The Inn Between: New Book by Marina Cohen

You may or may not be hearing some buzz about a new release for the middle grade crowd: THE INN BETWEEN by Marina Cohen (Roaring Brook Press 2016) is a scary, spine-tingly tale that readers will be riveted to from first page to last. I read the book and had a hard time putting it down.  Twilight Zone meets Goosebumps.   I asked Marina to do an acrostic poem about the story to give readers a taste of what to expect.   marinacohen2

Here it is:

T he sound was faint at first. Quinn had to concentrate hard to hear it.

H e shook his head. “Not Norm.”

E mma stares. She waits a moment longer.

I saw a road around here called Z-Z-Y-Z-X. You pronounce it Zizicks.

N ext she located a fountain pen—the kind that used real ink—and placed it beside the book

“N uh-uh. I reminded you every day last week. I even told you I’d help. I’m not giving you my assignment. That’s not fair.”

B luebells. She could swear she smelled bluebells.

“E njoy the pool. Just be careful. It’s deeper than it appears.”

T he air is icy. Vapor puffs from Quinn’s mouth and the wind snatches it away.

W ithout warning, Quinn sprinted the length of the pool toward the entrance to the hotel.

“E mma is here. I know she is.”

E xcept for Persephone, who lurked behind her counter, and Sharon, who was leaning over speaking to her in hushed whispers, the lobby was deserted.

“N o,” whispered Kara, her eyes wide with horror. “Don’t listen to her, Quinn.”


Now, if that doesn’t make you want to find out more, I don’t know what will!

Here’s what Kirkus has to say about the book:

book photo 1

Marina Cohen grew up in Toronto, Canada, where she spent far too much time asking herself what if. She has an Masters in French Literature and is the author of several horror and fantasy novels for kids and teens.

In elementary school, one of her favorite authors was Edgar Allen Poe. She loved stories like The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum and aspired to write similar stories. She is a lover of the fantastical, the bizarre, and all things creepy.

Learn more about Marina at:


Women Who Changed the World: New Book by Laurie Calkhoven + Free Copy Give-away

Laurie Calkhoven has always been one of my favorite writers of historical fiction.  When I heard about her new book, WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD, I had to ask her about it.  Here’s Laurie:

WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD grew out of my desire for a woman president! I had written a book called I GREW UP TO BE PRESIDENT.  On my school visits, kids loved hearing about the presidents’ childhoods. I made a point of telling them that presidents had all started out as ordinary boys who grew up to be extraordinary, and that they had the same opportunity.  Every time I talked about the book, I mentioned that it was one day going to include a girl.

I got tired of waiting. Why not write a book about ordinary girls who grew up to be extraordinary?  I put together a proposal and sent it to my editor at Scholastic, and happily she and her colleagues liked the idea as much as I did. Beginning with Pocahontas and taking us all the way through Misty Copeland, WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD is about 50 influential and inspiring American girls who grew up to change the world.

Women Who Changed coverThe research was both interesting and a challenge, especially for women like Pocahontas and Sacagawea. What’s real and what’s myth? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Even modern women can be a challenge.  Every biography, encyclopedia entry, and magazine article I read about Julia Child listed a slightly different height!

Thank goodness for the New York Public Library and its extensive databases. I couldn’t tell you how many books, magazine and newspaper articles, and database entries I read in total. There were at least 10 and sometimes 20-30 for each woman.  But along the way I learned wonderful, sometimes maddening, and always inspiring things.

Nellie Bly, for instance, got her start as a journalist after reading a newspaper article that called working women a “monstrosity.” She wrote an angry letter to the editor, who promptly hired her.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the greatest female athlete of the twentieth century, earned her nickname because she hit five homeruns in one neighborhood baseball game—just like Babe Ruth.

Patsy Mink, the first congresswoman of color and the driving force behind Title Nine, became a lawyer because she couldn’t find a medical school that would admit a woman.  Then she discovered that law firms wouldn’t hire her for the same reason. So, she started her own.

The first woman to reach both the North and South Poles, Ann Bancroft, said her dyslexia was the perfect training for joining a polar expedition. On an expedition you have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other—just like you have to do every single day with a learning disability.

Nobel-prize winning geneticist Barbara McClintock’s favorite microscope is on view at the Smithsonian. Don’t you just love that she had a favorite microscope?

