Best Panel Discussion Ever!

Someone just sent me a photo of the awesomest panel discussion I’ve ever had the honor of participating in, along with Sonia Manzano (aka Maria from Sesame Street), Newbery Award winner (for The One and Only Ivan) Katherine Applegate, and fantastic moderator/MG author Nan Marino (Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace).

You’re going to have to take my word for it that it was awesome, because the photo makes it look like Sonia’s angry, Katherine’s nodding off, and I’m staring down a heckler just offstage:

Brooklyn Book Fest


I’m not exactly sure what made this particular panel (at last week’s Brooklyn Book Festival) so much awesomer than the usual.

It may have been the inspirational quality of Sonia’s story–both how she got her start as a writer on Sesame Street and what led her to create the fascinating and moving The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, set in Spanish Harlem in 1969. 

It might also have been Nan’s uncanny ability to pose questions that alternately evoked thoughtful answers and provided the perfect setup to punch lines.

Or it could have been Katherine’s willingness, within five minutes of meeting me, to make fun of my bad parenting skills in front of a large group of strangers.

In any case, it was fantastic. If you were there, thanks for coming! If you missed it, please contact your local book festival and demand that they book the four of us. Katherine’s up for it, too:

And a special thanks to outstanding Penguin publicist Marisa Russell, who not only managed to convince the Brooklyn Book Festival people that I belonged in such esteemed company, but also took the following (and much less angry/sleepy/heckled-looking) shot of the four of us post-panel: IMG_7431[1]

ETA: Click here for Nan’s take on the event, which is full of both A) applied math and B) surprises. (Nan: you were a pro! I never once got the sense that you were thinking about making a run for it. Although, now that I think of it, that would have made the whole thing EVEN MORE memorable.)

Posted in Appearances, Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series | 2 Comments

How (Not) To Talk Like A Pirate

This Thursday, September 19th, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day — a fake but increasingly popular holiday of which I’ve been vaguely aware for a number of years, and which I used to think was totally ridiculous.

Then I wrote The Chronicles of Egg, and I suddenly realized International Talk Like A Pirate Day was absolutely brilliant!

tlapdbanner2 By “absolutely brilliant,” of course, I mean “a marketing opportunity.” There are, after all, quite a lot of pirates in the Egg books, and nearly all of them talk.

Except for Mung, who lost part of his skull to a cannonball and can only gurgle incoherently. Which is admittedly kind of disturbing, although if you’ve read Deadweather and Sunrise, I think you’ll agree Mung’s shown great fortitude in living with his disability, and on the whole maintains a very positive, even charming, demeanor.

But I digress.

The thing is, marketing middle grade kids’ books–even critically acclaimed ones that adults love as much as kids–is HARD. Even when you’re blessed with incredibly fortunate alphabetization (“Rodkey” just happens to be conveniently wedged between “Riordan” and “Rowling” on the shelves), it’s tough to get the attention of potential readers.

So when an obvious hook (there’s a pun to be had here, but I’m too lazy to develop it) like International Talk Like A Pirate Day presents itself, only a fool would overlook it.

Hence this post, which began with a flurry of research. Talk Like a Pirate Day (or TLAPD, as its founders call it) has quite an interesting history, which you can read about here, and which involves a racquetball court, somebody’s ex-wife, and humorist Dave Barry.

It turns out Dave Barry was the key to the whole thing. TLAPD started as a private joke between a couple of guys in Oregon, and it probably would’ve stayed that way forever if Dave hadn’t publicized it in his syndicated column back in 2002, at which point TLAPD’s popularity exploded.

(Actually, now I’m thinking that if I can just get Dave Barry to plug The Chronicles of Egg in his column, all my marketing problems will be solved. If you know how I can get in touch with Dave Barry, PLEASE EMAIL ME.)

Some further digging into the TLAPD site revealed a glossary of the appropriate jargon to use when Talking Like A Pirate. And this is where the trouble started.

Because none of the pirates in The Chronicles of Egg talk like pirates are supposed to.

In the course of three books (Blue Sea Burning comes out April 3rd), NOBODY SAYS “ARRRR!” Not even once.

No one ever gets called “matey,” or “lubber,” or “me hearty.”

There is not a single exclamation of “Avast!” or “Shiver me timbers!”

Worst of all, when the verb “to be” is deployed, it tends to be in grammatically correct situations–as opposed to, say, “I be thirsty fer grog!”

(There’s also no grog. But that’s a whole other story.)

So how DO the pirates in The Chronicles of Egg talk? Here’s a short excerpt from Deadweather and Sunrise, in which our 13-year-old hero, the unfortunately named Egg Masterson, first encounters the infamous pirate Burn Healy:

“By strange coincidence,” said Healy, “I’ve just come from a meeting with a very powerful man. And your name came up.”

