Sunday, December 15, 2013

Author Interview ~ Valerie Wicks

Hello Literary Lunchbox Friends ~

After a short hiatus, I am back in the blogosphere. Yay! 

I am delighted to post an interview with my new friend and fellow author - Valerie Wicks.

Here goes...

                                          Who is Valerie Wicks?
My name is Valerie Wicks and I love worlds, characters and stories. I am the author of the middle grade fantasy/adventure series, Seven Spectral, and I suppose my lifelong obsession with books, movies, and video games got me there. My mission is to entertain you! :) I want you to have fun, expand your imagination, and dive deep into a world you've never seen with characters you trust. Growing up, that experience meant more to me than anything. I will never forget the journeys I've taken into the books, movies, and games of my life. In a way they built me, so my hope is to give a gift to you. I want to give you something you loved and lived. 

What got you interested in writing?
I've always loved telling stories. I wrote four ridiculous books in high school. I wouldn't suggest reading them, because I was in high school, but it was great practice! I went on to learn storytelling in film school, then became a video game producer where I told stories in a totally different way. I even did theater for a while. Now I've come back around to books thanks to a little floppy disk I found cleaning out my room in my parent's house in Atlanta. It had a story I wrote when I was ten about seven worlds, each a different color of the rainbow. I loved the idea so much I took it back to LA with me and wrote my first book, Seven Spectral: Into the Red World.

Is Middle Grade your favorite age category?
The short answer is yes. Everything I write comes out middle grade, young adult, or some crazy mix of the two. Middle grade is really my jam though -- so much adventure, magic, and character. I love books like Harry Potter and shows like Doctor Who. It's all very middle grade. 

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Time. I always just want more time. I can write forever -- I can write my way through writer's block without much issue. I just need the time to be able to do it. I want to start putting out two books a year, so we'll see if I can do it!

What is one of your favorite books? Why?
You have to ask the difficult questions, don't you? Hmm, since I have a forum to explain my answer, I'd like to say Ender's Game. It was my favorite book growing up before all of the controversy. The whole situation makes a good argument for keeping authors behind the keyboard and out of the spotlight, because the book is still so striking despite its writer's upsetting beliefs. As far as the book goes, I love the psychological exploration of a character so young and so damaged by war, and forced into leadership through that damage. I love the discussion of what it means to communicate with someone foreign. I love the world, or universe rather. And I've always been one for strategy. It's an irresistably painful book, but it's growing pains, for sure.

If you could have any literary characters over for dinner, who would it be and why?
Probably the hobbits of Lord of the Rings, because you KNOW they would do it second breakfast-style. They'd bring lots of laughs and great stories. And afterward, they could introduce me to Legolas and Aragorn. Talk about yum!

Tell us about your latest book.
My latest novel is the second book in the Seven Spectral series, The Orange World Outlaw. It's set in the wild western frontier of the Orange World and follows the second of seven heroes in the series, Javier Jones. Don't worry though, Emer will be back! They all will -- there may even be some sign of her in this book…

Here's a description!

Javier Jones never wanted to leave his comfy home, loving family, and blossoming career as a troublemaker. But when his town is attacked by a horde of outlaws, he must hitch a ride with a traveling circus and journey to the capital for help. Little does he know, the circus is up to more mischief than even he can manage, and it all centers around a mute jester-girl and her magical Green pyramid. Can Javier and his strange new companions put an end to a plot that could mean the downfall of all seven spectral worlds?

Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
You can find out tons about my books and my seven worlds on my website You can also see trailers for both books there, and later in 2014 I will be launching a Seven Spectral video game where you can explore each color world! Join my mailing list and follow me on twitter for all the latest updates!

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Iris Brave ~ A Book by ME!

Literary Lunchbox is my blog. It's where I review books. All sorts of books. Picture books, chapter books, middle grades books, and even young adult - this is the place. I LOVE books!

Well... I'm switching gears for this post. I'm going to do a bit of promotion. Self-promotion. See, I wrote a book too. And I'm pretty proud of it. 

Take a look at what some reviewers have said about Iris Brave.

In her literary debut, Ali B. has created a main character that lives up to her name. Iris has the heart of both Scout and Laura Ingalls. As engaging as Iris is, it is the cast of supporting characters and their genuine interactions with Iris that make this book a literary stand-out. The author puts these well-developed characters into a twenty-first century plot that will make this book a page-turner for upper elementary school students.

