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Raiding the Junk Drawer, a guest post by Hope Larson

I’m not a writer who enjoys looking back. I can’t imagine anything more cringe-inducing than reading through my old work. Old published work is bad enough, but at least those books passed through the hands of an editor. Worst of all are old scripts and pitches for projects that never went anywhere: the junk drawer projects. When something goes into the junk drawer, it might as well be falling into a bottomless pit. Many things go into the junk drawer, but few claw their way back out.

A few years before I came up with the idea for Salt Magic, I was working on another story. It had several working titles: first Yours Radiantly, then Luna Park. Or was it the other way around? It was a painfully overly-researched piece of historical fiction about a 1920s con man and a rodeo rider-turned-aspiring actress with the stage name of Vonceil Viking, and both of them were real people. Anyone who’s fallen down a Wikipedia rabbit hole will understand how easy it is to latch onto a story and fall head over heels with every minute detail–particularly when you have a personal connection to the material. For me the whole thing began when  I ripped up some plywood flooring in my old house and found a 1927 newspaper article underneath.

“TO RIDE A HORSE across the Continent, a young woman started out from the New York City Hall. She hopes the complete the journey in 120 days in order to win a $25,000 wager.”

I included this snippet in a comic I drew for the New York Times in 2007, but I was in the middle of writing another book, so I set it aside and forgot about it.

A few years later I stumbled onto the newspaper article in my files, did a little research, and became totally freaking obsessed. I crawled through old newspaper articles. Visited colleges 2 hours away to go through their microfiche. Hunted down obscure, out-of-print books. I hired a professional genealogist to do research in the United Kingdom and even had a journalist friend pull a copy of Vonceil’s death certificate. On a trip to New Mexico, I made a point of locating and driving past the ranch where she grew up.

All of this resulted in a mountain of information and a probably-not-very-good script. I couldn’t get anyone interested in the project without substantial rewrites, and I was too invested in the “integrity” of the story to take it firmly in hand. I made the painful decision to shelve it and move on.

This project taught me many lessons about writing and researching historical fiction. For example: If you’re writing fiction, you’re in service of a great story, not great facts. Both are important, but there needs to be a balance. Step back from the work from time to time and ask yourself, “Are turn-of-the-century theme parks of interest to most people, or just to me?” “Does this story work in the context of today’s tastes and mores? Is there an audience for it?” “When I describe this story to a friend, do they start fidgeting and looking for the exit?”

Sometimes good projects go into the junk drawer–the right project at the wrong time, or a project I was working on that was superceded by a more pressing one and subsequently forgotten–but usually they end up there for good reason. More often than not, I never think about them again. Vonceil’s story was different. Maybe because she was a real person, I was never able to let her go. I wanted to pay tribute to the importance her story held in my own life, so when I began brainstorming Salt Magic I instantly knew I wanted to name the protagonist after her. Like Vonceil in Salt Magic, she had plenty of grit and courage; a newspaper article in the Roswell Daily Record described her as “not only a most proficient rifer, but according to cowboys of this section, ‘she always made a good cow hand and can rope and tie a steer as good as any of us.’” Like Vonceil in Salt Magic, she dreamed of a world beyond the ranch where she grew up and longed for glamour, bright lights, and distant shores where adventure lay in wait. She died tragically young, in a car crash when she was only 27, and paying tribute to her in Salt Magic felt like an opportunity to symbolically give her some agency and a happier ending.

It was also a way for me to close the door on a story that meant so much to me at a challenging time in my own life. It didn’t work out, but the time I spent on this book that never was helped make me the writer I am now. Without Vonceil Viking, there would be no Salt Magic. I can only hope that, if she could see the character Rebecca Mock and I created in her honor, the real-life Vonceil would be proud.

Meet the author

Hope Larson is the Eisner-winning author of numerous comics for young readers. Her most recent graphic novel, Salt Magic, was co-created by Rebecca Mock.

Social media:

@hopelarson on Twitter

@despairlarson on Instagram

http://saltmagicbook.com/

About Salt Magic

When a jealous witch curses her family’s well, it’s up to Vonceil to set things right in an epic journey that will leave her changed forever.

When Vonceil’s older brother, Elber, comes home to their family’s Oklahoma farm after serving on the front lines of World War I, things aren’t what she expects. His experiences have changed him into a serious and responsible man who doesn’t have time for Vonceil anymore. He even marries the girl he had left behind.

Then a mysterious and captivating woman shows up at the farm and confronts Elber for leaving her in France. When he refuses to leave his wife, she puts a curse on the family well, turning the entire town’s water supply into saltwater. Who is this lady dressed all in white, what has she done to the farm, and what does Vonceil’s old uncle Dell know about her? 

To find out, Vonceil will have to strike out on her own and delve deep into the world of witchcraft, confronting dangerous relatives, shapeshifting animals, a capricious Sugar Witch, and the Lady in White herself—the foreboding Salt Witch. The journey will change Vonceil, but along the way she’ll learn a lot about love and what it means to grow up.

Hope Larson is the author and illustrator of the Eisner Award nominated All Summer Long and the illustrator of the Eisner Award winning A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelSalt Magic is an utterly unique graphic fairy tale complete with striking illustrations by Rebecca Mock.

ISBN-13: 9780823450503
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 10/12/2021
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years

Falling in Love with the Terrible Years, a guest post by Nina Moreno

When I set out to write my second book, I told myself it wouldn’t be sad this time. Not that Don’t Date Rosa Santos is necessarily what I’d call a Sad Book, but Rosa definitely goes through it. (Chapter 30 is still rough for me too.) And anyone who has read her story or the acknowledgments at the end knows that I was going through it, too. I sold my book one month before finding out about my dad’s cancer diagnosis. He would pass away only four short months later. I achieved my dream…while drowning in grief. And for the next two years, whenever I was interviewed or discussing my book, it meant talking about Cuba and loss—his and mine—over and over again.

