Come see me!

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I love you, Central Florida. Please come hang out with me today, 2 p.m. at Writer’s Block bookstore, 124 E. Welbourne Ave., Winter Park.

Today I’m celebrating the release of my new book, Jada Sly, Artist & Spy. I would love to share my story of perseverance with your kids as I discuss how I turned my lifelong dream of being an author/illustrator into reality.

Jada Sly is a book that has fun, intrigue and adventure. It also deals with complex issues of loss, grief and anxiety. It’s a great story and a fast-paced read. So bring the kids and come get the perfect book for your child’s summer reading.

A Writer’s Delight!

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    Serendipity is a beautiful thing!

An unexpected email led to a delightful afternoon.

Hometown grandmother Nancy knew I grew up in Michigan and wondered if I’d autograph a book for her granddaughter visiting from Washington state. Then she realized I now lived in Florida. She expressed how much her daughter loved her new book, President of the Whole Sixth Grade—Girl Code.

Well, just so happened I was in Michigan for the wonderful author-illustrator experience, Nerd Camp, in Parma, Michigan. I reached out to Nancy, set a date, and it was on.

Meeting Nancy and Sarah was a true highlight to my week. Sarah, 10, was adorable and very smart. We sat around chatting like ladies who lunch.

Divine!

And if that wasn’t enough of the serendipity sauce, Nancy brought along a friend—my middle school civics teacher whose habit of teaching us to read newspapers in her classroom directly led to the plot of the third book in the President series—Mrs. Western. Now, I’m sure the woman has a first name but I still feel like raising my hand when I see her so I didn’t ask.

Thanks Sarah and Nancy for renewing my understanding of why I write stories for children. Your kind words motivated me to carry on. And thank you, truly, to Mrs. Western, whose caring yet no-nonsense teaching style helped open my eyes to the world around me, inspiring me to see greater and be greater. Thank you, ladies for a wonderful day.

BIG BOOK NEWS: THE SWEETEST SOUND PAPERBACK

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It may be rainy today throughout Florida, but there is sunshine in my heart. My sweet, sweet little book about a 10-year-old girl who has the voice of an angel—Mariah Carey is her hero—but is afraid to be heard. I wrote the book so that each chapter would feel like a song. I love this book and now that she’s a brand new paperback, I hope you get to know Cadence Mariah Jolly and fall in love with her story, too. Kisses!

The Sweetest Sound

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cropped-img_0296.jpgWhen you were a kid, was there ever a celebrity whom you looked upon as sort of a fairy godmother? When I was little, my cast of good-natured spirits ranged from Julie Andrews to Diana Ross.

In my latest middle grade novel, The Sweetest Sound, my main character has a fairy godmother of sorts–Mariah Carey.

Cadence is a quiet girl who enjoys her solitude. However, she is also a shy girl who longs to define her time among others as she sees fit. And one way in which she sees fit is through singing. She has an amazing voice. One that would be compared to her hero, Mariah Carey, if only Cadence would allow it to be heard.img_0298

In my late teens when Whitney Houston became an instant icon, my mother was immediately drawn to the bubbly, brown-skinned diva. She rejoiced at Whitney’s every move. And a few years later, when I first saw Mariah Carey perform the National Anthem at a Detroit Pistons game, I knew how my mother felt.

The 90s were a time when I was finding my professional self and discovering what kind of woman I was to become. And Mariah Carey was an integral voice in the soundtrack of my life.

So when I sat down to craft a tale about a young girl on a similar mission of self-discovery, a young woman whose heart is filled with song, and music and light, I drew upon the lyrical influences of one of my all-time favorite angels, Ms. Carey.

The Sweetest Sound is a delightful, lyrical story about voice, perceptions and misconceptions. It’s the story of a girl with dreams both big and modest. A gospel singer who makes a promise to God, then struggles with what will happen if she can’t keep it. Who then turns to her emotional fairy godmother to see her through her journey.

Cadence must cope with an absentee mother, over protective father and an over-the-top best friend. All the while, balancing a secret that has been eating away at her for years. One whose time has come.

Please enjoy the musical stylings of a beautiful soul. Introducing Cadence Mariah Jolly, and The Sweetest Sound.

COUNTDOWN FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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At this time of year, everyone is posting lists of faves. Us book lovers get filled with holiday glee at the thought of books fresh from the book garden, or wherever great books are born. So here are a few goodies on my list of recommended must-reads:

Must Read:

Stunning tale of heartache and redemption.

Stunning tale of heartache and redemption.

Lost In The Sun (LISA GRAFF): Masterfully written and heart-achingly real. Trent starts middle school desperate to hit the restart button on his life. He craves a new beginning after a fifth-grade tragedy left one classmate dead and Trent feeling the weight of his friend’s loss. After all, he surmises, it was all Trent’s fault. How would you cope with causing the death of another kid? Trent’s struggle feels real and honest. The kind of book that makes you clutch your chest and shake your head while you’re reading it. A darned good book!

 

 

Monsters don't stand a chance against the PIB!

Monsters don’t stand a chance against the PIB!

Princess In Black and the Perfect Princess Party (SHANNON HALE): I mean, really? Who wouldn’t want to attend a perfect party in honor of a monster hunting princess? Welcome to the castle, y’all. Princess In Black is in the house. Is it wrong that I buy these books knowing I have no age-appropriate reader with which to share? The PIB (Princess In Black) delivers charm, hilarity and plenty of action. You may scoff, but her tales are a pure delight!

 

 

 

President Cover with Bleed_CMYK[1]

President of the Whole Sixth Grade (SHERRI WINSTON): Brianna Justice thought she had sixth grade all figured out. Until she was actually in sixth grade. Then everything she thought she was sure of–her friends, her future, her Self!–began to shift. How Brianna chooses to find herself and figure out her next move is an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced a challenge and then challenged themselves to figure it out. In a story filled with Ancient Roman facts, yummy cupcake recipes and a class trip from Detroit to Washington, D.C., Brianna Justice learns a few things about life. And maybe teaches a few things, too.

32 days until …

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…the release of President of the Whole Sixth Grade (Little, Brown, $17.99) on Nov. 3. President Cover with Bleed_CMYK[1]

Southfield Public Library

Southfield Public Library

The story takes place in a fictitious suburb of Detroit, Mich., called Orchard Park. So while I was in Detroit visiting friends and preparing for the upcoming release of the book, including a fabulous party and book fair being held at the Southfield Public Library in beautiful Southfield, Mich.,  I saw this sign and couldn’t resist:

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President of the Whole SIXTH Grade!

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Congratulations to my favorite alter ego, Brianna Justice. Little, Brown has just announced the upcoming release to the sequel of President of the Fifth Grade. Brianna and her friends will face the social land mines of middle school in the 2015 release of President of the Whole SIXTH Grade! Woo-hoo!

Congratulations to my favorite alter ego, Brianna Justice. Little, Brown has just announced the upcoming release to the sequel of President of the Fifth Grade. Brianna and her friends will face the social land mines of middle school in the 2015 release of President of the Whole SIXTH Grade! Woo-hoo!

I have waited a while for this announcement. It’s official — President of the Whole Sixth Grade is set for a 2015 Fall release.

A year ago, I was returning home from a summer of craziness, teaching at a camp in Western Pennsylvania and having a time of a my life. Except for the part where I went to New York to pitch a manuscript I’d been working on for over six months only to learn that the editors at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers were interested in hearing more from the heroine of my previous LB middle-grade novel, Brianna Justice.

The hardest thing about waiting for the next book in the sequence is anticipating the new cover.

The hardest thing about waiting for the next book in the sequence is anticipating the new cover.

Luckily, I, too, felt that Miss Justice had plenty more to say. President of the Whole Fifth Grade featured a 10-year-old girl who wanted to become a cupcake-making millionaire. She idolized television cooking personality Miss Delicious and hoped to follow in her diamond-studded footsteps. However, as Brianna grew closer to her goal, she started to realize that she was sacrificing her friends and herself.

Hey, who hasn’t been there, right?

I love the Brianna Justice character because she represents wish-fullfilment. I was such a timid and shy kid in fifth grade that when I look back, I wish I could have been more daring and outgoing, like Brianna. Now, in President of the Whole Sixth Grade, I get to push my wish fulfillment a step further, positing a sixth-grade in which a smart, level-headed girl is able to gather her wits and strength to motivate those around her to be their absolute best. And make a difference.

With so much to celebrate, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without a beautiful chocolate cake.

So here’s to you, Brianna Justice — and all the Brianna Justices out there. Thank you for your awesomeness!