BIRDIE’S BILLIONS by Edith Cohn: A New MG and a Chance to Win a Copy

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a huge fan of middle grade books. Not only because I write them, also because there are so many well-written ones out in the world. Having an opportunity to share my favorites with other book lovers brings me joy.

Today I am excited to share a new book by an author who is new to me. I “met” Edith Cohn when she became a fellow blogger on the group site I post on once a month: Smack Dab in the Middle. She graciously shared her book BIRDIE’S BILLIONS with me, and I am sharing it with you.

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Here’s my review:

Birdie and her mama are having a hard time making ends meet since Birdie’s dad is in jail and mama lost her cleaning job because of something Birdie did. Birdie thought things would be different when they moved to the “good” neighborhood in a new town with rich people. But she still feels like an outsider with her thrift shop clothes and worn-out sneakers. If mama doesn’t find another job soon, will they be evicted and out on the street?

            Everything changes one day when Birdie and her cousin skateboard to an abandoned estate set for demolition. Following a stray cat into the house, and into a hole in a wall, Birdie reaches into the hole and pulls out cash. Lots and lots of 100.00 bills. Now her and mama’s troubles will be over. Or, have they just begun? How will Birdie find her way out of the money mess and regain the trust of her family and friends?

            Young readers will enjoy this fast-paced “caper” as one lie after another gets Birdie into a heap of trouble. The positive messages of telling the truth no matter how difficult, and admitting your mistakes are good lessons. As is standing up for what’s important. Highly recommended.

Here’s Edith:

  1. What gave you the idea for the story of a found fortune and how Birdie’s life begins to change because of it?

Years ago a family member of mine actually found a sizable sum of money hidden in the wall of her apartment. She split it with her housekeeper who had helped with the discovery. As soon as I heard this real life story, I began to imagine a fictional one in which a kid finds the money and has to deal with the moral dilemma around keeping it.

  1. Tell readers three things we should know about Birdie.

First off, Birdie has an amazing heart. Despite all her mistakes, she always means well.

Second, Birdie is impulsive. She’s the kind of kid who leaps before she looks.

And last, Birdie is keenly aware of the unfairness in the world, and she is not happy about it.

3. What message do you want young readers to take away from the story?

This is a hard question, because I think every reader might come away with something different. And as authors, I think we always hope that each reader gets the thing they need from the story. So, if I say what the ‘message’ is I think it makes it seem like there is only one right message. When in reality, I think there might be many. Sorry this is a very philosophical answer.

No need to apologize Edith. I think you’re right!

  1. What’s next for your writing? Anything else you’d like to add?

I just turned in a draft of a new middle grade book to my publisher. It’s called The Science of Sisters, and it’s about two sisters who live in a town that was hit by a meteorite that changes everything.

I have a signed copy of Edith’s book along with some swag that I will happily send to one random winner who leaves a comment or answers the question: Have you ever found money or something valuable and if so, what did you do with it?

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Edith Cohn is the author of middle grade mysteries: BIRDIE’S BILLIONS (Bloomsbury) and SPIRIT’S KEY (FSG/Macmillan). A former 7th grade English teacher, she loves writing for kids. She was born and raised in North Carolina and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and young daughter.

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Edith Cohn, Middle Grade Author of

Birdie’s Billions (Bloomsbury) A Junior Library Guild Selection, PW starred review
The Science of Sisters (Bloomsbury) Coming Spring 2023

Spirit’s Key (FSG/ Macmillan)

Learn more about Edith: http://edithcohn.com

Author Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo Presents a New MG: EACH OF US A UNIVERSE + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy.

Today it is my absolute pleasure to share a book I recently read by middle-grade author Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo titled EACH OF US A UNIVERSE. I asked Jeanne what inspired her to write this lovely story. Her answers follow as well as my review and a chance to win a signed copy. Here’s Jeanne:

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  1. I love the title of your book: EACH OF US A UNIVERSE. How did you arrive at that title?

I did a great deal of research for this book especially in the field of astrophysics, cosmology, and meteoritics (study of meteorites). Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books and documentaries were incredibly helpful. Watching COSMOS, I came across Tyson’s quote: “There are as many atoms in a single molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. We are, each of us, a little universe.” I found this so inspirational. It seemed to encompass Cal’s and Rosine’s journeys. It was also a concept that Rosine had begun to understand, and one Cal was just learning. It felt like the perfect title for the book.

  1. There is a lot of detail about the sport of mountain climbing. What kind of research did you have to do for the story? Where did your inspiration come from?

Tons of research! And it was so fun! Rock climbing is an inherently dangerous sport, but can be done safely with the right tools and instruction. I began by joining my local climbing gym and took several lessons. Universally, the climbing community is incredibly welcoming! My entire family also travelled to Mount Mansfield in Vermont where we had a lesson on outdoor mountain climbing at Smugglers’ Notch. It was really hard, but so rewarding!

  1. The mountain looms large in the story as a physical presence and as a metaphor for the struggles and fears of the main character. How did this come about?

I hike almost every day on our local (very small) mountain, Soapstone Mountain. Although mountain hikes can be challenging physically as well as mentally, there is something incredibly spiritual—even magical—about the experience. With all the struggles and challenges Cal and Rosine were facing, I wanted them to experience that magic. I knew the mountain was where they would find it.

  1. What are 3 things readers should know about the main character Calliope Scott and 3 things about Rosine Kanambe?

Cal has lived in the small, rural town of Bleakerville, CT her entire life.

She and her father are struggling with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

She is so much stronger than she knows.

Rosine is from Democratic Republic of the Congo but lived as a refugee in Burundi for — years before being resettled in the United States.

She is struggling with her sister’s sadness and desire to keep moving.

Rosine already knows how strong she is.

  1. What scene was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I loved writing the climbing scenes, especially the one where Cal thinks back to the time she scaled Ragged Mountain with her father. Ragged Mountain is a real place in Southington, CT that I have hiked with family and friends. It is a truly special mountain, and you can’t help but feel a combined sense of peace and joy when climbing it.

The scene in which Cal visits her father in prison was challenging in that it was so emotional for me. As a former public defender, I made hundreds of professional visits to clients in prisons. I’d wait in the waiting room, and then enter the facility alongside family members who were visiting loved ones. From the moment I’d enter the prison, I would feel the weight of those friends and family. Their nervousness was palpable. But I also witnessed happiness in those visits—the simple joy that comes from human connection. I wanted to bring that emotion to the scene, while letting kids who’ve had experience with prison visits know they aren’t alone. I also want them to understand that, like Cal, they are a great deal stronger than they realize.

Here is Darlene’s review for this amazing story of courage.

“Calliope Scott runs. She is always on the move, trying to escape from all the things troubling her in the small town of Bleakerville. Mountain climbing is her passion, something she did with her dad…before he went to prison. Before her mom got cancer. When a new girl moves into town, a girl whose love of the mountain is as strong as Cal’s, they set out to conquer Mt. Meterorite and the magic they both hope will save their families.

Will Cal and Rosine climb all the way to the summit? Will they find the magic said to reside there from local legends? Young readers will keep turning pages to find out in this heartfelt and honest story of a girl’s love of the mountain that looms large literally and figuratively in her life.

Themes of believing in yourself, the power of friendship, and how love can help you through life’s difficult and scary moments resonate throughout. Magic happens when you believe.”

Zulick Ferruolo Headshot

Jeanne has agreed to give-away a signed copy of EACH OF US A UNIVERSE. Leave a comment if you would like to be considered. One name will be drawn at random from all who enter. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second chance to enter.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is the author of Each of Us a Universe, A Galaxy of Sea Stars and Ruby in the Sky, which earned two starred reviews and which Booklist called “quietly magical.” She is also a volunteer with IRIS-Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services in New Haven, Connecticut. She lives in Ellington, Connecticut, with her family.

Contact information

website: http://www.jzulferr.com/

email: jzulferr@gmail.com

Twitter:  @jzulferr

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jzulferr/

EACH OF US A UNIVERSE

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780374388683

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Each-Universe-Jeanne-Zulick-Ferruolo/dp/0374388687/ref=sr_1_1?crid=GU7Y47ES5EYE&keywords=each+of+us+a+universe&qid=1642614214&sprefix=each+of+us+a+universe%2Caps%2C75&sr=8-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/each-of-us-a-universe-jeanne-zulick-ferruolo/1138778045?ean=9780374388683

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

Indie Bound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250763266

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Galaxy-Stars-Jeanne-Zulick-Ferruolo/dp/1250763266/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3HLD33JS1MUMI&keywords=a+galaxy+of+sea+stars&qid=1642614252&sprefix=a+galaxy+of+sea+stars%2Caps%2C76&sr=8-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-galaxy-of-sea-stars-jeanne-zulick-ferruolo/1130769020?ean=9781250763266

RUBY IN THE SKY

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250233295

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ruby-Sky-Jeanne-Zulick-Ferruolo-ebook/dp/B07BF87NPF/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3PKHWDJQCOOYE&keywords=ruby+in+the+sky&qid=1642614317&sprefix=ruby+in+the+sky%2Caps%2C81&sr=8-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ruby-in-the-sky-jeanne-zulick-ferruolo/1128119440?ean=9781250233295

Malayna Evans shows you how to escape the tomb with Aria Jones … from the comfort of your own sofa.

One of the best things about launching my debut series, set in ancient Egypt, has been visiting schools, talking to middle grade learners about all the things we inherited from ancient Egypt, their amazing artifacts, fascinating afterlife beliefs, and daily life practices. Long story short, I’m a sucker for all things ancient Egyptian. I spent a good decade of my life earning a Ph.D. in the subject so it’s fun to put the education to work, even if kid lit wasn’t the original plan.

With book two, ARIA JONES & THE GUARDIAN’S WEDJA, launching this month, I’m missing school visits and one-on-one time with readers. But I’m also a mom of a middle school aged child so I’ve struggled personally with the challenges of learning from home.

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In an effort to support educators and parents, as well as celebrate my book launch, I’ve put together a little ESCAPE THE TOMB activity package designed for home or classroom. In the book, Jagger and Aria and their friends take shelter in a mastaba—rectangular tomb structures that housed shrines and underground burials of elite ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians visited the mastabas scattered around the Giza plateau, near the Great pyramid, to stay connected to their ancestors. They would say their names aloud and offer sustenance, mostly commonly bread and beer. They believed the dead could intervene to help the living … bread and beer were a great way to earn that assistance. Jagger and Aria don’t have bread and beer on hand, but lucky for them, the Excellent Spirit of the mastaba they hide in is perfectly happy with Skittles and a juice box. I’ve used this scene to set up an activity guide that invites kids to move through five tasks in order to tempt the spirit to help them escape the tomb. You can download it here:  http://malaynaevans.com/aria/

Like so many Americans, I’m looking forward to the day we can safely go back to our regularly scheduled lives … and schools and bookstores and libraries. In the meantime, there’s nothing like a good book (and a handy activity guide) to keep the spirits high. Hopefully mine is enjoyed by many.

If you’re looking for more ancient Egyptian themed content, feel free to visit the educator’s page on my website (http://malaynaevans.com/for-educators/) for free downloads, including a crossword puzzle, educator’s guide, and scavenger hunt.

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If you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of  ARIA JONES AND THE GUARDIAN’S WEDJA, leave a comment and your name will be placed in a basket. Share the post on social media and you will get a second entry. (Let us know that you shared) One winner will be drawn at random and announced on this blog next month.

Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. She earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. Evans lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hedgehog. She’s passionate about coffee, travel and sharing her passion for ancient Egypt. You can learn more about Malayna at http://malaynaevans.com or follow Malayna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Malayna