So, no. I was not going to write about grief this time. I would finally write that YA romance I’d been daydreaming about for years. The kind of swoony romantic story I loved reading and getting lost in as a teen. It would be funny and tropey and full of heart. It would star two ex-best friends rediscovering each other and themselves as they dealt with all the questions and expectations of their senior year. And after writing and living vicariously through perfectionist Rosa Santos with the straight As and academic prowess, I would explore someone a little closer to home instead. That’s when Luisa Patterson stumbled onto the page with a sleepy, stubborn growl after staying up way too late reading fanfics and webtoons. She’s got a cat who accidentally became an influencer, a killer gaming computer setup, ADHD, and solid C average. She hates school, but now she’s got a whole world of academic expectations on her shoulders after her genius older sister becomes a teen mom. Now this middle child—and granddaughter of immigrants who got to fly under the radar until now—is facing the pressure to become exceptional and live up to her mother’s success just as an unfinished bucket list and the (very cute) boy next door show up again. Perfect. I had my fun, love story. No loss or grief this time. Definitely some angst, of course, but this one would be filled with quests and flirting. A total party.

And then that very cute (but sad) boy looked my way and I knew.

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You join a club when you lose someone vitally important to you. It’s not a club anyone wants to be in necessarily, but we recognize each other. Dead dad club, you might hear some of us grimly joke as we brace for Father’s Day or birthdays. A random Wednesday when you wonder if you’re forgetting the sound of his voice. And after one look at Sam Alvarez, I knew this boy was in that awful club, too.

Just as it is for so many teens, Sam and Luisa’s senior year of high school is a head-on collision between the past and a still very fuzzy picture of their future. They’re getting hit with wave after wave of nostalgia while racing toward some unknown tomorrow. Remember all of it because everything is about to change! But when you lose a parent at eighteen and have to watch your other parent become a widow, it’s tough to feel sentimental about the present moment or get excited about homecoming. Sam simply wants to survive this first year after loss—the terrifying gauntlet of firsts without his dad—and prove to the world that it’s okay that all of his plans after high school have changed.

And just across the street is Luisa—his former best friend and the girl he hasn’t talked to ever since he made the total mistake of falling headfirst in love with her back in seventh grade.

Middle school and first love can be brutal.

Luisa’s trying to hurry up and become someone new (and shiny) before it’s too late. She’s bracing for impact against way too many deadlines just as Sam is trying to keep his head above water. They’re both standing right on the edge of so much change, so neither have time to play pretend or remember. So what happens when a relic of the past finds them? What do you do when you’re suddenly faced with all of your old hopes and romantic ideas of how these supposedly best-years-of-your-lives were supposed to go? These two ex-best friends can’t help but wonder if there’s still time to find joy when you’re caught between becoming and surviving.

Because maybe there’s no time like the present.

So, yeah, I wrote about grief again. Sam’s and mine. Maybe yours. And yet…Our Way Back to Always is absolutely that swoony, tropey love story I always hoped to write. Because life—even in the terrible years––can be really funny like that.

Meet the author

Nina Moreno graduated from the University of Florida and writes about disaster Latinx teens & tweens chasing their dreams, falling in love, and navigating life in the hyphen.  Her first novel, Don’t Date Rosa Santos, is available now from Little Brown for Young Readers and was a Junior Library Guild Selection, Indie Next Pick for teen readers, and SIBA Okra Pick. Her upcoming YA novel, Our Way Back to Alwaysis out October 19, 2021 with LBYR. And her MG debut, Join the Club, Maggie Diaz, will be available from Scholastic in 2022. 

About Our Way Back to Always

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Morgan Matson in this effervescent romance about childhood best friends reconnecting that’s full of sunny days, warm nights, first kisses, and mended hearts.

Luisa (Lou) Patterson grew up across the street from Sam Alvarez in the small, quirky town of Port Coral. They used to be inseparable—spending every holiday together, shooting silly YouTube videos, and rescuing stray cats. But then middle school happened, including the most disastrous (and embarrassing) serenade ever, and Lou and Sam haven’t talked in the four years since. Sam is now the golden boy with plenty of friends, while Lou is an introverted romantic who’s happy playing video games and writing fan fiction. But it’s also the summer before their senior year, and life is knocking on Lou’s door.

With her older sister having given up a scholarship to Princeton to have a baby and work at the local botanica, all of their mother’s expectations are now riding on Lou’s shoulders. She’s retaking her SAT’s, signed up for way too many AP classes, and her sights set on colleges with fancy names like Duke and Vanderbilt. But when she finds the bucket list she and Sam wrote together as kids, before Sam’s father was diagnosed with cancer, she’s shocked to see that she hasn’t accomplished any of the goals she’d set for herself. Go to a party? Nope. Pull the greatest prank of all time? Still no. Learn how to be a really good kisser? Definitely not.

​Torn between the future that her mother, sister, and younger self planned for her, Lou sets out to finish the list, and in a stroke of destiny or fate, Sam decides to tag along. Still trying to stay afloat amid the grief of losing his father, Sam himself is staring down a future that feels all too close, and is coming far too fast. But with the bucket list to guide them, Sam and Lou might just be able to find a way through the future, and also a way back to each other.

ISBN-13: 9780759557475
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 10/19/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Different Roles, a guest post by Claire Winn

At the peak of the young-adult vampire trend, I was getting bitten.

My senior year of high school, I landed the role of Lucy Westenra in our theater production of Dracula. In the version we produced, Lucy was the lead. I was thrilled, of course—but the initial read-through of the script left me feeling a little hollow.

My role was passive; the bulk of my scenes involved crying or being preyed upon. One particularly awkward scene required me to stare, entranced, into the stage lights as a boy from calculus class bit my neck. Other characters speculated about Lucy’s fate, and the role I’d been excited for felt a bit like a plot device.

Near the end of rehearsals, I’d sneak behind darkened set pieces to watch the show’s climax—a vampire-staking battle scene that played out in the aisles. Blood packets spurted over the stage ramps as retracting stakes hit their targets. Spotlights flickered on hissing vampires and cut to black.

