Blog Tour: STAR-CROSSED by Barbara Dee, Novel Secret & #Giveaway (USA)
May 25th, 2017 by Liza Wiemer

Blog Tour: STAR-CROSSED27242442

by Barbara Dee

Published by: Simon & Schuster, Aladdin

Important Links:

Goodreads | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.

e, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and fu
nny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.


“A sweet story of young love amid middle school theatrics. Mattie’s genuine inflections and stream-of-consciousness narrative resonate well with the early-adolescent experience. Readers cannot help but root for Mattie as she discovers bravery she never gave herself credit for, both onstage and in life.”—Kirkus Reviews 

“A sweet coming-out story for jr. high readers. The clever Shakespeare content is a bonus…VERDICT: A fine choice for middle school libraries in need of accessible LGBTQ stories and a great option for students reading or performing Romeo and Juliet.”—School Library Journal

“A star student falls for the lead actress of her school play in this welcome addition to the middle grade LGBTQ bookshelf…Dee thoughtfully dramatizes the intricate social performance of middle school, with its secret crushes and fierce rivalries. The book benefits from a memorable cast…Mattie’s narration is intimate and believable, and readers will be pleased to watch her grow from spectator to star.”—Publishers Weekly

“A sweet look at unexpected first love. Recommended.”—School Library Connection

School Library Journal “Popular Pick” for March, 2017!

About Barbara Dee:Barbara Dee 2 142 kb

Barbara Dee is the author of seven middle grade novels all published by Simon & Schuster, including TRUTH OR DARE (Sept. 2016) and STAR-CROSSED (March 2017). Her next middle grade novel, HALFWAY NORMAL, will publish September 5, 2017. Barbara is one of the founders and directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.

Novel Secret:


You know those T-shirts and mugs that say “Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my novel”? I have a confession: I based a character in STAR-CROSSED on a real-life acquaintance whose name-dropping (particularly about famous authors) was driving me crazy. I couldn’t call her out on it, so I used her irritating behavior in the creation of Miss Bluestone, the teacher who “talked about authors as if they were her former boyfriends,” and referred to Emily Dickinson by her first name. It’s the first time I ever created a character to help me deal with a tricky person, but I highly recommend it as a coping mechanism.

Giveaway: 1 signed copy of


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Blog Tour: THE BLUE MOON NARTHEX by N.J. Donner: Novel Secrets & #Giveaway
Feb 23rd, 2017 by Liza Wiemer

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The balance of good and evil has been left in the hands of a thirteen year old…Nick Donner Front Cover 300 RGB

Since the beginning of time, Karmanic matter worked silently and unassisted keeping good and evil in balance, until growing greed in the world meant Karma couldn’t keep up. As World War I rages, the secret Karmanic Sovereign Legion works behind the scenes to help Karma.

A suspicious train accident and an odd stone-shaped object that belonged to his father thrust Cole McCarthy and two schoolmates into the middle of this battle to keep dark forces in check.

With only the powerful stone, a letter, and grandfatherly Norm to guide them, the trio must unravel clues and tap into unknown strengths to discover who Cole’s father really was and keep themselves and those they love safe.

Includes chapter 1 of book 2 in the Karmanic Sovereign Legion series!

LINKS: Amazon | B&N

N.J. Donner

N.J. Donner


N.J. Donner is the author of the new Karmanic Sovereign Legion books. N.J. loves to explore. The world fascinates him and he wants to figure out why and how things work, including Karma.

College adventures took N.J. far from his small Nebraska hometown to the southern hemisphere and the inner city. This was the beginning of his wanderlust and today he loves to travel with his wife, Amanda, and their three children.

N.J. became the first person to graduate with a minor in international affairs from Nebraska Wesleyan University and spent the years right out of college building a successful steel company.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram


Novel Secrets:

How a character was named?

Most of the character names are based on my family. They are the names that I have come to love over the years, so it helped me build the persona and connect with each character as the story unfolded.

The three main characters, Cole, Sophie and Britten are based and named after my kids.

What inspired a scene?  

Norm and Diesel (his black lab) walking around trying to delay the day’s inevitable work. I have seen this play out for years almost every morning at my steel business. I have heard the saying “getting lined out” (getting the day planned) more times than I can count.

How the idea for the book came to be?

It started with a dream. It had the basics about trains and the ability for people to slide or transport themselves between them. My over-active daydreaming brain took over from there with questions of who, when, where, and what if. The idea of Karma was always in the back of my mind as the story unfolded.

If there was a place or a person who was influential in some way.

Norm. (One of the names I did change) is based on a real person. He is one of those people who has nor wants anything. He’s an odd person with a rough exterior, but extremely kindhearted. Most people in the real world don’t give the Norms a chance. I just hope everyone gets to meet someone like him.

Unusual research?

After reading The Blue Moon Narthex, you’ll understand why I would need to research the finest animal hair in the world for a tool of the Bahjani. I had to research where the term “once in a blue moon” came from. I also had to research the speeds of bullets and arrows for comparison on some of the tools that are made by the Techies and tested by the Testers.

Anything readers wouldn’t know based about the book just from picking it up.

The world and network of the KSL is much bigger than only Coreseum. The adventures Cole, Sophie, and Britten get swept into during the next book take them across the globe. Watch for The Kin Larsi Agenda, book two of the of the Karmanic Sovereign Legion Series.

