Monday, July 25, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: COVER REVEAL for H.M. Bouman's A CRACK IN THE SEA

Friends, the Don and I do love a good cover. And we also love being the first to know things. So a cover reveal is right up our alley!

We are thrilled to be able to reveal the cover art (and some inner illustrations) for H.M. Bouwman's A CRACK IN THE SEA. The back cover contains the inscription Three families, two worlds, and one magical portal. Sweet!

Here's the cover:

Isn't it gorgeous? And here's what the novel is about:

No one comes to the Second World on purpose. The doorway between worlds opens only when least expected. The Raft King is desperate to change that by finding the doorway that will finally take him and the people of Raftworld back home. To do it, he needs Pip, a young boy with an incredible gift—he can speak to fish; and the Raft King is not above kidnapping to get what he wants. Pip’s sister Kinchen, though, is determined to rescue her brother and foil the Raft King’s plans.

This is but the first of three extraordinary stories that collide on the high seas of the Second World. The second story takes us back to the beginning: Venus and Swimmer are twins captured aboard a slave ship bound for Jamaica in 1781. They save themselves and others from a life of enslavement with a risky, magical plan—one that leads them from the shark-infested waters of the first world to the second. Pip and Kinchen will hear all about them before their own story is said and done. So will Thanh and his sister Sang, who we meet in 1976 on a small boat as they try to escape post-war Vietnam. But after a storm and a pirate attack, they’re not sure they’ll ever see shore again. What brings these three sets of siblings together on an adventure of a lifetime is a little magic, helpful sea monsters and that very special portal, A Crack in the Sea.

The novel includes some stunning interior art by illustrator, Yuko Shimizu. Here are two of the pieces:

What do you guys think? I received an ARC from the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, and can't wait to read it on my hols in British Columbia (the closest to a trip to Britain I seem to be able to make.) A review will be forthcoming. Publication date for A CRACK IN THE SEA is January 3rd, 2017.

About the Author:

H. M. Bouwman is the author of The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap. An associate professor of English at the University of St. Thomas, she lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her two sons. A Crack in the Sea is her second novel.

About the Illustrator:

Yuko Shimizu is a Japanese illustrator based in New York City and an instructor at the School of Visual Arts. In 2009, Newsweek Japan chose Yuko as one of the “100 Japanese People the World Respects.” Yuko is the illustrator of the picture book Barbed Wire Baseball, and her work can also be seen on Gap T-shirts, Pepsi cans, Visa billboards, and Microsoft and Target ads, as well as on numerous book covers and in the pages of The New York Times, Time, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and many others.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THE PECULIAR HAUNTING OF THELMA BEE by Erin Petti

THE PECULIAR HAUNTING OF THELMA BEE by Erin Petti (Mighty Media Press, September 6, 2016)

What It's About:
Eleven-year-old budding scientist Thelma Bee has adventure in her blood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a ghost kidnaps her father. Now her only clues are a strange jewelry box and the word “Return,” whispered to her by the ghost. It’s up to Thelma to get her dad back, and it might be more dangerous than she thought—there’s someone wielding dark magic, and they’re coming after her next.

Opening Lines:
"Thelma Bee dragged still sleepy fingers through her bangs as she marched into the backyard. October was serving up another perfect day--chilly air, crispy leaves, and early sun."

Why I Liked It:
Wow! This is right up there with the spookiest books I've read. There were some truly terrifying scenes--and if my hair was being raised, goodness knows what was happening to the 11-year-old readers'. First off, Thelma's dad disappears into an old jewelry box. Thelma herself gets sucked into the box, and meets an imprisoned ancestor who reveals to her just what is going on. Then, while searching for her dad, the car she and her friends are riding in is attacked by a bull. One of the friends falls into a raging torrent, and the villain has spectacular magic powers, like being able to suspend people in mid-air. His hideous sidekick is a shapeshifter. There are thrills and chills aplenty so... Hang onto your hats!

Thelma is a great creation: a scientist whom we first see trying to grow a Mexican orchid (her experiments are described with a lot of humor: "Steadfast for days, Thelma had eaten only Mexican food, spoken only Spanish, and even played mariachi music around the plant.") Thelma's best friend, Alexander, is a polyglot and there are other delightful supporting characters who make up the Riverfish Valley Paranormal Society (RVPS). They're the source of much of the humor, which leavens the truly terrifying moments. If you like spooky stuff--interspersed with some great laughs-- this is a book for you!

About the Author:
Erin Petti lives by the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband and toddler. She loves to read about magic, dinosaurs, folklore, and ghosts. Erin has a masters in education and a background in improvisational comedy at ImprovBoston.

P.S. This is a great interactive idea. Readers can choose the cover for the book. Vote at and enter to win a Thelma Bee gift box with a signed book,
stickers, buttons, a Thelma Bee journal, and more! The deadline is August the 1st!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: STARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairman

STARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairman (Putnam, July 2016)

I'm so happy to introduce the third book in Tara Dairman's All Four Stars series. Tara was snapped up by agent Ammi-Joan Paquette after the Baker's Dozen auction in 2011, and I loved both previous books in this series, which I reviewed HERE and HERE.
I'm delighted to have been able to enjoy another Gladys Gatsby adventure and to take part in this blog tour.

What It's About (via Goodreads): 
As the summer winds down and Gladys Gatsby prepares to start middle school, she is nervous about juggling schoolwork and looming deadlines from her secret job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic. When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting to discuss more opportunities with the paper, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to her parents. But her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold when her parents arrive home with a surprise:  her Aunt Lydia, one of the only adults who knows her secret, fresh off the plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but even with her aunt’s help, Gladys just can’t manage the drama of middle school and a secret life. It’s time for Gladys to be true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

Opening Lines:
"Gladys Gatsby felt like a live fish was flopping around in her stomach."

Why I Loved It:

  1. The characters: Gladys is an endearing character. True to the middle grade experience, she worries about whether she fits in, about friendships, and about the journey to middle school. Yet she is loyal, level-headed, and creative. Tara Dairman does a good job with all her characters. Charissa, for example, could easily have been written as a stereotypical "mean girl," but instead we are shown a more rounded side to her. I also liked the fact that characters from the earlier novels were developed--Gladys' Aunt Lydia being a case in point.
  2. The humor. Tara Dairman, for my money, is one of the funniest middle grade writers around. Her humor isn't the obvious, gross sort. Often times, it is situational. I'll never forget the "Gladys-under-the restaurant table" scene in All Four Stars, or the disastrous swim test in The Stars of Summer. In Stars So Sweet, there are deliciously comic moments when Gladys tries to wiggle out of meeting her editor in person. Chuckles abound!
  3. The covers. All three books have had wonderful, memorable colors--by artist Kelly Murphy. Very eye-catching.
In conclusion, Stars So Sweet is a delightful addition to the Gladys canon. Hooray for Tara!

About The Author:

Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade ALL FOUR STARS series, the newest addition being Stars So Sweet. She is also a playwright and world-traveler. 

Tara holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can find her online in the following places: