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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Interview with Judd Winick, Author of Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth

I'm thrilled to welcome Judd Winick, author of the new middle grade graphic novel, Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, to The Hiding Spot today. Check out the interview with Judd below to learn more about the inspiration behind his main characters, the books that inspired him to write funny comics, and much more!

Can you share a bit about your inspiration for the characters in The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, especially DJ, Gina, and Hilo? 

Each of the characters borrow from lots of places. My life, my family, my friends, other fictional characters -- all over the joint -- then tossed into blender. But if I had to nail down some of the ingredients from each of them: 

GINA: Gina is a smart girl who likes science, who likes books, who likes to learn. That comes from my wife, Pam. Pam’s brilliant, loved astronomy as kid (like Gina), read like crazy (like Gina), but is super cool (like Gina). Pam is a doctor, has colored streaks in her hair, played in a rock band before medical school, and hey-- was on MTVs REAL WORLD. There’s a pile of Pam in Gina. 

DJ: DJ is a lot like me, or rather, maybe who I used to be. DJ is a kid who measures himself by what everyone else is doing. His family, his school mates. I’ve learned that life isn’t a competition. It took me long time to realize that. Aaaand, like me, he reads comics, loves sci-fi, and has got piles of action figures. 

HILO: Hilo is one part Doctor Who, one part E.T., one part Jason Borne, one part Superman, one part Mr. Spock, one part my son, one part my daughter-- yeah I know, too many parts! But mostly Hilo is inspired by what’s NEW. Everything is fascinating to him! If there’s a huge monster in front of them, his first reaction would be , “WHOA!! Look at that guy! “ DJ might yell, “Hilo! Run! That thing’s gonna kill us!” Hilo would say, “Yeah, but it doesn’t take away from how outstanding it is! Check this bad boy out!” He’s POSITIVE. Hilo’s a friend I’d like to have. (Who can fly and shoot lasers from his hands.) 
Tell me a little bit about your writing and illustration process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
I do all that. But if I’m lucky, I get to spend a lot of time NOT writing the next story I’m going to do. Case in point right now, I’m drawing Hilo book 3, it’s written, the story is complete, I’m drawing the whole thing. But I’m walking around most of the day thinking about Hilo book 4. I get to live with the story, I get to hear the characters talk to one another while I listen to music in my car, or shaving, or cooking. (and yes, sometimes I do all three of those things at the same time. I have many “driving a vehicle improperly” tickets.) So, when it comes time to write, I have many things worked out. I do not like sitting in front of the blank page. Ever. I like know what’s gonna happen. 
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration? 
I have been blessed to have -- nearly--always have been a storyteller and/or cartoonist in some fashion. I’ve illustrated books, I did a daily syndicated comic strip, created and produced an animated series, written and drawn my own comics, developed live action TV and written super hero comics for years. And in truth, everything I’ve done has lead me to making Hilo. This series combines all the work I’ve done before. It’s an all ages, funny and dramatic action adventure that looks like a comic strip ( like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes). I’m very lucky. I wasn’t aware what I was “training” myself for. But it’s this. It’s Hilo
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
Monkey. And because it’s the greatest word. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
Three books. Garfield at Large by Jim Davis, Bloom County, “Loose Tails”, by Berke Breathed and Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head and Other Stories, by B. Kliban. 

These were the first three cartoon books that made me want to draw funny cartoons. I was inspired. In each case they ushered in entire periods of my life where I’d ape and mimic these cartoonists styles. I found myself in these books.
What can readers look forward to next? 
Hilo book 2 all the way through book 6! This is a series. And it has a beginning, middle and end. Each book is a big leap forward. Things will change and characters will grow. But it’s gonna be really funny along the way. Promise.

About the Author

Judd Winick grew up on Long Island, where he spent countless hours doodling, reading X-Men comics and the newspaper strip Bloom County, and watching Looney Tunes. Today, Judd lives in San Francisco with his wife, Pam Ling; their two kids; and their cat, Chaka. When Judd isn’t collecting far more action figures and vinyl toys than a normal adult, he is a screenwriter and an award-winning cartoonist. Judd has scripted issues of bestselling comic series, including Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Justice League, and Star Wars, and was head writer on the Hulu network’s animated series, The Awesomes. Judd also appeared as a cast member of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco and is the author of the highly acclaimed graphic novel Pedro and Me, about his Real World roommate and friend, AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. Visit Judd and Hilo online at
About the Book
Buy It / Goodreads
Introducing HILO—a funny, action-packed, full-color new middle-grade graphic novel series that Bone creator Jeff Smith calls “delightful.”