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

2/6: Swoony Boys Podcast – Review

2/7: Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Q&A

2/8: Kara the Redhead – Spotlight

2/9: Young Adult Rocks – Review

2/10: books are love – Top 10

Week 2:

2/13: Such A Novel Idea – Q&A

2/14: Book Stacks Amber – Excerpt

2/15: Books Buying Beauty – Review

2/16: Red House Books – Guest Post

2/17: Basic Book Blog – Review

Week 3:

2/20: The Irish Banana Review – Review

2/21: Lisa’s Loves – World Building

2/22: Pondering the Prose – Review

2/23: Who RU Blog – Novel Secrets

2/24: The Plot Bunny – Review


The Blue Moon Narthex Swag Box (US Only)

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Novel Secret: BJORN’S GIFT by Sandy Brehl & International #Giveaway
Oct 6th, 2016 by Liza Wiemer


BJORN’S GIFT by Sandy Brehl



BJORN’S GIFT is a sequel to Odin’s Promise, which was awarded the 2014 Midwest Book Award for Children’s Fiction. Set in Norway during World War II, Bjorn’s Gift continues the adventures of Mari, a young Norwegian girl who faces growing hardships and dangers in her small village in a western fjord. German occupation troops and local Nazi supporters move closer to her family’s daily life, and her classmate Leif becomes active in the Norwegian Nazi youth party. Mari struggles to live up to her brother Bjorn’s faith in her, as she becomes more involved in risky resistance activities, trusting only her family and a few close friends. Across Norway, oppressive laws are imposed in the months from Fall 1941 to early 1943, with dire local consequences. Difficult decisions force Mari to admit that many things in life are not easily sorted into good or bad, and she begins to wonder if Hitler will ever be defeated and . . . whether the occupation of Norway will ever end.



In the earliest pages of the original novel, ODIN’S PROMISE, eleven-year-old Mari became aware that the German occupation/invasion of Norway resulted in countless secrets. Kathleen Spale’s beautiful cover art for BJORN’S GIFT shows Mari using an attic space to put some of those secrets and worries on paper. Revealing more would require a spoiler alert, so instead I’ll share a story of my own about secrets in attic spaces.

I grew up in a three-story Tudor-style home. The staircase to that top level had a landing. There you could turn right and continue up a few steps to my brother’s bedroom, or turn left, facing a door. Behind that door was a storage space, always filled to bursting with the seasonal detritus of a large family. On one wall was a raised half-door we were told never to open or enter.

house-lights006The reason wasn’t as sinister as that sounds. Behind the door was a small crawlspace with a plywood floor and beams only a few feet overhead, stuffed with pink insulation. I vividly remember being warned NOT to go into that space, that fiberglass was dangerous.

For most of the year the heat and prickly sensations that cramped space produced made rule-following easy. But winter weather, with its covered-up clothing, brought an instinct for hibernation. I’d lean against a wall, tug on the string attached to a low-watt bulb, and settle in to read, in private.

No, in secret.

But secrets can be dangerous.

On a weekend after Thanksgiving Mom and Dad took us kids to shop for winter coats. We each had the luxury of choosing our preferred styles, then learned the hard truth: the coats wouldn’t come home with us. Instead Mom had recorded all the details for us to include in our letters to Santa Claus.

One Saturday afternoon between that shopping trip and Christmas Eve I opened that little half-door to read for an hour or two. My tug on the light string showed that my space filled with bags and boxes.

Come on, now, you know what I did.

I looked inside.

Box after box revealed the exact coats we had selected. I stopped then, immediately certain that I didn’t want to see any more.

Christmas morning we found, as usual, that Santa had provided what Mom and Dad couldn’t afford. For the sake of my younger sister I didn’t say anything about my discovery, to her or to my parents. Instead, I scoured the faces of my older brother and sister, certain that they knew the truth, even while we stood in that store. They feigned surprise and excitement. They had written and mailed their own letters to Santa, including coat details. What other secrets were they keeping from me?

The stakes for me were drastically different from Mari’s, and yet I’m convinced that the confusion and distress I felt were similar to her reactions.

Who can you trust? Why so many secrets? What is the truth?


Sandy Brehl grew up in Ohio and has lived in Wisconsin for many years. As a longtime educator. Since retiring a few years ago she reads, writes and conducts literacy workshops for professionals. She’s been writing picture book text, poetry, professional articles, and longer works for years. She credits joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) after retiring as a major factor in developing her debut middle grade novel and this trilogy. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys gardening, art, and travel.


Email: sandy@sandybrehl.com


Twitter: @SandyBrehl and  @PBWorkshop | Facebook | Goodreads

Also blogs about picture books for all ages at


and shares a blog about middle grade historical books with three other authors:



Giveaway – 1 winner will get a  copy of ODIN’S PROMISE & BJORN’S GIFT (International where Book Depository delivers)

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Blog Tour stops:

September 1– Interview with Todd Burleson at http://groggorg.blogspot.com

Launch book giveaway raffle at  

September 7           Review: Stephanie Lowden at golowd

September 11         Guest post Unleashing Readers at http://www.unleashingreaders.com

September 14         Review by Erik at This Kid Reviews Books, https://thiskidreviewsbooks.com

September 19`       Review, Suzanne Warr, at Tales from the Raven: http://suzannewarr.com

September 20        Olivia and Oscar- review of ODIN’S PROMISE at Kid Book Reviewer: http://www.kidbookreviewer.com

September 27         Olivia and Oscar- review of BJORN’S GIFT at Kid Book Reviewer: http://www.kidbookreviewer.com (reminder- giveaway ends Sept. 30.

September 29         Alex Baugh review at Children’s War https://thechildrenswar.blogspot.com

October 3                 Jenni Enzor MMGM with review and interview http://jennienzor.blogspot.com

October 5                 MomReadIt- review https://momreadit.wordpress.com

October 7                 Trisha Perry  Mindjacked   https://momreadit.wordpress.com

October 11               Guest post Rochelle Melander http://writenowcoach.com/blog/

Blog Tour: THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE by Kathrine Marsh — Novel Secrets & #Giveaway
Mar 7th, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

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by Katherine Marsh

with illustrations by Kelly Murphy

Published January 5, 2016

by Disney-Hyperion


Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository


A Junior Library Guild Selection

“Well-drawn characters, an original setting, and a satisfying resolution are the ingredients that make this carefully crafted middle-grade adventure a highly rewarding read.”
   —Kirkus, Starred Review

“A sparkling tale full of adventure, magic, and folklore…Imagine Little Orphan Annie crossed with Russian folklore, plunked down in the spiritualist community of Lily Dale, NY, with a dash of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away on top.”
   —School Library Journal, Starred Review

“This book is a splendid mix of traditional Russian folkloric details, magical adventure, and hints of historical fiction.”
   —The Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books, Starred Review

“An engaging, almost cinematic story.”
   —The Wall Street Journal, “Children’s Books: Inspiring Awe”

Door Staircase

Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can’t stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn’t go quite as well as she’d hoped, Mary fears she’ll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever.

The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron’s all too happy to get the girl off her hands. Soon, Mary is fed a hearty meal, dressed in a clean, new nightgown and shown to a soft bed with blankets piled high. She can hardly believe she isn’t dreaming!

But when Mary begins to explore the strange nearby town with the help of her new friend, Jacob, she learns a terrifying secret about Madame Z’s true identity. If Mary’s not careful, her new home might just turn into a nightmare.

KM Author

Katherine Marsh


Website | Twitter | Facebook


I‘m Katherine Marsh. I write books about kids. Some are alive. Some are dead. Some lived hundreds of years ago. All of them find themselves in unusual situations and places. Some of them are unusual themselves.

If you’ve ever wondered about witches, ghosts, the lives of court dwarfs, the power of magic, the invincibility of death, and how (and how not) to care for a fire-breathing horse, then you’ll probably enjoy my books. Warning: They may make you laugh. They will almost certainly make you cry.

My debut novel, The Night Tourist, won the Edgar® Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. It was published in translation in ten countries and there’s even a sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.

My third book, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars was a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Books of 2012 and a Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2012, among other accolades.

The Door by the Staircase is available now from Disney Hyperion. It’s a fairy tale adventure story for middle grade readers inspired by Russian folklore. Other influences include my love of cooking and magic acts, my cat Egg, and my family’s onetime ownership of a small flock of chickens.


One of my favorite childhood photographs is this one: Me, aged 4, sitting behind a big bowl of my grandmother’s homemade borscht.IMG_5033

My grandmother was born in Russia. She came to this country in 1928, opened a bar and restaurant, and still loved to cook when my parents and I moved in with her in the late 1970s. The comfort food in my house growing up was her food. And although she could win any American bake-off with her apple or lemon meringue pies, the food I remember most was her Russian cooking—pierogi and blini, stuffed cabbage, and of course, borscht, the chicken soup of the Slavic soul.

There was something magical about her cooking—the old recipes that she knew by heart and would never write down; the hours of invisible prep-work—that became even more magical to me as an adult. As hard as I tried, I could never recreate her dishes. I didn’t have any recipes but even if I did, I felt she’d always added something more than I could give: time, patience, love.

The magic of cooking is something I worked into THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE. The book, after all, is about eating—initially in the worst possible way. Twelve-year old orphan Mary Hayes is finally adopted only to discover that her new guardian is the child-eating Russian witch Baba Yaga. But Mary confounds the witch by daring to stick around and demanding she teach her magic. Will Baba Yaga eat Mary or love her? What follows is a tale that is really about the ingredients of family, particularly mothers and daughters. But it also a secret catalogue of those special dishes my grandmother cooked for me.

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

3/7: Who R U Blog – Novel Secrets

3/8: Books for Thought – Excerpt

3/9: Quite the Novel Idea – Guest Post

3/10: Mundie Kids – Excerpt

3/11: The Cover Contessa – Q&A

Week 2:

3/14: Once Upon A Twilight – Excerpt

3/15: The Story Sanctuary – Top 10

3/16: I Turn the Pages – Q&A

3/17: I Am Shelfless – Excerpt

3/18: Books Are Love – Playlist


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ODIN’S PROMISE by Sandy Brehl, Q&A and Giveaway
Oct 1st, 2015 by Liza Wiemer


by Sandy Brehl

Q&A and Giveaway

Buy here: IndieBoundAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


GREAT NEWS AND HUGE CONGRATS to Sandy! She has signed a contract to write two more books, so Odin’s Promise is now going to be a trilogy! Click here for more info: Sequel Update: Good News- DOUBLED 

Literary awards: Midwest Independent Publishers AssociationMidwest Book Award (2014)Gold for Children’s Fiction

About the novel:

ODIN’S PROMISE is a historical novel for middle-grade readers, a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway in World War II as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked under the wings of her parents, grandma, and older siblings. After Hitler’s troops invade Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. As the year progresses, Mari, her family, and her neighbors are drawn into the activities of the Norwegian underground resistance.

About the author:7831795

Books have been a central part of Sandy’s life since bedtime read-alouds with siblings. Reading and writing with and for her students during her long teaching career led to some publications in magazines and journals.
When Sandy retired from teaching and joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) she gained a critique group and took part in professional workshops and conferences. The development of her writing craft and extensive research led to the publication of Odin’s Promise.
She writes picture book text, poetry, early reader paneled text, and professional articles on developing reading with quality literature.
Sandy hosts a blog about the use of picture books for all ages at http://UnpackingPictureBookPower.blog….

To connect with Sandy: Goodreads | Website | Twitter


Readers might be surprised to find out that Odin is a dog. He’s very protective of eleven-year-old Mari. I noticed you dedicated the novel to the first Odin. What can you tell us about the first Odin and was he, too, protective of you?

Odin was a mixed breed, golden retriever-spaniel, and was a wise and gentle soul. He came into my life when he was already an older dog, full of humor and loyalty. Perhaps because he was nearly deaf by then he was very attuned to changes in household routines and the environment, so he would alert me to those. I have no doubt he would have defended me with his life, if needed (between naps).

Here’s an interesting fact: I avoid reading books featuring dogs, until I absolutely can’t stop myself because I know the book is so terrific. I’m sure there are other readers like that, and I NEVER planned to write a story with a dog in it. When dogs are in stories I’m in constant fear for their safety, even if I’m told in advance that nothing bad happens.

After I found Mari’s voice and perspective (or she found me) I had no choice. Mari needed a dog. She knew it and I knew it. I needed to give her the right one.

That’s when research about native Norwegian breeds began. The more I researched the more certain I was that she needed a Norwegian elkhound, even though I never had one or had even known one. Its breed traits (protective, intelligent, loyal, powerful, and fearless) were perfect for Mari. Even more importantly, elkhound traits represent the ideals of Norway as a country. Odin HAD to be his name. He became my symbol for Norway’s stand against the Nazis and refusal to accept their false claims of friendship.

I was relieved to find that there are black elkhounds, even though elkhound-blacks are not common. As a child we had a black dog with white toes and tail-tip, and the dog/family member I met on my first trip to Norway was also black with those markings. I was especially happy to find that was a realistic option for Mari’s dog, too.

Since Odin’s Promise was released I have been involved with members of the NEAA, the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America. Through their warm-hearted members (two- and four-footed ones) I’ve fallen in love with the breed and found that everything I read about them is true, and more.

Anyone interested in learning more about the breed and available dogs could contact: http://www.elkhoundrescue.org


Can you share any picture of the type of traditional dress Mari would have worn to her sister’s wedding?

hardanger bunad detail hardanger bunad iamge

Link here to a post with other links: http://www.sandybrehl.com/bunad-whats-that/

Norway is a single country but represents widely different cultures and climates because it stretches from northern Europe into the Arctic Circle. The country is divided into districts (something like our states), separated by geographic landmarks like mountain ranges, tundras, etc. As with our states, each district has its own local pride and practices. The bunad (traditional costumes) for each district are distinct and can be easily identified by most Norwegians. (Think cheeseheads and team logos.) Even when someone moves (within the country or by emigrating) the bunad design from their “homeland” or family-based district is usually the design they will continue to wear and use in succeeding generations.

Mari’s family in Ytre Arna would wear the Hardanger District bunad. (pictured). These are VERY expensive outfits and include many embellishments with silver or pewter buttons, laces, and jewelry adornments. When children are young and growing fast they may have simpler bunad, made in the general style, then finally receiving their adult version at fifteen. At that age they have Confirmation, a major event in Norwegian culture indicating passage to adulthood.

Over the course of the occupation many people found they needed to barter away the buttons and other valuable parts from personal and heirloom bunad in exchange for necessities.

What is your favorite food that Mari and her family would have eaten? Can you share a recipe?

(kranse kaka recipe sent, if you want it, from a master-expert Norwegian baker, a friend of mine.) Link to it on my blog is here, but the special eBook price no longer applies: http://www.sandybrehl.com/holiday-kranse-kake-recipe-a-bonus/

Recipe for Kranse Kake

3 – 8 ounce cans SOLO pure almond paste

1 cup granulated sugar

2 egg whites

Mix together in mixer until well-blended. Spray tins well with PAM for baking with flour. Use flat star template in cookie press to make a ring of dough in each section of the tins. Use a blunt tool such as a plastic orange peeler to press ends together. Be sure the ring of dough is perfectly round.

Bake tins (2 or 3 at a time) in a 325 degree oven for 17-22 minutes. Check at 15 minutes. Do not let the rings get too brown. They should be just turning and be golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pans. (I take my orange slicer tool and gently lift here and there to make sure they aren’t sticking.)

After rings are completely cold, remove from tins and arrange in order on a counter. Begin with the largest and stack “gluing” them together with frosting:

1 egg white slightly beaten

3 drops white vinegar

1 cup powdered sugar

Put the “glue” into a strong zip-lock bag and when you are ready to assemble the cake, snip a very small piece off one corner of the bag. Pipe a solid band of frosting all around the top of the layer and then immediately set the next layer on top. Repeat until all layers are used.

If you wish, you may pipe “scallops” of frosting around the cake to decorate. Store the cake in an airtight container. It may also be frozen.

Norwegian flags or wrapped candies may be stuck into the cake for decoration. For special occasions, I have used a wired ribbon bow atop the cake.


This recipe makes an eighteen layer cake. You will likely have dough left over which can be used to make fingers. (Just pipe out long lines of dough on a cookie sheet and cut into uniform pieces and then bake.)

If you double the recipe (which we do for weddings) it will make a 36 layer cake and about 200 fingers.

Note: I always use the SOLO almond paste because it works the best. I have used other brands (Odense) and the cake does not turn out as well.

Nancy Sande


Food was extremely scarce during this time, but Mari didn’t complain. Would she have suffered in any other way besides weight loss, which you mentioned?

Odin’s Promise is only the first year of the occupation, so the rationing was not nearly as severe as it would become over the course of five long years of occupation. The conditions in specific areas varied greatly, as I suggested in the story. Mari lived near the southwest coast, a milder climate, and had access to the fjord for fishing.

Agricultural areas had more ability to provide for themselves despite the fact that much of their crops/livestock were confiscated for German use. From the beginning the Germans stayed well-fed and many reports say they considered being stationed in Norway a luxury posting.

Urban areas with limited garden space, dense populations, and a heavy concentration of soldiers suffered the greatest shortages.

Over time this had different effects depending on age and general health. Young children were allowed a modest milk ration until age five. Children had poor bone and dental development, including toothaches and decay as well as joint pain. It was common to develop severe and chronic coughs during the winter months, usually treated with nothing more than flannel rags soaked in warm camphor oil tied to their chests. Pneumonia posed the greatest threat to the very young, very old, and those with chronic illnesses because nutrition and resistance were so poor.

In the final year of the occupation the potato crop failed, an essential staple, at a time when troop numbers were the highest and resources had been severely depleted.

Mari and her family were VERY fortunate to be able to stay in their home when the Nazis came to their village. Please share what happened to other families who had to leave their homes or had to house Nazis during this time.

This changed after the first year and is a major component of Books Two and Three, and shapes major plot elements in both.

What topics would Mari have studied in school and how would they have been different or the same for children going to school at the same time in the United States?

First, Norway offers parents a full year paid maternity leave, followed by high-quality free or affordable early childhood services. Children usually attend preschools and child-care centers at which socialization, play, and other developmentally appropriate experiences fill their days.
Schools do not actually enroll children in “year one” (first grade) until they are seven years old. At that time they begin working with a single teacher and often stay with that teacher and group until “lower school” is completed at year six (age 13).

As you can imagine, these groups, including the other students, their teachers, and their families, become very close during those years. I heard numerous stories of people who remained lifelong friends from those shared years.

School subjects included the usual math, reading, writing, grammar, history, and science. Nature, art, music, fitness, and sports also played important roles.

Additional languages were taught as early as year four, and at that time the foreign language was often German. Norwegian language has variations in different regions of the country, but it is similar in many ways to Danish and Swedish, so those were picked up more naturally.

These days formal English instruction begins at year four and by the time students leave the school system most are fluent in three or more languages.

Foreign language was rarely taught in elementary schools in this country. In fact, those who spoke other languages were often treated with disdain or suspicion here, especially after war began in Europe and the Pacific areas.

School patterns were affected severely in the second year of occupation and beyond due to ever-increasing numbers of German troops. These changes play a significant part in Book Two of the trilogy, as Mari and her classmates move into upper school.

There were Norwegians who joined the Nazis. What kinds of things did they do for the Nazis and how was their relationship with the other Norwegians who refused to become members of their party? 

This was some of the most interesting research I was able to discover while preparing to write Odin’s Promise. The Germans quickly eliminated the authentic Norwegian government and constitution and replaced it with German control, a new flag, and a controlling party, the “NS”, or Nazi Norway. Anyone who openly joined and acted friendly toward the Germans and these changes was treated as if they were Germans. Anything seen as making the Germans welcome (chatting, dating, attending their events) was collaboration. The benefits granted meant some who agreed with the Germans weren’t the only ones supporting them. In order to provide additional food or medicine, some insisted they “had no choice” but to cooperate. It was understood that anyone might be “striped”, acting and talking as if loyal to Norway but then reporting on others to the Germans for extra ration tickets or because of threats.

This posed a challenge to everyone there, but especially to young Mari who had never doubted that everyone she met could be trusted—until the Germans arrived.

“The ice front” (social ostracizing) was a major tool used against the soldiers and anyone who openly supported them. This could be simple things like ignoring them to boycotting their businesses, ridiculing them in the underground newspapers, and making them the butt of jokes.


Giveaway (International to countries where Book Depository delivers)

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Release Day Blog Tour: TANGLED MAGIC by Jennifer Carson, A MG novel & Giveaway
Apr 21st, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

Release Day Blog Tour: TANGLED MAGIC


by Jennifer Carson, A MG novel & Giveaway

Buy it here: IndieBound |Book Depository | Amazon | B&N


About the novel:

“It’s been two years since Maewyn discovered her magick and saved the Wedge from a troll invasion. Now the hapenny villagers are embarking on an age-old tradition that was given up after the first troll invasion: A Great Expedition. This is a chance for the younger hapennies to discover the world outside of the Wedge.  But the world outside of the Wedge can be a scary place, and the hapennies soon find themselves knee deep in troll trouble.”


To connect with Jennifer: Twitter | Website 


About the first book in the series:

Hapenny Magick by Jennifer Carson

Hapenny Magick by Jennifer Carson


by Jennifer Carson (Goodreads Author)

Literary awards: Eric Hoffer Book Award

4.51 of 5 stars 4.51  ·   rating details   ·  47 ratings  ·  19 reviews

Maewyn Bridgepost, the tiniest Hapenny, a race of little people, spends her days, from breakfast to midnight nibble, scrubbing the hearth, slopping the pigs, and cooking for her guardian, Gelbane, who never spares a kind word. As if life as a servant isn’t bad enough, Mae learns that Gelbane is a troll and Hapennies are a troll delicacy. Years ago, a spell trapped Gelbane in Mae’s village. Ever since, Gelbane has been chiseling away the magic protections and now Mae’s home is destined to become a smorgasbord for half-starved trolls.

When her best friend, Leif, goes missing, it will take all of Mae’s courage to friend her friend and protect her village.

When pitchforks, sewing needles, pots, brooms and a little magick are the only weapons at hand, the hapennies discover that great victories can be accomplished no matter what size you are, but only if you stick together.

Giveaway: A copy of HAPENNY MAGICK – INTERNATIONAL, as long as the Book Depository delivers to your country!

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Last List Blog Tour: HISSY FITZ (MG novel) by Patrick Jennings – Q & A & Giveaway
Mar 2nd, 2015 by Liza Wiemer



To support Egmont authors, Cuddlebuggery set up this blog tour. I’m thrilled to be participating. I was assigned a middle grade novel titled: Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings. For more information, please check out the Cuddlebuggery Page

HISSY FITZ by Patrick JenningsHissy Fitz Book Cover

EGMONT USA • ISBN: 978-606845967  

Buy it here: IndieBoundAmazon | B&N | Book Depository


Follow Hissy Fitz’s twitter feed! @TheHissyFitz


“With its short chapters, snappy dialogue, and fast-moving plot, this book will be popular with newly independent readers.” —School Library Journal


“Hissy’s drily delivered complaints and observations (“Humans are the noisiest creatures alive. I’m not sure there is any escape”) entertain, while Hissy’s frustration at his dependence on large humans who annoy him will likely resonate with many a reader.”

Publisher’s Weekly 

Q & A with author Patrick Jennings

1. What inspired you to get into the mind of a cat?

I lived with cats for twenty years and felt I was beginning to understand the creature. I don’t mean I communicated with the cats. I just watched. I saw patterns in their behavior, especially when interacting with humans. It seemed to me what people wanted from the cat did not match what the cat wanted, which, mainly, is sleep.

When a group of middle-graders suggested writing a story about a cat that couldn’t sleep, an insomniac cat, I heard a character’s voice in my mind. (My stories often begin this way: a character starts talking to me. Interesting that hearing voices is typically either a sign of mental illness or business as usual for a fiction writer.)

2. What is one of your favorite lines or paragraphs in the novel?

It’s as if a light has been turned on inside me, and it’s shining out through my eyes. I feel the urge to go outside, to go hunting. It’s not something I want to do, or need to do. It’s something I am. 

3. If you could talk to a cat, what would you say to it?

If it deigned to listen, I’d ask if it would prefer to live with people or strike out on its own.

4. Who was your favorite author when you were in middle school and why? Or, what was your favorite book in middle school and why? 

I’m not sure if you mean middle school (which we called junior high) or middle-grade, which is the level I write for. In my middle grades (3-6), I loved Beverly Cleary’s books. I started with Henry Huggins, but eventually read all of the books she’d written up to that time, except Socks (I didn’t like cats then) and Fifteen (I didn’t care for teenagers, either). I still love Cleary’s books. She took the fears and challenges of childhood seriously, especially those that adults tend to wave away as trivial: a scary dog on the way to school, worrying that the stray dog you adopted will be reclaimed. Ramona Quimby is an incredible nuanced character, as real a girl as one can find in literature.

5. Do you have any pets? If so, what kind, how many, and what are their names? 

My cat streak ended two years ago when my daughter developed an allergy to our current cat, Lila. Since finding a home for Lila, I’ve considered getting a new animal, but have worried how it would affect my daughter. So, for the time being, we’re petless.

6. What was your favorite activity during middle school and why?
The middle-grade years were an excellent time for me. I was a Renaissance kid really, as comfortable writing a play as I was reigning on the tetherball court. I loved my bike, my friends, baseball and dodgeball, drawing, even schoolwork. I acted in the play I wrote, The Half-True Story of Jesse James, by the way, and directed it, too. The world was my oyster.

7. What’s your favorite food? Movie? Fun activity? Recipe?

Ice cream. The Apartment. Riding my bike. Potato-kale soup.

Bio: Patrick JenningsAuthor Photo

Patrick Jennings’s books for young readers have received honors from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, Smithsonian Magazine, the PEN Center USA, the Woman’s National Book Association, and the Chicago and New York Public Libraries. The Seattle Public Library awarded his book, Guinea Dog, the Washington State Book Award of 2011. His book, Faith and the Electric Dogs, is currently being adapted for the screen. His new book, Hissy Fitz, was published in January 2015. He currently writes full time in his home in Port Townsend, Washington.

email: patrickpending@mac.com

website: patrickjennings.com

blog: patrickjenningsesquire.blogspot.com18209507

twitter: @PJenningsWrites

Giveaway: US only – a copy of  Odd Weird & Little by Patrick Jennings, plus swag.

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HOOK’S REVENGE Blog Tour: Guest Post with Author Heidi Schulz — Create a Fairy Garden
Sep 24th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer


Guest Post with Author Heidi Schulz

 Create a Fairy Garden

& Giveaway


a0773cdd-90db-4914-a5af-9afe1fe382f5Buy Hook’s Revenge Here:

Powell’s | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

About Hook’s Revenge:

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?


About Heidi Schulz:


Author Heidi Schulz reading HOOK’S REVENGE

Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, co-captaining a crew made of their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014. A sequel, HOOK’S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE, will follow in fall 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, in 2016.

Website | Twitter  | Facebook  | Goodreads

 Create a Fairy Garden


Hi Liza! Thank you for hosting me today! I thought I could talk to your readers a little bit about fairies—specifically the fairies in Hook’s Revenge. Sound good?

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Peter Pan’s fairy, Tinker Bell. Remember in Peter Pan, how Tink almost got Wendy killed because she was so jealous over Peter? Well, I’m sorry to say she hasn’t changed much by the time Jocelyn gets to the Neverland. But she’s not the only lovesick fairy you’ll have a chance to encounter. Wait until you meet Prince Meriwether!

You’ll also get to spend some time at a fairy ball and meet Queen Mab herself. And then there is that whole business with Jocelyn’s fairy wish—but oh, I’m afraid saying more would spoil it for you. Instead, why don’t I show you how to build a fairy garden? Who knows, perhaps you’ll attract a fairy of your very own.


My daughter and I built this particular fairy garden a few years ago. If you would like to make one, here’s how:

Step 1

Find a suitable container. Use a clay pot, planter, sand bucket, or even a ceramic bowl. Think about whether you will want this for indoor or outdoor use and plan according.

Step 2

Fill your container with potting soil, but don’t just make it flat and level. Spend some time adding variety to your landscape. We chose to make a hill and a dry creek bed in ours. If your dirt resists sculpting because it is too dry and powdery, a few sprays with a spray bottle of water will make things easier.

Step 3

If you have made a creek bed, line it with small pebbles. Likewise for any stone paths you may wish to have.


Step 4

Plant your vegetation. We chose to use a small plant purchased at a local nursery and a few weed from the yard. Usually we want to keep weeds out of our gardens, but in this case, they can be really lovely. (Just don’t use anything that will irritate your skin. You might attract a fairy with a prickly attitude.)

Step 5

Cover all remaining dirt with ground cover. We live in Oregon, so moss was an easy choice for us. It can be found abundantly around our yard. If you live in a moss-free zone, perhaps use bark dust, sand, or purchased peet moss.

Step 6

Accessorize! This is the fun part. Look around your yard. What natural materials could you incorporate? We made a stone table with tiny shell dishes, walnut shell and pebble stools, and a shell pond. A bit of red and white paint turned a small rock into a mushroom. Hot glue transformed some twigs into a bridge. The scene is rounded out by a miniature wash line (created from felt, string, and a pair of slender sticks) and a tiny house (purchased for $1.00 at a local craft store).


I’m certain a fairy moved right into our little garden and she was so enamored with it, she completely forgot to bring in the washing. If you happen to make one of your own, I’d love to see it. Tweet me a picture @HeidiSchulz or tag me on Instagram @HeidiSchulzBooks.

And if you do happen to attract a fairy of your own, warn your loved ones to watch out. You never know what kinds of things a jealous fairy may do!

Thanks again! I really appreciate you hosting me!

Note from Liza: Hey, Heidi & awesome readers. It’s truly my pleasure to feature HOOK’S REVENGE on this blog. On a personal note, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Heidi and spending time with her in person. You don’t meet sweet, creative, warm, friendly, vivacious, fun, interesting, bright women like her every day. Not surprising, then, that Heidi wrote such an imaginative, clever MG debut novel. Congrats, Heidi!

Thank you to Disney for providing an ARC of Hook’s Revenge!

Thank you to Hannah McBride of The Irish Banana Review for arranging this blog tour with Disney!


Blog Tour Schedule:

9/12-Liza from Reading with ABC

9/15-Nicole from Paperback Princess

9/16-Hannah from The Irish Banana Review

9/17-Katie from Mundie Moms

9/18-Jen from Jenuine Cupcakes

9/19-Gabby from Queen Ella Bee Reads

9/22-Christina from Allodoxophobia

9/23-Amy from Kissed by Ink

9/24-Liza from Who RU Blog

9/25-Jenny from Supernatural Snark


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Hook's Revenge (Hook's Revenge, #1)Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

Take a beloved children’s classic story & continue the tale? Not an easy feat. But then do it exceptionally well, and you get HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz.

WOW! This isn’t just a MG novel, this is a novel the entire family can enjoy. Clever and imaginative, Captain Hook and Peter Pan’s story continues in HOOK”S REVENGE! There’s adventure, danger, fun, humor, friendship, family, magic, and of course, the crocodile!

Once again, journey into Neverland. Meet fairies, pirates, and lost boys. Meet Captain Hook’s daughter Joselyn, and go on her quest to slay the crocodile that took her father’s life. Meet her best friend Roger, the horrible girls in her finishing school and Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecom, the head mistress. Life isn’t so good for Joselyn, but she manages to get away. That’s when the true adventure begins.

Hook’s Revenge can very well turn into a classic along with its original counterpart, PETER PAN. Boys will love the action, girls will appreciate the strong female character. It’s a fantasy work you’re want to read over and over again.
Highly recommend.

View all my reviews

INTERVIEW with Gayle Rosengren, Author of WHAT THE MOON SAID
Apr 7th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

What the moon saidINTERVIEW with MG Author Gayle Rosengren:


Published by: Putnam Juvenile

Pub. date: February 20, 2014

Buy it here:

Signed, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

From Goodreads:

Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can’t keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther’s family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?

Debut author Gayle Rosengren brings the past to life in this extraordinary, hopeful story.

My review: 

An outstanding MG novel that I’m sure will become a favorite of students and teachers alike. I was completely captivated by this historical fiction novel, which takes place during the Depression. Esther is a young girl struggling to get her mom’s approval and love. Her mom is very superstitious and these superstitions guide Esther’s enter family, determining the good luck and bad luck they’ll have. At times, it’s frustrating, hurtful, and confusing for Esther, especially when she is forbidden to play with a girl she really likes as a friend.

Readers will move with Esther and her family from Chicago to a farm in Milwaukee. They’ll experience hunger, they’ll celebrate the holidays with them, they’ll go through Esther’s illness and recovery. Even though the novel takes place a good eighty years ago, readers will be able to relate to the characters. Family, friendship, and being neighborly are some of the bigger themes of this novel. It’ll has a timeless appeal like Little Women and Little House on the Prairie.

This MG novel is a winner!

1. In your debut MG novel, WHAT THE MOON SAID, it’s my understanding that your mom’s life had a deep influence. What are some of the most important lessons she taught you? 

I was the youngest child and the only girl so my mother and I were very close.  She often told me stories about her experiences growing up. I think the one that made the deepest impression was the lesson she learned about the importance of being honest–not just in terms of always telling the truth but in always behaving truthfully as well. For example, the chapter about cheating in WHAT THE MOON SAID was based on a true experience from my mother’s girlhood.  Mom couldn’t see the blackboard because her vision was poor and her family couldn’t afford glasses, so a friend used to copy the problems for her and my mom, as thanks, would provide the answers. She didn’t feel that she was doing anything wrong, since she wasn’t receiving answers, but one day her teacher caught on to what was happening.  My mother and her friend were both accused of cheating and made to stand in front of the class as punishment.  My mother, who’d only received praise from her teachers before, was mortified!  The lesson stayed with her forever.  She told it to me as a cautionary tale, and it obviously stayed with me forever, too. So the most important lesson my mother taught me was honesty, but also kindness.  My mother was a gentle soul who was always kind and generous, especially to children.

2. Superstitions are definitely prevalent in WHAT THE MOON SAID. Do you have6886590 any superstitions? If so, what are they? What’s your general opinion on superstitions?  

I’m going to answer these questions in reverse order.  My opinion on superstitions is that they are absolutely not true.  That being said, I also believe that if we believe in them, they become true and can have impacts on our lives.  Good moments and bad ones happen in the course of every day.  If we believe in superstitions, we’ll connect the bad moments to the mirror we broke or the salt we spilled earlier.  Conversely, when something good happens we’ll connect it to the lucky shirt we’re wearing or the wish we made on the first star the night before. 

I don’t believe in superstitions, yet, as a result of the beliefs planted in me as a child, I confess to tossing salt over my shoulder and never opening an umbrella in the house or putting shoes on a table.  Logic, it appears, only extends so far when it comes to tempting Fate.  😉

3. One thing that struck me about your novel is that it’s timeless, even though it’s set during The Great Depression. How were you able to achieve this? 

That’s a lovely compliment, thank you! If the story feels timeless I think it’s because it’s so centered in the main character, Esther.  We get drawn into her world very quickly so everything feels very real.

But looked at another way, all the things that happen to her really ARE timeless.  Parents still lose their jobs, forcing families to move to places that are not as nice as the homes they left behind.  Money is tight, and it gets tighter as things don’t improve.  Food becomes less plentiful.  The same families are forced to move again, this time to live with friends or relatives.  Sadly, this is an all too real experience for many children today in the United States since we experienced our own economic crash in 2008.

5. What personality trait do you share with your main character? 

Esther’s desire to please and her love of animals are the two most significant traits I share with her.  I really loved being able to give her a dog and horses to make up for the movie theaters and ice cream shops she had to leave behind when the family moved from Chicago to the farm.

6. Who has influenced your life the most and why?  

I would have to say my brother Dennis.  He was a wonderful big brother–protective, and also willing to take time to teach me things, from tying my shoes to playing chess, riding a two-wheeler to doing yo-yo tricks.  When I was about eight years old he told me to think about how my actions or words might make someone else feel; to always try to put myself in their shoes.  This advice was really taken to heart and I believe that it–combined with my love of reading–is why I’m a writer today. The ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes has enabled me to make even very flawed characters somewhat sympathetic.  But more than that, putting myself in other people’s shoes has also been a great maxim to live by and made me a better friend and a better person than I might have been otherwise.

Lightning round:

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?  COFFEE!!!

Winter, spring, summer, or fall? It always used to be spring but as I get older it’s shifting to fall.  Do you suppose there’s some hidden significance in that?  J

Sci-fi thriller or romance movie?  Sci-fi thriller.

Fiction or non-fiction?  Fiction

Folding laundry or doing dishes?  Doing dishes.

Review: WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE by Rebecca Behrens
Mar 26th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer



by Rebecca Behrens

Pub. Date February 4th 2014

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Buy the Book: Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound

Signed copy through Boswell Books, call 414-332-1181

From Goodreads:

First daughter Audrey Rhodes re-creates Alice Roosevelt’s infamous antics in this fun, smart middle-grade debut

First daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute-citing security breach and squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is being “safe and secure” if you can’t have any fun?

Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit, until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter gives Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun…and more problems than she can handle.

My Review:

I don’t read that many MG novels, but I was totally captivated by When Audrey Met Alice, a story about a first daughter Audrey Rose discovering Alice Roosevelt’s diary in one of the closets in the White House. As Audrey tries to adjust to her own life as first daughter, Alice through her diary becomes Audrey’s guide. I love how Behrens uses historical information in this novel and mixed it with a modern story. I was transported to the White House and Audrey’s school. I got a very strong sense on how difficult life was for her living in the White House, always under a microscope and not seeing her parents much (her mom is president).

Going back to the history, I loved learning about what it would have been like for a first daughter in the early 1900s: fashion, trips, friendships, social pressures.

The description of the White House was very cool with the gardens, the bowling alley, the movie theater, the dining rooms, and bedrooms.6894558

Audrey is a very likable character who I believe many MG students will adore. There’s a good balance between history and present day, and I loved the use of a diary to share the information and how Alice ended every diary entry with: To Thine Own Self Be True. It’s a great message.

A winner, WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE is a must for MGers, schools, libraries.

Connect with Rebecca Behrens:





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