WE’RE NOT FROM HERE

WE’RE NOT FROM HERE is the story of a family of humans who immigrate to an alien planet after Earth is destroyed in a nuclear war…only to discover that the aliens who invited them have changed their minds about opening their society to a species that just blew up its own planet.

It’s funny, scary, entertaining, and has a lot to say (metaphorically) about real-world debates over immigration and refugees.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out this starred review from Kirkus!

Or this starred review from Publishers Weekly!

Or this very thoughtful review from School Library Journal’s Betsy Bird!

Or these kind words from the award-winning, bestselling, generally amazing Katherine Applegate and Adam Gidwitz:

If you’re a teacher or librarian, there’s a LOT in this book that’s discussion-worthy.

This educator’s guide from Random House has some great suggestions for classroom discussion.

This post at Nerdy Book Club unpacks the reasons why the book’s narrator, Lan Mifune, never reveals their gender or ethnicity over the course of the story.

This interview at MG Book Village has a ton of information about the book’s origins and themes.

If you’d like a physical copy of the educator’s guide, or if you’re interested in a virtual classroom visit via Skype/Zoom/etc., drop me a line!

Want to order the book on line? Check out Indiebound, McNally Jackson, Books of WonderBarnes&Noble, or Amazon.

And click here for news about a possible film adaptation!

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Reluctant Readers, School Librarians, Uncategorized, We're Not From Here | 3 Comments

STUCK IN THE STONE AGE

It’s a comic novel for middle graders!

It’s a how-to guide that can help kids create awesome stories of their own!

It’s gotten starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus!

It’s illustrated by the amazing Hatem Aly!

It’s the first in a new book series by the amazing STORY PIRATES, whose nationwide shows feature improv comics acting out stories written by actual kids!

It’s got a premise–that a brilliant scientist and a much less brilliant janitor find themselves battling angry cavemen and a dyspeptic saber-toothed tiger in 10,000 B.C. due to a malfunctioning time machine–that was cooked up by the I’m-embarrassed-to-admit-he’s-funnier-than-me 11-year-old Vince Boberski of Memphis, Tennessee!

Actually…I think Vince might be 13 by now. But he was 11 back when he submitted the contest-winning idea that led to our collaboration! The book business moves reaaally slowly. But I digress. Back to the hype:

STUCK IN THE STONE AGE IS ALL OF THESE THINGS AT ONCE! It’s like the Swiss Army knife of books!

And if you’re a kid (or a kid at heart!) who wants to A) laugh a lot, or B) learn how to tell awesome stories of your own, at any length and in any genre, you should check it out.

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Creative Writing, Humor Books for Kids, Reluctant Readers, School Librarians, Stuck in the Stone Age | Leave a comment

The Furry Menace!

If you’ve read THE TAPPER TWINS GO VIRAL (or even if you haven’t), you might enjoy watching the fully assembled, 96-second epic supercut of all the FURRY MENACE videos referenced in the book, now available on Youtube via the good people at Little Brown Young Readers.

And if you haven’t read THE TAPPER TWINS GO VIRAL, what are you waiting for?

Get to it!

In the meantime, enjoy the video:

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

30 DAYS OF TAPPER TWINS!

It’s just 30 days until the fourth–and ABSOLUTELY BEST (or so I think) Tapper Twins book comes out: THE TAPPER TWINS GO VIRAL!

In honor of the occasion, Claudia Tapper is devoting her Instagram page to 30 days’ worth of new, old, rare, not-so-rare, behind-the-scenes, and in-front-of-the-scenes photos from all four books in the series!

Want a sneak preview? Okay, fine.

Here’s a representative sample of what you can expect over the next month:

 

The real-life models who inspired Claudia and Reese!

Alternate takes for the mean rich lady and her mean rich dog in THE TAPPER TWINS RUN FOR PRESIDENT!

The real-life art director — the fabulously talented Liz Casal — who created the drawings of Claudia and Reese (and everybody else) for all the books!

 

Horrifying full-color photos of the cheese fries Xander Billington stuck up his nose!

The totally awesome Chinatown dim sum place that I couldn’t figure out how to fit into THE TAPPER TWINS TEAR UP NEW YORK!

And because no Tapper Twins retrospective would be complete without him, James Mantolini’s dad! 

