Storm Watcher Blog Tour: Guest Post from Maria V. Snyder & Giveaway

The Storm Watcher Blog Tour

Feb 19 - Mar 5, 2014

Join us for interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways!

Thank you Alethea and Maria for organizing the blog tour and sponsoring the giveaway!

Time to Geek Out! 
 By Maria V. Snyder

An aspect of writing that I've discovered to be lots of fun is research. I'd never would have thought that when I was in high school and college, searching through microfilms and smelly ancient books for a research paper on a topic I had no interest in. Back then I hated the R word :). But now I can research things that I'm interested in and the knowledge can be incorporated into my novels. Bonus!

My research is done in one of three ways: the Internet, books/magazines, and hands-on. If possible, I'll do as much hands-on as I can. There is no better way to learn and translate that experience for the reader. Some examples of my hand-on research are learning how to ride a horse, how to fence, and how to blow glass. The books I use are usually juvenile non-fiction because I usually only need a basic understanding of the subject (for example bats) and they have big color pictures, which help when I'm describing things (like bats) in the story. Doing research has also sparked ideas for stories or helped with a plot problems. Fist pump!

However, fiction writers just can't dump in all this cool information we've learned. No that would be boring. I've learned that the needs of the story come first. I learned how to blow glass and work with molten glass after deciding Opal Cowan, my main protagonist in the Glass series would be a glass magician. She works with the equipment and the glass during the story so I needed to know how to do this the correct way. Her actions teach the readers about glass blowing. And I want to get it right. A reader once emailed me after she visited Murano, Italy (known for their glass artists). She went on a tour, but already knew everything from reading my books. Score!

With Storm Watcher I had a great deal of prior knowledge. I'd earned my BS degree in Meteorology from Penn State University and I worked at a dog kennel for four months. Again, I didn't want to dump in all this technical knowledge about storms and weather instruments and put my readers to sleep. Instead, the main protagonist, Luke is a weather geek and he mentions a few facts to his friend during a bad thunderstorm. He also builds weather instruments for a science fair project, which helps him re-connect with his father. Awww...

One of the fun things for me was putting together the appendix for Storm Watcher. It's called, Luke's Weather Notebook and I was able to geek out and put in a ton of cool weather information, facts, quizzes, and doodles (I drew about half of those graphics). The appendix also includes an article my sixteen-year-old daughter wrote on why hurricane's have names. Sweet!

Writers do a ton of research for their stories, and we have to be careful not to spend all our time researching and not writing. I'll research the big stuff like glass blowing first, but then I'll start writing and will make a list of research topics as I work through the story. I'm not going to stop to find out what an indigo plant looks like while I'm in the middle of writing. That's something that can be added in during revisions. Yes!

So I'm finally enjoying research and I use it as an excuse to do new things all the time. Ziplining? Research for a clan of people living in the tree canopy. Participating in a mud run? Research for a character being chased through a swamp. Photography class? Needed for a story about a fashion photographer. See how easy it is? I'd bet you can come up with a number of “research” topics, too. Boo Ya!

Storm Watcher is Maria V. Snyder's first middle grade novel.  It was released on October 19, 2013 with Leap Books.

Description from GoodReads: Luke Riley is lost. His mother's recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke's mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother's death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke's spirits. He would rather have a different breed - a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound.

When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean's daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?

For more about Maria V. Snyder: website | blog | facebook | goodreads

To check out all of the interviews, guest posts, and reviews, see the schedule below...

Tour Schedule

Wed 2/19 - The Book Monsters - review & giveaway
Thu 2/20 - I Am a Reader - interview & international giveaway
Fri 2/21 - Unleashing Readers - guest post & giveaway
Mon 2/24 - Bookalicious - review & international giveaway
Tue 2/25 - Kid Lit Frenzy - guest post & giveaway
Wed 2/26 - Sharpreads - review & giveaway
Thu 2/27 - The Mod Podge Bookshelf - guest post & giveaway
Fri 2/28 - The Windy Pages - review, interview & giveaway
Mon 3/3 - Teenage Reader - review & giveaway
Tue 3/4 - Read Now Sleep Later - review & international giveaway
Wed 3/5 - The Brain Lair - review & giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Storm Watcher and see how Maria put all of her research to use in creating this great story.

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Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2013

Recently, I started my count down to the new year by listing my favorite books from this year.  Today, I am sharing my favorite middle grade novels.   However, this list was probably my hardest one to create.  Some books that I loved this year, I will not be able to share with you until after January 28, 2014.  Others, I never had a chance to read because of the classes I took this year, which really cut into my reading time. So, today I am sharing just a few of the ones that I loved but I do encourage you to check the posts of others in order to not miss any of the amazing stories that were written this year. 

