Welcome to the Spotlight Author Sundee T. Frazier!

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I’m very excited to welcome author Sundee T. Frazier and her awesome new chapter book:

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Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire (Scholastic Arthur A. Levine/2016)

Cleopatra Edison Oliver wants to be a major businesswoman like her idol Fortune A. Davis. When Cleo’s fifth grade teacher assigns her class to come up with Passion Projects, Cleo comes up with a brilliant idea for pulling loose teeth. Unfortunately, despite Cleo’s planning, both her business and her friendship with her best friend end up in jeopardy. Not only that, but her nemesis teases her about being adopted and Cleo’s reaction gets her in more trouble! This story will make readers laugh out loud, get teary, and cheer as Cleo figures her way out of her messes. I can’t wait to read more stories starring the brilliant Cleo!

Stayed tuned below for a chance to win a copy of this book!

Spotlight on Sundee:

What was the spark behind Cleo and her story, and what was your publishing journey for PLAYGROUND MILLIONAIRE?

Cleo is a good example of the various influences that generate story. The impetus for the novel was my agent who mentioned to me that she was noticing a big need (and demand) for chapter book series that featured main characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

I took on the challenge. I wanted Cleo to be a bright, energetic, confident African-American girl because this is part of my own heritage, and I have many aunts, cousins, and friends who are all Cleos in their own way. I have one young friend, in particular, who is very much this type, and it was her creativity and passion for selling that inspired the idea of a character who dreams of building a business empire.

Regarding her name, I knew the spirit of Cleopatra captured the essence of the character I wanted to create. I could imagine a young pregnant woman struggling with the decision to place her baby for adoption giving this name to her daughter to instill pride and confidence. I played around with middle and last names for Cleo and came up with Edison Oliver because I thought it would be fun to give her the initials C.E.O. Later I realized that Edison embodies Cleo’s drive toward business and innovation (Thomas Edison was quite the driven businessman as well as inventor from what I understand), and Oliver conjures the Dickens’ book, Oliver Twist, about an orphaned boy.

Cleo is not an orphan. However, she is an adopted kid, and while that fact doesn’t define her identity, it is a significant shaping force, just as race has been for me. The thing I love about Cleo is how she is a shaping force. She loves the art of persuasion and convincing people to buy whatever she’s selling, whether a product, a service, or just a great idea.

We “sold” Arthur A. Levine on Cleo after three-plus years of sharing the manuscript back and forth with this veteran (and venerated) editor. I couldn’t be more pleased to have Cleo coming out with his imprint at Scholastic.

What was the best part of writing this story? Any particular challenges?

Part of my calling as a writer, I’ve discovered, is to portray families that don’t “look” like they belong with one another. To show love that knows no boundaries, particularly along the lines that our society draws and defends so fiercely. In Cleo Edison Oliver, I continue my tradition of depicting interracial families. This family happens to be so by adoption—a beautiful and yet undeniably painful way that some parents and children come together. So this was probably the best part of writing the story—knowing that I’m continuing to provide portrayals of families that cross racial boundaries and contributing to the need for more adoptive families in stories for kids.

I also really enjoyed Cleo’s personality and seeing what she was going to do next. One of the most fun scenes to write was the one where she discovers the power of her Extractor Extraordinaire™ after recruiting her brother to be her trial customer for her tooth-pulling service.

The biggest challenge was sticking with it over several years, continuing to believe that it was an important story in spite of taking a while to get to publication. Now the challenge is having confidence that it will find its way to the kids who need it and will love it.

Cleo is an enterprising 5th grader with confidence and great ideas for creating businesses. She’s adopted and has a supportive and loving family. I instantly fell in love with her! How were you like or unlike Cleo when you were in fifth grade?

Although I went through a phase, like most kids, where I made little crafty things and hoped somehow to get people to buy them, I was never the Playground Millionaire type myself.

I’m not very business-savvy. I’m not an innate income-generator (apologies to my musician husband). I was always a dreamer, but in the realms of imagination, not in the real world! Honestly, I didn’t think I had much in common with Cleo and saw myself more clearly in the character of her supportive best friend, Caylee. However, as I struggled to find Cleo’s story and bring it to completion, I realized that while I didn’t necessarily identify with many of her character traits, on a deeper level, I understood her internal drives and longings: the desire to know where you come from, with whom you belong, and who you are. Identity questions and issues. Cleo also helped me admit to my pushy streak, and I suppose we share some over-achiever tendencies.

