Welcome to the team!

Screenshot 2014-01-30 22.32.43The Spencer Hill Middle Grade team is excited to announce a new team member, D.M. Cunningham, author of  Niles Wormwort, Accidental Villain.

In the science fair world of ketchup-spewing volcanoes and potato clocks, one boy, Niles Wormwart, plans to alter the history of science fairs with his time travel wristwatch based on Nicola Tesla’s work. Unfortunately, history has different plans for Niles.

After Niles blows up his school’s science wing with his project, his father, deciding his son needs to man up, make some friends, and take a break from his constant experiments, sends unsuspecting Niles off to the mysterious Camp Mayhem.

The only problem is that Niles’ father thinks it’s a role-playing camp. Well, it’s not.

Headed up by the ominous Red Czechmark, Camp Mayhem is ground zero for training the future villains of today. A place for real kids to realize the real villain inside them. Niles sharpens his focus on escaping the camp while everyone inside wants him to sharpen his focus on discovering his own dark powers. There’s a sinister plot brewing, and Niles is dead in the middle of it.
Thrust into a world he only thought existed in comic books. Niles discovers his true potential inside the walls of Camp Mayhem-the potential to become the darkest of evils or stay true to his good-hearted roots.

Get to know the author by visiting his author page.

Look for Blister Hill in November 2015!

Cover Reveal! Ben Fox: Zombie Squirrel Specialist At Your Service

BENFoxcoverforMIDPBen Fox: Zombie Squirrel Specialist At Your Service, coming in October 2014. Click here for an advanced reader copy!

Ten-year-old Ben Fox has good friends, a great dog, and a lightning-fast little sister who drives him a bit batty. The only thing in the fifth grader’s life that’s truly annoying–well, besides having to wear braces on his feet every day–is the family’s wily Siamese cat, Percy. Ben has always suspected something was off about Percy, who has never shown him or his beloved dog, Captain Sparkles, much affection.

But now he’s sure something is off—Percy has raised an army of squirrel zombies in the backyard and they’re ready to take on the dog.

It’ll be up to Ben to figure out how to stop the dastardly cat before the dog falls prey to the feline’s nefarious plans, especially since Percy and his newly reanimated squirrel friends are gunning for nothing less than a full-scale Animal Zombie Apocalypse—when all the dogs start to behave like cats. If only Ben could enlist his mom’s help in the undead animal war. But his mom is petrified of things that go bump in the night, so Ben’s only hope is to team up with his little sister.

The battle won’t be easy though, because squirrel zombies are the most dangerous of all…


Find out more about the author by visiting her author page.


Stuck in the Middle: Why We Need Middle Grade Books

Recently there was a blog post on the Horn Book Blog by Jeanne Birdsall, author of the beloved Penderwicks series. In the post, Jeanne has this to say about middle grade books:

“…all children have to work out the role of creativity, fantasy, and learning in their lives, often at the same age I was when books saved me — nine to twelve, the years for reading middle grade books. This is when children are moving toward an identity apart from their families but haven’t yet submerged themselves in peer groups. For these brief and wondrous years, they are individuals open to and ripe for the very best we can give them, including those books written just for them, books that invite them into the world outside their families, their schoolrooms, their own lives.”

You can find the whole blog post here.

The beauty of middle grade fiction is that a child is free to explore his/her imagination, no permission required. Once a child hits eight years of age, she/he is under pressure from parents, peers, school–maybe even herself/himself–to become a grown-up, and to leave the elements of “babyhood” behind. While there’s nothing wrong with getting older and taking on more mature responsibilities, imagination and creativity are often sacrificed along the way.

So the child that loved Sesame Street is no longer allowed to watch her favorite characters, either because she’s in school or because her parents want to stimulate her with more mature material. Time that used to be spent playing make-believe is now used to master arithmetic and grammar, two arcane practices in and of themselves. Then, the child discovers a book; perhaps she/he receives it as a gift, perhaps a librarian recommends it, or maybe it was assigned reading. It could be any title, from the Island of the Blue Dolphins to Ramona Quimby, Age Eight to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and she/he not only gets to use her/his imagination all over again, she/he realizes that she/he doesn’t have to be a grown-up all the time.

Many children are pushed to grow up too quickly, in their life choices as well as their reading choices. How many kids do you know have the free time to just play outside with their neighborhood cronies? Most of the kids you know probably have a tight schedule of school, extracurricular lessons like dance or martial arts, and sports team practice. Gone are the days where kids have streetlight rules (you know, the rule where your mom doesn’t want to see your face inside the house in the summer until the streetlights come on). And many kids are also encouraged to skip ahead in their reading choices because they need more of a “challenge”.

But kids encouraged to skip ahead are missing out on important emotional and cognitive development steps. They miss out on the working through of issues kids their age face in a safe place–through a fictional character found in books. Instead they are being confronted with more “adult” problems found in the books written for young adults (kids age 13-16). Every teacher I know would tell you that there is a huge difference in maturity between a 6th grader (11/12-year-old children who haven’t hit their growth spurts yet) and 8th graders (where the girls could pass for 19 and the boys have deep voices and are sprouting facial hair).

Now, we are not saying that some 12-year-old children aren’t ready to face the YA challenge–some definitely are. And we’re not saying that some 14-year-old children should automatically get pushed into the next category. Most children will move up when they are ready; we just have to trust them.

But having that middle step–that middle grade level book–helps each child reach their full potential. Appropriate books are their life-saver, their escape pod, their secret garden, as they transition from being a child to being a young adult. It’s a big jump! Giving them books meant for them makes that jump a little less scary and makes them a little more powerful.

See all of our middle grade books by following this link.

Welcome to the team!

Reichert_Prt_163The Spencer Hill Middle Grade team is excited to announce a new team member, KT Gannon, author of Blister Hill.

Twelve-year-old Neddy Puddy’s greatest desire is to settle the score with Delores Shrumm, her arch-enemy and former best friend. But one summer night, a strange snow falls over Neddy’s hometown of Heaven’s Peak, North Carolina, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Neddy touches the snow, and it burns, leaving blisters on her hand. But where did the burny snow come from, and what does it portend? The next morning the snow is gone, but when Grandpa Joe dons his bowler hat, sets out with Old Jim Flint on a secret errand, and ends up dead, Neddy has more than a broken heart to deal with. She has a mystery on her hands.

Why did Grandpa Joe go to that awful, abandoned house on Blister Hill? And why has a carnival pitched its tents on Blister Hill’s front lawn? The Carnival of Shivers is no ordinary carnival either. Dead dogs with shining red eyes patrol the carnival’s perimeter, and with attractions like Bash the Banshee, The Diabolical Dunking Tank, and the Tent of Pickled Punks, the place seems designed to make kids squirm.

To make matters worse, all the adults in Heaven’s Peak have come down with the floating flu, and can no longer protect their children. When BD Lamb threatens to eliminate each and every bugsnot kid west of the Dismal Swamp, Neddy knows that everyone she loves might disappear with the last fold of the carnival’s tents.

But Neddy is not alone. Despite being dead, Grandpa Joe is still doling out advice from beyond the grave, because Grandpa Joe’s spirit is stuck inside his bowler that now rests on top of Neddy’s head. With a posse of misfit kids and Old Jim Flint by her side, Neddy will have to face her worst fear and worst heartache, and live to tell the tale.

In Heaven’s Peak, dead things own the world, and darkness has eyes.

But darkness doesn’t last forever…or does it?

Look for Blister Hill in October 2015!