Map Your Way Through SCRITCH SCRATCH by Lindsay Currie & Win A Classroom Giveaway!

I’m always excited to take on the blank page when writing a post for Spooky Middle Grade. Let’s me stretch my creepiness a bit. Even more so when I get to share spooky goodness from one of our own crew. AND when I get to offer a bookish giveaway!

*Spooky Alert*
Check us out on Twitter for a SCRITCH SCRATCH giveaway!

But first, here’s the cover to Lindsay’s upcoming release.

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Releasing September 1, 2020 from Sourcebooks Young Readers!

For fans of Small Spaces comes a chilling ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.

Page Break Skull

Yup, I am all EEK! over this cover. I love the taillights! So, let’s learn a little more about Lindsay’s book.

Hi Lindsay! *waves* I’m excited to share with our middle grade audience a few sneaky secrets about SCRITCH SCRATCH. Let’s begin with how you got the ideas for the world you created here.

Chicago has a lot of really ghostly history, so I love to set books here whenever possible. The idea for this specific book, though, came in pieces. I actually thought of the ghost first, then built the story around that! Seems a little backward, but it worked well in the end.

Did you learn any cool (or really spooky) information while researching to write this story?

I’m such a sucker for old Chicago history that yes, I find I discover something new with the research for every book! During my research phase for this book, I actually went on a ghost tour bus with my husband!

Okay, super cool. 👻

It was in October, and we had a fabulous time experiencing the charged atmosphere of every spine-tingling stop! I have to admit, even though I’m done researching, I’d totally do one again. They’re a fun blend of history, mystery, and ghosts!

What would you say is your favorite part of the story?

Oooh, tough question. I’d have to say that my favorite part of SCRITCH SCRATCH isn’t a physical scene, but the personal journey my main character, Claire, is on throughout the book. Claire is like many of us – filled with ideas about the world we live in, but occasionally hesitant to explore notions that are unfamiliar or different. She’s really into science and that doesn’t offer a lot of gray areas when it comes to things like the paranormal. If she can’t see it, or prove that it exists, Claire doesn’t believe in it. But her father’s ghost tour and the ensuing trouble it causes her forces Claire to take a second look at her beliefs and consider that maybe, just maybe that gray area exists after all.

That said, I’d by lying if I didn’t say that the scary scenes are super fun, too. I worked hard with my editor, Annie Berger, to make sure we were really amping the fear factor up for those readers who love a good fright!

This definitely sounds frightful!

Can you share with us why you feel MG readers will relate to Claire’s journey?

Claire faces so many familiar challenges that I believe many readers will identify with her. For one, her best friend, Casley, seems to be moving on.

Aw, that’s a tough one.

She’s hanging out with someone else more, someone who wears makeup and is more mature than Claire thinks she is. I think we’ve all experienced that in life and it’s painful, not to mention confidence-shaking.

I can see that. Thank you for sharing some of SCRITCH SCRATCH with us. Can’t wait for its release!

READERS: I know a sneaky secret that Lindsay will reveal sometime during this week, so make sure to stay tuned to her Twitter feed and to ours! HINT: it’s handy-dandy & ghostly!

To learn more about SCRITCH SCRATCH and Lindsay, visit her WEBSITE. Want to make sure you get a copy of the book? Hop on over to Lindsay’s favorite Indie bookstore THE BOOK CELLAR and pre-order it so she can personalize it for you before they ship!

#SCRITCH SCRATCH Classroom Giveaway!

Lindsay bookmarks

 

#Teachers, #Librarians, #Educators – hop on over to Twitter to enter for your chance to WIN a Classroom Bundle of signed bookmarks & book plates from Lindsay to celebrate SCRITCH SCRATCH’s upcoming release!

Wishing you the spookiest of luck!

A Chat with Allan Woodrow-Author of The CURSE of The WEREPENGUIN

Today, I’m super excited to welcome Allan Woodrow to the blog! Allan is the author of the new MG novel, The Curse of The Werepenguin, with Viking Books for Young Readers. I loved every minute of this hilarious story. I think you will too.

For now, take a moment to get to know more about the author. 

Here we go . . . .

Lisa: Tell us about The Curse of The Werepenguin.

Allan: Bolt Wattle is twelve years old and an orphan. He thinks he’ll never have a family. But then he is sent to live with a mysterious Baron in the far-away country of Brugaria. Oddly, the Baron appears to be a 12-year old boy. Even more oddly, and much more terribly, the Baron turns into an evil penguin at midnight. As far as families go, it’s pretty much rock bottom. Bolt is bitten by the Baron and has just three days to figure out a way to break the curse and defeat the Baron, or he’ll become an evil penguin creature forever and join the Baron’s horrible penguin army. Along the way he’s helped by a bandit girl, chased by members of a crazy whale cult, and has to enlist the help of a depressed housekeeper and a cackling fortune teller. As you probably guessed, it’s based on a true story.

Lisa: How did you come up with the idea?

Allan: I’ve always enjoyed old monster movies like Dracula and The Wolfman, and thought it would be fun to twist those in a more comical way. Sure, a half-wolf creature is horrible, but who decided that wolves were the only were-creatures around? What about were-fleas and were-aardvarks? Penguins tend to raise their young and are (mostly) monogamous. Also, they’re funny. They were a great animal to weave into a were-creature horror story with a heartfelt message about the importance of family, in whatever shape and form that family comes in.

Lisa: Do you base your characters on people you know? If yes, spill the beans!

Allan: No, I don’t base my characters on real people. I may borrow someone’s name, but that’s about it. My characters all have a small sliver of me in them though–I tap into my own emotions and experiences as a starting point and go from there.

Lisa: How much of your real-life experiences play a role in the stories you tell?

Allan: When I was a kid my teachers told me to “write about what you know” and I always thought that meant I couldn’t write about astronauts unless I was an astronaut, or did a lot of research about astronauts. And while that’s true, I think that also refers to emotions. You can’t write about love unless you know how to love. When you write about anger, you tap into those times you were angry. So my real-life experiences come into play because of the emotions I felt at those times. Hopefully, I can take those emotions, put them into the heart of a character, and make the scene feel like it could really have happened. I’ve never been a were-penguin, but everyone has felt lonely at one time, or felt like they didn’t belong, or yearned for…something. How can I bottle those feelings and drip them into a character’s head so the audience can understand the confusion, pain, and feelings of an unwanted penguin monster?

Lisa: What books did you like to read when you were a kid? Do those books influence your writing?

Allan: I always tell kids to read what they love to read, whether that’s comic books or graphic novels or penguin horror stories (preferably, penguin horror stories). When I was in elementary school, I was encouraged to read books that were parent-or-teacher approved. I didn’t like a lot of those, and it turned me off reading for many years. I can’t say any book I read as a kid influenced me, other than I don’t want to write books that I wouldn’t have read when I was nine-years old. Sometimes kids tell me that they didn’t like to read until they read one of my books…that’s the most rewarding part of writing children books.

Lisa: What are you working on now?

Allan: The Curse of the Werepenguin will be followed by Revenge of the Werepenguin and Battle of the Werepenguins (the title of that last one might change). Revenge is done, but I’m still working on Battle.

Lisa: What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Allan: I love this question, because I ask it all the time and some writers blink and aren’t familiar with the expression. I am 100% a plotter. I write 20-40 page outlines of my books before I sit down. I still sometimes change things, but then I go back to the outline and change that and see what other things need to shift. Only then do I make the change in the manuscript.

Lisa: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Allan: Nothing writes itself, and the only way to get better as a writer, is to write. If you really want to be an author, find time to write, every day if you can. It’s easy to make excuses not to write. But serious writers ignore those excuses, even when they really, really want to be doing something else, such as answering blogger questions…Which means, I need to get back to work!

Thanks so much for visiting the Spooky MG, Allan. I hope this wasn’t too scary!

To learn more about Allan Woodrow and his books visit Allan Woodrow.

Allan’s Books Include: 
The Curse of the Werepenguin
The Liberty Falls Elementary Series
  Field Tripped 
  Unschooled 
  Class Dismissed
The Pet War
The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless

And many other books, some written under secret names
 
Coming Summer, 2020: The Revenge of the Werepenguin

 

Cover Reveal — THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS by Janet Fox

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KIM: Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Janet Fox to the spooky blog to reveal the cover of her new book, THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS, a companion novel to her critically-acclaimed middle grade fantasy, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, coming August 2020! Welcome!

JANET: Thank you, Kim!

9780147517135KIM: Before we reveal that gorgeous cover, tell us more about the fantasy world that you started in your award-winning book, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

JANET: CHARMED CHILDREN is set early in World War 2, during the London blitz of fall 1940. Kat Bateson and her younger brother and sister are sent out of London to a “school” in a Scottish castle, Rookskill. But as it turns out, the school is run by someone who is not what she seems, and the castle is a nightmarish place of strange noises, dark hallways, and ghostly children. German spies, enigma machines, and ancient spooky magic all play a part. Practical Kat must uncover what’s going on – and discover her own power – before it’s too late.

KIM: What should readers of CHARMED CHILDREN expect from your latest book?

JANET: THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS is told from a new character’s point of view, a Czech Jewish boy named Isaac Wolf, who is sent abruptly from Prague to Scotland by his parents. This story again takes place in Rookskill, but it’s now 1942, and things in the castle have changed. Kat is still there with a small handful of the children who are now members of the Special Alternative Intelligence Unit of MI 6, using their developing magical skills to help win the war. But Isaac is being chased for reasons he doesn’t understand, and he must enlist the help of his new friends and call on his internal strength to avoid a dreadful dark magical threat, while acquiring a skill and responsibility that will aid the SAIU.

KIM: Now it’s time for the big reveal…here it goes…drumroll please!

Wait for it.

Okay.

Here.

It.

Comes.

TheArtifactHunters_cover

KIM: What was your first response when you saw the cover created by the wonderful Jen Bricking? Can you give us any secrets about the illustration process?

JANET: I had very little to do with the process, but I’m delighted with the cover. It’s very different from the CHARMED CHILDREN cover, which is much more mysterious and sophisticated, but the ARTIFACT HUNTERS cover does create that magical aura, with four of the children and a number of mysterious artifacts, and an image of the antagonist – who is really creepy. I love how appealing it is – the brilliant colors, the spooky aspects, because it raises so many questions that I hope will spur readers to seek answers. I especially love how the kids look so much like I thought. I think it will attract a new group of readers to the series.

KIM: We meet several dastardly villains in THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS. What is your process for creating such deliciously evil souls?

JANET: Oh, thanks for that! I think the most important thing to know about a villain is that he or she truly believes they are the hero of the story. What they do is, by their account, right. It might be “right” because it satisfies a personal need, or it might be “right” because it speaks to a larger need, but the villain never would admit that they are doing what is “wrong”. I think this kind of nuance helps readers assess their own actions and the actions of others, and that adds a layer of complexity.

