4 Author Spotlight: Brooks Benjamin, Laura Shovan, Shari Schwarz, Melanie Conklin

April 1, 2016

We have a special treat today. We are featuring four MG authors who are debuting their novels as part of a blog tour for their books. We asked each author to tell us about themselves, their books, their favorite classic and recent MG novels, and something fun about themselves.

Be sure to enter their giveaway of their books!


Brooks Benjamin lives in Tennessee with his wife and their incredibly spoiled dog. His first novel, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS will be released by Delacorte/Random House April 12th.

About his book: Dance studios are for sell-outs. Or at least that’s what Dillon’s dance crew keeps saying. But when a chance to compete at the biggest dance academy in the state falls in his lap, he has to decide what’s more important: sticking to his crew’s rules or free styling his way into solo greatness.

Favorite Classic MG: Classic? That's easy. I can't get enough of BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA. That book tears me apart every time I read it, but I'm always left with this sense of awe as I think about how brilliantly Katherine Paterson wove the theme of family and friendship into the story.

Favorite Recent MG: New? This is terribly difficult because I have so many amazing ones! I think I'll go with Dan Gemeinhart's SOME KIND OF COURAGE. That story is just absolutely wonderful. I'm a sucker for any book that spotlights the powerful bond between a kid and his or her animal, and Dan's book does it beautifully.

One thing most people don't know about him: I have never in my life, not a single time ever, eaten cauliflower. Broccoli's fine (as long as it's not in a casserole). Roast it, grill it, season it, steam it, I can eat that stuff. But I just can't bring myself to let its bleached-white cousin pass over my lips. And I never will.


Laura Shovan works with children as a poet-in-the-schools and is currently visiting high schools as the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s Writer-in-Residence. She has written and edited three books of poetry, but THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY is her first novel for children (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House).
About her book: Laura Shovan’s engaging, big-hearted debut is a time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. Families change and new friendships form as these terrific kids grow up and move on in a whimsical novel-in-verse about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.

Favorite classic MG: My favorite classic MG is FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. I remember reading the book and watching the movie in fifth grade. I found a soul mate in Claudia Kincaid. She’s curious, loves art and history, and is an unapologetic introvert.

Favorite recent MG: I’ve loved so many of the Sweet 16 middle grade books. Brook’s book made me laugh. Mel’s made me cry. Shari’s has such a great sense of adventure. In addition to their books, one of my favorites is PAPER WISHES, a historical MG by Lois Sepahban. It’s filled with poetic language and tells an incredible story.

One thing most people don't know about her: I am a knitter and socks are my favorite things to make. Wearing handmade socks is a transformative experience.


Shari Schwarz lives in Colorado with her husband and their four boys. Shari loves to write adventure stories as much as she loves creating adventures in the mountains with her active family. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE is her debut, out April 12th by Cedar Fort Publishing.

About her book: TREASURE AT LURE LAKE follows two brothers, one who finds a treasure map, on a backpacking trip as they struggle to not only survive the dangers of the wilderness, but also their strained relationship. If they don’t learn to work together and put aside their jealousy, they may not live to see the light of day…or find the treasure that could unlock a family secret that keeps them at odds.

Favorite classic MG: As for a favorite classic MG…there are so many! I’m a huge fan of Avi’s books such as the Crispin series. I also love Gary Paulsen’s books, starting with HATCHET. I definitely love adventure and survival stories!

Favorite recent MG: My most recent favorite MGs are the three other books in this post. Each one brings out so many emotions, deep characterization, humor, diversity and heart! 

One thing most people don't know about her: My oldest son is the overall Colorado State Champion for Speed-Stacking (google it if you don’t know what that is) and I might just have a state record in my age division too! It’s an incredible sport!


Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs. COUNTING TIME is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons on April 12, 2016.

About her book: When eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move from San Diego to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. Thyme struggles to reconcile her longing to return home with her growing awareness of the significance of Val’s new treatment, and the fear that returning home would mean returning without him.

Recent favorite MG: PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahban

Classic favorite MG: BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell

My son v-logged an interview with me about writing and my favorite books a couple of weeks ago. Check it out here

One thing most people don't know about her: I love to garden. Planting seeds and tending them as they grow is the most relaxing thing.

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  1. I'm looking forward to reading all of these books!

  2. A great line-up for my to-read shelf. Thanks for highlighting these!

  3. To bad I'm not on twitter for more chances to read these great books :)! Thanks for the chance!! I met Laura and attended her workshop at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI Conference last month & it was wonderful!

  4. Ooh! I'm in MG mode and can't wait to read these books. :)


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