Hey Kid! with Diane Zahler (BAKER’S MAGIC)

hey kidHey, Kid!

It’s me — future you. No, time travel isn’t happening yet. And I haven’t figured out Mrs. Whatsit’s tesseract. But I don’t need it. I can still look back and see you as if it were yesterday.

I can see you in fourth and fifth grade reading all the different-colored Andrew Lang fairy tale books, and C.S. Lewis, and Edward Eager, and wishing so hard for magic to happen that it almost hurts. You wish on coins, on four-leaf clovers. You push your way to the back of every wardrobe, hoping to come out in Narnia.

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I can see you hiding under the piano in the hallway outside your sixth grade classroom while the boys in the class make fun of you. You’re overweight, and they’re despicable. How do they come up with those awful nicknames? But you don’t cry. They never see you cry.

I can see you huddled in the corner of the schoolyard at the alternative junior high, writing in your notebook. You really, really want to be Harriet the Spy. The notebook defends you from what the other kids might be saying or thinking. You could be writing anything; they all wonder about it. It’s your shield.

I can see you reading and re-reading all your favorite books, even when your parents shake their heads in bewilderment, wondering why anyone would want to read a book twice when there are so many books to read. But you love them so much – Betsy, Tacy, and Tib; Harriet; Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter; all of All-of-a-Kind Family; the Melendys; Meg and Charles Wallace; Ged the wizard; Claudia and Jamie. They’re your friends when real kids aren’t. Why wouldn’t you want to visit them over and over?

I can see you at the library every Friday night with your family. Your dad toting a big box of books to return, you and your brother and sister filling it up again with the new books for the week. Everyone in your family reads at every meal. You won’t even realize it’s weird until the first time you have a friend over for dinner, in seventh grade, and when you all sit down at the table with a book she just stares, her mouth open.

I can see you lonely and lost, and I’m sorry that you can’t see me. Because here’s the thing: that loneliness, that lostness – it all has a purpose. Your longing for magic leads you to invent your own magic worlds. You endure the bullies, and you figure out how to be brave and persistent. You watch people and write about them, and you begin to understand how to create a character. Your love of the library starts you on the path to what you – what I – do now. Because you hang out in the children’s room so much, you’ll wind up working there, all through high school and college. You’ll realize that you want children’s books to be your life. You’ll work in children’s publishing for a while, and then you’ll start writing yourself.

It’ll take you a long time – a REALLY long time – to get your first children’s novel published. You’ll get more rejections than you can count. You could probably paper a whole room with them. Or a whole houseful of rooms. But you learn, wishing on coins, hiding under the piano, sitting in the corner of the schoolyard, reading at the dining room table, working in the library, that children’s books are what you love, and that patience and persistence will get you where you want to be.

So listen, kid, don’t give up. Remember the feelings. Write it all down. And keep pushing to the back of every wardrobe. Narnia might not look quite the way you imagined, but you’ll get there.

Love,
Future Diane

p.s. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I can also see, from the future, that your Nehru jacket is a TERRIBLE mistake.

Bakers_MagicBee is an orphan, alone in a poor, crumbling kingdom. In desperation, she steals a bun from a bakery, and to her surprise, the baker offers her a place at his shop. As she learns to bake, Bee discovers that she has a magical power, but when a new friend desperately needs her help against an evil mage, Bee wonders what an orphan girl with only a small bit of magic can do. Bee’s journey to help her friend becomes a journey to save the kingdom, and a discovery of the meaning of family.

Baker’s Magic is available on Indiebound, Oblong Books, Capstone Press, Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries near you.

Find more Hey Kid! letters here.

Diane Zahler is the author of four middle-grade fairy-tale retellings, two nonfiction books for older readers, and a nearly infinite quantity of textbook materials for elementary and high school students. Her newest novel for young readers, Baker’s Magic, was published February 1. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley, where she bakes a lot – and eats what she bakes.
Connect with Diane on dianezahler.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Mushy Stuff: Love and Friendship in Middle Grade Fiction

Love is in the air! In homes and classrooms across the country—and beyond—paper hearts are being cut and pasted, cookies are being baked, parents are rushing to the store because they forgot to buy soy-free, gluten-free, dye-free hypoallergenic, candy for this afternoon’s class party, glitter is everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Yes, my friends, Valentine’s Day is imminent.

