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Thrilling Tween Reads for Halloween

It’s ten days before Halloween. Ten children, a mix of boys and girls, cram together around the mirror of the upstairs bathroom. The lights are turned off. The window is blacked out. The only light is a small tea candle that sits next to the jack-o-lantern soap dispenser. A few of the children close their eyes, but most stare fixedly at the mirror’s reflection waiting, waiting for a ghostly face to appear.

“Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary,” the children chant thirteen times.

Someone screams.

Then everyone screams.

The lights come on and the laughing begins…

This is the most vivid memory I have of my childhood. I even remember the smell the candle made when the flame was blown out. I also remember my friend the next day unable to go to the restroom by himself because he was afraid of the mirror within. I never wondered as a child why I was so fascinated with ghost stories. Now that I am an adult, the question lingers—wanting an answer. Why are children so fascinated with ghoulish tales?

Like most children’s lore, scary stories are used by children as a tool to teach each other the concepts of the unknown. These ghoulish tales teach children about concepts they should now be trying to implement in their everyday life such as: responsibility, attentiveness, obedience, and honesty. They also teach children how to overcome and face fears, achieve hard things, and how to deal with the unexpected. Plus, scary stories are fun! Like the thrill of riding the roller coaster, a creepy book can offer the same exciting sensation.

Below is a list of thrilling tween books you might want to try reading this Halloween season. Not all of them are creep-crawly books. I’ve thrown in some suspense ones as well:

22673361The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden, by Emma Trevayne. One of the best openings to a book I’ve ever read. A boy who works as a grave robber digs up the body of a boy who looks identical to him. Slightly spooky and very entertaining with a fairy twist.

28669595The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. A girl is sent to an island to die with the rest of those infected with an incurable disease. Suspenseful and entertaining. This book has a lot of humor in it too.

28263028Collide, by Christine Fonseca. A psychic assassin is targeting a group of teens that have been experimented on by the government. Very suspenseful! I listened to this one on audiobook and enjoyed it.

18651970The Thickety series, by J. A. White. Each book gets creeper and creeper as the story goes on. If you’re into witch hunts, creepy woods, and ghost children, this series is for you. This is probably one of the scariest series on the list.

2213661The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. A story about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard with a murderer trying to find him. Mildly scary but with humor as well. I listened to this one on audiobook and enjoyed it.

9460487Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. A boy discovers a group of strange children that are being hunted by monsters. This one can be very creepy. It is now a Tim Burton film.

298567The Wardstone Chronicles, by Joseph Delaney. This is a series about a boy who is training to become a “Spook”. Someone who deals with witches, ghosts, and the unholy unnatural. Probably the creepiest series on the list.

6186357The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. This whole series is pretty thrilling. A boy wakes up in a box with no memories. He meets a group of boys trapped in a giant maze with monsters that come out at night. Also a movie but the books are better.

emblazoners-promo-imageWhat are some of your favorite reads during this time of year? Let me know in the comments. Enjoy your reads and keep in touch!



My Favorite Thing!

Meeting people who read my books is my favorite thing! Last year, I maintained a booth at the Arizona Family Home Education Convention. It was an awesome experience! I met people of all ages. We chatted about books, education, psychology, history, and reading. Then we talked about my books and about me as a writer. I answered questions like: what inspired me to write, what inspired me to write this particular series, and how many books I intended to write throughout my career.

I had a blast! I love meeting people! By the end of the convention I was exhausted, but it was the best kind of tired. What stimulated and encouraged me the most was talking with kids that were interested in reading my books. I wasn’t so jazzed that they were interested in my books, although I’ll admit that really excited me, it was that they were interested in the history of the setting and the strength of the character! They were intrigued about a new place they could research and that historically a women had been actual warriors and leaders of a rich and strong kingdom.

Of course I had to go back to the AFHE Convention again this year. My experience was even better! I got reacquainted with people I had met from last year, last year’s new readers had become old fans, and several people I’d not met came looking for my booth after having been introduced to my work by their friends!

My new booth design added to my excitement this year. I very special friend of mine created this wonderful thing of beauty!

Gorgeous Adventure
Gorgeous Adventure

If it had not been for the very talented Melissa, I would not have had this fantastic environment to work in.

I’m super excited about next year! New books and new adventures!

How Well Do You Know the Dogs of Harry Potter?

In honor of Rowling’s latest release and National Dog Day this Friday, let’s see how many dogs of the Wizarding World you can name….

A pair of adorable pups probably come to mind right away: Fang and Fluffy.

