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Mad For Middle Grade: Coming Up Next

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade!

This is our VERY LAST POST! Thank you, readers, for taking this middle grade debut journey with us–we’ve been so extraordinarily grateful for all of your support. Since this is our last post, we wanted talk about what’s happening on the horizon for us, so you’ll be able to find us in the future!

Question: Talk about what’s coming next for you!

StolenMoon-1Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

Rachel Searles is prepping for the January 27th release of her sequel, THE STOLEN MOON (which has already received a starred review from Kirkus, hooray!). She’s excited to add that THE LOST PLANET (available in paperback Jan. 27th) has been chosen for the 2015-2016 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. Rachel will be spending the next year working on new projects and seeking the elusive balance between making time for writing and caring for a new baby. Keep up with Rachel at www.rachelsearles.com or @RachelSearles

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Matt LondonUnknown
THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin

Matt London is hard at work to bring you the continuing adventures of the Lane family. Book 2 in the series, THE 8TH CONTINENT: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, comes out February 24th, 2015. Book 3, BORN TO BE WILD, will be released later that year, in August. Beyond that, well, let’s just say there’s a continent’s worth of stories to tell. In the meantime, you can find Matt at www.themattlondon.com or on Twitter @themattlondon.

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Paul Durham
THE LUCK UGLIES
HarperCollins51wHT34zbrL

This fall and winter Paul Durham is visiting schools and bookstores throughout New England to talk about THE LUCK UGLIES. The second book in the trilogy, THE LUCK UGLIES: FORK TONGUE CHARMERS, arrives on March 17, 2015, and he will be packing his bags for national tour stops in far-flung places such as Houston, Austin, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon. In the meantime, Paul is writing the third book in the series, which will be released in Spring 2016. You can check in on Paul’s Luck Uglies news and occasional ramblings at www.pauldurhambooks.com, on facebook at www.facebook.com/pauldurhambooks, or on twitter @pauldurhambooks. 

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Louise Galveston is excited to announce that By the Grace of Todd is a 2015-2016 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee and will be available in paperback next month (Jan. 2015). The little Toddlians set off to find a more responsible god in the sequel, In Todd We Trust, which releases on St. Patrick’s Day. Louise and her family will be welcoming a new little person into their lives early this summer, but the title of that masterpiece is yet to be determined. You can keep up with Louise’s news and schedule of appearances at www.bythegraceoftodd.com and www.louisegalveston.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter @LouiseGalveston

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Kate HanniganCC2 Summer Showers Cover short medium
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

Kate Hannigan will be coming out with a sequel to her early middle-grade novel CUPCAKE COUSINS (Disney-Hyperion) in June 2015. Titled CUPCAKE COUSINS: SUMMER SHOWERS, it follows more adventures with Willow and Delia on their lakeside vacation. The cousins are ready to help with Aunt Rosie’s baby shower, but with Willow’s hand injured, no one seems to think they can do anything in the kitchen. They face meddling big sisters, a County Fair cooking contest, lost family heirlooms, and more. Book 3 in the series publishes in September 2016.

Detectives Assistant cover websiteKate’s historical fiction for middle-grade readers, THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT, publishes in April 2015 with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers–marking the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Set just before the Civil War and inspired by America’s first real-life female detective, Kate Warne, it tells the story of 11-year-old Nell who untangles her own family’s mysteries while helping out her aunt with her detective work. It features ciphers and puzzles, as well as hair-raising thrills, as Nell and Kate Warne take part in cases that have nation-changing consequences.

Visit Kate online at http://KateHannigan.com.

