Book Pairings

Sometimes I fall down a TikTok rabbit hole. As I was recovering from my second Covid vaccine I discovered #perfectmatch. With that as my inspiration I decided to make book matches with March releases. Just like how partnerships include people with similar interest but their own personalities, these matches share some commonalities but are each special in their own way. 

One Stupid Thing - Review

    “Like The Breakfast Club set during a New England summer...One Stupid Thing captures the nuances of power and self-doubt that shape the lives of today’s text-obsessed youth." ―Foreword Reviews

It was just one stupid thing that happened…

Summer on Nantucket island. Three high school friends drinking warm beer on a rooftop. Everything is cool, until a seemingly innocent game takes a sinister turn, and the course of their lives is changed forever.

For a year, they keep it a secret, until the following summer when they meet a mysterious girl with her own dark past who may have the answers they are looking for.

A story about friendship, mistakes, and the quest for redemption, One Stupid Thing follows Jamie, Sophia, Trevor and Violet as they contend with the consequences of their choices, navigate the drama in their individual lives and try to uncover what really happened on that fateful night.

For fans of ONE OF US IS LYING and WE WERE LIARS. One summer on Nantucket Island, an innocent game goes horribly wrong. Four teens are now holding onto a deadly secret: the tragic accident may have been murder. Edgy and atmospheric, ONE STUPID THING by Stewart Lewis (Keylight Books, 3/16/21) takes a deep look into themes of friendship and the quest for redemption.

    As an educator who has students come to me constantly wanting "murder mysteries" but not quite ready for significant murder mysteries, I found this story to be the perfect first step into the murder mystery genre. Trevor, Sophia, and Jamie typically spent their summers on Nantucket Island. One summer they played a stupid game resulting in a crash, and what seemed to be the worst, the death of a man. As the story progresses, their friendship dissipates (as friendships generally do when there are major traumatic events). The following summer the story picks up and Jamie meets a girl named Violet, turning out to be a connection to the man who died, making Violet's intentions that of which she was hoping would result in answers. As this summer picks up, Trevor, Sophia, and Jamie all one way or another.

    I fully believe that students are going to be able to relate to Trevor, Jamie, Sophia and Violet more than they will in terms of the secret they are keeping - which is great as an educator. I want students to see themselves in stories, even their biggest struggles. Each chapter is laid out from the perspective of each character - the author does a fantastic job of portraying each character's perspective with a real, raw quality. The setting was described in a way that students will be able to follow and discuss without feeling overwhelmed with the multiple story lines. No matter which character is telling the story, it draws you in, and before you know it you're almost finished with the story.


Author Interview with Colleen Nelson

My Review:

I just love Harvey the West Highland Terrier. But, be warned-this dog tale is not like any you've read. Part animal adventure, part historical fiction, students will be captivated by Harvey's antics. Told in three perspectives, readers enter the world of the Great Depression when Harvey's presence stirs up memories of Mr. Pickerington, an elderly resident of a nearby nursing home. 

Readers will not be disappointed in this story of friendship, hope, and history.  Check out her interview below!

Q: Without any spoilers, what’s your favorite part of Harvey’s story?

A: My favourite part is the ending! I love happy endings and after Harvey’s big adventure and all the emotional ups and downs of the book, it’s nice to have a satisfying last line. (There is a second book, so it’s not a last last line…)

Q: Do you prefer writing any one genre over another? Is the process any different?

A: I mostly write realistic fiction and I LOVE writing middle grade books. I started out writing young adult books, but I like the softer, gentler side of MG. I can get into heavy topics like grief without the books themselves being heavy. The process isn’t different but I have to remind myself to keep the action moving and not to let the characters get too reflective.

Q: You’re a teacher. What advice can you give teachers about helping young people view themselves as writers?

A:  First of all, neat printing and good spelling do NOT make a writer. Writing is about ideas and sharing your voice. Giving students an understanding of structure is important because lots of times students start out writing a story but have no idea how to finish it. They lose interest because the ending seems impossible. I make sure my students have a plan before they begin. I also point out good writing when we do read alouds. I see how what I talk about in class finds its way into their work. I also find contests for the kids to enter--it gives them a goal and an authentic audience.

Q: There seems to be a shortage of MG books that focus on historical time periods outside of WWII. How did you decide the setting for these books?

