No One Leaves the Castle - Review and Recommendation


*Click to Purchase - AFF LINK


Agatha Christie meets the Brothers Grimm in an unexpected, hilarious, and wholly original new fantasy-mystery from the beloved author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

The Lilac. The bard songs say that she’s the world’s most fearsome bounty hunter. That there’s no criminal she can’t catch, no mystery she can’t solve.

None of that is true. Yet.

In reality, the Lilac is just a kid, and the bard who wrote all that is her best friend, Dulcinetta. But when a priceless artifact goes missing from the home of famed monster hunter Baron Angbar, the Lilac and Netta see their chance to apprehend the thief and make a name for themselves.

When they get to Castle Angbar, however, and meet the Angbar family and their servants and guests—an unsavory group of nobles, mages, and assorted creatures, each more shady than the last—the Lilac begins to wonder if the reward is worth the trouble.

And that’s before the dead body is discovered.

Now everyone is magically sealed inside the castle—and there is a murderer among then. If the Lilac wants to make it out with her reputation intact, it’s going to be up to her to figure out who the killer is. But everyone in the castle—even the Lilac herself—has secrets to hide, and as the walls literally start to close in around them, the Lilac worries that her first job as a bounty hunter may be her last….


Christopher Healy is the author of the New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and its sequels, as well as the Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem series. Before becoming a writer, Chris worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy-store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives with his family in New Jersey. You can visit him online at

Publication date: August 15, 2023




August 2-18, 2023


August 2 Nerdy Book Club (@nerdybookclub)

August 7 Bluestocking Thinking (@bluesockgirl)

August 8 Teachers Who Read (@teachers_read)

August 12 Maria’s Mélange (@mariaselke)

August 15 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust (@bethshaum)

August 18 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers (@grgenius)

The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder Book Blog Tour!


Cassie's Review

Laurel has always been a must-buy author since I first read Orphan Island. The Witch of Woodland definitely held its own as well. 

Zippy is definitely a character that students (boy and girl alike) will relate to in so many ways. I specifically enjoyed the journey of Zippy to understand her spiritual self and how Laurel provided tiffs with her parents and realizing who she is and what she stands for on her own. I remember being Zippy's age and my parents giving me the opportunity to find my place and I felt that really helped me figure out where I stood on what I believed for myself. Zippy's experiences are relatable for students, but parents and teachers alike will be able to learn more of the mindset of 11-12 year olds as well. 

Another connection my younger self was similar to Zippy is the self-isolation. I loved my bed room, I loved my space, and as an adult I found that carried over. It doesn't mean that she is angry all the time, or depressed, it just is that place to decompress. Friendships can be overwhelming, and Laurel did a great job of depicting this need for a young pre-teen. 

This will be such a relatable book for students where they find themselves in the pages and don't even realize with the magic sprinkled throughout. I hope students walk away thinking about themselves, their families, and their friendships and what work goes into those relationships. 

This would be a great read aloud/book club story and you can access the educators guide here: 


About the Book

Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with a story of one girl’s quest

to answer the seemingly unanswerable questions about what makes us who we are.


Hi, whoever is reading this. I’m Zipporah Chava McConnell, but everyone calls me Zippy.

    Things used to be simple—until a few weeks ago. Now my best friend, Bea, is acting funny; everyone at school thinks I’m weird; and my mom is making me start preparing for my bat mitzvah, even though we barely ever go to synagogue.

In fact, the only thing that still seems to make sense is magic.

    See, the thing is, I’m a witch. I’ve been casting spells since I was little. And even if no one else wants to believe in magic anymore, it’s always made sense to me, always felt true. But I was

still shocked the day I found a strange red book at the library and somehow...I conjured something. A girl, actually. A beautiful girl with no memory,

and wings like an angel. You probably don’t believe me, but I swear it’s the truth.

    Miriam is like no one else I’ve ever met. She’s proof that magic is real. And, it’s hard to explain this part, but I just know that we’re connected. That means it’s up to me to help Miriam figure out what she is and where she came from. If I can do that, maybe everything else in my life will start to make sense too.

    Anyway, it’s worth a try.


About the Author

Laurel Snyder is the beloved author of many picture books and novels for children, including the National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program. Laurel lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at


Blog Tour:

May 16

Nerdy Book Club


May 16

Unleashing Readers


May 17

Teachers Who Read


May 18

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


May 22



May 23



May 26

A Library Mama


May 30

A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust



*Click to order! 