I could go on and on. Harriet Tubman was forced to turn back on her first attempt to escape slavery. At 15, Lucille Ball traveled to New York City to study acting. Her teacher sent her back home with the news that she didn’t have any talent. Julia Child was a disaster in her first cooking class.

Those stories especially, about women who looked failure in the face and kept going, are my favorites.  Those are the stories I most want kids to read.  I want them to know that when someone tries to diminish them or their dreams, they can go on—and succeed.

    Author PhotoLaurie Calkhoven spent 20 years working in book publishing helping other people bring their books into the world and planning to be a writer “one day.” Finally, with 40 looming, she realized she had to make one day happen. Since then she’s written a broad range of fiction and nonfiction for young readers including six novels for American Girl and a series of historical action/adventure novels called Boys of Wartime. She lives in New York City.

One lucky reader of this post will have an opportunity to win a signed copy of Laurie’s amazing book: WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD.  To enter, leave a comment at the end of this post.  For a second entry, tweet about it or share it on your FB page.  You have until April 6, 2016, when the winner will be announced on this blog.


THE UGLY DUMPLING: New PB by Stephanie Campisi

Today it is my pleasure to bring you a new picture book from a debut author, Stephanie Campisi.  THE UGLY DUMPLING (Mighty Media Press), Illustrated by Shahar Kober, 2016.  I had the pleasure of reading an ARC and found the book to be a delightful spin on the Ugly Duckling tale.  Who would have thought a simple dumpling could have such personality!  Here are Stephanie’s answers to my questions. (Be sure to check out other posts on the “Dumpling Tour” below):

1. What brought you to the field of children’s books?
You know, it wasn’t a conscious choice, to be honest. I’ve written quite a bit for adults, but a few years back I was finding that all of the stories that I wanted to tell were for a younger audience. I think that part of it is that you can be strange and experimental in children’s books in a way that you can’t when writing for adults. I love playing around with whimsical ideas and absurd humour, and I love mixing and melding together different formats and media to tell stories in new and different ways – and children’s books lend themselves to that.
The Ugly Dumpling, for example, is really an illustrated poem, and the format means that we’ve been able to turn the text into a visual element in a way that is much less acceptable when you’re working with slabs of prose. I love that the illustrations are part of the story as well – Shahar has done such a wonderful job of building in clever visual metaphors and jokes into the illustrations that really create a whole extra level of storytelling.      MMP-5871_UgDu_COV_MK

2. THE UGLY DUMPLING is your debut PB and such a fun spin off from The Ugly Duckling fable. How did you come up with the idea?
I love puns, and so many of the things I’ve written stem from some sort of wordplay or silly idea. This one just popped into my head one day, and the idea made me laugh. It took me months and months to figure out the right way to tell the story, though. I started off with a very faithful retelling of the Ugly Duckling fable, but it wasn’t working. But then the cockroach suddenly appeared on the page, and the rest fell into place!

3. It is such a simple and endearing story that teaches important lessons about acceptance, being different, and friendship. Tell us FIVE things about your main character “dumpling”.
Thank you for your lovely words! All right, five things about Dumpling:
– Dumpling lives in the Golden Swan dim sum restaurant – but back home in Australia we’d call this kind of restaurant a “yum cha” restaurant.
– Dumpling feels like an outsider, which I think we all do at times (I certainly do).
– Dumpling isn’t described as a “he” or a “she” or an “it”. Dumpling gets to be whatever you want Dumpling to be!
– Dumpling will do anything for a friend.
– Dumpling looks really, really cute in pleated pants.

4. Do you have a favorite dumpling recipe that you’d like to share?
I’m much better at eating dumplings than making them, I have to say, so it’s probably safer that I don’t share one!

5. What other projects are you working on?
My agent is currently shopping a picture book called  The Moustache, which is a hipster retelling of Gogol’s short story The Nose, and a middle grade novel called Doppel Gang, which is about a group of misfit teens with shadowy doubles. Hopefully there’ll be news about those soon, but in the meantime I’m about halfway through a novel for adults, and have a few other picture books and children’s novels at various stages of completion. I tend to hop from project to project and back again, but they all get done in the end!