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Tara DairmanStars of Summer__FINAL CVR
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

For Tara Dairman, next year is looking to be just as delicious as this one was! Gladys Gatsby’s restaurant-reviewing adventures will continue in THE STARS OF SUMMER (sequel to ALL FOUR STARS), which comes out on May 5, 2015. You can find out more about it, add it on GoodReads, or preorder it here: http://taradairman.com/2014/10/14/sequel-title-cover-reveal-the-stars-of-summer/

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

With her debut year in the rearview window, Jen is happy to kick back and enjoy the role of “established author” (hahahahahahaha).  Jen’s new series You’re Invited  (co-written with Gail Nall)YOU'RE INVITED launches with book one on May 19th and follows four tween girls who form a party-planning business out of their abandoned sailboat clubhouse.  Needless to say, the parties do NOT go as planned. It’s been described as “hitting that sweet spot between Babysitter’s Club and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

Also publishing next summer is Jen’s YA with HarperImpulse entitled Map to the Stars. It tells the story of a down-to-earth girl stuck accompanying a teen star on the European promotional tour of his new movie. A “momager”, an annoying assistant, a security team, and rabid fans are plenty to navigate as the two explore a romance, but when the paparazzi hits the scene, things get really sticky.

Both are available for preorder here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jen+malone

You can follow more adventures at www.jenmalonewrites.com or @jenmalonewrites

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

This has been an incredible year with so many “firsts” that it’s hard to imagine another time that will Unknown-2equal it for excitement, unless…*drum roll*… it’s the release of my second book! My middle grade novel, COLD WAR ON MAPLEWOOD STREET will be published (again by Putnam/Penguin/Random House) in early August.  It’s about 12 year-old Joanna’s experiences during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and it speaks to growing up in a world full of uncertainty.

In addition, I’ll be kicking off the New Year with a very special event in Batavia, Illinois at Grace McWayne Elementary School, as the featured author at their first ever Family Reading Night.  On February 5th I’ll be signing books at the annual WSRA  (Wisconsin State Reading Association) conference in Milwaukee. And other events are in the works, so it’s already plain to see that 2015 is going to be yet another amazing year.  I couldn’t be happier!

Gayle would love for you to visit her website at www.gaylerosengren.com and follow her on Twitter @GayleRosengren

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HookCover_frontonly_72Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Heidi Schulz will not be hanging up her cutlass anytime soon. Her sequel to Hook’s Revenge, Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code, will be out next fall followed by her picture book debut, Giraffes Ruin Everything, in Spring 2016. Other future plans include finally getting around to painting the no-longer-new trim around her windows and eating pie. Catch up with her on twitter (@HeidiSchulz) or on HeidiSchulzBooks.com

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks
51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Jen Swann Downey is looking forward to the rapid regeneration of her fingertips which sadly wore away to bloody stumps during the drafting for THE NINJA LIBRARIANS: A SWORD IN THE STACKS. The sequel will release in late 2015, a few months after the paperback release of the first book in the series, THE NINJA LIBRARIANS: THE ACCIDENTAL KEYHAND. She is also hoping to remember to frolic more along dark moonlit streets, and solve all of her family’s single sock riddles. Thanks to the readers of the OneFourKidLit posts for paying attention to all of us as we rode out on our book steeds. Hope we gave something back. Come on over and visit at www.jenswanndowney.com or https://www.facebook.com/JenSwannDowney

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Unknown-3Jennifer Torres
THE BRINY DEEP MISTERIES
Speeding Star

These days Jennifer Torres arrives at her desk promptly at  5 a.m. each morning (before the kids get up) to work on her next project, a middle-grade fantasy/mystery called SPELL’S CANOE. She continues to visit schools, libraries and bookstores promoting her debut series, THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES.  Jennifer is also working on a new series of biographies for Rosen Publishers to be released in 2015. Keep up with Jennifer at www.authorjennifertorres.com and on Twitter @Jenn__Torres.

