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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Interview with Erin Soderberg, author of Puppy Pirates

The fantastic and talented Erin Soderberg is at The Hiding Spot today to celebrate the release of her third Puppy Pirates book,  Catnapped. I've been a fan of Erin for years - I highly recommend you check out her YA novel, Kiss It, written as Erin Downing - so it's truly a pleasure to share this interview!


Catnapped is the third book in your Puppy Pirates series after the release of the first two books last year. Share one of your favorite reader responses to this series. 
When I visit schools, I’ll often share silly little stories about my dog that help to inspire the Puppy Pirates books and characters. One of the best things to come of this series is getting to hear a ton of other crazy dog stories from kids and their parents! Dogs do the funniest—and naughtiest—things, and everyone loves to talk about them! 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
The process for these books is really different from most of my other books, since they have to be written so quickly. The big secret is, I actually work with a friend on the series. She and I talk on the phone (or, if we’re lucky, chat in person) and brainstorm the overarching story idea and theme of the book. She then puts together a chapter-by-chapter outline before I launch into writing the first draft. I usually write a chapter a day when I’m drafting, and each day I read what I’ve written aloud to my kids (8, 8, and 9) who help me polish the jokes and add fun details. Then my writing buddy and I go back and forth a couple times, revising the book before we turn it into our editor. Writing these books with a friend—and my kids—makes them so much more fun! Also, my editor has been a close friend of mine for almost 20 years, so that makes the process even more fun. Can you tell I LOVE working on the Puppy Pirates series?! 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
There are many words I really like: awkward, mischief, goober, stubbly, to name a few. I also love the word Spindiddly from Natalie Lloyd’s novel A Snicker of Magic. That book is beautiful, and spindiddly is such a perfect word for so many different occasions! 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
Baby-sitter’s Club (I used to curl up and hide in a smelly old couch in the corner of the public library to read this series all summer long), Harriet the Spy, the Ramona series, Nancy Drew, The Witches. Too many? I could go on and on! As an only child, books were my best friends and companions. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
I have a few things coming out in the next year and a half: three more Puppy Pirates adventures (Sea Sick, Ghost Ship, and Search for the Sea Monster), I just wrapped up the origin story for a new licensed brand that will be released by Macmillan this summer (and part of it is told in graphic novel format!), then in 2017 Simon & Schuster will publish my new tween novel called Moon Shadow (written as Erin Downing). It’s been a busy couple of years!

About the Book
Ahoy, mateys! Set sail for fun and adventure on a pirate ship full of puppies.

Fighting like cats and dogs? Exactly! The puppy pirates played a prank on the kitten pirates, and meow! The kittens sure are mad. Can the pups escape the kittens’ claws? It’s dog vs. cat, and may the best pirates win.

Two perennial kid favorites—dogs and pirates—combine in the new chapter book series perfect for fans of Rainbow Magic, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Paw Patrol.
About the Author
ERIN SODERBERG has written many books for kids, tweens, and young adults, including THE QUIRKS and PUPPY PIRATES series.

Before turning to writing full time, Erin worked as a children’s book editor and marketer, spent a few months as a cookie inventor, and also worked for Nickelodeon. She lives, writes, and eats out in Minneapolis with her husband, three hilarious kids, and a mischievous goldendoodle named Wally.

Erin Soderberg also writes as Erin Downing. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Interview with Jennifer & Matthew Holm, creators of My First Comics

 Next week, the first two My First Comics board books - I'm Grumpy and I'm Sunny will available from sibling team Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm! Pick up the set for the budding comic enthusiast in your life, no matter their age.

These first two My First Comics books are so accessible and fun. Can you share a bit about your creative process in regard to this specific series? 
Thanks! This has been a fun series to work on! We don’t live in the same city, so we usually do all of our work long distance. But for My First Comics since the stories are shorter than the graphic novels we normally make, we were able to sit down together and sketch them out. (We actually did it when we both met up on the road at comic book conventions.) Our process was simple, and fun: we got a bunch of index cards and roughly sketched each page of the book on a card. Then we sorted and discarded and redrew the pages till we got the story we wanted, with all of the humor and drama and appropriate page-turns. After that, Matt went home and drew out the artwork more cleanly, added color, and so on. 
from I'm Sunny! by Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm

Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
Kids! We visit a lot of schools, and My First Comics was directly inspired by Jenni’s experience making comics with Pre-K students, who couldn’t yet read our other books. 

Animals! Matt’s dog, a sweet but sometimes moody black lab, has given inspiration to many of the comic characters (and their over-the-top expressions) that Matt draws. 

Caffeine! Seriously—what writer can find inspiration without it? 
from I'm Grumpy by Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm

What can your readers look forward to next? 
The first two books in the series—I'm Grumpy and I'm Sunny—hit shelves next week, but we have two more volumes with two new characters coming out next year: I'm Tizzy (about a rambunctious tornado) and I'm Chilly (about a timid snowflake). And for readers who have graduated from board books but maybe aren’t ready to tackle 100-page graphic novels just yet, this fall we’ll be debuting our very first picture book, featuring a familiar character of ours: Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes!

About the Books
From the bestselling creators of Babymouse and Squish and the author of The Fourteenth Goldfish comes a new comic board-book series about feelings! Eisner Award winners Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm use panel frames, speech balloons, and thought bubbles to teach children how to read a story. 

In I’m Sunny, the cheerful sun upsets his friend and must make amends. A sweet, funny, and simple introduction to the impact that emotions can have on those around you.

In I’m Grumpy, a grumpy cloud upsets his friend Sunny and must make amends. A sweet, funny, and simple introduction to the impact that emotions can have on those around you.
About the Author
Jennifer L. Holm is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children's author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE.

Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series -- the Eisner Award-winning Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. She is also the author of several other highly praised books, including the Boston Jane trilogy and MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF. She lives in California with her husband and two children.
About the Illustrator 
Matthew Holm was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pa., and has been drawing comics since he was in middle school. Growing up reading four older siblings' comic books and comic strip collections (including Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and Bloom County), he hoped he might one day grow up to draw a daily newspaper comic strip. He mentored under Pulitzer-prize-winning editorial cartoonist Tony Auth while in high school, and in college, while studying English and Art at Penn State, he drew weekly editorial cartoons for the school newspaper. After college, he worked in New York City as a writer and editor for Hearst's Country Living Magazine, and drew a daily web comic (before the term "web comic" really existed) in his spare time.
He first began working with his sister, Jennifer, as a copy editor and fact-checker for her Boston Jane novels, and later drew several pages of comics for her book Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf. When Jenni came to him in 2001 with the idea of making a comic book with a female heroine named Babymouse, he again picked up his pen and the two worked out the ideas and look for what became one of the first graphic novel series written specifically for children. Today, he continues to collaborate with his sister on several graphic novels each year, both for the Babymouse series as well as the Squish series. He currently lives in Portland, Ore., with his wife and dog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Interview + Giveaway with R.A. Spratt, author of Friday Barnes, Girl Detective [Blog Tour]

 I'm happy to kick off the Friday Barnes Blog Tour today, the very day Friday Barnes, Girl Detective hits shelves in the US! Check out this interview with author R.A. Spratt and exclusive original art by Phil Gosier, then run out and nab your own copy of Friday Barnes! You can also enter to win a copy near the bottom of this post.

Your main character, Friday Barnes, reminds me a bit of Sherlock Holmes. Can you share a bit about your inspiration for her character (and mystery solving process)? 
Friday is influenced by a lot of different ideas. 

She is certainly influenced by Sherlock Holmes. I like the idea of someone who is very intelligent in a useful way, but who has no social skills and is in fact is so charmless that they make people around them uncomfortable. 

And Friday is like a lot of kids I went to school with. I went to a very nerdy, science focused high school. There were some very eccentric kids there. People who think differently and who are motivated differently make great inspiration for fictional characters. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
I do outline. But in an erratic sort of way. I start off with a circular structure based on Joseph Campbell’s principals of a hero’s journey. I get a large sheet of cardboard, draw a circle and then draw a line across the circle about three quarters of the way up. Then I fill in plot points around the circle. 

The first act takes place above the line. Then I move clockwise (Campbell moves anti-clockwise which doesn’t make any sense to me, unless he’s left handed). The second act takes up most of the space below the line and the third act, with all the action and the climax of the story takes place in the segment before the story gets back to the line. The books always end up back where they began, with the problems of the story resolved. Then I tip it over into the next story with a whopping great plot point of a cliffhanger to set up the next book. 

But the outline is only a rough plan. It’s like having GPS in your car. It’s there but you don’t always turn it on. 