As my chest started to thump with fear, he reached back and plucked a piece of stiff paper from his desk. He studied it with a frown.

“Do you know what this man asked me to do if I saw you?”

He slid the paper across the table to me. I didn’t have to look at it to know what it was.

“He asked me to kill you.”deadweathersmall

I didn’t know where to put my eyes — on the wanted poster with my face staring up at me, or on the pirate captain staring at me from the other side of the table.

I settled for staring at my hands. I wondered if I could ask him to shoot me instead of throwing me overboard. It’d be over faster that way.

“Don’t worry — I’m not going to.”

I looked up. There was a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

“I do a volume business. Five thousand silver’s not enough to get me out of bed. Can’t say the same for most men, though. And hats off to you.” He tapped the wanted poster with his finger. “Murderer or not, that’s quite a price for a fruit picker’s boy. Why is that? Is it the company you keep? Or is it something else?”

See what I mean? Not a lot to work with there, arrr-and-matey-wise.

So I guess there’s no angle in this for me. Even so, take the time this Thursday to talk like a pirate. It’s completely ridiculous, but it’s fun.

And if it’s not too much trouble, please tell everybody you know to pick up a copy of Deadweather and Sunrise. You’ll find it in the kids’ section, right between the Riordans and the Rowlings:









(Too much? I know. Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 8 Comments

More Fun With Foreign Covers

For those of you who enjoyed my post a while back about the various foreign covers of Deadweather and Sunrise, a couple of things worth mentioning:

First of all, Mrs. Hembree over at Bulldog Readers is running a poll asking readers which of the foreign covers they like best. Head over and vote!

Especially if you want to see the “this-could-just-as-easily-be-the-cover-of-a-Nordic-death-metal-album” German cover dominate the puffy-shirted, “we-wandered-out-of-a-Matisse-painting-and-seem-none-too-happy-about-it” kids on the French cover.

Or the “I’m-sorry-I-was-under-the-impression-this-was-a-Disney-cartoon-from-the-’90s” Spanish cover. Or even the “where-did-this-Goth-vampire-come-from?” British cover.

Second, the Bulldog poll unfortunately went up 24 hours too early to include the new Israeli cover, which just arrived in my inbox yesterday. Check it out:


I like this one a lot, partly because it manages to convey a sense of humor along with adventure.

And partly because Millicent’s holding a gun, which we could NEVER get away with on a U.S. cover.

Like I said, the Israeli cover showed up too late to be included in the Bulldog poll, but you can always cast a write-in vote in the Bulldog comments section.

I’d do it, but I already voted.  (Guess which cover I voted for?)

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

More Excerpts From My Personal Correspondence

Dear _____,

Hello! I notice that in your latest blog post (, the list of recent books you’ve read includes The Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Are you quite certain Geraldine wrote that book? Because I believe I did.

Unless Geraldine ALSO wrote a book called The Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise. Which would be a rather extraordinary coincidence — and in which case, could you please let me know how I could get a copy? I would be fascinated to read it, and a perfunctory Google search only yields editions of Deadweather which were written by me.

In the event that this was a mistake of attribution, and you did in fact read the Deadweather and Sunrise that I wrote, I’d suggest (per your stated request for good book recommendations) checking out its sequel, New Lands. It is quite a good book!

Although to be honest, I’m not only biased on the subject, but I have a financial interest in making such a recommendation. So take it with a grain of salt.

If, again, this was not a mistake of attribution, please let me know if Geraldine is planning any sequels, and whether any of them are also called New Lands.

Have a great day!

Best wishes,

geoff rodkey

[ETA: Upon receipt of this email, the blog’s author corrected her original post. Which, while very gracious, was actually kind of a shame, because it renders this whole post totally pointless. Not that it wasn’t already.]

[ETA 2: The blog’s author, Charity Beasley – which I half-suspect is a pseudonym borrowed from a P.G. Wodehouse novel – just published our full correspondence here: Worth a look, if only to get Charity’s perspective on the matter.]

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg, Less Than Completely Serious | 1 Comment

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Three

Today’s letter is the first one I ever sent to my kid at summer camp.

Although technically, it wasn’t camp. But it was pretty much the same thing: the first time he ever went a way for an extended trip, when he spent two weeks at his grandmother’s apartment in Paris.

(I know! Nice, right? Too bad it’s only a 300-square foot studio, and she’s not willing to put up anyone bigger than a 10-year-old…which was my kid’s age when I sent this to him.)


Subject: Re: Paris

Date: July 1, 2010 6:59:13 AM EDT

Xxxx [again, not his real name]:

Thank you so much for the update!  It is very good to get emails from you.  I was also relieved to hear that you fixed the problem with the flip video.

Now I have a problem that I am hoping you can help me with.  Since you’ve been gone, no one has left their underwear on the bathroom floor.  You might not think this seems like much of a problem, and when you left for Paris, neither did I.

