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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

6th MMGM: Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce (review, interview, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 29 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Frank Cottrell Boyce and his book, Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth!

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth
By Frank Cottrell Boyce
June 20, 2017
Walden Pond Press
Source: ARC from pub for review
Award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce returns with another one-of-a-kind story of heart, humor, and finding one’s place in the universe.

Prez knows that the best way to keep track of things is to make a list. That's important when you have a grandfather who is constantly forgetting. And it's even more important when your grandfather can't care for you anymore and you have to go live with a foster family out in the country.

Prez is still learning to fit in at his new home when he answers the door to meet Sputnik—a kid who is more than a little strange. First, he can hear what Prez is thinking. Second, he looks like a dog to everyone except Prez. Third, he can manipulate the laws of space and time. Sputnik, it turns out is an alien, and he's got a mission that requires Prez's help: the Earth has been marked for destruction, and the only way they can stop it is to come up with ten reasons why the planet should be saved.

Thus begins one of the most fun and eventful summers of Prez's life, as he and Sputnik set out on a journey to compile the most important list Prez has ever made—and discover just what makes our world so remarkable.

Prez is great at making lists. He makes lists and post-it reminders all the time for his grandfather, who is becoming more forgetful everyday. But when Prez’s grandfather is taken away and Prez is placed in a temporary foster family for the summer, he has no idea just how handy is list making skill will be. One night, during his stay at the foster family, Prez answers the door to find a boy wearing goggles and a kilt. A boy who says his name is Sputnik. A boy who, to everyone else, looks like a regular, normal, but very cute dog. Sputnik can communicate with Prez telepathically and informs the boy that he is an alien from far away and that Earth is scheduled for destruction...unless he and Prez can come up with a list of ten reasons why Earth is special and should be saved.

Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth is a quirky, earnest, and heartfelt middle-grade about family, home, and love. At turns heartbreaking and uplifting, poignant and humorous, I found the story unforgettable and sweetly charming.

Young readers will fall in love with quiet, thoughtful Prez and boisterous, full of life Sputnik, and their endearing and genuine connection. The two companions set out on some kooky and wild adventures together-  including a jailbreak; flying; saving toddlers from real lightsabers; foiling a robbery attempt; and more - and readers will love how often those adventures turn into tickle-your-funny-bone-misadventures. The farm Prez is visiting for the summer, the ocean-side, and Prez’s quaint Scottish town all make for fun, cozy settings.

With a vulnerable, relatable, ardent voice, Boyce crafts a story that sets out to explore what family and home really mean, and does so honestly and beautifully. Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth gives readers engaging characters to be amused by, adventures and misadventures to be excited by, and a heartwarming, one-of-a-kind story to carry with them for always.

Q1. What three words best describe your book, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth?
I can tell you three words that I HOPE describe it - funny funny and funny!

You could also try Canine Caledonian and Cosmic

It’s the story of Prez - a quiet boy - who meets a small noisy alien called Sputnik.  The twist is that to everyone except Prez,  Sputnik looks like a dog.

Q2. Grab a copy of Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth and answer the following:
Favorite chapter?
The ending because it just appeared from nowhere.  A good ending should surprise the reader but this one surprised the writer!

Favorite page?
I love the scene where Sputnik “repairs” the little girl (Annabel)’s toy light sabre so that it now actually works:
Annabel swung around to take a bow. Her best friend saw the blade of light coming towards her and ducked just in time to stop decapitation. But not in time to save her thick blonde pony-tail, which fell at her feet like a dead gerbil that was slightly on fire.

Favorite setting?
This is a real place.  I put it in the book because it’s so astonishing.  It looks like a cathedral but it’s actually a cow shed.  Jessie - the girl in the book - describes it as "Cow Hogwarts”.  It’s on the beach near Kirkcudbright (a town in Scotland which is spelled Kirk-cud-bright but which is pronounced Ker-Coo-Bree).

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
Prez and Sputnik are visiting Hadrian’s Wall (a Roman Wall).  Sputnik has just given a lady who works there something that looks like a pineapple, which she throws for him to fetch.  This is the quote

‘Fetch! Go on, boy. Fetch!’
‘FETCH?!’ said Sputnik. ‘Is she NUTS? That’s a live hand grenade.’
- When you say live hand grenade...
‘When I say live hand grenade . . .’
- What did you give her a hand grenade for?!
‘We can discuss this later. For now get your goggles on .’

Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? What is your favorite middle-grade book?
My favourite middle grade Hero would undoubtedly be Snufkin - the wandering,  lonely explorer from the Moomin books.  Heroine would probably be - after all these year - Anne of Green Gables for her invulnerable imagination.  And for being the star of the best drunk scene in all literature.

Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
Simple.  The books I read in later life made me laugh,  made me cry,  made me think.  But the books I read in Middle Grade made … me.
Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Could it be made to look like the strangely beautiful satellite Sputnik 1. You could use sugar work. Sputnik was the first man made object to escape from Earth’s gravity and float free in space.  It orbits our planet.  Its name means “companion”.  Now there are hundreds of satellites but in the past it was just Earth and Sputnik.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a British screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor.
In addition to original scripts, Cottrell Boyce has also adapted novels for the screen and written children's fiction, winning the 2004 Carnegie Medal for his debut, Millions, based on his own screenplay for the film of the same name.
His novel Framed was shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year as well as the Carnegie Medal.
He adapted the novel into a screenplay for a 2009 BBC television film. His 2009 novel Cosmic has also been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
He is married and the father of seven children. Website * Twitter * Facebook

Win a signed copy of 
Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth!
Walden Pond Press has generously offered one (1) copy for one winner.
-ends 4/5/17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

6th MMGM: Beyond the Doors by David Neilsen (review, guest post, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 28 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring David Neilsen and his book, Beyond The Doors!

Beyond the Doors
By David Neilsen
August 1, 2017
Crown BFYR
Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Coraline will devour this dark and creepy, humor-laced tale about four siblings who discover a mysterious world where secrets hide around every corner.

When a family disaster forces the four Rothbaum children to live with their aunt Gladys, they immediately know there is something strange about their new home. The crazy, circular house looks like it stepped out of a scary movie. The front entrance is a four-story-tall drawbridge. And the only food in Aunt Gladys's kitchen is an endless supply of Honey Nut Oat Blast Ring-a-Dings cereal.
Strangest of all are the doors--there are none. Every doorway is a wide-open passageway--even the bathroom! Who lives in a house with no doors?
Their unease only grows when Aunt Gladys disappears for long stretches of time, leaving them alone to explore the strange house. When they discover just what Aunt Gladys has been doing with all her doors, the shocked siblings embark on an adventure that changes everything they believe about their family and the world.

With their mother having left the family six years ago and their father involved in a horrible and mysterious accident, the four Rothbaum kids - Janice, Zach, Sydney, Alexa - must go live with Aunt Gladys, an aunt they never knew existed. Aunt Gladys is an eccentric, odd lady, with an even odder and downright weird home. The huge, circular home has a drawbridge for a front door, has only cereal in the kitchen, none of the rooms (even the bathrooms) have doors, but there are piles and piles of old doors laying around. And even weirder, Aunt Gladys shuts herself away beyond a mysterious room and does mysterious things...and when the kids discover just what Gladys is doing with all the doors, things get even weirder, odder, and mysteriouser.

David Neilsen’s Beyond The Doors is a fun mish-mash of adventure, mystery, and a creeptastic atmosphere! Full of exciting frights, silly laughs, and imagination, this middle-grade book took me on a zany, wack-a-doodle adventure...which, really, are the best kinds!

With an amusing and cleverly witty voice, Beyond The Doors captivates from the very beginning, entertaining readers with its whimsically dark humor and enticing mystery. David Neilsen infuses his tale with that over-the-top, wonderfully over-dramatic kind of humor and silliness that young readers love. With its creepy, lackluster, and just plain strange decor and design, and all the fantastically frightening and fun secrets it hides, Aunt Gladys’ unusual, yet totally fascinating house, makes for the perfect setting.

Most of the adult characters are adorkably useless, leaving the four Rothbaum kids to be the heroes of their own story...something young readers will appreciate! And the four Rothbaum children, from protective Janice, to calm Zach, wild; easily raged Sydney, and sweet; independent Alexa, are all engaging, likable, and fun characters to get to know. Plus, Neilsen, provides an unexpected and extra spooktacular and shiver-inducing opponent for the kids to face.

With its scary-fun setting, imaginative premise, and quirky atmosphere, young readers will love all the twists and turns Beyond the Doors throws at them!

What’s Beyond Your Door?
By David Neilsen

I have a very cool door in my house.

It’s in the guest bedroom, and is about three feet tall. When guests see that door, they are often a little confused. Some are even concerned. One guest refused to sleep in the room because of the door.

As a writer, I’m always looking at things and asking myself ‘Why?’ Why is there a three-foot-tall door in my house? Where does it lead? Who lives there?

The actual, real-life answers to these questions are rather dull. It opens onto an unfinished attic/storage space. Nobody is ever behind the door except when one of our cats is accidentally locked in the attic (And then we get eerie howls of woe reverberating throughout the house, convincing us our house is haunted.). But those aren’t the answers I’m interested in. Over the years, my imagination has come up with dozens of creepy or silly or just plain odd reasons for this door to exist. These include:

  • We have a deformed half-breed living in the attic who helps us with our evil midnight rituals.
  • It’s not a real door, but a physical manifestation of the ancient, secret information I’ve locked away inside my brain.
  • It’s a gateway to the magical land of BoomShakalaka, which is peopled by gnomes, dwarves, and pixies.
  • It’s not half the size of a regular door, I’m twice the size of a regular man.
The list goes on.

I think everyone should have a strange door in their house. Not that I’m advising anyone to grab a sledgehammer and bash in a section of their wall or anything, but it makes for a great metaphor. Doors lead to places. They suggest the beginning of a journey, even if it is just into the closet. There’s an old saying that goes something like “Every adventure starts with a first step.” Well, I would slightly alter it to say “Every adventure starts with opening a door, otherwise you’d just walk into a wall and that would be silly.”

Sitting down to begin writing a new book is, for me, a bit like standing in front of that strange door--I’m both a little nervous and a little excited. I don’t always know where the door will lead, but I look forward to the experience. Sometimes it opens up onto a whole new world that I can create and explore and enjoy. Other times it opens up onto a few pages that go nowhere and are very quickly discarded--in which case I take a deep breath and open another door.

So whether your door is three feet tall or made of cheese, do yourself a favor today and give it a good, hard look. There’s something just beyond it, waiting patiently to be discovered.

David Neilsen is the author of Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, and several other odd, weird, supernatural, and occasionally slightly disturbing books and stories. David is also a professionally trained actor who works as a professional storyteller up and down the Hudson River Valley and in New York City. His one-man performances based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft have sent many screaming into the hills in search of their sanity.

Win an ARC of Beyond The Doors!
Random House has generously offered one (1) ARC for one winner.
-ends 4/5/17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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Monday, March 27, 2017

6th MMGM: Just One Thing by Nancy Viau (interview, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 27 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Nancy Viau and her book, Just One Thing!

Just One Thing
By Nancy Viau
September 28, 2016
Anthony Pantaloni needs JUST ONE THING!—one thing he does well, one thing that will replace the Antsy Pants nickname he got tagged with the first day of fifth grade, one GOOD thing he can “own” before moving up to middle school next year. Every kid in Carpenter Elementary has something: Marcus is Mr. Athletic, Alexis is Smart Aleck, Bethany has her horse obsession, and even Cory can stake a claim as being the toughest kid in the whole school. Ant tries lots of things but – KA-BOOM – nothing sticks! It doesn’t help that there are obstacles along the way—a baton-twirling teacher, an annoying cousin, and Dad's new girlfriend to name a few. JUST ONE THING! is a funny middle grade novel about that awesome (and awkward!) final year of elementary school.

Q1. What three words best describe your book, Just One Thing?
Fifth-grade, funny, contemporary

Q2. Grab a copy of Just One Thing! and answer the following:
Favorite chapter? CHAPTER TEN: All Eyes On Me

Favorite page? 58

Favorite setting? CHAPTER SEVEN, Ant’s classroom

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
I freeze, but it’s not a chill that’s working its way up my spine to my cheeks. It’s fire.

Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine?
Hero: Greg Heffley Heroine: Star Girl

What is your favorite middle-grade book?
Aargh! How can I pick one? There are so many great books being published every month! I can’t keep up!

Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
Let’s face it, things get weird during the middle-grade years. As a kid in 4th- 6th grade, you’re working on figuring out your hopes, your dreams, your face, your body, and even the world! Just when you think it’s coming together—KA-BOOM!—things change. Somehow, amidst the chaos, there’s still a know-it-all justification for thoughts and actions. (Parents, you know what I’m talking about.) Middle-grade lit addresses that crazy, exciting time, and let’s readers see they are not alone. The issues and plotlines, whether funny or serious, are relevant and universal.

Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Just One Thing!, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Ugh, FYI: I’d be awesome at the creating part; the baking part, not so much. ; ) Anyway…My cupcake would be chocolate on the inside and each one would contain a different surprise filling because there are quite a few surprises in Just One Thing! No two would taste alike, representing the unique personalities and challenges kids have. The icing would be bright green (optimistic, yes?!), black lines would be scribbled across it (bring on the chaos!), and a big number 1 would sit on top. I’d call my cupcake creation: KA-BOOM!

Nancy Viau no longer worries about finding her one thing for she has found quite a few things she loves, like being a mom, writing, traveling, and working as a librarian assistant. She is the author of the picture books City Street Beat, Look What I Can Do! and Storm Song, and an additional middle-grade novel, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head. Nancy grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA and now resides in South Jersey.

Author links:
Twitter/Instagram: @NancyViau1
Facebook: Nancy Viau
Skype: nancy.viau

Win a signed copy of Just One Thing! plus doodle notepad, markers, bookmarks!
Nancy has generously offered one (1) prize pack for one winner.
-ends 4/5/17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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