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Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

(MMGM) Maiya Williams, author of Middle-School Cool {Review, Interview, Giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have Maiya Williams stopping by the March MG Madness to chat about her new book! Plus, you can read my review and enter to win a copy...

Middle-School Cool
by Maiya Williams
Random House

Kaboom Academy, a new and alternative school for middle-grade kids, is chock-full of innovative methods of instruction and discipline that are soon to be tested on the middle-school students of Horsemouth, New Hampshire. Now, meet the class of Journalism 1A. These group of nine misfits are the staff of The Daily Dynamite, Kaboom Academy's quarterly newspaper. As their school year kicks off with a boom, literally, the students of Journalism 1A are about to discover what really goes on at Kaboom Academy and who's really in charge of this groundbreaking school for boys and girls who've fallen out of love with learning.

Maiya William’s Middle-School Cool was such a blast and joy to read! Full of wacky fun, sparkling imagination, and relatable characters, this quirky story easily charmed me from beginning to end.

Kaboom Academy is a new, alternative middle-school in Horsemouth, New Hampshire founded and run by the eccentric Dr. Kaboom. Unlike traditional schools, this school employs some innovative and just plain weird teaching methods, hoping to make kids fall in love with learning once again. The misfits in Journalism 1A are determined to put together a great first issue of The Daily Dynamite, their quarterly newspaper, and uncover the story of a lifetime!

Middle-School Cool is full of the unexpected, outlandish fun, and endearing heart. Maiya Williams has woven a wonderful ode to the misfits, outcasts, misunderstoods, picked lasts, and underappreciated, with a relevant message about friendship, the importance of learning, and never judging a book by its cover (or past!). Kaboom Academy, with its unconventional, creative teaching methods (hypno-detention, book pills, dodgeballs that throw themselves!),  nutty teachers (a witchy cafeteria lady, a bus driver/PE instructor, a truly crazy journalism teacher!), and endless surprises (cannonball bells, a multiplication table that literally multiplies objects, and a mysterious headmaster!), makes for a super exciting setting that is part carnival fun house, part Hogwarts, and completely enchanting. The imagination, humor, and amusing antics of Kaboom Academy are plentiful and cool! And readers will get a thrill out of uncovering the truth behind this wack-a-doodle academy and its headmaster with the kids in Journalism 1A.

The students in Journalism 1A make up an eclectic, quirky, intriguing bunch. This group of oddball misfits are a lot of fun to get to know and, by the end of the book, they all felt like kindred spirits. Williams allows each character to shine in their own way and gives every reader a character to relate to. I love how the unusual things that make each character a misfit to the rest of the world, are also what make them so special and unique. Williams creates such a meaningful and important message about not judging others and staying true to yourself. And it’s so awesome how Williams makes learning and school exciting and rewarding!

My Final Thoughts: Middle-School Cool is is definitely a cool read! This funny, imaginative story, with its charming, relatable characters and whimsical setting, will entertain and captivate, and instill a new love of learning in young readers.


 What three words best describe Middle-School Cool?
 Hilarious, Entertaining, Satisfying

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Middle-School Cool a try?

Follow the crazy adventures of a school newspaper staff as they investigate the weird events occurring at the strangest Middle School ever!

Grab a copy of  Middle-School Cool and answer the following:
favorite chapter?

This is such a hard question, but I guess my favorite chapter is Chapter 5, “Ruben’s Story.”  Its about the sports program at this bizarre middle school, Kaboom Academy, where dodge ball is played a little differently than most people are used to.  The main difference is that the balls have a mind of their own.  I don’t want to spoil it, but the reason I like this chapter is because it is where the kids start rooting for each other.  Also it’s pretty silly, and makes me laugh out loud.

favorite page?

This is an even harder question!  Let’s say out of the many amazing pages, page 123 is pretty awesome.  Again, I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s when Edie Evermint confronts a secretary who has been giving her the run around.  She gets a key piece of information that eventually blows open the mystery surrounding Kaboom Academy.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser?

Edie Evermint was supposed to be coming up with a story that she would write for the school newspaper, the Daily Dynamite, but instead she’s been gathering juicy information about her fellow staff writers.  What has she found that’s grabbed her interest so completely?