It was Van Helsing who drove the story to its messy conclusion, while Dracula’s machinations wove the core conflict. Those roles, I thought, were interesting.

As a teen, I had trouble connecting with female characters in many other shows I participated in. In the Julie Andrews film “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” on which the stage show of the same name is based, the titular Millie disavows her feminism after she falls in love; at the end, she declares “I don’t want to be your equal anymore.” And the bride-napping themes of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” are well known. While I loved the passionate creativity and collaboration of the theater environment—and I made incredible memories and friends—I’d lost some of my excitement for being onstage. There were sexist themes embedded in the scripts for many major shows, and I started dreaming about how I’d write them into roles girls would want to play.

In college, on track for law school, I started writing on a whim. Science fiction and fantasy books gave me the opportunity to explore and shape worlds filled with the types of characters I wanted to see. I discovered how freeing it was to have casts with multiple women and LGBT+ characters, with a range of talents and aptitudes. Lead characters could be messier without the pressure of being the sole representative of their gender or marginalization. It became easier to make them flawed, memorable, and fully human.

One of my favorite parts of writing City of Shattered Light was the contrast between the two female leads, as well as the matriarchal crime syndicates containing a range of morally-gray and capable side characters. It’s the story of a runaway heiress discovering her strength under pressure, and relying on her wits and technical prowess in deadly situations. It’s also the story of a viciously competent smuggler girl who has hardened herself to match the world around her. And it’s ultimately about learning to break free of societal expectations and choose a home for yourself.

Media has made great strides for representation in the past decade, and I hope teens will keep seeing more characters that resonate with them—onstage, on-screen, and on the page.

Meet the author

Photo credit: Rad DeLong

Claire Winn spends her time immersed in other worlds—through LARP, video games, and the books she reads and writes. Since graduating from Northwestern University, she’s worked as a legal writer and freelance editor. Aside from writing, she builds cosplay props and battles with boffer swords. City of Shattered Light, her first novel, releases October 2021 from Flux Books.

About City of Shattered Light

As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other.

As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she’s more than her manipulative father’s shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming—including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue AI hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible place: the neon-drenched outlaw paradise, Requiem.

Gunslinging smuggler Riven Hawthorne is determined to claw her way up Requiem’s underworld hierarchy. A runaway rich girl is exactly the bounty Riven needs—until a nasty computer virus spreads in Asa’s wake, causing a citywide blackout and tech quarantine. To get the payout for Asa and save Requiem from the monster in its circuits, Riven must team up with her captive.

Riven breaks skulls the way Asa breaks circuits, but their opponent is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The AI exploits the girls’ darkest memories and deepest secrets, threatening to shatter the fragile alliance they’re both depending on. As one of Requiem’s 154-hour nights grows darker, the girls must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other before Riven’s city and Asa’s sister are snuffed out forever.

ISBN-13: 9781635830712
Publisher: North Star Editions
Publication date: 10/19/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Book Review: The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

Publisher’s description

From the acclaimed author of The Real Boy and The Lost Girl comes a wondrous and provocative fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.

If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. 

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy—a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself—things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.

Amanda’s thoughts

Listen. That tweet up there should tell you everything you need. Also, 100% of the book was interesting, and yet as I read I repeatedly shouted in my head, “IT JUST GOT INTERESTING!” Because it kept getting MORE and MORE interesting. Go order this book. Now.

Marya knows her place in life. As a girl, she’s seen as a helper, a caretaker, a disappointment, and a background character in her own life. Her golden boy brother, Luka, is potentially gifted as a sorcerer and Marya is just this annoyance, this threat to perfection, this problem. Thank goodness she has Madame Bandu, a neighbor who has her watch her boys. Marya can be a “wild girl” with them, and, bonus, Madame Bandu is teaching her how to read. She’s also teaching her to question everything. From Madame Bandu, Marya learns to question the stories you’re told, question who’s telling them, who they benefit. She teaches her to see coded secrets and truths in the tapestries that record history. Marya learns that reading and learning is the best way to keep away the monsters that plague their land.

But all that learning comes to a halt when Marya is sent to a reform school, where she will get a fresh start and learn how to be a lady. And maybe, if she’s really good, she will be allowed to go work on a sorcerer’s estate in some kind of helping role! At Dragomir, Marya meets other girls who were also exiled to this school and it’s clear that the way they are “troubled” has little to do with anything serious. The girls there are sullen, awkward, haughty, inquisitive, and smart. They are too much, they are inappropriate, they are girls that no one knows what to do with. So they will learn how to behave at Dragomir. They will be cast off, isolated, broken down. After all, girls are obviously either evil or weak, and they must be reformed. They can’t be running around, thinking thoughts and being willing to run headlong into monsters!

Meanwhile, the Dread is looming, but the sorcerer assigned to their school says it’s all under control. But Marya doesn’t believe him. She starts to wonder if he’s there to protect them or to monitor them. Also, how, exactly, do these “troubled” girls pose a threat? Are they in danger or are they the danger? Why does it seem like all of the men Marya meets are lying? What’s this school really about?

By the end of the story, we see the myriad ways men fail women, the way they are cowards and liars and manipulators. We see the truth, we see the lies, we see the control, the power, and the bravery. We also see that Anne Ursu is a master storyteller (which, of course, we already know) who knows just how to skewer the patriarchy and leave readers feeling inspired by the brave actions of her characters. I could not put this book down and when I did, I felt hopeful, which is an amazing feeling to experience for even two minutes these days. A smart story about control, rebellion, story itself, and the fearsome power of girls allowed to be themselves. A great book for girls who can’t follow the rules and, better yet, don’t want to.


Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062275127
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/12/2021
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

How I Got Through My Dark Night of the Soul: When Night Breaks, a guest post by Janella Angeles

In any story, something always has to go wrong.

In the mechanics of story structure as seen from Snyder’s Save the Cat method (I read Jessica Brody’s take on it for novel writing), the end of Act 2 brings an emotional beat known as the All is Lost point where what happens is exactly what it sounds like: the bad guys close in and all is lost for the hero, leading to the rock bottom of their tale. To add insult to injury, the next step is something called the Dark Night of the Soul—the rock bottom of the rock bottom. The part of the story where your character is truly at their lowest, and we as the reader don’t know if or how they can rally after such a devastating blow or loss. Can the hero rise and continue their story, or is this where it all ends?

Image from Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

I never used to reference beat sheets or craft books before; the chaotic, pantsing writer in me never thought she needed them. But after obsessively studying story development and beat sheets for the past two years to fix a book I thought was beyond repair, it was inevitable I would start trying to make sense of my life in the terms of the hero’s journey.

Getting the deal and book buzz for Where Dreams Descend felt like the promising call to action to the first half of Act 2, in which the hero familiarizes themselves with the new world they’ve fallen in, encounter new characters, enjoy the fun and games portion, and add B plots to further texture their story. Despite the tests in between, all seems to be going as well as can be, until you hit the midpoint reversal—the point of the story where everything turns on its head, either for a false sense of the better or a downward spiral toward the worst.

If you see where I’m going, then it should come as no surprise that the period when I was writing When Night Breaks became my own personal Dark Night of the Soul. And it went on for a lot longer than I wished it to, for many reasons. And many rock bottoms.

Everyone always told me that the second book in your author career would be the hardest. Whether it’s the next in a series or a new standalone, there’s the pressure of contractual deadlines colliding with life hurdles, the newness of writing for readers now waiting with expectations, and that feeling of responsibility hanging over your head when an entire team of people depends on your words to move forward on the ever-moving gameboard of publishing and publicity schedules.

During normal times, Book 2 Syndrome hits hard. Add a worldwide pandemic, massive industry shifts, crumbling mental health, and escalating uncertainty to all structure and stability outside of writing—all of that can make Book 2 Syndrome feel more like a full-blown house fire in the middle of nowhere. Despite extra amounts of time and padding you may get to try putting the fire out, as a contracted author, you still have to work through it as though the fire isn’t happening.

Enter, the Dark Night of the Soul.

It helped to call it that, because with so much uncertainty surrounding me, at least I was familiar with storytelling terms and phrases. Even when I’d quite literally forgotten how to write a book, just from all the challenges thrown at me during my All is Lost section. In between debuting and promo and my mental health declining, I was still trying to piece together the broken drafts of When Night Breaks. I was exhausted, burnt out, and wildly unwell—all of which could be seen in my writing process and inability to finish.

And that was when the Dark Night of the Soul truly took form. Not for the loss of a normal debut experience or pandemic sales or dream marketing plans disappearing. My strong gut for storytelling and love of reading I could always lean on—that prompted my hero’s journey in the first place—was gone in the aftermath of a midpoint reversal that left me reeling.

I kept telling myself the Dark Night of the Soul, logistically, would be over in the near future. It’s the end of Act 2, and soon, I would find my way to rally and break into Act 3 where some triumphant comeback/lesson learned takes place. That’s how story works, right?

From Jessica Brody’s blog post “How To Write Your Novel Using the Save the Cat! Beat Sheet”

Imagine my horror when the Dark Night of the Soul went on for months. Over a year.

Sounds strange to call it a name, but it brought me a lot of comfort to look at life in terms of story that gave me some illusion of control where I felt all control was lost. But it took me an embarrassingly long time to remember that the most important thing about storytelling is not how well it adheres to structure or lines up with the predetermined beats. Those are elements that can make a story good.

For a story to be great, it all comes down to the hero. The story doesn’t push things forward, the hero does. The hero needs to act, to make the moves necessary for those dominoes to fall into place.

From Jessica Brody’s blog post “How To Write Your Novel Using the Save the Cat! Beat Sheet”

The idea of character agency is so absurdly simple, probably the first lesson we learn as writers, but those are often the realizations we lose sight of first. The ones staring at us right in the face.

So let’s look at character development of a hero’s journey now: at the core, the hero goes on said journey to achieve what they desperately want, not necessarily what they need. The first half of a story usually covers the hero hitting plot points and beats all to reach what they want, while sometimes falling farther from that need (or purposely denying it). However, while the dark shift of the midpoint reversal thrusts the hero into a storm of loss and hardship that challenges them, it’s also the point where character development shifts just as drastically. All of a sudden, the hero’s journey toward what they want is over, because now they have a sense of what they truly need and can no longer ignore it. A hard way of learning a lesson, but a lesson learned no less.

In no way do I fault myself or anyone for how long their own Dark Night of the Soul goes on. Given the circumstances, I’d say it’s pretty understandable to feel like we’re all drowning and overwhelmed, that deep down we’re waiting for some deus ex machina to come out of nowhere in the form of a good news email that will magically turn everything around.

But waiting for something to happen is the trait of a passive character. And for a hero’s journey to remain propulsive, the hero must act.

So when I felt ready to act, I reached out for help. I received a proper diagnosis and entered therapy. I became more unapologetically honest and transparent about my situation, not just with my publishing team and day job, but with my readers. I channeled my energy into reader engagement I found personally fulfilling and meaningful instead of what could sell the most books. And rather than trying to use When Night Breaks as an escape from my reality, I let my reality bleed into the pages and the hearts of my characters. 

My dedication in When Night Breaks

While things didn’t dramatically change overnight with these changes, I never expected them to. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic, When Night Breaks still released under the same shadow that fell over Where Dreams Descend, and the dreams I always held onto of being an author still hurts to think back on given the current reality that’s here to stay for a while. I’m not sure if I even want to keep writing and publishing books after finally starting to heal from it all.

But for the first time, I no longer feel stuck in the Dark Night of the Soul.

Right now, I’m finally the hero who wakes up to a new morning in the next chapter.