From the beloved author of Posted comes the story of Zeke Stahlsa thoroughly average twelve-year-old who somehow finds himself in a competition to be named the World's Greatest Kid.

Zeke Stahls is not the best kid in the world. Some days he struggles just to be good. He'd rather be pulling pranks than doing extra credit, and he's too busy performing experiments on his little brother, Nate, or tormenting his older sister, Jackie, to volunteer for charity.

    Which is why Zeke and his entire family are shocked when they receive word that he has been selected as a contestant in an online competition to find the World's Greatest Kid.

    Zeke has no idea how he was chosen for this, and he knows that measuring up to the other nominees--a saintly lineup of selfless, charming and talented do-gooders with photogenic smiles and hearts of gold--is hopeless. Still, with a $10,000 cash prize on the line, and Zeke's mom struggling to hold the family together on her single-parent salary, he decides to give it his best shot.

    As Zeke concocts various plots to show the world just how “great” he is, however, he finds himself wondering what that word even means, and who gets to decide. And what kind of kid he wants--and needs--to be.

John does it again with this fantastic middle grade story. The Greatest Kid in the World is such a heartwarming story that students across the world will find relatable. 
The characters were well developed and John did a great job of writing the entire plot seamlessly. This is a great story to add as a read aloud to your 4th or 5th grade classrooms any time of the year. Even though there is a loss in the story, kids will find themselves loving the humor that is woven throughout. 

About the Author


John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, One Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at


And here is the schedule for the tour.


May 9

Nerdy Book Club


May 9

Unleashing Readers


May 10

Teachers Who Read


May 11

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


May 13

Maria's Melange


May 15



May 15



May 16

A Library Mama


May 30

A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust


New Release: Harriet Spies!


*Afflink - Click to purchase! 


There are a few more things you should know about Harriet Wermer:

  • She always tells the truth.
  • She’s loving spending her summer on Marble Island, where she is an A+ mystery-solver.
  • Okay, maybe she doesn’t always tell the truth.
  • Actually...she has a tendency to lie quite a bit.

Which is why, when one of the guests at her grandmother’s bed-and- breakfast finds that their treasured pair of binoculars has gone missing, no one believes Harriet when she said she had nothing to do with it.

But this is one time Harriet isn’t lying—and she knows that if she can find the binoculars and figure out who really took them, she can prove it.

With her cat, Matzo Ball, her grandmother’s basset hound, Moneypenny, and Harriet’s new friend, Clarence, helping her out, Harriet knows she can crack the case. But when the culprit isn’t who Harriet expects, it’s up to her to decide how important the truth really is.

JUST HARRIET and HARRIET SPIES are published by Walden Pond Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Nothing warms my heart more than authors branching into early middle grade readers. There's a sweet spot right between picture books and 300pg chapter books that kids need more access to. So when Elana started doing Harriet stories, I knew they were going to be so successful. 

Harriet is such a relatable MC that in almost everything she does, a child somewhere is going to see themselves. There are a lot of valuable lessons that can be learned from Harriet Spies (and Just Harriet!) that would allow these titles to be great books to use as whole group or book clubs in the classroom setting as well. 

When you think about lessons being taught; in the education world - the theme, you think about what can my child or student take away from this story line and apply to real life situations. In Harriet Spies, Harriet comes face to face with what exactly can happen when you lie, how lying gets you in more trouble in the end than just telling the truth from the beginning. Harriet also comes face to face with how first impressions are not always accurate. As adults we still do this, so to be able to discuss it and analyze that issue at a young age is a great start. 

Elana does a great job of writing for a younger audience, but with the opportunity to grow - with higher vocabulary being used and explaining the meanings. Teachers could then turn this into a great vocabulary activity and growth opportunity. 