Plus, I really love writing creepy villains who send shivers up the spine.

KIM: What are three fun tidbits from THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS that readers may not be expecting?

JANET: They should look for the dragon, shapeshifting, and I’d love it if readers would discover all the magical artifacts that I reference – and send me their own ideas for magical artifacts. Their ideas might find a place in another book!

KIM: Thanks so much for stopping by Janet!

JANET: Thank you so much, Kim.

IMG_0093acJanet Fox is an author, mom, outdoor enthusiast, and former teacher. She’s been to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible, and had a brief fling with rock stardom. Her novels are written for children and young adults but have won her fans of all ages. Her most recent novel, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, is a gothic middle grade fairy tale set in Scotland and has received a whole bunch of stars, and the lovely Crystal Kite Award. At the moment she’s sporting blue and pink stripes in her hair. She lives in Bozeman, Montana. Find out more at www.janetsfox.com

 

Hello Future, Me

An Interview with Kim Ventrella on Her Next Book

 

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Eleven-year-old June is a problem-solver. Some people might call her a busybody, but that’s okay. Just look at all the couples she’s helped find love! (Grateful newlyweds Marlene and Big Vic have even promised June free hot chocolate for life at their café.)

However, when June learns that her parents are getting divorced, she has to face the fact that there are some problems too big even for her. At least, that’s what the adults in her life keep saying.

But June’s convinced there’s a way to make her parents fall back in love. While brainstorming ideas on her new secondhand laptop—purchased from a mysterious store in town called The Shop of Last Resort—June gets a strange IM from someone named JuniePie28 . . . someone who claims to be an older version of June messaging her from the future.

At first, she assumes it’s a prank. But JuniePie28 knows too much about June’s life to be a fraud, and future June warns her against interfering with her parents’ marriage. But June can’t just sit around and watch her parents’ marriage dissolve, not when there’s a magical shop in town that could be the answer to all her problems! Will June prove her older self wrong and stop the divorce? Or will she have to accept that there are some things in life she can’t fix?

An Awesome Opportunity

I had the wonderful opportunity to read a preview copy of HELLO FUTURE, ME, which releases in Summer 2020. I totally enjoyed the clever, fast-paced, funny, endearing story. You can find my review (along with a few other Spooky MG authors’ reviews) on Goodreads.

I was so intrigued with Kim’s latest literary endeavor that I asked if she had time for an interview, and she graciously consented. I’m sure you’ll love learning about her and her writing process as much as I did.

 

The Answers to the Questions Everyone’s Asking

  1. Hello Future, Me, explores a child dealing with her parents’ divorce. How did you come up with the idea of using the fantasy device of past and future selves to do this?

I actually wrote three completely different versions of the story before discovering The Shop of Last Resort and the magic laptop that allows June to chat with her past and future selves. Each version involved June delving back into her memories by magical means, but it wasn’t until the third version that I decided to personify those past memories in the form of past and future June.

  1. Magic so far has been an important element in your stories Skeleton Tree & Bone Hollow, but in Hello Future, Me the tone of the book is lighter, more humorous. Which stories do you find harder to write? 

Once I found the right version of the story, HELLO, FUTURE ME was a total breeze to write! But like I said, it took me three versions to settle on the right mix of humor, fantasy and emotional resonance. In a way, this story was easier because June sounds a lot like me, both her inner voice and the way she speaks. In other ways it was harder, because so much of my other writing has been focused on loss and grief. Even though all of my books bring a sense of whimsy, hope and many lighter touches, it was still a challenge transitioning to a world of quirky magical hijinks, flying garden gnomes and ALL THE GLITTERbut also super rewarding.

  1. I loved the Bigfoot references! What made you choose this topic as a recurring element in the story?

I want to believe! Yes, it’s the tagline from The X-Files, but it’s also my life motto. I’m a huge skeptic in real life, so when it comes to writing stories, I always like to include magical or supernatural elements. Creating the town of Tanglewood Crossing with its kitschy, adorable downtown and its obsession with bigfoot was pure wish fulfillment on my part. I would love to spend my days hanging around in the bigfoot-themed shops, sipping tea and waiting for bigfoot to walk in and order a latte.

  1. This story includes a bit of tween romance. Was this a conscious choice you made in constructing the plot, or did it happen organically as you wrote the story? 

It happened organically! Calvin did not have his adorably awkward crush in the early versions. In fact, Calvin didn’t even exist in the first version, but I’m so glad I wrote him back in. I love how you see him struggling throughout the story to be honest about his feelings. And then when he finally does mail June a letter, he’s instantly mortified and begs her to never, ever, ever read it. So hilarious and heartbreaking and typical of my tween years, although Calvin is way braver than me at that age.

  1. When the main character uses the magic and it keeps backfiring, she finally comes to the realization that she can’t control others. Was this an issue for you as a child—the inability to make things go the way you wanted them to?

I think that’s an issue for me always, not just as a child J Like June, I definitely embrace planning, lists and setting all the goals. If I’m not actively ticking something off a list, I feel totally off balance. I was an only child, and I spent most of my time alone, so I was very used to controlling my environment. When I got pushed out of that comfort zone, like in social situations, it was definitely a one-way trip to Awkwardsville. June is way more socially adept than I was, but I totally understand the comfort she takes in lists and visions boards. It’s nice to think that you can control your future with nothing more than a collage, a little positive thinking and a whole lot of glitter.

  1. I admired the main character’s determination and her organization. From knowing you, I’d say those are two qualities you also possess. Is June modeled after you in other ways as well?

