Monday, February 06, 2023

MMGM- 14th Boys Read Pink CelebrationThe Carrefour Curse and the

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

I love hosting the Boys Read Pink celebration at my school! We've also had Celebrity Spokespeople like Sneed Collard, Alexander Vance, Tommy Greenwald, and Jason Henderson. Joining these hallowed ranks is the fantastic middle grade author, Michael Spradlin, who writes everything from nonfiction (Close Calls and the Medal of Honor series) to historical fiction (Keeper of the Grail and Prisoner of War) to action packed tales like Killer Species and Spy Goddess series. Not only that, but he's a great public speaker and a positive presence on Twitter. He graciously agreed to be interviewed for the 14th Annual Celebration!

Who were you as a middle grade reader? What were some of your favorite books?

I read everything. By middle school I had read almost every book in my house, including my mom’s cosmetology text book. I haunted my school library and read just about anything. 

Were there any books with girls as the main characters that you remember reading?

Of course, Harriet the Spy, The Bobbsey Twins. I always wished that Joe Hardy and Iola Morton would stop with the sexual tension and just commit. I’m sure there are others I can’t remember, but I don’t remember being very discriminatory. 

Your books are often about wars or military endeavors. What is it that makes this topic so appealing to boys? What aspects of this do you think would appeal to girls?

It’s funny. For my three WWII novels, I’ve gotten just as many letters and emails from boys as well as girls. I’ve had girls at my school visits say the ending of Into the Killing Seas has made them cry. I think there is a sense of inherent adventure in books about wars or conflict. What I try to make clear is that is NOT and adventure in the traditional definition of the word. It’s deadly, horrible and changes you forever on a fundamental level. 

One of your earlier titles is Spy Goddess: Live and Let Shop. What differences did you find in writing from a female perspective?

It came really easily. Rachel Buchanan’s voice was incredibly easy for me to find. I think probably the easiest of any of my characters. At the time, my house was full of teenage girls, so it was a real-life case of writing what you know. I do think it’s more difficult in the sense that girls that age are into boys and relationships that boys are. There was a lot of ‘shipping among readers of Spy Goddess. Boys never ask who is going to end up with who, like girls do. Boys just want you to blow up more stuff. 

What are some personality traits that you like your characters to exhibit? Do you think that these are equally valuable for all readers?

I think my number one trait in one of my character is honesty. I try really hard to make that apparent in my characters. They should be honest almost to a fault. I think that’s my personality flooding into my writing. Honesty is very important to me. And it can come in different packages. Rachel Buchanan in Spy Goddess can be brutally honest. Sometimes to the point of making people uncomfortable. Tristan in The Youngest Templar is quieter and more dignified but honest and honorable.

I also think a strong sense of duty is important. A commitment to a person or a cause, they are genetically incapable of abandoning. I feel like traits like these can drive the character, and thus the narrative, forward. 

What do you think that boys can learn from reading books from a female perspective?

Everything. Honor, duty, joy, despair, humor, sass, you name it, it’s all there. Guys, I hate to tell you, but for most of you women will become very important to you in the years ahead. Reading their books is like a cheat code of getting inside their minds and learning how they think. Fear not, grasshopper. You are going to find that women are really good for us and make us better men if we let them. Go with God. 

What’s your favorite dad joke? 

What’s brown and sticky? A stick. 

Salerni, Diane. The Carrefour Curse
January 31, 2023 by Holiday House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Garnet and her mother have always been by themselves. They each have some magic, but they keep it fairly quiet, even though they run a shop that specializes in crystals and other items. Garnet has always wanted to go to her mother's family home, but has always been kept away. To force her mother's hand, she manages to curse herself with a classic magical malady-- she's spitting toads! Her mother takes her back to Crossroad House to ask relatives for a cure. There are a lot of relatives: the elderly head of the family, Jasper, and family historian Linden, and assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins. The house is impressive but moldering, and has a section that burned down long ago. Garnet's mother is very concerned for her safety, especially after Linden passes away. Jasper is also not doing well, but has the ability to draw energy from younger family members to keep him going. The family, especially Rose, hopes that he will soon pass the family ring to a successor, but he shows no signs of doing this. While he is "transitioning", the rest of the family are in peril. Accidents keep happening. Young Oak fall froms a tree, and an uncle tips over on a tractor. Garnet is experiencing some alarming phenomenon herself; she is able to travel to the past, slipping into someone else's body and seeing what is going on at the time. She sees her mother in the 1990s, when a visitor, Tana, disappeared. Garnet is also approached by a man claiming to be her father, whom she has never met, adding to her apprehension and danger about the place. Still, she wants to be able to help figure out the family curse. When it seems likely that her power of time walking mightprove crucial to this, she embarks on a plan to rectify the past in order to make the present safer for her family. Will she be able to succeed?
Strengths: There are some twists and turns in this that I don't want to ruin, especially because Garnet does manage to use her magical ability to very good effect and learn a lot by visiting the past. Any book that I can read and remember without having to consult my notes stands out as particularly well-constructed, especially since this took me a couple of days to read. (Because of Life, not the book!) The house was nicely creepy, the magic was solid, and the extended family, both present and past, were intriguing. Garnet's visits to the past were my favorite, in part because she didn't know what was happening at first, but managed to figure it out. Awesome family secrets as well, and Jasper was super creepy! Definitely enjoyed this one and can't wait to hand it to students! 
Weaknesses: The cover is not great. Like Salerni's Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts, this might have to be hand sold. Holiday House just cannot get a handle of covers, which is too bad. All this one needed was a good, creepy old house like the one on Alexander's Vacancy, although the Flowers in the Attic type portraits might help with the right readers. 
What I really think: This was a solid, dark fantasy book that fans of Josephson's Ravenfall or West's Long Lost will love, and has some shades of Puckett's The Glass Witch. It's the perfect vehicle for middle school readers who secretly believe there is more to their family than meets the eye, since they MUST somehow be able to work magic. Another great title from this author. 


  1. Creepy dark fantasy involving time travel? I'm in! Thanks for the great recommendation.

  2. Creepy, dark fantasy involving time travel? I'm in! Thanks for the great recommendation.

  3. I had forgotten your involvement with Boys Reading Pink. Glad it was successful. Enjoyed the interview with Spradlin. Like his last comment about reading girl's books is like a cheat sheet for being in a relationship with them later in life. I know I enjoy reading books with either sexes as the MC. Enjoyed your review of The Carrefour Curse. Lots of dark secrets, time travel and great plot twists. Sounds intriguing! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This sounds like it might be the kind of scary, but not too scary, book I would enjoy reading!

  5. Great interview! I've read some of Spradlin's non-fiction titles and they've been time well spent. Seems like a nice man. Thanks for the insights into his writing and Happy MMGM!

  6. We got this in recently and I agree with you about the cover.

  7. Great interview with Michael Spradlin, and I enjoyed The Carrefour Curse too.

  8. I LOVE that dad joke! Great interview. I don't read much fantasy, but I am really intrigued by your review of The Carrefour Curse. I am putting that one on my list. Thanks for the post.