Category Archives: Uncategorized


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

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:

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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



Barnes & Noble






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

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

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Out Of Print, Not Out Of Mind

(Reposted with thanks to the wonderful people at the The Nerdy Book Club, where I originally guest-posted this.)

Hello, Nerds! I’m Geoff Rodkey, author of the comedy-adventure-coming-of-age series The Chronicles of Egg and a big fan of the Book Club. When I got the chance to contribute a post, I was thrilled–and immediately spent the next several days meticulously crafting a 2,000-word essay about how Bridge to Terabithia scarred me for life.

I was convinced I’d written something truly special–poignant, heartfelt, existentially profound–until I showed it to my wife, who helpfully pointed out that it was actually turgid, boring, and painfully self-indulgent.

So I added my 2,000-word Bridge to Terabithia reminiscence to the unfortunately long list of Things That Seemed Like A Good Idea Until I Ran Them By My Wife and decided to take a different tack.

This is still a reminiscence, it’s still about books that meant a lot to me as a kid, and even though nobody dies in an emotionally devastating fashion in any of them, it’s still a little poignant–because in a sense, these books are dead themselves.

In other words, they’re out of print. They survive in libraries (I hope), and you can still fish them out of the Internet’s vast ocean of used book stores, but other than that, they’ve passed on. If you can track them down, though, I’d strongly recommend checking them out. They’re worth the effort.

Well, some of them are. Read on and you’ll see what I mean:

pushcart war

THE PUSHCART WAR, by Jean Merrill

I still can’t believe this is out of print. It’s a made-up history of a war on the streets of New York City between a triumvirate of more-or-less-evil trucking companies and an eccentric band of pushcart peddlers who organize themselves to fight back (with pea shooters) when the truckers start trying to run them out of business. It’s got an offbeat, singular, very funny tone, and the plot works on multiple levels–as a comedy, an underdog story, an object lesson in standing up to bullies, and a parable about the vulnerability of conventional military forces to guerrilla tactics.

That last one might be a stretch. But not by much. And The Pushcart War holds up incredibly well, for readers of any age–I sat down with a copy a while back and had as much fun with it as I did when I was ten.

mouse that roared

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED, by Leonard Wibberly

This isn’t technically a kid’s book, but I read it when I was a kid, and my twelve-year-old loved it, so I’m counting it. It’s the story of a tiny, Andorra-like European country that decides, for reasons too complicated to get into, to invade the United States…using a small platoon of longbowmen, even though it’s the Atomic Age. And, for reasons that are also too complicated to get into, they win.

If this sounds even vaguely intriguing, hunt this book down. It’s a gem. The Mouse That Roared was also the basis for a Peter Sellers movie that I’ve never seen, because honestly, I don’t know how it could top the book.

harry cats pet puppy HARRY CAT’S PET PUPPY

One of several sequels to The Cricket in Times Square, this is the story of how Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse adopt a stray puppy, then have to find a home for it when the puppy grows into a sheepdog and no longer fits in the drainpipe where they live. I read it to my 7-year-old last year, and we both had a fine time with it. I’m not sure why it’s out of print when, say, Tucker’s Countryside (another Cricket sequel that, if you ask me, is no better or worse than this one) is still kicking around.

Incidentally, I liked the Cricket series so much as a kid that I wrote fan fiction about it. Rereading it as an adult (the book, not my fan fiction), I started to wonder what the deal was with Tucker and Harry’s relationship. Two confirmed bachelors, one of them highly fastidious, sharing a one-bedroom in the Theater District? Maybe you see where I’m going with this.



If there was any justice in the world, the McGurk Mysteries would be as big as Encyclopedia Brown. The books, of which there were at least a dozen in print at one point, were about a detective agency of 10-year-olds who solved funny, age-appropriate mysteries around their neighborhood. In Ocean’s Eleven fashion, all the kids had a specialty: McGurk was the charismatic, Clooney-esque leader; Willie Sandowsky had a massive schnoz and a correspondingly exquisite sense of smell; Wanda Grieg was the muscle; Brains Bellingham was (big surprise) the brains; and Joey Rockaway didn’t bring all that much to the table other than being the narrator, but he–or, rather, author E.W. Hildick–was very, very good at it.

My youngest son would love these books if I could just convince him that the 30-year-old copies I bought on the Internet are okay to pick up even though the paper’s disintegrating and they smell like an elderly person’s closet.

irving and me


This was late New Yorker cartoonist and Danny and the Dinosaur creator Syd Hoff’s only novel for older kids (I think), and I kind of get why it’s out of print. Which is not to say it wasn’t a pleasure to reread. The story of Artie, a 13-year-old Jewish kid from Brooklyn who moves to Florida and semi-reluctantly befriends big-eared, slightly odd Irving, still holds up reasonably well–Artie’s narration is breezy, likable, and contains a pleasant whiff of Borscht Belt; his problems are entirely relatable; and the ending’s even a little touching.