What inspired Middle-School Cool? How did the story come to be?

I’m an information geek; I always like to know what’s going on.  I start my day reading the newspaper, I read my children’ school newspaper and I read a variety of news magazines.  I’m also a fan of mysteries, and investigative journalists are like detectives, gathering information to make sense of a situation.  When my own children started a newspaper at their school and I saw how all the different personalities had to work together to get this endeavor off the ground, I was inspired by their experiences and it all came together.

There are some memorable characters in Middle-School Cool, do you have a favorite? What do you love about him/her? Did any of your characters end up surprising even you with the way they turned out?

Again, it’s hard to choose, but I think my favorite may be Edie Evermint.  She is not always the nicest person but she has big goals, she’s fearless, she knows who she is and likes herself, and she’s very smart.  I was a little surprised by Margo, who starts out as being a bit dopey and anxious but ultimately makes friends with the person she most fears.  I hadn’t planned that, but once I saw a way to make it happen it redeemed both girls and was a very satisfying direction for their relationship.

If you could switch lives with any fictional character, for just one day, who would you choose and what would you do as them?

If I could be any fictional character I suppose I would like to be Willy Wonka, running that amazing chocolate factory before he gives it up to Charlie Bucket.  He’s an adventurous, fun and creative man, and I’d love to explore his magical, delicious, world and jam with the Oompa Loompas.

As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade?

Middle-grade is my favorite age group because the readers are not too jaded, they are still filled with optimism and hope, and they still believe there is a little magic in the world (there is).  Also, I was most influenced by the books I read before high school.  Those wonderful stories molded the person who I eventually became.   That’s an awesome power that middle-grade writers have over their readership, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

What is your all time favorite middle-grade book, middle-grade hero, and middle-grade heroine?
 My favorite middle-grade book is “Holes” by Louis Sachar because it’s fun, extraordinarily clever, and has wonderfully interesting characters.  My favorite middle-grade hero is Huckleberry Finn in “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, for his morality, honesty and resourcefulness.  My favorite middle-grade heroine is Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, for her curiosity, fearlessness, intellect and refusal to put up with nonsense.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at _cooking__.
I’m really embarrassed to admit that _I’m horrible at remembering names.
The last great book I read was _The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Middle-School Cool, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

Banana cake, with coconut frosting because the place is bananas and nuts, but inside there would be a surprise; a chocolate, a cherry, a pineapple chunk…you won’t know what is inside until you dig in and investigate.  I’d call it the Dig Deep Delight!

Thanks so much, Maiya, for stopping by today!

MAIYA WILLIAMS was editor and vice president of the Harvard Lampoon and a writer/producer for TV shows including Rugrats, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Mad TV.  She is the author of a time travel trilogy that includes the critically acclaimed books The Golden Hour, Hour of the Cobra, and Hour of the Outlaw. She lives with her husband, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs, and a variety of fish in Pacific Palisades, California.

Win 1 of 3 copies of Middle-School Cool!
The awesome peeps at Random House have offered up three copies for three winners.
-US/CAN only
-three winners will each win one book
-will end 3/31
-must be 13+
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is NOT responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Unknown said...

This book sounds like a fun read and I bet my granddaughter would love to read it she thinks she is a spy and is always trying to solve something and I bet she would enjoy reading your book Middle-School Cool, by Maiya Williams. Thank you for sharing your love of books with others.

Jill the OWL said...

Yes Willy Wonka!!!!! I agree.

Sounds like a great middle grade book my students would love.

Michael G-G said...

Any school called "Kaboom Academy" is my kind of school!

Anonymous said...

This one is high on my reading list, too!

Unknown said...

(This is Darith L)

This sounds really fun! I'd love to read it.

Jillyn said...

I totally agree with you Maiya, Alice is my favorite heroine too. Wonderland and its tales are so fascinating.

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

This seems really fun! It sort of reminds me of the Wayside School books, which I haven't thought of in years

Stitchin in the Sip said...

Your Dip Deep cupcake sounds perfect for Kaboom Academy!

Orchid said...

Sounds like a fun read, which one could always use.

anne s. said...

i think my son and daughter would go nuts for this book!i want to read it, too!