Natalie Lloyd is the author of A Snicker of Magic and her newest book The Key to Extraordinary. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She collects old books, listens to bluegrass music, and loves exploring quirky mountain towns with her dog, Biscuit.
And . . . she is a reading superhero! Read her story to find out how she became a reading superhero, and how YOU can too!
TUI T. SUTHERLAND is the author of the Wings of Fire series, the Menagerie trilogy, and the Pet Trouble series, as well as a contributing author to the bestselling Spirit Animals and Seekers series (as part of the Erin Hunter team). She lives in Massachusetts with her wonderful husband, two adorable sons, and one very patient dog.
And . . . she is a reading superhero! Read her story to find out how she became a reading superhero, and how YOU can too!
When I was growing up, the holidays seemed magical. It felt like there was a balloon inside me, slowly filling as the celebrations grew closer, until I felt like I might burst—or maybe float up to the ceiling. But as I got older, I started to feel more stress around the holidays, and I’d worry that I didn’t have enough time or money to make things special.
In my new book, Revenge of the Angels, the holidays are not going well for Dawn, Darby, and Delaney Brewster. They’ve been told they aren’t going to get the presents they asked for, weather has stranded their mom and beloved older sister in Boston, their dad has to work a lot, and they didn’t get the parts of the Three Wise Men in their church Christmas pageant just because they are girls. To make things worse, someone is stealing decorations and baked goods off people’s porches! It’s enough to make anyone with holiday spirit turn into a Grinch.
But here’s something I’ve learned that the triplets also come to realize: The holidays don’t have to go perfectly to be magical. The point is to enjoy special moments with people who matter to you, and show them how much you care for them—with a gift, a baked treat, or simply some kind words or deeds. And it’s also a time to enjoy shared traditions. You know those special things you do year after year? Maybe there’s a recipe you cook or bake only around the holidays. Or maybe there are songs you sing, items you display, games you play, or places you visit during this time. There’s something comforting about doing the same things with the same people at the same time of year.
My family eats tamales on Christmas Eve and we always watch the movie A Christmas Story. There’s also an ornament I was given when I was a baby—an elf wearing glasses that I named Doc. Doc is now scuffed and a little shabby in places, but he’s like an old friend, and I look forward to hanging him on our tree every year.
What special things make your holidays seem a little magical each year?
I’m excited to give you the inside scoop on Clementine for Christmas!
Josie always looks forward to the Christmas Gala at Frost Valley Hospital where she and her beloved dog Clementine volunteer. But when Oscar, a boy Josie knows only as a troublemaker from school, shows up at the hospital to volunteer for the month, and Josie learns that this year’s Gala is going to be cancelled, she is sure Christmas is ruined.
Meanwhile, Oscar has problems of his own. His parents won’t stop arguing and now he’s being pressured to wear a costume and sing to sick kids. His response? “No way!”
Then there’s Gabby—she’s keeping a secret from everyone, a secret that she is terrified will be revealed. It’s beginning to look like the worst Christmas ever. But maybe if Josie, Oscar, and Gabby can find a way to band together with a little holiday spirit and some help from Clementine, they can find a way not only to save the Gala but to make this the best Christmas ever.
Christmas is my very favorite holiday (despite tough competition from Halloween) and so it was especially fun to write a book set at that time of year. Ever since I was little, the weeks leading up to Christmas have felt like a magical time. I look forward to traditions like singing carols and baking Christmas cookies. (I am a big fan of snickerdoodles which I made sure to include in the book!)
My favorite tradition is decorating our Christmas tree—each ornament has its own story, like the ceramic whale in a Santa hat that my sister bought me in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the dough candy canes I made with my mom before my sister was even born. And then there’s Christmas morning, opening presents while carols play, and eating a big breakfast all together. For me, the very best part of Christmas is being together with family and friends.
What does it mean to be a superstar? For many people, it’s about being great at one thing, whether it’s sports, music, or something else. When this reporter interviewed Frank Lampard at Yankee Stadium recently, a different definition emerged. Lampard excels at both sports and writing. Not only does he score goals for New York City FC (a professional soccer team), he also writes children’s books.
Lampard has written three books for a series called Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball (Scholastic), with more titles on the way. Before a match between New York City FC and the San Jose Earthquakes at Yankee Stadium, the superstar took time to share his story.
Lampard began his soccer career in his native England, where the sport is called football. A midfielder for Chelsea Football Club for 13 years, he has scored more goals than anyone in the team’s history. Whether winning or losing, Lampard said, “good sportsmanship and respecting your opponent” are essential.
Last summer, Lampard moved to the United States to play for New York City FC, a Major League Soccer (MLS) team. He loves the city, saying, “I enjoy how friendly everybody is.” Having long watched MLS games, he often dreamed of coming to the U.S. and “was quite inspired when David Beckham came here and did so well.”
WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS
But a star athletic career was not enough for Lampard. So he turned to writing children’s books. “I wanted to do something constructive, fun, and different from football,” he said. In the popular series that Lampard created, a magic soccer ball helps Frankie, the main character, and his friends journey back in time. They play soccer matches against ancient Romans, pirates, and even cowboys. Can you imagine playing soccer at the Roman Colosseum?
The series combines sports, history, and friendship—plus a talking dog. Thirteen books have been published in England, where the series is called Frankie’s Magic Football. As for the secret to Lampard’s own success, this reporter found no magic. “To be successful in anything,” Lampard said, “the idea is the same for everything you do—hard work and practice.”