Whether you are celebrating romance or friendship, I have just the book for you. Here are a few, available now and upcoming, on my list:

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SWITCHED AT FIRST KISS series by Anna Staniszewski (Sourcebooks)

Marcus is a Cupid. Lena is a Reaper. Opposites attract in the exciting new Switched At First Kiss series by the acclaimed author of The Dirt Diary. 

When she’s dared to kiss the adorkable Marcus Torelli at a party, Lena thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to cross First Kiss off her list of “Things to Accomplish Before I Turn Fourteen.”

It’s only when she gets sent on an assignment the next day that she realizes something went horribly wrong. That ZING she felt wasn’t the thrill of her first kiss–she and Marcus have swapped powers! Lena is not your average eighth grader; she’s a soul collector with a serious job to do. And Marcus turns out to be a supernatural matchmaker (like Cupid, but without the diaper).

Now logical Lena finds herself with the love touch, and sweet, sentimental Marcus has death at his fingertips. The truth is that Lena should never have taken that dare…because one little kiss has Lena and Marcus in a whole lotta trouble.

 

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GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung (Arthur A. Levine Books)

Vincent Wu is Captain Stupendous’s No. 1 Fan, but even he has to admit that Captain Stupendous has been a little off lately. During Professor Mayhem’s latest attack, Captain Stupendous barely made it out alive – although he did manage to save Vincent from a giant monster robot. It’s Vincent’s dream come true… until he finds out Captain Stupendous’s secret identity: It’s Polly Winnicott-Lee, the girl Vincent happens to have a crush on.

Captain Stupendous’s powers were recently transferred to Polly in a fluke accident, and so while she has all of his super strength and super speed, she doesn’t know how to use them, and she definitely doesn’t know all the strengths and weaknesses of his many nemeses. But Vincent and his friends are just the right fan club to train up their favorite superhero before he (she?) has to face Professor Mayhem again. And if they make it through this battle for the safety of Copperplate City, Vincent might just get up the courage to ask Polly on a date.

 

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THE FIREFLY CODE by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Bloomsbury, coming in May)

Mori and her friends live a normal life on Firefly Lane in their utopian community, Old Harmonie. In a world this safe and perfect, they’ve never had to question anything . . . never had to wonder about how their lives came to be. Until a new girl named Ilana moves in. She’s so perfect that Mori and her friends are curious . . . Where exactly did Ilana come from, and why does she act so strange sometimes? When Ilana’s secret is revealed, the kids on Firefly Lane must decide: is it finally time to start questioning the only world they’ve ever known?

In a stunningly imaginative story, critically acclaimed author Megan Frazer Blakemore takes readers on a journey with f
ive friends–new and old–that will have everyone talking about not just what makes people human, but what makes them true friends.

 

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THE QUESTION OF MIRACLES by Elana K. Arnold (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Sixth-grader Iris Abernathy hates life in Corvallis, Oregon, where her family just moved. It’s always raining, and everything is so wet. Besides, nothing has felt right since Iris’s best friend, Sarah, died.
When Iris meets Boris, an awkward mouth-breather with a know-it-all personality, she’s not looking to make a new friend, but it beats eating lunch alone. Then she learns that Boris’s very existence is a medical mystery, maybe even a miracle, and Iris starts to wonder why some people get miracles and others don’t. And if one miracle is possible, can another one be too? Can she possibly communicate with Sarah again?

 

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The CHARMED LIFE series by Lisa Schroeder, (Scholastic)

Caitlin would stay at summer camp forever if she could. Her new best friends in the world, Hannah, Mia, and Libby are there. And at home? Everything’s different: Her dad is worried he might be losing his job; her mom is repainting the whole house and making the kids volunteer at a soup kitchen; and Caitlin is starting sixth grade at a new school, where none of the girls are as fun or friendly as her Cabin 7 BFFs. But Caitlin has a good-luck charm — or a good-luck charm bracelet anyway. The Cabin 7 girls bought it together, and Caitlin is taking the first turn wearing it. She’s sure it will help turn her luck around . . . but when?

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THE WIG IN THE WINDOW and THE TIARA ON THE TERRACE by Kristen Kittscher (Harper Children’s)

In this funny, clever novel, perfect for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch and Gordon Korman and a companion to The Wig in the Window, tween sleuths Sophie Young and Grace Yang go undercover at Luna Vista’s Winter Sun Festival to catch a murderer before he—or she—strikes again.

Sophie Young and Grace Yang have been taking it easy ever since they solved the biggest crime Luna Vista had ever seen. But things might get interesting again now that everyone is gearing up for the 125th annual Winter Sun Festival—a town tradition that involves floats, a parade, and a Royal Court made up of local high school girls.