A: I agree! That was exactly why I chose the 1930’s as the time period. My uncle had some stories about my grandpa’s childhood and I used those as the inspiration behind Mr. Pickering’s stories. The second Harvey book takes place in the 1950’s, which was when my mom was a little girl. I pick time periods I’d like to learn more about and then find a way to connect a family story. I think it makes the stories more fun to write and gives me an excuse to get my relatives talking about the past.

Q: Finish this sentence: I hope my books...

A: Make you laugh, cry and want to read more!

Q: What are you currently reading?

A: That’s a loaded question because I am a MAJOR book nerd! Right this moment, I am reading ‘Amari and the Night Brothers’ by B.B. Alston. It’s amazing. I will finish it today though so I’ll tell you what I’m reading next--’A Place to Hang the Moon’ by Kate Albus and then it’ll be ‘Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field’ by Angela Ahn. In YA, I just finished ‘The Book of Sam’ by Rob Shapiro and I just bought ‘Lore’ by Alexandra Bracken.

Q: What else would you like us to know?

That I LOVE to connect with bloggers and readers and am so appreciative of the time and effort that goes into your work. With so many book-related things shut down, what would writers do without you? I run an online book club called MG Lit Book Club with my friend, Kathie MacIssac and it has also been an awesome way to meet other MG fans during the pandemic. You can find us at

Red Chair Press - Books to READ!

 The One Great Gnome by Jeff Dinardo (Pub. date September 1, 2020) 

This story introduces readers to the magical, hidden, and mysterious world of gnomes, elves and trolls. Eleven-year-old Sarah moves with her family from New York City to rural Connecticut. She's eager to explore her new home and meet new friends, but she never expected to befriend a dusty old garden gnome. Readers join Sarah as she is drawn into a secret world under our feet. Sarah uses her instincts to calm old rivalries and help the underworld elves, gnomes and more live peacefully together.
You can read an excerpt of the book here:

"Plot-driven chapters that emphasize characters over world-building will draw a variety of readers into this adventure, and straightforward, humorous third-person narration keeps the twisting, turning story moving." —Kirkus

"With tributes to imaginative children’s classics embedded in it, The One Great Gnome is an endlessly fun middle grade adventure." —Foreword Reviews

What a great story that I loved sharing with my son. He loved the pictures and following along with the main character - Sarah. This is a really good fantasy story for kids ages 9 and up, but a great read aloud for all ages. 

Second Dad Summer by Benjamin Klas (Pub. date August 4, 2020)

Jeremiah just wants a normal summer with his dad, but it’s clear that isn’t happening. His dad just moved to an apartment near downtown Minneapolis to live with his new boyfriend, Michael. Michael wears shorts too short, serves weird organic foods, and is constantly nagging Jeremiah to watch out for potholes and to stay hydrated. Worst of all Michael rides The Uni-cycle, a bicycle decorated to look like a unicorn! This is going to be a long summer!
You can read an excerpt of the book here:

Second Dad Summer has been receiving a lot of great buzz, including a starred review in BooklistKirkus called the book "touching and unforgettable." And Foreword Reviews had this to say: 

"The book’s characters are vibrant, and the novel is welcoming and inclusive. Insightful and sensitive, Second Dad Summer is a story all about the meaning of family and the value of acceptance."

Laura Gardner says: "Second Dad Summer is a wonderful addition to my library’s collection of LGBTQIA books. Jeremiah is spending the summer with his dad, but he isn’t a fan of his dad’s live-in boyfriend. Michael rides a unicorn-themed bicycle that is super embarrassing (and so super gay) and Jeremiah wishes he could spend time with his dad alone. His friendship with new neighbor Sage (who has two moms) helps him rethink his opinion of Michael. Lots of exploration of homosexuality, bisexuality, and masculinity. I loved this book!"

Silent Journey by Carl Watson (Pub. date August 1, 2020)

Scott Schroeder dreams of a day when he and his father can have a home of their own. Following an accident that took his mother’s life eight years before, doctors discovered Scott was suddenly deaf.

Blessed with being an accomplished gymnast, and even though he signs and reads lips, Scott’s biggest challenge is convincing others he is just as capable of doing things as those in the hearing world. Picking up on conversations he observes along the way, Scott figures out a big family secret concerning his father and uncle and decides to play a part in their reconciliation.