Want to see more? Head over to Claudia Tapper’s Instagram page for the full 30 days of fun!

And you’ll want to stick around after that…because starting on April 4th, Claudia will be posting all twenty-one parts of James Mantolini’s horror-comedy video masterpiece, THE FURRY MENACE:

(Don’t worry. That’s a rubber knife. I bought it at a Halloween store for three dollars.)

You’re definitely not going to want to miss THE FURRY MENACE videos. They’re a big part of THE TAPPER TWINS GO VIRAL. And due to technological limitations inherent in the “book” medium, they will not be viewable in the book itself. So Claudia’s Instagram page will be pretty much your only source for that.

(Speaking of THE TAPPER TWINS GO VIRAL…if you want to preorder, click here and scroll down to find the big red preorder buttons for Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Indiebound, etc.)

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Reluctant Readers, School Librarians, Tapper Twins | 2 Comments

The Tapper Twins Run for President Trailer!

And now, a 42-second trailer about a presidential election between a thoughtful, policy-minded female and a guy without a shred of experience who’s constantly spouting off the first thing that comes to his mind:

The really great thing? You can laugh at this one without experiencing a gnawing sense of existential dread for the future of American democracy.

To get your copy of The Tapper Twins Run for President (before or after the September 6th release date), click a link below. Thanks!

Books of Wonder

McNally-Jackson

Powell’s

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Ibooks

Indiebound

 

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Tapper Twins, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Official Tapper Twins Scavenger Hunt!

Thanks to the good people at Little Brown Young Readers, now you can create your very own Tapper-Twins-themed scavenger hunt in your local library and/or bookstore! Just download this handy PDF, print one out for everybody who’s playing, and have at it!

(No purchase necessary. Library and/or bookstore not included.)

TapperTwinsHunt

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Reluctant Readers, Tapper Twins | Leave a comment

Tapper Twins Tales From Times Square!

Tapper_Twins_1and2_coversLike most comic novels for middle graders, the Tapper Twins books are illustrated—but they’re unusual in that most of the illustrations aren’t drawings, but photographs.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag. Even my stick figures look incompetent. And not funny-incompetent. Just incompetent-incompetent.

The second is that the photos work well with the premise: that the books are oral histories compiled by twelve-year-old Claudia Tapper from interviews with her friends. Like most tweens I know, if Claudia wants to visually document something, she pulls out a phone and snaps a pic…like this one of her family’s Upper West Side apartment building:

Tapper_Twins_apartment

When I first had the idea to photo-illustrate the books, I can’t tell you how exciting it was to realize I could compensate for my total lack of artistic talent by using my phone. By then, I was nearly finished writing The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other), so its illustrations came from a hodgepodge of sources—stock images, photos my son and I took around New York, the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt “V-J Day” photo that I paid WAY too much money to license, and a dozen screenshots from a fictional video game called “MetaWorld,” which may look vaguely familiar to fans of a currently popular game that also begins with “M”:

Tapper_Twins_Metaworld

But in the sequel, The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York (about a scavenger hunt gone horribly awry), Claudia and her friends’ photo-taking is integral to the plot, and staging the photos was almost as important as the actual writing.

Which is how I wound up slugging my friend Trevor while wearing an off-brand Cookie Monster costume in the middle of Times Square:

Times_Square_pic_1

Wait, I missed a couple of steps. Let me back up: at one point in the book, Claudia witnesses a fight between two costumed characters in Times Square—which I wrote into the story partly because it seemed like it’d make for a great series of photos.

Unfortunately, it was also logistically challenging. Here’s a fun fact: did you know it’s cheaper to buy an off-brand Cookie Monster costume than it is to rent one? I now own two. And I no longer have to worry about what I’m going to wear on Halloween for the next decade.

Then there was the issue of who would wear the costumes. Since I planned to take the photos myself, I needed two actors, and my budget didn’t allow me to actually pay anyone. So I recruited my wife and 12-year-old son, primarily because my 10-year-old was too short for the costume, and my 14-year-old adamantly refused to have anything to do with the endeavor.

We headed up to Times Square early on a Sunday morning, and at first it seemed like a fun family outing! Here are my wife and son suiting up in the plaza:

Times_Square_pic_2

Then we started shooting, and the trouble started. It turns out that if you put on a costume in Times Square, tourists will assume you’re there to pose for photos with them. And when they don’t speak English, it’s VERY hard to explain that you’re not that kind of character. In the end, it was less of a hassle to just let them take the photos so they’d quit bugging us:

Times_Square_pic_3

The second—and much more crippling—problem was the actors I’d chosen. It wasn’t just that they barely fit in the costumes. It was that my wife can’t throw a punch, and my 12-year-old’s attitude was terrible. He was convinced someone he knew was going to see him, despite our pointing out that A) he was unrecognizable as anything but a knockoff Cookie Monster, and B) nobody who actually lives in New York EVER goes to Times Square unless they absolutely have to, and certainly never on a Sunday morning. So my kid spent the entire shoot standing motionless like a statue, with muffled moans of “Can we stop now?” emanating from underneath his giant blue head as my wife poked him with the lamest fake punches I’ve ever seen:

Times_Square_pic_4

So I had to reshoot. Fortunately, my friend Trevor is not only game for just about anything, but works near Times Square—and so does Trevor’s wife’s equally game cousin, Jesse, who agreed to take the photos while Trevor and I went at each other. We convened at 8:00am on a Thursday and got a bunch of great shots, including this one capturing the stunned reaction of some guy on his way to work:

Times_Square_pic_5

Unfortunately, we had to wrap up early when a deranged loiterer chased us from the square while threatening us with ACTUAL violence, as opposed to the fake version we were staging. But that’s a story for another time…and probably a less kid-friendly web site, because the things he was yelling at us were pretty inappropriate.

Hope you like The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York! And if you visit Times Square, keep an eye out for deranged loiterers! It’s a lot safer than it used to be…but it’s still Times Square.

Tapper_Twins_meme

(Many thanks to the good people at Nerdy Book Club, where this post originally appeared.)

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Tapper Twins | 1 Comment

The Tapper Twins Guide to the Wildlife of New York City!

Claudia and Reese’s latest video is a helpful guide to New York City’s vast array of exotic, glamorous, and occasionally disgusting wildlife: pigeons, rats, cockroaches, celebrities, Times Square cartoon characters…et cetera.

Check it out below! With many, many thanks to the extremely talented Adrian Palacios and everybody else at Little Brown who helped make this so awesome:

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Reluctant Readers, Tapper Twins | 2 Comments

What’s That Clinging To The Bottom Of the NYT Bestseller List?

You have to squint to see it…but it’s there. Yay!

Many, many thanks to everyone at Little Brown Young Readers, without whose heroic efforts this never would’ve happened — especially Andrea Spooner, Liz Casal, Megan Tingley, Andrew Smith, Melanie Chang, Emilie Polster, Lisa Moraleda, Russ Busse, Deirdre Jones, Victoria Stapleton, Kristin Dulaney, Allegra Green, Adrian Palacios, and anybody else I forgot…

NYT list May 10 2015 (1)

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Funniest Middle Grade Books, Funny Middle Grade Books, Tapper Twins | Leave a comment

Oh, hey, look, a starred review in Publishers Weekly

You no longer have to take my word for it that The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) is good — this very enthusiastic review in Publishers Weekly confirms itrodkey_tappertwins_pob

If you’re too lazy to click the link, here’s the money quote:

The clear winners are readers of this uproarious series opener, which is packed with both laugh-out-loud moments and heart.

(BTW, just in case you’re worried the critical acclaim might go to my head, here’s another link to that vicious Roger Ebert review of Daddy Day Care.

And while we’re on the subject of reviews…here’s a sampling of feedback from ACTUAL PARENTS of kids who’ve read advance copies of The Tapper Twins Go To War: 

TT parent reviews

Nice, right? And they’re all 100% real! No, really. All the Little Brown publicity department did was dress them up in a nice font.

Want to read the opening chapters or pre-order the book? Head over to TapperTwins.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hi, 2015. Hi!

Hello! I’d start this post by apologizing to longtime readers of this blog for the fact that 2014 brought only two new posts, both of them blatant acts of book marketing.

But let’s be honest: this blog has no longtime readers.

Judging by my traffic stats, only two kinds of people wind up here: kids who googled “geoff rodkey author” because they’re trying to pad out a book report, and the unfortunate tourists who googled “best ride at Universal Studios” and clicked on this post in the vain hope of actually learning something useful before their trip.

