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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The 5th March MG Madness Comes To A Close

Wow! I can't believe another March MG Madness has come to a close!

It has been an AWESOME month full of superb books and authors! I want to send a huge THANK YOU out to every author and pub who participated, wrote posts, and provided giveaways!!! Y'all made this year's event SPECTACULAR!

And to all you wonderful readers who stopped by each day and left comments, big hugs to y'all!

Most of the giveaways will stay open until April 3rd, with a few run by the pubs staying open longer, so keep entering! Give me a few days after the giveaways end to check entries and contact winners.

If you missed any of  the posts or giveaways, you can find them all HERE

I can't wait to do this again next year!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

(5th MMGM) Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens (review, top ten, giveaway)

Summer of Lost and Found
by Rebecca Behrens
May 24, 2016
A sweeping middle grade novel about a city girl forced to spend her summer in North Carolina, where she becomes involved in a centuries-old mystery, turning her once boring vacation into an adventure she never could have imagined.

Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went—or why.

While Nell misses the city—and her dad—a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose—an equally curious historical reenactor—they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone—or something—is keeping watch over their quest for answers.

It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.

Early Praise for Summer of Lost and Found

“I was edge-of-my-seat interested while reading Summer of Lost and Found. Rebecca Behrens has the ability to make the past irresistible and weave it into a present-day story that will satisfy fans of both mystery and adventure.” —Caroline Starr Rose, author of  Blue Birds
“A sweet, sparkling setting, a historical riddle, and a quirky cast make this little gem of a mystery a pure pleasure to read.” —Jodi Lynn Anderson, author of  My Diary at the Edge of the World
“The mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke becomes an engaging backdrop for a preteen experiencing her own losses. . . . This blend of history with mystery and fantasy with realism is a good find indeed.”Kirkus
“Behrens’s deft writing gives the book substance. . . . This intriguing mix of historical and realistic fiction with a dash of the paranormal makes this well-written novel appealing to a wide range of middle grade readers.”—School Library Journal

New Yorker, Nell Dare, is ready for a summer in the city with her BFF, but her parents squash that summer dream. Her dad has left suddenly and without explanation and her mom decides Nell will join her on her botany trip in NC. Once on Roanoke Island, Nell becomes enthralled with the mystery and history surrounding the Lost Colony of Roanoke. When she meets a young historical reenactor, Ambrose, the two set out to discover just what happened to the Lost Colony...but is someone or something out to stop them?!

Rebecca Behrens’ Summer of Lost and Found is a heartfelt and captivating tale, full of thrilling mystery, exciting discoveries, and clever humor. With a charming and fresh-as-summer voice, Summer of Lost and Found is enjoyable from start to finish. Behrens does a superb job of describing and laying out both the physical and historical aspects of Roanoke Island for readers. And the mysteries, twists, turns, and revelations are plentiful! Like Nell, young readers will be absolutely fascinated by the mystery surrounding the Lost Colony, and will have a blast searching for clues and learning all about the wondrous history of the island.

Smart, capable, and witty Nell is a delight! I love her curiosity and courage. Ambrose, with his reenactor clothing and speech, is such an endearing, quirky fellow. I really enjoyed their banter and interaction.

Behrens takes the sweet pair, and readers, on an unforgettable adventure and search for the truth, with many unexpected discoveries and revelations, that’s bursting with heart and tenderness.

My final thoughts: With its engaging characters, irresistible mystery, and oceans full of charm, Summer of Lost and Found is the perfect summer read!

Top MG Books about Real People and Real Places
by Rebecca Behrens

It’s no secret that I love middle-grade historical fiction—seeing a different time or place in the world through a young protagonist’s eyes might be my favorite way to learn about history. Good thing there are so many excellent MG books about real people, places, and periods to read! Here are ten top recommendations:

Catherine Called Birdy: This was one of my favorite books as a young reader. I loved the spirited and smart heroine, Catherine, and through her diary, 1290s England became a real place to me.

Blue Birds: This verse novel by Caroline Starr Rose is beautiful and rich. It tells the poignant story of an unlikely friendship between a Roanoke girl, Kimi, and an English girl, Alis, on 1587 Roanoke Island.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond: I think I read this dozens of times as a kid! I loved the blend of history, suspense, and romance. The story of Kit’s journey from Barbados to 1687 Connecticut, and her struggle to find her place in her new Puritan community. It’s probably time for me to reread this one.

Makoons: The fifth book in The Birchbark House series tells about an Ojibwe family’s move to the Great Plains. I just read—and loved—an advance copy. To start at the beginning, pick up The Birchbark House, which tells about the daily life and challenges of an Ojibwe family in 1847 on Madeline Island in Lake Superior.

