Monster Or Die 2: Into the Shadowlands

Let’s get into the Halloween mood with a monster story! Into the Shadowlands is a fun middle grade adventure involving ogres, trolls, frankenstein monsters, and so much more!

Monster or Die.jpg

Monster or Die is a series set in Uggarland—a world full of monsters set apart from humankind. In Uggarland, there are Monsters, and then there are OMOs, or Odd Monsters Out.

The OMOs don’t act as monsters are expected to behave. Among the many OMOs in Uggarland are sixth graders Frank, the frankenstein who has blue skin and likes his clothes to be crisp and his hair neatly combed; Oliver, the mummy who prefers to be unwrapped; Vanya, the ogre who prefers sparkly, pretty outfits and things; and Stan and Dan, the two-headed gargoyle who likes humor over scaring people.

Life is difficult for the OMOs. Uggarland rules require them to purge themselves of their misfit ways and become more monsterly (“monster or die!”), or they will be exiled to a horribly sunny and warm island to live out the rest of their days.

Malcolm the troll is a classic Monster. He hates the OMOs, or misfits, as he calls them. So he is shocked to discover that his father, who he believed died a hero’s death four years ago, was actually living a life of exile with the misfits.

Malcolm already loathed the misfit Frank. But when Malcolm learns the truth about his father and Frank is there to see it, Malcolm decides both his father and Frank must be destroyed.

This is a wonderfully fresh book of middle-grade self-discovery and acceptance. It addresses differences in others and finding the best in people. It explores themes of the marginalization and exclusion of minority groups, and calls to mind the forced conformity and assimilation to European ways found in the Native American boarding schools of the early 20th Century.

The language in this book is entertaining. There are many monster words (such as the “slybrary” and exclamations like “snotfargle extremo!”) to keep readers entertained. The characters’ names all make kids chuckle (e.g., Mr. McNastee). And there is plenty of action to keep the story moving.

Ms. Reeg is a former librarian and author of both middle grade and picture books. She has many suggestions for games, crafts, and puzzles for kids available on her website, www.cynthiareeg.com. For parents and teachers, Ms. Reeg offers a number of resources, including grammar games, study guides, and book lists.

I didn’t read the first Monster or Die book, but that didn’t impair my ability to read and enjoy this one. I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

I heard the opening paragraphs of this book at the SCBWI Midsouth conference this past weekend, and as soon as the session ended, I ran out to the “bookstore” Parnassus had set up in the hotel lobby and bought a copy. It took every ounce of my self-control to keep from reading further while the conference continued around me.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

The best introduction I can give to this book is the one I received:

When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted, “Her arms fell off!” then ran away screaming in terror to his mom, who had to cuddle him on her lap and rub his head for like ten minutes to get him to calm down. I think, up until then, I hadn’t thought about the idea that my arms must have actually fallen off at some point in my life. I had never really thought about not having arms at all.

My missing arms weren’t an issue for me or my parents. I never once heard either of them say, “Oh, no, Aven can’t possibly do that because that’s only for armed people,” or “Poor Aven is so helpless without arms,” or “Maybe Aven can do that one day, you know, if she ever grows some arms.” They always said things like, “You’ll have to do this differently from other people, but you can manage,” and “I know this is challenging. Keep trying,” and “You’re capable of anything, Aven.”

I had never realized just how different I was until the day that horrible kid shouted about my arms having fallen off. For the first time I found myself aware of my total armlessness, and I guess I felt like I was sort of naked all of a sudden. So I, too, ran to my mom, and she scooped me up and carried me away from the park, allowing my tears and snot to soak her shirt.

Yeah, wow. Just let that sink in for a minute . . .

So, Aven is a thirteen-year-old girl who was born without arms. Her parents are awesome, telling her things like “having arms was totally overrated” and pondering whether there are arm-removal services that they can use. But just after Eighth Grade starts, Aven’s parents move her from her comfortable life in Kansas to Arizona.

Aven tells her tale in the same sassy, sarcastic voice evident in those first paragraphs. She confronts the stares of her classmates with bravery and strength (far more than I remember having in Eighth Grade!). Although many of the kids at her school can’t see past her missing arms, she eventually meets some wonderful friends who have some quirks of their own.

Alex was drawn into this book as quickly as I was. He made me share one of Aven’s tales of how she lost her arms (in a forest fire in Tanzania) to Dad—who has now placed a ban on me reading to the kids in restaurants, since he says I get too excited and the rest of the restaurant patrons didn’t want to hear about arms burned to a crisp, like bacon, while they were eating.

This is a must-read for everyone. It has the potential to open readers’ eyes to their own actions around people who have differences, and to help change those actions for the better. Aven and her friends can guide middle graders who are in the midst of feeling that no one understands them toward accepting and loving themselves. And it’s so important to have well-written books with characters with disabilities available for kids to read.

This is Dusti Bowling’s first book, and I hope we see many, many more from her. Ms. Bowling offers a discussion guide for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus on her website, www.dustibowling.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

Ban This Book

Alan Gratz’s new novel, Ban This Book, seems like the perfect choice to help celebrate Banned Books Week!ban this bookAmy Anne has a favorite book in her school library. She borrows it as often as the library rules allow. But when she tries to check it out one day, Mrs. Jones, the school librarian, tells her that she had to take it off the shelf. Some of the parents decided that it wasn’t appropriate for elementary school, and the school board agreed with them. With that, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was banned from the school library.

Mrs. Jones asks Amy Anne to attend the school board meeting to tell the board why the book is so important to her. Amy Anne agrees to go, but the meeting doesn’t go as she hoped. Instead of returning Amy Anne’s favorite book to the library, the board leaves its ban of eleven books in place.

Although Amy Anne can’t prevent the ban, she decides to take action to help students have access to the banned books. As the list of banned books continues to grow, the students’ interest in the forbidden books grows as well. Amy Anne and her friends find creative ways to circumvent the ban to satisfy this interest.

Ban This Book is a marvelous tale of inspiration, impressing upon middle school readers that they can make a difference, even when things seem hopeless. Through her experience responding to the banned books, Amy Anne’s self-confidence blossoms, and she learns to speak up for herself. The impact of her objection to the censorship reaches her relationships with family and friends, which all grow stronger during the book.

The Author’s Note explains that every book that the school board banned in Ban This Book has been challenged or banned in an American library at least once in the last thirty years.

The American Library Association (ALA) publishes a list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books each year, along with the reasons for the challenges. Judy Blume made the list in 2005. Since 2000, Mark Twain has been on the list twice; J.K. Rowling has been on it three times; and Maya Angelou has been on the list four times. Well-known books that have appeared on the Top Ten list more than once since 2000 include Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

The ALA holds Banned Books Week every year to celebrate the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information. During Banned Books Week, the entire book community comes together in support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those that some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The ALA has many suggestions on ways to get involved in Banned Books Week. You can also check with your local library to find out what is happening in your area!

Alan Gratz is the author of many books, including Samaurai Shortstop and the League of Seven trilogy. He can be found online at www.alangratz.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

Kat Greene Comes Clean

Cleaning. It might be the task I hate more than anything else. So it was with great appreciation for attention to detail that I read the opening paragraph of Kat Greene Comes Clean—Kat’s mother is using an electric toothbrush to clean the kitchen floor.

Kat Greene

It didn’t take long to realize that Kat’s mom cleans more than the typical adult, though. She cleans all day, every day—literally. She washes her hands until they are red and raw. She throws away anything that she thinks is dirty or might be carrying germs. She makes Kat wipe her backpack with antibacterial wipes before she takes it into the house. She even wears—and makes Kat wear—latex gloves in the supermarket!

Kat knows something is wrong at home, but she doesn’t know what to do. She just knows that she has to keep what her mom is doing a secret. She can’t tell her dad, who has remarried. And she doesn’t want people at school to know.

Luckily, she has a best friend who she can talk to about anything. But even with her friend Halle’s support, the pressure of keeping her mother’s strange behavior a secret is taking over Kat’s life.

The problems at home do not relieve Kat from the drama of middle school. At eleven years old, Kat is also in the center of middle school crises. There are fights with friends, romantic crushes, and crazy classmates to deal with every day.

This story about a parent with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and the impact it has on her child’s life is fascinating. Kat’s confusion and struggle to find a way to help her mother is compelling, and it was impossible to put this book down.

Melissa Roske has a teacher’s guide available for Kat Greene Comes Clean on her website, www.melissaroske.com. She is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can find an interesting interview of Ms. Roske on the blog Literary Rambles.

According to the American Psychiatry Association, approximately 1.2 percent of Americans have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It affects slightly more women than men. The average age at which OCD symptoms appear is 19. People with an immediate relative who has OCD are two to five times more likely to experience OCD than those without a close relative with OCD.

The International OCD Foundation has a set of Guidelines for Family Members of people with OCD, which are designed to help strengthen relationships between individuals with OCD and their family members. If someone in your family has OCD and you are looking for help, this is a good resource to use as as starting point.

Many thanks to Ms. Roske for shedding some light on this condition and its effect on families. I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I look forward to reading more from this fabulous new author.

Have you read any great books lately?

Best. Night. Ever.

Remember how much fun it was back in school playing the game where each person came up with a sentence of a story? This is SO much better—like a really amazing version of that story!

Best Night Ever

Seven authors came together to write this book, which tells the story of one night from seven points of view. It is the night of the middle school dance and the students of Lynnfield Middle School know it is going to be the most unforgettable night of their lives. But, like most of our experiences in middle school, it turns out far different than they had planned.

Carmen is the lead singer of the hit middle school band Heart Grenade. She was ready to become a star singing at the dance, but her parents are making her go to her cousin’s wedding instead. Life is so unfair!

Taking Carmen’s place at the front of Heart Grenade is Genevieve. She loves to sing and has a fabulous voice, but she only likes to sing in the background. She has stage fright.

The drummer of Heart Grenade, and Carmen’s best friend, is Tess. Not only does she have the performance to think about, but she has a big date too!

Ellie can’t believe she’s going to the dance with the cutest guy in school. Kevin asked her to be his date, and she knows this is going to be the most romantic night she’s ever had.

Ashlyn is stuck babysitting instead of going to the dance, just so her almost-step-sister, Ellie, can go. Well, there is that whole grounded thing too . . .  But it’s just not fair that she has to miss showing off her awesomeness to the rest of the seventh grade.

When Ryan signed up to be part of the dance committee, he was hoping it would help move his friendship with Mariah to the next level. Will it work?

And Jade is at the dance just to get revenge.

All of these lives weave together seamlessly—even though they are not just seven different points of view, but written by seven different authors! The kids sound believably seventh grade, and range from the hopeless-romantic bookworm to the angry and sarcastic popular kid. The book is told in the first person (changing character point of view with each chapter), and there are frequent text messages and emojis throughout the book.

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review, and I am so glad! I loved this book. It took me right back to my middle school dances, although I have to say we had a lot less drama at mine! I never thought about it when I was at one of those dances, but I was with a room full of people having similar, yet different, experiences—just like the seven main characters in this book.

Perhaps reading this will make it easier for middle school kids going through their own drama (at dances, or elsewhere) to realize that others are scared/excited/nervous/upset/etc. too. Or maybe they’ll just enjoy a really good book!

Best. Night. Ever. was written by Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, Jen Malone, Gail Nall, and Dee Romito. A reading guide for Best. Night. Ever. is on Ms. Alpine’s, Ms. Faris’s, and Ms. Romito’s websites.

Ms. Alpine writes both middle grade and young adult novels, including Operation Pucker Up and You Throw Like a Girl. She is online at www.rachelealpine.com.

Ms. Arno’s middle grade novels include Ruby Reinvented and Molly in the Middle. She is online at www.ronniarno.com.

Ms. Cherry writes books for middle grade and young adult readers, including Willows vs. Wolverines and The Classy Crooks Club. She is online at www.alisoncherrybooks.com.

Ms. Faris writes the Piper Morgan chapter book series and middle grade novels, including 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses. She is online at www.stephaniefaris.com.

