Monday, December 26, 2016

Let's Celebrate The Season With A Holiday Writing Contest!

Contest Rules:

1. Write a 100-word story using the following words:
  • Santa
  • Reindeer
  • Elves
  • Candy Canes
  • Sugar Cookies

2. Post your story in the comments section OF THIS BLOG POST.

3. Include your email address in case you are the winner. (Email addresses and story titles do not count as part of your 100 words.)

4. Contest closes on January 2, 2017. The winner will receive a 5-page middle grade manuscript critique from me, Stefanie Wass, a three-time Pitch Wars mentor and member of the MG Beta Readers team.

Friday, December 16, 2016

An interview with author Margarita Engle

Today I'm delighted to welcome Margarita Engle to Middle Grade Minded. Margarita was kind enough to answer a few questions about her upcoming book, MORNING STAR HORSE -- an historical fantasy verse novel, forthcoming from HBE Publishing in January 2017. MORNING STAR HORSE will be available in a choice of English, Spanish, and bilingual formats.

"When Mamacita chose to call me Estrellita, / it was her way of imagining a little bit / of starlight, deep down in that cavern / where only rare streaks of day or night / could reach--now, Lucero and I will be / Morning Star and Little Star, / a lit-from-within racing team!"

A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the challenges of a new century and innovative teachers. 
Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer.
Award winning author Margarita Engle brings a tale of history mixed with a touch of fantasy.

Hi Margarita! Thanks for stopping by MG Minded. It seems to me both unusual and exciting to have a bilingual version of a story, in addition to the Spanish and English versions.  Were there any particular challenges in putting this together?

Yes, Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero is extremely unusual and exciting!  In fact, I’m not sure if it’s the first time this has been tried, with a simultaneous release of all three editions.  HBE Publishing is a new small press that offered me this choice of formats.  I didn’t have to beg!  They hired Alexis Romay, a brilliant translator, and also hired artists to do a beautiful cover and internal illustrations.  I’m thrilled with the result.  For the editor, I think the biggest challenge was fitting Spanish poems on facing pages in the bilingual edition.  For me, the greatest challenge was deciding when to stop writing the manuscript.  I went through so many drafts, and I was having so much fun, that I actually found myself thinking that I might write this book forever, and never do anything else.

What are the benefits of having a bilingual version?

They are essential for English language learners, Spanish immersion schools, and family literacy projects, where all the generations can read and discuss the same story.

I love that you’ve blended fantasy with historical fiction. Was this something that came naturally for you, or did you find it difficult to achieve a balance between the fantasy elements and the constraints of the historical events/setting?

I used to write magic realism for adults, inspired by the great “Boom” poets and novelists of Latin America.  Morning Star Horse is magic realism, not “world building” fantasy.  Everything occurs in ordinary places, with only one astonishing element.  In Spanish, magic realism is called lo real maravilloso (marvelous reality), a much more accurate term.

And just for fun...Without giving any spoilers, what did you love most about writing this story?

I was a horse-loving child, and a big fan of horse books.  This project fulfilled my lifelong dream of writing a horse story.  I decided to take it one step into lo real maravilloso, making it a story about a girl who needs a magical horse.

Thanks so much, Margarita! All the best with the launch of MORNING STAR HORSE.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Giveaway: Win an ARC of It's a Mystery, Pig Face! and candy!!!!

As of today, it's less than two months until IT'S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE! enters the world.

In honour of that blessed event, I've decided to share an ARC with a lucky Middle Grade Minded Blog reader.

But then I thought about it. Why it hardly seemed enough. And since this is a giving time of year in many cultures, it seemed I ought to sweeten the pot.

Get it? Sweeten the Pot?

In IT'S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE! Tracy Munro defends the honour of her town's local candy factory, Ganong Bros. Limited, which she believes has the best chocolate and pink peppermints in the world. In fact, Tracy and Ralph and Lester (AKA Pig Face) believe that chomping on pink peppermints is a mystery-solving  requirement:

Meanwhile, Ralph reached up, grabbed a thermal bag we'd left hanging on a nearby branch, and plunked down. He unzipped the top, pulled out a package of Ganong Pink Peppermints--also made at the local chocolate factory and our meeting candy of choice--and popped on into his mouth before passing the bag to me.

Ganong Bros. Limited is a real candy factory in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. I grew up in St. Stephen and that's where the book is set. I happen to agree with Tracy that they make the best chocolate in the world!

(And by the way, they ship to Canada and the U.S, and overseas by request, so you can always order some yourself if you don't win!)


Lucky for you, Ganong Bros. Limited has provided me with some candy to give to you!

The lucky winner will receive a signed copy of the It's a Mystery Pig Face! ARC, a stack of Pig Face bookmarks, an It's a Mystery, Pig Face! book plate, a box of Ganong Delecto Chocolates, a bag of candy chicken bones (if you haven't had these before, you're about to fall in love with them! I recommend you pop over here to see how chicken bones are made) and a bag of Ganong pink peppermints!

The contest opens on Monday December 12th and closes at midnight on December 16th, at which point, I will rush to send them in the mail to you!

What do you need to do to win?

Leave a comment below.

You can say hey or ask me a questions about the book,  or tell me why you'd love to read the book.  If you're a teacher, tell me; if you're the winner, there might be a few more sweet treats for you and your class to munch on while you read the book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And hey, you can also pre-order the book now. Visit here to get all the details!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Jorie and the Magic Stones Excerpt and Giveaway

Today we have an excerpt and giveaway for the chapter book Jorie and the Magic Stones. To enter the giveaway for a paperback copy just leave a comment on this post before 11pm CST Monday December 12, 2017. Check out the synopsis and excerpt below.