6. Where can readers get a copy of THE UGLY DUMPLING?
The Ugly Dumpling will be available from booksellers in the US from the 7th of April, as well as from most online retailers. With luck it’ll be available in foreign territories, too!


Stephanie CampisiStephanie Campisi ia an Australian-born, Portland based author and dumpling aficionado.  She’s blended her passion for food and word play into her first picture book, THE UGLY DUMPLING.

Here’s what reviews have to say about THE UGLY DUMPLING:

“The Ugly Dumpling gets a makeover in this wacky tale about a misfit. … the ultimate end, about accepting people because of their differences, adds an extra moral to this timeless tale. The bright illustrations are detailed and full of energy€”never has food been so expressive!€”and the concept is just odd enough to succeed.” -Booklist

“Everyone loves the dumplings at the Golden Swan Chinese Restaurant, but no one wants the ugly dumpling of the title: it doesn’t look anything like the other pot stickers in the bamboo steamer, not even when it tries to wrinkle its brow or wear pleated pants (one of several excellent foodie jokes from debut author Campisi) … From the wordplay of the premise to Kobera’s (The Flying Hand of Marco B.) crisp pictures and Campisi’s easygoing sense of humor, it’s a story with plenty of promise.” – Publishers Weekly

“The overall message of this picture book might be a little hard to grasp at first, but children will love the story and its emphasis on the beauty of individuality regardless, while parents will appreciate occasional bits of humor that will go right over the heads of children. Koberâ’s pictures are so cute that it’s almost hard to take; who could imagine that readers would so quickly fall in love with a normally detested insect and a piece of food? This is a clever book that will fall easily into the rotation, enjoyable by readers of many ages.”- San Francisco Book Review

“Campisi’s prose ensnared me and Kober’s illustrations wrapped me up in a blanket of whimsy and vibrant delight. … What also makes this book fantastic is the message that so beautifully comes across through the pages. It’s hard being different. The ugly dumpling shows you that everyone is beautiful in their own right and diversity should be embraced.”—Laticia Overton,

To contact Stephanie Campisi, visit:

To pre-order this title, visit:
Books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, Indiebound, or your favorite local bookseller. You can also order through the publisher.

You can follow the “Dumpling Tour” below:


Origami Bunnies…1…2…3…Easy!

When I saw this beginner origami project online, I couldn’t resist posting it.  ORIGAMI is the Japanese art of paper folding.  If you haven’t already tried your hand at it because you thought it might be too difficult for young children to learn (or for some of us grown-ups…myself included), this project is a perfect place to begin.

All you need is some clean squares of paper.  The nifty video below will show you the steps to create these adorable BUNNIES.  2015-03-04 23.20.41

Just in time for spring!  They make great party favors, table decorations,  greeting cards.  HOPPY SPRING!

Celebrate Pi Day With A…Make your Own Pizza Pie!

3.14…or Pi as it is known in mathematics circles.  Many schools celebrate the day with all sorts of fun-filled math activities and “pi” making.  You and your children can get in on the fun as well. Instead of a traditional fruit pie, why not do a super easy personal pizza.

2015-02-28 05.53.50Start with a pocketless pits (you can also use English muffins, tortillas or Naan bread as well).  Put it on a plate to contain the mess.

For a traditional pizza, spread some tomato sauce on the pita.  (if you want a variation try spreading pesto).

2015-02-28 06.00.41

Now the fun begins:  You can top it with any of your favorite sauteed  vegetables.  I used onion, mushrooms and kale sauteed in olive oil.  Try chopped broccoli, olives, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, whatever you enjoy.  You can also add pepperoni, and sausage or cooked ground beef.  My son likes to add cooked diced chicken and fresh basil leaves.

2015-02-28 06.14.36Next, sprinkle with whatever cheese you like.  I mixed mozzarella and asiago.

Sprinkle some basil and oregano on top.  You can also drizzle a bit of olive oil.

Slide into the oven right onto the rack for a crispy crust. (I put a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch any dripping cheese.)

Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese bubbles on top.      Enjoy!  Happy “Pi” Day!2015-02-28 06.32.59

Andy Mulberry Makes Cake + A New Skycastle Book!