Meet the author

Photo credit: Mei Lin Barral

Janella Angeles is a Filipino-American writer and bestselling author of WHERE DREAMS DESCEND. Her writing journey began with many trips to the library and a whole lot of fanfiction. Since then, she’s never stopped looking for magic, and enjoys getting lost in any form of great storytelling.

Website – www.janellaangeles.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/janella_angeles

IG – www.instagram.com/janella_angeles

TikTok – www.tiktok.com/@janella_angeles

About When Night Breaks

In Janella Angeles’s When Night Breaks, the dramatic last act of the Kingdom of Cards duology, the stage is set, the spectacle awaits… and the show must finally come to an end.

The competition has come to a disastrous end, and Daron Demarco’s fall from grace is front-page news. But little matters to him beyond Kallia, the contestant he fell for who is now missing and in the hands of a dangerous magician. Daron is willing to do whatever it takes to find her. Even if it means unearthing secrets that lead him on a treacherous journey, risking more than his life and with no promise of return.

After falling through the mirror, Kallia has never felt more lost, mourning everything she left behind and the boy she can’t seem to forget. Only Jack, the magician who has all the answers but can’t be trusted, remains at her side. Together, they must navigate a dazzling world where mirrors show memories and illusions shadow every corner, ruled by a powerful showman who’s been waiting for Kallia to finally cross his stage. But beneath the glamour of dueling headliners and never-ending revelry, a sinister force falls like night over everyone, with the dark promise of more—more power beyond Kallia’s wildest imagination, and at a devastating cost.

The truth will come out, a kingdom must fall, hearts will collide.

And the show must finally come to an end.

ISBN-13: 9781250204325
Publisher: St. Martin’s Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Series: Kingdom of Cards #2
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Book Review: Violets Are Blue by Barbara Dee

Publisher’s description

From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up. 

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

Amanda’s thoughts

Barbara Dee is writing some of the best middle grade out there. Fact.

Here’s the problem that Wren’s mom is struggling with, the problem referenced up in the summary but not explicitly said: she’s addicted to opioids. And she’s Wren’s only parent around (her dad is in NY with his new wife and kids), so things are ROUGH for Wren. But you’d maybe never know that. She’s pretty self-sufficient, doesn’t really let on to others how bad her mom has gotten (and Wren doesn’t know what her mom is doing—she just knows she’s sleeping/out of it a lot, lying, missing work, and not really being on top of the whole “mom” thing), and she just kind of muddles along. Also, she is just a kid. She misses or misunderstands lots of signs that something serious may be happening with her mom, but she’s in 7th grade; it’s not her job to be monitoring her mother for drug use. Wren is busy with her own life, adjusting to her new school (and friends and classmates) and getting really into doing special effects makeup, including for the school play. And she’s adjusting to her new family situation, with her dad halfway across the country from her, with a new wife and baby twins. Wren’s mom doesn’t want her to “talk behind her back” to her dad, so Wren never expresses any concerns about what’s going on with her mom to her dad.

It’s not until things get REALLY bad for her mom that Wren really knows what’s going on. She’s been in survival mode for so long, just trying to keep everyone happy, not make problems, and pretend she’s always fine, that it feels like a LOT to suddenly have other people stepping in to help her and clarifying what’s happening.

While her mother’s opioid addiction is the most Important part of this story, there are many smaller important parts that also feel so significant to Wren. Negotiating new friends in middle school is almost always fraught with lots of peril, and Wren has ups and downs with her new classmates as she tries to figure out who’s nice, who seems fake, and who’s maybe just misunderstood. And her whole obsession with special effects makeup is pretty cool. She’s always watching tutorials and practicing on her friends and her mom. I loved this interest for her, given her very real need to be interested in wearing a mask, becoming someone else, changing your story, etc.

Like all of Dee’s others books, this one handles the more mundane and relatable just as seriously and skillfully as the heavy and specific. Both are shown as significant. For many middle schoolers, they have a lot going on in their home lives, a lot that they may be hiding. For Wren, we see her get through what she can alone, while feeling confused and not necessarily well cared for, but we also see her surrounded by support, love, and, eventually, help. A great read.


Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534469181
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 10/12/2021
Age Range: 9 – 13 Years

Building Worlds: How I Created a Fantasy Kingdom, a guest post by Meaghan McIsaac

Ok, first off, I want to apologize. I am about to geek out. There is nothing that makes me so excited as the topic of World Building. Inventing whole universes for stories to take place in – it’s like building your own theme park with no budget. It’s my favourite part of writing – so indulge me, I humbly beg you.  

Building the world for my MG fantasy The Bear House was a lot of work. When I set out to write the story of Aster and her kingdom, the Highen, I had no idea how big her world would end up being. I just had a scene. That’s how so many of my story ideas start. A little flash of action. So for this story, I had the idea for a scene of a princess being chased across a sunny field by a massive beyond massive hulking bear. That’s it. Just a spark.

I knew I wanted to make a story about this princess and the bear. What comes after this little spark are questions — who is the princess? What is she a princess of? Why is the bear so big? What kind of bear is it? Why is he chasing her? And for me, that’s really the crux of world building. Questions on top of questions on top of questions. Asking all the questions I can possibly think of about the place these characters are standing in. Because every answer, I find, leads to more questions! What kind of bear is it? It’s a Hemoth bear. It’s a very sacred war bear. Ok, sacred why? Because he is a High beast. What’s a High Beast? It’s an animal that is favoured by the stars. The stars? Why are they important? The stars are like the gods to the people of this world. How is their belief system structured? On and on and on. Until eventually, I’ve asked and answered so many questions, a world begins to grow. 

Some questions are easy to answer – are there dragons? Um…YES, definitely. Others are harder. Why is there tension between the kingdoms? …That’s a long story, I’ll spare you the details here. And some questions are super technical — how does one skin a deer in a medieval world? It’s not enough to just make stuff up —  well, I could but the result is a lot less convincing — research and a lot a lot of planning and thinking goes into any world I want to create! Because the more specific the details, the more detailed the world, the more we can believe it! And all that work is a big part of the fun. 