Click the link for a fantastic teacher discussion guide: 


Elana K. Arnold is the award-winning author of many books for children and teens, including Just HarrietHarriet SpiesThe House that Wasn’t There,

the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls are Made Of, and the Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat. She is a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program, and lives
in Huntington Beach, CA, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at


Dung (pronounced Dzung) Ho was born and raised in Hue citadel, Vietnam, where she studied graphic design at the Arts University. She is the New York Times–bestselling illustrator of many books for children, including Joanna Ho’s Eyes That Kiss in the Corners and Laura Ruby’s Me and Ms. Too. She finds inspiration in nature: the beauty of plants, flowers, and leaves. She also loves to draw interesting characters with unique personalities. She now lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. When she’s not drawing, she loves spending time cooking (eating), watching movies,
and tending her plants. Visit her at
or follow her on Instagram @dunghanhho.


There are a few things you should know about Harriet Wermer:

  • She just finished third grade.
  • She has a perfect cat named Matzo Ball.
  • She doesn’t always tell the truth.
  • She is very happy to be spending summer vacation away from home and her mom and dad and all the wonderful things she had been planning all year.

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t entirely the truth.

Of course, there’s nothing Harriet doesn’t like about Marble Island, the small island off the coast of California where her nanu runs a cozy little bed and breakfast. And nobody doesn’t love Moneypenny, Nanu’s old basset hound. But Harriet doesn’t like the fact that Dad made this decision without even asking her.

When Harriet arrives on Marble Island, however, she discovers that it’s full of surprises, and even a mystery. One that seems to involve her dad, back when he was a young boy living on Marble Island. One that Harriet is absolutely going to solve. And that’s the truth.

Blog Tour Schedule:


February 6



February 10



February 8



February 9



February 15




Can’t Miss Fall MG - New Releases


Guest Post: Author Caroline Starr Rose

A traveling medicine show promises to cure all, but two kids learn it takes more than faith in the miraculous to fix things that are broken.

Thirteen-year-old Jack knows 
what cured his baby sister when his family thought she might never get well—Dr. Kingsbury’s “Miraculous Tonic.” Guaranteed to relieve maladies known to man or beast, Dr. Kingsbury’s potion can cure everything from pimples to hearing loss to a broken heart, and Jack himself is a witness to the miraculous results and the doctor’s kindness. When he had no money, the doctor didn’t turn him away but gave him the tonic for free along with a job—to travel with him from city to city selling his cure-all elixir.

When Dr. Kingsbury and Jack arrive in Oakdale, the town at first feels like any other they’ve been to. But it’s clear Oakdale is a town with secrets, and its citizens are slow to trust strangers. 
Then Jack meets Cora, and a friendship neither expected starts to bloom. Together they uncover something else they didn’t expect—not only secrets about the town but also Dr. Kingsbury. As they race to discover the truth, they’ll have to decide who and what to believe before it’s too late.


There’s no sore it will not heal: charisma, cure-alls, and charlatans

by Caroline Starr Rose

I write books to make sense of the world  — this gloriously weird, sometimes heartbreaking, marvelous place we call home. Years ago, while visiting a museum in St. Louis, I heard a talk on charlatans (people who intentionally deceive others for their personal gain). It sparked a number of questions in me: Why do we believe the things that we do? What might we be willing to try to change our circumstances? Exploring these ideas was the starting point for my book, Miraculous.

Medical knowledge has come a long way since the 1800s. Back then, far less was understood about illness and the human body. Because medical training was limited, treatments varied widely. It was easy for anyone with a little experience to claim to be a doctor—and some did, for their own personal gain. 

During the nineteenth century, charlatans found plenty of willing customers in the rural regions of the United States (90 percent of the country then) where doctors were scarce. Most families at that time relied on home remedies that helped ease the discomfort of minor illnesses but were no match for serious diseases or chronic conditions. Lack of medical knowledge, limited access to proper care, and ineffective home remedies were the perfect combination for the rise of patent medicines. 

Patent medicines, sometimes called cure-alls, were unregulated medications with over-the-top claims that they could fix any ailment. Anyone with a bit of skill, a little medical insight, and a strong business sense could create and sell a cure-all. These “medicines” came in a variety of forms. Tonics and tinctures were meant to be swallowed. Liniments and salves were applied to the skin. Some self-described doctors moved from town to town to sell their products, a spectacle called the traveling medicine show. These shows were part entertainment, part lecture, and part doctor’s visit. Many people viewed the traveling doctor as an authority figure, falling under the spell of hypnotic speeches and demonstrations that were meant to deceive.

By 1906, roughly 50,000 different patent medicines were available in the United States! Here’s just a sampling:

Hamlin’s Wizard Oil claimed to heal rheumatism, pneumonia, hydrophobia, lame backs, asthma, sore throats, toothaches, headaches, stiff joints, and even cancer. “There’s no sore it will not heal,” its slogan read, “no pain it will not subdue.” 

Burdock Blood Bitters claimed to cure “all disorders arising from impure blood or a deranged liver.” 

Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root Kidney, Liver, and Bladder Cure worked on “pimples, diabetes,” or “internal slime fever.” Kilmer’s Ocean Weed Remedy could be used to cure “sudden death.” (I can’t help but wonder how that might work.)

Believe it or not, the mouthwash Listerine got its start as a patent medicine. It was once used as “a surgical disinfectant, a cure for dandruff, a floor cleaner, a hair tonic, [and] a deodorant.”

Did patent medicines really work? This is a tricky question. Some “may have had medical value, provided they were taken in the right doses for the appropriate ailment.” Some people improved because of the “placebo effect,” a phenomenon where recovery comes from simply believing a medicine can heal. Many patent medicines included addictive substances such as alcohol, opium, morphine, and even cocaine. These substances could mask an ailment, bringing temporary relief. And perhaps most important to remember, when given enough time, the human body often heals itself of minor illnesses. 

The medicine show era drew to a close in the 1930s. The newly formed U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission determined which drugs could be sold and which claims had to be eliminated because of false advertising. Automobiles and movie theaters meant people no longer had to wait for entertainment to find them; they could seek it out themselves. Easy access to drugstores meant regulated medicine was available to anyone who needed it. 

Today we’re certain we’re more sophisticated than the people who lived in the past. We think we’d never fall for the outrageous claims made at a traveling medicine show. But aren’t we still drawn to the people that promise the world? Don’t we long for the products that assure us they’ll make our lives easier? Don’t we secretly hope there’s a fix to our problems, a sure-fire solution that’s guaranteed? While their claims might not be as bold or extravagant as they were in the past, cure-alls and charlatans still exist today. I hope Miraculous helps young readers to examine the world around them. I hope it shows them to pay attention and remember: No remedy can cure every ache or pain. No product can solve every problem. No person has all the answers.

Teaching ideas

Discussion questions

  1. Why do you think some characters are willing to believe in the power of the tonic? Do you think in some circumstances the tonic could truly be beneficial? If yes, whom might it help and how?

  2. Miraculous can be described as a story of second chances. Share three examples from the book that support this idea.

  3. Dr. Kingsbury preys on people’s insecurities and worries in order to make a sale. Can you think of advertising examples in our current day that are similar to Dr. Kingsbury’s approach?

  1. Why do you think the book is told through multiple points of view? How would the book be different if Dr. Kingsbury’s perspective had been included? 

Videos about patent medicines

(Please preview to determine if these are appropriate for your classroom.)

Quackery: A History of Fake Medicine and Cure-Alls from CBS Sunday Morning (6:59)

A good overview of quackery in the United States, the limitations of medical knowledge, and modern-day examples of Coronavirus “cures.”

Patent Medicines (6:36)

Lots of visuals of advertisements and handbills, with a focus on Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (a product still available today!).

Patent Medicines from History 101 (2:21)

A quick overview of quackery with some examples of advertisements from the 1800s and modern-day connections.


Create Your Own Cure-All


What type of medicine is your cure-all? What five things will your medicine “cure”? Create a poster that will attract your ideal customer.

Classroom Talk Show


Invite characters from Miraculous to a classroom talk show! Assign various characters to your students and invite them to take on their persona. Other students should prepare questions to ask the characters. Have students reflect on how characters would interact with each other and how they might respond to questions about things such as their motivations, actions, choices, opinions, fears, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, secrets, and dreams.

Miraculous read alikes:

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

The Wishgiver: Three Tales of Conven Tree by Bill Brittain

A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant

a great non-fiction read:

Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sara Albee

Caroline Starr Rose is a middle grade and picture book author whose books have been ALA-ALSC Notable, Junior Library Guild, ABA New Voices, Kids’ Indie Next, Amazon’s Best Books of the Month for Kids, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections. In addition, her books have been nominated for almost two dozen state award lists. Caroline was named a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start Author for her debut novel, May B. She spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico and taught social studies and English in four different states. Caroline now lives with her family in New Mexico. Miraculous is her latest book.