorning or resenting Cap and end up on his side. From the eye-catching jacket art to the scene in which Cap says good-bye to his 1,100 fellow students, individually and by name, this rewarding novel features an engaging main character and some memorable moments of comedy, tenderness, and reflection.

HowToSurviveMiddleSchoolHOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL by Donna Gephart (Yearling 2008) Eleven-year-old David Greenberg dreams of becoming a YouTube sensation and spends all of his time making hilarious Top 6½ Lists and Talk Time videos. But before he can get famous, he has to figure out a way to deal with:

6. Middle school (much scarier than it sounds!)
5. His best friend gone girl-crazy
4. A runaway mom who has no phone!
3. The threat of a swirlie on his birthday
2. A terrifying cousin
1. His # 1 fan, Bubbe (his Jewish grandmother)
1/2. Did we mention Hammy, the hamster who’s determined to break David’s heart?

But when David’s new best friend, Sophie, starts sending out the links to everyone she knows and her friends tell their friends, thousands of people start viewing his videos.

AnastasiaAgain!ANASTASIA AGAIN! by Lois Lowry (Yearling 1982) Anastasia has grown to love her new little brother, Sam. But she is in for a new shock as her parents announce that they will be moving to the suburbs. Anastasia is sure that all suburbanites live drab, meaningless lives, and tries to prevent the move by requesting a room with a tower before she will consent to the move. Her parents, however, find just such a house, and Anastasia must confront her misconceptions. Her adventures in the suburbs involve meeting her new neighbors, including a cute boy who mows lawns, and a “witch” who lives next door.

WeAreAllMadeOfMoleculesWE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES by Susin Nielsen (Ember 2016) Ashley’s and Stewart’s worlds collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. The Brady Bunch it isn’t. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it–he’s always wanted a sister. But Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They’re complete opposites, but they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

TheKidInTheRedJacketTHE KID IN THE RED JACKET by Barbara Park (Random House 1988) Can Howard SURVIVE life without friends? Howard Jeeter’s parents have ruined his life. They’ve moved him across the country, and all the kids in his new town act like he’s totally invisible. At least, all of them except for his six-year-old neighbor, Molly Vera Thompson. Howard could use a friend. But a little girl who talks nonstop? Not what he had in mind. Still, when you’re really lonely, you’ll be friends with anyone…right?

 

NewBoy

NEW BOY by Nick Earls (Puffin 2015) Adjusting to a new country and a new school was never going to be easy for Herschelle. The food is strange, it’s so different to South Africa and, worst of all, no one understands the Aussie slang he’s learnt on the web. But it’s the similarities that make things really hard. Herschelle will have to confront racism, bullying and his own past before Australia can feel like home…

 

 

EllieMcDoodle

ELLIE MCDOODLE NEW KID IN SCHOOL by Ruth McNally Barshaw (Bloomsbury 2009) When Ellie’s family moves to a new town, she’s sure she won’t fit in. Nobody else likes to read as much as she does, and even the teachers can’t get her name right. But when the students need someone to help them rally against unfair lunch lines, it’s Ellie to the rescue―and if shorter lines and better food prevail, can friendship be far behind?

 

 

WonderWONDER by R.J. Palacio (Knopf 2012) August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school―until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and writing that shines with spare emotional power.

What other books can you recommend to help kids ease into the daunting world of a new school?

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and IN TODD WE TRUST (Razorbill). 

Interview with Brooks Benjamin, Melanie Conklin, Shari Schwarz, and Laura Shovan + Giveaway

We have a treat today on the blog. Four middle grade authors are releasing their stunning debuts on April 12th. We’ve asked each of them a few fun questions (learn all about Bunnicula, a debut author slumber party, and the power of brightly colored socks). At the end of this post, you’ll find a link to a Rafflecopter giveaway where you can win all four books! Here are the books and authors:

Brooks Benjamin, My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights

Seventh Grade Life

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.

About Brooks: 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. His first novel, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS will be released by Delacorte/Random House (April 12, 2016).

Melanie Conklin, Counting Thyme

Counting Thyme

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.

About Mel: 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, who are thankfully booklovers, too. Melanie spent a decade as a product designer and approaches her writing with the same three-dimensional thinking and fastidious attention to detail. Counting Thyme is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons on April 12, 2016.

Shari Schwarz, Treasure at Lure Lake

Lure Lake

An epic adventure—that’s all Bryce wants this summer. So when he stumbles upon a treasure map connected to an old family secret, Bryce is determined to follow the clues to unearth both, even it means hiking in the wilderness in the middle of nowhere. Bryce must work with his bickering brother, Jack, or they may never see the light of day again!

About Shari: Shari Schwarz is a mom of four boys–three preteen/teenagers and one preschooler. (Yes, they are alike in many ways!) and the author of the upcoming, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, out April 12, 2016 by Cedar Fort.

Shari is a simple person (her husband would totally disagree!) and a homebody, but she does love long chats with friends over a latte, dreaming of going to the beach, and writing adventure stories for children. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, whether it be a manuscript for the literary agent she interns for or working on an editing project. In the quiet spaces of life, she might find time for her other loves: gardening, weight-lifting, hiking, and a bit of photography. Shari has had a lifelong faith in God and tries to leave it ALL in his hands.

Shari has degrees in Cross-Cultural Studies and Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy. She worked as an elementary school librarian before her little guy came on the scene. Now she stays home with him and writes.

