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Friday, March 31, 2017

The 6th Annual March MG Madness Comes To A Close

Wowza! I can't believe today is the last day of the 6th Annual March Middle-Grade Madness, but what an amazing and fun month, right??

I want to take this opportunity to thank each wonderful author, publisher, and publicist who participated this year, provided content; review copies; and giveaway prizes...y'all bake my cupcakes for sure!! And to all you fantabulous and sparkly readers who read each post, commented, and entered giveaways, I send you a huge hug and thank you!

If you missed any days of the event, you can catch up on all 31 days of fun posts and giveaways by visiting the full schedule (with links) HERE.

ALL giveaways will run until 12 am ET on April 5th (unless stated otherways) and there is no limit to how many giveaways you may enter enter enter!

I can't wait to do this all again next year! In the meantime, keep reading, promoting, and sharing all the wonderful middle-grade lit out there, cupcakes!

6th MMGM: The Princess and the Page Blog Tour (review, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 31 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring The Princess and the Page Blog Tour!

Welcome to a world where magic spills from the tip of a pen. THE PRINCESS AND THE PAGE is Christina Farley's first middle grade, releasing from Scholastic Press. Make sure you enter the $25 gift card giveaway at the end of this post!




CHRISTINA FARLEY is the author of the bestselling Gilded series. Prior to that, she worked as an international teacher and at a top secret job for Disney where she was known to scatter pixie dust before the sun rose. When not traveling the world or creating imaginary ones, she spends time with her family in Clermont, Florida with her husband and two sons where they are busy preparing for the next World Cup, baking cheesecakes, and raising a pet dragon that's in disguise as a cockatiel. You can visit her online at

Twelve year old Keira is a Word Weaver...but she doesn't know it. Word Weavers have the power to bring stories to life and when Keira uses her grandmother's magical pen to write a story for a fairy-tale writing contest (something her mother strictly forbids her to do), her not so happily ever after fairy-tale starts to come to life around her. Keira, her BFF Bella, and Keira's mom find themselves in a gorgeous French castle and in the middle of a dangerous fairy-tale adventure.

Christina Farley's The Princess and the Page is a fast-paced, enchanting middle-grade book full of exciting adventure meets fascinating history, a lush setting, likable characters, and sparkly swirly whirly magic...which is definitely the best kind of magic!

Told from Keira's plucky and witty POV, The Princess and the Page will easily draw young readers in and captivate them with its whimsical imagination. Readers will love the idea of Word Weavers and magical pens and appreciate the great power their words and stories hold. Like any great fairy-tale, The Princess and the Page has a princess (of course!) in distress, a wicked villain, a few brave heroines and a sort-of prince charming, fabulous clothes, and a grand setting. With its breathtaking architecture, secret passageways, and delicious secrets, the beautiful castle Keira and her friends find themselves in makes for the picture-perfect setting.

Readers will adore the three main young characters - brave Keira, interior design extraordinaire Bella, and up for anything Chet - and will have a blast exploring the castle with them, uncovering a few mysteries, and maybe even facing a few ghosts! Farley takes her three heroes and readers on a twisty-turny journey that ends, like any respectable fairy-tale should, with a grand and unforgettable ball!

Magic, mystery, and a bit of fun mayhem...this story has it all. Readers won't be able to resist The Princess and the Page's fantabulous cover and won't be able to put it down once they start reading it!


Mar. 23th - Ana Loves Books
Mar. 24th - YA Book Madness
March 25th - Literary Rambles
March 27th - Twinning for Books
March 28th - Mundie Kids
Mar. 29th - All Things Christine
Mar. 30th - YA Book Divas
Mar. 31st - Word Spelunking
Apr. 3rdMine of Books
Apr. 4th – The AP Book Club
Apr. 5th – Middle Grade Ninja

One (1) lucky winner will receive:
$25 gift card to their favorite book vendor. 
Giveaway open internationally. Enter below or HERE.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

6th MMGM: Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath by Jacob Sager Weinstein (guest post, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 30 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness featuring Jacob Sager Weinstein and his book, Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath!

Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath
by Jacob Sager Weinstein
May 23, 2017
Random House BFYR
Magic is real. History is a big, fat lie.

Before Hyacinth Hayward moves from Illinois to London, she reads up on the city's history. Too bad for her. Because the books are wrong. The truth is, London was built on magical rivers, and all the major events in its past have been about people trying to control the magic.

Hyacinth discovers this when her mom is kidnapped. In the chase to get her back, Hyacinth encounters a giant intelligent pig in a bathing suit, a boy with amnesia, an adorable tosher (whatever that is), a sarcastic old lady, and a very sketchy unicorn. Somehow Hyacinth has to figure out who to trust, so she can save her mom and, oh yeah, not cause a second Great Fire of London."

Top 8 Competitions
by Jacob Sager Weinstein

I didn’t think March Madness would be complete without a bracket. But I didn’t want this to be just any bracket: I wanted it to be the ultimate competition. And what could be more competitive than a competition among competitions? Nothing!

