Under the Bottle Bridge by Jessica Lawson—Recipe & Book Giveaway!

under-the-bottle-bridge-9781481448420_hrI’m so pleased today to welcome Jessica Lawson, middle-grade author extraordinaire (and good friend), to my blog. Jessica is the author of the much-acclaimed books The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, Nooks & Crannies, Waiting for Augusta, and now Under the Bottle Bridgewhich was just published this week (all with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers).

Later this month, we will be celebrating our book launches together in both NYC and Virginia (more details here). But today, Jessica is sharing a recipe inspired by her new book, and giving away a copy!

 

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Of Hearth Milk & Home—Recipe & Book Giveaway!

My good friend Tara (owner of this blog!) is a foodie. You might be able to tell from her Gladys Gatsby series, or from this Wizarding World of Harry Potter post, or from the creative foods in her most recent book, The Great Hibernation (out next week!). When I wanted to buy a cookbook for my husband’s birthday recently, Tara was the one I asked.

My latest publication, Under the Bottle Bridge, is not a foodie book. It is an autumn book—a “change of seasons” book. Still, when I think autumn, I get very nostalgic for two things: 1) the beginning of a new school year and 2) autumn comfort foods—stews and cornbread and pumpkin dishes and apples and spices. And also hearth milk.

What’s hearth milk, you ask? I created hearth milk for the book. It began as a simple line of fiction. My main character, Minna Treat, lives in an old stone house (with a large stone hearth). It’s a home that she loves. It’s a home that circumstances might cause her to soon leave. I found myself wondering what generations of Treats might keep bubbling in the cast-iron pot on nights that were cold in temperature, or cold in spirit, or both. I decided that while Minna is a woodcraft legacy (eight generations!), her family would also have a legacy of making a special drink:

Hearth milk was for special occasions. We’d fill a hanging cast-iron pot with extra-creamy, straight-from-the-cow farm milk and heat it slowly with brown sugar, vanilla, a pat of butter, nutmeg, whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick.

Minna describes hearth milk as being “better than hot chocolate. Having hearth milk was like drinking a warm bed and a soft story.”

Over months of drafts and revisions, I read the ingredients line describing this fictional drink over and over. Eventually, I came to my senses and thought…Hmm. That sounds pretty good. I should try that. So I did. And it was tasty.

The recipe is below. Leave a comment letting me know your favorite autumn treat for a chance to win a hardcover of Under the Bottle Bridge. Winner will be chosen on September 14.

 

*Minna Treat’s Hearth Milk

2 cups whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)

1 stick cinnamon

8 whole cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon vanilla

 

Directions: Combine milk & cream in a saucepan on the stovetop on medium-high heat. I heat mine at 7 (out of 10). Add all other ingredients and stir on a regular basis to avoid a film forming at the bottom of the pan (or a “skin” on the top).

Within six to eight minutes, the milk should begin to simmer. At this point, turn on low for five minutes to let spices soak in. Continue to stir now and then.

Remove whole cloves with a spoon. Remove pan from stovetop and ladle into mugs. Serve with a spoon and—optionally—a thin pat of butter on top that will melt into the milk. Person who gets the cinnamon stick gets to make a wish.

Makes 6 servings, each ½ cup.

*You can substitute almond/soy milk for milk/cream if lactose-intolerant. We tried it with almond milk and my 8YO said thumbs up, 4YO said thumbs down. You can decide for yourself 😊

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About Under the Bottle Bridge:

In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.

 

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Giveaway: SATURDAYS WITH HITCHCOCK by Ellen Wittlinger!

511xSpTjNgLUpdate, 8.25.17: Congratulations, Daria! You’ve won the ARC of Saturdays with Hitchcock. Thanks to all who entered, and please do check it out when it hits the shelves in October!

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Hello, friends. As excited as I am about The Great Hibernation hitting the shelves next month, I am just as pumped about the slew of other fantastic middle-grade books that are coming readers’ way this fall.

And Saturdays with Hitchcock by Ellen Wittlinger (October 10, Charlesbridge) is at the top of my list. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy and I absolutely fell in love with it. You can read my review below, and I’m not kidding when I say that it’s probably my favorite MG read so far this year. I’m thrilled to have an advance copy to give away–I hope you’ll enter to win it!

Here’s a little more about the book:

Twelve-year-old movie-loving Maisie is in need of a distraction from her current romantic dilemma when her Uncle Walt comes to stay with her family after being hurt on the set of the movie he’s filming in Hollywood.

Maisie’s best friend, Cyrus, has been hanging out a lot with Gary Hackett, whose last-name sounds to Maisie like a cat barfing up a hairball. When it seems as if Hackett might like Maisie romantically, she’s none too pleased, and Cyrus is even less impressed.

Uncle Walt has a way of pointing Maisie in the right direction, and Maisie’s love of movies also keeps her centered. Heading to the local independent theater on Saturdays to see old movies helps Maisie stay grounded as she struggles with growing up, family tensions, a grandma who seems to be losing her memory, and a love triangle she never expected.

My own review on GoodReads:

Saturdays with HitchcockSaturdays with Hitchcock by Ellen Wittlinger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SATURDAYS WITH HITCHCOCK is probably my favorite MG read of 2017, and I’m kind of desperate for everyone else to check it out. Maisie is just the sort of heroine I adore–one with a strong, specific passion (in this case, movies); loyalty to her friends and family; and, most importantly, the ability to recognize when a bad first impression of someone merits reconsideration. On every page, I relished watching her interact with this book’s stellar and complex supporting cast as she worked her way through a variety of personal and family challenges.

All of which may make this book sound a little dry or serious, when really, it’s not. And I think that’s Ellen Wittlinger’s biggest accomplishment. There are plenty of books out there that deal with the types of issues that SATURDAYS WITH HITCHCOCK tackles–dementia, family money issues, burgeoning crushes, and questions about sexuality–but few that do it with such a light touch and in such a compulsively readable way. So many different types of readers would connect strongly with this story, and I’m really excited for it to find its way in the world.

Giveaway Alert!

I’m so inspired to get the word out about this one that I’m giving away my advance copy (ARC) to one lucky reader–just leave a comment on this post to be entered to win. You can also earn an extra entry by tweeting about the giveaway.

Here’s a sample tweet you can use:

Win an ARC of @EllenWittlinger’s brilliant MG novel SATURDAYS WITH HITCHCOCK (10.10.17, @charlesbridge): http://bit.ly/2ijSl1Q #giveaway

Let me know in your comment if you’ve tweeted so I can give you credit. This giveaway is USA only. I’ll announce a winner this Friday, August 25.

Good luck!

Preorder contest & tour dates for THE GREAT HIBERNATION!

Great Hibernation coverIt’s hard to believe that my fourth novel, The Great Hibernationwill be on bookshelves next month! I’m so excited for readers to meet Jean, Isara, Rambo the sheep, and the rest of the gang tasked with saving the tiny town of St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord from a mysterious hibernation…and some dastardly political moves, too.

Are you hoping to score a signed copy? And maybe some neat Hibernation swag? You’re in luck! You can either come see me in person on my fall tour, OR preorder a signed, personalized book through my local indie bookstore, BookPeople (and be entered to win an awesome grand prize). Details below!

The Great Hibernation fall book tour

Books of Wonder – New York, NY
Sunday, September 17, 4 pm
Middle-grade panel and launch party! (with Jessica Lawson, Tracey Baptiste,  & Alison Cherry)

The Voracious Reader  – Larchmont, NY
Monday, September 18, 6:30 pm
Science & magic! A middle grade event with Sarah Albee, & Corey Ann Haydu

Trident Booksellers & Cafe
 – 
Boston, MA
Tuesday, September 19, 6:30 pm
Super middle-grade panel! (with Debbi Michiko Florence, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Jen Malone, & Katie Slivensky, moderated by Dana Alison Levy)

One More Page Books
 – Arlington, VA
Saturday, September 23, 3pm
Kidlit panel! (with Tracey Baptiste, Caroline Carlson, & Jessica Lawson, moderated by Madelyn Rosenberg)

Boulder Book Store – Boulder, CO
Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 pm
Middle-grade book launch party! (with Jeannie Mobley & Melanie Crowder)

BookPeople – Austin, TX
Sunday, October 8, 2 pm
A Triple Launch Party! (with Christina Soontornvat & Jeannie Mobley)

 

Preorder campaign!

Can’t make it to one of my events? Never fear–I’m teaming up with BookPeople for an awesome preorder campaign! Just follow the instructions on this page and you can order as many signed, personalized copies as you like; all will come with an exclusive Great Hibernation bookmark and sticker. And as an added bonus, anyone who preorders from BookPeople will be entered to win this amazing Grand Prize Pack!

-Spike, the stuffed narwhal (a key character in The Great Hibernation)61dp4WwNJYL._SL1500_

-A free 30-minute Skype visit with the author, during which you can ask me anything about my books (great for classrooms, book clubs, or just one-on-one chatting!)

AND

-A book club or classroom set of hardcovers of The Great Hibernation!

 

Good luck, and hope to see you and/or sign books for you this fall!

 

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream! Cottage Pie! Fishy Green Ale! (What ELSE I ate at Harry Potter World)

Given that my post about what I ate at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2014 is still one of my most popular, I figured I should follow it up now that I’ve just been back–and visited the newer section of Diagon Alley. There were many new treats to try, both of the delicious and the eyebrow-raising variety, and with the help of my trusty husband and our voracious kiddo, I sampled as many as I could.

(First, though, I should probably just point out that visiting Harry Potter World on a rainy, 40-degree midweek in winter and on a sweltering Friday at the peak of tourist season in July are two vastly different experiences. Still, despite the crowds and the sweat, we had a great time even at the height of summer.)

We began the day in Diagon Alley, and it is impressive. I’m sure you can find many photos online if you want to check it out, but I did have to share my capture of the dragon atop Gringotts breathing fire, as he does at regular intervals. (Fair warning, the fire is HOT if you’re standing under it, and my toddler screamed from the noise every time.)

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It wasn’t long before we found ourselves peckish. Word to the wise, there is no line at Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlor at 10am! Also note that they do not give samples. They have hard ice cream and soft, and my husband got apple crumble and strawberry-peanut butter hard ice cream. Both were delicious.20170714_101321
I opted for toffee apple soft serve, which is really just vanilla with toffee and green apple flavorings swirled in. It was fine, but the hard ice cream was better, and since you’re paying crazy park prices anyway, it seems worth the extra 50 cents.
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All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Choo, choo!
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Over in the Hogsmeade section of the park, I made my best culinary selection of the day: frozen butterbeer. You may remember that on my last (rainy, freezing) visit, I only tried the regular cold butterbeer and was less than impressed. Well, frozen is a hippogriff of a different color. SO much better–like a rich butterscotch slushee. Prices on all drinks have gone up quite a bit, but I’d say this was well worth the $7.50 (especially when waiting outside in the hot sun for a show to begin on the Hogsmeade stage).
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On to lunch at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Luckily, I had remembered to reread my own reviews of the food from my previous visit, and knew that my favorite things on the menu were the potato dishes. So that’s what I ordered. This time, the seasoned wedge fries were far superior to the garlic roasted potatoes (though my kid gobbled up plenty of the roasted ones without complaint).
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My husband, who had not been to The Three Broomsticks before, got the rotisserie smoked chicken platter ($13), which came with corn and potatoes. Not exactly the most British of lunches, but we’d have much better and more British-y meals later on at the Leaky Cauldron.20170714_122618
Drink options at both The Three Broomsticks and The Leaky Cauldron now include apple and pear ciders (nonalcoholic), so we tried a pear one. Cheaper than the “specialty” drinks ($3 and change) but…meh. We suggest you save your sickles (and sugar allotment) for butterbeer and ice cream.
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Honeyduke’s in Hogsmeade is still where it’s at for candy, though they seem to have gotten rid of the amazing animatronic girl continuously puking Puking Pastilles who used to be in the window. (Probably because they now sell actual Puking Pastilles at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley, though I didn’t see her there, either.) They did have this nifty setup inside, though, showing house elves clipping black licorice strands from a man’s hair and beard. 20170714_164054

We would have loved to see the machine in action, but alas–sickles only.20170714_164057

Back in Diagon Alley, we admired the window dressings some more. Books!20170714_175016

Potions!20170714_181005

Fishy Green Ale! Wait, what?

We popped into The Fountain of Fair Fortune to try this specialty drink, which you can only find in Diagon Alley. Thankfully, it is not fishy, nor an ale (it’s nonalcoholic), though it’s certainly green. Ostensibly mint and cinnamon flavored, we thought it tasted mostly like sugar and were not terribly impressed. That is, until we got a mouthful of the “fish eggs” that live at the bottom.

I had read online that these eggs were like blueberry-flavored tapioca pearls, so I was expecting something chewy, along the lines of the “bubbles” in bubble tea. But…no. Somehow, the wizards of Diagon Alley have created supersoft little balls that explode in your mouth with a burst of fizzy blueberry flavor! The texture must be experienced to be understood. We still don’t know what they could be made of, and have decided we don’t want to find out. The toddler LOVED them, too. (We generally kept her away from the sugary drinks, but we figured these were the closest things she was gonna get to fruit all day, so we let her eat them.)  I still say the green drink itself is pretty icky, but the fish egg experience probably made it worth the $5 to try.
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At last, on to The Leaky Cauldron for dinner. Similar meal prices to The Three Broomsticks, but in my opinion, much better food. I got the cottage pie, which was filled with ground beef and vegetables with a potato top, and it was very good. (Then again, I guess all I’d eaten all day were potatoes and sugary drinks, so maybe I was just really hungry!) The salad was nice, too–not just iceberg, which is what you get at the other pub.20170714_183236

My husband got the bangers and mash, which we forgot to photograph until he was halfway through the meal. Oops! It was really good, too. Great flavor in the sausage, nice peas on the side, and a variety of roots in the veggie mix, including parsnip, which I don’t think we’d actually eaten since we were in Scotland a couple of years ago.20170714_183240

 

You may have noticed some drinks in the picture of my dinner. We wouldn’t have bothered, but we lucked into some meal coupons that included drinks, so I got a lemonade (ugh, too sweet and fake bright yellow), and against my counseling the husband tried pumpkin juice. I took a sip and it was just as I remembered, kind of like drinking a pumpkin spice Yankee Candle, but he managed to drink it down. He said it was worth the $0 we paid for it.

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So, in summary, some of the food lived up to its price in goblin gold, and some of it didn’t quite. The atmosphere of the parks is as stunning as ever, though, the rides are fun, and the shows–particularly Beedle the Bard in Diagon Alley and the Triwizard Tournament in Hogsmeade–are really enjoyable to watch.

Next time, I’ll be heading straight back to The Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue’s, and anywhere I can get some frozen butterbeer. Cheers!

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Like this post? Then you’d probably love my middle-grade novels about tween restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby!

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Events this week in Florida

all-three-coversHello, friends! I’m excited to be heading to the Orlando area this week to be on a panel at the ILA conference. And I’ve also got two book events set up that are free and open to the public. Especially after Skyping with so many Florida classrooms this year, I can’t wait to meet young readers in Orlando and DeLand in person.

You can find the details about all three appearances on my events page. But I’ll share the open-to-the-public events here as well:

Barnes & Noble Waterford Lakes – Orlando, FL
Saturday, July 15, 2pm*
Summer Book Bash! (with Christina Farley and Ammi-Joan Paquette)
Join us for our Summer Book Bash featuring an interactive, fun-filled afternoon with three amazing authors of books for young readers: Tara Dairman, Christina Farley, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. Activities, reading, Q&A and plenty of fun for young readers! Ideal for ages 9-15, open to the public. Proceeds benefit Orange County Library- Alafaya. Check out our Facebook event for more details!

*Note: The fun kicks off at 1pm with local broadcaster and children’s book author Amy Sweezey; the middle-grade panel with me, Ammi-Joan, and Christina will begin at 2.

DeLand Regional Library – DeLand, FL
Monday, July 17, 3-4:30pm
I’m so excited to present about my writing process for All Four Stars and my journey to becoming a published author, AND to lead a fun creative writing workshop for kids, tweens, and teens! There won’t be book sales, btu I’ll be happy to sign any books readers bring in from home. (Well, as long as I wrote them!)

 

Hope to see you!

School Library Journal loves THE GREAT HIBERNATION!

The Great HibernationI’m thrilled to share this fantastic review from School Library Journal for The Great Hibernation (coming your way September 12 – click title or cover image for preorder info). This is a book full of big ideas, and I’m so glad to see that the combination of humor, adventure, and politics is appealing to early readers.

Here’s the review! Emphases mine. 🙂

The Great Hibernation
DAIRMAN, Tara.. illus. by Rebecca Green. 272p. Random. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524717858.
Gr 4-8 – In a small, insular Nordic town with seemingly harmless, quaint traditions, the children find themselves in a police state under a devious and manipulative kid mayor when all the adults suddenly and inexplicably fall into comas. Self-doubting and awkward Jean, 12, knows she must look for allies and uncover the truth. She and her small band of heroes are thwarted right and left, and readers will empathize with the characters as they encounter injustice. Dairman creates a sense of urgency and brings the work to a satisfying conclusion. The scenes are concise and well formed, grouped into chapters ending with a new question or realization that adds to the suspense. The trope of children without adult supervision or guidance leads to memorably humorous situations when the kids take on their parents’ jobs (e.g., the plow driver’s son who can’t see over the steering wheel), as do the antics of a pet sheep. A friendship between Jean and Isara, who is from Thailand and the only immigrant in this mostly white community, emphasizes the theme of friendship in spite of differences.
VERDICT Lighthearted enough to entice readers with the silly premise and whimsical illustrations sprinkled throughout, this middle grade book nonetheless explores some rather important political ideas about individuality and the need for a balance of powers in governance. A strong selection for most middle grade shelves.

–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

 

TLA conference this week!

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Swag!

Hello, friends. This week I’ll be journeying down to San Antonio to attend the Texas Library Association conference (aka TLA, or TXLA). It’s my first big conference, and I’m excited to meet librarians, attend panels full of fellow authors, and generally bask in literary wonderfulness for a few days.

If you’ll be attending and would like to catch me, here are my scheduled events:

Wednesday, April 19:
4:00-5:00PM / Room 007A – Speed Dating at the Texas Author and Illustrator Meet and Greet (CPE#3507: SBEC 1.0)
6:00-6:45PM / Signing at Overlooked Books Booth #1917
Thursday, April 20:
3:00-4:00PM / Signing at Overlooked Books Booth #1917

My published books (All Four Stars, etc.) will be available for purchase from Overlooked Books at the conference, and I’ll be giving out my beautiful new bookmarks for The Great Hibernation (coming 9/12/17) and showing off an ARC if you’d like a sneak peek. Hope to see you there!