When it actually comes to writing, what happens is the outline sits on the coffee table behind me. I drink a lot of coffee, eat a lot of chocolate and my careful plans fade into the background of my mind as the characters voices fall out, through my rapidly typing fingers onto the screen. Then I take a nap. Get up and realise I’ve written something entirely different to what I planned, but it’s pretty good, so I take the rest of the day off with the intention of writing my story from the outline tomorrow. 
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration? 
I was a television writer for ten years before I became an author. The first three years of my TV career I wrote jokes for a news game show (a bit like NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me…’). Jokes are so short and news jokes have to encapsulate really complicated ideas, so expressing a complicated idea in the minimum amount of words in a funny way over and over again, day in day out for three years was excellent training in the discipline of being a writer. 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
I assume I’m not allowed to pick a swear word… 

When I’m writing my publishers bemoan my excessive use of obscure and multisyllabic words. The order will go out from someone important that my vocabulary must be curtailed. This leads to weird situations where I’m told to cut ‘fiddlesticks’ because it’s too long but allowed to keep ‘sisyphean’ because it’s not very long and the editor secretly enjoys indulging in a reference to Greek Mythology. 

In conversation I tend to use the word ‘awesome’ a lot. I know it irritates people. But I like to be positive and enthusiastic. I find making lots of excessively positive statements, while irritating, does have an irresistibly contagious effect on people around you. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
For me books are the opposite of hiding spots. When I grew up, I lived in the outer suburbs of Sydney. There wasn’t much to do. Plus in Australia you always get the sense that you are on the far side of the world from where everything is happening. So when I was a child it was books that allowed me to get out of the suburbs and explore the world, and the past, the future, and even outer space. For me books have always been a means of escaping and exploring, even when I can’t afford a plane ticket. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
I’ve already written four books in the Friday Barnes series and I’m halfway through writing the fifth. I always end the books on a cliffhanger. And I know I’m doing something right because I get lots of angry mail from fans desperate to know what is going to happen next.

Each stop of the Friday Barnes: Girl Detective blog tour will feature a "puzzle" piece of original art from the book’s illustrator, Phil Gosier. Go to the Mac Kids Tumblr on January 24th to see the full image with all the pieces!

January 19: The Hiding Spot
January 20: The Book Monsters
January 21: Boundless Bookaholic
January 22: The Compulsive Reader
January 24: Mac Kids Tumblr

1 Winner. US only. Ends February 9, 2016
a Rafflecopter giveaway ________________________________________________

About the Book
When Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery, she uses the reward money to send herself to Highcrest Academy, the most exclusive boarding school in the country--and discovers it's a hotbed of crime!

Soon she's investigating everything from disappearing homework to the terrifying Yeti haunting the school swamp. But the biggest mystery yet is Ian Wainscott, the handsomest (and most arrogant) boy in school who inexplicably hates her. Will the homework be found? Can they ever track down the Yeti? And why is Ian out to ruin her?

With black-and-white art throughout, this is the launch of an exciting new mystery series!
About the Author
R.A. Spratt is an award-winning author and television writer. She lives in Bowral, Australia with her husband and two daughters. Like Friday Barnes, she enjoys wearing a silly hat.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cover Reveals - MG (65)

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her rural Pennsylvania town. Until the day Betty Glengarry moves to town. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying at first seems isolated, things quickly spin out of control, escalating until Betty mysteriously disappears. As the town searches for Betty and days pass, fingers begin to point toward Toby, a World War I veteran who carries deep and secret scars. While others see his strangeness, Annabelle sees only kindness, and soon must find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
                Brilliantly crafted and haunting, Lauren Wolk’s stunning debut for young readers, Wolf Hollow, is a tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience and strength can help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
I Am Drums by Mike Grosso
A middle grade debut about dreams, dilemmas, and drums that will resonate with readers trying to keep their ambitions alive during tough times. 
Dara Palmer's Major Drama by Emma Shevah
Eleven-year-old Dara is a born actress, or so she thinks, but when she doesn't get any role at all in the school production, she begins to think it may be because she doesn't look like the other girls in her class. She was adopted as a baby from Cambodia. So irrepressible Dara comes up with a plan and is determined to change not just the school, but the world too. A beautifully written, warm and funny tale for girls aged 8-12, from the critically acclaimed author of Dream On, Amber.
Isabella for Real by Margie Palatini
The real Violet Benson is dead.When Isabella Antonelli becomes an overnight YouTube sensation in a documentary detailing her REAL, non-royal, Italian-American family, she needs to figure out a way to tell everyone at her new school the truth—or come up with some better lies. Brimming with offbeat humor, ISABELLA FOR REAL sets the scene for an eccentric, multi-generational family drama that will have readers laughing out loud and giving Isabella’s performance a standing ovation.
The Sleepover by Jen Malone
A kid-friendly spoof of The Hangover!