(Sometimes, the tourists get angry. I know this because they leave comments. Like this guy. If you are one of these people, hello! And I’m sorry. Have fun in Orlando. Just make sure you hit the Harry Potter stuff early. It gets crowded fast.)

Anyway, it makes sense that if I only post twice a year, and then only for totally self-serving book marketing purposes, I won’t get a lot of repeat business.

But this year, I’m going to post a lot more!

That’s because The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) is coming out April 7th…followed by The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York in early fall…and at least two more Tapper Twins books in 2016.rodkey_tappertwins_pob

The good news is that most of these posts will NOT seem like totally self-serving acts of book marketing. I am going to do my best to just write things that are fun to read for their own sake.

Like, say, the Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp series.

Or The Slightly Strange Saga of My Son’s Soccer Ball.

Or even The Absolutely Best Ride At Universal Studios Orlando (hello again, tourists! Try not to let your kids pester you into buying a $36.95 wizarding wand that they will play with exactly twice before forgetting they own it. Although to be fair, they’re quality wands. We still have a Narcissa Malfoy somewhere in a desk drawer, and I think there might be a Cedric Diggory stuck between the sofa cushions in the living room.)

The bad news–and I’m telling you this up front because I respect you–is that even the posts that don’t SEEM like self-serving acts of book marketing actually ARE.

It’s just that their M.O. won’t so much be “HEY, YOU, BUY THIS BOOK!” Which I’ve realized is kind of tacky. (And, judging by the sales to date of The Chronicles of Egg trilogy, was also totally ineffective.)

Instead, it’ll be more of an “ohmygosh, it’s so much fun to read this post! Maybe this person’s books are also fun to read! Perhaps I should buy one” kind of a thing.

And you really should. Because The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) is a whoooole lot of fun. And its sequels will be, too!

And they have pictures! Tons of them. Like this one, which appears in The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York and was shot in Times Square last fall: TT2_Times_Square2

I’d explain what’s going on there, but crotch-kicking jokes are pretty much self-explanatory even out of context.

The last time I counted, The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York had about 100 photos in it. So there’s a lot more where this one came from (although at the moment, it’s the only one that involves a kick in the crotch).

Since the Tapper twins characters are mostly 12 years old and all live in NYC, I plan to write a whole bunch of posts in 2015 about either A) 12-year-olds or B) New York City.

So if you have any particular questions about either of those topics–or, really, anything at all you’d like me to address in future posts–feel free to leave a comment below. It doesn’t have to be about 12-year-olds or New York City, either. I’m happy to discuss anything.

(For example, if you came here looking for information about my screenwriting career, and are wondering why Roger Ebert’s review of Daddy Day Care was so vicious and mean-spirited, I can discuss that, too. I have theories.)

And please come back! There will be new stuff here all year long. And it’ll be much less blatant than the old stuff.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for a great blog full of stuff that’s fun to read, check out Laura Belgray’s Talking Shrimp blog. Laura’s hilarious, she posts regularly, and she’s not nearly as blatantly self-promotional as I am. (Warning: Laura’s a marketing copywriter, not a middle grade author, so some of her posts may not be appropriate for 8-to-12-year-old kids. Hey, kids: quit reading this and get back to your book reports.)

(You know what’s another great blog? Wait But Why.  Just don’t go there if you’re trying to get work done today. You could lose a week of your life on that site.)

Okay, now I’m rambling. Bye! Come back soon.

Posted in Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Film and TV, Funny Middle Grade Books, Humor Books for Kids, Less Than Completely Serious, Tapper Twins | 3 Comments

The End (and the Beginning) of The Chronicles of Egg

So, Blue Sea Burning is finally in stores (if you haven’t gotten your copy, you can rectify that now via Amazon, B&N, or your favorite indie bookseller)9780399257872_Blue_Sea_Burning…and in honor of the occasion, I have a guest post up today at John Scalzi’s Whatever blog describing how the Chronicles of Egg series came about.

If you’re a fan of the Egg books, or just Egg-curious, it’s worth a look — and if you’re unfamiliar with John Scalzi’s books, you should DEFINITELY check them out. I don’t read much sci-fi, and neither does my 13-year-old — but both of us love Scalzi’s books, which have a fantastic sense of humor that’s missing from a lot of sci-fi. My favorite is Redshirts; I really dug Fuzzy Nation, too; and if you’re into more traditional sci-fi, Old Man’s War and its sequels are also great.

But you should finish the Chronicles of Egg first. Or, if you’re just clicking over here from Scalzi’s blog, you might want to START the Chronicles of Egg, which begins with Deadweather and Sunrise (newly available in this redesigned and very spiffy cover):9780142426623_DeadwthrSnrse_CV.indd

Actually, wait…on second thought, if you’re just clicking over here from Scalzi’s blog, start with The Slightly Strange Saga of My Son’s Soccer Ball, because it is short and fun and free.

If you like that, try Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp and its sequels.

And if you like those, THEN you might want to take a flyer on the Egg books.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 2 Comments

Best Blog Post Comment Ever!

In the short history of this site, I’ve gotten 176 reader comments. But I’d never read one that made me laugh out loud until the following appeared, at the bottom of the “Absolutely Best Ride At Universal Studios Orlando” post.

mark says:

Thank you for wasting my time. I read all of this and went to the end just to get angry at you. Please stop writing these if you are just going to waste time.

Mark, if you’re reading this, all I can say is I’m sorry.

And if you think I’ve wasted YOUR time, imagine how much of my own time I’ve wasted writing all these posts!

I should probably get a day job or something.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 1 Comment

Brand! New! Covers!

The Chronicles of Egg books are about to get a whole lot more awesome:

EGG_HQNot that they weren’t already awesome.

And I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover.

But still. These are pretty great. Especially the new Deadweather cover.

Incidentally, if you don’t already own Deadweather and Sunrise and New Lands, YOU NEED TO BUY THEM RIGHT NOW (preferably by clicking one of the “Get the Books!” links on the right side of the page).

Because pretty soon, the first edition covers will be gone for good.

Which means they are going to be ENORMOUSLY VALUABLE COLLECTOR’S ITEMS.

(I hope.)

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 6 Comments

Things I Wrote When I Was Fifteen…

I’ve been visiting a lot of elementary and middle schools lately to talk about writing, which turns out to be the secret, practically-full-time job of most middle grade writers.

I say “secret,” because when I first got Deadweather and Sunrise published, nobody told me that the only way kids will realize your book even exists is if you show up at their school with a PowerPoint presentation.

But it is, and so I do.

One of things I talk about is how I got my start: by writing humor pieces for my high school newspaper, starting with an article I wrote as a sophomore about how I couldn’t understand why, just once, Wile E. Coyote couldn’t catch, kill, and eat the Roadrunner.

A bunch of kids have asked if they can read the article, so here it is. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good…but to be fair, it WAS written by a 15-year-old:

Roadrunner1985 2

 

Incidentally, the front page of that same issue is below, and it’s worth a look for a couple of reasons:

PretzNewsheader1985 2

First, do you see the pretzel in the upper left corner?

That was our mascot.

Our mascot was a pretzel.

We were The Pretzels.

We had “Pretzel Pride.”

The weirdest thing about it? Nobody in my high school thought it was weird.

Second…take a look at that headline over the lead article. See anything amiss?

Apparently, we were a little short in the “Pretzel Proofreading” department.

Posted in Appearances, Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 15 Comments

Deadweather and Sunrise: The Stop-Motion Lego Trailer

This is just crazy great: a trailer for Deadweather and Sunrise, made in stop motion…using Legos…in a 13-year-old’s basement.

Many, many thanks to the awesome Natalia Zeller MacLean for making this.

If your browser chokes on the plugin, try clicking here:

Deadweather and Sunrise Movie Trailer

And if that doesn’t work, feel free to leave a little sad-face emoticon in the comments section. :(

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 7 Comments

Why I Love The Germans

Two words: PROMOTIONAL SKULLS.

Dreckswetter_Schädel2

 

I think my 13-year-old put it best:

“This book is going to do really well in Germany.”

With special thanks to Katja of the Coffee and Books blog and the Eckermann Buchhandlung in Weimar, Germany.73150645

Which, incidentally, might just be the world’s cutest bookstore.

Just look at it!

It’s like a gingerbread house!

Full of skulls.

Thanks also to my German publisher, Carlsen, for sending out all the skulls.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 4 Comments