Fang is described as a BoaTitles for HP dog blogpostrhound, but that is actually another name for a Great Dane, so yes indeedy, Fang is an enormous, black, Great Dane. I imagine him like the tallest Great Dane in the world, George, who was 7’3” long from his rubbery nose to the end of his ouch-my-face-is-not-a-windshield tail. Sadly, George passed away in 2013, but he will forever live on in the scratches he left at the top of his family’s refrigerator. It doesn’t seem fair, but large dogs do not live as long as smaller ones. I hate to think how many raw steaks Hagrid will need to hold over his swollen eyes when Fang must leave him.

Titles for HP dog blogpostFluffy is the large, vicious, three-headed dog that guards the Philosopher’s Stone and can only be tamed through music. I love the idea of a three-headed dog. You get three times the adorable, loving stares and only one part of the . . . you know. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid explains that he got Fluffy from “a Greek chappie.” Rowling is showing off her impressive knowledge of ancient myths and legends with this off-hand remark, as Greek mythology is replete with three–headed canines, also known as hellhounds. The most famous of the pack, Cerberus, guarded the entrance to the Underworld.Herakles_Kerberos_Louvre_F204

This 2,500 year old Greek amphora shows  Hercules taming a two-headed Cerberus. I’m not sure what happened to head #3, but I guess you can afford to lose your head when you’ve got a couple of spares.


Titles for HP dog blogpost

Remember him? Maybe not, because despite his impressive name, he is a decidedly non-magical creature. Ripper is the favorite of Harry’s Aunt Marge’s twelve bulldogs. He once chased Harry into a tree, which wasn’t very nice, but he also sunk his teeth into Vernon’s leg, so there’s that.


Titles for HP dog blogpostWhat? You didn’t think of Crups? That’s okay, they only get one quick mention in The Order of the Phoenix, as creatFlying Jack Russellures studied in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class. Crups are wizard-bred dogs that look like Jack Russell terriers, except that they have forked tails. This Jack Russell may or may not have a forked tail, but he sure looks magical.   Accio Crup!!


Titles for HP dog blogpostThat’s right, Ron’s patronus, his alter-self, is a dog—a loyal if not altogether bright creature, AND a Jack Russell. The choice of a Jack Russell for Ron was a sentimental one, because Rowling once had one for a pet. I would have picked an Irish Setter, but that was probably too obvious. So obvious, in fact, that my patronus is probably a dog . . .

Titles for HP dog blogpostThe Grim is the omen of death in the form of aGrim image giant, shaggy black dog. Harry doesn’t actually see the Grim, but no spoilers.  Several dogs could be the source of Rowling’s Grim, including the Black Shuck of English folklore and the Cu Sith of Scottish mythology, both of which signal imminent death. There’s also the Church Grim of Scandinavian and English folklore, a guardian spirit that guards churchyards after being buried alive there for that purpose. Shudder. This description of the appearance of the Black Shuck at a church in Suffolk, England in 1577 begins with, ” A Straunge and Terrible Wunder wrought very late…” Gotta say though, looks more like a friendly sheep to me.



Finally, there is mention of two dogs owned by Hermione’s parents after she modified their memories and sent them to live in nice, safe Australia (and I’m going to pretend they were dingos), and Hagrid compares baby Aragog to a Pekingese in size. How sweet. Additional dog mentions occur in the Harry Potter films, video games, companion books, and on Pottermore. Learn about them here:


It’s no surprise that dogs sniff their way into Rowling’s books. If humans cannot live Dinky tailwithout the furry, tail wagging wonderfulness that is dogs, why would wizards want to do so? Only problem is, Dinky, the Great Dane at the center of my literary world, can’t stop drooling over the fact that Fang is a fellow Dane. Talk about a Fang Fandog! Down, Dinky, down!  I will get you a Fang poster for your doghouse, but in the meantime, my face is not a windshield!


Reading IS an Adventure–



One of the best parts about being out of school is the Summer Reading Program in your local library. Their themes may be different: Reading is Fun, Jump into a Good Book, Reading is an Adventure, —but they all have a wonderful thing in common: they encourage kids to explore the world around them by reading.

Where else can you take a journey into your imagination of endless possibilities? Whether you read for knowledge, adventure, escape, fun, entertainment, exploration … reading a book is a passport to somewhere new and exciting.

continue to read

In a perfect world, when you open a book, you are transported somewhere both new and familiar … but with an exciting twist or ten.

Time travel books may take you into a future you hadn’t anticipated, but would love to explore or may thrust you into the past where you will have to learn how to navigate life without electricity and devices to simplify your life.

(Just how did kids wash the dishes without a dishwasher or even without plumbing piping hot water to their kitchen sinks?) 🙂

Some books explore problems you may face on a different scale—bullying, illness, peer pressure, having to save the world, or a best friend from some awful circumstance. Reacting to situations in a way that allow you to explore different scenarios from the safety of your bedroom, living room couch, or the backseat of your car—is it better to punch a bully in the nose or come up with a creative solution to where you both get what you want?


reading_adventures_with_cartoon_bookworm_poster-rf8abb0ae03dc4d77bed343d795c550b5_92p_8byvr_324Every book has conflicts—how the main character reacts and solves them (or doesn’t) propels readers on in the journey to resolution. Some readers find heroes to emulate or figure out that a different solution might be what is necessary to make their own life’s story have a satisfying ending.


Some books thrust you into a world of magic, where mirrors allow you to communicate, cars fly you from one adventure to another, a magic wand helps you escape from an evil wizard—the possibilities are endless.




Is non-fiction your thing? Any number of interesting science experiments can be achieved by following instructions in a book. Cooking and craft books are a great source of learning new skills.

Learning how to make  homemade ice cream or root beer popsicles on a hot summer day seems a refreshing way to spend a morning. 🙂


Great adventures come in all shapes and sizes.

Some journeys are physical—getting the magic amulet back to its rightful owner while being chased by an ogre or racing through the Rocky Mountains by horse drawn wagons before winter hits so that the pioneers aren’t stranded in shoulder deep snow.

Maybe the journey is emotional: righting a wrong that shouldn’t have happened or figuring out how to prepare to live life without a mother or father or best friend who is losing their fight with cancer?

The best books are a mix of many things: wonder, horror, crazy circumstances, overcoming obstacles, physical and emotional limits– met and exceeded — by sheer willpower and courage to overcome because failure is NOT an option.

Books that make you both laugh and cry, hold your breath as you root for your hero or heroine to persevere through impossible odds, journey on because there is no turning back—those books are the ones that will break your heart and strengthen your resolve to live a purposeful life.

Those are the books that will whisper courageous words to you when real life throws you a curve ball you weren’t expecting.

Books ... hopes, dreams

And they can all be found at your local library or book store, or at home on your favorite reading device. Jump into a good book today—Reading IS an Adventure.

Laugh lots … Love much … Write on! 🙂

When Monique Bucheger isn’t writing, you can find her playing taxi driver to one or more of her 12 children, plotting her next novel, scrapbooking, or being the “Mamarazzi” at any number of child-oriented events. Even though she realizes there will never be enough hours in any given day, Monique tries very hard to enjoy the journey that is her life. She shares it with a terrific husband, her dozen children, three adorable granddaughters, two  adventurous grandsons, and many real and imaginary friends. She is the author of the GINNIE WEST ADVENTURE series.

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Do You Remember….? It’s Still a Great Book!

sidewalk endsPublished in 1974, this longtime favorite has fallen in popularity as it’s aged. That’s so extremely unfortunate. I’m here to put it in front of a new generation of kids as well as remind parents, teachers, and homeschoolers who may have loved it long ago and forgotten all about it.

I’ve never been a fan of poetry, but some of these really tickled my funny bone when I was a child. I still have a few of them memorized. Some of you may remember…

I cannot go to school today,
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps…

Ring a bell? After the whole ridiculous rhyming retinue of ailments, Peggy Ann learns…well, if you haven’t read Sick, I’m not going to tell you. But her reaction is funny, and so, so what a kid would do. That’s the beauty of these quirky poems. They’re exactly what a kid would say and think and laugh about. Even forty years later, they’re still extremely kid-relatable. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!

That’s the first line and the title of this kid-pleasing tale of laziness and its too-silly cost. I may have been known to quote parts of it to my children when the “prune pits, peach pits, orange peel…” and “gloppy bits of cold oatmeal” begin to pile up in our kitchen due to their negligence.

Another one we like to quote (in the car, because this always happens, though we’ve never waited weeks and then months) is Traffic Light:

The traffic light simply would not turn green
So the people stopped to wait
As the traffic rolled and the wind blew cold
And the hour grew dark and late.

Many of you know I homeschool some low readers. Well, it just so happens that one of the exercises recommended by reading experts to improve fluency is called “performance reading”. Basically, a child reads a selected text out loud over and over until they can read it with ease and expression. Practice makes perfect, even in reading. Shell Silverstein’s silly poems are THE PERFECT subject matter. Each Monday, my youngest has to pick a new poem, learn it, and perform it for me on Friday. (Sometimes it takes two weeks.) He loves it. First, the slow work of slogging through new text. Then the smiles as he pieces together the  humor. Next is usually an examination of the illustration, which always suits the poem so perfectly, because it was drawn by Mr. Silverstein himself. And finally, a proud, grinning performance as my son reads the text just as well as anyone could and anticipates the moment I share the punchline. It’s always fun. And it’s EDUCATIONAL! (Shhh…don’t tell him that.)

So would I recommend this dusty old book of poetry? You bet I would!!