But to my surprise, I have discovered that if I don’t have to remove dirty underwear from the bathroom floor every evening, my life feels strangely empty and lacking in purpose.  I have tried to leave my own underwear on the bathroom floor and then remove it later, but it’s just not the same.

I spent most of last night lying awake in bed trying solve this problem, and I have come up with two potential solutions.

First, would it be all right with you if I took some underwear from your bedroom and left it on the bathroom floor for a while before picking it up and taking it to the laundry room?  Before you answer, consider the fact that — and I am not certain of this, but I strongly suspect it — for my life to feel truly purpose-driven, the underwear must be dirty.  Which means I will have to make one of your brothers wear it around for a while beforehand (I would wear it, but I am too big; and I would ask your mother, but she is too picky about her underthings). I assume you would prefer that Zzzz wears the underwear and not Yyyy.

If you do not approve of this, there is a second option.  I believe that if I take the phone into the bathroom at the usual hour of 8pm, call you, and yell at you to come pick up your underwear, my life might feel just as meaningful as if you and your dirty underwear were actually present.  Given the time difference, I’d be calling at 2am Paris time.  Would this be all right?

I realize it is something of an imposition to call you in the middle of the night, but to make it worth your time, while we’re on the phone I could also yell other things — not just the obvious “Xxxx, will you PLEASE hang up your towel?” but also things like “Get your shoes on!”, “Seriously, you HAVE to get off the computer now!”, “Stop touching Zzzz!”, and “Are you listening to me?!  What did I just say?”

Thanks in advance for helping me with this.  You are a good son.

I hope you’re having a great time!  Has Grandma taken you to see the view of Paris from the steps of the Sacre-Coeur yet?  I know I can’t pronounce that name, but I believe I spelled it correctly.




Tragically, this may be the end of the series — at least until my kid gets to camp next week and I start sending him letters again — because while I have more of them, the quality tails off pretty dramatically after this.

But you can always re-read the first two! They’re here:

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part One

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Two

And if you’re hungry for quality reading material, there’s always The Chronicles of Egg series! Which you can purchase by clicking one of the links under “Get the Books!” on the right-hand menu. Or, for more information, click on the “About The Chronicles of Egg” link on the top menu.

Or just email me and ask for a free copy. I probably won’t send you one, but you never know.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg, Less Than Completely Serious | 3 Comments

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Two

 The first Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp went over well enough that I’m raiding my archives (and exploiting my kid) for another one.

This is from two years ago, and it contains what I like to think is some very valuable career advice.

July 25, 2011

Dear Xxxx [still not his real name],

[Mostly dull opening paragraphs redacted; they included a discussion of the camp’s policy of forcing newly arrived campers to write a two-sentence-minimum note to their parents, which was then scanned into a computer and emailed to us as proof that they were still alive.]

Candles. I understand, unless I misread your handwriting once it was scanned into the computer, that among your activities is “candles.” I assume this refers to the making of candles and not, say, the lighting of them, which seems like it would get old in a hurry.

Now, look here: this is fine so far as it goes – you want to make some candles at summer camp, I won’t stand in your way – but I have to strongly caution you against falling too deeply in love with the candle lifestyle. Candles as a means of illumination – and, by extension, a marketable consumer product – have been obsolete for well over a century. Personally, outside of Hanukkah and birthdays, I have not used a candle since the mid-1990’s, and offhand I struggle to think of a single personal acquaintance who has not similarly switched over to electric light, usually exclusively.

What am I trying to say here? Only this, and please forgive me for being blunt: there is no future in candles, son. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on “Top Careers in 2020,” which is approximately when you will be entering the work force. You will find “Candle Manufacturing/Sales” near the rock-bottom of the list, sharing space with such dead-end, dustbin-of-history occupations as “Blacksmithing” and “Screenwriting.”

I want you to have fun this summer. I do. And if candle-making floats your boat, have at it! Go nuts! Just don’t get too attached. Because in the long run, candles will only break your heart.

Also, I understand you can change your electives at the midway point. Do they offer accounting in the second half? Think about it. I’m just saying.

Anyway… I love you and miss you. I am also jealous of you. Not so much for the candles, but the kayaking and the sailing. And also the part where you write “the sleep situation is fine.” I wish I could say the same. Your mother can be a very trying bunkmate. And your brothers…eeesh. Don’t get me started.



Click here for Part One of Letters To My Kid at Summer Camp…or click here for Part Three.

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 7 Comments

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp

It’s been a while since I posted. Partly, this is because writing books, while a fine way to make a living, has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing the amount of time I can spend writing blog posts that have absolutely no financial value whatsoever.

Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t had any good ideas for blog posts.

Sadly, that’s still the case. But in honor of my oldest son’s imminent departure for summer camp, I thought I’d dig into my archives and post the following letter, which I sent to him while he was at camp last summer.