Though she’s never done it before, twelve-year-old Meghan is determined to make it through lights-out at her best friend’s sleepover. She’s also ready to have The. Best. Night. Ever. and her friends Paige and Anna Marie are happy to bring on the fun. There will be miles of junk food, stacks of crazy-scary horror movies, and hours of karaoke smack-downs! Not even the last-minute addition of Anna Marie’s socially awkward soon-to-be stepsister Veronica can dampen their spirits.

But nothing prepares them for the scene that greets them the next morning. The basement is a disaster, Meghan’s left eyebrow has been shaved off and she somehow has the Class Bad Boy’s hoodie, plus there’s a slew of baby chicks in the bathtub! Worst of all, Anna Marie is missing.

Now the remaining girls have to piece together what happened the night before. There’s just one teeny, tiny problem: None of them can remember anything past the two-bit act by the hypnotist Veronica hired as the party’s entertainer.

Can they find Anna Marie and pull off the ultimate save-face . . . all before parent pick-up time? The clock is ticking, the clues are getting weirder and weirder, and only one thing is certain: last night got a whole lot zanier than games of Truth or Dare.
Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly
Ivy, I pray that it's you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you're the new me...

When shy Ivy's troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to "take her place." But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school's true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?

Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn't about to disappear without a fight. She's left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy's going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She's got to.

But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they'll do anything to keep their secrets buried...

Shivers! The Pirate Who's Back in Bunny Slippers by Annabeth Bondor-Stone & Connor White
Shivers, the scaredy-est pirate to ever sail the Seven Seas, is back. Comic book–like illustrations in each chapter bring Shivers to life and invite even the most reluctant readers to join the adventure. Perfect for fans of such series as Stick Dog, Big Nate, Dork Diaries, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

This time, Shivers must set sail again to get his beloved ship, the Land Lady, back from Mayor Sheila B. President. Shivers won’t be going alone, however. He’ll be bringing his best pal, Margo, and his loyal fishmate, Albee, on a clingy-clam and hot dog filled adventure. Like all good pirates, Shivers will just have to grab his swimmies (and his bunny slippers) and jump right into this epic tale.
The Wiener Strikes Back (Galactic Hot Dogs #2) by Max Brallier
Cosmoe, Princess Dagger, Humphree, and the gang are back for another wild space adventure in the second hilarious illustrated novel of the Galactic Hot Dogs series, which Lincoln Peirce calls an “an insanely entertaining, eye-popping adventure.”

What could go better with wieners than a flying space circus? Nothing! Which is why Humphree’s all jazzed up at the chance to sell Galactic Hot Dogs as the official food of Crostini’s Cosmic Carnival and Wonder Circus train. Cosmoe’s not entirely convinced—but once his skills as a monster tamer are unveiled, the deal is done and the Neon Wiener is officially hooked onto the train.

Only things aren’t quite what they seem at this circus, and pretty soon Cosmoe realizes he and his buddies are in more danger than ever. To get to the bottom of it all, they have to travel somewhere pretty familiar, providing a glimpse at last into Cosmoe’s past and how he ended up aboard the Wiener in the first place.
Teddy Mars, Almost a Winner by Molly B. Burnham
Fans of Jeff Kinney’s humor and Sharon Creech’s heartfelt stories will love the second book in this hilarious new series about a ten-year-old boy from a big family who dreams of making it into The Guinness Book of World Records.

Win or lose, friends stick together. But when Teddy’s whole class decides to break a bigger, better world record, friends turn into enemies. And Teddy feels stuck in the middle. To fix this mess, Teddy will have to do something he’s never done before—try not to break a record! Can he win at losing before his whole class misses out? And can Teddy be a winner at all without help from his friends? Humor and grit triumph in this story of one boy’s struggle to make peace in a class full of record breakers, a coop full of pigeons, and a world full of wonders.

Told in short, accessible sections with fun lists and highly rambunctious illustrations, the Teddy Mars series is perfect for reading aloud. Teddy’s never-give-up attitude will have readers laughing out loud and striving to break world records of their own.
Stick Cat: A Tail of Two Kitties by Tom Watson
There’s a new pet in town.

Stick Cat.

It’s a big day in the big city for Stick Cat and his best friend, Edith. There are treasures to hunt, songs to sing, pigeons to catch, and naps to take. But way up on the twenty-third floor, danger lurks just around the corner. Terrible noises and violent crashes trap a desperate man in the building across the alley. Stick Cat will need to navigate his way across the alley—and around Edith’s peculiar ways—to attempt a rescue.

With Tom Watson’s trademark combination of laughs and adventure, Stick Cat’s high-wire act is sure to please cat lovers and Stick Dog fans everywhere.
Which new covers are your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!