13 Reasons to Read Case File 13

Posted by | December 13, 2013 | 1 Comment

Well, fellow readers, today is Friday the 13th. And while I know that the real twelve days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas day, I’m going to go out on a yule log here and say that with twelve days until December 25th, this Friday the 13th must be some kind of fluke celestial alignment. What better way to celebrate a fluke celestial alignment than reading an awesome middle grade series?

Well, just in case that (admittedly tenuous) segue isn’t clear, here are 13 more reasons to read Case File 13 by J. Scott Savage, a series I love first and just happen to edit second:

13. Our heroes, Nick, Carter, and Angelo, are obsessed with all things monster. At nearly thirteen(!) years of age, they’re probably a little too old to be dressing up for Halloween, but don’t tell them that—they fly their geek banner proudly, even going so far as to call themselves the Monsterteers.

12. In a starred review of book one, Kirkus said, “It’s hard to imagine that readers won’t enjoy every minute of hair-raising fun.” In their review of book two, Kirkus said, “The addition of the girls not only broadens the book’s appeal, but adds a humorous layer of boy-girl interaction that preteen readers will get a kick out of. Another thoroughly satisfying thrill ride.”

11. About those girl rivals: If anyone knows more about monsters than Nick, Carter, and Angelo, it’s Angie, Tiffany, and Dana. Seriously—when’s the last time you read a book where a trio of girls willingly raced through cemeteries, morgues, and haunted castles-slash-private schools?

case files 13

10. If you think Doug Holgate’s art on the covers is something, wait until you see what he’s done with the interiors. The frontispiece in book two (pictured above) is frame-worthy, although please note I don’t advocate tearing out pages to put in a frame unless you buy another copy to keep intact.

9. The books are scary and funny, yes, but they also pack some remarkably satisfying mysteries and adventures. Don’t let the under-300-page-count fool you—these books are epic.

8. This is one of those rare middle grade adventures where even though the kids star the show and save the day, the adult characters are fully formed and believable, too. For example, Nick’s dad has that sense of humor all hip dads and embarrassed sons will recognize, and Carter’s oversized family is the clear origin of Carter’s oversized personality.

7. Each book features a new monster villain and pays homage to a different kind of classic horror movie. Book one was all about zombies—the real kind steeped in Louisiana voodoo magic—while book two is the mad scientist caper a la Frankenstein. In book three, which comes out next summer, the kids go on a camping trip to rival Blair Witch and come back with a creature far scarier than Gizmo. I’d tell you what happens in book four, but I’m afraid it might unlock some kind of ancient curse on you…

6. The boys film a monster movie to enter into their class assignment on “Building a Brighter Tomorrow.” How on earth is that an appropriate entry? Um, they’ll have to get back to you on that.

5. This Amazon customer review of book one: “My 10-year-old son is a good reader who prefers graphic novels and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”-type books to chapter books. I ordered this book for him specifically because it looked like his type of story— but without pictures. The day I gave it to him, I told him he could read 30 mins before “lights out.” Well, he begged to stay up and keep reading. Then last night, he asked me if I would wake him up early so he could read the last 20 pages before getting ready for school. I’d say asking to be roused early on a school morning to read indicates a darn good book.”

4. A mysterious narrator who may or may not be a librarian makes occasional appearances throughout the series. In ominous warnings and funny asides, “B.B.” introduces each book and each chapter with notes like, “What do Abraham Lincoln, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Queen Elizabeth I have in common? And no, I’m pretty sure the first two didn’t wear crowns.”

3. Book one, Zombie Kid, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Whitney Award Finalist.

2. Did I mention the hardcovers are only $14.99? That’s like, stocking stuffer prices right there.

1. And the number one reason to read Case File 13 on Friday the 13th is…Nick, Carter, and Angelo. These guys are awesome. They’re like if the Buffy gang and the Goonies passed their combined torch onto some kids today. They have one another’s backs and they feel like your new best friends. They don’t always get things right but they always mean well, and they keep stumbling into danger, which is why we love them. Author James Dashner put it best: “Nick and his friends are my new favorite people.”

So, what are you waiting for? Shamble, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore, or just start reading online right now. You’ll be glad you have a book when this celestial alignment goes south and fast!

Andrew Harwell is the editor of Case File 13.


Posted by | November 19, 2013 | No Comments

ncte 2013

We’re packing up and heading up to Boston tomorrow for the Annual Conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. We’ll be in HarperCollins Children’s Books Booth #1008 every day, handing out materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (like posters and teaching guides) and galleys galleys galleys!

Come say hello to the amazing authors who will be signing copies of their books:

12:00–1:00pm, Jarrett Krosoczka
1:00–2:00pm, Anne Ursu
2:00–3:00pm, Hilary T. Smith
3:00–4:00pm, Rita Williams-Garcia
4:00–5:00pm, Kevin Emerson
*5:00–6:00pm, 50 Years Later C.S. Lewis Legacy Celebration! Come by for hot chocolate, cookies, a free copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a free CCSS-aligned Narnia series Teaching Guide!*

10:00–11:00am, Patricia MacLachlan
12:00–1:00pm, Neal Shusterman
1:00–2:00pm, Jerry Spinelli
3:00–4:00pm, Pat Mora

9:30–10:30am, Katie Cotugno
11:00am–12:00pm, Chris Crutcher


Hope to see you there!

150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

Posted by | November 14, 2013 | No Comments

Gettysburg_Illustration_1November 19, 2013 will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. A few years ago I wrote and drew my first graphic novel: Gettysburg, The Graphic Novel, a non-fiction account of the famous civil war battle and the speech that followed. Creating that book was an intense and incredible challenge for me as I really wanted to do justice to the epic events I was depicting. This anniversary has me revisiting the memories of the process of creating that book.

When I set out to write Gettysburg, The Graphic Novel I had a couple of key goals I really wanted to achieve. The first and foremost I wanted this book to be a work of sound non-fiction history. This can be a difficult challenge for any book but I found it especially challenging when working in the medium of sequential art. Sequential art or as it’s more popularly known, comics, is an inherently subjective art form. The challenge for me was to bring the events and people of Gettysburg to life on the drawn page as closely to how they actually existed. In order to do this I decided that I would mainly rely on primary sources: letters, newspaper stories, speeches, and journals to construct everything from the images, text, and even the conversations. In the “Author Notes” section of the book I list references.


Primary sources were used to construct conversations and images.”]

I was also keenly aware that my drawings would also require as much research and attention to detail as with text. In this case I was very fortunate, because by the time of the American Civil War photography was common and much of the war and its related events were captured on film. This primary resource gave me the ability to more accurately depict people, places, and events as they really existed. I even depict photographer Timothy O’Sullivan as he photographed the aftermath of the battle.


Timothy O’Sullivan photographing the aftermath of the battle.

The second goal that I wanted to realize was to depict the incredible gravity of the events of the battle and the speech that would follow. In my research I often found that most books either focused solely on the battle or the address. I wanted to depict both, in a single book and by doing so illustrating to the reader the extraordinary heavy price of that battle and how it directly applies context to the speech.

In my pursuit of realism it was very important to me as wrote and drew this book that I did not glorify this battle. There were some amazingly heroic soldiers in this battle on both sides and incredible moments of valor but civil war combat was absolutely horrific. In 1863 you still had cavalry on horses fighting with swords charging against men with repeating rifles and early machine guns. Military tactics had not adjusted to the rising industrial age, and wouldn’t sadly until after World War I. Generals would use methods as old as the roman legions to attack entrenched cannons; more often than not it was an absolute massacre.


Pickett’s Charge: over 6500 confederates were wounded, killed, or captured in a single bungled attack.

In telling the complete story of the battle to the speech also allowed me to touch upon and often overlooked part of the story of Gettysburg: what happened after the battle until the address? What happened to the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg after the two armies departed? I was able to illustrate how that small town dealt with the eight thousand dead and nearly thirty thousand wounded left by the two armies and the construction of the Soldiers National Cemetery on the grounds of the battlefield.


Lincoln just before the Address.

I ended the graphic novel with Lincoln’s immortal address. This I chose to illustrate subjectively, attempting to bring his words to life through images inspired by the text. After 150 years this address is still relevant: a testament that the American experience is not a stagnant or fixed ideal but one of change and growth.

C. M. Butzer is editor-in-chief of Rabid Rabbit, a magazine anthology of comic artists. This is his first book. Butzer lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


Posted by | October 4, 2013 | 1 Comment

The high is 82 degrees today in New York City, and yet it’s already time to talk holiday books! I’m soaking up this warm weather, because Winter will make its appearance the way it always does: abruptly and with no mercy… but when it does, books that evoke feelings like these–nostalgia, gratitude, love for family and friends, the magic of the holiday season– are what make it all worthwhile.

Check out new sure-to-be classics from the HarperCollins Children’s Books list:

thanksgiving day thanks

by Laura Malone Elliot, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
ISBN: 9780060002367, $17.99
On sale now!

Thanksgiving is almost here and Sam’s class is excited for their Thanksgiving feast! Mary Ann is going to dress up like Squanto. Winston’s building a popsicle-stick Mayflower. Jeffrey’s organizing a pumpkin pie-making contest. Everyone already knows the one special thing they are thankful for—everyone but Sam, that is. When something goes wrong with Sam’s surprise project, will the class be able to save it? Will Sam discover what he’s thankful for?  From the author/illustrator combination of A STRING OF HEARTS.


the twelve days of christmas

written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers
ISBN: 9780062066152, $17.99
On sale now!

Splendidly rendered in Susan Jeffers’s breathtaking panoramic spreads, this jovial interpretation of a holiday classic will have readers of all ages singing their way through the holidays.


merry christmas splat

by Rob Scotton
ISBN: 9780062124500 $9.99
On sale now!

It’s the night before Christmas and Splat wonders if he’s been a good enough cat this year to deserve a really big present. Just to make sure, Splat offers some last-minute help to his mom—but messes up completely! That night Splat stays awake hoping to see Santa Claus, only to miss him. Splat is sure his Christmas is ruined along with his hopes for a really big present. It turns out that Splat may have been on the nice list after all!
santa claus and the three bears

by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
ISBN: 9780061700231 $17.99
On sale now!

One snowy night, Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear decide to go for a winter stroll while their Christmas pudding cools. Unbeknownst to them, a white-bearded, black-booted, jolly interloper happens upon their cottage. When the bears return, they are shocked to find their pudding eaten, their chairs broken, and their cozy beds slept in! And it looks like he’s still there! Clad in a bright red jacket and completely covered in soot, there’s something awfully familiar about this guy…. Who could he be?


snow queen

by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
ISBN: 9780062209504 $17.99
On sale 10/8/13

Bagram Ibatoulline illustrates a storybook version of the classic tale about an evil queen and the ordinary girl who triumphs over her.


christmas mouse

written and illustrated by Anne Mortimer
ISBN: 9780062089281 $12.99
On sale now!

It’s Christmastime and Mouse has lots to do! The tree needs decorating, lights need hanging, and carols must be sung. There are presents to leave for special friends, treats to nibble on, and stockings to hang by the fire. When everything is ready, Mouse makes a Christmas wish before snuggling down to sleep. A final spread shows a very happy (and very full) Mouse lounging near his Christmas wish come true—a giant piece of cheese all his own. Anne Mortimer’s cozy story celebrates the little things we do that make Christmas a magical time for all.


New Voices, a Word from the Editor: Not a Drop to Drink

Posted by | September 26, 2013 | No Comments

Yesterday we heard from Mindy McGinnis about her fantastic debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink. Today, we hear from her editor, Sarah Shumway. Sarah, take it away!

There’s nothing like falling into the spell of a new voice, a striking view of reality, and into the life of a character you know you’ll never forget.  Falling in love with a book is sometimes a thing that happens gradually over the course of a story, but sometimes the first words on a page signal that the feelings are going to come tumbling out of a book and straight into your heart. The very first words of Not a Drop to Drink have that spark for me: “Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”

The books I’ve always loved most are those that show me something that I’ve never even imagined and make it real, make me feel. And I love wild books – ones where characters, especially strong girls, have to work to squeeze a good life from a harsh world. I started young with those books, as in Laura Ingalls in the Little House books and Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love books that challenge me, along with the characters, to rise above difficulty, limitations, and to become more than we knew we could be.  And Lynn, the heroine of Not a Drop, is such a strong character. Not a doubt there. She’s strong in a way that is more than physical or emotional. She’s real. She’s a product of her circumstances, stubborn and rough, but she discovers her heart.   And her story pushes every one of my “appeal” buttons: that strong and distinctive heroine, a gripping survival story, beautiful, sometimes poetic writing, a vivid setting in a fully-realized world, and plot twists like WOAH.  Oh, and it has some good kissing.

One of the most interesting discussions I’ve had with Mindy and with my colleagues here at HarperCollins is about how to categorize this book – is it dystopian? Post-apocalyptic? But I’m kind of proud to say that it really defies genre. While Not a Drop has plenty to offer fans of hugely popular dystopian fiction, what I appreciate is that it’s more than that. It’s different and special because it’s not about challenging a world gone wrong, but it’s about challenging people to be stronger in their own lives and hearts.  And when the trends have come and gone, I think Mindy’s book – Lynn’s story – will persist in grabbing readers’ hearts and imagination, the same way that the frontier or desert island books many of us loved as children and teenagers are still perennial favorites.

I’m so proud to have helped bring Mindy McGinnis and Not a Drop to Drink to an audience. Almost two years after I first read a draft, this book still makes my heart pound, my spine tingle, and my fingers itch to turn pages, and I hope all readers will feel the same when they get their hands on it.

Sarah Shumway is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

New Voices: Opening the Book with… Mindy McGinnis!

Posted by | September 25, 2013 | 1 Comment

Imagine a world where water is the hottest commodity. Author Mindy McGinnis has done it in a thrilling, terrifying way in her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink.

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

Of course, after reading this fantastic dystopian novel, we jumped at the chance of having Mindy come by and open the book with us!

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

Choosing is so hard! I’ll say A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Right now I’m reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke.

What is your secret talent?

Um… I can flip a stack of quarters off my elbow and catch them in my palm. Also I have very fat thumb pads.

Fill in the blank: _______ always make me laugh.

British men.

My current obsessions are…

SHERLOCK, local history and the roots of criminal profiling.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Do your homework. Half the battle is learning the industry.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

Didn’t steal it from the library.

How did you come to write this book?

I watched a documentary called Blue Gold, which is about a projected shortage of potable water on our planet due to overpopulation. It was a horrible thought – we all need water to survive, and it’s something we can’t make. I went to bed very grateful for the small pond in my backyard, and that night I dreamt I was teaching a young girl how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I woke up and thought, “Hey… I wrote a book in my head just now.”

I asked myself what this child would grow into, and my main character, Lynn, was the answer. I don’t plot at all, I simply write. With Drink I was very fortunate in that the book really wrote itself. It wanted to be told. Lynn’s transformation from isolationist to human being had to be slow and believable, but not at the expense of pacing. I knew I needed supporting characters that could make this an interesting read without lots of explosions and fight scenes. Stebbs walked in and saved me there!

Thanks, Mindy! You can find Not a Drop to Drink in stores now!


Posted by | September 10, 2013 | 1 Comment

Did you know that Patricia MacLachlan’s books are now available ebooks? Look at all of these beautiful ebooks!

Sarah, Plain and Tall

To mark the occasion, Patricia stopped by to share some heartwarming thoughts about writing and reading and families. She also filmed a video interview for us, so don’t forget to check that out (below)!

From Patricia MacLachlan:

I have been a reader all my life, long before I became a writer. When I was little I read under a quilt at night, in a tree (!), and all the way home from the library, my mother’s hand on my neck, leading me safely across streets.  My grandchildren are readers too, and they are becoming writers with their own voices.

What does reading mean to me?  Books help me find out who I am and who I want to be.  Books give me courage.  Books make me smile.  And laugh.  And sometimes they make me cry.  But always books make me think about what all the children in the world have in common even though they may live far away from each other.

Writing helps me stay close to my family; Sarah, Plain and Tall is about my step great grandmother who I always thought was brave to travel from Maine to Kansas all on her own to meet her new family.  My own father’s farm is in Sarah, Plain and Tall, and his farm dogs and his horse, Jack.

Cassie Binegar is a lot about me when I was about ten years old and hid under the dining room table with the tablecloth hanging down, listening to stories people at the table told.  Seven Kisses in a Row was written after listening to my young daughter Emily and my husband talk one evening.  In fact all my children are in Seven Kisses in a Row, my oldest son John and his younger brother Jamie, who had a great dirt collection!

I played the cello in elementary school and so The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt is about a group of players in a string quartet.

I notice that many of my books are about old people and young people.  I like the aunts in Unclaimed Treasures (“unclaimed treasures” being my mother’s name for unmarried women)  Old Pepper is another character in the book, wise and kind.  My children had a wonderful relationship with my father and mother.  My father, who lived to be 102, had respect for children and thought that old people and young people were connected in many ways..  That has gone into many of my books.  The old and young are close in all of my stories.

My books often begin because of something a child of mine said, or a grandchild’s question.  In some ways writers are watchers and listeners.  Spies maybe!  One day my oldest son said to a school friend, “watch out what you say in this house.  You may appear in a book.”

My books are personal for me.

I truly hope they become personal for you, too.  And I am happy to know that children read my books in whatever form – in hard copy books or in ebooks as well.



Thanks so much, Patricia!


Posted by | September 9, 2013 | No Comments

One of our absolute favorite new reads this season has to be Caroline Carlson’s THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. It has girl power, adventure, and of course, a missing treasure.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates

There are three qualities a treasure map must possess: It must be suitably ancient, have an atmospheric title, and include a dotted line leading to an X.

When Hilary Westfield escapes from finishing school to pursue her dream of being a pirate, she finds herself in possession of such a map. But the map is missing an X, and everyone is almost certain that the magical treasure she’s hunting doesn’t even exist. Hilary soon becomes caught up in a madcap quest involving a rogue governess who insists on propriety, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous villain on the high seas.

If that doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.

We had to get to know the person behind such a piratical tale. So, today, Caroline stopped by to answer some of our hard-hitting questions!

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

I have so many favorite books that it’s hard to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorites is HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones. Right now, I’m reading THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO by Karen Engelmann.

What is your secret talent?

Like Hilary, the heroine of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, I can tread water for a really long time.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

The movie CLUE. I’ve memorized all the jokes by now, but they never get any less funny.

My current obsessions are…

Cooking and baking—after spending all day writing at my computer, I love doing something concrete and hands-on in the kitchen. While I cook, I like to listen to two of my other obsessions: news podcasts and music by Girlyman and Antje Duvekot.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Try to learn a lot about all the things that interest you—not just writing. Read newspapers and nonfiction books. Do some exploring, check out your local museums and libraries, or take a class in a subject that fascinates you. If you stay curious about the world around you, you’re sure to stumble across lots of good ideas for stories.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

…laughs out loud at least once!

How did you come to write this book?

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT actually started its life as a submission for a workshop at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I was working toward a degree in writing for children. I had to write 20 pages of an entirely new story, the deadline was tight, and I was running short on story ideas. I’d always loved pirates, though, and I’d dreamed of writing a book about a grand pirate treasure hunt. I was also rereading some of my favorite books by Jaclyn Moriarty at the time, and I wanted to experiment with Moriarty’s technique of telling a story through letters, postcards, newspaper clippings and other documents. When I tossed both of these ideas together, I ended up with 20 pages about a girl who receives a letter informing her that since only boys are allowed to be pirates, her application to the pirate league has been rejected.

I wasn’t expecting much to come of my experiment, but I ended up loving the results, and when my workshop-mates told me that they wanted to know what happened next to my pirate heroine and her gargoyle sidekick, I knew I’d hit on a story idea with potential. Those pages that I wrote for my workshop 3 years ago are still more or less the first 20 pages of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. And the story took on a life of its own from there—I wrote the first draft in 4 months flat, which was a whole lot faster than I’d ever written anything before! Plenty has changed since that first draft; in revisions with my editor, I strengthened the magic system of my fictional world, I turned a minor character into a major one, and I rewrote nearly the entire ending from scratch. But MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT is still the kind of book I loved to read when I was growing up: an adventure full of twists, humor, and magic. I had a wonderful time writing it, and I hope readers will enjoy it, too.


Thanks, Caroline! You can find THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT in stores tomorrow!


Posted by | September 4, 2013 | No Comments

Celebrate the release of Sharon Creech’s new novel THE BOY ON THE PORCH by joining the Creech-a-Thon! Pledge to read a novel by Sharon Creech (or any novel of your choice) this month and you could win a set of all 16 Sharon Creech novels, including a signed hardcover copy of THE BOY ON THE PORCH, as well as a Sharon Creech bookmark.

The Boy on the Porch

The contest will run until September 30, and you can submit your pledge here. Happy reading!


Posted by | September 3, 2013 | No Comments

You may remember the charming (and young and talented and funny and, and, and . . .) Stefan Bachmann from his debut novel THE PECULIAR, which came out last year. His new book, THE WHATNOT (a companion to THE PECULIAR) will be out on September 24th, and we had Stefan in our video studio talking about the new book and some of his experiences meeting kids during school visits. Here he is!

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