Cover Reveal: THE HIGHEST TRIBUTE: THURGOOD MARSHALL’S LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND LEGACY by Kekla Magoon & Laura Freeman

I’m a big fan of Kekla Magoon’s novels (If you haven’t read HOW IT WENT DOWN and LIGHT IT UP, you should remedy that!), so I’m delighted to be hosting the cover reveal for her first picture book today!

THE HIGHEST TRIBUE: THURGOOD MARSHALL’S LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND LEGACY is illustrated by Laura Freeman and comes out from HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books this winter. Look at this gorgeous cover!

Here’s a bit more from Kekla about the book…

This picture book biography was really fun to write. I loved learning more about Thurgood Marshall, who I had often studied in passing in the course of writing other books about the civil rights movement. Thurgood was brilliant, and a real trailblazer. He was a noteworthy attorney of the civil rights era, and the first Black justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court. He is often credited with singlehandedly making big strides for equality under the law, but the truth was, Thurgood was always working as part of a team, always learning and always teaching. He was skilled at collaboration, and he hoped that his work would not only stand the test of time but be built upon many others.

This past week, we’ve seen two major civil rights-related decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court—one in support of equality in employment for all people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and another in support of the “dreamers,”  immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as very young children. I feel certain that Thurgood would look upon these decisions and stand proud of the legacy that he left for the court. At the same time, he would surely acknowledge that there is still work to be done to create equality for Black Americans across this land. Perhaps there has never been a better time to look back on the history of these movements for legal equality and opportunity, to help us understand the struggles and the leaders that helped bring us to the place we currently stand, and to help us understand where we need to go from here.

I am primarily a novelist, which means this picture book was my first illustrated project.  It was incredibly exciting to see the words of this story come alive in Laura Freeman’s art.  The cover offers a mere glimpse of the amazing work she was able to do to bring the narrative to life. I can’t wait for readers to be able to enjoy all of Laura’s beautiful work, and to dive deeply into Thurgood’s story, as I did.

You can pre-order THE HIGHEST TRIBUTE right now at Bookshop,org, which supports independent bookstores.It comes out on January 5, 2021.

The Ranger in Time Book Club

Welcome to the Ranger in Time Book Club!

I’m author Kate Messner, and with Scholastic’s permission, I’ll be sharing a chapter-by-chapter read-aloud of RANGER IN TIME: RESCUE ON THE OREGON TRAIL here on my blog over the coming weeks. I’m so glad you’ve found your way here!

Each Thursday by around 12pm EST, I’ll post a new read-aloud video with the next two chapters of the book. Readers can ask questions about this series, the writing process, researching history, what I’m reading (or really anything else you’d like!) by leaving a comment on this blog post. I’ll answer as many readers’ questions as possible after the read-aloud in the next week’s video! If you want to read more Ranger in Time books, there are eleven titles in the series, about all different periods in history, and you can find them wherever you like to buy books. If you’re lucky enough to have a local independent bookseller, please check there first! Many are offering things like curbside pickup, delivery, and shipping. Here’s where you can read about the rest of the Ranger in Time series and my other books for kids.

Okay…ready for the first two chapters? Here you go…

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 1 – Chapters 1-2

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 2 – Readers’ Questions Answered and Chapters 3-4

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 3 – Readers’ Questions Answered and Chapters 5-6

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 4 – Readers’ Questions Answered and Chapters 7-8

Note for families: Something sad happens in these chapters, so if you’re already having a sad day, you may want to pause after the Q&A today and save the chapters for another day. (They end on a happy note, though!)

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 5 –  Answers to Readers’ Questions and Chapters 9-10

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 6 – Answers to Readers’ Questions and Chapters 11-13

Ranger in Time Book Club – Week 7 – Answers to Readers’ Questions and Chapters 14-15 – THE END

Thanks so much for being part of the Ranger in Time Book Club this spring! RANGER IN TIME: RESCUE ON THE OREGON TRAIL is book one in the series, so if you enjoyed the read-aloud, I hope you’ll look for the other titles at your local bookstore or ask for them at your library! You can read more about the Ranger in Time series and my other books for kids here. 

Countdown to CHIRP: Copy Edits & Cover Design

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

CHIRP comes out in less than a week! Have you already pre-ordered your copy? If not, I’d love it if you would… Pre-orders are a HUGE help to authors and in this case, pre-ordering comes with presents! If you fill out this form after you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a poster and set of bookmarks to share. And if you order via my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your book, too!

Now…let’s talk about the final stages of making a book. After many rounds of revision, the manuscript goes off to a copy editor, who’s excellent at all things grammatical. They read and make careful notes, querying anything that doesn’t seem quite right. This marked-up version goes to both the editor and author for additional notes. Copy edits used to arrive on paper, in the mail, but they’re most often done electronically now, so the pages look like this.  

As the author, there are a few different ways I can respond to the copy editor’s suggestion. Most often, if it’s a typo or spelling error, it’s a matter of accepting the suggested change and moving on. But sometimes, I’ve broken a rule on purpose, for style or voice reasons, and the suggested change doesn’t work. In that case, I write a quick “STET” in the margin, which means the text should be left as it was.

Copy edits are the last chance I have to make substantial changes to the book, so after I’ve gone through the copy editor’s comments, I’ll do another read-through of the full manuscript. I read aloud, so I can hear what the sentences sound like, and when I hit something that feels a little clunky, I make changes as I go along. This is also the time to incorporate any late feedback from writer friends or expert readers.

After copy edits, the manuscript gets laid out as a pdf, so the pages actually start to look like pages in a book. This is where chapter headings are designed and any art is added to the pages. It’s also time for more rounds of proofreading – typically three more passes with multiple readers. At this point, the author can’t make many major changes that affect the layout, but it’s still fine (and important!) to correct any remaining errors.

While all this is happening, the book’s cover is being designed. I’ve been lucky enough to have wonderful artists and designers work on my covers. For CHIRP, Bloomsbury hired illustrator Christopher Silas Neal to design the cover art. I was thrilled with this choice. Chris is no stranger to me – he illustrates my Over & Under picture book series with Chronicle and did the cover for BREAKOUT, too!

Chris begins his work the same way I do – with brainstorming and rough drafts. He starts the cover design process by reading the manuscript and then sketching some possible ideas.

It’s hard to choose just one cover, but in this case, I loved his idea to show the girls jumping off rocks into the lake, especially because this is a story about courage in all of its many forms. Bloomsbury agreed, so Chris took that concept through to final art. The design team takes that art and works with it then, playing around with the type for the title and possible tag lines. Here’s an early version of the cover…

After some revisions to make the title and the girls stand out more – and the arrival of an incredibly generous blurb from the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson – we ended up with this as a final cover. I love it so much.

CHIRP comes out on Tuesday, February 4, so you have a few more days to pre-order. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share! Just fill out this form after you’ve pre-ordered.

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: Let’s talk about Charts!

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

CHIRP comes out in less than two weeks! Have you already pre-ordered your copy? If not, I’d love it if you would… Pre-orders are a HUGE help to authors and in this case, pre-ordering comes with presents! If you fill out this form after you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a poster and set of bookmarks to share. And if you order via my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your book, too!

Okay…now let’s get back to business and talk about CHARTS.

Charts are a huge part of my revision process, from my first passes, revising on my own, through the final work that I do with my editor. Some of these are charts I use with nearly every novel, and others are more specific. But they all help me to get a bigger picture view of a book with lots of moving parts.

This is what my every-novel Big Picture Chart looked like for CHIRP.

This chart boils my entire novel down into two big pages so that I can see, at a glance, what’s there and what’s not. The numbers across the top of the pages represent each chapter of the novel. The column on the far left is a list of characters, themes, story elements, ideas, recurring themes and metaphors, and other stuff that I want to make sure is represented throughout the story. After I’ve created the chart, I do a full read-through of the manuscript with the chart in front of me. As I read chapter one for example, I’ll check off each character that appears, and each idea or theme or whatever. If that character or idea doesn’t show up in that chapter, I leave the box empty.

It takes a whole day to do this read-through, checking off boxes for each chapter as I go. But when I’m finished, I have a very clear look at the balance of my story, and I can start to see issues. If a character vanishes for eight chapters in the middle of the book, for example, readers are likely to forget about them. The same goes for mystery elements or important ideas. When I look at my completed chart, I can see where the holes are. (Fun fact: I once wrote a book where the family had a dog in chapter 1 and then it never appeared again. I had to make a lot of “add dog!” notes in that manuscript.)  Once the chart is all filled out, I go back to the manuscript to see where I might be able to work in that missing character or idea, and I make notes.

I tried this big-picture chart with one of my first novels, and it was so helpful that I made it a regular part of my process. It works for just about any longer form project. But sometimes, it’s not really enough. CHIRP is a mystery, and I found that I wanted a tool for keeping track of those mystery elements, so that I could track what was happening with clues, etc. throughout the book. For this revision pass, I also wanted to look at how the mystery elements balanced with the other parts of the story like Mia’s warrior and entrepreneurs camp, and the secret she’s keeping. So I made a project-specific chart to do all of that. It was a big one! (Warning: don’t read the actual words on this chart until after you’ve read CHIRP – there are spoilers galore!)

Here’s a closer look at the first page – spoiler free, so you can see how it works.

For this chart, each row represents a chapter, and each column is labeled for something I wanted to keep track of. I chose to include my word count for the chapters (some were still kind of fat at this point in my revision process), the date in the story when each chapter takes place, the mystery elements, the Launch Camp and Warrior Camp elements, and Mia’s state of mind with her secret. Reading through to pay close attention to these elements allowed me to see the book in new ways — something that’s not always easy when you’ve already been living with a project for a year or two. That’s why I find charts to be such helpful revision tools. They force me to assess what I’ve actually put in the pages, compared to what I think is there, based on the story in my head.

Once ALL that revision is done – from my own work, to working with critiques from friends and my editor, it’s time to send the book off to copy edits and design. (It’s almost a book now!) We’ll take a look at that last step in the process next week.

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share! Just fill out this form after you’ve pre-ordered.

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: Working with an Editorial Letter

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

Whenever I visit schools to talk about the writing process, I share something that surprises a lot of kids: I spent way, way more time revising than I do writing my first draft. After several rounds of revising on my own, I’ll reach out to writer-friends for feedback. Then – and at this point, we’re usually talking about draft five or six – I send the manuscript to my editor. Mary Kate Castellani is my Bloomsbury editor who worked on CHIRP. When the manuscript landed in her in-box, she read it through, making notes, and then wrote up a many-page editorial letter with feedback.

When I visit schools to talk about my writing process, I point out that these editorial letters always begin the same way — with a paragraph about how happy my editor is to work with me and how much she loves the book. “And then,” I tell the kids, “she writes EIGHT MORE PAGES about all the things I need to work on before the book gets published!” They gasp and laugh at this. But really, that’s how it works. And the truth is, that encouraging first paragraph helps to convince me that I’m a strong enough writer to tackle all the work that’s still to come.

If you look at the letter, you’ll see that there are some lines underlined. That’s something that I do on my second read of a new editorial letter, to help me distill all those good ideas into something more streamlined and manageable for me as a writer.

I used that underlined letter to make myself a new revision to-do list. It includes all the big-picture things that I want to work on, based on feedback in the editorial letter. I can’t show you the whole list because it contains a couple of major spoilers, but here’s a spoiler-free section.

One of the things Mary Kate talked about in her editorial letter for CHIRP was the novel’s opening, so one of my first orders of business was to scribble some notes on the manuscript about how I might rework it.

In addition to writing that big letter, Mary Kate also makes notes on the manuscript, asking specific questions about specific passages and making more notes.

As I revise, I go back and forth between the manuscript with these comments & suggestions and that big-picture letter, distilled in my to-do list. It usually takes at least two more revision passes to incorporate all of this feedback.

At school visits, kids often ask, “What happens if you don’t want to make one of the changes she wants? What if you don’t agree with her suggestions?” This happens sometimes, and it all works out. Sometimes, I’ll write back with a comment that says “I don’t really want to do this because….” and then we’ll talk about it. Usually, my editor’s suggestion is in response to a real issue – something in the manuscript that’s not quite working. Even if I don’t love her idea for fixing it, I can still find value in the suggestion, recognize that there might be an issue, and brainstorm some other ways to work on it. There’s a lot of back and forth.

The other thing kids ask at school visits is this: “Doesn’t that big fat letter make you mad when you already worked so hard on the book?” I don’t lie when I answer this one. There are times when the editorial letter feels overwhelming and makes me sigh. But once I’ve had time to do my underlining and list-making and thinking, the emotion I land on is always gratitude. Because a book that I’d worked on as hard as I could now has a chance to be even better than I could make it on my own. By the time I send that manuscript to my editor, I’m out of ideas. I’ve used every tool in my revision toolbox, and I’m out of tricks. But when that letter arrives, suddenly, I have another chance and some new thoughts to work with. So ultimately, it’s a pretty exciting part of the writing process.

Once the revision back and forth is all done, the manuscript moves on to copy edits – a process I’ll talk about in a future post.

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share! Just fill out this form after you’ve pre-ordered.

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: Revising…with Help from Friends!

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

In my last post, I talked about how I tackle revision once my first (rough!) draft is complete. With CHIRP, I worked through several revision passes on my own, focusing on different elements of craft and revising for both big-picture and paragraph/sentence-level writing. At this point in the process, I know the book inside and out. It’s time to bring in some fresh eyes.

I’m incredibly grateful to have a handful of great friends who are also amazing writers and critique buddies, and I want to share some of their feedback helped to shape the story.

My friend Laura Ruby – you know her from her award-winning YA novels like 13 DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL and BONE GAP – sent me an email after she read an early version of CHIRP. One of her most helpful suggestions had to do with characters. There were a LOT of them and she was having trouble keeping them straight. She suggested doing more to distinguish those secondary characters – adding more gestures, facial expressions, details, patterns of speech, and quirks.

This is a great example of something I just couldn’t see in my own manuscript because I’d been working with this cast of characters for so long. But Laura’s advice was brilliant, so my next revision pass focused on working more with those secondary characters. I went back to an earlier step in the writing process — brainstorming — in order to get started.

My longtime friend & critique buddy Linda Urban – you know her from her wonderful MG novels like A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT, HOUND DOG TRUE, and WEEKENDS WITH MAX AND HIS DAD – read an early draft, too. Linda and I read for each other often, and we use the comments feature on Microsoft Word to offer thoughts. Linda’s comments to me on CHIRP are great examples of what really thoughtful, helpful feedback looks like. Like Laura, she noted that the number of characters felt overwhelming sometimes. (I ended up fleshing some of them out & cutting others who weren’t really essential.)

A great critique partner isn’t afraid to suggest cuts when the writing isn’t as clean & sharp as it might be.

At this point in the writing process, I’m still working on big-picture revision and line edits, so I’m not too worried about typos and spelling errors yet. But if you’re critiquing a manuscript and you happen to notice something like that, it’s still helpful to point it out. Linda usually does that with a quick highlight.

Critique buddies also ask questions when something isn’t totally clear. This is so helpful, as it’s often the stuff we can’t see in our own work. We know the story and all of its intricacies, so an outside reader makes such a difference.

Another super-helpful thing Linda does when she’s reading is point out what IS working. One of my issues with the rough draft of CHIRP was the point of view. I’d intended to write in a very close third person, from inside Mia’s head. But sometimes the voice didn’t reflect that. Linda was great about pointing out the places where it worked well and asking for more of that.

Critique buddies also look at big-picture issues related to story structure. Linda offered some comments on the opening of CHIRP that prompted me to rework both the first and last chapters.

Constructive comments from writer friends like Laura and Linda helped bring this book to a level I couldn’t have managed on my own. After incorporating their feedback, I sent the draft to my editor at Bloomsbury, who offered…more feedback! More on that in a future post…

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share! Just fill out this form after you’ve pre-ordered.

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: Revising. Then Revising Again. (And then more revising…)

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

All in all, CHIRP took a little over two years to write, from idea to publication. Most of that time was spent revising. Once I finish a rough draft, I always take a break from the project to work on other things, bake some cookies, go hiking…stuff like that. When I return, I have new energy and fresh eyes for the revision process.

While I’m drafting, I keep a list of things I know I’ll want to go back to work on when I revise, and that’s where I begin my first revision pass.

I print out my manuscript and make notes about how I’ll tackle those issues on my to-do list.

Sometimes that involves asking myself questions, acting as my own editor to push myself to dig deeper.

Sometimes, revision is a matter of trimming scenes where I’ve rambled on too long. (If I’m bored while I’m revising, the reader is definitely going to be bored later, so that scene needs work!)

Sometimes, revision means getting rid of entire scenes and chapters, and marking places where I want to write new ones.

As I revise, I’m seeing the story in new ways, and playing around with all kinds of ideas that might make it stronger. I do a lot of scribble-thinking on the page.

This is all for big-picture revisions. After those bigger issues have been addressed, I’ll read through the manuscript again – out loud this time – to work on sentence level writing and line edits, to make sure I’ve always chosen language that’s specific and vivid.

Once this is done, I’m wrapping up on draft 3 or 4 of my manuscript.  But it’s not ready for my editor quite yet. In the next “Countdown to CHIRP” post, I’ll talk about getting help from writer friends and why fresh eyes can make a big difference.

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share!

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: Outlining, Drafting, and Outlining Again (and how Scrivener helps with the process)

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

In previous posts about CHIRP, I’ve talked about the story spark, doing research on a cricket farm, brainstorming character and story elements, and project planning. Confession: I adore this early stage of the writing process. I love research. I love the curiosity and the possibility of it. And I love the magic of new ideas, the way they hold so much promise.

But at some point in the writing process for every book, there comes a time when you have to start writing the actual book. This is tough for me because once I start drafting, my vision of that “perfect book” comes crashing up against the reality of the writer I am today, crafting an inelegant rough draft. The book that first appears on my computer screen in rough-draft format bears little resemblance to that perfectly crafted novel I was imagining. But that ugly rough draft has to be written. Because you can’t revise a blank page.

Because rough-drafting is the tough part of the writing process for me, I tend to do it quickly, so I can get that first draft over with and start revising, which I love. I use a program called Scrivener, where I sketch out my chapters using index cards on the computer desktop.

You’ll notice that before Chapter 1, there’s a VISION card. That’s where I write my two-sentence vision for the book I’m writing. I do this for all of my novels. The first sentence gives a quick overview of the plot, the sort of thing you’d read on the book jacket. The second sentence speaks to the heart of the book.

The document attached to that index card contains some of my big-picture thinking for the book. Ideas about characters’ motivations and story themes and how they weave together. For CHIRP, that “Vision” document also includes a quote from an amazing talk that author Meg Medina gave at a retreat I attended while I was working on this book.

Sometimes when you’re working on a project, it takes a while to find the heart. Listening to Meg speak that day, I realized what I was really writing with this book…the story I really wanted to tell. So I kept this quote on a paper index card above my desk while I worked, and I included it in my “Vision” document, too.

That document also includes notes about what might come next. I always start my novel drafts with a very (very!) rough outline, which gets revised as I go along, making discoveries as I write. Often, after I write, I’ll take a few minutes to summarize what I think comes next. Here’s what that looked like along the way while I was working on CHIRP.