Earlier Posts:
Favorite Picture Books of 2013 Post
Favorite Graphic Novels of 2013 Post

In no particular order, here are few of my favorites of 2013...

Doll Bones by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry, May 7, 2013)

The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher (HarperCollins, June 18, 2013) - Click here to check out the book trailer.

From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, September 24, 2013)

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins,  September 17, 2013) - Click here to check out the book trailer for the book.

Every Day After by Laura Golden (Random House, June 11, 2013)

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster, February  5, 2013) - Click here to listen to author, Tim Federle talk about the book.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; Illustrated by K. G. Campbell (Candlewick Press, September 24, 2013) - Click here to watch the book trailer.

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson (Random House,  September 10, 2013)

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein (Random House, June 25, 2013)

And yes, I do know that this one below isn't a fiction novel, but since I did not read enough longer middle grade nonfiction to do a separate post, I decided to squeeze this one in here. It is too good to miss. 

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Stone (Candlewick Press, January 22, 2013) - Click here to see a short video about the book.

So, what where your favorite Middle Grade Novels in 2013?

Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour Giveaway

Seven Middle Grade Authors go on tour.  Check out who will be on tour and if they will be stopping by your town.  If you aren't able to join them in person, enter the giveaway below to win a prize pack that includes one signed copy of each book from each author. 

Stop by tomorrow to discover how Elisabeth Dahl and Kristen Kittscher answer the following question:  What author would write a novel about you as a fictionalized middle grader and what would the book be about?

Seven "Lucky 13" Middle Grade Debut Authors

Elisabeth Dahl (GENIE WISHES)

Kristen Kittscher (THE WIG IN THE WINDOW)

Caroline Carlson (MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT)

Melanie Crowder (PARCHED)

Kit Grindstaff (THE FLAME IN THE MIST)


The stops:
Elisabeth Dahl and Kristen Kittscher will be at each of the stops.  They will be joined by several of the other authors throughout the tour.  Check out if they will be stopping in your town over the next week.


November 16: Baltimore, Maryland - Cockeysville Library -  Writing Workshop from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (Book sales by the Ivy Bookshop)

November 18: Children's Book World, Haverford, PA (actual event is at Haverford Free Township Library), 4 p.m.

November 19: Stevens Cooperative School, Hoboken, NJ, 6:30 p.m. - book sales provided by Word Jersey City

Classroom teachers and librarians - Enter to win a prize pack that includes a signed copy of each of the books listed above.  Eligible to those with a U.S. mailing address. 

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Sky Jumpers Blog Tour - Review and Giveaway

by Peggy Eddleman
Random House Publishers
September 24, 2013
Audience: 4th to 8th Grade
Fiction * Dystopian/Postapocalyptic * Adventure

Description of the book from the publisher's page:
What happens when you can't do the one thing that matters most? Twelve-year-old Hope Toriella lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb's Breath—the deadly band of compressed air that covers the crater left by the bombs—than fail at yet another invention. When bandits discover that White Rock has priceless antibiotics, they invade. With a two-day deadline to finish making this year's batch and no ingredients to make more, the town is left to choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from the disease that's run rampant since the bombs, or die fighting the bandits now. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. Hope and her friends—Aaron and Brock—might be the only ones who can escape to make the dangerous trek through the Bomb's Breath and over the snow-covered mountain. Inventing won't help her make it through alive, but with Aaron and Brock's help, the daring and recklessness that usually gets her into trouble might just save them all.  

My thoughts on the book:
Recently, I asked a group of 9 to 11 year olds what they liked to read.  Nearly everyone in the group indicated books with action, and adventure.  Another thing that I have noticed is that Middle Grade readers are just as interested as teens in reading Dystopian or Post-apocalyptic novels, yet there are very few of these for this age group.

Debut author, Peggy Eddleman has created a post-apocalyptic novel about a community of people living in a world with the after effects of World War III and the "green bomb".  One of the results of the "green bomb" is something called "Bomb's Breath".  I am not certain that I can describe Bomb's Breath but the air quality of Bomb's Breath results in immediate death if someone were to breath it in. 

Eddleman concentrates on building her world and developing her characters in the initial part of the book.  One of the things that is a very high value to this community is the ability to invent or create.  Since WWIII happened, all the inventions especially technology and those items that required electricity have been lost.  In an effort to regain items, there are contests recognizing the best inventors.  Holly, the main character, does not have skills in inventing, but her friend Aaren is actually quite talented in this area.  What Holly is able to do is revealed throughout the story, as it is her skills that turn out to be quite important in saving the community.

It is always difficult to know how much to share and how much to allow readers to discover.  Eddleman has created a story and characters that will appeal especially to readers in the 4th and 5th grades.  I can see children wanting to be like Hope and wanting to save the day.  However, maybe a more important message is learning to appreciate what skills and talents you do have.  Additionally, I appreciated not only the main characters but the supporting community of characters.  There are few books that show a community of adults being caring and supportive.  Readers will enjoy when Holly, Aaren, and Brock set out on an adventure to help save their community.  And, though the book is the first in a series, it can also be read as a stand alone.

