Laine learned a lot of things from her friend Leah over the years. Most of them bad. Now a horrible accident has left Leah dead and Laine wonders if maybe it's all her fault.

Laine couldn't understand why the popular girl ever wanted to be friends in the first place. Back in elementary school, Leah insisted they were BFF despite the manipulative and mean way she treated Laine. But when Leah convinces her to "practice" in the closet, things take a dark turn. Laine feels ashamed and confused about what's happening, but Leah acts like the whole thing is no big deal.

LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL (Candlewick, 2007) explores the years long relationship between Leah and Laine and the secrets that both bind them and threaten to destroy them. It's dark and disturbing, written with an authenticity that may make you wonder if the story is auto-biographical (it's not).

Abuse has a ripple effect, creating a chain of pain that seeps into every crevice of the victim's life and author Jo Knowles paints a disturbingly real picture of how certain events stay with us forever and can be integral in defining the kind of person we become.

Although the story begins in elementary school, the story is definitely for an older reader -- probably 9th grade and up. Highly recommended.


Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! by Chris Barton and Joey Spiotto

I don't often post about picture books, but this one just warmed my little nerdy heart so much I had no choice.

Attack! Boss! Cheat code! (A Gamer's Alphabet) -- published by POW -- is an A, B, C book of words any kid who can't stand to part with his Nintendo controller can appreciate.

I'm a Chris Barton fan (Shark vs. Train is a big fave in our house). Joey Spiotto puts his game industry experience to good use capturing various video game styles in his illustrations. From Attack to Zerg, Barton and Spiotto have created a fun alphabet adventure that even impressed my resident tween gamer.

Pick one up for the little gamer in your house. It's the perfect book for when game time is done for the day.


New Book Alert! Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron

T.A. Barron's new book, Atlantis Rising, is out in paperback tomorrow. You can get it now on Kindle or run by your favorite bookstore. To celebrate, here's a little Q&A with the author.

What fascinates you most about the legend of Atlantis?

No word evokes more of a feeling of tragedy than the word Atlantis. It stands for almost, what might have been. The tale of Atlantis is such a beautiful story, and for the 2000 years since Plato first wrote about it, people have wondered and dreamed about it. But one thing that has never changed is that the island of Atlantis was utterly destroyed. I started to wonder, though, about something else—how Atlantis began. How did a place that rose to such a level of near perfection get destroyed by the flaws and weaknesses of its people? Ultimately, how did that happen? This big unknown question is what got me to write Atlantis Rising. I wanted to add a new thread to the tapestry of myth about Atlantis—how it all began, the secrets of its origins.

Why do you choose to write about origins of stories?

When you write about the origins of a great legend, you experience the best of two worlds. You get to tap into a wondrous emotional and mythical journey that people have celebrated and enjoyed for a long time—which is why stories persist, why people keep telling the tales about Merlin or Atlantis. At the same time though, you get the opportunity to be fresh and original. You can explore and go behind the myth to discover how and where it all began. It just might start with the most inconsequential event—a boy stealing a pie, a girl discovering something strange in the woods, or a young man washing ashore. In those small moments you may discover the beginning of an amazing adventure!

What research was involved in preparing for Atlantis Rising

Before starting this project, I read everything I possibly could about Atlantis. As I got deeper into the research, I realized not only is there an immense story of high ideals and tragic consequences, human aspirations and failures, but a wonderful mystery of how it all began. That powered me even more to want to set forth the beginning, the origins of that magical place.  In addition, I have often thought about Atlantis since visiting Greece 20 years ago—the place where the legend began.  Often, I’ve recalled the sight of that landscape, the sound of waves on those islands, and the smell of the Mediterranean air. All that will, I hope, come through for anyone who reads the Atlantis trilogy.

In the last few scenes of Atlantis Rising, we see Atlantis become an island at last, while Promi returns to the spirit world. Where does the second book start?

The second book picks up immediately after Atlantis Rising finishes.  But time works differently between Earth and the spirit realm. Quite a bit more could have happened up in the spirit realm than has happened on Atlantis.  You see, during that brief interval—which feels just like a few days on Earth—many perils have risen. Some of them are dangers that come from old enemies—enemies who want to control all the magic and power of the Earth. And some of the perils come from romance…and we all know how tricky that can be.

In Atlantis Rising, Promi, the protagonist, risks his life for Smackberry pie. What dessert would you risk everything for?

Fresh Colorado snow covered in maple syrup.