Ms. Malone writes both middle grade and young adult novels. She is the co-author of the You’re Invited series, as well as novels including The Sleepover and The Art of the Swap. She is online at www.jenmalonewrites.com.

Ms. Nall writes the You’re Invited series with Ms. Malone. She is the author of middle grade and young adult novels, including Out of Tune and Breaking the Ice. She is online at www.gailnall.com.

Ms. Romito is the author of middle grade novels The BFF Bucket List and No Place Like Home. She is online at www.DeeRomito.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

From Ant to Eagle

By the end of the first chapter of From Ant to Eagle, eleven-year-old Calvin Sinclair has confessed to killing his younger brother. And with that—just a dozen or so sentences into the book—author Alex Lyttle had my undivided attention.

From Ant to Eagle

From Ant to Eagle is the story of Calvin and his six-year-old brother Sammy. Calvin loves his brother, but he also loves picking on him and manipulating him, and he occasionally excludes or neglects him.

Like many sibling interactions, Sammy adores his big brother. And Calvin takes advantage of Sammy’s hero-worship. Calvin has created a Level System to make Sammy do nearly anything he can think of—like try to eliminate a wasp’s nest with a can of WD40. When Sammy completes a “mission” with bravery and courage, Calvin awards him a Level. Sammy began at Ant, and is eager to reach the highest Level: Eagle.

Two years ago, Calvin’s family moved to Huxbury, a small town in Southern Ontario. They live in the country, surrounded by fields, trees, and, far in the distance, Lake Huron. There is nothing to do, and no one around to play with except Sammy.

Then, the summer Calvin is eleven and Sammy is six, a new family moves nearby. They have a daughter Calvin’s age named Aleta. Calvin is instantly smitten, and reaches out to become Aleta’s friend. As he gets closer to Aleta, he spends less and less time with Sammy. What happens during that summer changes everyone’s lives forever.

I can’t praise From Ant to Eagle enough. This book was absolutely phenomenal. The interactions between Calvin and Sammy were all-too realistic (and may have hit me a little too hard, since my kids are about the same age as these brothers). This book grabbed hold of my emotions and twisted me into an emotional wreck as I watched the brothers’ relationship change, Calvin’s friendship with Aleta grow, and, of course, the aforementioned killing of Sammy. (It’s always hard to explain tears over a book in public!)

Author Alex Lyttle is a pediatrician living in Calgary, Alberta. He has a website serving his “duo-life” at www.alexlyttle.com. Listen to him “ramble” on his blog, learn a little about him (he credits R.L. Stine and the Goosebumps books for teaching him to read!), and maybe even check out his guidance as a pediatric allergist.

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I am so grateful for the opportunity—this is one of those books that stays with you, that makes you thankful for your own family, and gives you a little perspective into the challenges some families face.

Have you read any great books lately?

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

It’s sometimes too easy to forget that the way we live (whether in Canada, the United States, or China) is not the only way. The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball explores just how jarring moving halfway around the world can be—particularly for children.BaseballThe Forbidden Temptation of Baseball follows two brothers, Woo Ka-Leong and Elder Brother Woo Ka-Sun, as they move from their village in Southern China to Suffield, Connecticut in 1875. They are part of a group of 120 boys that the Imperial Government of China is sending to the United States as part of the Chinese Educational Mission. Their task is to learn English, complete college degrees, and return home to help transform China to a strong, modern country.

The boys participating in the Chinese Educational Mission are sent to the United States with almost a year of training in the English language (enough to be polite), descriptions of American culture, and many admonitions: do not act “too American,” do not join a church (although they must attend with their host families), do not cut the long braid that all Chinese men and boys wear as a symbol of loyalty to the emperor, and avoid the American frivolity called “baseball.”

Ka-Leong and Ka-Sun are placed with the Swann family: Reverend Swann, his wife, and their two daughters, Julia and Charlotte. The Swanns immediately begin calling the boys Leon and Carson, deciding their Chinese names are simply too difficult to pronounce. A day later, Carson, who is the more serious and studious of the two brothers, is dismayed to learn that their teacher will be a woman.

This is just the beginning of the clash of the two cultures. As the boys’ time in America continues, they are teased by children and adults for their braids and their clothing. They struggle to learn the English language and to continue their own Chinese studies after their lessons. They are stunned by aspects of American culture that they were unprepared for, in particular, the role and treatment of women.

Author Dori Jones Yang has done a fantastic job identifying many ways in which the cultures of 1870s China and 1870s America differed. But even more impressive is her interpretation of how the Chinese boys might have responded to these disparities. Although Leon and Carson are brothers and come from the same home and upbringing, their reactions to life in America, and their willingness to adapt to this new life, are dissimilar.

I was enamored with this tale of two brothers and could not put it down. Ms. Yang’s exploration of the relationship between Leon and Carson was brilliant. I loved the use of baseball to symbolize one brother’s attraction to American culture, while he pulled away from both his brother and the life in which he was raised.

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball is based on the true story of the Chinese Educational Mission, in which the emperor of China sent 120 boys ages eleven through sixteen to study in America. They stayed with host families in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. You’ll have to read the book to learn whether the Mission was successful!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Dori Jones Yang is the author of a number of books, from non-fiction to YA novels to children’s readers. Her website is www.booksbydori.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver

There comes a time when a child no longer believes that his parent knows everything. The child may even be embarrassed by how his parent behaves in public. Enter Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver. He finds ways to help children change their parents’ unattractive behavior.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver by Lorri Horn is an entertaining read for middle grade kids. It tells of young entrepreneur Dewey Fairchild and his ingenious profession.Dewey Fairchild.jpgDewey got the idea for his business when his friend Seraphina shared a problem she had with her mom. Nine-and-a-half-year-old Seraphina’s mother was being overprotective: holding her hand to cross the street, walking her into school, and protecting her from using butter knives. She even cut Seraphina’s meat for her at dinner!

Dewey spent time observing Seraphina and her mother. He then came up with a plan to change Seraphina’s mom’s behavior. It worked so well that word spread that Dewey was a “parent problem solver.” Soon, every kid needed his help.

One year later, Dewey’s business is so busy that he has an office (in his attic), an assistant (his old babysitter), and letterhead stationery. Kids who want to request his services crawl through the air ducts and fly down a slide into the attic, munching on homemade cookies that have been strategically placed in the air vent entrance.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver follows Dewey as he tackles his cases. He searches for solutions to the parent-created problems of kids in his town, including, with the help of three good friends—Seraphina, Colin, and assistant Clara—a problem that is close to home. When he overhears his parents talking about moving the family to Alaska, he decides something has to be done. Surely Dewey Fairchild, PPS, can solve this parent-problem!

Readers will laugh out loud at Dewey’s investigative strategies, at the various problems he faces (including a public nose-picking dad!), and the solutions he dreams up! Parents: watch your behavior around your kids once they’ve read this one, or you might find yourself crying on YouTube!

Lorri Horn thought she wanted to study vervet monkeys and become a famous biological anthropologist. But she says: “it turns out you have to rough it and camp to do that kind of job and Lorri’s more of a pillow-top mattress and no bug-repellant kind of gal.” Plus, the monkeys never showed up for story time. So she became a teacher instead! You can read more about her on Dewey Fairchild’s website: www.deweyfairchild.com. This is Ms. Horn’s first middle grade fiction book.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver goes on sale next week. I highly recommend picking up a copy for your middle grade readers! I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. We can’t wait for the next book of Dewey Fairchild’s cases!

Have you read any great books lately?

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast

The Beast kidnapped Belle and held her in the castle against her will. She fell in love with him because she had Stockholm Syndrome.

This is how Maddie’s Rotten Stepbrother Holden “Ruined Beauty and the Beast.”Rotten StepbrotherEleven-year-old Maddie loves fairy tale princesses. For Halloween, she decides to dress up as Belle. Her new stepmother suggests that Holden should dress up as the Beast. After creating a truly horrifying costume, Holden presents his Stockholm Syndrome alternative to Maddie’s true love fairy tale.

Holden is forced to change out of his costume before they go to the school Halloween party. Maddie’s dad suggests that he wear a suit and tell people he’s a lawyer.

After the party, Holden notices that his tablet (what lawyer goes anywhere without one?) is still turned on. He looks at it and calls Maddie over. They see pictures from the story of Beauty and the Beast, but the tale doesn’t end the way they remember. They realize that Holden has somehow changed the story. Before they know what’s happening, they are transported into the story so that they can fix it.

Maddie is transformed into Belle. Holden is. . . the lawyer.

Maddie and Holden enter Beauty and the Beast just as Belle is marrying the Beast. But the Beast hasn’t changed back into a human. Before they can be married, he is arrested for kidnapping.

Holden is the Beast’s lawyer. He has to overcome his feelings about the fairy tale and work with the Beast to find a strategy to fight the kidnapping charge.

Meanwhile, Maddie has her own challenges. Holden’s statements have her questioning whether Belle’s love for the Beast is true love or the result of brainwashing. She sets out to find out the truth for herself and for Belle!

Jerry Mahoney has created a hilarious new spin on the classic fairy tale. His story combines a wonderful step-sibling dynamic and adds in the natural language barriers inherent in transporting two 21st-century kids to a secluded French village “once upon a time.”

Jerry Mahoney is the author of Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad, his memoir. After reading just a few posts on his blog, I bought a copy of the book—it looks like it will be just as entertaining as his children’s books! His website is http://www.jerry-mahoney.com.

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast will be released on August 1, 2017. I received an advance reader copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review. Three other titles in the My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Fairy Tales series are being released on August 1 as well. I can’t wait to read My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella (the first book in the series), My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Aladdin, and My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Snow White!

Have you read any great books lately?

Binny Bewitched

This was my introduction to Binny and her family, and I was bewitched from the start. This is the third Binny book by Hilary McKay, and I hope Ms. McKay has many more tales to tell about this enchanting character!BinnyTwelve-year-old Binny (Belinda) Cornwallis lives with her mother, her seventeen-year-old sister Clem (Clemency), and her six-year-old brother James. They live in a small house, where they had to move after Binny’s father died four years ago. Money is tight, but fortunately they have some help fixing up the house from a handyman named Pete.

Binny is walking home from school one day, wishing she had money to buy her mother a birthday present. As she passes the bank, she spies a pile of money left in the ATM. It appears her wish has been granted! Magic or miracle, Binny is glad to accept the gift.

She soon decides that the witch who lives next door, Miss Piper, knows about the money. Guilt begins to gnaw at her, and Binny realizes that she has to return it to the bank. But when she looks for the money, she discovers she’s lost it.

Binny asks Gareth, her best enemy and most loyal friend, to help find the missing money. They create a list of suspects and then begin an investigation so that they can cross names off the list. Against her better judgment, Binny allows herself to be convinced to include friends and family as suspects.

Through her investigation, Binny begins to mistrust even people closest to her. She finds out how easy it can be to hurt those she cares about, and learns how wrong she can be about people. She has to work to repair her relationships, and even starts to like Miss Piper. She concludes that money can’t solve all of her family’s problems.

Although I haven’t read the other two Binny books, I suspect that this is not the only time that Binny’s wild imagination and impetuous nature has gotten her into hilarious situations. Binny is the kind of kid who makes you smile—or laugh out loud—as you root for her. And yet, you know that if you were her parent, you would simply shake your head and sigh, “Oh Binny!” before pulling her into your arms.

Hilary McKay is the author of a number of children’s books, including the Binny books, the Casson Family series, the Lulu chapter book series and the Meet Charlie—He’s Trouble chapter book series. Ms. McKay explains on her website (www.hilarymckay.co.uk) that she left a job as a biochemist so that she could devote more time to her writing (and her children). Thank-you Ms. McKay!

Ms. McKay describes the first stage of writing a book as “a bit like cooking.” I love her analogy, and am adding the whole recipe to my “Ingredients for Cooking a Book” page!

I received an advance reader copy of Binny Bewitched in exchange for my unbiased review of the book. But I’m on the lookout for other Hilary McKay books now—starting with the first two Binny books! I’m so glad to have been introduced to this fantastic author!

Have you read any great books lately?