She is, especially in terms of her voice! She was so easy to write, because I was basically just channeling my inner monologue word-for-word. I was also obsessed with self-help books on positive thinking when I was a kid. I remember my mom having to buy one from the library because I’d kept it so long. So June definitely gets that from me, along with the faith that she puts in things like lists, vision boards and action plans. For me a lot of that had to do with trying to control a chaotic environment. And, also like June, the hardest thing for me has always been letting go and accepting that there are some things in life you can’t change.

 

 A Bit More About Kim

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KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novels Hello, Future Me (Summer 2020)Bone Hollow and Skeleton Tree, and she is a contributor to the upcoming anthology, Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. 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 and French instructor, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. Find out more at https://kimventrella.com/ or follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram.

Don’t Miss Your Chance

Make sure to add Hello Future, Me to your must-read list. Here’s the information you need to do just that:

HELLO, FUTURE ME on Goodreads or pre-order on IndieBound or Amazon

 

Cynthia Reeg is the author of From the Grave and Into the Shadowlands

 

Interview with Christian McKay Heidicker, author of Scary Stories for Young Foxes

Scary Stories for Young Foxes

Happy November, spookies! This is the best time of year for curling up with a spooky read. One of my absolute favorite books this Halloween season was SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES by Christian McKay Heidicker. Not only does it feature my favorite animal, but it’s filled with a bunch of haunting and beautiful illustrations by Junyi Wu.

Here’s a little description to entice you:

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow . . . and other things too scary to mention.

Christian was kind enough to take time from his busy touring schedule to talk to me about his terrifying book!

TANIA: SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES is the most original book I’ve read in some time! What was your inspiration for this story, and why did you choose foxes, in particular, to tell your tale?

CHRISTIAN: Well, thank you!

I was inspired by the Berenstain Bears—specifically The Spooky Old Tree and Bears in the Night. When I originally wrote these stories, the foxes wore little vests and deerskin boots and they walked down to the market to buy a goose from the badger grocer. But when my agent politely informed me that that anthropomorphism doesn’t sell, I started making the stories as scientifically accurate as I could.

As far as why they’re foxes . . . I have no idea! They just came to me, as lovely as flames in my imagination. Whenever students ask me Why Foxes during school visits, I tell them that I woke one night with teeth piercing my throat and found a fox pinning me to the bed with her jaws. Another fox stepped into the moonlight on my pillow and told me I needed to write this book or else . . .

TANIA: The foxes in your book face danger that is real and yet appears supernatural through the lens of the protagonists. It reminded me of the power of children’s imaginations when interpreting things they can’t quite grasp. Was it challenging to write through the eyes of a young fox or to balance the realistic with the anthropomorphic?

CHRISTIAN: It was challenging! The parallels between classic horror tales and the lives of foxes came easily, but selling that through the perspective of the kits was tough (especially the Golgathursh). Anytime I grew overwhelmed, I’d just take a step back and reestablish the boundary of the stories: Does it parallel a classic horror tale?/Could it happen to foxes? From there, I just had to figure out which details to include.

TANIA: I was admittedly surprised by how dark this book was at times, especially regarding death. And yet, it also felt appropriate, given that the natural world can be an unforgiving place. The foxes’ behavior and environment felt very true-to-life and there was even a surprising appearance by Beatrix Potter which has made me see her in a whole new light! Did you do a lot of research into her character or animal behavior for this book?

CHRISTIAN: I was surprised by the darkness too! And yes, I did a ton of research.

The more I learned about foxes and classic horror tropes, the more the events started to choose themselves. I worried about how scary it was getting at first, but then I watched Planet Earth with my soon-to-be-stepdaughters and noticed that they didn’t cry when innocent animals were eaten. They were upset, but they seemed to understand that this was a part of the natural process. From that point forward, I started to think of the book as National Geographic Horror. So long as I added a bit of coziness for every flash of teeth, I knew the stories would remain palatable.

The fact that Beatrix Potter taxidermied many of her subjects before she sketched them is true, by the way. I’m sorry I have to be the one to break it to everyone. (Okay, not that sorry 🙂 )

TANIA: In the book there is an explanation for why scary stories are important for young foxes. Why do you think scary stories are so important for young readers?

CHRISTIAN: I could try to do this justice. But I’ll just quote Neil Gaiman instead:

“. . . if you are keeping people, young people, safe from the darkness . . . you are denying them tools or weapons that they might have needed and could have had.”

I think that about sums up my feelings.

TANIA: What are some of your favorite spine-tingling reads?

CHRISTIAN: Speaking of Neil Gaiman, I *adore* The Graveyard Book and Coraline. I also really love the Turn of the Screw, the Berenstain Bears (as mentioned), and Ghostopolis. I don’t see that last one getting enough cred.

Obviously, I love a lot of horror novels by adults too, but I try not to recommend those to young readers.

TANIA: What are you working on next? Anything else you’d like to share with our Spooky MG readers?