Laura Shovan, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

last fifth grade cover

Laura Shovan’s engaging novel is a time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. The students grow up and move on in this big-hearted debut about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.

About Laura: Laura Shovan is former editor for Little Patuxent Review and editor of two poetry anthologies. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Laura works with children as a poet-in-the-schools. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, her novel-in-verse for children, will be published in 2016 (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House).

What is your favorite quote on reading or writing?

Brooks: I’d have to go with one from Ray Bradbury. “I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”

Shari: There are so many! Here’s one I love by Robert Frost, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Mel: This is not quite a writing quote, but it is my favorite.  “Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.” — Edwin Markham

Laura: Neil Gamain’s epigraph for the novel Coraline is “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” It’s a paraphrase of a longer quote from author G. K. Chesterton.

Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions?

Brooks: Yes! When I’m writing in the morning, I always have to have coffee in a particular mug. I also have to have something to listen to while I write. For the longest time this was music, but I’ve recently discovered Noisli and I’m falling in love with it.

Shari: None that I know of. I write wherever and whenever I can. As a busy mom of four active boys, I’m usually going in several directions at once, so I take any moment I get to write.

Mel: I like to wear brightly colored socks while I write. I also like to sit on my couch and bed and other soggy sitting spots that are terrible for my back!

Laura: When I’m struggling with my writing, I like to wear a giant plum-colored corduroy jacket that belonged to my grandmother.

What was your favorite middle grade book as a kid?

Brooks: As a kid it was probably Bunnicula. I loved Halloween (still do) and haunted houses and monsters (still do) so it’s no surprise that I fell in love (and still am) with a book that combined humor and horror.

Shari: I was sort of raised on the classics, so a couple of my favorites when I was young were The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

Mel: The Secret Garden.

Laura: So many! My fifth grade class was obsessed with the Narnia books. But I still remember when we read, and then watched a movie of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I wanted to be Claudia in the worst way.

Any middle grade book that you missed the first time around, but have come to love as an adult?

Brooks: Bridge to Terabithia. I never read it as a kid. But when I finally did, I couldn’t believe what I’d missed. It’s such an incredible book and I read it every single year.

Shari: Before I was a teenager, I don’t think I ever read Madeleine L’Engle’s work, namely A Wrinkle in Time, but when I discovered her writing as an adult, I loved several of her books.

Mel:  I did not read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros until I was in college, but it is one of my favorites now.

Laura: Elizabeth Enright’s Gone Away Lake. My children and I listened to the audio book in the car one summer. It’s funny, quirky, and filled with mystery and adventure. It’s a perfect summer read.

What inspired you to write your book?

Brooks: What inspired me to write my very first book was actually my eighth-grade reading teacher. The whole class had to come up with an idea which could be a single short story, a collection of poems, an essay, anything. So I wrote a fully illustrated 61-page story loosely based on my favorite video game at the time, Golden Axe 2. It went on to win an award and it convinced me that maybe there were some other stories that might be worthy to have a life on paper.

Shari: My preteen/teenage sons inspired me. Two of them are reluctant readers and I wanted to write something that would be fun, exciting and a fast read for them. They both read my book in record time when we received the first copies the other day! The look of wonder and contentment on my 14-year-old’s face when he finished Treasure at Lure Lake made the hard work and rejections along the way worth every second.

Mel: One day, after reading several modern contemporary stories about children facing tough circumstances, I asked myself what it would be like to be the sibling of such a child? That in combination with my connection to pediatric cancer through volunteer work with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer led me to the core story of Counting Thyme: a girl facing life in a new city as her brother faces cancer treatment.

Laura: In my work as a poet-in-the-schools, I love seeing how each classroom forms its own sense of community. That’s something I wanted to capture in my book — how a group of students with different personalities and backgrounds works together as a group. I was interested in exploring the things the students in a class know, and the things they don’t know about one another. It was a lot of fun to create those layers in my fictional fifth grade class.

As you’re on the eve of your debut, what has been the biggest surprise in the past year?

Brooks: I expected a few of my debut siblings to be supportive, but every single one of them has been the absolute best cheerleader for each of our books. Also, I figured the debut authors from 2015 might be cool with helping us new authors out a little, but they’ve been so willing to talk, to email, to allow us to vent, to point us in the right directions. Finally, I assumed I wouldn’t have a single second to write as I got closer to my release day, but I’ve still been able to dedicate an hour or two every single morning to it. There are as many downs as there are ups, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised every single day. And I owe a great deal of that to the people around me.

Shari: I totally agree with Brooks. The other debut authors have been essential to the process of getting our books out into the world. I am also constantly surprised by the kindness and support shown to me by family and friends and others I am only now meeting through my book.

Mel:  For me, the biggest surprise of the last year has been the wonderful friendships I’ve formed with other writers and readers. I love books because they bring us together.

Laura: I agree with Brooks, Shari, and Mel. One of the highlights of my past year was when three of my fellow debut authors spent the night at our house. I may have gotten a little teary eyed as we sat around the dinner table with my husband and daughter, talking about writing. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in middle school, but it was a surprise to me that sharing a meal at my house with other writers was my “I did it” moment.

I’m sure you, like me, are now dying to get your hands on these books. Want a chance to win them all? Click here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Katharine Manning’s towering To Be Read pile just got a little higher. You can see her middle grade book recommendations at Kid Book List. You can also find her at www.katharinemanning.com and on Twitter.