 

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Rebecca BehrensWhen Audrey Met Alice final cover
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Rebecca Behrens is looking forward to Audrey meeting Alice again, when the paperback edition of When Audrey Met Alice is released in May 2015. Her next book, Summer of Lost and Found, will be published by Egmont USA in early 2016. She has a short story, “Thatagirl!” running in Scholastic Scope next spring–and another one inCricket, too! In the meantime, she’s visiting schools and libraries, teaching workshops, and (slowly) writing something new. Follow her on twitter (@rebeccabehrens) or visit her online at www.rebeccabehrens.com.

 

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin
TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942

Here’s what’s coming up next for Witchling Lauren:

1. Paperback release of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches in August 2015.
2. Book #2 scheduled to release in early 2016. While there is no definitive title (yet), Lauren can tell you that it’s about a whimsically weird school for thieves, muggers, robbers, burglars, crooks, and otherwise intolerable criminals. She’s hoping that Pilfer Academy will steal your heart. *ba-dum-tss*
3. Practicing her evil laughter
Muahahahahahaha*hacking coughs*

Follow her misadventures at http://laurenmagaziner.com/ or on twitter @laurenmagaziner.

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caminarSkila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Skila Brown is hard at work on her next middle grade story. In the mean time, she’ll have two new books out in the spring of 2016 with Candlewick Press: a picture book collection of shark poems, Slickety Quick, and a verse novel for teens about the ill-fated Donner Party, With the End in Sight.

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Dana Alison Levy18769364
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

Dana Alison Levy is delighted to continue romping with the Fletchers! The sequel, A FLETCHER FAMILY SUMMER, is due out spring 2016. When not trying to keep Sam, Jax, Eli, and Frog out of trouble, Dana will be working on more books for kids and teens, and might occasionally remember to do laundry. You can find her at www.danaalisonlevy.com, where she rarely talks about herself in the third person.

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SecretHumofaDaisy paperbackTracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

Tracy Holczer’s novel, THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY, releases in paperback on May 1, 2015, and she is fiercely working on novel number two. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SMALL THINGS is about eleven-year-old Samantha Rossi who writes down small observations about life in order to face all the big things she can’t quite handle. Like her surgeon father coming home from Vietnam a different person, and her best friend choosing to start a Stewardess Club instead of joining the Odyssey Project the way they’d planned. It’s a story about heroes, the big and the small. It’s due out in May, 2016.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

Laura Marx Fitzgerald is hard at work at her second novel, due out in 2016 from Dial/Penguin. Tentatively titled THE GALLERY, this middle-grade mystery takes us to New York in the Roaring Twenties where a young maid discovers an heiress’s secrets through her mysterious art collection. Laura is also busy with school visits and field trips, where she is delighted to share the many real-life mysteries of the art world with elementary and middle school kids. Visit Laura at her website LauraMarxFitzgerald.com for more about writing, art, and history.

Laura looks forward to the paperback release and audiobook releases of UNDER THE EGG in spring 2015.

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Q&H cover from onlineAdriana Brad Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Adriana Brad Schanen has been visiting schools and book clubs with her debut early middle grade novel, Quinny & Hopper, which was selected as a TLA Bluebonnet Award Reading List book and picked up by Scholastic for 2015 book fairs and newsletters. She has several MG and YA projects in progress.

Check out her website in early 2015 for official news of the publication of her second book — she’s bursting to share it! adrianabradschanen.com

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HopeIsRobin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Robin Herrera is currently finishing up what will hopefully be her second book, a humorous young adult novel set in 1990. In the meantime, she’ll continue to edit comics and graphic novels. You might catch her at the annual ALA conference in San Francisco, but for the most part she’ll be staying home in Oregon. 2015 will probably be the year Robin goes to the dentist. She is not looking forward to it.

Visit her online at robinherrera.com or on Twitter @herreracus.

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Well, that’s it from us, folks! Thanks so much for tuning in this past year and a half, and be sure to check out our archives for more of our splendiferous posts.

And now we shall ceremoniously pass the baton to our 2015 middle grade debut friends in the Fearless Fifteeners group! May your journeys be full of wonder and MAGIC!

TTFN–Ta ta for now!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: Crunching Numbers

Welcome back to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!

This post is going to be a bit… unconventional. We’re pulling out all the stops here. And by all the stops, I mean: all the STATS. This post is all about comparing our publishing journeys, and we’re about to prove THERE IS NO NORMAL IN PUBLISHING!!!!

Here a bit of information about this post before we reveal our numbers:

  • 15 authors participated
  • All the participants were 2014 middle grade debut authors
  • Each author was allowed to opt in or out of whichever questions he/she choses
  • All data is presented anonymously

And without further ado:

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Highest Word Count: 78,000 words
Lowest Word Count: 19,000 words
Average Word Count: 53,000 words

Genre?
7 Contemporary
4 Fantasy
2 Historical Fiction
1 Mystery
1 Novel in Verse
1 Science Fiction

Which publishers?
2 books from Abrams
2 books from Candlewick
2 books from Disney-Hyperion
1 book from HarperCollins
1 book from Macmillan
4 books from Penguin
1 book from Random House
1 book from Simon & Schuster
1 book from Sourcebooks

 

ABOUT AGENTS

Do you have an agent?
Yes: 14
No: 0
Not when the book sold, but yes now: 1

How many query letters did you send out?
Most: 74 Query Letters
Least: 1 Query Letter
Average: 22 Query Letters
A further breakdown:
8 authors had between 1 and 15 query letters.
2 authors had between 16 and 30 query letters.
2 authors had between 31 and 45 query letters.
2 authors had between 46 and 60 query letters.
1 author had over 61 query letters.

How long were you querying?
Longest time: 10 months
Shortest time: 1 week
Further breakdown:
3 authors queried for less than 1 month.
8 authors queried between 1 and 4 months.
4 authors queried between 5 and 10 months. 

How many offers did you receive from agents?
One offer: 9
Two offers: 2
Three offers: 2
Four offers: 0
Five offers: 2

How long was the editorial process with your agent?
Longest time: 9 months
Shortest time: No editorial process
Average time: 2 months

 

ABOUT THE BOOK DEAL

How long were you on submission to publishers?
Longest submission: 2 years
Shortest submission: 9 days
Further breakdown:
3 books were on submission less than 1 month.
7 books were on submission between 1 and 4 months.
2 books were on submission between 5 and 12 months.
2 books were on submission longer than 12 months.

How many offers did you receive from publishers?
One offer: 9
Two offers: 4
Three offers: 1
Four offers: 0
Five offers: 1

How many books did your publisher buy?
One book: 9
Two books: 4
Three books: 2

What was the deal range?
10 Nice Deals
2 Very Nice Deals
2 Good Deals
1 Significant Deal

How long was the time between the book sale and the book release?
Longest wait: 33 months (A little less than 3 years)
Shortest wait: 14 months (A little more than 1 year)
Average wait: 21 months (A little less than 2 years)

 

ABOUT THE STORY

The numbers below indicate those authors who responded YES to the following questions.

Does your book have:
A girl protagonist? 9
A boy protagonist? 6
Any school scenes? 8
A character who cries? 13
A character who’s a writer? 5
A character with red hair? 3
A chosen one? 0
At least one orphan? 3
Siblings? 10
A first crush? 5
Kissing? 3
Magic? 4
Dogs? 5
Cats? 3
Bunnies? 3
Any references to real-life history? 10
Any references to real-life pop culture? 8

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Thanks for tuning in! Hope you were as interested in some of these numbers as we were!

We will return on Monday December 1st for our LAST Mad For Middle Grade segment. *snozzes into a handkerchief*  The wheels are already in motion, and it’s going to be a great post–so tune in next time!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
 
 
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Happy Release Day, Caminar!

Happy Release Day, Caminar!   caminar

What people are saying:

Exquisitely crafted poems are the basis of an unusually fine verse novel…”

–Horn Book, starred review

“…a much-needed addition to Latin American-themed middle grade fiction.”