Thank you Darlene for having me here today on your lovely blog! And instead of talking just about my latest book, I brought everyone cake! Yay! Well, you’ll still have to bake it yourself, but I hope my good intentions count 🙂

My heritage is German all the way and if there’s one thing Germans are known for it’s… apple cake! So I’d like to share with you one of my favorite apple cake recipes. I actually call it an apple torte, but no matter.



Grandma would be proud of me — freshly baked German Apple Torte

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream totally not optional!! I kid, I kid, but seriously, it’s delish warm from the oven with some vanilla ice cream slowly melting on top of it.

And here’s the recipe:

  • ½ cup softened UNsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or real vanilla bean if you feel fancy)
  • 5 teaspoons sugar & 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3-4 peeled apples (any kind will do.)
  1. Combine the ½ cup of softened butter with the cup of sugar (I use a little less sugar ‘cause I like it less sweet), the three large eggs and the pinch of salt.
  2. Add the cup of flour, the heaping teaspoon of baking powder and the vanilla extract. Mix well together.
  3. Grease a springform (9 inch) with butter. Pour batter into the springform.
  4. In a bowl, combine the 5 teaspoons of sugar with the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  5. Peel and core the apples. Slice them thinly but perfection is not needed—it will taste great even with slightly uneven slices. Toss the thinly sliced apples with the sugar&cinnamon mix in the bowl.
  6. Then arrange the sugared apple slices on top of the cake batter and press in very lightly.
  7. Place the springform into preheated oven (350F) and bake for 55 – 60min. Let it cool before dusting some confectioners’ sugar on top of it. Or serve warm with vanilla ice cream!



It’s no secret, I like to eat. And so does 12-year-old Jack, who’s the main character of my middle grade Skycastle books–Jack’s the owner of a scowly demon, a flying castle and an angry dragon, among other fantastical things. Jack’s pretty much always hungry.

I’m sure Jack would love the apple torte too, and below are three of his (and mine) food favorites:

  1. Pot Roast — One of the reasons things went awry in the first Skycastle book, was because of Jack’s plan to have more money to buy more food! Pot Roast everyday sounded great to him — however ordering a demon over the phone turned out not so well…
  2. New York Cheesecake — In the second book of the Skycastle series Jack and Brink visit New York City. And no visit is complete without having some NYC cheesecake.
  3. Breakfast burritos — Here in Los Angeles, or Southern California in general, Mexican breakfast burritos are the thing to try for a hearty breakfast. And Jack gets to try them in the newest book of the Skycastle series, The Demonic Kraken Debacle in Hollywood.
Skycastle Book 3 Cover

Fast-paced, action-packed and funny, perfect for reluctant readers. The Demonic Kraken Debacle in Hollywood is the third in a series of MIDDLE GRADE books for fearless, fantasy-adventure loving readers.

About Andy Mulberry: Andy writes middle grade fiction and lives in Southern California with her scowling teenager, a chubby blue cat-beast, an imaginary dog and one leaky roof. Her latest release, the third in a middle grade series aimed at reluctant readers (boys!), is out now. Find her on Twitter, Goodreads or her blog!

Thank you again, Darlene, for having me on your blog today! And if you or anyone out there has other good recipes for either me or Jack of Skycastle, please let me know in the comments!

Happy baking!

Sing Along With…Your Kids and Pete the Cat.

Did you know that March is SING WITH YOUR CHILD MONTH?  Me either.  But it is, and what could be more fun than singing along to the ever popular PETE THE CAT!  If you haven’t already checked out Pete’s popular website, you are missing out on a treat.  Young children ADORE Pete and his “groovy” adventures.  You can sing along to some tunes that celebrate the books and adventures of Pete.

You can also crank up some of your old favorites and have a song and dance party.  Doesn’t matter what you sing…just let go and enjoy the power of music.  What songs do you enjoy singing with your little ones?

Got Leftover Gift Cards? Help Military Families.

With the holidays long gone, some of us may have forgotten all about the gift cards we received as gifts from family and friends.  Maybe we will use them…eventually.  Or maybe not.  If you still have a VISA gift card in any amount, why not consider sending it to  American Military Family?  THIS IS A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT USES THE CARDS TO HELP WOUNDED TROOPS SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES WITH FOOD, CLOTHING, TRANSPORTATION, during times of crises.  You can mail your cards to:  P.O. Box 1101, Brighton, CO 80601.

To learn more about the program and other ways you can help the military and their families visit: