SFBZ Giveaway + Sophie Murphy Does Not Exist

SFBZ Giveaway + Sophie Murphy Does Not Exist

Along with announcing the winner of the giveaway for Ena Jones fun-filled and heart-warming new book, I’ve got two more middle grade books to discuss this week: a new one called Sophie Murphy Does Not Exist, and an old one, Understood Betsy. After reading about these delightful MGs, take a look at the updates on Indie Publishing Conferences and  Retreats & Writing Workshops.

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WINNER! We have a lucky winner of a new hardback copy of SIX FEET BELOW ZERO by Ena Jones.

Congratulations to Robin Pharris! 

Robin, an email is heading your way to get your mailing address. 

Thank you to everyone who entered the drawing!

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Review: Sophie Murphy Does Not Exist


With all the social media pressure on young people these days, the new middle grade novel SOPHIE MURPHY DOES NOT EXIST, by T. Blanchard, is a timely dose of acceptance and family love. When Sophie’s father dies, she is dismayed to find he did not merit an entry in Netopedia, the online version of everybody who’s anybody. This shocking discovery leads the grieving Sophie to wonder if she is—or could be—anybody who might someday be considered a somebody.

Blanchard’s middle grade voice is spot on, handling grief and humor with equal skill. Her debut MG is also the debut book for a new independent publisher, Chicken Scratch Books. I was so pleased to discover that not only is this book well written, it is also beautifully free of errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and formatting.

Chicken Scratch Books specializes in new, traditional books for the middle grade audience. These books embrace the values found in classic children’s literature but are written in a style that appeals to today’s kids. Their books are available in paperback, ePub, and MOBI, and can be found only on at Chicken Scratch Books.

Each book they publish will also have a novel study course available, featuring the authors. If you are a parent or teacher who would love to share classic children’s literature with kids but find them reluctant to embrace the older, more formal writing style, I encourage you to keep an eye on Chicken Scratch Books. As a boutique publisher, they will only be producing a few books a year, but the quality is worth the wait.

Reading & Listening: Free MG Book & Audio Book

Button to Understood Betsy free ebook

UNDERSTOOD BETSY, by Dorothy Canfield

This week I read a charming story that was written in 1917, UNDERSTOOD BETSY. It’s a charming, old-fashioned tale of a kind-hearted but spoiled city girl who must go live with her “horrid” country cousins. Betsy—Elizabeth Ann to her city family—experiences many trials, like having to learn to dress herself, do chores, and walk to school alone. She also makes many surprising discoveries about herself and slowly comes to realize she’s not the fragile, anxious child she’d always been told she was, and maybe, just maybe, she’s resourceful, strong, and even brave. This delightful story had me smiling all the way through. I’m surprised I’d never read it before; it would have been right up my alley and would have nestled nicely on my bookshelf along with The Secret Garden, Eight Cousins, and Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.



Button to Understood Betsy Audio Book

The tale of Betsy’s transition from her big school in the city to the one-room schoolhouse called to mind the current interest in moving away from one-size-fits-all public schools in favor of homeschools and micro-schools. In her city school, Betsy felt like a dunce in certain subjects and dreaded exams (though the latter was mostly the fault of Dear Aunt Frances). But she thrived in her new country school, where a few children of all ages learned at their own pace. It was a happy transition.

UNDERSTOOD BETSY is in the public domain. You can find it for FREE to download or read online at Project Gutenberg. Or, you can listen to it FREE from LibriVox. If you’d like a nice hardcover copy with a ribbon bookmark for only $9.99, you can order one from The Good and the Beautiful, a publisher of high quality literature (mostly from the 1890s to the 1960s) for children. While you’re there, peruse their many other fine books and their complete homeschool curriculums.

Six Feet Below Zero Giveaway

Six Feet Below Zero Giveaway

As promised, I have a giveaway to celebrate my return to blogging, and of course, to celebrate a new middle grade novel by Ena Jones, SIX FEET BELOW ZERO! The contest will run for two weeks and the winner will be announced August 23. This contest will run for two weeks and the winner will be announced August 23. Use the form below to register for a chance to win a new, hardback copy of SIX FEET BELOW ZERO by Ena Jones! Apologies, but this contest is only available to residents in the continental U.S. 

As most of you know, I’ve been critiquing and beta-reading for many years. At the beginning of this year, I decided to take things up a notch. I enrolled in a copyediting course with Emerson College and completed their copyediting certificate. Following that, I took developmental editing, advanced developmental editing, and other editing courses with the Editorial Freelancers Association, then bolstered those courses with genre-specific editing courses through Club Ed. I’m currently using these skills as a volunteer reader for the B.R.A.G. Medallion Awards for independently published books. I can’t discuss the books I read for them, but it’s a pleasure to help well-written, well-edited, indie books find an audience. 


Last week I mentioned that I’ve become a new volunteer reader for Librivox. My first recordings for them are two chapters in a book of fairy tales. The book is being read by several people and won’t be released until all the recordings are in and edited, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it is ready!

Giveaway! Registration Closed

In recent years, Holiday House has published some wonderful middle grade books. The Clayton Stone thrillers by Ena Jones are a lot of fun. A more recent book, A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON  by Kate Albus is a lovely old-fashioned tale that nevertheless feels fresh and modern. I hated for it to end. Last year they rereleased one of my childhood favorites, BIG RED by Jim Kjelgaard, in a new 75th Anniversary format. And now, Holiday House has published Ena Jones’s new laugh-out-loud contemporary adventure, SIX FEET BELOW ZERO.

When their great-grandmother suddenly drops dead, orphans Rosie and Baker are tasked with carrying out Great Grammy’s final wish—to stash her in the freezer and keep her death secret until their aunt—whose whereabouts are unknown—can come home and take over as their guardian. Through Great Grammy’s meticulous planning and with the help of a neighbor girl, Rosie and Baker just might make it—or not. Nosy visitors, neighbors, and teachers throw complications into their plan, but their worst nightmare is their evil grandmother Grim Hesper. She’s out to steal their inheritance, and what Grim wants, Grim gets.

Jones is a skilled writer and she keeps the pages turning. There are plenty of laughs in this scavenger hunt-style adventure, but there is also grief, love, courage, and friendship. The setting is rich with description and memories, and just like Rosie and Baker, readers will fall in love with Great Grammy and her wild—some would say unkempt—estate.

“A dead body. A missing will. An evil relative. The good news is, Great-Grammy has a plan. The bad news is, she’s the dead body.”


…Opening her eyes again, she stretched her arms wide, the hose swinging. Can you imagine, Rosie? Our deer, rabbits, birds, even the groundhog…homeless, or worse.”

I picked up my rake and began attacking the dead grass and leaves. I wasn’t going to say so, but I could imagine it. I’d always wanted to live in a fancy new house—like Karleen’s—and it made me feel like a traitor.

Ours was more than 130 years old, and the modern homes around us made it look even older and more rickety. Great-Grammy didn’t see it that way, maybe because her great-great-great-great-somebody built it. “Stick by stick and brick by brick” was what she liked to say.

Great-Grammy pursed her lips, as if she’d read my mind. “One of these days, Rosie, you’ll treasure what we have the way I do.”


Jim Kjelgaard’s books were a staple  of my childhood. As I mentioned above, BIG RED was an all-time favorite,  I recently re-read it, and loved it all over again. It has a simple, loosely-structured plot: a poor boy dreams of owning a show dog that he loves but that is beyond his means. But through character and luck, he earns the right to care for the dog. The rest is the story of their time and adventures together.

Between my school library and my local public library where I grew up, I was able to read Big Red and the sequels, but the only other Jim Kjelgaard book they had was SWAMP CAT, which is available to read FREE (download or read online), or read listen to for FREE. Librivox has several others available as free audio books, and I am currently enjoying the beautifully read RESCUE DOG OF THE HIGH PASS.  After that, I still have five more to anticipate. 

Coming Soon

Last week I mentioned an upcoming book from the new children’s publisher Chicken Scratch Books, DREAD WATCH by Jared Agard. Now this upper middle grade supernatural thriller has a cool trailer and I couldn’t wait to share it with you! DREAD WATCH launches September 1, and is available for preorder.

I hope to see you all beack here next week! Please spread the word about the giveaway fo SIX FEET BELOW ZERO! Meanwhile, hop over to th.e other tabs to see what’s new in Retreats & Writing Workshops and Indie Publishing Conferences.

Join me to discover fun books for kids and adults when new posts are added!

Subscribe to new posts! Join me to discover fun books for kids and adults when new posts are added!