So I thought about my favorite fictional contests from the world of Middle Grade books. I came up with eight and matched them up against each other in a pulse-pounding tournament of tournaments. Here they are, in order of seeding:

8. “Win A Butler” From The Contest Kid & The Big Prize

What’s that, you say? You’ve never read Barbara Brooks Wallace’s The Contest Kid & The Big Prize?  Well, I haven’t read it lately myself, In fact, I lost my copy of it 35 years ago… but I still remember the story. It’s about a boy who finds a contest entry slip and sends it in without even knowing what the prize is. He ends up winning a butler! I don’t know how I’d feel about the book if I re-read it as a grownup—but I know it made a huge impression on me as a kid, as evidenced by the fact that I’m still thinking about it decades later. As the least known of the competitors, it’s going into the Tournament of Tournaments the decided underdog. But as the Contest Kid himself learned, sometimes you can win against all the odds.

7. “Flamingo Croquet” from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

It’s arguably one of the most iconic scenes in all of children’s literature. So why is the Queen of Hearts’ hedghog- and flamingo-riddled croquet match seeded so low? Because contests need rules, darn it, and  Rule #1 of the Contest of Contests is that contests without rules will score lower. Flamingo Croquet is wonderful, delicious, hysterically funny chaos. But as a Contest of Contests entrant, it’s odds do not look good.

6. “Calvinball” from Calvin & Hobbes

Yeah, yeah. I know Calvinball doesn’t really have rules, either. But Rule #2 of the Contest of Contests is that I get to make up the rules. And I say “Calvinball” is seeded higher than Flamingo Croquet. So there! If you don’t like it, I’m going to bonk you with the Calvinball.

5. The Westing Game from The Westing Game

Now we’re getting into the serious competitors. The Westing Game has clear rules and high stakes. It’s another book that made a huge impression on me as a child. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is that I haven’t read it recently. If that seems arbitrary and unfair – well, see Rule #2.

4. The County Fair from Charlotte’s Web

Ask somebody what they remember from Charlotte’s Web, and they’ll tell you about the heart-stopping first line, or the relationship between Wilbur and Charlotte, or that beautiful, bittersweet ending. Nobody ever says “The moment where Wilbur wins a special prize at the County Fair.” But it’s a crucial and climactic moment, and it makes Charlotte’s Web a real contender in the Contest of Contests.

3. The Herding Competition From Babe: The Gallant Pig

The sheep-herding competition is nail-bitingly tense. The whole book builds up to it. And Babe wins it by being polite and kind. If you wouldn’t mind considering this as a real favorite in the Contest of Contests, I would be very grateful. Thank you.

2. Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets, from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Babe: The Gallant Pig is about the power of kindness to earn love. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory is about avoiding disaster long enough to earn chocolate. Adult Me loves Babe -- but Child Me loved, loved, loved Roal Dahl’s dark, anarchic humor. And Rule #1 of this contest is: kids come first.  (If you’re wondering how I can have two entirely different Rule #1s: please see Rule #2.)

1. Wizard Chess, from Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets

I know what you’re thinking. No quidditch? No Tri-Wizard Tournament? Well, Rule #3 of the Contest of Contests is: only one contest per author. Ruling out the minor Harry Potter pastimes was easy – we don’t know enough about Exploding Snap or Gobstones to even consider them.

After that, though, things got tough. Ultimately, I decided that quidditch is flawed because team sports shouldn’t be about waiting for one superstar player to catch the Golden Snitch—team sports should be about coming together as a team. (In case you’re wondering: yes, I do identify as a Hufflepuff.) And I eliminated the Tri-Wizard Tournament because (SPOILERS) the whole thing turned out to be fixed from the beginning. That left Ron’s heroic wizard chess battle. Scoff all you like, but I defy you to find a more heroic or exciting match in all of Middle Grade literature.

So there you have it: your eight entrants in the Contest of Contests. Here’s what the actual bracket looks like.
Now it’s your turn. Who do you think wins each match?

JACOB SAGER WEINSTEIN has written for the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, HBO, and the BBC. He lives in London with his family, close to where the Westbourne flows underground, but his bathroom faucet mixes hot and cold water nonetheless. He apologizes in advance for any Great Fires this may cause. His website is, and he is @jacobsw on Twitter.

Win an ARC of
Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath!
Random House has generously offered one (1) ARC for one winner.
-ends 4/5/17
-winner 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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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

6th MMGM: Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce (review, interview, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 29 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Frank Cottrell Boyce and his book, Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth!

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth
By Frank Cottrell Boyce
June 20, 2017
Walden Pond Press
Source: ARC from pub for review
Award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce returns with another one-of-a-kind story of heart, humor, and finding one’s place in the universe.

Prez knows that the best way to keep track of things is to make a list. That's important when you have a grandfather who is constantly forgetting. And it's even more important when your grandfather can't care for you anymore and you have to go live with a foster family out in the country.

