October 2013

Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab“Science Bob” Pflugfelder, author of Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab, made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to conduct experiments using centripetal force, with the help of Scandal actress Kerry Washington.

Science Bob is a real science teacher in Newton, Massachusetts and a first-time author who conceived the series as a way to get kids excited about science. Main characters Nick and Tesla, a shoutout to the famous inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, are bright 11-year-old siblings with a knack for science, electronics, and getting into trouble. When their parents mysteriously vanish, they’re sent to live with their Uncle Newt, a brilliant inventor who engineers top-secret gadgets for a classified government agency. It’s not long before Nick and Tesla are embarking on adventures of their own—engineering all kinds of outrageous MacGyverish contraptions to save their skin: 9-volt burglar alarms, electromagnets, mobile tracking devices, and more.

Students are invited to join in the fun as each story contains instructions and blueprints for five different projects. An accompanying teacher’s guide is also available for the book here.

HollowCityby Ransom Riggs, author of Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Children (Quirk Books, January 2014)

Storytelling began with pictures. We find ancient ones painted on cave walls and carved into rocks. The most treasured books of yesteryear were “illuminated” with illustrated designs throughout their text and margins. Since childhood, my imagination has been fired by photography, so when it came to writing my first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it only seemed natural that I would include photographs along with my words. They weren’t photos I took or created in Photoshop, but real snapshots that I found, in flea markets and in the attics of collectors—most of them old family photos that had been abandoned and orphaned, much like the children in my story. I felt like I was in some sense rescuing the photos and giving them a new life through the story I was telling—even if that story was fiction, and had little to do with who the people in the photos might’ve actually been. (I’m sure, for instance, that my photo of a skinny boy lifting a giant boulder wasn’t actually a photo of a supernaturally strong kid, but that the rock was made of foam, or something—but there’s no way of knowing for sure!) (more…)

TheAgeOfMiraclesby Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles: A Novel (Random House Trade Paperbacks)

The Age of Miracles, my first novel, is the story of a young girl and her family who wake one morning to some astonishing news: the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow.

In the year since it was published, I’ve had the good fortune to travel all over the country—and the world—to meet with readers of all ages at libraries, bookstores, book festivals, and, best of all, schools.

People have asked me all kinds of questions, but certain ones come up again and again, no matter the age of the audience. Some are easy to answer, like these: 

* How did I get the idea? (Back in 2004, the speed of the rotation of the earth really did change by a slight margin following the earthquake that caused the tsunami in Indonesia, and I began to wonder right away what would happen if a much larger shift occurred.) (more…)

TellTheWolvesby Carol Rifka Brunt, author of Tell the Wolves I’m Home: A Novel (Dial Press Paperbacks), winner of the 2013 Alex Award

Here’s a secret: When I first started Tell the Wolves I’m Home I had no idea whether it would turn out to be an adult or a YA book.

“Tell the story you need to tell and worry about the rest later.” That was the advice everyone gave me.

Good, I thought. I like worrying about things later.

So I forged ahead and pounded out a solid first draft. I told a story of a shy, socially-awkward, teenager in 1987 and her love for her dying uncle and her secret friendship with the man he loved. I told a story of AIDS and shame and things we hide from other people. Mostly, though, I told a story about love. Looking back, I think that first draft could have made a pretty decent YA novel. It was half the length of the published version and it was a more streamlined unlikely friendship story. Still, it seemed like there was more to say. I kept working and reworking and by the time I’d redrafted several more times I found that I’d added 60,000 more words and several extra layers to the story. At that point I was sure it was no longer really YA, but rather an adult novel with a teen narrator. My agent agreed and Random House published it as adult literary fiction. (more…)

ThankYouForArguingby Jay Heinrichs, author of Thank You for Arguing, Revised and Updated Edition: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

Adding rhetoric to a literature syllabus can spark something surprising in students.

Few people can say that John Quincy Adams changed their lives. Those who can are wise to keep it to themselves. Friends tell me I should also stop prating about my passion for rhetoric, the 3,000-year-old art of persuasion.

John Quincy Adams changed my life by introducing me to rhetoric.


Years ago, I was wandering through Dartmouth College’s library for no particular reason, browsing through books at random, and in a dim corner of the stacks I found a large section on rhetoric. A dusty, maroon-red volume attributed to Adams sat at eye level. I flipped it open and felt like an indoor Coronado. Here lay treasure. (more…)