Tag Archives: Middle Grade Fiction

Spy Mice Blog Hop & Giveaway with Heather Vogel Frederick

Books for boys…I’m not ashamed to admit as a children’s librarian it’s probably my Achilles heel…somehow very early in my career I became a certifiable princess expert within the library scene. I was always sought out when the need for girly books was crucial especially when the treasured few princess books were checked out or falling to pieces from so much child love. And while I never minded because I got to do Daddy Daughter Tea Parties and wear a ball gown skirt and tiara for programs….this became much more complicated when I was blessed with my beautiful BOY. That’s right…the Mom who knew it all for girls was blessed with the bouncing baby boy! What’s a librarian and a Mom to do? Call in the expert…a favorite children’s book author who just happens to have raised two boys. Did I mention she also happens to be fabulous at writing for girls as well? All right it must be said…she’s just plain fabulous.

Who is she you ask? Well…I always had my go-to books for boys that I trusted every time and the Spy Mice series by Heather Vogel Frederick was always one of those that I went to for reader’s advisory for boys. Spies…mice..adventure…intrigue…what’s not to like? So how wonderful is it that they are now all new in paperback with covers meant to make them irresistible to even the most persnickety of young readers both boy and girl. Lucky for me author Heather Vogel Frederick decided to drop by and answer questions about her favorite mice and their risky adventures. Not only that Stiletto Storytime and The Styling Librarian get to give three lucky readers entire newly released sets of the series. Now that’s something to celebrate! It’s a series I will no doubt be stocking for my boy for on down the reading road. So read on and learn more about this great series and remember to enter to win on the form below by simply sharing your favorite fictional spy.


 Author Heather Vogel Frederick

 Q:  What’s the best part about the relaunch of your SPY MICE books?

 A:  Knowing that new readers will have a chance to discover them!  These books are dear to my heart, and I had a blast writing them.

 Q:  What do you think of the new look?

 A:  Fabulous!  I couldn’t be happier.

 Q:  Can you tell us how the books came about?

 A:  Sure.  Not that long ago, in a galaxy not that far away, I had a bright idea. I’d write a story that would pay homage to my misspent youth, or at least the part of it misspent in the living room watching television. I grew up during the heyday of spy-fi TV, addicted to such shows as Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, and The Avengers.  My 12-year-old self loved them all.  I loved the glamour, the gadgets, the whole cool factor of espionage, at least as Hollywood portrayed it.

 Grown-up me knew exactly where to set the story. The seed for that idea had been planted when I’d filed away a newspaper clipping about the building of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., along with a scribbled reminder.  (Note to self: Great setting for a story, à la E. L. Konigsburg’sFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”)

 I noodled around with the concept for a while, came up with a great main character (an aspiring fifth grade spy whose James Bond moves were seriously lacking), but something was missing.  And so I set the story aside and waited for that je ne sais quoi.  And waited.  I’ve learned to trust my muse—she often makes me wait, but she always comes through.  One day, the words “spy mice” drifted into thought, and I was off and running.

 Q:  Do you have a favorite character?

 A:  Mouse or human?

 Q:  Let’s start with mouse.

 A:  Well, the evil rat mastermind Roquefort Dupont is really fun to write, and I have a soft spot for Bunsen (Burner, a shy lab mouse).  I love it when he blushes—which he does often, because he has a crush on secret agent mouse Glory Goldenleaf.

 Q:  And the humans?

 A:  There’s a lot of me in fifth grader Oz Levinson, alas.  When I was his age, we both shared the same awkwardness, the same Walter Mitty-esque delusions of grandeur, complete with deflating reality checks. And we were both bullied.

 Q:  Really?

 A:  Yep.  I was plump, shy, and wore glasses, the trifecta of bully bait back then, at least in my particular corner of suburbia.  Nowadays, schools talk much more openly about bullying, and really make an effort to both prevent the problem, and give kids the tools to deal with it more effectively when it does crop up.  Back then, it was just something to be endured.

 Q:  Would fifth-grade you have appreciated a mouse ally?

 A:  Are you kidding me?  I would have been ecstatic.

 Q:  Who’s your favorite fictional spy?

 A:  Oz may dream of being James Bond, but when I was his age I dreamed of being Emma Peel from The Avengers.  No one wears a black leather catsuit like Emma does.


Filed under Author Interviews & Posts, Blog Tour, Children's Literature, Heather Vogel Frederick, Middle Grade, New Books

Blog Tour: “A Wrinkle in Time” 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time Stiletto Storytime is pleased to be a part of the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs Celebration. As part of the second week of celebrating we are blogging about “sharing” this great book.

Personally the first time I read A Wrinkle in Time I didn’t get it. I was in middle school and I quickly went through the book and simply didn’t “get it”. Then the second time I read it, once again in middle school…I kind of got it. I got that it was special. As Meg says ” I got it. For just a moment I got it! I can’t possibly explain it now, but there for a second I saw it!” And so began my cycle of re-reading this destined classic. A cycle that has continued from young adulthood into graduate school and beyond into my library career.

How could this book not be destined to be a classic although in many ways it was lucky in finding it’s way to print at all. The classic good vs. evil, dark vs. light, right vs. wrong…but for children. That was the key. For the first time someone was entrusting children with saving the world, with joining the ranks of Jesus, Gandhi and so many of the other fighters. Someone was given children worth not only in constructing a story of this magnitude where they were the heroes but in also creating a story that might be hard to “get” but believing that those children out there devouring each page would persevere even if it did take a few times.

That to me is what makes A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L’Engle special and the reason why it must continue to be shared. And what better way to share than with this dazzling new 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition which can rival it’s contemporary companions in shelf presence while providing a little something new for everyone to learn about their treasured favorite or new discovery, whichever may be the case. If you have not read this book I do hope you will let me share it with you now. Enjoy & Happy Reading!

About the 50th Anniversary edition:

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition features:

•       Frontispiece photo*†

•       Photo scrapbook with approximately 10 photos*†

•       Manuscript pages*†

•       Letter from 1963 Caldecott winner, Ezra Jack Keats*†

•       New introduction by Katherine Paterson, US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature  †

•       New afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Voiklis including six never-before-seen photos †

•       Murry-O’Keefe family tree with new artwork †

•       Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery acceptance speech

( * Unique to this edition    )         (   † Never previously published)


Filed under Blog Tour, Children's Literature, Contests, Events, Middle Grade

Blog Tour: Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl

“Immediately compelling and action-packed, this carefully researched work of historical fiction introduces young readers to the childhood of the famous yet elusive Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo from England to North America. As in her debut novel, Prisoners in the Palace, MacColl propels readers into a multilayered story with an unforgettable heroine and evocative language that brings the backdrop of colonial British East Africa to life. A fascinating read for anyone with a thirst for adventure.”

As Michaela MacColl showcases her second novel she proves to all that her calling in historical fiction extends far beyond what we saw in her debut novel Prisoner’s in the Palace (Stiletto Storytime Review) which brought itself immediately to so many readers’ attention in such a positive way. In particular the author has a great talent for combining historical fact and well-created fiction into a seamless tale that is in the end as a whole so much greater than it’s individual parts.

Completely different and yet utterly special in it’s own right Promise the Night is based on the true life story of Beryl Markham’s unique childhood in the wilds of British East Africa and more specifically her interaction with the Nandi tribe. Told in flashback from the present day (1936) feat of her famous flight from England to North America, the tale can be somewhat slow at times but proves to still keep young readers in it’s clutches with it’s adventurous nature and wildly audacious young Beryl leading the action. Also interesting is the use of mixed media in the telling combining traditional prose with journal entries and even newspaper articles.

With it’s call to high adventure and remarkable leading lady the book will be a hit with audiences of both genders in both the middle grade and young adult markets. It also shines as a historical fiction work about a lesser known historical figure of the female gender which always lends itself well to school projects and reports from an educational stand point. Well-researched and as always with Ms. MacColl appealingly written, the book will shine for many readers and many purposes.

Book Giveaway

Thanks to the generousity of the always fabulous Chronicle Books one lucky reader at Stiletto Storytime will receive a copy of not only Promise the Night but MacColl’s debut novel Prisoners in the Palace as well.  Giveaway ends midnight EST January 30, 2012. This giveaway is open US/Canada only. Winners will be chosen by random.org and notified by e-mail address and/or Twitter. Good Luck to all and Happy Reading!

Since adventure is key in MacColl’s latest tale:

To enter simply comment below and share your favorite adventure tale as a child or young adult.

Want extra entries? You can get an extra entry by doing any of the following:

Be/Become a Follower/Subscriber of Stiletto Storytime

Be/Become a Follower Stiletto Storytime on Twitter (Please leave name in comments.)

Be/Become a Follower of Author Michaela MacColl on Twitter (Please leave name in comments.)

Be?Become a Follower of Chronicle Books on Twitter (Please leave name in comments.)

Tweet or Blog about this Giveaway (Please leave link in comments.)


Filed under Blog Tour, Contests, historical fiction, Middle Grade, New Books, Young Adult Books

Blog Tour: Can You Survive? Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”

   Growing up as a child there were two types of books that really caught my attention. I loved the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books and I also adored classical literature…a trend that has obviously  persisted throughout my lifetime. Bringing the classics to children has always been part of my mission as a children’s librarian, I simply love exposing children to classical literature and watching their minds come alive with the masterpieces of the past. Just that small taste of a classic can promote a child to later in life pick up the real thing which to me is the end goal.

Enter the newly adapted “Can You Survive” series from Ryan Jacobson in which he combines the classic Call of the Wild  by Jack London with an interactive choose your own path type format. The result is an adventure into a true classic that allows young readers an interactive choice driven reading experience. This book is perfect for reluctant boy readers of late elementary to early middle grade range (Ages 9-12) although some girls may find the book to their liking as well.

The book itself places the reader into the role of Buck, the reluctant sled dog. Each plot twist and turn allows readers to decide their action and hope for survival. It’s obvious throughout the book that Jacobson has tried to stay as true as possibly to Jack London’s original story in many ways. However I would caution the choices and situations faced in the book can be graphic and somewhat disturbing at times. I would advise parents and educators to stick to the age guidelines set forth by the book or to read the book ahead of time and make sure they feel the book is appropriate for the age group for which they intend it. When made available to the correct audience this book could truly open doors into the world of classical literature for the right child.

Book Giveaway

Thanks to generous author Ryan Jacobson one lucky reader of Stiletto Storytime will win their very own copy of Can You Survive? Jack London’s Call of the Wild for a special child in their life. Giveaway ends midnight EST November 10, 2011. US and Canada addresses only please. Winner will be chosen by random.org and notified by e-mail address. Good Luck to all and Happy Reading!

To enter just comment below telling us what special child in your life deserves this book and why you think they would enjoy it. Teachers and educators are welcome and encouraged to enter for their classrooms and students.

Want extra entries? You can get an extra entry by doing any of the following:

Be/Become a Follower of Stiletto Storytime

Be/Become a Follower Stiletto Storytime on Twitter

Be/Become a Follower Author Ryan Jacobson on Twitter

Tweet or Blog about this Giveaway (Please leave link in comments)


Filed under Blog Tour, Children's Literature, Contests, Middle Grade, New Books

Review: The Limit by Kristen Landon


Almost every family has a credit card. While it’s never a good idea to go into debt or to exceed your financial budget, the repercussions of such an action are not extreme in today’s society. If you splurge on something or even need to make an emergency purchase you may have to pay extra but the cost is usually not much. Perhaps you may pay an overdraft fee or owe more in the long run but it’s not as if someone is going to come to your house and take your first born child. However in the future what might happen if you reach your limit and what might it really cost you in the end? What if it did cost you your child or what if you were taken because your family couldn’t afford to pay their debts?

Matthew Dunston never worried about being taken, after all his father made a good living and he and his sisters never had any reason to believe that someday they might exceed their family account. While his mother shopped quite a lot and their father was always playing golf they still believed that their parents always had everything under control. The Dunstons had heard of children being taken to the workhouse for family debts but they didn’t know anyone who had disappeared personally. No matter anyhow since “Matt” as his family calls him is the oldest of the Dunston children and still in middle school, if they did go over their limit the government would simply put them on “supervised spending “or some other penalty program. Everyone knows the government never takes kids under high school age to the workhouse for family debts. Until now that is.

When thirteen-year-old Matt’s family accidentally goes over “the limit”, he finds himself in the highest ranks of the workhouse program. After testing exceedingly high in his math capabilities he is sent to the “top floor”, a kids dream where he can literally have anything or do anything he wants except the one thing he wants most: to go home. However soon odd things begin to happen to the kids at the workhouse and Matt finds perhaps his family’s unfortunate luck of losing him to the government was not luck at all.

In an inventive thriller that will keep you reading non-stop until the very last page, Kristen Landon has given middle grade readers a fast paced tale that will enthrall even the most reluctant reader.  Suspense, mystery and excitement all combine to make The Limit a must read not just for kids but their parents as well. Landon details a future society that has incurred the ultimate penalty for debt: children.  Kids will enjoy reading Landon’s fearsome tale and parents may even think twice next time they go to swipe their card for that un-needed purchase.  In the end everyone will want to know what it cost the Dunston family when they went over “the limit”.

The Limit will be available on September 7, 2010. In the meantime you can go “Behind the Scenes” and check out Landon’s inspiration for her latest book.