CHRISTIAN: You might be happy to hear that I’m working on a sequel to Foxes. It takes place many decades later in the city that has replaced the Antler Wood. It will involve Mia’s and Uly’s and Mr. Scratch’s descendants, and it will retell modern horror tales instead of classic ones. If rabies was a zombie story in the old one, the fox fur farm in the new one is dystopian horror.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the Foxes book trailer, but we put a lot of work into it:

Christian McKay Heidicker reads and writes and drinks tea. Between his demon-hunting cat and his fiddling, red-headed fiancée, he feels completely protected from evil spirits. Christian is the author of Scary Stories for Young FoxesCure for the Common Universe and Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. cmheidicker.com

Scared Silly at Halloween

A Midwest Tradition of Spooky Joking

HandOverCandy   Halloween isn’t only scary. In some Midwest towns, like Des Moines and St. Louis where I live, Halloween is silly too. The tradition of telling a joke before receiving a Halloween treat began in Des Moines during the 1930’s. Kids were encouraged to recite jokes rather than resort to destructive “tricks” like up-ending trash cans or breaking street lights. The goofy ghoulish joke tradition stuck for Des Moines and its suburbs.

SkeletonType

In St. Louis, the origin of the popular joke-telling tradition is harder to put a skeleton finger on. (Sorry but I had to throw that one in. This is story about silly jokes after all.) Both the Irish and the German immigrants to the area in the nineteenth century had practices of going door-to-door and performing for a treat. The Germans did it on New Year’s Eve. In my mother’s German heritage in central Kansas, they called this tradition “winching.” They would sing a song and wish the household a “Happy New Year” for a coin or two.

 

 

adult celebration child costume
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In Ireland, they celebrated an ancient celtic festival of Samhain each year to prevent the people who had died during the year from returning from the dead. One particularly evil dead creature, “the Muck Olla,” did return each year.  In order to keep it away, the Irish would dress in costume to confuse the creature. By going door to door and asking for a treat, each person would have a treat to give the Muck Olla in case it caught them. To receive a treat from their neighbors, the costumed Irish would tell a joke or recite a poem.

 

A researcher from the Missouri History Museum, Sharon Smith, purposes that the tradition evolved in St. Louis from the combination of such “Old World” influence as mentioned above and the thriftiness of the German immigrants who expected something in return for handing out their candy. Originally it could be a song, a poem, a dance, or a joke. The joke is what has stuck in St. Louis. It makes for a very entertaining night of opening the front door to cleverly-clad ghouls and goblins of all sorts.

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Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland all celebrated Hallowmas on November 1 when wayfaring locals would receive food in exchange for saying prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). This “souling” or “guising,” when the celebrants dressed in costumes and carried lanterns made from scooped out turnips, carried from Europe to the North America. But it wasn’t until after the beginning of the twentieth century that Halloween as we know it began to evolve.

 

The first recorded use of the words “trick or treat” appeared in a publication from Blackie, Alberta in 1927. By the 1930s, Halloween was much more widespread, but even in the 1940s many considered it begging and wouldn’t participate. Thank goodness that fear no longer exists. And of course, it’s totally not begging when each trick-or-treater earns his/her treats with a clever—and usually corny—joke. Below you’ll find a few examples of Halloween jokes from the Spooky MG Authors, so you’ll be able to collect a pumpkin-ful of candy.

                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Spooky MG Authors Halloween Jokes

Sarah Cannon: Knock knock! Who’s there? Sarah. Sarah who? Is Sarah doctor in the house? I’ve been bitten by a werewolf! 

Sheri Larsen: Why are graveyards noisy? Because of all the coffins!

How do ghosts go from floor to floor? By scarecase!     

Jonathan Rosen: I threw a boomerang at a ghost the other day. I knew it would come back to haunt me!

Ghost pic

Lisa Schmid: What does a ghost eat for dessert? I SCREAM!

Angie Smibert: What do you call a haunted chicken? A poulty-geist!

Cynthia Reeg: What do near-sighted ghosts wear to see better? Spook-tacles!

Kim Ventrella: What did the skeleton dress up as for Halloween? Sherlock Bones!

For more jokes, visit my website at https://www.cynthiareeg.com/category/jokes/

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

 

Jacqueline West & A STORM OF WISHES

I’m thrilled to be able to introduce Jacqueline West, the New York Times best-selling author of the gorgeous series, The Books of Elsewhere, and her newest release, A Storm of Wishes out now! Check out that extraordinary cover. This sounds like a fantastic read, which will very much top my TBR stack. And don’t miss her secret superpower, revealed below.JacquelineWest2017 cropped

Here’s Jacqueline…

  1. Please give us a synopsis of your newest MG, The Collectors – A Storm of Wishes.

Sure! Here’s one of the official ones:

It’s been only a few weeks since Van uncovered a magical secret—that wishes really can come true, and that a mysterious society called the Collectors protects us from the dire consequences even the smallest wish can have. Van knows only too well how wishing can go awry: his mother is recovering from a broken leg, his friend Pebble has been stolen away by the evil wish collector Mr. Falborg, dozens of dangerous creatures called Wish Eaters have escaped into the world, and Van himself has almost died—twice—all because of wishes.

When Van’s mother is offered a position at the renowned Fox Den Opera, located in the quiet, beautiful forest a few hours north of the city, she whisks Van away with her, hoping this will be a safer home for their family of two. But Fox Den is home to an ancient Wish Eater—a powerful creature with the ability to grant wishes that have catastrophic consequences; a Wish Eater Mr. Falborg would love to get his hands on. Van must team up with the Collectors and find a way to stop him before he makes a wish that leaves the world in chaos.Collectors 2 Cover

  1. I know that this is a sequel to your first Collectors. Having just finished my own “companion novel”, do you consider this a true sequel?

Oh yes, this is very much a sequel. It picks up right where THE COLLECTORS left off, it features the same major characters, and it answers many—if not all!—of the big questions that remained at the end of the first book. The big difference here is the setting. THE COLLECTORS takes place in a large American city and the hidden, magical underworld beneath it. A STORM OF WISHES moves from that city to a deep forest, where secret mansions and ancient wishing wells wait within the trees.