To share SKY JUMPERS with your own children or students start looking for it at your local public library or at you closest independent bookstore on September 24, 2013. 

For more information about author, Peggy Eddleman:

SKY JUMPERS Blog Tour Stops

September 11th: Taffy’s Candy
September 12th: Smack Dab in the Middle
September 13th:
Once Upon a Story
September 14th:
Inky Elbows
September 15th:
Society of Young Inklings
September 16th:
Me, My Shelf & I
September 17th:
Kayla’s Reads and Reviews
September 18th:
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
September 19th:
Kid Lit Frenzy
September 19th:
Word Spelunking
September 21st:
The Mod Podge Bookshelf
September 22nd:
The Write Soil
September 23rd:
The Hiding Spot
September 23rd: Literary Rambles
September 23rd:
Nerdy Book Club
September 24th: OneFourKidLit

Thanks to Random House, readers will have a chance to win a copy of SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman. Please complete the Rafflecopter form below. The winner must have a U.S. mailing address and be 13 or older. a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Great Trouble Review & Blog Tour

Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Publisher: Knopf (September 10, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Grades 5th to 8th
Keywords: Historical Fiction, Europe, 1800's, Epidemics

Description of the book:
Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a "mudlark," he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He's being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he's got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. But even for Eel, things aren't so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the Great Trouble begins. Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, and soon it's clear that the deadly cholera—the "blue death"—has come to Broad Street. Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it's up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to gather evidence to prove Snow's theory before the entire neighborhood is wiped out. Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, Deborah Hopkinson's The Great Trouble is a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic. Backmatter includes an author's note, time line, and further reading suggestions.

My thoughts:
When I read a book, I have a checklist in my head to determine if I liked it and why.  The checklist for Deborah Hopkinson's newest book The Great Trouble would look a little like this:

      Historical Fiction that makes you want to know more about the subject.  -  check
      Description of the setting that makes you actually feel like you experienced it.  - check
      Characters that your care about and would want to know (or not).  -  check
      Mystery and intrigue.  - check
      Book that sucks you in and you can't put down.  -  check

Yes, this book has it all.  As a 5th grader, I would have been thoroughly fascinated with Eel (the main character), the setting of London in 1854, and what was happening at the time to the individuals of this city as a result of the Cholera epidemic.  I guess the adult me is still intrigued by the same things.  Since no one seems to have created a machine which would allow me to travel through time, I will have to travel to different time periods through books.   And when you think about it, travel through books has its advantages. 

In The Great Trouble, Hopkinson from the beginning paints a very real picture of life for the poor and working class of Victorian London.  It is really not a great place to be in some ways.  Most of the time there is not enough food or clean water.  The sewage and waste disposal system was - well non-existant, and it really was a smelly place.  Aside from making me appreciate modern bathrooms, plumbing, and sewers,  I was really thankful for my life versus the life of many people during that time period. 

Hopkinson then introduces readers to the very real concern of cholera and disease during that time period.   She also has created memorable fictional characters such as Eel, his best friend Florrie, Thumbless Jake, and Fisheye Bill Tyler, and paired them with the very real Dr. John Snow, Jane Weatherburn (Dr. Snow's housekeeper), and Rev. Henry Whitehead.   There are characters that you love, and ones that you will emotionally feel for, and ones that you just plain won't like.  It is the emotional connection to the characters that also fuels the readers interest in these individuals, and in their plight.

By adding in the race to discover what causes cholera as well as what is causing the spread of cholera, readers have a gripping story that will keep them reading.  At the end of the book, readers can learn more about the actual historical figures in the book by reading the author's note.  There is also a timeline, and additional resources to investigate.

Look for The Great Trouble at your local public library or pick up a copy at your community bookstore.  When possible, please consider an independent bookstore.   

Check out this Meet the Author video by AdLit:

Find out more information about author, Deborah Hopkinson visit her website:

Consider pairing the picture book A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (see my review here)  with The Great TroubleA Boy Called Dickens is set in a London, though a bit earlier than 1854, and the illustrations provide students with a visual and a sense of place for that time period.  Adult readers looking for more information about the Cholera Epidemic and Dr. John Snow might want to check out The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. 

If you are interested in the Teacher's Guide, click here.

To visit all of the stops for The Great Trouble Blog Tour, see the schedule below:
September 10 – Sharp Read
September 11 – Librarian in Cute Shoes  
September 12Random Acts of Reading  
September 13Styling Librarian  
September 14Kidlit Frenzy  
September 15Busy Librarian  
September 16{Eat the Book} 
September 17Nerdy Book Club