PROPERTY OF THE REBEL LIBRARIAN by Allison Varnes (Penguin Random House, September 21, 2018)
What It's About (from Random House page):
When twelve-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.
But June can’t give up books . . . and she realizes she doesn’t have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It’s a delicious secret . . . and one she can’t keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library’s popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle–a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it’s powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read.
The front door swings open after I walk home from school, right on schedule. Except today, Dad holds my copy of The Makings of a Witch. I grin up at him, but he doesn’t return my smile.
What I Liked:
June is a great character, and I was totally along for the ride in her first person narrative. What she worried about, and how she expressed herself were spot on. I also liked that this was a novel celebrating reading and taking on the topic of banned books.
I'm a huge believer in living parents in middle grade books, but June's parents were a bit too meddly. June and her sister Kate (who is in college) are really not allowed to make many of their own choices without their parents' strong disapproval. However, this does give one the opportunity to discussing parenting with a middle grade reader, and how June managed (often through subterfuge) to work around the restrictions.
I also liked the subplot of June finding like-minded peers at school, and also the incipient romance. The author expertly captures what romance feels like at that age. The librarian, Ms. Bradshaw, is super cool--and June's speech to the school board with the media in attendance, is a show-stopper.
This novel does a great job addressing censorship. I just hope that it doesn't become a banned book itself!
About The Author:
Like librarian Ms. Bradshaw in Property of the Rebel Librarian, Allison Varnes has fought for her students. She taught English in special education for eight years and once had to convince administrators that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not an endorsement of witchcraft. She’s from a family of teachers and has a PhD in education from the University of Tennessee. And like heroine June, Allison is a former marching-band geek. When she’s not writing, she howls along to the Hamilton soundtrack with a trio of Chihuahuas named after Peanuts characters. Find her on Twitter at @allisonvarnes or on Facebook at facebook.com/allisonvarnesauthor.
Donna Galanti is one of the most industrious authors I know. A stalwart of Project Middle Grade Mayhem, she has written middle grade novels and adult paranormal suspense. Her middle grade series, The Lightning Road, has new awesome covers!
Donna talks today about how she loves scary stories and shares an excerpt from Joshua and the Lightning Road.
Plus enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card at the end of this post and get the first e-book in Donna’s series, Joshua and the Lightning Road, on sale now through October 15th for just $0.99cents.
Playing on Our Fears
by Donna Galanti
Do you love to be scared? I do, ever since I was a kid, as
long as I know it’s safe. Haunted houses. Hayrides. Adventure rides. Cemeteries
And when I write, I return to the magical – and fearful –
worlds of my youth, where monsters and faeries roam the land. Through my
stories I can become these characters, good and evil, and wield their powers.
My favorite stories as a kid were thrillers that made my heart race and my
fingers keep turning the page to see if the good guys would win over the bad
I grew up an only child on a mountain with only nature as a
playground, so my time was spent roaming the woods with my notebook and pen. I
wrote in secret fields and beside hidden ponds. The woods were my home. My
favorite room with a view is still one strewn with fields, rock walls, and
So, you can see that I was never scared to be alone and I think
we as readers like to see our beloved characters alone to face scary
challenges. It makes us wonder – what would I do in that situation if I were
all alone without any help? Would I be too terrified to act, or would I face
danger head on and conquer it?
And these are the kinds of situations I thrust Joshua into
in The Lightning Road series while
trying to blend just the right amount of scariness and tension for a children’s
book. I love it when an author takes my beloved characters to the edge of no return
and gives me that spine-tingling rush of “oh, nooo!” This is what I aim to
write in my own books.
I am drawn to stories that play on our fears because I am
fascinated by how people act when put in dire circumstances. And I love the
challenge of writing a tortured hero. It forces me (and the reader) to step out
of our safe world for just a bit and be uncomfortable, while in the safe place
of a book.
I love to see how much torment we can pile on a character,
how lost they become, how near the brink of desperation they reach, and then
redeem them or not. We can relate to their pain because they are flawed, like
we are all wonderfully flawed – and this reveals our humanity.
So, in reading scary stories, for a short while we can live
among monsters without the fear of facing them in real life. Our heart pumps.
Our fingers grip the pages. Then we close the book and go out again in the
Do you like reading
scary stories? What’s your favorite?
Inky black swallowed me up. I darted my
flashlight about, but its small, round light didn’t reveal much. The mustiness
of old things hidden away filled my nose. Bo Chez, hurry home. The hair
prickled on my forearms as the stairs screeched with each step and the landing
loomed in front of me. Could a ghost with an axe be waiting to chop off my
head? I took a deep breath, waiting for a blade to fall, but the only thing
lying in wait was a dusty bookshelf.
“Finn-man, I know you’re up here.” I flicked
the flashlight around the room, its cold metal warming in my sweaty palm.
Thunder crashed over my head and my ears popped.
One more step forward.
“Got ya!” Finn jumped up, his shadow against
the window. I tripped and landed hard on my butt. My flashlight twirled across
Then a blue arc of light struck the window.
Glass exploded. Finn’s mouth froze in a wide ‘O’. I yelled and reached out to pull
him down, but another zap of light blinded me. Finn screamed. Rain splattered
my face, stinging with each drop. White dots floated in the air. Something gray
billowed past me carrying a familiar, rotten stench that made me gag. A knobby
hand grabbed me. I bit it and shoved it away, gagging again, and the hand
dropped me back on the floor with the taste of salty dirt on my tongue. An
angry howl blasted the air.
Daggers of light shot everywhere as sharp
glass cut into me.
He floated in the shadows. Light erupted all
around him, his eyes round with fear. The sky boomed overhead, and a deep laugh
bellowed out as if the thunder itself were taunting me.
PRAISE FOR JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD: "Vividly imagined characters in
a gripping action fantasy that never lets you go until the very last
page." —Jenny Nimmo, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Bone
ABOUT JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM: Joshua never thought he’d be called back to the world of Nostos so soon.
But when his friend King Apollo needs his help in the Arrow Realm, Joshua
braves this dark world once more in order to save him. With Joshua’s
loyalties divided between Nostos and Earth, he must rely on his courage and
powers to restore magic to this desperate world and to free its people.
Abandoned by his friends in his quest, unarmed, and facing great odds, can
he survive on instincts alone and not only save those imprisoned—but
PRAISE FOR JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM:
“Fast-paced and endlessly inventive, this is a high-stakes romp through a wild
world where descendants of the Greek gods walk beside you, beasts abound, and
not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.” –Michael Northrop, New York
Times bestselling author of the TombQuest series
ABOUT DONNA: Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal
suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The
Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International
Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine, a writing contest judge at
nycmidnight.com, and regularly presents as a guest author at schools and
teaches at writing conferences. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii
as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna also loves teaching writers about building
author brand and platform through her free training series at yourawesomeauthorlife.com. Visit her at donnagalanti.com.