Posts Tagged Valerie Tripp

Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad #3: The Law of Cavities Blog Tour + Giveaway

Welcome to the Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad #3: The Law of Cavities Blog Tour!

Follow along as we celebrate the release of The Law of Cavities (October 11th) with behind-the-scenes looks from author Valerie Tripp, plus 5 chances to win all 3 books in the Izzy Newton series!

Girls Care Deeply: 
Tapping into girls’ profound desire to protect the environment and animals
by Valerie Tripp

Once again, my trusty Lunch Bunch girls were the source of my story’s heart and soul. With a combination of hilarity, dismay, and happiness the girls talked about Outdoor Education Weekend memories like crushes, gelatin for dessert, creepy-crawlies, ancient showers, and ghost stories. And through it all, beneath the jokes, their deep concern for the outdoors, for protecting the environment and animals came through loud and clear. When I listened to this extraordinary group of middle school girls, I learned that they take science seriously – and they also take science to heart. They taught me:

  • Science is not cold or arcane. It is a practical, human – sometimes even humorous — part of everyday life that when applied, makes life better.
  • It’s okay – in fact, it’s great! — to be smart, caring girl who is interested in science, especially the environment.
  • It’s okay – in fact, it’s great! – to be your quirky, unique, honest self.
  • It is okay — in fact, it’s essential — to make mistakes, learn from them, and laugh at them.
  • The best solutions happen when we listen to different points of view and combine talents.
  • Sometimes an idea that seems laugh-out-loud silly is brilliant.
  • The steps in the scientific method (identify the problem, gather relevant data, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis) can be used to solve scientific research problems AND behavior/learning/emotional/interpersonal problems.

How could I celebrate and honor my Lunch Bunch girls’ interest in the environment? Well, my Lunch Bunch girls were rapturous about raptors, especially owls, because “they are so cute.” They wanted the Squad to find that the island was newly inhabited by a kind of owl that is on the endangered animal list. I was thrilled: I love owls, and right here in Montgomery County we have owls we haven’t had before. They’re here because of climate change. And there are certainly owls on the endangered list.

That core idea connected to something in my brain. In 2001, my friend, the poet Mary Clare Powell, sent me her poem “Things Owls Ate”. It begins:

The sixth graders are dissecting them,
regurgitated refuse, indigestible parts
of things owls ate, found where owls roost,
near the white splash markings on barn boards.
The kids say the idea is gross but once they cut
open the hard shells it is soft gray feathers
and hair they first find. At the center of
that bed the bones appear, scapula and tiny skull.
The children are excited to match bone to
bone, using a printed guide, laying out the
frames of tiny eaten things. They learn anatomy.

That quiet poem stayed tucked in my brain for 20 years, waiting to connect to the spark the Lunch Bunch girls gave me for Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad: The Law of Cavities, a story about owls, and how there are surprises hidden in people and places, just as there are in owl pellets. Mary Clare illustrated for me the metaphorical link between fact and fiction, nature and human nature. My lovely and generous friend Kay Taub gave me an owl pellet of my own to dissect, much to my delight, and a printed guide to learn from. Clearly, generosity is abundant in people who love owls. Bárbara Freitas and Emma Gesiriech, both raptor experts, graciously answered my owl questions with expertise and enthusiasm and came up with even better ideas to bring authenticity to the story. My daughter Katherine, another owl fan, helped me tremendously by recollecting with great good humor and specificity her memories of dealing with dental braces and her 6th grade outdoor education experience. We laughed and laughed and all the while, Katherine was providing me with valuable pages of notes. Katherine’s professional research and writing about the benefits of outdoor education for middle school students was an inspiration—as Katherine herself always is!

My friends Betsy Randall-David and Sara Jarvis sent thoughtful, thorough lists and, during our video call, generated a treasure trove of outdoor, environmentally connected games and activities for Camp Rosalie Edge, all tried and true from Camp Lala-Gigi, which they created for their lucky grandchildren. Essential to my story were Betsy and Sara’s observations and insights about children’s interactions and behaviors while camping. Mary-Grace Reeves, my pen pal since she was a little girl, has just graduated from Stanford Medical School. It was exhilarating how Mary-Grace immediately understood the idea of science-effecting-girls’-friendships and came up with the funny, smart, perfect idea of hair turning green from oxidization, which I loved. Becky Baines thought up the great title: Izzy Newton and S.M.A.R.T. Squad: The Law of Cavities. Thank you, Becky! Shelby Lees and Erica Green are my partners in joy in creating the S.M.A.R.T. Squad stories. I can never thank them enough for asking the question that brought all the elements of this story together: What if Izzy has braces? 

So, I merely combined the deep concern for the environment expressed by my Lunch Bunch girls with the generosity and kindness of owl lovers and the trials of braces and Ta Da! Izzy Newton and S.M.A.R.T. Squad: The Law of Cavities came to be.

A message to readers from author Valerie Tripp:
I hope my readers will come away with this message: You are a scientist. You observe, test, evaluate, and draw conclusions constantly. STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—is not restricted to labs or science fair booths or classrooms. You’re doing STEM stuff everywhere, all the time, when you cook, run, feed you pet, quench your thirst, dive into a wave, wash your hands, learn to do a cartwheel, spend time on your laptop, look up at the stars, cut an apple into parts and divvy up the shares. Know this, embrace this, celebrate this—and take responsibility for both exploring AND protecting this extraordinary, exciting, surprising universe. Get out there! Be active, curious, and focused. Take yourself seriously. Your actions matter because they will shape the world we all live in.  Be mindful, pay attention, learn, and live fully with courage and zest.  And don’t be afraid to fail. Chaos, mess, and failure are essential parts of all creative endeavors like science. Don’t worry. Things heal. Mistakes are forgiven. You have plenty of time to tidy up.

About the Book


Meet the characters, watch the book trailer and check out the Educator and Reader’s Guides on the series website here!

The S.M.A.R.T. Squad is back to tackle more middle school mayhem with science, technology, engineering, math, and friendship!

In this third book in the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series, best friends Izzy Newton, Allie Einstein, Marie Curie, Charlie Darwin, and Gina Carver set out on a mystery-filled Outdoor Adventure Camp experience.

Now that Izzy’s finally found her voice in public speaking class and become an ice hockey star, she’s determined to conquer her “dizzy-Izzy-ness” in new situations―including caring for her brand-new braces on an outdoor education overnight and her friends’ good-natured teasing about her friend Trevor. But the forecast for fun turns cloudy when the girls discover their cabin chaperone is none other than Izzy’s tough public-speaking teacher, Ms. Martinez, and their junior counselor is eighth grade mean girl, Maddie Sharpe.

When an innocent exchange of harmless pranks with Maddie takes a turn for the worse, the Squad turns to science to prove their innocence. That’s nothing, though, compared with the terrifying swamp monster haunting their campsite, a catastrophe befalling Ms. Martinez, and a mysterious disaster threatening the future of camp itself.

With their very survival on the line, will science be enough to save the day?


“Wholesome entertainment for preteens, offering positivity without didacticism.”

“It’s one thing to have children’s books about scientists or podcasts or stories about strong women in STEM, but it’s another world entirely when your children get to feel represented by the characters they’re reading about. The characters in the Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series are diverse, smart, and sure of themselves the way all middle school girls are—through their dreams and newly acquired skills they’re still getting used to.”

About the Author

VALERIE TRIPP is the co-creator of the American Girl book series that includes titles featuring Felicity, Josefina, Kit, Maryellen, Molly, and Samantha. Tripp also wrote American Girl’s Wellie Wishers titles, Hopscotch Hill School titles, numerous leveled readers, songs, stories, skills book pages, and plays for educational publishers. Tripp is writer and editorial director of the Boys Camp series, and a writer, editor, and art editor for Sterling Publishing Company. Tripp received a B.A. and honors as a member of the first co-educated class at Yale University and a master’s of education degree from Harvard University.


  • Five (5) winners will receive the complete 3-book Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series: Absolute Hero, Newton’s Flaw, and The Law of Cavities
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11/13 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Blog Tour Schedule:

October 31st BookHounds
November 1st Teen Librarian Toolbox
November 2nd Pragmatic Mom
November 3rd A Dream Within a Dream
November 4th From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors

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?