–School Library Journal, starred review

A moving introduction to a subject seldom covered in fiction for youth…A promising debut.”     

–Kirkus

A Junior Library Guild Selection

From the jacket flap:

Carlos knows when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it’s time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.

Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Here’s where you can get your copy of Caminar:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indie Bound

Skila Brown has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana. Her debut novel, CAMINAR, is available now from Candlewick Press.
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A Middle Grader Reviews a Middle Grade Novel: THE LOST PLANET by Rachel Searles

As a huge fan of MG science fiction, I was totally excited to read Rachel Searles’s debut THE LOST PLANET, which released in January. I was going to review the book myself until I realized I have a much bigger authority in the household: my 10-year-old son, Jonah. He’s generously agreed to answer my questions (and I didn’t even need to bribe him with extra TV time)!

Hey, Jonah. What’s up?

Wait, that’s one of the questions? For real?

Tell us about the story in THE LOST PLANET.

So Chase doesn’t have any memory. And the whole story, he’s trying to find his memory again. He’s on a planet called Trucon. He meets a kid named Parker, and he has a robot named Mina. Chase has a message, “Guide the star.” But he doesn’t know what that means. He’s told to stay away from the fleet, and there’s a mysterious fleet soldier named Lieutenant Maurus.

What was the coolest part of the book?

The coolest part was when the Goxar were attacking the ship Chase is on. That part was cool because it was a mini-battle, because Mina and Maurus were fighting the Goxar.

Which character did you like the most, and why?

I liked Lieutenant Maurus, because you never knew which side he was on.

As you know, I love monsters. Were there any great monsters in the book?

Yeah, like I mentioned earlier, there were the Goxar, who were aliens with poisonous spikes on their back. There were also these cool creatures with claws on their backs. And there were also these monsters called Ambessitari. They were tricky, and they served their master, who was called Rezer Bennin.

Now for the final and all-important question: on a scale of 1 to 5, how many little green space dudes would you give THE LOST PLANET?

I give it a 4.5:

5 little aliens

Thanks, Jonah! Be sure to tell me about the next cool book you read, okay?

Yup, and I’m out!

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since age eight (though his first few were admittedly very short). His debut YA science fiction novel SURVIVAL COLONY NINE will be published in September 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Josh likes (in no particular order) gorillas, frogs, monsters, and human beings.
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For the Love of Little People

I’ve always loved tiny creatures: fairies, sea monkeys (yes, they ARE people, haven’t you seen the ads?), and even leprechauns. So it’s no surprise that my debut novel, BY THE GRACE OF TODD, is about a boy and the tiny civilization of humanoids that have sprung from the grime of his grungy baseball sock.

Today, I’m going to discuss how I developed the Toddlans. When Todd first discovers the tiny race on his sock, they are dressed in togas made from fibers and live in crude huts made of his filth. Their language at this point is a series of grunts and coos, which Todd’s baby sister, Daisy, happens to speak fluently. They live like cave men, roasting toe jam over tiny fires.

As the Toddlians are exposed to TV (specifically The Bachelorette, QVC, and John Wayne) they learn English using context clues. It was fun to intersperse their dialogue with snippets of commercials and TV lingo. But the language also posed a challenge: how does someone who’s never seen a pencil before describe it? Carpet becomes a fiber forest, cars are metal monsters, and dental floss is a lasso (for Persephone, the cowgirl Toddlian. Yeehaw!)

Todd interior final #8

Illustration by Patrick Faricy

Despite the difficulties of seeing the world though a Toddlian point of view, there were also some delightful things about working with little people. For instance, I had to be extra creative to accommodate them–almost like playing with dolls. They drink from Lego heads, sleep in a fluffy slipper, and swim in Lake Parkay (a margarine tub lid.) Plus, they can ride around hidden in Todd’s hair, although they might be heard screaming, “Slow down, for the love of all things tiny!”

I’ll close with my favorite bit of Toddlian trivia, the Toddlandian National Anthem:
Toddlandia, Toddlandia, our home upon a sock,
Toddlandia, Toddlandia, of forest, hill, and rock,
From the salty Sweat River to the wide Sebaceous Sea,
Toddlandia, Toddlandia, our love we pledge to thee.

How about you? Do you believe in wee folk? What’s your favorite read involving little people?

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD (Penguin/Razorbill Feb. 27, 2014). She and her husband live in the Midwest with their eleven kids and a parrot. When Louise isn’t writing or folding laundry, she directs her local children’s theater, where she’s playwright in residence.
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Dana Alison Levy: THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

Today we’re talking to Dana Alison Levy. Unlike her characters, she does not have an invisible cheetah, or an endless desire to make cat barf jokes. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some true facts buried in her funny Middle Grade debut, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER, which will be out in July from Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House. She’s just not telling what they are.

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?
The old-fashioned way. I wrote a book, then I wrote another book, then I queried literary agents, then I wrote another book, and so on. THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER was, I think, my fourth book, and when superagent Marietta Zacker called to offer representation I was downright giddy.

In all honesty, it seems I spent my career writing but pretending I wasn’t writing. By that I mean I worked in marketing, small business management, executive recruiting, and more, and in each job, what I was best at and enjoyed the most was…wait for it…writing. I lost my job in the 2009 recession. While I looked for work and hung out with my young children, I decided that what I really wanted to do next was the same thing I had wanted to do on Career Day in third grade: I wanted to write. Now I freelance for for a bunch of clients, writing on a variety of random and weird topics. And I write books for kids and young adults (also, honesty compels me to state, on a variety of random and weird topics).

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?
It’s a story about the new school year for a wacky and shenanigan-filled modern family with four adopted boys, two dads, and an ever-changing number of pets. Someone called it THE PENDERWICKS meet Modern Family, and that’s probably about right.

As for a cool detail…well, originally, the dog’s name was Walter, and someone pointed out the folly of another boy’s name in a family that already had six of them. So I asked a group of writers — I was at a writing retreat — for advice. And one of my writer friends, who has an awesome southern drawl, said, “Well, growing up our dog was Sir Puggleton!” Boom. A new dog name was born.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?
Well, one very cool fact is that I actually come from a distinguished line of writers! Both my aunt, Elizabeth Levy, and my cousin, Robie Harris, are children’s book authors, with well over a hundred books between them. So I’ve been lucky in that I have sympathetic mentors and cheerleaders throughout the grueling process. In case anyone’s wondering though? Nepotism doesn’t really get you anywhere in publishing. I was pulled from the slush pile, like everyone else. (But my collection of signed books is pretty impressive)!

Also, I can wiggle my ears.

What are your desert island books?
I can’t even…DON’T ASK ME THAT. I wish for an unlimited number of wishes!! Oh wait, that wasn’t the question. Well, it feels like it. I don’t believe it favorite books (or movies, or kids…it always leads to heartbreak), but here are a few I love:

Picture book:
TIME OF WONDER by Robert McCloskey: Oh, the evocative images and language used to convey coastal Maine in all its glory!

Classic Middle Grade:
ALL OF A KIND FAMILY series, by Sydney Taylor: Loved these stories of a Jewish family in New York in the first half of the twentieth century. (Hmmm…four girls in the their family, four boys in the Fletchers. Never thought of that).

Newer Middle Grade:
MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool: This one did everything right. Complex, beautiful, and redemptive historical fiction. Puts the “literature” in the term “children’s literature.”

Humorous Young Adult:
ANGUS, THONGS, AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING by Louise Rennison: Writing the funny is hard, and this author nails it again and again. Laugh out loud silliness.

Lyrical Young Adult:
JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta: Beautifully written, incredible characters, and a plot that pulls together so perfectly I want to weep.

Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true-—she just likes to make things up, which is why she writes books. Her middle grade debut, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER, is due out in July 22, 2014, from Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House. She really hopes it’s funny.
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Jen Malone: AT YOUR SERVICE

Unlike your favorite hotel employees, Jen Malone doesn’t often answer to a ringing bell, but much like those service masters, she is usually smiling (usually). Today we’re introducing her on the OneFourKidLit blog. Jen is the author of the forthcoming AT YOUR SERVICE, which publishes with SImon & Schuster Aladdin this summer.

ATYOURSERVICE

Four questions. Are you ready?

Bring it! Wait, did that count as the first one?

No! Starting… now. Okay, tell us a little about your book.
AT YOUR SERVICE is about Chloe, who is laser-focused on becoming the best concierge the city of New York has ever seen, despite the fact that she’s only twelve at the book’s beginning. She does have a good mentor in her concierge father and living in a hotel keeps her right in the action (and makes her a legend among her friends: Sleepovers with room service sundae bars! Celebrity spottings! Maids to make her bed!) When Chloe proves herself particularly adept at handling at out-of-control guest, she is awarded the role of junior concierge, taking care of all the kids who stay at the hotel.
All is going well until the children of visiting royalty are placed in her care and the youngest princess pulls a disappearing act. With little to go on except the fact that Princess Ingrid is intent on completing her collection of souvenir pressed pennies, Chloe, her best friend Paisley, and the remaining royals: a perfectly perfect tween princess and her adorable prince (as in actual prince) of a brother have to hit up all of New York’s best tourist destinations to track down the little girl before Chloe’s mistake becomes international news and she loses all chances of future concierge glory.

Fun! Sounds like New York City plays a pretty major role in AT YOUR SERVICE?

Definitely! I consider it another character. I love the city and I head down from Boston several times a year, but most of my early impressions of it were formed from visiting the tourist sites and I still feel that magic of seeing the city through those eyes. I loved making Chloe a proud native and showing her joy in sharing her city with guests, as well as her indignation when Princess Sophie only focuses on its negatives. In fact my favorite lines in the book are when Sophie tells Chloe she’s not a fan and Chloe thinks, “Has she not seen the t-shirts? They don’t say “I FROWNY-FACE NY” No. They say “I HEART NY” And anyone who doesn’t heart it themselves must not have a heart to begin with.” She truly can’t believe anyone could resist its charms (although neither can I)!

What was your favorite scene to write?
Chloe’s first kiss, for sure. Granted, it takes place in front of Sexy Sadie the Bearded Lady at Ripley’s Believe it or Not and it’s for the benefit of a paparazzo, but it is from a cute prince and there’s some dipping involved (though mostly because she can’t put pressure on her newly-sprained ankle). The one I had the most fun researching was the Rockette scene. Chloe escorts a guest to a behind-the-scenes rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall, and I needed to be sure I was getting the details right. I was lucky enough that one of my critique partners is friends with a Rockette so I interviewed her for maybe two hours and she walked me step by step (pun intended) through a session. I had to cut a ton out of the book to keep the story moving along but I could have written ten chapters about this, I was so fascinated. Here’s a fun fact: did you know those dancers are able to keep such perfect formation in part because there are grid lines on the stage floor, marking horizontal lines and vertical lines with letters and numbers? So they learn the choreography according to their grid coordinates for each step. I also did a ton of research on behind-the-scenes hotel stuff, some of which makes me never want to travel again☺

Oh, do spill!

This didn’t make it into the book (though tons of other hotel tricks did), but if you’re rude to a New York City front desk clerk, he or she will assign you to Room 1212. That way, if guests use the phone in their room to dial any New York number (area code 212) and forget to dial 9 for an outside line, the phone in your room will ring. So you’ll likely be taking orders for Chinese food at 3 a.m! Less effective in the age of cell phones, but still pretty diabolical…