  1. You are quite prolific in both YA and MG, as well as short fiction – and your website also describes you as a poet. Much of your work is fantasy, but you also have some realistic fiction. What’s your favorite age and/or genre to write?

I’m not sure I have a favorite age to write for—which is probably why I do it all! I love being able to move from one project to another and to find myself somewhere completely different with each one; it helps keep me from getting stuck.

The same goes for poetry and fiction. For years, most of what I published was poetry, and now I spend most of my time on fiction—in part because I love the challenge of the novel, and in part because I have deadlines! But I know that my work in poetry informs my fiction. I think about the sound and rhythm of each sentence, and I tend to go overboard with figurative language.

Genre-wise, though, I’m a fantasist. Almost everything I write could fit under fantasy’s big umbrella, whether it’s fantasy/mystery, fantasy/horror, fantasy/adventure/humor… Even my most realistic fiction slips into magical realism. I love how fantasy removes the limits of the real world. It’s so freeing to get to play with worlds where anything can happen. 

  1. Are you working on something now that you’d like to reveal?

I’ve got a couple of creepy YA novels on the back burner, and I’m more than halfway through drafting my next MG dark fantasy/mystery. It doesn’t have a title yet—those never seem to come to me until the very end—but it involves a very small, very old town, a library full of secrets, and a book that may not actually exist. 

  1. Please share one “fun fact” about yourself. And…any pets? (If so, any pet photos to share?)

I have a form of synesthesia, so to me, each letter of the alphabet has a color, and every word is a combination of those colors. When I’m choosing character or location names, I often take their colors into account. Certain characters need names that are full of dark, mysterious colors; others might be mostly pastels or bright reds and yellows. Of course, nobody knows this color code but me…which is probably a good thing, or it might give away which characters can be trusted!Brom with Collectors

And yes, I do have a pet: a giant, bouncy springer spaniel/border collie/beagle mix named Brom Bones. We got him at Halloween ten years ago, and he was very bony at the time (he’d been in a shelter for weeks), and he reminded us of the “wild, unruly hero” from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow—one of my favorite Halloweeny stories. Washington Irving describes his Brom Bones this way: “He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of good humor at bottom.” That’s our dog to a T.

Jacqueline West is the author of the NYT-bestselling series The Books of Elsewhere, the Schneider Family Honor Book The Collectors, and the middle grade mystery Digging Up Danger, as well as the YA novels Dreamers Often Lie and Last Things.  Her debut, The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One), garnered multiple starred reviews, was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start and a Junior Library Guild Selection, and received the 2010 CYBILS Award for fantasy/science fiction. An award-winning poet and occasional actress, Jacqueline lives with her family in Red Wing, Minnesota.

 

A Very Spooky Site: Trick-or-Reaters

Several years ago, the marketing guru Kirsten Cappy of Curious City had a wonderful idea – why not build a Halloween-themed website that will allow kids access to stories, and create printable downloads for folks to put into Trick or Treat bags? That site – Trick-or-Reaters – has taken off, and now, in a new and improved version, anyone (parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents…) can download and print a give-away with links to the curated list of stories the site features. Here to answer my questions and tell us about the site, how it works, and its future is Amy Wells Denecker, who has recently updated the site for Curious City.

Trick-Or-Reaters
Illustrator Kevan Atteberry’s gorgeously sweet and scary art for the site.

  1. It’s a brilliant idea – filling kids’ minds with stories instead of filling their bellies with candy at Halloween. When a child goes to the site, what will they find?

We’ve worked hard to design a homepage that is accessible and visually appealing to children. Kevan Atteberry’s amazing artwork is the foundation for that, of course, but we hope that the Scare-o-Meter and the crystal ball selection tools will make it easy and exciting for kids to explore the site to find books they’ll love. Once young readers have made their selections, they can read a bit about the author and the book in the “Creepy Creator” and “Wicked Read” sections. The “Snatch a Story” section includes features like book excerpts, sequential artwork, book trailers, and audio clips, which bring the book to life, and in many cases, authors share “Free and Freaky” activities, which provide curious kids with creative, book-based projects to work on even after they’ve put the computer away.

  1. How many books are featured on the site? Are they all Halloween-themed or do you have some variety?

We have nearly 150 books featured on TrickorReaters.com, and they are not all Halloween-themed, though they do tend to focus in some way on magical, fantastical or scary stories. As our founder Kirsten Cappy has said, “Halloween is a day where we all play with story.  Millions dress up to celebrate the heroes, villains, and other characters that strike their fancy,” and that’s really what’s at the heart of Trick-or-Reaters—the stories we like to tell and the people we imagine being on Halloween–so even if even if kids aren’t looking for a fright, they are certain to find something that they’ll like on the T.O.R. website. We have books about the simple act of dressing up for our youngest readers, books about ninjas and pirates for those seeking adventure, and good old-fashioned ghost stories for older readers looking for a scare.

Trick Or Reaters KC Halloween
Bags stuffed with cookies and literacy activities, plus the site info.

  1. For authors, what are the steps to join the site? I know that my own site features an audiobook selection. Do you collaborate with authors and publishers to choose the right material for the site?

If an author is interested in adding a book to Trick-or-Reaters, he/she can complete the contact form on the “Add a Story” page or simply email us at info@trickorreaters.com. From there, we’ll work with the author to gather the necessary materials, including the selections for “Snatch a Story” and “Free and Freaky,” and once we have those materials in place, we’ll create a feature post for the book. Authors who don’t have these materials readily available shouldn’t fret; we’d be happy to collaborate on creative ways to promote their fabulous books on our site.

  1. Have you had any feedback from libraries and teachers about the program?

Yes, based on responses we received in conjunction with a T.O.R. book giveaway last year, they’re very enthusiastic. Overall, they report how happy they are to have something to share with children besides candy, and most were eager to distribute the flyers in their schools and libraries. A few even mentioned how excited children would be to curl up with these stories on a cold winter night, so we were thrilled to imagine the site’s reach even after Halloween.

  1. Do you plan to keep expanding the program? Any new features?

Yes, absolutely! Our main goal for this year was to redesign the site. We wanted to create an actual Scare-o-Meter and reconfigure the search tools to make the site more accessible for children seeking books in a particular age-range or genre. Moving forward, we hope to add many new books to the site, but beyond that, we’ve brainstormed developing a version of the site for young adult readers, adding a featured audiobook selection each Halloween, much like AudioFile does with their Sync program in the summer, collaborating with authors to provide event planning one-sheets so that libraries and schools can host Halloween-themed events featuring their books, and arranging contests where kids could win an author visit to their school or library.

Do go visit the site – it’s truly awesome – and give the kids who ring your doorbell this Halloween something that will last a lot longer (and is a lot healthier!) than candy.

Interview with Sarah Jean Horwitz — Author of THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE

Today, I’m super excited to welcome Sarah Jean Horwitz to the blog! Sarah is the author of the new MG novel, THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE, out this month with Algonquin Young Readers.

Can’t wait to hear more about this book! The cover…AMAZING! The premise…SO TOTALLY COOL! Let’s dive right in.

First up, time for a few sentence starters.

My main character Clementine is…a somewhat reluctant future Evil Overlord and heir to the Dark Lordship of the Seven Sisters mountains. Clementine is lonely, brave, and compassionate, and has a lot to learn about her potential for goodness and the world around her.  

The Dark Lord Elithor is…Clementine’s father and the current Dark Lord. He’s been cursed by a rival named the Whittle Witch and his magic is fading. He loves Clementine, but can be cruel and uncaring and…well, Dark Lord-Like!

I had the most fun writing…the earlier scenes in the book, where Clementine spends a bit of time wandering around the castle and her father’s estate trying to think of a cure for him. I loved introducing fun details about the story world and Clementine to the reader.

I hope that readers will…love spending time with Clementine (and Darka the unicorn huntress, and Sebastien the aspiring knight, and David the black sheep, and…all the characters!) as much as I did while writing them.

When it comes to good vs. evil…When the oppression and pain of others is built into a system that benefits us, it can be easy to turn a blind eye. But just as Clementine learns that her way of life is not normal, and rejects the notion that cruelty is part of the necessary order of the world, so must we.

Horowitz_DarkLord_FinalComp_rgb_HR

Now for a quick speed round:

Favorite literary villain: Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) I’m not a big villain fan! I find it more interesting when characters are facing off against bigger societal forces or institutions, or even against themselves.

Hogwarts house: Gryffindor! At least, according to my first Pottermore sorting. I’m sticking with it.

Dragons or unicorns: I’d hate to betray my own book here, since it’s rife with unicorns, but I have to say…dragons.

Desert island book: Some sort of survival manual, of course! I’m terrible at camping.

Biggest fear: It’s a tie between dying a painful/violent death and losing my mental faculties from dementia. Cheery stuff!

Dream superpower: Super healing, or some sort of selective immortality. In case you couldn’t tell from the previous answer, I’d like to be in charge of when I kick the bucket.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sarah!

Sarah Jean Horwitz_8x10_Emma YoungSarah Jean Horwitz was raised in suburban New Jersey, where she lived next door to a cemetery and down the street from an abandoned fairy tale theme park. Her love of storytelling grew from listening to her mother’s original “fractured” fairy tales, a childhood spent in community theater, and far too many rereads of Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables. 

She is the author of the Carmer and Grit series. THE WINGSNATCHERS, the first book in that series, was a Kids Indie Next List pick and a Junior Library Guild Selection. The second book in the series, THE CROOKED CASTLE, was released in April 2018. Find her online at www.sarahjeanhorwitz.comor follow her on Twitter @sunshineJHwitz.

The Wicked Tree by Kristin Thorsness & a Giveaway!

Have I got a spooky treat for you, today! Kristin Thorsness is here to share her debut middle grade novel THE WICKED TREE, her characters, and a teeny excerpt. Make sure to scroll to the bottom to enter her giveaway. But first, let’s see that book baby.

The Wicked Tree-Final Cover
AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS

Deep in the woods, a gnarled tree grows. Its thick, black trunk twists angrily up into the night sky. Held in place by the magic of a long-ago patriarch, it has waited centuries to lure a descendant into its trap.

Eleven-year-old Tavorian Kreet hates it when money troubles force his mom to move them in with his great-grandmother – though the historic house and grounds are pretty awesome. Tav is told to stay out of the estate’s woods, but he can’t resist the chance to explore.

After Tav’s first trip into the woods, he begins to have strange dreams about a supernatural tree. The dreams start out pleasant, but soon grow dark and menacing. On a dare, Tav ventures further into the woods with his new friend Harper, and they meet a mysterious, mute boy named Edward who lives in a decrepit cabin there. Though he’s unable to communicate where he came from or why he lives alone, in clear distress he scrawls two words: Bad Tree.

Tav knows what it’s like to be afraid. If he’d been brave enough to act four years ago, he could have saved his dad from the fire that took their home. But he wasn’t, and he’s been trying to redeem himself since. Now Tav is determined to help Edward. He enlists Harper, and together they search the estate for clues to Edward’s identity and how to help him.

While searching, Tav and Harper find antique photo albums, ancient diaries, and a secret laboratory. They piece together the Kreet family history, and discover a curse that’s been waiting generations for an heir. Tav’s dreams grow more ominous, and he realizes time is running short. To save himself and his friends, Tav must go to the heart of the woods, find the Bad Tree, and confront an evil magic before it consumes him completely.

Ooh, this sounds so eerie . . . and that cover!

Hi Kristin! It’s spook-o-liciously awesome that you and your wicked book baby are visiting our humble crypt. Welcome. Let me dust off a seat for you. Oh, and excuse the cobwebs, please.🕸️🕸️🕸️

So now that our readers have seen all the wickedness that is your baby’s cover, how about you give us a description of The Wicked Tree using three adjectives and three setting comparisons.

Let’s see, three adjectives that describe The Wicked Tree … I’ll have to go with: atmospheric, creepy, and ultimately hopeful.

As for setting comparisons, The Wicked Tree will appeal to fans of the historic house and grounds of Robert Beatty’s Serafina and the Black Cloak, fans of the creepy atmosphere in Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, and fans of the nighttime exploration in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Oh my . . . great description comparisons! Next, care to share your main character Tavorian with us and then a bit about what makes his new friendship with Harper special?

Tavorian Kreet (Tav) is smart and introverted. He wants to be brave, but he’s a worrier. He’s been through a lot at the beginning of the story, and will have been through even more by its end, but he never lets his circumstances dampen his desire to do the right thing—even if it’s not always clear what the right thing actually is. He sees the best in others, wants to find a friend, and loves his eighteen-year-old cat, Mosley.

At the beginning of the book, Tav desperately wants a friend. He sets his sights on Harper—who’s a year older—but unfortunately for him, she’s not really interested. Tav wins her over eventually and they become an unlikely pair. In many ways, Harper is Tav’s opposite. She’s sure of herself, knows what she wants, and goes after it. The combination of their two personalities (his overthinking and planning with her bravery; her stubbornness with his willingness to bend) is what allows them to be successful in the end.

The house and grounds in the story have historical elements attached to them. (Love this, btw!) What can you tell readers about this? Maybe even a fact that was left out of the story.

When I was young, I spent summers at my grandparents’ Gothic Revival house (built in 1844). Their whole town (Marshall, MI) was full of gorgeous one-of-a-kind houses complete with historical markers detailing things that had happened in the 1800s; and walking the streets gawking was always one of my favorite activities. I absolutely fell in love with historical houses, history, and architecture and consequently, every story I’ve ever written has been set in a cool old house.

I’m currently working on a sequel to The Wicked Tree and in it, Tav and Harper (spoiler, they both make it out of the first book!) learn a lot more about the history of the Kreet estate and the happenings back when Solomon and Hester first lived there. One thing I can share that’s not a spoiler is that in the late 1800s, some people adopted orphans, not as a way of expanding their family, but to get free labor until the orphans reached adulthood (eighteen for girls, twenty-one for boys).

Mystery oozes from one page to the next as Tavorian and Harper forge on their journey. Would you classify the story only as a mystery or something else, too?

My very favorite stories (books, movies, tv series …) are ones where there is a lingering sense of “something creepy is going on, but I’m not quite sure what it is,” and this is the vibe I tried to bring to Tav and Harper’s story. It’s a mystery, yes, but with the level of spooky/supernatural happenings, I wouldn’t call it straight-up mystery. When pressed to classify it, I’ve often described The Wicked Tree as “horror with heart.”

I. Love. That. “Horror with heart.”🖤

What would you say is the spookiest part, element, or scene of the story?

Writing spooky scenes is my favorite, so I’ve quite a few to pick from! I think my favorite creepy scene is probably when Tav and Harper are exploring the house when they’re supposed to be in bed. Here’s an excerpt from it:

The portrait hall was nothing short of terrifying at night. It was so long and dark, it was like looking into an endless cave … Every step Tav and Harper took sent ear-splitting creaks echoing down the hall. They paused every few steps to listen and make sure they hadn’t woken anyone. They both had their phone flashlights on, and the beams bounced around the walls, floor, and gilded frames, creating weird, angular shadows. Tav could feel the eyes of the somber Kreet women boring into him as he passed each portrait.
Pg. 89

Ooh, totally creepy! And spooky, of course. There’s lots of heart weaved throughout The Wicked Tree. What do you hope stays with readers long after they’ve finished reading it?

That there’s always hope. No matter how dire things get, if you can muster the courage to face your fears and do what you know is right, you can find the strength to make it through anything. Also, that offering grace and forgiveness to others is important, but it’s equally important to learn to forgive yourself.

Such an important emotional lesson to show young readers. Thank you for joining us and all the best with The Wicked Tree and your future books! Oh, be careful on your way out. Bulbous our bullfrog tends to be a little protective. He tongue-lashes, but doesn’t bite.  😉

About the Author_greenskulls

Thorsness author photo

Kristin Thorsness is a former 5th and 6th grade teacher who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their son and daughter, and two spoiled dogs. She likes dark chocolate, strong coffee, and creepy stories that keep her up reading late into the night. For more info, or to get in touch, visit her online at http://www.kristinthorsness.com.

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