Filed under Children's Literature, Middle Grade, New Books

Guest Post: Author Laura Toffler-Corrie

https://i0.wp.com/www.lauratoffler-corrie.com/storage/AmyF%20jkt_4launch.jpg Today Stiletto Storytime welcomes Laura Toffler-Corrie, author of the new middle grade novel The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz which is available today from Roaring Brook Press.

Publisher Description:

“It can’t get any worse for Amy Finawitz. Her best friend, Callie, has abandoned their life in New York City to stay with relatives in Kansas for the year, leaving Amy to cope with eighth grade alone. Thankfully—or not—God sends Amy a replacement friend in the form of Miss Sophia, the little old lady who lives down the hall. Miss Sophia hooks Amy into solving a decades old mystery left in a very old journal. The dynamic duo soon becomes a Terrific Triumvirate when Miss Sophia also asks her fifteen-year-old nephew, Beryl, a Lubavitch Jew, to join their little investigative team.

And if Amy thought her year couldn’t get anymore random, she can add the following items to her list: Houdini’s grave, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, cross-dressing magicians, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, crochet circles, Abraham Lincoln, a raucous rendition of Fiddler on the Roof, and a secret treasure.

To get through it all, Amy’s going to need a serious Chanukah miracle.”


First off let me begin by saying that I’m not Jewish. You might think that might make me less interested in a book of this nature or make me even slightly “lost” in my reading but it didn’t, I felt like I was learning something new…walking in someone else’s shoes through the city of modern and old New York. How appropriate that is for this book about the adventure of learning about another person’s life and learning to accept that everyone’s life and life choices are different and that they may not fall according to plan you might have made for them.  The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz is a terrific upper middle grade work that will keep tweens and their parents reading until the very last page.

In Amy Finawitz, Laura Toffler-Corrie has created a hilariously sarcastic and witty tween who somehow manages to win your heart from the very first desperately written e-mail. Written in a combination of e-mails to Amy’s M.I.A best friend Callie and her hilariously creative selection of self composed plays depicting the scenes of her life in Callie’s absence, the book manages to snag reader’s with it’s unique form and unforgettable characters. With New York City as a backdrop Amy takes us on a journey of mystery, middle grade angst and ultimately maybe even a few life lessons along the way. A great book for reluctant tween girl readers, the cover will attract the eye and the humor will grab their interest.

When asking Laura to guest post on Stiletto Storytime I thought it would be interesting to get an author’s point of view on the process of writing for middle grade fiction. It can be a challenging audience and an extremely important time in the their life for the act of reading. It can also be an adventure for a writer as I am learning at this time for myself. So without further ado please welcome author Laura Toffler-Corrie:



The release of my debut upper middle grade book, THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF AMY FINAWITZ has got me thinking about what defines MG and how to write for this complicated age.

If you’re a child of the 60/70’s like I am, it’s hard to think of the word middle without recalling that iconic episode of The Brady Bunch where middle child Jan undergoes an emotional crisis. Baby sister, Cindy was all lisps, pig tails and Kitty carry all doll (yes, I was a fan) and older sister, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia was popular and fab in knee socks and plaid mini skirts. Jan’s life, however, was pathetically betwixt: all braces, glasses, awkwardness and uncertainty, beyond baby, but not yet teen.

Eventually, of course, she learned that, by embracing her murky uniqueness,  middleness was next to awesomeness, at least that’s how the episode was resolved, but I think that those wacky Brady bunch writers sort of got it right.

The middle grade years are distinctive primarily because of their indistinctness. These kids are all over the place, emotionally, psychological, physiological and cognitively. Even the way they use language and vernacular morphs dynamically as they develop, as does their desire for independence and their chaste curiosity about sex.

Moreover, reading ability can vary dramatically during these years, both chronologically and from kid to kid.

Yikes. It’s a tricky group to write for, but it shouldn’t be disheartening. When you get it right, the rewards can be great. Just consider the variety of works by classic children’s books authors such as Beverly Cleary, Madeleine L’engle, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sydney Taylor to name a few.

So, here are some tips to consider when writing for this group:

Identify Yourself

MG can be broken roughly into three age categories. Lower: eight, nine. Middle: ten eleven and Upper: twelve, even early thirteen. Determine your target audience before you begin.

Upward and Onward

Middle graders love to ’read up.‘ So keep that in mind when developing your characters. An eight year old kid might love a book called, Junie B. Ten Year Old, But from the ten year old, you will most likely get,

“Pulease!” (insert eye roll) That book?! That’s for babies!”

Breaking Dawn

Moreover, yearning 12 year old fingers love to reach for YA books, the ones with provocative covers and subject matter that boldly goes where no middle grader has gone (or should go) before. (Think the book, Breaking Dawn: the honeymoon scenes). You can touch upon situations that involve romance and danger but keep it on the down low.

Truth, Justice and…ya know, whatever dude…

Language and tone has to ring true. I consider my book to be upper MG and my protagonist does say damn, hell and crap at times. There might be some adults who have a problem with this, but older kids know when they’re being condescended to. Most 12 year olds just don’t say, “Oh darnsies.” Humor is also a big element in my book. What makes your targeted aged group laugh?

A New Attitude

Where is your protagonist emotionally? What’s his perspective on the world? An year 8 old will react differently to a parent’s divorce, for example, than a 12 year old. Credibility lies in getting that right.

And lastly,

Guts and Glory

Write from your heart. Reconnect with your own memories. Be true to your voice. You’ll be an MG author in no time.

~Laura Toffler-Corrie

Thanks Laura! So much of that rings true just as The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz.  Congrats on a great book and a wonderful protagonist that I hope we will see more of in the future!


Filed under Author Interviews & Posts, Books for Girls, Children's Literature, Girly Books, New Books

Review: A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker

A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker: Book Cover “Joseph can hardly believe what he has been asked to do. His Aunt Kate, a wildlife biologist, is waiting for him at a research station and needs his help taking care of an orphaned polar bear cub only a few months old. He will leave his friends and family and venture to the farthest northern town in the United States. As the adventure unfolds, Joseph and his newfound Eskimo friend Ada find mysteries wherever they look. The bear cub, Delta, remains in danger. Who would want a polar bear dead? Joseph will have to look to the North Georgia woods to save Delta. When his parents were kids, they too embarked on an excursion into the unknown. Their encounters with the wilderness beyond their backyard have shaped the future for Joseph and Delta. A Place for Delta is about one family’s journey—a passage born in the Appalachian Mountains and leading to the Arctic seas.” -Synopsis from Publisher
The Old House at Paradise Delta Eating Whale

A Place for Delta is a very simplistic story really. One you might overlook on the shelf at the bookstore in passing… but don’t because it is destined to become a classic. It is a book that returns us to a time when children’s books were really about something and made you feel things as a child and question the world around you. So simplistic in its plot and wording it still manages to become a work of literary art. A young boy on a journey far from home to help save something so precious and yet something we so often forget to treasure- the natural world that surrounds us. A story of the appreciation for the wild no matter the location and the fight to save its creatures. Friendship, love, bravery and even some sneaky detective work make for an exciting read with an essential message woven within. A Place for Delta is a a must read for children interested in the environment, animals and the preservation efforts of both.  Walker has found the perfect balance of traditional storytelling and modern elements to keep kids and adults reading until the last page. The illustrator Richard Walker has also contributed the perfect art for the writing which plays out in simplistic and beautifully rendered sketches throughout the book.
While generally my reviews tend to be more abstract, A Place for Delta connected with me as a reader on a very personal level which prompted a more personal review. For example an advantage I had when reading this work particularly was that I am a Southerner who has lived in Alaska. My parents called Fairbanks home for two years and so I know the landscape and culture that Walker portrayed and I must say she was spot on as she was with her descriptions of the southern wilderness as well.  This authenticity only makes the book more real and meaningful for readers.
Personally as a young child I felt drawn to books like My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I think I was drawn to that wilderness element, where you connected with the wild on a level where civilization got left behind. It was a kind of paradise to me. I immediately felt that same kinship when I began reading A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker. It is that simplistic view of nature as what guides us that seems to draw me into these types of books. While A Place for Delta s not a true survivalist story like the ones I have mentioned, in a way it is. It is the fight for survival not for humans but for the wild and the animals who live there. I was very impressed with this book and would recommend it  to boys and girls alike. I think it will resonate for many ages as well even as a read-a loud or book club pick. The book also comes with additional notes in the back such as a glossary, sources and other fun informational links to facts about locations and animals present in the book. Parents will also be happy to find a higher level reading book that is both education and a good clean read. No worries about content or language. The books is said to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the next book. A Place for Delta has also become the recipient of the 2010 international book award winner for best children’s fiction. Quite an accomplishment for a book published by a small press that is committed to bringing out books with a strong focus on the natural world and the people and wildlife living within it. Way to go Whale Tale Press!
*And if you don’t want to take my (adult) word for it check out this review at ten year old Melina’s Reading Vacation Book Blog*


Filed under Award Winners, Children's Literature, Children's Picture Books, New Books