Prez is still learning to fit in at his new home when he answers the door to meet Sputnik—a kid who is more than a little strange. First, he can hear what Prez is thinking. Second, he looks like a dog to everyone except Prez. Third, he can manipulate the laws of space and time. Sputnik, it turns out is an alien, and he's got a mission that requires Prez's help: the Earth has been marked for destruction, and the only way they can stop it is to come up with ten reasons why the planet should be saved.

Thus begins one of the most fun and eventful summers of Prez's life, as he and Sputnik set out on a journey to compile the most important list Prez has ever made—and discover just what makes our world so remarkable.

Prez is great at making lists. He makes lists and post-it reminders all the time for his grandfather, who is becoming more forgetful everyday. But when Prez’s grandfather is taken away and Prez is placed in a temporary foster family for the summer, he has no idea just how handy is list making skill will be. One night, during his stay at the foster family, Prez answers the door to find a boy wearing goggles and a kilt. A boy who says his name is Sputnik. A boy who, to everyone else, looks like a regular, normal, but very cute dog. Sputnik can communicate with Prez telepathically and informs the boy that he is an alien from far away and that Earth is scheduled for destruction...unless he and Prez can come up with a list of ten reasons why Earth is special and should be saved.

Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth is a quirky, earnest, and heartfelt middle-grade about family, home, and love. At turns heartbreaking and uplifting, poignant and humorous, I found the story unforgettable and sweetly charming.

Young readers will fall in love with quiet, thoughtful Prez and boisterous, full of life Sputnik, and their endearing and genuine connection. The two companions set out on some kooky and wild adventures together-  including a jailbreak; flying; saving toddlers from real lightsabers; foiling a robbery attempt; and more - and readers will love how often those adventures turn into tickle-your-funny-bone-misadventures. The farm Prez is visiting for the summer, the ocean-side, and Prez’s quaint Scottish town all make for fun, cozy settings.

With a vulnerable, relatable, ardent voice, Boyce crafts a story that sets out to explore what family and home really mean, and does so honestly and beautifully. Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth gives readers engaging characters to be amused by, adventures and misadventures to be excited by, and a heartwarming, one-of-a-kind story to carry with them for always.

Q1. What three words best describe your book, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth?
I can tell you three words that I HOPE describe it - funny funny and funny!

You could also try Canine Caledonian and Cosmic

It’s the story of Prez - a quiet boy - who meets a small noisy alien called Sputnik.  The twist is that to everyone except Prez,  Sputnik looks like a dog.

Q2. Grab a copy of Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth and answer the following:
Favorite chapter?
The ending because it just appeared from nowhere.  A good ending should surprise the reader but this one surprised the writer!

Favorite page?
I love the scene where Sputnik “repairs” the little girl (Annabel)’s toy light sabre so that it now actually works:
Annabel swung around to take a bow. Her best friend saw the blade of light coming towards her and ducked just in time to stop decapitation. But not in time to save her thick blonde pony-tail, which fell at her feet like a dead gerbil that was slightly on fire.

Favorite setting?
This is a real place.  I put it in the book because it’s so astonishing.  It looks like a cathedral but it’s actually a cow shed.  Jessie - the girl in the book - describes it as "Cow Hogwarts”.  It’s on the beach near Kirkcudbright (a town in Scotland which is spelled Kirk-cud-bright but which is pronounced Ker-Coo-Bree).

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
Prez and Sputnik are visiting Hadrian’s Wall (a Roman Wall).  Sputnik has just given a lady who works there something that looks like a pineapple, which she throws for him to fetch.  This is the quote

‘Fetch! Go on, boy. Fetch!’
‘FETCH?!’ said Sputnik. ‘Is she NUTS? That’s a live hand grenade.’
- When you say live hand grenade...
‘When I say live hand grenade . . .’
- What did you give her a hand grenade for?!
‘We can discuss this later. For now get your goggles on .’

Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? What is your favorite middle-grade book?
My favourite middle grade Hero would undoubtedly be Snufkin - the wandering,  lonely explorer from the Moomin books.  Heroine would probably be - after all these year - Anne of Green Gables for her invulnerable imagination.  And for being the star of the best drunk scene in all literature.

Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
Simple.  The books I read in later life made me laugh,  made me cry,  made me think.  But the books I read in Middle Grade made … me.
Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Could it be made to look like the strangely beautiful satellite Sputnik 1. You could use sugar work. Sputnik was the first man made object to escape from Earth’s gravity and float free in space.  It orbits our planet.  Its name means “companion”.  Now there are hundreds of satellites but in the past it was just Earth and Sputnik.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a British screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor.
In addition to original scripts, Cottrell Boyce has also adapted novels for the screen and written children's fiction, winning the 2004 Carnegie Medal for his debut, Millions, based on his own screenplay for the film of the same name.
His novel Framed was shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year as well as the Carnegie Medal.
He adapted the novel into a screenplay for a 2009 BBC television film. His 2009 novel Cosmic has also been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
He is married and the father of seven children. Website * Twitter * Facebook

Win a signed copy of 
Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth!
Walden Pond Press has generously offered one (1) copy for one winner.
-ends 4/5/17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
a Rafflecopter giveaway