Monday, February 25, 2019


I was lucky to read an early draft of THE CARNIVAL OF WISHES AND DREAMS, by Jenny Lundquist, author of Plastic Polly, Seeing Cinderella, The Princess in the Opal Mask, The Opal Crown, The Charming Life of Izzy Malone, and The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby.
This sweet friendship story offers a happy ending that School Library Journal says "tweens will gobble up". THE CARNIVAL OF WISHES AND DREAMS is the story of three girls who each receive notes asking them to meet the anonymous sender at midnight at the carnival Ferris Wheel:

Audrey McKinley can’t believe someone would ask her to ride the Ferris Wheel. Everyone knows she’s afraid of heights and the last time she rode the Ferris Wheel it ended with a panic attack. But ever since her dad lost his job after a factory fire, he’s been working too little. The carnival gives him a chance for seasonal work, and she plans to spend the evening checking up on him and making sure he does his job.

Grace Chang isn’t supposed to go to the carnival. It’s too close to the burned remains of the factory where her firefighter father lost his life. They always rode the Ferris Wheel together, so that’s also something Grace isn’t supposed to do. But since her mom announced they’ll be moving away from town the day after the carnival, Grace is sick of only doing things she’s supposed to do. She’ll be at the carnival, and she is definitely riding the Ferris Wheel.

Harlow Cohen is surprised anyone would want to ride the Ferris Wheel with her. Harlow used to be popular. But ever since her grandparents’ factory burned down and so many people lost their jobs, many of the kids at school blame her—and her rich family—for their own parents’ worsening economic situations.

I loved how these girls' stories came together! Told in alternating chapters from each girls' perspective, this book is sure to be a tween favorite!

For your chance to win an ARC plus some great book swag, leave a comment below. (Be sure to include your email address.) A winner will be chosen at random.

For more information about the author: 


Twitter: @Jenny_Lundquist,




Friday, February 22, 2019

Author Interview and Giveaway: Claire Fayers, Author of THE BOOK OF UNWYSE MAGIC

I'm thrilled to introduce you to the most delight middle grade fantasy!

The Description:

The town of Wyse, set precisely on the border of England and Wales, is remarkable for one thing: it is the only remaining human town where magic works. 
When twelve-year-old Ava and her brother return to their birthplace of Wyse, they discover that their once magical town has been losing its charms under the control of Lord Skinner. Uncovering a working magic mirror, Ava opens an unauthorized link to the twinned town of Unwyse, where she meets Howell, one of the unlucky Fair Folk who is being pursued by the terrifying Mr Bones. 
Discovering that they are the joint guardians of a grumpy old book that can tell the future, the new friends are unexpectedly launched headlong into an adventure to uncover the mysterious link between Mr Bones and Lord Skinner, and to find out what's happening to the waning magic that connects their two worlds.

The Interview:

First of all: I LOVED this book!  Can you share the inspiration?

Thank you so much! The first germ of an idea came when I was having a meeting with my agent and she said she’d love to see a Middle Grade Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And I, without thinking, said ‘I can do that!’

Of course, then I had to deliver on my rash promise. I began with an image of a carriage stopping in a shabby street outside a set of magical souvenir shops. Who was in the carriage? What were they doing here? And where was this place?

That was the start of the town of Wyse. There’s a river called the Wye not far from where I live, and it’s on the border of England and Wales, so the name of the town and its location came very quickly. Everything else took a lot more work!

The title of the American version is different from the Canadian and UK versions – can you explain?

This is one of those publishing decisions that people generally don’t know about. It took a long while to decide on a title for the book, and the UK finally decided on Unwyse Magic while the US wanted The Book of Unwyse Magic (which I was very happy about.) But then the UK team discussed the title, and the cover, with booksellers, and they found it wasn’t as popular as they’d hoped. So they redesigned the UK cover, and changed the title to Mirror Magic.

I love both titles, and I’m very grateful to my UK publisher that they put in the time to do a complete redesign. It made me appreciate again that creating a book is a real team effort, with large numbers of people working behind the scenes.

One of my all-time favourite books is Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange, and your book felt like a middle grade version of that book, because the magic is so well thought-out and the world-building so strong. How did you go about doing the world-building? Any hints?

Aha! I’ve been rumbled! I love Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for its mix of historical realism and magic. I did quite a lot of the world-building in edits, because my lovely editors kept asking me awkward questions about how the world and magic worked. (You can short-cut this by asking yourself awkward questions, or getting a friend to do it.)

I started off with a few basic ideas. A human and a fairy town, joined by magic mirrors. Magic running out. Each town ruled by a sinister figure. I found it useful to have a ‘type’ of a place in mind. Wyse isn’t a real town, but it’s based on the small market towns that you get along the borders. There are also a lot of British seaside towns which were the height of fashion in Victorian times but are now often quite run-down. Everything is tied to that feeling of faded grandeur and I think that gives the world a sense of consistency.

So, invent a few details, keep asking yourself why the world is this particular way, decide on a unifying theme, and do lots of rewriting!

There are some excellent, and subtle, lessons in this book. For instance, Lord Skinner is not who he appears to be, and has enchanted his fellow citizens into thinking he is a fine gentleman. Any inspiration there?

Mentioning no names, yes! It’s inevitable, I think, that when you’re writing a book, you are influenced by what’s going on in the world. There are many people like Lord Skinner, who use money or power or charisma to convince everyone that they are good, decent people, when underneath they are far from it.

The mirror image of that is when people turn on other people who are a bit different. The humans in Wyse are afraid of the Fair Folk because they are magical, and they treat them badly, but it’s always better to be shaped by our kindness than our fears. Standing up to fear is a big theme in the book.

 I love Ava and Howell’s characters – they are so real to me, and their regrets and fears are important factors in their successes. What is your character-building process like?

It’s random and full of mistakes. It took me a long time to get Ava and Howell right, and they had to be just right because they’re such important characters. 

I usually start with the easy things – age, appearance, where they come from. Then I jump straight to the most difficult questions – what do they want and why do they want it? My characters must start out unhappy in some way, and they must change through the story.

A lot of this comes out as I’m writing. I’m quite bad at planning and I prefer to jump straight in and write a whole load of different scenes to see what will happen. I keep a separate document with character notes, which I fill out as I write, so when I do the second draft I can make sure that all the details are consistent. (You don’t want a character suddenly changing age or hair colour halfway through.)

And finally – THE BOOK! The book is one of the cheekiest characters I’ve read in a long time. How much fun was it to write from its perspective?

The Book is one of my favourite characters. I’d written chapter headers in my previous books (Voyage to Magical North and Journey to Dragon Island.) This time, I wanted to tie the headers more firmly into the story and the best way was to have them written by one of the characters. And so I came up with a magical book.

Because The Book had been around for a long time, it would be far too easy for my heroes to ask it what was going on, so I put in a couple of restrictions. The Book can only tell you about the future, it can’t tell you what happened in the past. And its magic is glitching so its predictions are accurate but not always useful. You probably don’t want to know when the safety pin will be invented, for example, when you’re trying to escape from terrifying skeletons.

The Book is also very grumpy, (it was dropped in the bath once and has never recovered). I love writing grumpy characters – I don’t know what that says about me! 

Any advice for would-be middle grade fantasy writers?

Read everything you can get your hands on, and read with your writer’s hat on. If you find a character you like, ask yourself why. If a plot twist catches you out, take note of how it’s done. Then write – there is really no substitute for sitting down and putting words on paper. 

Your world should feel like a real place to you. Draw maps and make loads of notes on every location. But when you’re writing your book, the world must be filtered through the eyes, ears and thoughts of your characters. Don’t expect to get it right on the first draft. With the first draft, you’re discovering the story for yourself. Once you have that rough draft you can go back and do it properly.

What’s next?

My fourth book is already out in the UK. It’s called Storm Hound and it follows the adventures of one of Odin’s ferocious hunting hounds who falls to earth and finds that he’s shrunk to the size of a very cute little puppy. He’s adopted by a local family and has to contend with cats, vets and obedience classes. But his fall has been noticed and dark magicians are closing in…

I’m still not quite decided on my next book. I’m torn between three different ideas and I’m working on them all. I’ll be sending proposals to my agent soon, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thanks so much for having me on MG Minded. It’s been great fun talking to you.

Want to learn more about Claire Fayers?

Visit her website:

Or follow her on twitter: @ClaireFayers

Want a signed copy of The Book of Unwyse Magic? Leave a comment below before February 28th and you're entered for a chance to win!

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Interview with Jen Petro-Roy, Author of GOOD ENOUGH & YOU ARE ENOUGH

I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Jen Petro-Roy about her upcoming books GOOD ENOUGH and YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Welcome Jen to Middle Grade Minded! 
First of all, what should readers know about your new books that are set to release tomorrow?
First of all, I want YOU to know how honored I am to be here. I love that there are blogs out there that cater specifically to middle grade readers and it’s so wonderful to be able to connect to your audience. And, yes, I have TWO books releasing on February 19th, one fiction and one non-fiction. I’m pretty sure that this is a rare occurrence in publishing and it’s so exciting to have two books to promote and talk about at the same time.
Good Enough and You Are Enough are both about eating disorders, an illness that I suffered from for twelve years, in varying degrees of severity. Good Enough tells the story of twelve-year-old Riley, who was just hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. As she navigates her feelings about recovery, she has to deal with her gymnastics star younger sister, parents who just don’t understand, and a fellow patient who may or may not be trying to sabotage her progress.
You Are Enough is a self-help guide for teens and tweens that is also informed by my experience (I discuss my personal journey), but also by a ton of research. I’m super proud about how inclusive this book is—I talk about males with eating disorders, the LGBTQIA+ population, and how fat acceptance is central to eating disorder recovery. I write about common situations kids could find themselves in that could interfere with their recovery, how to combat body image woes, and so much more.
Can you speak to how your journey to eating disorder recovery has informed your novel, GOOD ENOUGH, and your nonfiction self-help book for young readers, YOU ARE ENOUGH?
As I wrote, I drew upon my past emotions a lot—the initial ambivalence about recovery, the shifting feelings during hospitalization, the frustration with family and friends who may not understand how the person struggling feels. It was hard at some points to recall those feelings and experiences, but I’m glad that I forced myself to go through them again, because I think it made the book richer and more realistic.
I’ve heard from some early readers that Good Enough helped them to understand more about eating disorders—a few who had been through recovery themselves even let me know that I captured the emotions perfectly, which was wonderful to hear. 
 I also hope that including parts of myself in You are Enough will help readers looking for help understand that they are not alone—that others have been through this struggle and they too can survive and thrive.
What unique challenges did you face in trying to tackle the issue of eating disorder recovery in both novel and nonfiction format?
One of the things I was incredibly conscious about was making sure not to write anything that could possibly trigger a reader…that might make them think that they weren’t sick enough or that might give them an “idea” about a behavior they could do. When I was younger, most of the books on eating disorders were very “after school special” like. They showed people engaging in harmful behaviors, accompanied by dramatic music.
This is the exact thing I aimed to avoid. In Good Enough, I didn’t include numbers, whether that meant Riley’s weight, the calories she was obsessing about, or how long she used to exercise. I never want kids to read my books and think that they should or could do specific disordered behaviors. Above all, I aimed to instill the recovery process with hope, instead of just suffering. Riley grows a lot in Good Enough, and as she recovers she gains parts of herself that she had lost. There’s joy in that process, and it’s wonderful to see that progress in life and in books.
I read that you were also a former librarian (yay!). What did working in libraries teach you about writing for young people?
I loved being a librarian. I worked with teens and children, and the most important thing that I realized was that children are smart. They are wise. A lot of gatekeepers believe that children need to be talked down to and sheltered from what they believe are “tough issues.” But kids deal with a lot in their lives and need to know how others handle things. Tweens and teens are resilient and compassionate and want to feel for and learn from other kids in the books that they read. 
Thanks so much Jen for stopping by!!!

Jen Petro-Roy is a former teen librarian, an obsessive reader, and a trivia fanatic. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Massachusetts. She is the author of P.S. I Miss YouGood Enough, and You Are Enough: Your Guide to Body Image and Eating Disorder Recovery. Jen is an eating disorder survivor and an advocate for recovery.    

You can find out more about Jen and her books on her website.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Taking a Middle Grade Road Trip

I don't know about you, but I love a road trip novel.

I recently read Dan Gemeinhart's wonderful The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, and that got me to thinking about how effective road trip stories are. 

I expect to see this book on a lot of 'best of 2019' lists later this year!

Not only do we get to go along on the main character's geographic journey, they are almost always a metaphor for the character's inner journey. 

They challenge us to question how brave we would be in similar circumstances.

And they often redefine what we think of as home.

The first road trip book I ever read was The Wizard of Oz.

Not only did Dorothy take a significant road trip to get to Oz, she had to walk a LONG way once she got there!

Other Road Trip Books I Adore

I'd love some recommendations for other great road trip middle grade novels!!! Please share below!

Bon Voyage!