Al Capone Does My Shirts: Full disclosure—this one is still on my TBR pile. But I am dying to read about the kids who lived among convicts on Alcatraz in the 1930s. What a fascinating setting!

Number the Stars: This is a classic, award-winning story about friendship and bravery in 1937 Denmark. Another favorite from my own days as a middle-grader, and I still find it as powerful today.

Journey to Topaz: After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Yuki and her family are forced from their Berkeley, California, home to Topaz, an internment camp in the desert. Reading Yoshiko Uchida’s book as a kid was the first I learned about the discrimination and internment that Japanese Americans suffered during World War II. This is a great story, and a powerful introduction to that terrible part of US history.

Cold War on Maplewood Street: The Cold War was a real—and scary—place in American history. Gayle Rosengren does an excellent job of portraying what it was like to be a Chicago kid during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

One Crazy Summer: This humorous MG novel tells about the crazy summer Delphine and her sisters have when they travel from New York to Oakland, CA, to reunite with their activist mother. It’s a fantastic story with memorable characters—and it’s full of ’60s history.

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere: Another title from my TBR, and I can’t wait to read this story about how one family survives Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans.

Bonus item: The I Survived series has books on all kinds of famous and fascinating events, from Pompeii to the Great Chicago Fire to the Hindenburg disaster. If you like your historical fiction to be in the form of a thriller, these are the titles for you.
(If MG nonfiction is your thing: check out the Who Was? series.)

Rebecca Behrens grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives with her husband in New York City, where she works as a textbook editor. Rebecca loves writing and reading about girls full of moxie and places full of history. She is the author of the middle-grade novel When Audrey Met Alice, which BookPage called “a terrific work of blended realistic and historical fiction.” Visit her online at

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(5th MMGM) Summerlost by Ally Condie (spotlight and giveaway)

by Ally Condie
March 29, 2016
It's the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar. 

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

Praise for Summerlost

A Spring 2016 Kids' Indie Next List Top 10 Pick!

Named one of Publishers Weekly’s Most Anticipated Children’s and YA Books of Spring 2016

“Condie (Matched) strikes a deep emotional chord with this coming-of-age story.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Multiple, seemingly random details, including a family of turkey vultures that now roost outside Cedar’s window, an absurd soap opera narrative of a woman buried alive, and Leo’s quest for a trip with his father, coalesce into metaphors that help Cedar make sense of her grief and the life she now has to look forward to. Thoughtful, poetic chapter endings guide readers new to psychological depth toward meaningful connections between plot events and thematic reflections.” – BCCB

“A moving tale of friendship and loss. I loved these characters—I wish we could have been friends when I was a kid.” –Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fablehaven and Five Kingdoms series

“Ally Condie’s first middle grade book might also be my favorite out of ALL her books to date. Summerlost is a story packed with nostalgia, heart, and gorgeous prose.” – The Novel Novice

“A nuanced portrait of grief deeply grounded in the middle-school mind-set.” – Booklist

“Honest, lovely, and sad.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A sweet, heartfelt story.” – School Library Journal

“Achingly good.” – Summer Laurie, Books Inc.

Letter from Ally Condie

Dear Readers,

I think most of us have had our hearts broken. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it comes down with the unexpected force of a sudden gale of wind or a rising of waters that we thought were still and safe. Loss is universal to human experience, but the way we each feel and recover is one of the most personal things we do.

In Summerlost, Cedar is dealing with the loss of her father and younger brother. And my intent was to show how hard their deaths are for her. But this is also a book about the healing power of friendship. Most of us have been broken-hearted; I hope that most of us have also discovered the miracle of friendships that were just what we needed. Cedar and Leo’s friendship is based on someone I met when I was twelve. Like Leo, my friend was fun and liked to enlist me in crazy adventures (although we never gave a secret guided tour of our town the way they do in Summerlost). And, like Leo, he thought I was wonderful and of worth at a time when I needed it most.

SUMMERLOST is my attempt to pay tribute both to the pain we feel and the friendships that save us. Thank you so much for supporting this book, and for your willingness to give Cedar’s story a try. I hope it makes you think of a wonderful friend of your own, whether that is someone you met in the pages of a favorite book or outside, in the world where it is often hard and beautiful to live.

Best wishes and happy reading always,
Ally Condie

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

(5th MMGM) The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin (review, guest post, giveaway)

The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin
By Elinor Teele
April 12, 2016
Walden Pond Press
A quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about a young boy who runs away from home with his sister to escape working in the family coffin business—and discovers even more adventure than he bargained for.

John Coggin is no ordinary boy. He is devising an invention that nobody has ever seen before, something that just might change the world, or at least make life a little bit better for him and his litter sister, Page. But that’s only when he can sneak a break from his loathsome job: building coffins for the family business under the beady gaze of his cruel great-aunt Beauregard. Having lost their parents when Page was a baby, how else are they supposed to survive?

