And The Winner Is…


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


Clementine for Christmas by Daphne Benedis-Grab


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


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!


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…


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


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


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!


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…


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:


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!

Welcome to the Spotlight Jeannine Atkins and Little Woman in Blue


I’m super excited to shine the spotlight on talented friend and author Jeannine Atkins. I’ve long been a fan of her work. When she read me the opening to a new work-in-progress, a few years ago, it stayed with me – I wanted to read the rest! I’m so happy that I was recently able to do that, and now you can read it, too! Her newest novel is for adults, but could definitely be enjoyed by young adults, as well. Stayed tuned below for a chance to win:


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

A touching, heartwarming, and amazing story about the other Alcott sister – May Alcott, portrayed as the selfish Amy in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN. What Atkins paints here is a vivid and layered portrait of younger sister May, who was an artist, a dreamer, independent, and loyal. From her days living with her family, to her adventures abroad, to her struggles to become a respected artist in her own right, May’s life unfurls on the pages of this novel. While I was a fan of LITTLE WOMEN as a young girl, I admit to not knowing much about the author or her family. I couldn’t stop turning pages as I wondered if May would find success as an artist, find love, or see her family again. Although this is a work of fiction, the author has undoubtedly done a great deal of research to make the May’s life story feel so real and true.

Spotlight on Jeannine Atkins:

Why May Alcott? And can you tell us a little about the research you did? How long did it take you to write this story from idea to finished draft?

When writing about women from the past, one fascinating person often leads to another. Working on Becoming Little Women: Louisa May at Fruitlands, a novel about the Alcott’s time at a utopian community, I read a lot about the whole family. I was fascinated to learn that the youngest sister who was depicted in Little Women as a spoiled, not-very-talented artist in fact took painting very seriously, and didn’t give up her work for romance. She wanted both.

I read May Alcott’s journals and letters, as well as those of her family and neighbors. I looked at her paintings and studied other artists of that period. I worked off and on for about fifteen years. That’s obviously a long story, so let’s just say there were many drafts, two agents who gathered some interested letters but no commitments, and consistent support from my husband and writing group and friends in between. So thankful for that!

May Alcott was an aspiring artist – you captured the nuances of her determination, her worries and insecurities, and her creative spirit so realistically. How did you manage to channel her so vividly?

There’s a fine line between channeling and letting in your own feelings when writing historical fiction. Or maybe no line. Much of May’s life is very different from mine, but I found details about her family and work that let me dream my way in. And most creative people who’ve fought to be taken seriously can relate to both doubts and persistence. Those common feelings made a meeting point between us, while I stayed true to past events.

When did you read LITTLE WOMEN and do you have any special memories associated with the book? Who was your favorite character and why?

I played LITTLE WOMEN with my sister and two friends before I read the book. I knew the basic roles from seeing parts of the movie on television. I liked Katharine Hepburn as Jo, but so did my older sister, who claimed her, as older sisters do. I didn’t entirely mind. The youngest sister, Amy, had better clothes and seemed to have more fun.

As I grew up into a writer, I often thought of Jo March/Louisa May Alcott as a model, but her real younger sister reminded me that dedicating yourself to creative work doesn’t have to be lonely. Everyone trips into creative holes or slams into walls sometimes, but here was a woman who always seemed to remember the joy. She’s kept me good company through all the years of writing!

Jeannine Atkins is the author of Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters and Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life. She teaches as an adjunct at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Simmons College. You can learn more on her website at

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 September 19th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random. Because of upcoming travel, I will announce the winner here on Tuesday, September 29th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Look what I found! My copy of LITTLE WOMEN given to me by an aunt and uncle back in 1979! I may have to re-read it.

Good luck and happy reading!


And The Winner Is…


Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on 9780062335319_p0_v1_s192x300

None of the Above  by I.W. Gregorio (Balzer & Bray/2015)

If you missed the interview, click here.

And now for the winner of a copy of this outstanding debut YA novel about an intersex teen and her search for acceptance and love. Using a random number generator, the winning number commenter is…

number 4, Betsy Devany! Congratulations! Please contact me with your mailing info and I’ll make sure you get your prize ASAP!

Stayed tuned for more buzz reviews, spotlight interviews, and give-aways! Happy reading!