If you enjoy reading this kind of thing, please post a comment to that effect — if there’s sufficient interest in my continuing to exploit my family for material, I’ll post others.

August 3, 2012

Dear Xxxx [not his real name],

By the time you get this letter, over a month will have passed since I dropped you off (nauseous and underfed, but really, whose fault was that?) at the airport departure gate.

Which means I have gone an entire month without writing you a single letter.

I apologize for that. But it has been quite a busy month. As you may know, the Olympics are currently underway in London, and when I was driving back from dropping you off at the airport, it occurred to me that at 41 years old, I am not getting any younger, and this may be my last chance to represent my country in an Olympic event.

So I spent the next three weeks in intensive training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, hoping to secure a spot on the national judo team.

I was unsuccessful.

And I can tell you this: it stung. Words cannot express the pain of seeing your dreams collapse into dust, even if they are dreams you only had for a couple of weeks.

Also, judo itself is painful. Some of the other fighters are pretty merciless, even in practice, and the fact that I was not an “official” member of the squad—and so was facing them not in the practice ring, but in the parking lot as they walked to their cars at the end of the day—meant that our bouts usually ended in a few seconds, with a submission hold resulting in loss of consciousness.

At least, I think that’s how it went down. I kept waking up in the parking lot, to the sound of cars pulling away, and with no short-term memory of the previous several minutes. (Here’s a fact, by the way, that might surprise you—in my experience, the women’s judo team is much more ruthless in combat than the men’s team, especially if you startle them while they are holding a set of car keys).

So that was a tough three weeks. After it was over, I went through a period of soul-searching. Judo had been my whole life, at least for the better part of July, and once it was gone, I felt a yawning emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to fill it with letter writing. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m in a much better place now. And I’ve learned a lot, too—about the value of hard work, the wisdom of letting go, and why you should never challenge a martial arts expert to a fight in a parking lot.

What else can I tell you? It turns out it was a mistake to rent your room out to the elderly Uzbek man who smelled like rotten cheese. His check bounced, and when we confronted him about it, he skipped out on us. So, lesson learned. But we can’t get rid of the rotten cheese smell in your room, so I guess in a manner of speaking, he’s still with us.

Zzzz [my youngest son; also not his real name] has been difficult lately. I now think that among our family members, he is more likely than Yyyy [my middle son; ditto] to end up in jail. His soccer camp counselors think so, too.

Your mother—as she may have already told you—will not be contacting [Xxxx’s friend]’s mom about the summer reading list, or mailing you the appropriate books, because this is the kind of thing that you are old enough to be responsible for yourself. There will be plenty of time to read the books when you get home, unless you blow it all playing Ipad Monopoly or watching Storage Wars.

I hope you are having a great time! We miss you.

Love, Dad

(Click here for Part Two of Letters to My Kid At Summer Camp.)

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 12 Comments

The Germans are NOT fooling around

I’d been wondering what the deal was with the German edition of Deadweather and Sunrise, because I hadn’t heard anything about it in the more than two years since the rights sold to the lovely people at Carlsen. 9782021089677

Which is a pretty long time–I mean, the French rights didn’t sell until almost a year after that, and Le Trésor des Okalus has been available in fine French bookstores (and hopefully the less fine ones, too) for a couple of months now.

The lack of news from Germany was actually starting to worry me. Not to engage in cultural stereotyping, but you wouldn’t ordinarily think the Germans would take second place to the French in the speed-and-efficiency department.

Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. Apparently, Carlsen just needed the extra time to get a running start at the truly Teutonic levels of Sturm and Drang that are going on with this cover: German cover

Seriously! Right? I mean, if covers could talk…

Hey, let’s imagine they can. Here’s what I’m figuring is on their minds:



Spanish cover: Wheeee! What an adventure!









French cover: Ah, bonjour! Let us bake a cake!




German cover




German cover: YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.




Dreckswetter und Morgenröte won’t be out until October 2nd — which is probably a good thing, because it’s going to take a while for the schoolchildren of Germany to prepare themselves for the onslaught.

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

The Chronicles of Egg: Now Internationally Awesome

What’s that you say? Can’t get enough of The Chronicles of Egg? Tired of re-reading the first two books while pining for the release of Blue Sea Burning next April? 

Why not try reading it in Turkish? Or Italian! Or French! Or Spanish!

Not that you would. But you could! Just look at these:

9782021089677 las-cronicas-de-egg_11814 Mortaria images













You could even read it in British English, which is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE!

Okay, that’s not actually true. The text of the U.K. editions is basically the same, except for a couple of innocent-seeming American words that turn out to be totally filthy in England… But the covers make them look like a whoooole different series: 

UK cover NewLandsArt








Crazy, right? I mean, are these really the same books as these?

Deadweather_and_Sunrise pb art New Lands cover








But, yeah. They are. Covers are funny things.

Speaking of funny things, if you haven’t seen the Turkish TV ad for Deadweather and Sunrise, it’s worth checking out.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 10 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Endangered Authors Tour Diary: THE FINAL DAY

The tour wrapped up yesterday, and I’ve never been more sad to see the end of something that left me totally exhausted. I haven’t been this tired since my kids were toddlers.

Incidentally, if you’ve been reading these diary entries and are still totally confused as to what the show was like, click here for a great writeup on from journalist/super-librarian Pam Kramer.

Our last day found us in New Jersey, courtesy of the wonderful folks at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair (thanks again, Marisela and Liane!), where you can get autographed copies of all our books. So go there now! If you live in New Jersey.

The second-to-last show was at Charles H. Bullock Elementary in Montclair, where the kids were fantastic, and so were PTA parents Adriana and Kathleen, who helped organize the whole thing, brought coffee and muffins (which were delicious), and posed for this picture with us before the show:IMG_5213b

Then this happened. The photographic record of which I just swiped from Adriana’s Facebook page:12407_307079112756403_363112355_n

Notice the spiffy new hat Curtis is sporting, which he bought at the Goorin Bros. hat shop on Bleecker Street in Manhattan. If you think you can pull off a look like that (I can’t, probably because I’m not British), they are fine purveyors of quality hats.

After a delicious lunch at the Comfort Food Kitchen next door to Watchung Booksellers (try the eggplant parmesan! It is crazy-good), we headed to the Ridgewood Avenue School in Glen Ridge, home of awesome librarian Joyce Mooney.

We couldn’t have asked for a better crowd of kids to finish the tour, and Peter in particular was in rare form.

Here he is (with many thanks to awesome Penguin sales rep Dawn Zahorik for the photos) threatening to read from my private diary while I try to look dismayed. Over 23 shows, my look of cartoonish dismay definitely improved. Not sure what to do with this skill now that the tour is over:IMG_5305b

And here’s Peter cracking up a bunch of the Ridgewood kids:IMG_5314b

I think that shot says a lot about how much fun everybody had on this tour.

And now that it’s over, some people need to be thanked:

First, Elyse Marshall and Molly Sardella of Penguin, who worked incredibly hard to make this tour not just happen, but run remarkably smoothly considering all the moving pieces. I am eternally in their debt.

Second, my tour companions Adam Gidwitz, Jacqueline West, Curtis Jobling, and Peter McNerney. I’d never met any of them before the tour, and I liked them all so much that, just 24 hours removed from being stuck in a van with Curtis’s luggage digging into the back of my neck, I get a little choked up just thinking about them.

I feel like I’ve made four lifelong friends.

At least, I think I have. We’ll see if they return my phone calls.

But even if they all secretly hated me, they’re incredibly talented people, and I was very, very fortunate to be paired up with them, because they’re all more successful than I am, and riding on their coattails did a whole lot more for me than I did for them. images-2

In the unlikely event that you haven’t read them already, please check out A Tale Dark and Grimm, The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows, imagesWereworld: Rise of the Wolf, and all their sequels. There’s something for everyone in these books.images-1



And if you live in or near NYC, please check out Peter’s improv show, Trike, on Saturdays at 10:30pm at the Magnet Theater. large_trikeI’m headed there with my 12-year-old next month, and I know we’re going to have a fantastic time. Even–or perhaps especially–if it’s totally age-inappropriate.



Thanks also to all the phenomenal librarians, language arts teachers, PTA moms, administrators, and everybody else at the 23 schools we visited! We could not have done this without you.

And thanks to the kids! Who should also be thanking their teachers and librarians. Can you believe they let you out of class for such a thing?

Finally, a sincere and heartfelt thanks to the fantastic independent booksellers who hosted the tour along the way, all of whom have autographed copies of all our books in stock:

In Lexington, Kentucky: Joseph-Beth Booksellers

In Decatur, Georgia: Little Shop of Stories

In Fairhope, Alabama: Page and Palette

In Miami, Florida: Books & Books

In Houston, Texas: Blue Willow Bookshop

In Austin, Texas: Perma-bound

In Naperville and Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Anderson’s

In Oak Park, Illinois: The Magic Tree Bookstore

In Winnetka, Illinois: The Book Stall

In Alexandria, Virginia: Hooray for Books

In Madison, Connecticut: R.J. Julia

In Montclair, New Jersey: Watchung Booksellers

Please, please shop at these stores, because they are the beating heart of the book world, and if it weren’t for them, we’d all need day jobs.

Speaking of day jobs… The Chronicles of Egg: New Lands comes out next week… New Lands cover

It’s good! And I’m not just saying that because I wrote it.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 16

The second-to-last day of the tour (if you’ve read all these posts and are not my mother, God bless you) found us in Connecticut.

Which seems rather tiny on a map…but is actually enormous. At least, it feels that way when you’re driving through it at rush hour.

We started the day at the Meadowside School in Milford (hi, Carly!), where we met awesome librarian Gail Sostilio and a ton of enthusiastic kids. Thanks to the photographic prowess of Penguin’s Molly Sardella — who, along with Elyse Marshall, has done a superhuman amount of work to get the tour up and running — here’s a shot of the Meadowside crowd with their eyes glued to Jacqueline, just moments before they all burst into laughter at the punch line of her story about an unruly French horn: IMG_5175


And here’s Adam making his terrified-little-kids-who’ve-just-had-the-real-Grimm’s-Fairy-Tales-read-aloud-to-them-for-the-first-time face, which never fails to get a similarly huge laugh: IMG_5174

After taking some time to sign stock for Madison, CT’s fantastic R.J. Julia bookstore (hi, Karen!), we headed to the Abraham Pierson School in nearby Clinton. Super-librarian Emily Kelsey’s homemade brownies were delicious! And the kids at Abraham Pierson were all-around awesome.

Especially the little girl who hyperventilated with joy upon meeting Jacqueline.

With the tour winding down, I’ve gotten more reckless about snapping photos from the stage at particularly fun moments — like Peter’s screaming freakout after losing all his hair, which two weeks ago was a five-second bit that, 21 shows later, has stretched out longer than a Jimmy Page guitar solo — and is both every bit as loud and twice as awesome. Here’s a still: IMG_0537


And here, for entirely self-congratulatory reasons, is the sea of hands that goes up every time I ask how many people in the crowd have seen Daddy Day Care:IMG_5200

Not bad for a movie I wrote before most of these kids were born.

And it takes the sting out of the fact that most of them haven’t read Deadweather and Sunrise.

But they will.

Oh, they will.

Or there will be consequences.

Anyway, great bunch of kids in Clinton. Here we all are post-show:IMG_5208

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of the World’s Longest Book Tour!

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 15

Something very, very disturbing happened on Day 15 — so disturbing, in fact, that I hesitate to mention it in a public forum.

But first, the good news: the kids in Alexandria, Virginia are great! We started the day at Hollin Meadows Elementary, where awesome librarian Kelly McKee introduced us to both some delicious breakfast pastries and a fantastic bunch of very enthusiastic kids. Here they are listening with bated breath to Adam’s G.I. Joe story:IMG_5134

After stopping at the wonderful Hooray for Books in Alexandria, where we signed a ton of stock, we had lunch at a restaurant called Table Talk — which turned out to be more than just a clever name when an 86-year-old Freemason dining next to us wound up talking to our table at great and entertaining length.

Then it was on to Mount Vernon Community School, where fantastic librarian Debbie Griffin and the wonderful Mount Vernon PTA had gotten free books in the hands of all the kids in the audience. Which was AWESOME. The Mount Vernon kids couldn’t have been more fun, and everybody had a great time.

Unfortunately, the light level in the auditorium was a bit low for photos, and the flash on my iPhone caused a lot of eye glare. Either that, or some of the Mount Vernon kids are demonically possessed:IMG_0515

All in all, it was a great day.


This is hard to talk about. Not only because it’s so disturbing, but because I fear my life may be in danger if I discuss it.

But there are two days of the tour left, and if something should happen to one of us…or, heaven forbid, someone in the audience at one of our shows…it’s better to have the information out there so people can take the necessary precautions.

As regular readers of this tour diary know, I have long suspected that Curtis may be a werewolf. It’s not just that his book series, Wereworld, is all about lycanthropes. Or that he lives in the same part of England where David Naughton got the bite in An American Werewolf in London. Or that he has body hair in a quantity most commonly seen in woodland mammals.

It’s his behavior. Which can be a little…off.

Still, after I’d checked the lunar cycle and confirmed that there wouldn’t be a full moon until next Thursday, I’d managed to put it out of my mind.

Then came today.

It all started shortly after we’d arrived in the Mount Vernon auditorium. It was such an attractive, pristine-looking space that I asked Jacqueline to pose for a photo. So she did…


And as I took the shot, I noticed something strange over her shoulder…all the way in the back corner, near the right-hand exit…



Braving the shadows of the darkened auditorium, I stepped closer…



Ten rows back, I heard the sound of a struggle, accompanied by a feral gnashing of teeth…



Then I drew near, and the full horror revealed itself…


With trembling fingers, I raised my camera to snap another photo. This proved my undoing. Enraged, the beast turned on me and attacked:


What followed was brief, violent, and entirely one-sided. I would no longer be alive to write this if it hadn’t been for Peter — or, more accurately, Peter’s leftover roast beef from lunch. He managed to distract Curtis with the meat while I fled to safety, the Mount Vernon nurse patched up my wounds as best she could, and we went on with the show.

Curtis claims to remember nothing of the incident, which he blames on jet lag. And to be fair, he’s been very apologetic.

But the puncture marks on my arm are a feverish red, the hair on my knuckles has turned thick and coarse…

And day by day, the moon grows full.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Days 13-14

With no events scheduled until Monday, we all went our separate ways for the weekend.

It was a little bittersweet–kind of like the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, if the Fellowship had been torn asunder because Boromir’s wife was getting resentful at being stuck home with the kids, Aragorn was tired of eating dinner with the same people every night, and Frodo needed to get back to the Shire to do his laundry.

Speaking of laundry, I am very grateful to be home, because it means I can stop looking like Peter’s balding twin.

With so much traveling on the tour itinerary, we all had to pack light — so the only clothes I brought were jeans, T-shirts, a gray hoodie, and a pair of New Balance sneakers.

Peter packed the same things. EXACTLY the same. While he was in costume during the shows, evenings were a little weird. Here we are headed to dinner in Georgia:photo

And returning home from dinner in Alabama:IMG_1449

Definitely looking forward to digging my blue hoodie out of the closet. Not that we don’t look adorable.

Speaking of adorable… Here’s what happened when Tracie, the Mills Elementary assistant librarian in Austin, asked everybody to make a silly face… and both Kaye from Permabound and Mills librarian Jan Higgs inexplicably decided the request did not apply to them:Tracie Austin photo

Tomorrow begins the last leg of the tour: Virginia, Connecticut, and New Jersey. See you there! I’ll be the one in the blue hoodie.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 12

Our last day in Chicago, where the weather is positively schizophrenic: after torrential rains on Wednesday night caused nearly biblical levels of flooding yesterday, we woke up this morning to snow flurries.

Really, Chicago? Really?

But what Second City lacks in amenable weather, it more than makes up for in enthusiastic elementary school crowds. Courtesy of the good people at The Book Stall (hi, Robert!), we started the day at Lincolnwood Elementary in Evanston, where awesome librarian Jan Troy treated us to some crazy-delicious homemade muffins before unleashing a very excited crowd of sign-waving kids.

How excited were the Lincolnwood kids? THIS EXCITED: IMG_1683

Many thanks again to our media escort Paul Buchbinder, who shot another round of very artfully composed photos for the blog. Like this one!IMG_5420

It was a great show, and the kids had so much fun that after it was over, they showed their appreciation by nearly trampling us:IMG_1707

Then it was on to Oak Terrace Elementary in Highwood, where we had lunch with uber-librarians Kara Smith and Pam Kramer and then met another fantastic crowd of kids from both Oak Terrace and surrounding schools.

Curtis performed his usual crowd-pleasing trick of drawing his brainchild Bob the Builder, then turning him into a werewolf:IMG_1720

But the real stars of the day were Oak Terrace’s homegrown artists:IMG_1727IMG_1726IMG_1723

It was a great day, and a fine ending to a wonderful week.

By the way, I learned something new today: if you mention in a tweet that you ate a deep-dish pizza with such reckless abandon that it sent you into a food coma…and you happened to eat that pizza at a restaurant that’s as on top of its social media game as Gino’s East…they will send you a sympathy tweet:

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 11

So, today was weird. Unless having an event cancelled due to flooding is a totally normal thing in the book-tour business.

Either way, that happened.

Chicago is currently being ravaged by Rainpocalypse 2013. Sounds harmless enough, right? CHECK OUT THE CAR-SWALLOWING SINKHOLE:images-1

Full disclosure: I did not take that picture. But it is actually from this morning in Chicago.

Anyway, the governor declared a state of emergency, the roads are a mess, and Hester Junior High in Franklin Park was among the many Chicago-area schools that were closed due to flooding today.

Which is very sad. Hester Junior High kids: if you want a signed book plate, please email me.

Fortunately, we were able to make it (just barely) to Heritage Middle School in Berwyn for a show this morning. Even more fortunately, our media escort was Paul Buchbinder, who’s a MUCH better photographer than I am. Here’s a wide-angle shot of the positively enormous crowd of awesome Heritage middle schoolers:IMG_5402

And here’s a very artfully composed shot that makes me wonder why I have such weird posture:IMG_5395

The kids from Berwyn were awesome, and after the show we headed over to the extremely cute Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park to sign books.

Then, despondent over the cancellation of the Hester Junior High Show, we retired to Gino’s East and drowned our sorrows in the chunky tomato sauce of these: IMG_0492

I think I speak for all of us when I say we ate WAY too much. Now everybody needs a nap.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 10


Or, more accurately, the suburbs of Chicago! Not far from where I grew up. I feel like I’m home again, especially after the breakfast buffet at the hotel raised my cholesterol level by thirty points. (Not many people know this, but the state motto of Illinois is “Everything’s Better With Cheese On Top”.)

Our first stop was Lincoln Elementary in Oak Park, where awesome librarian Carolyn Frame managed to coax my dying camera into recording a few decent photos of the crowd of enthusiastic, super-fun kids:IMG_1639b


Here’s Jacqueline, confessing to her longstanding fear of “deep water, most basements, the telephone, and any fish larger than a hot dog bun”:



Then it was on to Cossitt Avenue Elementary in LaGrange, where–in an odd coincidence–my mother attended school in 1949. Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the teachers remembered her.

Librarian Kelly Davis and her horde of parent volunteers couldn’t have been more awesome (thanks for the cookies!), and the kids were phenomenal. Following is a shot of some of them, along with Adam’s rear end:


Why am I including Adam’s rear end? Because earlier that morning at Lincoln Elementary, a kid asked Adam, “Do you always wear such tight pants?”


I want to say a special thank you to Kelly and all the other staff at Cossitt Avenue for getting so many copies of Deadweather and Sunrise into their students’ hands. Here’s a line of them waiting for me to sign their books, which I am including because no one has ever stood in a line this long to get one of my books signed, and I am very, very flattered:  IMG_1656b


Here are Curtis, Jacqueline, Adam, and our all-star media escort Bill Young leaving Cossitt Avenue. Nice building, right?



It looked pretty much exactly the same when my mom walked to school with her friends back in 1949:


Hi, Mom! Sorry I didn’t ask permission before posting this.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 9

Cincinnati, Atlanta, Mobile, Miami, and Houston, I have bad news: none of you are as cool as Austin.

Don’t take this personally. It’s hard to be as cool as Austin! Just ask Seattle (nice try, Seattle! You had a good run there in the ’90s).

We got in a little on the late side, but thanks to the motivational efforts of Adam and Jacqueline, we piled into a cab and made the trek from our hotel-in-the-lonely-shadow-of-the-interstate to the South Congress neighborhood, where we had fantastic Tex-Mex at Guero’s…IMG_0451

…then stepped across the street to catch the last half of the Peterson Brothers’ set at the Continental Club… IMG_0452

…after which we all realized we were exhausted, so we packed it in. But not before I took this picture, because in Austin, EVEN THE BATHROOM WALLS ARE COOLER THAN I AM:IMG_0454

After an early wake-up call, we headed to Mills Elementary. You know how they say everything’s bigger in Texas? That’s DEFINITELY true of their elementary school audiences:IMG_0458

Great bunch of kids at Mills Elementary! Only about half of them are in that shot, because my camera doesn’t have a wide-angle lens.

Then it was on to Kiker Elementary, where super-librarian Zonia Smith and her crew greeted us with these:IMG_0459

This is the first time a flower has ever been constructed from my face, unless it’s happened before and I suppressed the memory. All four of us posed with our floral doppelgängers, but only Jacqueline looked cute doing it:IMG_0463

The kids at Kiker were awesome, and there were a LOT of them:IMG_0469

Now we’re headed for a three-day stand in the Chicago suburbs, a mere 110 miles from my hometown of Freeport, Illinois. Which is exciting!

Except that we’re not actually going to make it out there this time around.

See you on Skype in a couple of weeks, Freeport! Looking forward to it.

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Endangered Authors Tour… Day 8 1/2

With apologies to Fellini (raise your hand if you get that joke), and courtesy of Curtis Jobling and his Wereworld Facebook fan page, I was going to embed four short clips from various stops on the tour, all featuring the brilliant Peter McNerney in character as Holden A. Grudge.

Unfortunately, I am not competent to properly embed the videos without the technical support of my 12-year-old son, who is currently thousands of miles away.

BUT! If you click through to either the Wereworld Facebook page or the Chronicles of Egg Facebook page, you can find them all there.


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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 8

Houston, Texas! Not a lot of jokes in this installment, because the woman sitting next to me on the flight out wouldn’t quit talking long enough for me to write them.

But there were a LOT of great kids in Houston. We spent the morning at West University Elementary, home of thoroughly awesome librarian Kelly Russell (whose husband, Glen, owes me an email) and a few hundred of the best audience members we’ve encountered yet. Here they are listening to Adam explain how a road-worn copy of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales inspired his bestselling A Tale Dark and Grimm:IMG_1933

Here they are gazing in awe at Curtis’s transformation of Bob the Builder into a werewolf:IMG_1943

Then it was on to Bunker Hill Elementary, where we were treated to lunch with not only awesome librarian Tammy Holley but also the phenomenal Cathy Berner of Blue Willow Bookshop (where you can currently get signed copies of all our books).

And the kids at Bunker Hill were the best:IMG_0446

See the shaved heads? They did that as part of a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research.

Kids don’t get better than that. No joke.

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