I hope the various forces that were at work to bring Cleo Edison Oliver into the world will direct her into the hands of all kinds of kids—future business moguls, entrepreneurs, adopted or not, black, white, and other. Ultimately, all kids are dreamers, and I hope that Cleo inspires them to persist in their dreams!

About Sundee:

Sundee T. Frazier is a Coretta Scott King Award winner for New Talent for Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, which also earned her an appearance on the TODAY Show with Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids. Her heartfelt, entertaining stories address subjects close to her heart: ethnic identity, growing up in interracial families, and multi-generational dynamics. Sundee’s work has been nominated for twelve state children’s choice awards, recognized by Oprah’s Book Club, Kirkus Reviews (Best Children’s Books of the Year), Bank Street College of Education, and the Children’s Book Council (among others). She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and two daughters, and you can read more about her work at www.sundeefrazier.com.

For more about Sundee, you can also friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Scholastic has generously offered to send a copy of this wonderful book to a lucky reader of this blog. Just follow the instructions (you know the drill by now) and you can win a copy for yourself or a child or a school/library!

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, February 2nd.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading! Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

2015 Reading List

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Another year, another list of fabulous books read! I really wish I had read even more. As is, my TBR pile seems to be never-ending. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish I could read all the books I want to. That being said, I really loved the books I did read and here’s the list. If the book made it on my list, it was worth the read. (Just FYI – I know I’m a week short of the official start of 2016, but I’ll be adding the books I read this week to the start of 2016’s list.)

EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon (YA fiction) – Housebound teen “bubble girl” falls in love with neighbor boy.
SOME LUCK by Jane Smiley (adult historical) – First book in trilogy about a family in Iowa (starting in the 1920s).
THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander (MG fiction) – Award-winning novel in verse about 12 year old Josh, his basketball obsession, and his family.
CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell (YA fiction) – Companion to FANGIRL, the story about the young magician Simon Snow and his adventures at a school for magicians.
FLIGHT SCHOOL by Lita Judge (picture book) – A penguin wants to learn how to fly.

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SHELTER PET SQUAD #2: MERLIN by Cynthia Lord (chapter book) – Suzannah who volunteers at her local shelter, helps the Shelter Pet Squad find a missing ferret.
TONIGHT THE STREETS ARE OURS by Leila Sales (YA fiction) – When her mother walks out, Arden finds comfort in a blog written by a boy in NYC.
ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King (YA fiction) – Teen keeps her best friend’s secret, but has secrets of her own, in a story about being true to yourself in a small town.
DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy (YA fiction) – Plus-sized Willowdean is comfortable in her own skin (even if her former beauty queen mother isn’t). This is my kind of book with an underdog to root for, relationships that need mending, and a hot boy.
PRINCESS JUNIPER OF THE HOURGLASS by Ammi-Joan Paquette (MG fiction) – On her 13th nameday, Princess Juniper asks her father for her own (small) kingdom of kids to rule for practice. Full of adventure and mystery!
SHOPAHOLIC TO THE RESCUE by Sophie Kinsella (adult fic) – I’m such a fan of Kinsella. In the continuing Shopaholic saga, Becky and her troop are in Vegas searching for her dad who mysteriously “disappeared.” Always laugh-out-loud fun reading.
FAT ANGIE by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (YA fiction) – A touching story about Fat Angie who grieves her war-hero sister, and is intrigued by the cool new girl who befriends her.
THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by Janet Fox (MG fiction) – Suspenseful tale that weaves magic and mystery together in a page-turning story about 12 year old Kate and her siblings who are sent to a castle in Scotland during the London blitz.

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HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE by Margaret Dilloway (adult fiction) – After the American occupation, Shoko leaves her home of Japan and moves to America after marrying a GI, leaving behind her family and a brother who disowns her.
THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales (YA fiction) – Bullied and friendless Elise discovers escape and friendship in an underground club as a DJ.
WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty (adult fiction) – After hitting her head, Alice loses 10 years of memories and is horrified to discover she’s in the middle of divorce proceedings with her husband whom she loves.

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CLEMENTINE FOR CHRISTMAS by Daphne Benedis-Grab (MG fiction) – Heart-warming story set before Christmas, three 6th graders are thrown together while volunteering on the pediatric ward at the hospital.
THESE SHALLOW GRAVES by Jennifer Donnelly (YA fiction) – Gripping thriller set in 19th century NYC, privileged Jo Monfort puts her reputation and engagement at risk to discover the truth behind her father’s death.
AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes (adult fiction) – Follow up to ME BEFORE YOU – can’t say more in case you haven’t read the first book yet. So worth it!

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MYSTERY AT THE EAGLE’S NEST (Cooper & Packrat) by Tamra Wight (chapter book) – The continuing adventures of Cooper and Packrat, best friends who live at a campground. This time they are tracking a group of mysterious strangers who might be endangering the eagles at the campground.
BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR by Elizabeth Gilbert (adult nonfiction) – Inspiration for living the creative life.
HOW TO START A FIRE by Lisa Lutz (adult fiction) – A intricately woven story about three friends who met in college.
THE NUTCRACKER COMES TO AMERICA by Chris Barton, illust. by Cathy Gendrone (nonfiction picture book) – The story of how three brothers brought the ballet story The Nutcracker to America.
A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan (adult fiction) – A book-loving woman who “has it all” takes a risk and joins a start up company that might put her best friend’s bookstore out of business.
UNBREAK MY HEART by Melissa Walker (YA fiction) – Clem is stuck on a boat with her family, nursing her wounds from a fight with her best friend, and unexpectedly falls for a boy on another boat.
HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN by Jennifer E. Smith (YA fiction) – High school sweethearts spend the last 12 hours before they go off to separate collages reminiscing and trying to decide if they should break up or stay together.
THE BOY MOST LIKELY TO by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA fiction) – A touching coming-of-age story dealing with love, teen parenthood, and mistakes made. (And a totally swoon-worthy male love interest!)
KISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb (YA fiction) – Sixteen year old grieving Eva falls for a boy who moves away and she finds a way to travel across the country to be with him.
LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE by Jeannine Atkins (adult historical) – Heart-warming story based on real life artist May Alcott (sister of Louisa May who wrote Little Women).
THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black (YA urban fantasy) – Hazel and her brother live in a town that more or less peacefully co-exists with faerie folk until the eternal sleeping boy in a glass coffin wakes up and disappears.
NONE OF THE ABOVE by I.W. Gregorio (YA fiction) – Krissy, senior star hurdler with a college scholarship in the bag and best boyfriend ever, learns she’s intersex. A deeply layered story of love and a self-acceptance.

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CLEO EDISON OLIVER, PLAYGROUND MILLIONAIRE by Sundee T. Frazier (chapter book)- Fifth grader Cleo has big aspirations to be a successful businesswoman and is determined to come up with the perfect business for her class assignment.
SANCTUARY by Jennifer McKissack (YA fiction) – Seventeen year old Cecelia must return to her childhood home, the estate on an island where memories haunt her.
THE HEART OF BETRAYAL by Mary E. Pearson (YA fiction) – Book 2 of the Remnant Chronicles follows the saga and adventures of Rafe, Kaden, and Lia. No spoilers here, but I can’t wait for book 3!
ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE by Tamara Ellis Smith (MG fiction) – The lives of two ten-year-old boys, one in Louisiana and one in Vermont, are swept up and thrown together in a tale dealing with and healing from loss.
BUNNIES!!! by Kevan Atteberry (picture book) – Humorous story about a monster who wants to befriend bunnies.
DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS by Laini Taylor (YA fantasy/fiction) – Book 3 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. No spoilers here!
DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor (YA fantasy/fiction) – Book 2 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. No spoilers here!
FISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (MG fiction) – A child who struggles with dyslexia gets support and help from a kind teacher and true friends.
IT’S A SEASHELL DAY by Dianne Ochiltree, illust. by Elliot Kreloff (picture book) – A child and mom spend a day at the beach, searching for shells and other treasures.