When Festival president Jim Steptoe turns up dead on the first day of parade preparations, the police blame a malfunctioning giant s’more feature on the campfire-themed float. But the two sleuths are convinced the mysterious death wasn’t an accident.

Young and Yang must trade their high tops for high heels and infiltrate the Royal Court to solve the case. But if they fail, they might just be the next victims.

 

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PRINCESS JUNIPER OF THE HOURGLASS (Philomel, 2015) 

For her thirteenth nameday all Princess Juniper wants is a country of her own. So when rumblings of unrest start in his kingdom, Juniper’s father decides to grant his daughter’s wish and sends her to a small, idyllic corner of the Hourglass Mountains until trouble blows over. Once there, Juniper discovers that ruling a small country–even just for the summer–is a bit harder than she’d expected, especially when cousin Cyril challenges her rule. Still, the most difficult part is to come. Juniper and her friends discover that her father’s kingdom is at war. The only way to stay safe is to remain in the Hourglass Mountains much longer than planned. Juniper may have her own country after all . . . but what will that mean for the kingdom of Torr?

 

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The JACKSON GREENE Series by Varian Johnson (Arthur A. Levine Books)

A heist series may not sound very Valentiney, but this one delivers action and romance awkward crushes.

Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

___

What books are on your Valentine’s weekend list?

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Hey Kid! with Ryan Dalton (THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING)

hey kid

Dear Kid Ryan,

Hey there, you little geek, I’ve got good news! At 34 you’re just as big a geek–maybe even bigger–and you were ahead of the curve because it’s totally the “in” thing now. So, keep loving the things you love.

Definitely keep doing your whole mad scientist thing, too. All those experiments you dream up (most of which fail spectacularly, but are fun anyway)? Those totally off-the-wall stories you imagine? They’re teaching you to think creatively. Sure, they make you kind of weird now, but someday you’re going to get paid to be professional geek/mad scientist/weirdo storyteller. Yes, that’s right, you’re going to be a real live author! I’m looking at one of your future books right now, and it’s just as big a thrill as you’re imagining it will be. Stay strong, be confident in your writing, don’t let discouragement take you down, and eventually you’ll be published.

Kid RyanNow, be warned, in your late teens you’ll go through what I call your “extremely punchable” phase. That means you’ll become a pretentious know-it-all, take yourself and everything else way too seriously, and many people will want to punch you. Those people will be correct, but you won’t realize it until a few years later. But don’t worry, eventually you’ll wise up and start being fun again. You’ll discover that you were right about one thing, though. Adults are totally making up life as they go along. No one has it all worked out, no matter what age they are. At times, though, that’s kind of awesome. It means you’ll get to blaze your own trail.

Also, you know how awesome it seems to be an adult, but every adult tells you it’s not? Well, you were right all along! Sure, there’s responsibility and doing things you’d rather not, but you already have to do stuff you don’t like. Now, though, I can pretty much do what I want without asking permission. I could drive to the Grand Canyon right now, or maybe just go get tacos. And now I want tacos . . . which I’ll totally get because I have a car and my own money. The best part, though? You’ll still be able to do the things you love now, plus awesome new grown-up stuff that you’ll love just as much.

I’m running low on space, so here are a few pointers to keep in mind over the next twenty years. Not all of them will make sense right now, but trust me, eventually you’ll understand.

  • Buy stock in Apple. No, I’m not kidding.
  • Don’t bother seeing the prequels. They’ll only hurt you.
  • Sometimes you should follow your heart. Other times, your heart is being an idiot. Be ready for either possibility.
  • Tell Mom you were right–you’ll always hate asparagus. It’s evil.

One last thing. Don’t ever stop playing. Don’t ever stop having fun. Life will throw enough stress at you without you helping it along. Stay bright. It’ll sustain you through the bad stuff and make the great stuff even better.

Okay, now. Ready? Good! Then get out there and be awesome.

~Adult Ryan

Cover - TYoLWhen 15-year-old twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert moved to a new town, they never imagined that the old house across the street could bring them so much trouble. A secret machine has reawakened inside, with the power to pierce time itself.

Meanwhile, lightning storms are breaking out all over town. They’re getting worse every week, and seem to enjoy striking kids who just want to pass science class and mind their own business. When Malcolm and Valentine discover a connection between the house and the storms, their situation goes from mysterious to crazy stupid dangerous. Someone is controlling the great machine, and their purpose is nearly complete.