Perhaps by taking an enormous risk—a risk that arrives in the form of a red-haired scamp named Boz. When Great-Aunt Beauregard informs John that she’s going to make him a permanent partner in Coggin Family Coffins—and train Page to be an undertaker—John and Page sign on with Boz and hit the road. Before long, they’ve fallen in with a host of colorful characters, all of whom, like John and Page, are in search of a place they can call home. But home, they realize, isn’t something you find so much as something you fight for, and John soon realizes that he and Page are in for the fight of their lives.

Elinor Teele’s picaresque debut is a rollicking tale filled with wild adventures, daring escapes, and—thanks to Boz—more than a little catastrophe.

Praise for The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin

A charming fantasy/adventure to add to larger middle grade collections.” School Library Journal

☆ “A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. ” Kirkus Starred Review.

Parent-less and penniless, 11 year-old John Coggin and his six year old sister, Page, must live with their mean Great-Aunt. John is forced to work in the family coffin making business and, while he’s very good at making coffins, he rather be inventing wondrous things. When their Great-Aunt announces that she is making John a partner in the company and will be training Page as an undertaker, the two young Coggins know they must runaway.  With the help of a peculiar man named Boz, John and Page find themselves on a grand adventure full of unexpected people and discoveries.

Elinor Teele’s The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin is an utter delight! This book is so many things- heartfelt, whimsical, quirky, fun, wildly entertaining- and I found myself completely enchanted by its fresh, funny voice and magical storytelling. Teele is a wonderful word weaver and creates a story so full of humor, heart, imagination, and adventure. Young readers will find themselves chuckling at Boz’s oddly charming manners, yearning to join John and Page in their escapades, and swept away by Teele’s superb brand of whimsy.

John and Page find themselves working in a circus, living with the sweetest of bakers, and assisting an oddball archaeologist, during their travels, and each new experience brings a new round of fun adventure, thoughtful lessons, and, of course, colorful new friends and allies. The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin is just bursting with so many eclectic, eccentric, engaging characters for readers to love and laugh with!

my final thoughts: From its spectacular storytelling, unforgettable characters, and sparkly imagination, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin has everything readers could want (and so much more) in a middle-grade book!

The Germ of an Idea
by Elinor Teele

In the lead-up to the publication of The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin, I’ve been asking my expert panel – kids of my acquaintance – what they’d like to know about an author’s life.

“Can you really wear the same clothes to work everyday?” (Black socks never get dirty.)

“Are you going to have a theme park?” (Probably not.)

The real puzzler came during a visit to my nieces and nephews:

“Where do you get your ideas?”
It’s a well-known question, but it knocked me on my heels. I hadn’t thought about it before. I went home, I shoveled snow, I cleaned the loo, I clipped my toenails, but I was flummoxed. Where did I get my ideas?

After a fair amount of cogitating, I’ve decided that the order of the words is wrong. You don’t get ideas. Ideas get you.

They glom onto you in childhood. They cling to you after conversations. They lurk in dark corners, ignored and forgotten, and invade your brain when you least expect it.

  • The idea for a coffin workshop? My next-door neighbor was part of an undertaking family. Woodworking noises could be heard in his house late at night.

  • The deluge of steam engines and automobiles and things that go BOOM? As a kid, I was a huge fan of Jack Lemmon in The Great Race. (Alas, my Leslie is considerably less debonair that Tony Curtis.)

  • The bakeries of Littlemere? To a girl carrying a 40-pound pack on a raw winter’s day in York, the combined smell of bread, muffins, and pastries was a thing of sheer poetry.

I didn’t write these ideas down before I started my story. I simply began at the beginning and ended at the end. I only realized where they came from after the fact, when editors started asking me about “inspiration.”

This a diverting exercise, to be sure. Only what should I say to the kid who is longing to be an author and just wants some practical advice?

After further cogitating, here’s my answer:

Stay open to infection. It’s a dangerous world out there, and our first instinct is to trap ourselves in bubbles.

But stories grow from unexpected encounters, from listening at doors, from frightening and puzzling and joyful experiences. Live a full life, read as much as you can, and pay attention to other people’s tales.

And don’t worry – the ideas will get you.


1/2 Brit and 1/2 Yankee, Elinor Teele currently resides in New England. She lived with her family in New Zealand for eight years and still considers it a beloved homeland.
In 2000, Elinor took a slow plane to England for doctoral work in Anglo-Saxon literature at the University of Cambridge. She wrote her thesis on the Old English Riddles, a compilation of bawdy and lyrical poems in the language of Beowulf. She graduated with a PhD in 2005.
To earn her daily bread, she is a freelance copywriter with her own business, Squam Creative Services. Website * Facebook

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