Space Pioneer Buzz Aldrin Shares His Vision For Exploring Mars In Welcome to Mars
Could Mars be our future home? Buzz Aldrin thinks so, and he should know! Buzz is one of the first people to walk on the moon, and was a member of the historic Apollo 11 crew. A renowned rocket scientist, he developed a futuristic space transportation system to reach Mars. He chairs his own educational organization, ShareSpace Foundation. And he also has a Toy Story character named after him! (Hint: “To infinity — and beyond!”)
Buzz Aldrin lives, eats, and breathes all things Mars. Buzz has a vision for not only traveling to Mars, but inhabiting it as well. In Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, Buzz describes what it will take to build a permanent home on this far away planet.
Welcome to Mars reveals the ultimate in space transportation — the Aldrin Cycler Spacecraft – and what the space traveler will encounter upon arrival, including a detailed illustration of the Mars Lander Sequence and an ingenious method for removing the rusty dust stuck to the space suits. The reader is taken on a tour of the Spaceport, learns how dirt bikes and zip lines will be natural forms of red planet entertainment, and discovers how greenhouses will play a vital role in the colonization of Mars. Finally, after months of exploring and living in the rugged Spaceport, it’s moving day – Buzz ups the “wow” factor with high tech and forward-thinking living, eating and recreational quarters aptly named the Founders Dome.
What do you think? Will you sign up to go live on Mars? Tell us in the Comments.
James Patterson Talks About His Life as an Author!
Q: How many books have you written? Patterson: I lost count. A little over 100. I write a lot of kids’ books. I write a lot of things that are different — that’s what keeps me excited. The kids’ books range from Maximum Ride, about kids who can fly to I Funny, about a kid who wants to be a stand-up comedian but he can never be a stand-up comedian because he’s in a wheelchair.
Q: Which ones would you like to see as movies on screen? Patterson: All of them! Maximum Ride is very visual, these flying kids. I hope that will get made. We are shooting Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life at the end of the summer. It’s a cool story about how kids get lost in the education process. This kid in it is bright, brilliant as an artist, but there’s no way for him to express himself in school so he’s looked at as a dummy.
Q: Do you ever get writer’s block?
Patterson: No, I don’t. I’m always working on more than one thing. I have a big imagination and I’ll just go to another project. I have a folder this thick of ideas for novels. Writing stories comes very easily to me.
Q: What first inspired you to write?
Patterson: I was working my way through school at a mental hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts and I had a lot of free time so I started reading like crazy and then I started scribbling stories. Somebody once told me, you’re lucky if you find something you like to do and it’s a miracle if someone will pay you to do it. I love doing it. I love writing stories. As a kid, I grew up in the woods. I used to wander around the woods and make up stories in my head. I think that talent was there, I just wasn’t aware of it.
Q: You often write with co-authors. Why?
Patterson: It allows me to combine strength with strength. I’m a very good storyteller; I’m a little lazy as a stylist. So it allows me to work with a better stylist. Collaboration is OK!
Are you a fan of James Patterson’s books? Tell us which is your favorite in the Comments!
Tombquest author Michael Northrop talks about his books!
Q:Are any of your characters based on real people?
Michael Northrop: None of the characters are based entirely on real people—and I don’t know anyone who’s been brought back from the dead!—but they all have some bits and pieces and traits and tics from real people. As a writer, pieces of yourself make their way into all of your characters. I like to think that I have some of Alex’s determination, and some of Ren’s serious work ethic.
I’ve also visited many of the places mentioned in the books, so I was able to bring real history and a real sense of place into the books. As a New Yorker, I’ve spent many hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and in the subway system!) and I was also able to visit London and the British Museum, where Book 2 takes place. It did rain while I was there . . . just not blood rain.
Q: If you had to trade places with one of your characters for a day, who would it be?
Michael Northrop: That’s an easy one—I’d trade places with Alex and spend the day having a blast (of wind) with the scarab!
Q:In real life, would any of your characters be friends of yours? Michael Northrop: I like all of the main characters! Luke might be too cool for me, but if we found ourselves together we could definitely talk sports for an afternoon and probably catch a game. And Alex and Ren are a tight little BFF unit—they don’t necessarily need a third wheel following them around and trying to write down everything they say as research for the fourth book. So I’d probably end up hanging out with Todtman and practicing my horrible German.
A special message from Carolyn Mackler, author of Best Friend Next Door
At first, it doesn’t look like Hannah and Emme are going to be friends. When Emme moves in next door to Hannah, there’s a big problem. Emme has moved right into the house that Hannah’s best friend just moved out of (and out of the country, too). And not only that, but the two fifth graders both have names that are spelled the same backward and forward, they have the same birthday, and they both hate pizza and love peanut butter. Hannah is not happy about this identity theft. But after a rocky start, Hannah and Emme realize that their friendship is meant to be, and they will stick together through bullying, fund-raising fiascoes, sick pets, and new babies.
I loved writing Best Friend Next Door. It made me think about my best friend growing up on Centennial Avenue. Her name was (and still is!) Stephie. She actually lived three doors down, but those two houses in between didn’t mean anything to us. We wore a path through the other backyards to each other’s homes. We swam in her pool in the summer and sledded down the roof of my sloped garage in the winter. (We got in trouble for this one.) We made a tin-can phone and tin-can stilts, and set up an obstacle course for my dog, Rascal, in my backyard. To honor Stephie’s and my friendship, I put Hannah’s and Emme’s houses on Centennial Avenue, though in a fictional town.
There is nothing like a best friend, and even better, a best friend you can visit at all hours, even in your pajamas.
Would you like to live next to your best friend? Do you know anyone who has a palindrome name?
– Carolyn Mackler, author of Best Friend Next Door