In a race against time, the twins must uncover the chilling plan, the mastermind behind it, and the force that’s driving the deadly storms. They’ll hunt a powerful enemy that threatens their town’s existence, and the only clues are written in the sky.

Find The Year of Lightning on Barnes & NobleIndieBoundChanging Hands Bookstore, and Amazon, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.

See a trailer for The Year of Lightning here.

Find more Hey Kid! letters here.

Ryan Dalton is author of the young adult Time Shift Trilogy. His debut novel THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING released on January 12th, 2016. Ryan splits his time between writing books during the day, fighting crime at night, and hanging out in his awesome underground lair. Please do not tell anyone he’s Batman. It’s a secret.
Connect with Ryan on RyanDaltonWrites.com, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Giraffes Ruin Cover Reveals

It’s Tuesday already?

It can’t be.

I’m certain because I had planned to share the cover for my picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, yesterday. On Monday. Not Tuesday.

I’m sure a giraffe had something to do with this…

As many of you know, giraffes and I have a history that goes way back to my preschool years. If you would like to read up on the incident that started it all, click here, but then come right back because you don’t want to miss the cover reveal.

Anyway, one day a few years ago, I decided to express my feelings about those long-necked villains. Those musings became a picture book manuscript which sold shortly thereafter to Bloomsbury Kids.

But unless one is B. J. Novak one’s picture book needs, well… pictures.

Cue Chris Robertson, illustrator extraordinair! Chris’s illustrations conspired with my text to warn the world about the nefarious (or at least annoying) nature of everyone’s favorite animal.

Want to see?

OKAY.

GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING Schulz:Robertson

Giraffes Ruin Everything by Heidi Schulz and Chris Robertson
ISBN: 1619634759 (ISBN13: 9781619634756)
Available August 16, 2016.

It seems that giraffes will misbehave whether attending a birthday party, going to the movies, playing in the park, or just about anything else. Add Giraffes Ruin Everything to your Goodreads shelves.

It is up already on Indiebound, Powell’s, and Amazon, should you like to preorder. Other booksellers will have it up soon. Ask about it at your local indie!

I know August is a long time to wait. While you do, you can amuse yourself by perusing my Giraffes Ruin Pinterest board, or send me submissions. email

or tweet me your original ruinous giraffe photos and I’ll add them.

And this holiday season, while you are gathered round the table counting your blessings, be grateful you didn’t invite a giraffe.

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On My Mind: November 17, 2015

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Giraffes.
I feel like I just barely set my last book loose upon the world, and here I am gearing up to unleash another. Giraffes Ruin Everything is on deck! I’ll be revealing the cover in my newsletter tomorrow, if you’d like to take a peek! Sign up here.

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Pie.
I had pie for breakfast and pie for lunch. ‘Tis the season!
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Upcoming events!
I’ll be at NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English conference) in Minneapolis this weekend, talking about ladies writing hilarious books and how teachers can model the editor/author relationship for student writing. I’ll be signing books, too! Details and full schedule here.

Next weekend, I’ll be participating in Indie Next Day. I’ll be on hand at my local bookseller, The Book Bin, chatting books, giving recommendations, and signing copies of both Hook’s Revenge and The Pirate Code! Look for me Saturday, November 28, at the downtown location from 2 – 4. Details here.

Can’t make it? Call the store at 503-361-1235 to order personalized copies of my books. They make great holiday gifts!

On Friday, December 5, from 7 – 7:30, I’ll be participating in the Willamette Writers Children’s Author Night at the Clackamas Mall Barnes & Noble. Come in for Q&A and a book signing. Details.

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Idaho.
I just got home from a great trip to Boise, Idaho where I visited with students from Longfellow and Roosevelt Elementary schools, and had a lovely event at one of my favorite bookstores, Rediscovered Bookshop. If you are in the area, stop in and tell them I said hello!

@heidischulzbooks is here talking about how #HooksRevenge came to be! (Check out her helpful First Mate’s hat!)

A photo posted by Rediscovered Books (@rediscoveredbooks) on

I also ate at Cracker Barrel so I’d say it was just about the best trip ever.

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My anniversary.
Next month, Mr. Schulz and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. He has booked us a celebratory Las Vegas spa vacation. I think I’ll renew his contract for another five years, at least.

Does Vegas have a Cracker Barrel?

What’s on your mind today?

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