As an elementary school teacher, I had the opportunity to share this story with some of my students. It kept them all so engaged, and I found both my students and I couldn't wait to pick it up again the next day. I grew up in the Midwest, and the descriptions the author used remind me so much of my childhood. I can't wait to read and share her next installment in the series!

Iris Brave is one of my favorite books and I think everyone should get a chance to read it. It is realistic with just enough magic to make it fun and if you like mysteries this book is for you. Once I picked it up I could not put it down and however soon the next book comes out it will not be soon enough. It is a great book.
Russ (Age 11)

 If you're interested in reviewing Iris Brave, contact me at or leave me a comment and your contact information. I'd love to send fellow bloggers a review copy for consideration.

To learn more about me (as author) or to purchase a copy click here.

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Something for Everyone

Full-time teaching, parenting and my own writing schedule have kept we from Literary Lunchbox for far too long. I'm taking the Labor Day Holiday weekend to catch up on my blog and write a new post that has something for everyone.

There's been lots of talk recently about breaking the fourth wall, what it means and how to do it well. As a teacher of six, seven and eight year olds, I've been on the lookout for a great picture book that doesn't just break the fourth wall, but demonstrates how to do it. Hard to explain...

At the SCBWI conference last month I had the wildly wonderful opportunity to listen and learn from Mac Barnett, author of Chloe and the Lion. He was adorable and delightful and talked about a book that he wrote with illustrator Adam Rex. The book was Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, but he also talked about this incredibly spunky character named Chloe and her adventure with a lion (and a dragon.) But what really got be excited about this book was how to clearly illustrated what breaking the fourth wall means, and in a way that is accessible to little kids. Yay!

Teachers, parents, Santa Claus ~ if you haven't read Mac Barnett, you should.

Easter Ann Peters is trying to change her image. She's always been the good girl, the good student and
the teacher's pet. Heading into seventh grade, Easter wants to make new friends, stand up to a bully and get noticed. She has a plan - Operation Cool.

I loved this book because I loved Easter Ann Peters. She is so identifiable. We all have a bit of Easter in us. I also loved this book because it isn't just another "I want to be one of the popular kids" books. Easter is dealing with heavy issues at home, mainly her mother's depression and alcoholism.

 Jody Lamb does a magnificent job of developing Easter's character and portraying the struggle a child
must feel when she's worried about her mom, wishing she'd just get better but enabling her mom's alcoholism by covering for her and lying. She's a kid taking on adult responsibilities and doing what she thinks is best - until she realizes she's not.

I will continue to recommend this book to all middle grades readers, but will certainly emphasize the importance of Easter Ann Peters' ~ Operation Cool as a book that needs a space on every school counselor's bookshelf.

Now that I've highlighted a glorious picture book and a touching middle grades novel, I want to round out this blog post with a not-to-be-missed young adult read. Eleanor & Park. This book should be on everyone's TBR pile. Rainbow Rowell has a stolen the YA crown this summer with this beautifully-written, character-driven teen love story.

Here's what I wrote on Goodreads: This book was clever and sharp and so hit the spot without trying too hard. Rainbow Rowell's ability to jump in and out of character seemed effortless. Eleanor was wounded without all the angst and Park was the boy every girl should get for their first boyfriend. The 80's pop culture references and the raw dialogue were outstanding. Yay.

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Market Bowl

Although I've had this book for a few months, I waited until now to review it. When possible, I like to share Literary Lunchbox books with kids before writing my posts. My first and second grade students are currently studying Africa and folk tales - The Market Bowl is a perfect fit.

Yoyo lives in Cameroon. She spends market days with Mama Cécile selling their homemade bitterleaf stew. Mama Cécile is very patient, methodically chopping, grinding and preparing the stew for market. Young Yoyo is not so patient.

When Yoyo refuses a fair price for a bowl of her hastily prepared bitterleaf stew she brings a curse upon the family's market bowl. She and Mama Cécile can no longer sell a single serving of their delicious soup, so Yoyo sets out to to find Brother Coin, the great spirit of the market, to convince him to restore his blessing upon the market bowl.

The story of Yoyo has that familiar African folktale element of trickery. It's what makes this story a delightful addition to our classroom collection and it fits comfortably on the bookshelves next to Anansi, Zomo and Jabutí.

My students loved Jim Averbeck's book. It's a delightful story of a headstrong girl and a hungry god. Full of culture, native language or gorgeous art, The Market Bowl is a story to be shared with young children.

Blog you later,

Ali B.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


A thousand pardons for my tardiness. I certainly intended to link to the announcements on February 14th. Unfortunately, I was sick for a spell and starting a new teaching position. Yay to teaching! Boo to icky viruses!

Without further ado ~ the link - THE 2012 CYBILS AWARDS (trumpets blare)

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Up until now, Literary Lunchbox has been a children's lit blog focusing on young adult, middle grades and picture book titles. And, let's be honest, it's mostly middle grades fiction. With a brand new year of stories to read, I've decided to add chapter books to the line-up.

Why, you ask? I have two reasons for adding chapter books to my blog.
  1. The first reason is my seven-year-old daughter Della. She's reading early chapter books. Lots of them. And I'm running out of good ones, and she reads about two a day, and I need to find some more. 
  2. SCBWI authors have asked for my consideration and review of their work. Included in these titles are some well-written, independently published chapter books. There aren't many blogs out there that will review independently (self) published books. I will. Why not? If it's good, I will recommend it at Literary Lunchbox. If it isn't good, I won't. Same rules for traditionally published books. No favoritism, just good kid lit that I feel comfortable writing about and recommending to readers and their parents.
So.... without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Nimpentoad.

Charming...Brave...Clever...Loyal... These are the words I would use to describe the title character of this high fantasy early chapter book. 

Nimpentoad is a Nibling - a tiny forest creature, small and skinny and short. He and his Nibling friends are tired of being picked on by the nasty goblins in Grunwold Forest and set out on a dangerous journey in hopes of new jobs in the castle of Goofus the Giant. The giant could use some pint-size help, and Nimpentoad hopes the castle will be a safe and secure haven for he and his Nibling friends.

On their forest journey, the Niblings meet a variety of unsavory forest-dwellers. Some of these beasts are dangerous and mean, while others are just brutish and annoying. Nimpentoad safely navigates the forest and bests the foul creatures with his charm, his bravery and his clever ways. Loyal to the end, Nimpentoad leads his friends to a better life.

Nimpentoad was written by Henry Herz and his school-age sons, Josh and Harrison. The artwork was created by Sean Eddingfield and Bill Maus.

Henry and his boys hope to write more Nimpentoad adventures, but in the meantime, they are busy working on a different book. The new book is an easy reader about a clever sloth named Twignibble who goes around the world helping his animal friends protect their habitats. They believe young readers   will enjoy the story and the terrific artwork and will identify with the book's important themes of conservation, teamwork and empathy.

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Adventures of Beanboy

My eleven-year-old son read The Adventures of Beanboy, a finalist for this year's middle grades fiction Cybils award. He loved it! He also loves to be interviewed ~ he's quite the critic. The following is part of my interview with Mateo. Enjoy!

Tell me about The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader

The Adventures of Beanboy is about a boy named Tucker MacBean. His mom works at a bank, and she can never come home in time to spend time with her family. She can't quit her job because she doesn't have a college scholarship and needs money for school. Tucker loves this comic book, H2O Submerged. The comic book company is holding a contest to create a new sidekick for H2O. The winner gets a college scholarship. Tucker enters the contest to try to
win college money for his mom.

This book was a mixture of humor and drama, can you name one funny scene and one dramatic scene from the book?

A funny scene was when he was creating the sidekick, Beanboy, and decided his super power should be farts. Hilarious!

A dramatic scene was when Samantha Zawicki took Tucker's newest edition of the H2O comic and threw it in the puddle at it was ruined. It set up the conflict between Samantha and Tucker that goes on through the book. However, they eventually become friends, but you'll have to read the story to find out how.

Does this book remind you of any other books you’ve read? Why?

Probably the book Rules, because both characters have to look out for their little brothers, and both the little brothers have special challenges. David in Rules has autism and Beecher in The Adventures of Beanboy didn't get enough oxygen when he was born.

Who was your favorite character?

Obviously, the main character Tucker MacBean.

Who was your least favorite character? Did you have one?

I did not have a least favorite character. I liked the way the author made all of the characters. They were all interesting even if they were mean.

Do you think the author should write a sequel? Why?

No. I don't want to spoil the ending for other readers, but no. Mom, don't tell them why because it will give away the best part of the story. Let's just say that I think it's a good stand-alone book.

Would you recommend this book to a friend?

Yes, I would. I would recommend it to all my friends ~ that's how good it is.

If you could talk to the author, what would you say?

I would say that she created a wonderful book, and that it is one of those books that kids will read over and over and over...

Blog you later!

Ali B. & Mateo