D.J. and his friend Gina are totally normal kids. But that was before a mysterious boy came crashing down from the sky! Hilo doesn’t know where he came from, or what he’s doing on Earth. (Or why going to school in only your underwear is a bad idea!)…But what if Hilo wasn’t the only thing to fall to our planet? Can the trio unlock the secrets of his past? Can Hilo survive a day at school? And are D.J. and Gina ready to save the world?

HILO is Calvin and Hobbes meets Big Nate and is just right for fans of Bone and comic books as well as laugh-out-loud school adventures like Jedi Academy and Wimpy Kid!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Storytime: New and Notable Picture Books (24)

This week's Storytime features a look at the upside of life's disappointments, a breakfast food favorite, a button-collecting raccoon, a very confused (but brave!) kitten, and an inspiring picture book featuring the first African American to be published in the south!

It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon
Written & Illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Ages 3-7, Available Now

Buy It 
Lost balloons. Melted ice cream. Babysitters.

Life as a kid can be pretty daunting. But don’t let these troubles get you down. With the right attitude, a hurdle can become a hammock and an obstacle can become an opportunity!

Veteran picture book creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka teaches kids to look on the bright side of things. With lively illustrations and spot-on humor, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon champions resilience and helps children navigate childhood indignities while making them laugh at the same time.
“It’s never fun when you break a toy… But you’ll have fun fixing it with your grandpa” is one of many pieces of advice Jarrett J. Krosoczka gives readers in his new picture book, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon. Sometimes things happen that bring you down, but Krosoczka reminds readers that there’s always another, positive experience right around the corner! This short read aloud manages to share a big message that will last for a long time.

Everyone Loves Bacon
Written by Kelly Dipucchio; Illustrated by Eric Wight
Ages 3-6, Available Now

Buy It
Egg loves Bacon.
Lettuce loves Bacon.
Waffle loves Bacon.
Bacon is sizzling with popularity.
And pretty much everyone thinks he is the best.

That is-until Bacon's fame goes to his head. He's so busy soaking up the attention, that he soon forgets the important things in life, like friendship and family. How will it all pan out for our dashing, delicious hero?
Oh-so-hilarious! Readers will love this cautionary tale about humility, friendship, and bacon.
Dewey Bob
Written & Illustrated by Judy Schachner
Ages 3-5, Available Now

Buy It

A sweet raccoon character stars in this endearing tale of unexpected friendship from the creator of the bestselling Skippyjon Jones

Dewey Bob Crockett is a durn cute raccoon who lives by himself in a house filled to the brim with the wonderful objects he collects. Buttons, wheels, furniture and bricabrac adorn his cozy quarters and keep him busy as he finds and fixes, turning trash into treasures. But there’s something missing from Dewey’s collections—a friend! He tries gathering up some critters and bringing them home in his shopping cart, but that doesn’t work out so well. In the end, a friend does come Dewey’s way, and, with a little DIY help from this clever raccoon, returns again and again.

Combining art and heart with storytelling genius and a lilting twang, Judy Schachner's tale of unexpected friendship will delight readers young and old.
The Skippyjon Jones books are great, but I think Judy Schachner really shines brightest in her standalone titles. They're so warm and such fun to read aloud. Dewey Bob is an incredibly charming character.

Max the Brave

Written & Illustrated by Ed Vere
Ages 3-6, Available Now

Buy It
Max is a fearless kitten. Max is a brave kitten. Max is a kitten who chases mice. There's only one problem-Max doesn't know what a mouse looks like! With a little bit of bad advice, Max finds himself facing a much bigger challenge. Maybe Max doesn't have to be Max the Brave all the time...

Join this adventurous black cat as he very politely asks a variety of animals for help in finding a mouse. Young readers will delight in Max's mistakes, while adults will love the subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor of this new children's classic.
This adorably fun read aloud follows Max, a brave kitten who chases mice. Well, who will chase mice as soon as he figures out what a mouse looks like. Comical, sweet, and colorful, Max the Brave is sure to become a favorite!

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
Written & Illustrated by Don Tate
Ages 4-8, Available Now

Buy It
In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time, though not his freedom. Horton became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.
Don Tate is so incredibly talented; I love everything he's done. This nonfiction story about George Moses Horton is a must for all classrooms and libraries and will tie in particularly well during Poetry Month!

Love any of the books featured this week? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cover Reveals - Middle Grade - XLVIII

Click Here to Start by Denis Markell
What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure?

Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great- uncle dies and bequeaths him all the so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game!

Using his specially honed skills, Ted sets off to win the greatest game he’s ever played, with help from his friends Caleb and Isabel. Together they discover that Uncle Ted’s “treasure” might be exactly that—real gold and jewels found by a Japanese American unit that served in World War II. With each puzzle Ted and his friends solve, they get closer to unraveling the mystery—but someone dangerous is hot on their heels, and he’s not about to let them get away with the fortune.
Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard
The glorious start to a middle-grade trilogy about a brilliant boy, his loyal friends, and some amazingly intelligent beetles that brings together adventure, humor, and real science!

Darkus Cuttle's dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They're an amazing, intelligent super species and they're in danger of being exterminated. It's up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they're up against an even more terrifying villain--the mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won't let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus's dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.

Julius Zebra: Rumble With the Romans by Gary Northfield
What happens when you mix the gladiatorial combat of ancient Rome with a fast-talking creature who is DEFINITELY NOT A STRIPY HORSE?

From a smelly water hole on the African savanna, Julius Zebra is captured, along with Milus the scarred lion and Cornelius the clueless warthog. Transported to the ferocious clamor of the Colosseum, Julius Zebra and his motley menagerie of friends must gear up to be . . . gladiators! The only way they will gain their freedom is if they win the love of the Roman crowds. But do they have what it takes to succeed in a world where only the meanest and toughest survive? Follow the madcap adventures of Julius Zebra and his pals in short chapters with funny, irreverent text and zany cartoon-style illustrations, with an illustrated guide to Roman numerals and a handy glossary at the end.
Once Was a Time by Leila Sales
Once Was a Time is Sales's middle-grade debut featuring two best friends who are wrenched apart when one time-travels away from their home in war-ravaged 1940s England.

Nothing Up My Sleeve by Diana Lopez
From beloved author Diana López comes an exciting middle grade story about three friends, a magic competition, and how far they'll go to succeed.

Sixth graders Dominic, Loop, and Z stumble upon a new magic
shop in town and can't wait to spend their summer mastering
cool tricks to gain access to the Vault, a key holders-only back
room bound to hold all kinds of secrets. And once they get
in, they set their sights even higher: a huge competition at the
end of the summer. They work on their card tricks, sleights,
and vanishing acts, trying to come up with the most awesome
routines possible....Problem is, the trip is expensive, and it's
money that each guy's family just doesn't have.

To make things worse, the shop-owners' daughter, Ariel (who
just so happens to be last year's competition winner), will do
anything to make sure the boys don't come out on top. Even pit
them against one another. Will they make it to the competition?
And if so, at what cost?

The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers
Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past--if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she's spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say "pieces of eight," they're up to their necks in the pirates' quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don't even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she's unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.
Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung
About a 12-year-old Korean-American girl who sets out to explore her heritage and comes to some startling extraterrestrial discoveries.

The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor Teele
A quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about a young boy who runs away from home with his sister to escape working in the family coffin business—and discovers even more adventure than he bargained for.

John Coggin is no ordinary boy. He is devising an invention that nobody has ever seen before, something that just might change the world, or at least make life a little bit better for him and his litter sister, Page. But that’s only when he can sneak a break from his loathsome job: building coffins for the family business under the beady gaze of his cruel great-aunt Beauregard. Having lost their parents when Page was a baby, how else are they supposed to survive?

Perhaps by taking an enormous risk—a risk that arrives in the form of a red-haired scamp named Boz. When Great-Aunt Beauregard informs John that she’s going to make him a permanent partner in Coggin Family Coffins—and train Page to be an undertaker—John and Page sign on with Boz and hit the road. Before long, they’ve fallen in with a host of colorful characters, all of whom, like John and Page, are in search of a place they can call home. But home, they realize, isn’t something you find so much as something you fight for, and John soon realizes that he and Page are in for the fight of their lives.

Elinor Teele’s picaresque debut is a rollicking tale filled with wild adventures, daring escapes, and—thanks to Boz—more than a little catastrophe.
Momotaro: Xander and the Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway
Xander Miyamoto would rather do almost anything than listen to his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stedman, drone on about weather disasters happening around the globe. If Xander could do stuff he's good at instead, like draw comics and create computer programs, and if Lovey would stop harassing him for being half Asian, he might not be counting the minutes until the dismissal bell.

When spring break begins at last, Xander plans to spend it playing computer games with his best friend, Peyton. Xander's father briefly distracts him with a comic book about some samurai warrior that pops out of a peach pit. Xander tosses it aside, but Peyton finds it more interesting.

Little does either boy know that the comic is a warning. They are about to be thrust into the biggest adventure of their lives-a journey wilder than any Xander has ever imagined, full of weird monsters even worse than Lovey. To win at this deadly serious game they will have to rely on their wits, courage, faith, and especially, each other. Maybe Xander should have listened to Mr Stedman about the weather after all. . . .
Which new covers are your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Interview & Giveaway with Sonia Gensler, author of Ghostlight

Sonia Gensler, author of the YA novels The Revenant and The Dark Between, visits The Hiding Spot to today to discuss her newest novel, a MG horror novel called Ghostlight. In addition to talking a bit about the inspiration for the novel, her favorite word (which evokes deliciously dark and dreary images), her many (intriguing!) works in progress, and more!