But it’s very much of its time, by which I mean the 13-year-olds in it occasionally smoke cigarettes, look at dirty magazines, obsess over girls, and generally act in ways that, while true to the lived experience of 13-year-olds both in 1967 and today, tend to get contemporary kid-lit gatekeepers a little bent out of shape.

Speaking of bent of out shape, the last stop on my preteen literary nostalgia tour is…

sergeant bloody bastogne



But hoo-boy! The Sergeant: Bloody Bastogne was one of a series of pulp novels for adults written under the name Gordon Davis, which must have been a pseudonym, because…hoo-boy! I stumbled on this one at a shopping mall bookstore in Rockford, Illinois when I happened to have $2.25 plus tax in my pocket, and I decided to buy it because at age eleven, I was insatiably interested in World War II.

Whether due to incompetence, apathy, or a loophole in the local blue laws, the checkout clerk sold it to me. And oh, man! Did I get a thrill out of reading this book. Sergeant CJ Mahoney was a US Army Ranger who was expert at two things: slaughtering Nazis in ridiculously graphic ways, and engaging in even more ridiculously graphic behavior with the Belgian farm girls who conveniently wandered into the narrative whenever there was a lull in the combat.

This was like the literary equivalent of playing Grand Theft Auto. You know how some people believe that it doesn’t matter what a kid reads, as long as he’s reading? They’re wrong. But I will say this: The Sergeant: Bloody Bastogne unquestionably opened my eyes to the almost limitless potential of books to expose a reader to new worlds.


Got a favorite book that’s out-of-print? Drop a line in the comments–I’d love to hear about it.

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Don Rhymer, Screenwriter and Friend (1961-2012)

Don Rhymer would have been 52 years old today. He was a very good screenwriter, and an even better human

I was only lucky enough to know Don for the last five years of his life, but over that period, he was a source of decades’ worth of both camaraderie and wise counsel, both about screenwriting and life in general. He was like the older brother I never had, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that knowing him made me a better person (if only slightly, because I am hard to teach).

Mostly, he led by example. Don was one of the most good-natured people I’ve ever known — but it wasn’t the cloying, marshmallow-edged type of good-naturedness that makes you suspect the person exhibiting it has either never read a newspaper or is in a state of active denial about reality.

Don’s good-naturedness was deeper and more fully lived than that — the sort that knows perfectly well just how unfair and stupid life can be, but has decided the best way to get through it isn’t to weep at the injustice, or rail against it, or stew in your own bitterness (personally, I’m good at all three, while excelling at the third), but to laugh at it.

Don’s ability to do this held true whether the source was Hollywood development executives or something actually serious, like cancer. When Don got sick a few years ago, he didn’t whine, or moan, or get depressed and withdraw from the world. Instead, he started a blog and made fun of it.Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 12.48.37 PM

Let’s Radiate Don began as a series of comic updates about his treatment and, over time, turned into something deeper and more poignant. Since he died last fall, his wonderful wife and kids have continued to update it, making the site into a kind of living memorial and serving as a powerful reminder that even stories that don’t end well can be a source of comfort and inspiration.

If you check it out, I’d recommend reading backwards by first going to the bottom of the page and clicking “older posts” repeatedly, until it loads all of the archives dating back to July 17, 2010, where the initial obituary notice for Don’s lost taste buds appears. Or at least go as far back as “All Clear…and yet a little Fuzzy” on November 19, 2010, which is a real keeper.

Don wrote more than his share of successful films, including Rio, Happy Feet, and Big Momma’s House. The Oscar telecast is tomorrow night, and in spite of his long and impressive career, when it comes time to roll the tribute to prominent members of the film industry who’ve passed away this past year, it’s likely Don will be overlooked by the Academy one last time.

Now, my instinct — which, unfortunately, Don wasn’t around long enough to fully beat out of me — would be to treat this as an opportunity for some bitter screed about Hollywood’s lack of respect for screenwriters in general, and comedy writers in particular.

But that wasn’t Don’s way, and it’s not his family’s way, either — and thank goodness for that, because it led his son Andrew to create the following tribute to Don’s films. Even if you didn’t know Don, it’s a fun way to spend two minutes.

And if you DID know him, you may have the same reaction I did, which is to wonder how on earth you could get a lump in your throat watching clips of Martin Lawrence in drag.

Rest in peace, buddy.

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Why I Love The British

So, this is exciting: Deadweather and Sunrise was just shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the U.K.

I am, as you can imagine, honored, flattered, and beyond certain that when it comes time to pick an actual winner, I’m going to get curb-stomped in the 5-to-12-year-old category. Probably by R.J. Palacio and Wonder, because everybody loves that book, and it’s hard to see how its deeply humane message of empathy and kindness could lose out to a story in which even the good kids aren’t above bashing each other in the head with cannonballs.imgres

(Although I do think there’s a great deal of incisive social commentary buried in the pages of Deadweather and Sunrise, not to mention some rather piquant observations on the human condition as it pertains to 13-year-olds, so if you’re a Waterstones voter and you happen to be reading this, please don’t let my opinion prejudice you. Also: does Wonder REALLY need more publicity? I think not.)

But the absolutely coolest part of this news was the headline that England’s fourth-largest newspaper (yes, I googled that) chose to announce the shortlist:


It would seem a curious editorial choice to elevate to headline status a minor, two-decade-old credit from just one of eighteen different writers on the shortlist.

Unless, of course, your sense of humor is keen enough–so keen, in fact, as to be positively British–that you not only notice the absurd juxtaposition of Beavis and Butt-head and a putative literary honor, but are willing to make that minor absurdity the main point of your story.

I think this might go a long way toward explaining why the British liked Deadweather and Sunrise enough to put it on the shortlist to begin with.

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

The Absolutely Best Ride at Universal Studios Orlando

It wasn’t what you’d expect.

It was NOT, for example, Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey.

HP line

Although my experience with that ride may have been soured by the 60-minute wait, which we had to endure despite sprinting to the ride the moment the park opened, and which felt at least three times that long, because I spent it alternately listening to my 10-year-old denounce — bitterly and at great length — our decision to skip the single-rider line (“we could have ridden it TWICE by now!”); my 12-year-old’s increasingly urgent pleas to abandon the line so he could pee (Me: “why didn’t you say something when we ran by that restroom in Seuss Landing?” Him: “I tried! You were running too fast!”); and my wife’s extended, Hamlet-worthy monologue on the subject of whether she might throw up her breakfast buffet from the Hilton (“I’m not used to eating eggs at this hour… Look at that warning sign: ‘This vehicle will suddenly accelerate, stop, turn, climb, and drop?’ Seriously, I’m really worried about this… Should I just wait for you in ‘child swap’?”).

Nor was it the Spiderman ride, which we went on immediately after the Harry Potter ride, and which, quite honestly, seemed like EXACTLY THE SAME RIDE, only with Dr. Octopus sneering at us instead of Draco Malfoy.


And it wasn’t the Hulk coaster. It would have been, but I spent the whole ride terrified that my wallet was falling out of my shorts.

It wasn’t the Rock-It coaster, either. In theory, I did appreciate the ability to choose my own personal soundtrack to enhance my roller coaster experience. But in practice, it was enormously distracting: I spent the first half of the ride mystified as to why I’d never heard of half the bands in the “hard rock” category, and the second half mentally disputing the placement of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in the hip-hop section (yes, THEY are hip-hop; IT, however, is not).

Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall was automatically disqualified for requiring me to wait 25 minutes to sit on a ride that lasted less than ten seconds. (“WHOOO! Wait–that’s it?” “Yes. Get off.”)

The Twister ride was just godawful — a fifteen-minute forced viewing of Bill Paxtonpaxton hair talking about the “awesome, primal force” of tornados while sporting a haircut that must have already looked ridiculous back when the footage was shot in 1995, followed by somebody spritzing water on my head while dangling a giant plastic cow on a rope halfway across the room.

The Simpsons ride almost made the cut, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for a ride that force-pumps the smell of diapers into my face.

No. In the end, none of those rides delivered the kind of shocking, scream-out-loud-in-terror thrills of THE ABSOLUTELY BEST RIDE AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO:

The auto flush toilet in the restroom across from the Classic Monsters Cafe.

Because it was scary, and violent, and I never saw it coming.

auto flush

I was just sitting there (literally), minding my own business (figuratively), when a roaring noise like the space shuttle launch filled my ears, and the formerly placid water just inches below my most tender anatomical parts was suddenly transformed into a savagely churning maelstrom of gallons — literally, GALLONS — of water, fire-hosing through the bowl with an inhuman fury that even Bill Paxton’s liberal use of adjectival superlatives would have failed to adequately describe.

And it did not stop. Oh, no. It did not. It kept going, and going, and going…long past the point at which — had this been, say, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall — my shoulder harness would have magically unbuckled itself and a pimply twenty-year-old in a polyester shirt would have given me a transparently insincere thumbs up and ordered me to exit to my left.

I do not exaggerate when I say that my screams could be heard as far away as Revenge of the Mummy.

But as thrilling as it was, when it finally ended — EVEN THOUGH the wait time was less than five minutes — I did not get back in line to ride it again.

Once was enough.

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