A young boy, rendered deaf by a fiery accident, learns to deal with many transitions in his life with the help of his uncle and a faithful dog-friend. This is what I would call a “gentle read”, perfect for younger middle-grade readers who are transitioning into chapter books.
Into the Wind by William Louzeaux (Pub. date March 1, 2021)

It’s shaping up to be a rotten summer for Rusty, a young sailing fan who lives on an island off the New England coast. He’s just flunked fifth-grade math and has to go to summer school. His older sister is bossier than ever. Worst of all, his mom is far away on the mainland —undergoing treatment for her sudden, confusing, and exhausting “sadness”—while his dad struggles to keep the household together. Rusty’s only refuge is in caring for and teaching himself to sail a small, beloved sailboat.

While working on his boat at the village dock one evening, Rusty meets Hazel, a feisty local artist from an old sailing family. Hazel asks—no, demands—that Rusty take her sailing. He refuses. She argues. And an unlikely friendship begins.

Reader Cat says: "Heart warming tale! I love stories like this. Hazel is very insightful of a child in need. Walter is lucky to find an adult interested in caring for him during some difficult family event-his mom is in a mental hospital and his dad is a bit distracted. His sister, Lizzy, was just annoying! Maybe it was just her age... Poor Walter, floundering at school, bullied by older, and seemingly, wealthier boys, no present mom or dad, and hateful sister...Hazel is just what he needs. I loved the chapters involving their sailing!I hope I'm having as much fun as Hazel someday! (She reminds me of Maude from the film Harold and Maude! Feisty and full of life to the very end.)
Wonderful story, even the inevitable end is fitting and good. Good strong story for all ages."

Guest Blog Post: Top 5 Tips for Reluctant Readers


Authors’ Top 5 Tips for Reluctant Readers

 By Louisa Onomé 
 The uncertainty of world events means that we’re turning to books in more ways than ever this year. We may find ourselves going from voracious readers to only picking up one book here or there. If that’s the case, then how can we expect our kids to be any different? 

 Well, if anyone knows how to connect with reluctant readers, it’s the new crop of kidlit authors debuting in 2021. If debuting in (what we hope is) the tail end of a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how to make reading exciting. Some of the 2021 YA/MG debuts have pooled together our best tips to make sure we can keep our youngsters reading all year. Let’s hear what they have to say. 

 “As the mother of a child with dyslexia who struggled mightily to learn to read, this topic is near and dear to my heart,” says Jessica Vitalis, author of The Wolf’s Curse (Greenwillow). “One of the most important factors in encouraging reluctant readers to develop a healthy relationship with literature is to read books out loud to them so that they develop positive associations with stories. It’s also important to help reluctant readers find topics and genres they are passionate about––for example, I love dark fantasy, whereas my daughter is drawn to contemporary books with a lot of humor. Finally, I’d encourage gatekeepers to offer reluctant readers a variety of formats to find what works best for them––this includes audio books, graphic novels, poetry, and illustrated novels.” 

 Erica George, author of Words Composed of Sea and Sky (Running Press), writes: “There is nothing more important to me than putting books in the hands of young readers, and as an English Language Arts teacher, I know that this can often be a struggle! My biggest tip is to show that reluctant reader in your life how important books and reading are to you. If reading is a central part of your everyday life, then you’re modeling good practices and showing your reader how important books are daily. Another important consideration is not to make reading a chore. If we tell our readers that they must read for a certain amount of time before they can do something more appealing (have dessert, go outside, play video games), then we’re making it a punishment rather than a joy.” 

 Auriane Desombre, author of I Think I Love You (Underlined), shares similar sentiments: “As an English teacher, I know it can be a struggle to find books that connect with reluctant readers! I think it’s important to limit policing of what “counts” as reading. Listening to audiobooks, picking out graphic novels, or rereading a favorite book (even if it’s for the seventeenth time) should all count as reading! Try to engage with young readers in a positive way by making time for reading together and talking about your own favorite books to start genuine conversation about books. Above all, allow reluctant readers to read on their own terms by looking for stories they feel passionate about in a format that feels accessible to them.” 

 Regardless, when working with a reluctant reader, it’s best to remember that there are many things that endear them to a book. Why not try out one of the books by our 2021 debut class? From expansive and engaging relationships to fantasy worlds dripping with character, there’s sure to be something for every reader, reluctant or not. 

 Check out the Class of 2k21’s middle grade projects here and let us know which ones would make a perfect gift for the reluctant reader in your life!