Following the interview, be sure to enter to win a finished copy of Ghostlight!

Can you tell us a bit about the plot of Ghostlight, your inspiration, and your decision to write a MG horror novel instead of YA, a genre in which you’ve already established a name? 

Ghostlight centers around three kids making a ghost movie in a derelict old house—a house that may actually be haunted. I like to think of the story as The Haunting meets Super 8, as it certainly was inspired by classic and contemporary horror films. From the start I knew it would feature middle grade characters, perhaps because I wanted to focus on family and friendships rather than romance. It was very gratifying to explore these relationships in the context of a mysterious and at times horrifying filmmaking adventure. 

Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
I am very much a planner. I take scads of notes and outline like crazy—it’s probably part of my tendency to procrastinate, but I really do feel more comfortable facing the terrifying prospect of drafting when I have a roadmap to follow. The map may change along the way, but at least I have a clear sense of where I should go for the next few chapters. After finishing a first draft (which always feels like a MIRACLE), I often do a reverse map of sorts—tracking certain plot/character/theme points throughout the story in order to enhance continuity and flesh out spotty details. 
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration? 
Before throwing myself into full-time writing, I was a teacher. I taught writing and literature at the college and secondary level for ten years. Those days were glorious but quite exhausting to an introvert like me. And as testing became more of a priority in the classroom, I found myself yearning to retire to a quiet place to write. I still love to visit classrooms and talk to students. The passionate young writers of my teaching days truly inspired me to take risks and ignore the naysayers—I owe them a lot. 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
“Gothic” is a very favorite word of mine, because I love its history as a category of fiction. I love its complexity as a descriptor of all sorts of dark tales, and how it has spawned various subcategories such as Southern Gothic, Gothic Steampunk, and more. Most of all I love the iconography of classic Gothic—gloomy skies, dark and looming mansions, serpentine passageways, hooded figures in flowing capes, and all that delicious stuff! 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
This is a tough one. There are many books that I have read again and again because I feel safe within them—the works of C.S. Lewis, Edward Eager, and L.M. Montgomery, for instance. The Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy Sayers are also hiding spots for me—every 2-3 years I re-read Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night and they never fail to satisfy. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle is another—and I think I’m about due for a re-read of that one. What a delightful realization! 
What can readers look forward to next? 
There’s nothing firm to report at this time, because I am terribly slow with writing. I will say, however, that I am having enormous fun working on a Gothic historical. (Dark doings in a remote country house, and all that jazz—my favorite sort of thing!) I would also love to write more about Avery Hilliard, for I can think of several more adventures she might have. And somewhere in me is a 1930s romantic caper that really wishes I would get back to it.

About the Author

Sonia Gensler is also the author of the young adult novels The Dark Between and The Revenant. She grew up in a small Tennessee town and spent her early adulthood collecting impractical degrees from various Midwestern universities. A former high school English teacher, she now writes full-time in Oklahoma. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide, visit

About the Book

Things that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!

Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.

Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.

As the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard house, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?


One winner. Open to US only. Ends 10/5/2015.

Follow the blog tour:

Mon, Sept 14
Cracking the Cover
Tues, Sept 15
Ms. Yingling Reads
Wed, Sept 16
Charlotte's Library
Thurs, Sept 17
The Book Smugglers
Fri, Sept 18
Unleashing Readers
Mon, Sept 21
The Hiding Spot
Tues, Sept 22
Wed, Sept 23
Word Spelunking
Thurs, Sept 24
The Book Monsters
Fri, Sept 25
Mon, Sept 28
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Tues, Sept 29
Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Oct 1
Mother Daughter Book Club

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Giveaway: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston Prize Pack

From the moment I saw the gorgeous cover of E.K. Johnston's upcoming novel, A Thousand Nights, I knew this was a book I'd be keeping my eye on. The novel hits shelves this October, but, thanks to Disney-Hyperion, I have a Pretty Things in a Dangerous Place prize pack for one lucky winner at The Hiding Spot!

One (1) winner will receive:

 Copy of A Thousand Nights
          Branded nail polish set
         Branded tea bag dispenser

This giveaway is open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney-Hyperion.

About the Book

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster

About the Author
E. K. Johnston is a forensic archaeologist by training, a book seller and author by trade, and a grammarian by nature. She spends a great deal of time on the Internet because it is less expensive than going to Scotland. She can probably tell you, to the instant, when she fell in love with any particular song; but don't ask her, because then it will be stuck in both of your heads.

Win It!
1 Winner. US addresses only. Ends 10/1/2015

 Learn more at

Thank you Disney-Hyperion for providing prizing for The Hiding Spot.