Middle Grade Authors Love Teachers Giveaway #MGAuthorsLoveTeachers, 2016



It’s no secret to those of you who know me that I just adore and respect teachers and librarians teacherswho are out there every day with kids–reaching out to them with just the right book or just the right conversation and changing lives. As is often said in children’s literature circles, books offer both mirrors and windows to readers. We often discover things about ourselves and/or who we want to be through reading (mirrors). We also learn about the world–other cultures, ways of life, opinions and learn to empathize with others (windows). For some, a book offers a friend and the ability to revisit that friend as needed. Yes, we write the books. but YOU put those books into the hands of kids every day. We are a team.


So…to express this appreciation and love for ALL of you heroes/teachers/librarians out there, I have banded together with some author friends (THANKS to you all for your kindness and generosity!) to offer one GIANT giveaway for one lucky winner. The winner of this giveaway will receive a signed copy of every single book below–each mailed to you in separate packages. Several are new releases, so the winner will be ahead of the game reading-wise in 2016! You may click on each cover to see more information about the book and its author.


Directions for entering are at the bottom.



















Jennifer Richard Jacobson

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So a pretty cool line-up of signed middle grade novels, huh?

Note: Ten of these books are 2016 releases. Therefore, there may be a delay in receiving a book that has not been released yet. When the author has them in hand, you will get one! Promise🙂

Okay–so to enter the MIDDLE GRADE Giveaway to win ALL of these books:

1) Make a comment on this blog about anything book-related or kid-related. Or teacher/librarian related. Or anything-under-the-sun related. 🙂 *Please provide twitter handle or e-mail address with your comment* Also, if you share elsewhere online (Facebook, Google+, etc.) please let me know here.

2) Share to Twitter with the hashtag #MGAuthorsLoveTeachers  I know–long hashtag 🙂 But it will help us find your entry! Please include link, if possible!



Rules: ***Giveaway ends on Saturday, February 20th at 11:59. Winner will be announced Sunday morning.

1) This is to show our appreciation for teachers and librarians, specifically. Therefore, the winner must have a school mailing address and be presently employed at that school. (Sorry–only US and Canadian winners this time.)

***2) We know that teachers do not always get the appreciation they deserve. (They deserve parades and serenades and major awards.) This giveaway is a reminder that WE appreciate you. Yes—we write the books, but YOU get the books into the hands of our readers. Together, we are creating life-long readers. For that we are most grateful.

THANK YOU for visiting our giveaway!

Be well, read well,




Thanks for being fantastico


Categories: author, books, Giveaway, Love of teachers, middle-grade, writing | 407 Comments

3,2,1…Launch Party!



Yesterday, was my launch party for my book, FISH IN A TREE (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin–coming February 5th). Even though it was Super Bowl Sunday, we had a good turnout–and it was fun! I saw people I haven’t seen for years. A flurry of hugs at the doorway.

There were others on my mind though–such as Nerdy friends from across the country who I wish had been able to be there. Not just to buy a book but to celebrate a new book entering the world–and its future readers as well. That’s what we do as nerds–celebrate books and their readers! So, in honor of these people (and because I hate to see any party end) I’m going to offer a giveaway for a signed copy of FISH IN A TREE, an official FIAT Launch Party shirt, and some book swag.

But, first….some pictures. :-)  (HUGE thanks to Greg Hunt and Liz Goulet Dubois for most of these pictures )

Getting ready :-)

Getting ready🙂

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Some of our FANTASTICO volunteers!

Some of our FANTASTICO volunteers!

Raffle Table!

Raffle Table!

Book poster and a shot of a young man who would prove to be very good at fishing.

Book poster and a shot of a young man who would prove to be very good at fishing.

Nerdy friend, Lesley Burnap, Jason Lewis, Susan Dee, and Gigi McAllister

Nerdy friend, Lesley Burnap, Jason Lewis, Susan Dee, and Gigi McAllister

I love to meet young readers! ((photo: Karin LeFranc)

I love to meet young readers! ((photo: Karin LeFranc)

One of the stations where readers could win raffle tickets - Add a Page to The Sketchbook of Impossible Things. GREAT Additions!

One of the stations where readers could win raffle tickets – Add a Page to The Sketchbook of Impossible Things. GREAT Additions!

One for my favorite volunteers :-)

One for my favorite volunteers🙂

Girls playing and enjoying chess!

Girls playing and enjoying chess!

West Hartford Librarian, Kari Karp, plays GO FISH!

West Hartford Librarian, Kari Karp, plays GO FISH!



Caption Contest booth with an enthusiastic facilitator :-)

Caption Contest booth with an enthusiastic facilitator🙂

Cupcake making!

Cupcake making!

Artistic folk :-)

Artistic folk🙂

A new page is added to The Sketchbook of Impossible Things!

A new page is added to The Sketchbook of Impossible Things!

A raffle ticket and the remnants of a cupcake.

A raffle ticket and the remnants of a cupcake.

Happy :-)


Fish in a Tree T-shirts

Fish in a Tree T-shirts

Albert Jeopardy. Apparently, these two fine young fellows made up some pretty impressive questions for game-goers.

Albert Jeopardy. Apparently, these two fine young fellows made up some pretty impressive questions for game-goers.

Albert Jeopardy board :-)

Albert Jeopardy board🙂

Cupcakes! With a rainbow of frosting choices. :-)

Cupcakes! With a rainbow of frosting choices.🙂 And a dedicated cupcake helper!

Gigi McAllister came all the way from Maine! (along with 3 others) Thank you!

Gigi McAllister came all the way from Maine! (along with 3 others) Thank you!

What are the objects in the mystery boxes???

What are the objects in the mystery boxes???

Reader :-) (Photo: Rebecca Smalian)

Reader🙂 (Photo: Rebecca Smalian)

Fish for the tree!

Fish for the tree!

People :-)


So happy to see these friends! Jeanne, Mary, Liz and Laurie :-)

So happy to see these friends! Jeanne, Mary, Liz and Laurie🙂

Kyle fishing for words

Fishing for letters to make words!

Creating fish for the tree :-)

Creating fish for the tree🙂

Fishing :-)

Author, Leslie Bulion, fishes for words.🙂

Lynda speaks to readers about where Fish in a Tree came from.

Lynda speaks to readers about where Fish in a Tree came from.

West Hartford librarian, Janet Murphy, is the master of making fish for the tree!

West Hartford librarian, Janet Murphy, is the master of making fish for the tree!

Artist at work!

Artist at work!

Making friendship bracelets next to The Caption Contest booth.

Making friendship bracelets next to The Caption Contest booth.

Tattooed hands!

Tattooed hands!

More people :-)

More people🙂

Susan Dee wins a bucket o' swag, a signed copy of FISH IN A TREE, and a Skype visit :-)

Susan Dee wins a bucket o’ swag, a signed copy of FISH IN A TREE, and a Skype visit🙂

BIg winner of Ally Nickerson's art supplies.

Big winner of Ally Nickerson’s art supplies.

Three *very* helpful members of the Teen Advisory Board, and West Hartford librarians, Kari Karp and Janet Murphy.

Three *very* helpful members of the Teen Advisory Board, and West Hartford librarians, Kari Karp and Janet Murphy.

Fish for the tree!

Fish for the tree!

Choosing the winners...

Choosing the winners…

Teacher, Melanie Swider, winner of the author visit. :-) Can't wait to visit her school!

Teacher, Melanie Swider, winner of the author visit.🙂 Can’t wait to visit her school!

Laurie Murphy, another raffle winner ;-)

Laurie Murphy, another raffle winner😉

With me in spirit - my fantastico agent, Erin Murphy :-)

With me in spirit – my fantastico agent, Erin Murphy🙂

Also with me in spirit! My Penguin peeps: Eileen Kreit, Nancy Paulsen, Venessa Carson, and Alexis Watts. (I wish Sara LaFleur were in this picture, too!)  My editor and publisher, Nancy Paulsen, is phenomenal. She is the steel penny of editors--one of a kind! I am most grateful for the day she called and every day we've worked together since.

Also with me in spirit! My Penguin peeps: Venessa Carson, Nancy Paulsen, moi, Eileen Kreit, and Alexis Watts. (I wish Sara LaFleur were in this picture, too!)
My editor and publisher, Nancy Paulsen, is phenomenal. She is the steel penny of editors–one of a kind! I am most grateful for the day she called and every day we’ve worked together since.

Thank you all for an extraordinary day! I am so, so lucky...

Thank you all for an extraordinary day! I am so, so lucky…

My heartfelt thanks to all who came to celebrate with me on Sunday. It was such a great day – I just kept thinking how very lucky I am. I am blessed. Truly blessed. And I never take any of it for granted.


To my online friends ~ Thank you for “visiting” my launch party🙂

OKAY! NOW for the giveaway information🙂

fiat giveaway

I am offering a giveaway for:

1) A signed copy of FISH IN A TREE

2) A free, full-length Skype visit.

3) A FISH IN A TREE T-shirt from the launch party

4) Some FIAT swag for a classroom.


1) Please comment on this blog post🙂

2) Please tweet and/or retweet with hashtag #FIATbook. You must include hashtag to be entered.🙂

Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on Saturday, February 7th. TWO winners will be announced/notified on Sunday.


Thank you ALL, my fantasticos!!! 


Categories: author, books, Fish in a Tree, Giveaway, Great minds don't think a like, Love of teachers, writing | 90 Comments

Collection of Teacher-Related & Bullying Posts – NCTE14


At NCTE, I’d referred to these two teacher-related posts and a bullying post in a few conversations w/ teachers. I had promised to post them here so they are easy to find for you–so here they are. Whether I had the pleasure of speaking with you or not, thank you for stopping by here. I appreciate it.🙂



**COVER REVEAL FOR FISH IN A TREE  (About the first teacher that changed me. Saved me, really… My novel, FISH IN A TREE turned out to be a love letter to him and all teachers like him)


THE YEAR I MET PETER: (About the first book that changed me)


IRON WHISPER (being bullied as a kid)


Categories: Ally Nickerson, books, Fish in a Tree, Great minds don't think a like, journey, Love of teachers, NCTE, Teachers/Teaching, writing | Leave a comment

Book Train Rolls Out of the Station!

One of the reasons, I loved going to my grandparents’ was their big wooden box in the basement filled with toys and books. There was one thing in particular that I loved—a giant picture book of Little Red Riding Hood. I’d toss the toys aside to find it and sit myself right down on that cold concrete floor to flip through its pages. Although I had toys, I had no books of my own at home.

After publishing One for the Murphys, (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, May, 2012) a children’s novel about a tough girl who is changed by a loving foster family, I’ve found that few foster children have their OWN books. Yes–most foster parents provide books but for a foster child to OWN a book? This is rare. I want to change that.

I know as an author, a teacher, a parent, and a former child that reading opens doors–not only out in the big world–but also within the heart. I know that if I had had books of my own when I was young, I may have been kick started earlier–rather than waiting until my sixth grade teacher changed everything.  He took the time to look beyond my disheveled appearance. The fact that I’d been in the lowest reading group since first grade. He looked beyond those things and more. He took an interest in me. He set high expectations. And then he began giving me books.

Thank you cards

I learned about the impact a caring adult can have on a life. I also learned that books feed the mind. They change hearts and expectations and perceptions.

And, therefore, they change futures.

So, I started BOOK TRAIN. I hope you will help me spread, not only the books themselves, but also the love and pride of ownership of such beloved books. Books of every genre, for every age group, and every reading level.

If you would like to donate a book, please go HERE to choose an address to a DCF volunteer. This wonderful person will put your donation directly into the hands of a child. (You may order a book online and have it shipped directly–no shipping charge or hassle!) You will receive a Book Train thank you card that will also serve as a tax receipt–provided you include your mailing address with your donation.

Thanks so much.

Now, let’s get this train rolling…

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Categories: Be Someone's Hero, Book Train, books, Foster care | 9 Comments

Interview with WATER BALLOON author, Audrey Vernick

Drop everything you’re doing (well, except for reading this!) and get thee to a bookstore! Today is the official release day of Audrey Vernick’s WATER BALLOON, a young adult novel that made me laugh out loud one moment and brush away tears the next.

Marley Baird is dealing with a lot. The book chronicles a summer of juggling losses—her parents are newly separated, her best friends are peeling away, she must live with her dad for the summer in a new place, and she is saddled with a summer babysitting job that she doesn’t want. However, with all of the losses, there are gains for her, as she navigates change, learns to trust her instincts and be honest with herself. Also, meeting Jack, a cute boy who loves dogs as much as she does doesn’t hurt either.

In a word, this book is authentic. The characters are rich and layered, drawn like real people with many sides. I loved Marley Baird immediately and the more I got into the book, the more I loved her. She is a real kid. An honest kid. A kid who thinks and feels and acts authentically. Does she always make the right decisions? No. But, Marley Baird is so real and I love that.

One of the subplots I loved was Marley’s dad-imposed babysitting job. The twins in Marley’s charge are hilarious and Marley’s take on them is equally so. Not chuckle funny—laugh out loud funny.

Another impressive facet of this book was the friendship triangle. Vernick does a masterful job of setting up a situation where the reader knows that Marley will commit social suicide. As a reader, you want to yell, “No! Don’t do it!” but I love this subplot for so many reasons. Yes, my heart broke for Marley, but I love how she is socially naïve because there are so many kids like that and they aren’t often drawn in books. Television, especially, tends to depict the kids who’d rather grow up overnight. A book like this would be wonderful for those *many* kids out there who’d rather take their time.

In fact, let me just say that I loved this book so much, that I will find the space in my heart to forgive the dartboard with the Red Sox in the middle. And that’s really sayin’ something.

Okay. Enough from me! I’m thrilled to have Audrey Vernick here today to answer some questions about her debut novel, WATER BALLOON.

1) What were the initial seeds of WATER BALLOON?

I decided it was time to write a novel. I had no idea where to begin. No story. No character. Zip.

A family in our neighborhood was going through the early stages of divorce, and I thought a lot about the emotional cost of a family breaking apart. I didn’t know them well, but you could see the strain on the girl, the younger of two children. That was my starting point—a girl struggling with the dismantling of what had always been her daily world.

I wrote the first draft so long ago that I can’t remember where the rest came from. Oh, except for the two friends—Leah and Jane. The trauma of middle-grade friendship is something I remember very well.

2) How much of you is in Marley Baird?

A ton. That’s been the big difference for me between my picture books and this novel. It’s always felt like my picture books are…my books. And my novel is me.

3) The word that pops into my head about your book is “authentic.” For example, I feel like I’ve met real children in the twins and the friendship triangle with Leah and Jane is heartbreakingly real. Can you tell us about something in the book that was completely fictional and tell us why and how you created it?

First, this isn’t something I’ve thought about, but if I were asked what Water-Balloon-describing adjective would be the most satisfying and happy-making, I think I’d have said “authentic,” so thank you so very much for that. As a reader I am deeply put off by inauthentic moments in books and my greatest concern was avoiding such moments.

Second, to answer the opposite of your question, the only thing that’s really true in this book is Rig, who is based on my beloved dog, Rookie (with the one difference being that Rig never takes off when unleashed while Rookie’s greatest desire seems to be to get very far away from me as quickly as he is able).

Third, a real answer: I made up that Monopoly game. I wanted something that was unique and important to those three friends. Their version of the game, along with the water balloon blitz tradition, is meant to convey the weight and worth of their years of intense friendship.

4) Can you tell us about your own young life as a Yankee fan?

I wasn’t a young Yankee fan! I grew up in Queens, home of the Mets. I tried to love that team of misfits, but I just couldn’t.

I imagine the Yankees started to rub off on me when I was attending high school in the Bronx. But there was something about living in Boston in the late eighties that brought out the Bronx in me.

My great Yankee fan years have been adult years. I’ve been fortunate to be at some stadium-shaking games in the old stadium, and over at the new house with my son when Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit. That was an awesome, electric day. (Check this out, Red Sox fans: Hunt’s devoting time and space in her blog to great Yankee moments!)

5) Which relationship in the book did you find the most satisfying to write?

I thought a lot about how to answer this one. I think Marley grows a lot in almost all her relationships, even those that ultimately end. But I think the one I enjoyed writing the most was the one that was unchanging—Marley’s relationship with her dog, Rig.

Rig is just in the background a lot, but he’s always there, the way we can count on our pets to be when life’s too hard to talk about with other humans. He’s steady, that Rig. I’m glad Marley had him.

6) How did the book change during the revision process with your editor?

First with my agent, and then with my editor. The big change with the agent-revision was to strive to make it a less quiet book. All the water balloon material was added in this revision—which means the most painful scene, the one in which Marley pretty much commits social suicide, is new. While things were very difficult and complicated with her friends in earlier drafts, the addition of the balloon blitz tradition helped me raise the stakes in a way that was absent from earlier drafts.

I think what my revision with my editor achieved was to make Marley more likeable. She grows more in this version. It was so interesting to me—with a few light strokes, a self-pitying scene flipped into one that was more likely to evoke compassion in readers. My editor also suggested the addition of a couple of scenes that now feel like they have always been there, including the last scene.

Audrey, thanks so much for coming by today. And, a huge congratulations on this wonderful debut. Can’t wait to read the next one!

Categories: author, Book Review, books, inspiring, interview | Tags: | 2 Comments

Mentor Monday ~ Conrad Wesselhoeft

Welcome to the second installment of MENTOR MONDAYS!!

This week, we’ll hear from YA author, Conrad Wesselhoeft. I had the opportunity to hear a bit of his novel, ADIOS NIRVANA, while it was in the works. You want to talk about “voice?” This is it! I was pulled in immediately and have been looking forward to its release ever since.

The book sits here on my desk, but I’m afraid to open it. I have revisions of my own to do that are due to my editor. I’m afraid if I open Conrad’s book, I won’t be able to put it down! When my revisions are submitted, though, you know what I’ll be doing!


From Booklist:

In the wake of his twin brother’s death, Jonathan, a former star student, is facing the possibility of repeating his junior year. The only things standing between him and failure are his devoted best friends, an understanding principal named Gupti, and his English teacher. The assignments that will ensure his promotion? Attend class every day, help an 88-year-old WWII veteran write his memoir, and perform Gupti’s favorite song, “Crossing the River Styx,” at graduation. Wesselhoeft offers a psychologically complex debut that will intrigue heavy-metal aficionados and drama junkies alike. Peopled with the elderly and infirm, crazy parents, caring educators, and poignant teens trying desperately to overcome death’s pull, it mixes real and fictional musicians and historical events to create a moving picture of struggling adolescents and the adults who reach out with helping hands. Darker and more complex than Jordan Sonnenblick’s thematically similar Notes from the Midnight Driver (2006), Adios, Nirvana targets an audience of YAs who rarely see themselves in print. Grades 8-12. –Frances Bradburn

Indie Bound Description:

When you piss off a bridge into a snowstorm, it feels like you’re connecting with eternal things. Paying homage to something or someone. But who? The Druids? Walt Whitman?
No, I pay homage to one person only, my brother, my twin.

In life. In death.

Since the death of his brother, Jonathan’s been losing his grip on reality. Last year’s Best Young Poet and gifted guitarist is now Taft High School’s resident tortured artist, when he bothers to show up. He’s on track to repeat eleventh grade, but his English teacher, his principal, and his crew of Thicks (who refuse to be seniors without him) won’t sit back and let him fail.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Not only is Conrad a genius writer, but a super great guy as well. I’m thrilled that he has agreed to participate in my Mentor Mondays Series and look forward to seeing many more books from him down the road.

And away we go! Welcome, Conrad!

The Wisdom of Scott O’Dell
By Conrad Wesselhoeft
Scott O’Dell was my friend and mentor. That’s a tall statement considering that I met him only once. But that day changed my life.
I was a young staffer at the New York Times, harboring a secret ambition: to write novels. But how? Writing a novel seemed far out of my depth. However, writing a feature story about a novelist might be a stroke in the right direction. So I set up an interview, hopped a train at Grand Central, and headed north to Westchester County, New York.
Who was Scott O’Dell? Probably the most acclaimed young-adult author of his generation. He had written nearly two dozen books—including the classic “Island of the Blue Dolphins”—and garnered a barrel of prizes: the Newbery Medal (for “Dolphins”); three Newbery Honor Awards; and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for a body of work.
Scott greeted me at the station. Now 85, he looked time-chiseled and fit, with a shock of white hair, barrel chest, and deep tan. We climbed into his big car, and he peeled for his home on Long Pond. He seemed to enjoy speed.
The interview was supposed to last about two hours, but it filled the morning and lapped into the afternoon. We broke for a late lunch.
“Enough about me,” he said, over seafood chowder. “What about you? What do you want to do with your life?”
I stammered out the true contents of my gut: “I want to write novels.”“Well, then, write them.”
“But I don’t have time. I don’t know how.”
He planted a hand on the table and leaned close. His blue eyes sparked. “Now listen—listen!”
I did listen. Here’s what Scott O’Dell taught me:
Writing is about starting. Start simply, even if it amounts to no more than 15 minutes a day. Open an empty notebook and on page one write: “I want to write a book about . . .” Then write: “I want the main character to be . . .” It’s okay to write in fragments. It’s okay to use weak verbs. Just write. Spill all of your ideas into that notebook. On about day five, or seventeen, or fifty-five, something will happen. A light will turn on. You will see the way.
Writing is about finishing. He liked to quote Anthony Trollope, the English novelist: “The most important thing a writer should have is a piece of sticking plaster with which to fasten his pants to a chair.”
Writing is about reading. Soak up all the great books you can. He loved Willa Cather’s spare, lyrical prose style, singling out her novel, “Death Comes for the Archbishop.”
Writing is humble. Let your forebears guide you. He followed Hemingway’s advice: Stop your day’s work at a point where you know what is going to happen next. That way, you’ll never get stuck.
Writing for young readers has a special reward. Scott told me that before he discovered young audiences, he had only a tentative commitment to the craft of writing. Now it was strong. “The only reason I write,” he said, “is to say something. I’ve forsaken adults because they’re not going to change, though they may try awfully hard. But children can and do change.”
Before driving me back to the train station, Scott took me out on his deck and pointed to a grove of trees across Long Pond. During the Revolutionary War, a teenage girl had sought refuge from the Redcoats in a cave hidden by the grove. For years, she had drawn on her wits and fortitude to survive. After learning this bit of local history, Scott had crafted one of his best novels, “Sarah Bishop.” His message was simple. Good stories are everywhere. You don’t have to look far. Open your eyes.
We corresponded for a few years, and he kindly critiqued my awkward early efforts at YA fiction. Years later, I read that he had been working on his last novel, “My Name is Not Angelica,” in his hospital bed, just days before his death at age 91.Scott taught me many things about writing, but one stands out—that writing is about perseverance.
Never give up.
Categories: books, death, grief, Mentor Monday

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