But with so many questions flying around my head, it helps to try and keep them organized. Every time I had a question, or found an answer, I wrote it down in my “story bible” document — a handy little file on my computer that is almost a bullet form encyclopedia about the Highen, its history, politics, and people. I have sections on family trees, sections on Highen history, its rulers, wars, and High Beasts. I have whole sections on myths, legends and even folk songs! I have sections on commerce and resources. Sections on political hierarchy. I also have sections on High Beast biology (there’s a lot going on inside a Shadow Dragon)! All these sections, a place to organize thoughts and research notes,  really helped me keep track of everything and kept the world consistent. 

While I wrote the first draft of The Bear House, I gave myself permission to not have to answer every question there could ever be about the world Aster lives in — if I did, the story would never get done! But asking as many questions as I could, between each draft of the story really helped enrich the landscape I wanted to create. And any question I couldn’t answer at a given moment, I often found that the answers would present themselves as I wrote.

And here’s the other cool thing about worldbuilding — you can’t over do it. There’s never enough detail! I can keep uncovering parts of Aster’s world forever and keep my story bible growing. I may not get to show the reader EVERYTHING about Aster’s world within the action of the story, but even if there are parts the reader can’t see, I think all the behind the scenes detail still supports everything the reader DOES get to see. It makes the foundation of the world stronger. 

I hope all these questions and answers have built a world for readers to get lost in. I’ve been alone in Aster’s Highen for a while now, I’m excited for readers to finally enter The Bear House

Meet the author

Meaghan McIsaac is the author of several books for young readers, including The Boys of Fire and Ash, which was shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award; and Movers, which was a Shining Willow Finalist for the Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards. Meaghan lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two dogs.

About The Bear House

In a gritty medieval world where the ruling houses are based on the constellations, betrayal, intrigue, and a king’s murder force the royal sisters of the Bear House on the run!

Moody Aster and her spoiled sister Ursula are the daughters of Jasper Lourdes, Major of Bears and lord of all the realm. Rivals, both girls dream of becoming the Bear queen someday, although neither really deserve to, having no particular talent in… well, anything.

But when their Uncle Bram murders their father in a bid for the crown, the girls are forced onto the run, along with lowly Dev the Bearkeeper and the Lourdes’s half-grown grizzly Alcor, symbol of their house. As a bitter struggle for the throne consumes the kingdom in civil war, the sisters must rely on Dev, the bear cub, and each other to survive—and find wells of courage, cunning, and skill they never knew they had.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

ISBN-13: 9780823446605
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years

Adventures in Geometry, a guest post by Dianne K. Salerni

Math was never my favorite subject in school (reading was), but I did enjoy what might be called the speculative aspects of mathematics. I loved changing base ten numbers into other bases and back, as well as imagining who might structure their numerical system that way. (Aliens with six fingers would use base six, right?) And I became fascinated with dimensional geometry after reading Flatland (Edwin A. Abbott, 1884) and Sphereland (Dionys Burger, 1957). 

The main character of these books is a Square who lives on a flat plane. His wife is a Line; his sons are Pentagons. The Square is visited by a mysterious being, a Sphere from a three-dimensional universe. Together, they visit a one-dimensional world (Lineland), where the inhabitants can only move forward and backward, and a zero dimension where a single contented Point is his own world and universe. Later, the Sphere is surprised by a visit from an Over-Sphere and learns about the existence of the fourth dimension.

I probably would never have thought about writing my own multi-dimensional adventure if I hadn’t come across YA science fiction and horror author William Sleator sometime in the nineties and read his book The Boy Who Reversed Himself (1986). Sleator introduced me to ana and kata, the two extra directions in 4-space that exist at right angles to all of our directions. As there was no Google at the time, I assumed Sleator invented those words until, a decade later, I read Spaceland (Rudy Rucker, 2002). It turns out that ana and kata are real mathematical terms describing movement in the fourth dimension. They were coined by British mathematician Charles Howard Hinton in 1880, along with tesseract, which is not a wrinkle in time after all, but the 4-space analogue of a cube. 

Another decade would pass before I started planning the four-dimensional setting of my own story. First, I dug deeper into dimensional geometry (Knots don’t work in 4-space; did you know that?) and blundered my way into theoretical physics. Gravity is considered a weak force in our universe—1040 times weaker than the force that holds atoms together. What if that’s not true in the fourth dimension? Sound waves and electromagnetism could work differently too. Gradually, I came to understand why beings from 4-space might want to influence events in 3-space and need the assistance of humans to achieve their goals. This is when the 4-space Seers entered my outline along with their human Agents, including Jadie Martin, an abandoned baby rescued by the Seers and placed with a loving, adoptive human family. (At least, that’s what the Seers claim happened.)

When I finally started writing in 2014, describing people and objects in 4-space was a challenge. We can’t see ana and kata. It’s hard to bend our minds around the concept of directions that don’t exist for us. To create visual images, I relied on the example of my mentor texts, Flatland and Sphereland. The Square sees the Sphere as a series of flat cross-sections when it passes through his plane.  First there is a point that grows into a circle, and the circle expands until it reaches the Sphere’s greatest diameter before shrinking back to a point. Accordingly, the Sphere perceives the Over-Sphere as a changing 3D cross-section: a tiny ball that swells into a large one, then reverses the process and disappears. 

Following this example, I described four-dimensional people using three-dimensional cross-sections: disembodied fingers, eyeballs, teeth, and whiskers—randomly growing, shrinking, and morphing like shapes inside a kaleidoscope. Artist Kristina Kister did a splendid job conveying this visual element in the jacket art. The viewing crystal front and center on the cover provides three-dimensional glimpses of Miss Rose, Jadie’s 4-space friend and rescuer. (At least, that’s what she claims to be.)

Three-quarters of the way through my first draft, I began to worry I’d written myself into a corner. I’d created an oppressive four-dimensional universe crushed by gravity where humans can barely see or function, filled with 4-space adversaries capable of looking ana into our universe the way we study a blueprint—and crushing us like bugs. I could see no way for my human protagonists to defeat them in our universe or theirs. 

I took my problem to my chief sounding board (my husband) and our preferred brainstorming spot (a hot tub under the stars). As usual, he came at the problem from an unexpected direction. “Why don’t you …” I’ll redact his solution for the sake of avoiding spoilers, although the title of the book may give you a clue.

That’s the story behind the development of Jadie in Five Dimensions. For simplicity’s sake, I’m leaving out the six years of revisions and the elimination of three unnecessary points of view. (What was I thinking?!) Jadie Martin’s story is full of monsters, kidnappers, spies, and betrayals—and hopefully enough theoretical geometry and physics to make you wonder: Who’s watching us and from where?

Meet the author

Dianne K. Salerni is the author of middle grade and YA novels, including Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts, The Eighth Day Series, The Caged Graves, and We Hear the Dead. Her seventh book, Jadie in Five Dimensions, is a multi-dimensional adventure steeped in science and math. Dianne was a public school teacher for 25 years before leaving the profession to spend more time hanging around creepy cemeteries, attending ghost hunting classes, and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.

Website: https://diannesalerni.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianneKSalerni

Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannesalerni

About Jadie in Five Dimensions

A thirteen-year-old girl seeks answers about her past in the fourth dimension—and beyond—in this think-outside-the-box adventure.

What do you do when it turns out your whole life has been a lie? 

Jadie Martin was always told she was abandoned by her parents. Creatures from the 4th dimension rescued her and placed her with a loving adoptive family. Now, Jadie acts as an agent for the beings, also known as Seers. She uses the 4th dimension as a short-cut to travel anywhere on Earth, performing missions calculated to guide the world toward a brighter future.

But then Jadie discovers that her origin story is fake. In reality, her birth family has suffered multiple tragedies and disasters engineered from 4-space, including the devastating loss of their baby girl. Her! 

Doubting the Seers, Jadie starts anonymously observing her long-lost family. Why are they so important? What are the true intentions of the Seers? And what will all-powerful four-dimensional beings do to a rebellious human girl when they realize she’s interfering with their plans? 

A Wrinkle in Time meets Flatland in this thrilling journey that challenges the meaning of family, loyalty, and our universe at large.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

ISBN-13: 9780823449095
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 9 – 12 Years

Book Review: Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Page Street. Oct. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781645673323.

Gr 9 Up–A sexual assault, the secrets surrounding it, and the resulting trauma reshape everything high school senior Owen understands to be true. Switching between earlier diaries and the current time line, Owen, who is on the autism spectrum, details his relationship with his girlfriend, do-gooder perfectionist Lily. Neither Lily nor their friends blink when Owen comes out as bisexual, but the night he reveals this information on social media he is sexually assaulted while on a class trip. He tries to keep the report of his rape and the ensuing investigation secret from Lily, as things between them are already strained and stressful. Though Owen knows who raped him, he refuses to tell the school, his parents, or the authorities. He grapples with what happened to him while trying to figure out if he can do the relationship reset that Lily desperately wants. Owen works through the hurdles that trauma brings, eventually confronting his abuser and revealing their identity to his parents. The intricate layers, stunning revelations, and powerful emotions in this story will captivate readers as well as help them overlook some of the flaws—mainly uneven writing. The structure of the novel, partially told through diary entries, successfully adds suspense and shows how difficult it can be to move forward and just exist in the aftermath of a horrific incident.

VERDICT A painful and important look at toxic relationships, rape, power, and control from a vantage point not often seen in YA.

From the Funnies to the Munchies: An Origin Story, a guest post by David Fremont

Creating the Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher graphic novel series for kids has truly been a dream come true for me. Now that three books are complete—Catch the Munchies! Tater Invaders! and the just released Reptoids from Space!—I’ve been able to experience a lot of wonderful things with them. I’ve had the opportunity to read excerpts of my books to classrooms of students, presented my books at library author visits, been able to teach children how to draw the Munchies and received kind messages from parents who have told me my books have inspired their children to read more. I recently sat down and re-read through Book 3: Reptoids from Space! The first panel in the story features a chaotic scene with Shady Plains (Carlton Crumple’s hometown) kids having outdoor, summertime fun. It got me thinking back to my own childhood and some of the things that inspired me to make this graphic novel series for children.  

When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books and comic strips. Some of my favorite comic books were Sad Sack, Archie, Donald Duck, Popeye, Batman, and the comics in Mad Magazine My favorite comic strips included Peanuts, Figments, Wizard of Id, Tumbleweeds and Nancy.  My comics-reading obsession led me into wanting to create my own comic strip. The hardest part about that for me was coming up with a funny gag each time. My brain doesn’t really work like that. I love comedy, but I’ve never really liked having jokes told to me so much. I tend to space out in the middle of the joke and rarely do I understand the punchline. So, the thought of telling a joke each day until forever was not for me. My dad would give me and my older brother Mark white pads and ballpoint pens from his Carpet Cleaning office to draw on. Mark would create these funny ongoing comics with titles like Bouncing Boy Barney and Phantom of the Titanic that inspired me to make my own ballpoint pen stories.

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

A few years later, when I was around 11 years old, my cool, older cousin Steve showed us a comic he was working on called The Great White Shark.  It was very much a Jaws rip-off, but I didn’t care. The drawings were so good and, besides, I was a huge fan of the movie. This was the 70s, so any film with a creature on the loose, a natural disaster imperiling humans or a sci-fi theme was for me. So, I obsessively started creating comics inspired by movies I had seen. I did my own Jaws rip-off called Namu the Killer Eel. Soon after that I created a comic about people trapped in a burning ski gondola called, appropriately, Gondola. It was pretty much Towering Inferno in powder pants. My friends and I saw a weird sci-fi movie called The Lost Continent about a cruise ship that drifts into another dimension full of man-eating seaweed. That film inspired me to create a comic called Red Water about a raft full of people who encounter sea monsters— in another dimension, of course! I became completely obsessed with creating comics based on films I had seen: Fangs (House of Dark Shadows) Sky Vaders (Star Wars) Rex the Robot (Westworld) King Kong (King Kong). Yeah, I loved that last one so much I decided to just draw an outright reboot of the film! 