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ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA by Jim Averbeck, illust. by Jasmeen Ismail (picture book) – Sophie tries to convince her parents to get her a pet giraffe.
A HANDFUL OF STARS by Cynthia Lord (MG fiction) – Lily hopes to raise money for surgery for her blind dog Lucky who inadvertently introduces Lily to a migrant worker girl.
GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead (YA fiction) – Intertwining stories mostly about 8th grader Bridge – about friendship, first love, and family.
LOVE MAY FAIL by Matthew Quick (adult fiction) – Portia Kane leaves her cheating husband and returns to her hometown where she makes it her mission to help her former teacher.
MY DOG IS THE BEST by Laurie Ann Thompson, illus. by Paul Schmid (picture book fiction) – A boy and his dog. Adorable!
FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella (YA fiction) – With trademark Kinsella humor and empathy, a story about Audrey, a teen with severe anxiety who withdraws from the world, only to be slowly drawn back in by her brother’s friend.
IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME? by Mindy Kaling (adult memoir) – Mindy Kaling of The Mindy Project’s humorous memoir.
THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES:FRIEND OR FOE by Jody Feldman (MG fiction) – Book 3 of the Gollywhopper Games series has middle grader Zane sidelined from trying out for the football team chosen as a reluctant contestant for the third Gollywhopper Games.
THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (adult fiction) – Bex Porter leaves behind America and her twin sister to attend Oxford and falls for Nick, the Prince himself – a perfectly swoon-worthy read!
SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen (YA fiction) – Sydney struggles with her emotions dealing with a brother in prison and her parents whose lives revolve around him.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU by Jenny Han (YA fiction) – Starting just days after Lara Jean and Peter fight and end their fake relationship (TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE), the story continues to follow Lara Jean and her up and down love life and the fall out from the love letters she wrote (and didn’t send out, but somebody did).
PAPER THINGS by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (MG fiction) – Fifth grader Ari struggles in school and with friendship when her older brother removes her from her guardian’s care.
THE START OF ME AND YOU by Emery Lord (YA fiction) – A year after her boyfriend drowned, Paige, while still grieving, decides to try to start fresh.
THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma (YA fiction) – Amber has been held in the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center since she was 13. For three years, she’s survived, but something is going on…
VALIANT by Sarah McGuire (MG fiction) – When her father the tailor falls ill, Saville disguises herself as a boy and uses her gift (as much as she hates sewing) to feed them in this retelling of The Brave Little Tailor.
RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES by Kate McGovern (YA fiction) – Seventeen year old Rose has big dreams of becoming a professional ballerina and wants to take the test to find out if she has her mother’s Huntington’s disease. Falling for a guy was the last thing she wanted or needed.
BEEKLE by Dan Santat (picture book) – Sweet award-winning picture book about imaginary friends.
THE WINNER’S CRIME by Marie Rutkoski (YA fiction) – Book 2 in the Winner’s Trilogy, Kestral’s life continues to spin with love, betrayal, secrets, and deception. No spoilers here! Can’t wait for book 3!

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PICNIC IN PROVENCE by Elizabeth Bard (adult memoir) – Ex-pat American and her French husband move from Paris to Provence with their infant son.
MY BEST EVERYTHING by Sarah Tomp (YA fiction) – When Lulu Mendez, who wants to escape her small town, learns her father has blown her college savings, she comes up with a desperate plan to make/sell moonshine.
GOOD OMENS by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (adult fiction) – A tongue-in-cheek telling of the Apocalypse involving Crowley (devil) and Aziraphael (angel) who because they have grown fond of living on Earth join forces to try to prevent the end of the world.
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki (adult fiction) – When Ruth finds and reads a diary washed up on the shore of her Canadian beach, she get lost in the world of a teen age girl, uprooted from her home in Sunnyvale and forced to move to Tokyo after her father loses his lucrative Silicon Valley job.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (adult historical fiction) – Pulitzer Prize winning novel told in multiple POV, mostly from a young blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a young German boy Werner caught up in WWII.
FIRST FROST by Sarah Addison Allen (adult fiction) – In a return to the Waverly sisters (GARDEN SPELLS), Allen expertly weaves magical realism in a story filled with love, family, and hope.
ALL FALL DOWN by Ally Carter (YA fiction) – When 16yo Grace Blakely returns to live with her grandfather, the US ambassador to Adria, she is determined to prove she’s not crazy, convince her family her mother was killed not in an accident, and find her mother’s murderer. Can’t wait for book 2 of the Embassy Row series!
THE ROSIE EFFECT by Graeme Simsion (adult fiction) – In a follow up to THE ROSIE PROJECT (Spoiler Alert), Don Tillman and Rosie are now married and living in New York, and Don, who does not deal well with surprises, is surprised to learn Rosie is pregnant.
READ BETWEEN THE LINES by Jo Knowles (YA fiction) – Interrelated “short stories” told in multiple POVs centered around the middle finger after unpopular Nate Granger breaks his middle finger during high school gym class.
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor (YA fiction) – Book 1: Karou, an art student living on her own in Prague belongs to another world, one of half beasts – chimera, and in particular her foster father Brimstone who does some sort of magic with the teeth Karou is tasked to collect.
THIS ONE SUMMER by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (YA graphic novel) – Rose, on the cusp of adolescence, reunites with her summer best friend as they explore questions of life and love.
THE SORCERER HEIR by Cinda Williams Chima (YA fiction) – In a continuation of the Heir Chronicles, Emma Lee/Greenwood continues to struggle with her fear that the boy she loves, Jonah, is responsible not only for her father’s murder but the other murders as well.

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What did you read that you especially loved in 2015?

Thank you for being here and for allowing me to share great books with you. Here’s to a fantastic 2016 of MORE great books (and more give-aways)!

And The Winner Is…

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Thanks to everyone who stopped by to help shine the holiday lights on this middle-grade gem:

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Clementine for Christmas by Daphne Benedis-Grab

(Scholastic/2015)

If you missed the summary and the interview, check it out here.

The winner of a copy of this heart-warming middle-grade book was chosen using a random number generator. The winner is…(drumroll please – rumpumpumpum):

Number 1 – Nancy Tandon! Congratulations! Please contact me with your mailing address and I’ll get the book out to you ASAP!

Stayed tuned for more interviews, book buzz, and give-aways! Thanks for stopping by!

Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Daphne Benedis-Grab

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I’m happy to welcome back author Daphne Benedis-Grab, this time to showcase her newest MG novel, just in time for the holidays! Stay tuned below for a chance to enter to win a copy of this fun book for kids!

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Clementine for Christmas by Daphne Benedis-Grab (Scholastic/2015)

In this heart-warming story set before Christmas, three 6th graders who don’t hang out at school together, end up together while volunteering on the pediatric ward at the hospital. Josie and her dog Clementine volunteer by visiting the patients and cheering them up with her singing. She especially loves Christmas and is looking forward to the annual holiday festival. Oscar ends up having to volunteer at the hospital after getting in a fight with another boy. He’s resentful and he is not particularly fond of Christmas, especially because his parents who argue all the time anyway, fight even more close to the holiday. Gabby ends up in the hospital as a patient, and wants so badly to keep the reason why a secret that she joins Josie and Oscar in hopes of keeping them quiet. When the Festival is in danger of being canceled, the three work together to try to save it. Sweet story that made me laugh out loud AND get teary-eyed.

Spotlight on Daphne:

Please share with us the story behind the story of CLEMENTINE FOR CHRISTMAS – what was the spark for the idea and how did the story come together for you as you wrote it?

I love Christmas and was excited to write another middle grade book with that setting (my first was THE ANGEL TREE which you were nice enough to feature last year!). I also really enjoy writing multiple characters who each have a different side of the story to tell. But what pulled it all together was the hospital setting- a place where Gabby, who is sick, must go, a place where Josie volunteers doing skits on the pediatric ward and for a Oscar, the place he must go as a consequences for fighting in school. Once I got all three kids in the same building, the story bloomed!

I adored all three characters – sweet and kind Josie, gruff on the outside Oscar, and popular but hiding a secret Gabby – and of course Clementine the dog. But I admit a soft spot in my heart for Oscar who was trying to protect himself and his feelings by putting up walls. Do you have a favorite? What was it like getting to know these characters?

This is a hard one for me because there are things I like about each character: Josie’s big heart and her holiday spirit, Gabby’s affection for her brothers and struggles with her past, and Oscar who acts tough but is covering sadness. Josie came to me first, probably because we share a deep affection for both Christmas and animals. Oscar wasn’t hard to get to know either- I’ve definitely walled off my own pain and put on a tough façade like Oscar does, plus he has a bit of a temper just like me. Gabby took the longest to get to know- I knew how she looked on the outside- pretty, popular- and that she was hiding a secret. But getting to know who she was behind all that took some time- the key was her family and how much she loves them, especially her mischievous little brothers!

Ah Clementine! I love animals, but I do love dogs best of all. Do you have a pet? What’s the best thing about your pet?

We have a glorious tabby cat name Tango whom we adopted from a shelter after he’d been living on the streets of Brooklyn for the first few months of his life. At first he was a feral street kitty and super skittish, kind of like Clementine when Josie found her as an abandoned puppy. But after a few years of being pampered, Tango is a big fluffy bundle of love, friendly and affectionate as can be. He was my model for Clementine with his sweet nature, loving manner and innate ability to know when his owners might feel a bit down and need some extra kitty kisses.

Debbi, thank you for having me on your awesome blog!!

Daphne is the author of the middle grade books The Angel Tree (2014) and Clementine for Christmas (2015). Her short stories have appeared in American Girl Magazine and she also published two young adult books, one of which was an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  She earned an MFA at The New School and is an adjunct professor at McDaniel College, as well as a former high school history teacher.

For more about Daphne and her books, visit her web site.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, November 21st by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, November 24th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading! Thanks for stopping by!

 

And The Winner Is…

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Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Jennifer McKissack’s haunting YA

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Sanctuary (Scholastic/2015)

If you missed the interview, check it out here.

The big winner of this awesome book is commenter number 1! Suzanne Morrone come on down! Please contact me with your mailing address, and I’ll be sure to send you your prize ASAP!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by! Stayed turned for more book buzz and give-aways! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Jennifer McKissack and Sanctuary

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I’m thrilled to shine the spotlight on talented author Jennifer McKissack and her spine-chilling novel, Sanctuary! Stay tuned below for a chance to win a copy!

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Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack (Scholastic/2015)

When 17-year-old Cecilia’s aunt dies and her cantankerous uncle stops paying for her tuition at her boarding school, Cecilia returns to Sanctuary, an old estate on an island off the coast of Maine. She has mixed feelings about returning – while she grew up there with happy memories, the past also haunts her. Her father died there, her mother was committed to an asylum, and her grandmother and sister perished in a fire there. A mysterious visitor, a young professor who is interested in Cecilia’s beloved library, draws her attention, but not as much as the strange happenings on the island. Cecilia fears she might be losing her mind as her mother had, and yet, she must solve the mysteries of the island. A haunting tale full of intrigue.

Spotlight on Jennifer McKissack:

How did SANCTUARY come to be? And what was the path to publication?

REBECCA. It’s a gothic novel that enthralled me as a teen and I’ve returned to as an adult. SANCTUARY isn’t a retelling of that classic, but I tried to capture the tone and sensibility of Daphne du Maurier’s haunting novel.

My (incredibly awesome) agent Trish Toney Lawrence is also a fan of REBECCA. Before she offered representation, we talked on the phone and bonded over our love for the book. It was one of the reasons SANCTUARY appealed to her. Trish quickly found two interested editors, and from there, we accepted an offer from the gifted Lisa Sandell at Scholastic. I am very fortunate to be in such good hands.

The house, the island, and the time period are integral parts of this haunting story. Can you tell us how you made these key decisions for the story and how you developed the island as a character?

Places have a very powerful hold on us. Houses, islands, towns, beaches, lakes, rivers, and places that we consider home — have a pull and a push that feels very human, as if you’re in a relationship. I wanted to explore that feeling and create it for the reader.

Cecilia sees ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts? Do you have a ghost story of your own to share?

I think there is a possibility that we have a spiritual connection with the earth that lingers after we die, especially if there was a traumatic event that affected many, many people. One of my characters mentions it in SANCTUARY. That observation emerges from the feeling I had when visiting Gettysburg. Something there. I’m not sure what. But it’s palpable.

Jenny writes, and lives not too far from the sea.

For more about Jennifer and her books, follow her on Twitter or friend her on Facebook.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.

1. Comment on this post by Saturday October 3rd by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, October 6th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

 

And The Winner Is…

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Hello! And thank you for being so patient for me to reveal the winner of the latest drawing! We last shined the spotlight on this amazing novel:

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Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins (She Writes Press/2015)

If you missed my interview with the talented author of this story based on May Alcott (sister of Louisa May Alcott), you can check it out here.

And now a special treat – the winner of this drawing will have the opportunity to get a signed copy! Stayed tuned for details below.  A random number generator has chosen comment number 14 – the winner is…

commenter number 14 – Elizabeth the Evil Overlord! (oooh, sounds foreboding!) :) Congratulations! Please contact me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) no later than October 10th and let me know to whom you’d like your book signed. I will mail your prize to you after the 13th (after I get the book signed by Jeannine)!

EDITED TO ADD: Because Elizabeth already has the book she kindly offered to let another winner be drawn. The new winner is commenter number 8! Andrea Wang! YAY! Please follow above directions to receive your prize!

Happy reading!