Friday, December 25, 2020

5 Tips for Including Holidays in Fiction

Holidays are an important part of every culture, and as such, can play a meaningful role in your fiction. There are several issues to examine when incorporating holiday traditions into your plot. 

1. Does the holiday function as setting or an essential plot element?

This helps determine how much weight to give the holiday in your descriptions. Does it paint a background for more important characters and events, adding richness to the story? Or is the holiday almost a character itself, perhaps returning with a vengeance throughout the years of an epic novel.

Of course, some holidays are central to the story. Think of Frosty the Snowman or The Polar Express. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a great example of a holiday representing more than simple background to the story.

On the other hand, in The Harry Potter Series, while Halloween and Christmas both appear in almost every book, they add richness, rather than being essential to the plot.

2. Does everyone in your novel celebrate this holiday? 

Is this holiday a local celebration like the Grand Lake Pelican Festival?  Particularly if you are writing a regional tale, including local festivities can add flavor to the novel. Researching them can also spark ideas. 

Keep in mind that not everyone takes part in holidays that are celebrated on a much larger scale, particularly if they originate from a specific religion. Consider how individuals or families might react to the upcoming holiday in your novel. This could be a source of tension or a spur for greater understanding among people who differ in many ways.

3. Is this holiday unique to a culture you are unfamiliar with?

If so, do as much research as possible. Read books that feature that holiday within its native culture. Study up on it through online searches. 

Perhaps most importantly, ask people who regularly celebrate that holiday for details about foods, traditions, and the meaning of the holiday within their family and larger group. This will lend authenticity to the holiday and prevent errors or assumptions that could be offensive.

If you don't know anyone who celebrates the holiday, try searching the name of the holiday on facebook or other social media. You'll likely find groups who'd be happy to answer your questions! 

I tested this with National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Turns out in the USA, it's celebrated on the last Monday of January every year. Who knew? I can think of a few kids who would love to celebrate that!

4. How can you apply holidays to fantasy novels?

With fantasy novels, you have one major question to consider before incorporating holidays. Is this novel set in the real world? If so, then it's logical to include real world holidays, provided the fantasy subculture isn't too isolated. 

If it's set in a totally different world, you still need traditions, including holidays and other commemorations. But it will be up to you to invent them. Consider what types of celebrations would likely emerge within each culture and religion in your fantasy novel. This is a very useful exercise as it will provide greater depth to your cultures. 

Are there celebrations that conflict with each other? What foods, decorations, and other traditions are linked to each holiday? Are they widely celebrated or more regional? Is it difficult to obtain the items needed to celebrate? Are the holidays illegal in some places? If so, why?

5. Questions to ask yourself about holidays you've invented: 

How often is this holiday celebrated? What are its origins? Does this holiday originate in a faith tradition or is it commemorating something else, such as seasons changing, the discovery of light speed travel, the end of a war or freedom from dragon oppression?

It's your holiday. Make it as big, small, serious, or goofy as you like. But also consider the role it plays in your novel. 

Happy Writing and for those who celebrate it - a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Spooky Winter Writing Ideas

Winter is the perfect time to cozy up by a roaring fire and write some truly terrifying tales. Sure, Halloween offers some fun frights, but there's no spookier sensation than being snowed in on a long winter night. So pop some marshmallows in your hot chocolate and settle in for these spine-tingling snippets of winter inspiration.

Here Kitty, Kitty by Bats Langley

Do you know about the Yule Cat? According to Icelandic folklore, this massive feline lurks in the countryside, waiting to viciously devour anyone who hasn't received new clothes by Christmas Eve. Whoever said sweaters and socks make boring gifts better think again. 

Krampus greeting cards

We all know Krampus, the chain-wearing half-goat, half-demon, who hits naughty children with sticks, before stuffing them in his sack to be drowned, eaten or dragged off to Hell. Delightful. Of course, his greeting cards may not cater to everyone's tastes. But winter is the perfect time to give this murderous fellow a modern twist. Why not create your own winter monster to knock Krampus off his hellish throne?

Yuki-onna (ゆき女) from the Hyakkai-Zukan by Sawaki Suushi

The Yuki-onna is a spirit or yokai from Japanese folklore, often referred to as the snow woman. She appears on snowy nights, leaving no footprints, and can disappear into mist or a wisp of snow if threatened. Some say this beautiful spirit started life as a woman who perished in the cold. Now she uses her icy breath to kill unsuspecting travelers, lead travelers astray or occasionally suck the life force of weak-willed men. Variations and legends abound, but this powerful figure could certainly inspire a few shivery tales.

Figures of Grýla and her husband on the main street of Akureyri, Iceland

Forget about Krampus. Let's head back to Iceland to meet Gryla, aka the Christmas Witch. This resident of the hinterlands loves to steal misbehaving children to add a little spice to her winter stew. Gryla, which translates loosely to growler, has been described as Iceland's first feminist, doing whatever she wants, including eating her husband on one especially boring winter afternoon. Read more on Smithsonian Mag's website, and let Gryla serve as some gruesome inspiration for you this holiday season.

That's it for our stomach-turning tour of winter terrors. I hope you've found a little inspiration for your next spooky tale, or simply another reason to stay safe by the fire over the long winter months.


KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novels The Secret Life of Sam (Fall 2020, HarperCollins), Hello, Future Me (Aug. 2020, Scholastic), Bone Hollow and Skeleton Tree, as well as a contributor to the middle grade horror anthology, Don’t Turn Out the Lights. Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff person at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. Find out more at or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kimventrella.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Writing Mentors

As 2020 comes to a close, I've been thinking a lot about the people in my life who have mentored me in my writing life.

2020 has been a rough year. 

To get myself through some of the darkest days, I have tried hard to count my blessings.

And in terms of my writing life, those blessings are about the people who've mentored me. 

Some of them know they have, others may suspect they have, and some have no idea, but they have all had a positive impact on my writing life, either through their support, how they inspire me, or by telling me the truth about how things could be better. 

It's important to reflect on those people who've helped us along the way, for it reminds us that we can mentor others in the same way.

So here's my list. I'd love to hear about yours!

My family

My mother and sister and cousins encouraged me to write, even when I forced them to read such amazing books as BlueTop Orphanag. Where is the e? Who knows? I was nine years old!

We need our families to support us on this journey, and the family I was born into, and my current family (a husband and two kids) surely do that for me!


I must have tortured my poor language arts teacher, Mrs. Garnett.

Every day I showed up with a new story, a new poem, a book I wanted to talk to her about.

And every day, she listened patiently, gave me constructive criticism, and told me to keep going.

I did.

Meanwhile, down the hallway, our school librarian, Mrs. Smythe, allowed me to bring way more books home with me than should have been allowed. The town librarian did the same. I was a voracious reader, and tried to write a version of almost every book I read.

The magic of encouragement by someone who isn't your family is invaluable to a budding writer, and Mrs. Garnett was so important to me that I made her a character (with her permission) in my first book, It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

Other Writers

Every book I read influences me in some way.

And the books I love best, inspire me to up my game.

I've been fortunate to get to know many writers over my writing journey and every single one of them has made a huge difference in my writing.

These authors may not know that they've mentored me, but their kindness, and great books, have taught me SO much about writing! This isn't an exhaustive list, but contains some special people who often go above and beyond.

Agents and Editors

How would I describe my agent? She is the VOICE OF REASON. She helps me cull ridiculous ideas and build on those that are worthwhile, all while being stunningly optimistic. Everyone should have such a wonderful being in their writing life!

On the other hand, editors are the voyageurs, the intrepid adventurers who guide you and your book through hostile territories, pushing you onwards until you reach the real essence of the story. Miracle workers, really, they are equal parts Drill Sergeant and Truth-Teller, the kick in the pants you don't want but are lucky to get.

My agent and my editors have taught me so much, and have lead me through the jungle on MANY occasions!



Finally, some of my greatest writing mentors have been the children who read my books.

Their enthusiasm, and their truth-telling, makes me want to improve every day!

My happiest moment is when they come up with a suggestion or question that blows me away. 

They are the giver of ideas, and my inspiration!

Writing often feels like such a solitary pursuit, but when I think of my mentors, I am reminded that every book is lifted up by a whole team of supporters who inspire, guide, cajole, and ultimately celebrate my writing journey.

Oprah Winfrey once said: "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

I wish you the best in 2021 and that you find the hope you need to keep going on YOUR writing journey!

Friday, November 20, 2020

How to Become an Author

Many people love to write. Many dream of becoming authors of some sort. Once you've taken up that dream yourself, and particularly if you've been published, you will find more and more people who confide in you - secretly or openly - their burning desire to write a book.

Most don't do more than dream of it. Most don't think to ask the hard questions or put in the long hours to chase after their dream. But if you've clicked on this post, you're different. You're one of those who is ready to embark on the challenging and rewarding path of a writer.

Recently I was interviewed by a student working on his senior paper. It was part of a larger project designed to help students map out their plans for the future. He wasn't really sure what he wanted to do with his life, maybe join the family trade of auto mechanicing. The one thing he was certain about was that he wanted to write. Preferably novels. He wanted to know the path I had taken and what suggestions I might have for him.

Later I realized this would be great info for the readers of this blog. Here's a recap of the highlights of what we discussed.


While a formal creative writing education at a university or an MFA (masters in fiction writing) program can be useful, neither are essential to becoming a successful writer. A different degree that offers other ways to support yourself and contribute to society can be just as meaningful, sometimes more. My degrees in Psychology and Health Education provide me with work opportunities as well as background knowledge that is useful in stories. 

Most best-selling writers that I know also have a regular career, as a lawyer, a pharmacist, or a teacher, or a coach. Keeping your toes in two different worlds will enrich your writing and help support you financially. Having said that, learning about writing and all the trappings of a writing career is vital to your success.

Conferences and Workshops

One of the best ways to learn about enhancing your writing skills is through attending conferences and workshops. You will find classes at just about every skill level and opportunities to have your work critiqued. Classes typically focus on craft, marketing, platform, editing, publishing, and even inspiration.

Conferences were one of the first places I received objective positive feedback that confirmed I was making progress toward my goal of becoming an author. There are often contests available with financial rewards and sometimes even the possibility of feedback about your writing, which is even more valuable. For more info, check out this Writing Conference Directory.


People often ask me what inspired me to become a writer.  While each person's motivation and inspiration for choosing to write will be unique, there is a commonality between all writers I've known. It's the burning desire to write. I've loved writing since I was very young. 

But my life took me other places for many years. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my 5th child that I realized I needed an outlet for myself that was completely separate from my identities associated with family and other work. 

So I began writing again. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

The reason I bring this is up is that it is never too early and never too late to begin the journey of a writer. For most writers, the passion for writing is what gets us started. It's a way to process life, filter our thoughts, manage our emotions, and maybe even escape the tedium (or horrors?) or every day life. The passion for writing may start us along the path, but commitment and consistency is what keeps us moving toward our goals. 

As W. Somerset Maugham has said, "I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp."

There is a saying in writing circles: Butt in the chair. In other words, sit down and start writing, for goodness sakes. Inspiration may strike in between writing sessions. That's what notebooks are for. Otherwise, it's very useful to have a regular writing time and stick to it, even if it's only an hour at 5 in the morning. 


One of the best ways to hone your craft is to read. Read, read, and read. Not just in your genre, either. You will learn more about writing and plotting as you study novels from a wide array of authors and genres. 

You can also learn specific on craft through studying books about writing. Here's some great ones: The Writers JourneyHooked, and The Red Sneaker Writers Book Series.

There are also about a million different websites with advice on improving your writing skills. Here's a few of my favorites: Writer's Digest, Absolute Write, and Advanced Fiction Writing.

The very best way to improve your craft is (drumroll please....) to WRITE. The more you write, the more you will improve, in sentence structure, imagery, characterization, plotting and more. Look at it as spending your 10,000 hours to become an expert. And who wouldn't want to spend 10,000 hours writing, right? Well, maybe somebody. But to a writer, that sounds like a dream come true. 

Revision and Rejection

Okay, this is possibly one of the tough bumps along the road to becoming an author. You need to find people who will read and honestly critique your work. Preferably people who don't love you and feel an obligation to tell you how wonderful you are. How to find these people? We'll get to that in a minute.

But once you've found them, you need a really tough skin. You need to be able to take criticism and keep working. My husband told me, after about my millionth short story rejection, that I was a glutton for punishment. The thing is, you need to be persistent to reach any valuable goal. You also need to get your work out there and be prepared to be told it needs improvement. Be prepared to be rejected.

Resources for coping with rejection: NY Book Editors, Bulletproof Writer, and this rejection-relief map.


One of the best ways to network with other writers is to join a writing group. Check your community  for a group. If you're unable to find anything local, here's a list of writing groups by state or region. 

You can also connect with other writers at conferences and workshops. Both are useful places to form your own group with likeminded writers. It's useful to have a range of interests and genres represented in your writing group as well as a range of skills. 

Your writing group can serve as a source of inspiration and also potential critique partners. You will also find you can refer each other to useful events and websites as well as get the word out about each other's work.


A writer's platform is their public persona. It includes their online presence on social media, a blog or website, and their contributions to other websites. It can also include classes they teach and speaking engagements. It is basically a springboard for extending the reach of the books and stories they write and engaging with readers.

If you do not have a blog or website, consider starting one now. Considering creating social media pages dedicated to your work as an author. Bring readers along with you on your writers journey.


Finally, the fulfillment of your writing dream - publication. Actually, this is just another beginning. You'll now be doing marketing and discovering that you want to publish yet more stories or books. But who wants fulfilled dreams, right? Isn't the chasing of the dream the whole point?

But, I get ahead of myself. There are two basic ways to publish a novel, self-publishing and traditional publishing. Did I say two? Well, there's hybrid now, too. Where a traditional publisher handles the print books and you retain control over digital publishing. 

With self-publishing, you direct everything, from the writing of the book to the editing, title and cover creation, and the actual publication in print and digital form, usually through an online resource such as amazon. Since you manage it all, the royalty payments are much higher than with traditional publishing. However, your ability to market and distribute your book may not compare to that of a traditional publisher. 

To gain access to the big traditional publishers, you will need an agent. Smaller, regional or niche publishers can be approached directly. Your costs will be lower if you go with traditional publishers, but you will also have less control over your final product and will receive much lower percentages for your royalty payments. However, this can all be offset by the marketing expertise of the publishers and the increased sales. It's up to you to decide.

What have been some of your biggest hurdles for writing and some of your most rewarding experiences?

Monday, November 9, 2020

Three Questions for Some Amazing #mglit Authors

Today, I'm stopping by Middle Grade Minded to share my new YouTube channel, "Three Questions," featuring interviews with some of my favorite creators. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with #mglit author Saadia Faruqi about her work as an interfaith activist, writing for MG vs. early readers and more!

You can also check out my interview with Traci Sorell. Cherokee Nation citizen and award-winning author Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction books, short stories and poems for children. She discusses her work to center contemporary Cherokee stories, her experience co-writing INDIAN NO MORE and her upcoming biography of Mary Golda Ross.

Looking to celebrate spooky stories? I sat down just before Halloween with Lorien Lawrence (THE STITCHERS) and Josh Roberts (THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE). They discuss everything from the writing process to their real-life spooky experiences.

Other recent guests include Christina Li (CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE), Jacqueline West (BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE), Heidi Lang (WHISPERING PINES) and many more! For the writers out there, you will also find a growing section of videos on writing and publishing tips. To view all of the interviews, check out "Three Questions."


KIM VENTRELLA is the author of The Secret Life of Sam (Fall 2020, HarperCollins), Hello, Future Me (Aug. 2020, Scholastic), Bone Hollow and Skeleton Tree. Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff person at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. For the latest updates, find Kim online at or follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Interview with Jeff Rosen, author of CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP And GIVEAWAY!

I recently had a chance to read author Jeff Rosen's new middle grade novel, CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP.


Caley Cross has always known she's not a “normal” thirteen-year-old (her ability to create zombie animals was her first clue). Still, she never expected to be whisked off to a faraway world―Erinath―where she is Crown Princess and people have “baests” that live inside them, giving them fantastic, animal-like powers. Which would be cool, except that Caley’s baest turns out to be an ancient monster that can swallow planets. Despite this, Caley manages to make the first friends of her life, Neive Olander and Kipley Gorsebrooke. They help her navigate the Erinath Academy, where students train to compete in the annual―and deadly―Equidium contest, flying giant, dragonfly-like orocs. But to add to her usual (bad) luck, an evil “Watcher” known as Olpheist is seeking her, anxious to retrieve something that will make him immortal. The first in an epic fantasy series from Jeff Rosen that will keep readers laughing and on the edge of their seats.

The Interview

Hi Jeff! Great to read a book from a fellow Maritimer! Before we talk about the book, I need to ask: what made you decide to write a middle-grade novel?

First of all, thank you for the great questions. You actually read Caley Cross!  As a writer, the best thing a reader can do is read your book.   

Writers often get into a “genre” groove and generally stay in their creative lane.  Mine has been preschool series creation and comedy. But there were themes and thoughts swirling in my skull for a while I felt would be best expressed in a book for middle-grade readers. They experience books deeply and profoundly and are generally less cynical than adults. I felt the things I wanted to write about would resonate with them. When I began to work on Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop, I was becoming increasingly distressed at some of our Homo sapiens shenanigans. For example, our relationship (often toxic) with the natural world, and specifically our treatment of animals who we regard as property. In Caley Cross, people have “baests” living inside them that give them fantastic animal-like powers. I tried to imagine a world where animals are our equal, and inform our behavior, and what would happen if they ever decided to get even. More of that in the next book!  I was also thinking about the rise of populism and totalitarianism and how it can insidiously creep into cultures. Plus, kids need a good laugh these days.


CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP is pure fantasy adventure. Did you read a lot of fantasy growing up, and if yes, what were your favourites? 

Oh, yeah. I devoured books. I lived inside of Tolkien, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Vonnegut, Shakespeare, Hardy Boys...  and Mad magazine. Also, my actual life was mostly fantasy. For example, when I was 5, I was living (mostly alone) above a lingerie shop in Montreal. My bedroom had bars on the window and was full of headless mannequins. I roamed the streets, without adult supervision, bought a dog with stolen money, ate frozen dinners I cooked for myself, threw parties no one came to, and never went to school. Like an animal! That’s probably a story for another interview...


In the time-honoured tradition of putting our main characters in the worst situations ever, you start the book off with Caley living with The Gunch. How fun was it to write that character?  

Naming her was the most fun!  When I thought of “Edwina Gunch” I smiled for a whole day. All self-respecting villains need a good name; The White Witch, Voldemort, Uriah Heep, Long John Silver, Satan, Trump...  Anyway, the Gunch runs “The Gunch Home for Wayward Waifs” which is basically a government-funded orphan sweatshop where Caley lives at the start of the book. The Gunch is phenomenally cheap, vain, and cruel. She once used Caley’s arm as a pin-cushion and feeds her seed she makes her steal from the neighbor’s bird feeder. But Caley is not a totally innocent victim. She is a bit of a zombie-raiser and seems basically to be haunting/slowly driving the Gunch insane. It was also fun creating mildly sadistic scenarios between the two... some based loosely on my own life. Maybe “fun” is the wrong word. Therapeutic? 


Caley’s powers are, to say the least, interesting! Did you always know what kind of powers she ought to have and what made you pick the ability to raise things from the dead? (which, by the way, is deliciously creepy).

It’s strange because very early on, I knew Caley could raise dead animals. I didn’t know why or what the source of her power was, and it only revealed itself to me months into writing. (*Hint: the clue is in the title.) Caley Cross also has a planet-swallowing monster living inside her... which makes her someone you probably don’t want to cross (pardon the pun.) Why dead animals? Part of it was inspired by my horror over how we treat living animals. Caley feels animal's pain deeply, and part of the power she possesses is to bring them back... to resurrect them... but only the ones who have been mistreated. And they kind of exact their revenge.  So her ability can be seen as positive or negative, depending on how it affects others; bad for people like the Gunch, not so bad for zombie animals (although debatable.) How Caley sees her power and utilizes it becomes a central conflict in the series; the struggle to identify herself as either good... or evil! 


The world-building in the book is top-notch. Do you think that your work in television and your career as a visual artist gives you a leg up when writing scenes and adding detail? I could totally see the characters!

Love this question! It was more challenging than I thought it would be, to be totally honest. In TV and film writing you use a kind of shorthand to describe characters and settings. It’s as lean as possible. Nobody wants to read a bunch of boring description in a script. The shorthand works in visual mediums because as a creator you can then oversee the artists and directors and the whole filming process to express your vision. It isn’t enough info for a book reader. Some of the early editorial feedback was that readers felt I tended to write less than was necessary to really get a good feel for the environments and characters. So this was a big learning curve for me.


I love the idea that every character has a monster inside them (isn’t that true!). Are you willing to share what yours is?

Hmmmm....  I suppose it’s a vampire poodle. We actually have a vampire poodle, named Vlad. Here is a photo of him with a recent victim. As you can see, all light is sucked into him. Please to enjoy. He biiiiiites!



There’s a lot of drama and danger AND a lot of humour. How did you balance that in telling the story?

Honestly, it was not that difficult because that is exactly the makeup of my inner life (drama/danger/humor). I write what I know.  I have always felt there isn’t enough humor in MG books – they can be quite dry and earnest. Caley Cross has a very sardonic, bleak outlook, but also a kind of gallows humor  – that’s the way she has survived. (She and I have a few things in common.)  I wanted the book to largely be a comedy, but the drama and danger kept creeping in.  You can’t control your creations!


I'm not going to give away any of the plot, but I will say that CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP feels like the love child of HARRY POTTER, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, and STAR WARS! When can we expect the next CALEY book to drop?

That is exactly how I would describe the book!  (With a bit of Monty Python thrown in.) As for the next installment, I am working on it...


Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions for our Middle-Grade Minded Blog readers, Jeff!

You are most welcome. It’s been my absolute pleasure!


Follow the adventure @

And art stuff at

Want a chance to win a copy of CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP? Leave a comment below before November 9th at midnight and you'll be entered for a chance to win! Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Scary Stories for Middle Grade Readers and Writers

With Halloween around the corner, middle grade readers and writers are itching for some good scares! Here's a list of great books to tickle your terror, followed by writing resources for crafting spooky reads of your own.


With more books coming out all the time, Goosebumps is a great series for budding spooksters.

The House with a Clock in its Walls

This family-friendly tale is rife with humor and horror.

Children of the Red King

Here's another great series with spooky themes. Middle graders will love discovering Charlie Bone's unique gifts as he explores the grim dangers of Bloor Academy. 

The Magisterium 

This series from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare delves into a world full of mystery and forbidden magic. 

Where the Wild Things Are

True, Where the Wild Things Are is a picture book. But this story is a long favorite of kids who love monsters and of parents who love to thrill them.

For more on spooky MG, check out the reading list and Q&A section over at

Scary Writing




Enjoy your thrills!

Monday, September 28, 2020

HATCH by Kenneth Oppel


Okay, I'm not going to lie: I've been waiting to read the second book in the BLOOM trilogy since I read the last one back in the spring.


First the rain brought seeds. Seeds that grew into alien plants that burrowed and strangled and fed.

Seth, Anaya, and Petra are strangely immune to the plants’ toxins and found a way to combat them. But just as they have their first success, the rain begins again. This rain brings eggs. That hatch into insects. Not small insects. Bird-sized mosquitos that carry disease. Borer worms that can eat through the foundation of a house. Boat-sized water striders that carry away their prey.

But our heroes aren’t able to help this time–they’ve been locked away in a government lab with other kids who are also immune. What is their secret? Could they be…part alien themselves? Whose side are they on?


Just like with BLOOM, Oppel sucked me in from the first page. If BLOOM was all about the sudden and horrible infestation of Earth by disgusting plants, HATCH is all about creepy-crawlies.

Honestly? I hate creepy-crawlies. And nobody does creepy-crawly better than Oppel. Read THE NEST if you want to know what I mean. I literally shivered my way through that book. And readers: Ken Oppel did it to me again. 

Sometimes I had to put the book down because I was so jittery. And of course I picked it back up.

And kept thinking how much kids are going to LOVE being so creeped out!

While the first book focuses on Seth, Anaya, and Petra, book two introduces us to new characters, all of whom are fully drawn and are various degrees of likability. 

Our protagonists have no idea who to trust, including each other.

Oppel makes us care about his characters, which makes the stakes that much higher.

We also learn more about the aliens in HATCH. Or do we? Oppel leaves us guessing.

HATCH ratchets up the tension and thrills, and Oppel does an amazing job of taking us deeper into the labyrinth of this world, where we can never be certain that things are what they seem to be.

Of course, he leaves us hanging.

It is a long way until spring 2021.

And I can't wait!

This is a book that will be devoured by kids everywhere, though I would recommend it for kids 10+. 

And you MUST read BLOOM before you read this one.

But don't worry: you will devour them, much like some of Oppel's creepy crawlies devour their prey.


Verdict: 5 stars!