When I got into high school my older sister’s boyfriend gave me a copy of a sci-fi graphic novel called The Incal Light by Moebius. The fantastical space realms and unique characters within the book inspired me to try and create my own original sci-fi story. I came up with something called Philo Fixer: Weasel from Mars about a cocky, clueless weasel detective solving crimes in outer space. I really fell into the world I was creating, it’s all I thought about. All of those “movie comics” I had previously created really helped me map out the story in a sequential format. 

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

I went on a backpacking trip with my brother and some friends but foolishly left my drawing pad behind. Being out in nature away from all my high school worries really got my imagination flowing. Ideas for my Weasel from Mars comic came flooding in, but I had nothing to sketch or write with! So, I started stacking all my ideas for the story in my head and created a sort of visual filing system. I was worried I would forget all my great ideas and concepts. I had an idea that Philo had an inch tall reptilian side kick, so I imagined a picture of a tiny lizard, and so forth. When I returned home, I opened the drawer to my visual filing cabinet and began furiously sketching out everything that was in there.  I somehow managed to remember all the ideas for Philo Fixer: Weasel from Mars.

This experience solidified my love for telling longer comic stories, and I really enjoyed having this imaginary, ongoing adventure that I could jump into whenever I wanted. My mom signed me up for a comics class at the local community center with this laid back, longhaired teacher-dude named Mike. It was basically this great space for us kids to create our own comics.  At the end of the course Mike xeroxed and stapled all our comics into one big book that we all got to take home. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got my comics class anthology—my first foray into (almost) publishing! 

I later learned, in my early twenties, that creating comics was a very difficult way to earn a living.  After relocating to San Francisco, I created an ongoing comic story for Last Gasp and a strip for Mondo 2000, but my bread and butter came from editorial illustration and working at Colossal Pictures painting animation cels. That job eventually led to creating the Zoog characters for Disney Channel and Germtown, one of the first interactive projects for Cartoon Network. When the internet came along, I was given the opportunity to create my own internet show based on one of my comics called Glue.  A few years later DreamWorks TV greenlit a web show I pitched based on a comic from my sketchbook called Public Pool With these animated shows I was able to bring my comics to life and they were some of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I found that I’m happiest when I’m creating imaginary worlds with a continuing storyline. I’m not only able to shut off the noise inside and outside of my head when I’m drawing and creating worlds, but it also gives me inner peace, purpose, and focus. 

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

The animation and freelance work eventually dried up in SF, so we relocated to LA. After developing a pilot at Nickelodeon that didn’t get a series greenlight, I was left burned out and with no work. So, my wife and I decided that me being a stay-at-home dad for my two young two kids was the best option at this time. Every time I took my son and daughter to the library or bookstore kid’s section, I’d see all these graphic novels for kids. My children loved Captain Underpants, Pokémon, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It was inspiring to see all these comic book style books gaining popularity. I had a lot of animation ideas in my sketchbook and thought they would make fun books. Also, my author/illustrator friend James Proimos (Waddle! Waddle!) kept telling me “You should do books!”  

One day I was at Leo Carrillo beach with my family. I saw a kid on a towel eating french fries from a McDonald’s Happy Meal bag. I imagined the kid throwing a French fry into the ocean and sea monsters gobbling it up and swimming to the surface for more delicious fast food. The entire story rolled out into my sketchbook and within about two weeks I had the whole thing sketched out.   

I scanned it into the computer and put together a PDF dummy of the book. I suddenly got very busy with my DreamWorks TV Public Pool animated project and teaching cartooning classes, so the book sat inside my computer. A few years later, my Nickelodeon producer friend Mary Harrington (Invader Zim, Rugrats) called me and asked if I had any ideas for books. A former colleague of hers, Kyra Reppen, was looking for titles for a new publishing company called Pixel and Ink. I sent them Catch the Munchies. A few weeks later Editor-in-Chief Bethany Buck not only greenlit the book but offered me a three-book deal.  I got more excited than a Munchie with a stack of cheeseburgers!     

I haven’t stopped being excited and grateful to be able to share Carlton Crumple’s comedy adventures with the young readers of the world. As I said earlier, it’s truly been a dream come true. My biggest hope now is that my Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher books inspire children to read more books and create their own comics. And to all the creators of comics and kids’ books that inspired me so much over the years… “High fries!!!”

Meet the author

The youngest of five children, David Fremont grew up in Fremont, CA (true story), where he loved drawing while watching cartoons. He is now an animated content creator who most recently created web series for DreamWorks TV. When not pitching pilots, David teaches cartoon classes to kids. Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher is his first series with Pixel+Ink.

About Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space

An out-of-this-world new adventure in a very funny graphic novel series that combines fast food, monsters, and battle! Fans of Lunch Lady and Dog Man will gobble this down.

When Carlton catches a UFO on camera, he kicks into full-on Creature Catcher mode. Sick of hearing about Carlton’s heroics, his brother Milt stages an alien invasion using a remote-controlled drone disguised as a spaceship. And Carlton falls for it. 

Iggy and Poof Poof think the ship’s cool, so they borrow it to stage a fake alien battle. But a real UFO full of Reptoids spots the showdown and, seeing it as a threat, swoops in and abducts Iggy and Poof Poof!

Panicked, Lulu calls the Creature Catcher emergency line. Her creatures have been captured! Now it’s up to Carlton to stage a rescue, and save the day!

Bold artwork and otherworldly antics combine in the third installment in the Carlton Crumple Creatuture Catcher series. Middle grade graphic novel readers, including fans of series like Lunch Lady and Dog Man, will eat this up.


ISBN-13: 9781645950080
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Series: Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher #3
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years