When Marjorie went to live with her frosty maiden aunt, she couldn’t imagine the adventures she would have with dragons — good and bad — and all the strange creatures that live in a mysterious land beneath the Tarn. The spunky 9-year-old redhead forges an unlikely friendship with an insecure young boy named Rufus who lives with his crusty grandfather next door. When Jorie — for that is what she prefers to be called — finds a dusty ancient book about dragons, she learns four strange words that will send the two of them into a mysterious land beneath the Tarn, riddled with enchantment and danger. Hungry for adventure, the children take the plunge, quite literally, and find themselves in the magic land of Cabrynthius.

Upon meeting the good dragon, the Great Grootmonya, Jorie and Rufus are given a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog — stones of enormous power — and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Their mission is neither easy nor safe, and is peppered with perils in the form of the evil black half-dragon who rules the shadowy side of the land. They have to deal with a wicked and greedy professor, the tragic daughter of the bad dragon, caves of fire, rocky mountainous climbs, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

Jorie must rely on her wits and courage to win the day? Can she do this? Can she find all three Stones? Can she save Rufus when disaster befalls him? Can she emerge victorious? She and Rufus have some hair-raising challenges, in which they learn valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and friendship.

Excerpt from Jorie and the Magic Stones

Once in the quiet of her room, Jorie closed the door and retrieved the book carefully hidden under the floorboard. She didn’t know why she felt it so important to hide the book, but her instincts told her that this was a very special book that needed to be carefully guarded. Before settling down to study it, she went to open the window in order to hear the sound of the horses when her aunt returned from her errands. In that way, she would have time to put the book back in its hiding place.

Perhaps because of the rain and damp, the window was stuck and refused to open. Although Jorie pushed, it appeared that it was well and truly stuck shut. Jorie returned to her book and opened the pages oh-so-gently. She didn’t understand the words in front of her, even though she was an excellent reader. They were faded and seemed to be written in another language. Jorie spoke quite good French, but this was certainly not French. She thought it might have been Celtic, because there were c’s, and w’s and y’s, and they all seemed to run together.

She found one phrase that caught her attention, and carefully pronounced it under her breath. “Cwythr ogan mosdrath kiranog. I wonder if that is how it is pronounced.” Then in her most dramatic voice she called out, “Cwythr ogan mosdrath kiranog,” and felt a shiver run through her. No sooner had she said this than the window flew open. Jorie’s hand flew to her mouth. She inhaled, staring hard at the window. “That window was stuck and wouldn’t budge an inch, even under my tugging.”

As she regained her composure, Jorie decided she needed to memorize these words. She had always been good at history and could easily remember dates of battles, when kings were crowned, and where, and all the things they make you remember at school. She turned the four words over in her mind, a bit afraid to say them aloud again. What if something else happened? Could it be a spell? Could it be a curse? Was it someone’s name? Although it would be a really long name. Of course, it could just as easily be a recipe for a jar of marmalade! Jorie giggled. They probably didn’t have marmalade back in those days, and why would they put it under a picture of a flying dragon? No — that didn’t make sense.

Jorie studied her new wonderful find for most of the afternoon. After that, she lay back on her bed, her hands clasped under her head, and turned things over in her mind. She thought about the window; now that had been very, very strange! She was sure that Aunt Letty had no idea that the book existed, for had she known, she might have given it to a museum or a library for old stuff. If she had known about it, she wouldn’t have put it under old floorboards, covered with dust and cobwebs.

Jorie didn’t care much for spiders, but she had plucked up her courage and plunged her hands into that space, perhaps sensing that there was a treasure there.

She wondered what her new friend Rufus might think of it. Should she tell him? Could she trust him? Might he not tell grownups, who she believed would take it away immediately, never to be returned? She couldn’t take that chance.

She needed to give her new friend a chance; perhaps Rufus would keep it their secret, and maybe the two of them could put their heads together and find out a little more about this book. Jorie felt that this discovery of hers had more to do with the history of Dunham and its mysterious past than it had as a mere fairy story.


Jorie and the Magic Stones is the first book in a new chapter book series by A. H. Richardson. Children everywhere will love this adventurous fantasy of Jorie and Rufus, two orphans from very different walks of life, who meet by chance, find a mystic book with four magical Druidic words that provide the key to an astonishing adventure that will plunge them, quite (literally) into another world beneath the dark waters of the Tarn.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is an enchanting tale of adventure and childhood friendship that captures the attention and imagination of children and adults alike.” - 5 Stars, Amazon Review

“If ever there was a children's book that was meant for children of all ages, this would be that book. From page 1, you instantly fall in love with the Jorie, the heroine. The storyline flows wonderfully. It makes you feel as if you're there with the characters feeling the excitement, fears, and joy that they feel as they go on an incredible adventure.” - 5 Stars, Matthew and Alicia Lucy

“I absolutely love this story! It just carried me away and I couldn't put the book down!! I loved all the different characters... The author did a wonderful job describing all of them and my imagination kept on going!” – 5 Stars, Amazon Review

About the Author:

A. H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

She published her first book, Jorie and the Magic Stones, in December 2014, and has written a sequel to it titled Jorie and the Gold Key at the request of those who loved the first ‘Jorie’ story. She is currently working on the third book in the series.

She is also the author of Murder in Little Shendon, a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick,  Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. She has more ‘who-dun-its’ planned for this clever and interesting duo… watch for them!

A. H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

To learn more, go to