In addition to the “Project” folder where I write my chapters, Scrivener has another folder for “Research.”

I’ve come to love this structure because that’s where I transcribe all of my research notes for the book, as well as various ideas I explore with off-draft writing as I’m brainstorming. Here are a couple of the pages from my “Research” folder.

Sometimes while I’m drafting,  I realize that I need to take a break to do more research. That happened after I decided that one of Mia’s summer camps would be Warrior Camp, where kids do obstacles like you see on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior.” I didn’t know enough about those camps to write realistic scenes, so I made arrangements to visit a camp at the Vermont Ninja Warrior Training Center. I sat in on a day of camp, talked with coaches and kids, and generally collected the sights, sounds, and smells of the place.

While I’m drafting, I don’t usually stop to revise. I like to finish that first draft before I make any changes. So as I write, I’ll often go back to my Mission/Big Ideas page to make notes about what I know I’ll want to work on in the first revision pass.

Once I’ve written the last chapter, I’m ready to take a short break and then dive back in, fixing up those issues I’ve already identified. That becomes my first round of revision, and I’ll share some photos of what that looks like in my next post.

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share! Just fill out this form to request.

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: Writerly Time Management (It’s all about the charts, baby…)

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

So… I’m not actually going to talk about writing CHIRP in this post. I’m going to talk about planning. And time management for writers.

When I started working on this novel, I was also juggling a handful of other upcoming writing projects. I keep a bullet journal (which I blogged about a while back), and that helps me to manage both daily tasks, monthly goals, and longer term projects. It’s especially helpful when I’m working on multiple project at once and trying to keep track of various deadlines. Here’s a look at some of my monthly tasks from April 2018…

That month, one of my goals was to organize all of my cricket notes and other brainstorming for CHIRP so that I could get started on a plan for my rough draft. I also needed to wrap up final revisions (a few more line edits!) on my picture book, THE NEXT PRESIDENT, which comes out with Chronicle in March 2020. Also? I’d been researching invasive Burmese pythons in Southwest Florida – following curiosity again! – and had pitched an article about that to Scholastic Storyworks magazine, so I needed to finish that up.

Travel mixes in with my writing deadlines, too, which is why you see “Programs for Sharjah” on this list. Before I left on a trip to the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in the United Arab Emirates later that month, I needed to prepare the presentations that I’d give at the festival and at schools in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

By August 2018, I was using my bullet journal to set very specific goals for completing that very first (and very rough!) draft of CHIRP.

When I’m fast-drafting, I’ll often aim for a chapter each day, so this added up to fifteen really intense writing days in August. The other writing days that month were devoted to starting my research for Ranger in Time #11: Escape from the Twin Towers, which meant a lot of library time as well as a trip to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City later in the month.

I put daily to-do lists in my bullet journal, too. Everything in my life mixes together in those – the daily writing jobs, my fitness and water-drinking habits (writing it down helps!), family events like my daughter’s track meet, volunteer work I do in the writing community, like maintaining my author Skype list, and connecting with a writer friend.

Mixed in with all those to-do lists are pages of brainstorming and notes, like this one where I was imagining my main character, Mia, unpacking boxes in the new house and trying to decide what to keep and what to shove in the closet.

Is this a weirdly specific brainstorming tool? Definitely! But it was the exact tool I needed to make some decisions about Mia’s character and where she was in that summer she moved.

I also keep big project charts in my bullet journal – a trick that my brilliant author friend Tracey Baptiste taught me – where I keep track of all the progress and milestones on each project. Here’s what my master project chart looked like when I’d finished up CHIRP.

I use these charts to keep track of progress for each project. So it includes the project title (or working title), when it sold to a publisher, and when I completed my research, outline/planning, draft, Revision I (which includes the 3-4 revisions I usually do before I send to my editor), the date I sent the revised manuscript, and finally, the completion of the rest of the revisions that happen after I get my editorial letter and notes. (There are other steps in the process that aren’t on here – copy edits and reviewing page proofs, etc. – but your chart can only be so big, and those tend to be smaller jobs, so I don’t include them here.)

By now, you might be wondering what all these time management tools are doing in a blog series that’s supposed to be about the writing process. Fair enough… The truth is, they’re not really writing, but they’re an essential part of my process because without them, I couldn’t clear the brain space to get my actual writing done. For me, getting everything in a plan on a page frees me to let go of those logistical things so I can be creative and really immerse myself in a character’s world. And that’s what happens once I start drafting – the subject of next week’s post!

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share! Details on that are here.

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit bit.ly/chirppreorder for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

Countdown to CHIRP: The Story Spark (and why it’s always a good idea to follow curiosity!)

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

CHIRP is a lot of things. It’s a mystery set on a cricket farm. It’s also about warrior camp, young entrepreneurs and robot builders, summertime joy, friendship, entomophagy, family, and finding the courage to speak up. Where does a story like this come from? For this one, the spark was the cricket farm.

My husband is a part of a volunteer group that helps people launch small businesses in Vermont. Early in 2018, he came home one day, dropped a folder on the kitchen table, and said, “You’re going to want to see this one…”

It was a business plan for a startup cricket farm called Flourish Farm. He knew I’d be interested because I’d been fascinated by this 2013 report that came out from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The report is all about eating insects. It’s 150+ pages long (if you’re interested, you can read it here), but it boils down to two things.

    1. Insects are good for you. They’re a super-healthy protein. Also?
    2. They’re way more sustainable to raise than other things we eat for protein, especially cows.

The couple launching this startup cricket farm had read that same report. I was fascinated and made plans to visit their fledging insect agriculture setup. Not because I thought, “Hey, I’ll write a mystery set on a cricket farm!” That idea was still weeks away. I really just visited because I was curious. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a writer it’s that following curiosity is always interesting – and sometimes, it leads to a story.

The cricket farm had started out in the couple’s basement and eventually moved to a cavernous warehouse in a Williston industrial park. It was filled with big wooden bins, which were filled with cardboard “cricket condos,” and, of course, crickets. Hundreds of thousands of crickets.

I loved the sound of this place (so much chirping!). I asked a pile of questions. The whole idea of entomophagy – eating insects as food – was so interesting! And I started wondering…what would it be like to be a kid in a family that was running a business like this? I’d been wanting to write another mystery, and this seemed like a fascinating setting.

So then I began doing research in earnest. I read a lot more about crickets and cricket farming. And I made plans to spend more time at Flourish Farm. I talked with cricket farmer Steve Swanson, who patiently answered questions, showed me all the different stages in the cricket life cycle, and walked me through the daily routines of the farm, from moving eggs into the incubation area, to dumping new baby crickets (called pinheads!) into the bins, to changing the water and giving them food.

As I learned all about cricket farming, a main character found her way into my imagination. Mia, I decided, was a girl who was feeling small, for reasons I couldn’t quite figure out yet. But I knew she’d been hurt. I knew she was moving back to Vermont after a few years living somewhere else, and I knew that her beloved grandma, who’d had a stroke that winter, was in Vermont and running the cricket farm. I knew that somehow, they would help one another heal.

So all through the winter and spring of 2018, I popped into the cricket farm, took notes, scribbled story ideas, and brainstormed character details. I thought and wrote a lot about Mia, sometimes journaling in her voice, sometimes writing personal narratives of my own in order to mine memories that were similar to those that were part of Mia’s story. Those writings don’t end up in the book, but for me, they’re an important part of laying an emotional foundation for the story that feels true.

By late spring, I was ready to start writing. In next week’s Countdown to CHIRP post, we’ll take a look at the process of taking all that research, brainstorming, and pre-writing and corralling it into some kind of plan for a rough draft.

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share!

Thanks for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly