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I had never heard of the Jaguar Stones series until I heard that the authors, Pamela and Jon Voelkel, were coming to my school in March. We had a rockin’ time.

Once I read a summary, I knew I would love their books. And I did. So when they accepted my request for an interview, I was deee-lighted. Read on (and be sure to check out my review of Middleworld, the first book in the series) …

 ~ LitKid

Where were you when you were writing Middleworld ?

Pamela: Most of at the time, we were at home in Vermont, and part of the time, we were traveling in Belize. In Belize, we wrote in a bamboo hut on a screen porch overlooking a rushing river; in Vermont, we live in an old brick house and share a drafty old office. You can’t see a single surface in the room for piles of papers, books and maps.

Did any authors give you inspiration for your book? If so, why that particular author?

Pamela: As a child, I loved The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and I have tried to recreate that haunting mixture of mystery and mythology. I was also inspired by the rather sensible and self-sufficient child protagonists of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Remember that telegram they get from their father? “Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won’t drown.” And, of course, they don’t drown, because they’re smart. Finally, I always enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, not so much for their plots as for the way she  always listed out all the food on their picnics. I always like to know what people are eating, which is why Raul cooks such amazing feasts in the Jaguar Stones books.

Jon: The Jaguar Stones series was partly inspired by the K’iche’ Maya creation myth the Popul Vuh, which tells the story of the hero twins who fight against the ancient Maya lords of death. Nobody knows who wrote it down. Though not a book, the Indiana Jones movies were also a real inspiration. In writing the books, I always try to picture the scenes as a film in my mind.

The Voelkels’ rockin’ visit to LitKid’s international magnet elementary school

Before you became writers, did you want to be something else, like a doctor?

Pamela: I always wanted to be some kind of writer. Originally, I wanted to be a journalist, but then I decided I wanted to be an advertising copywriter, and that’s what I did for 20 years until we started work on The Jaguar Stones.

Jon: I put myself through college playing in a number of rock and roll bands. I then went on to work in advertising. I still play lead guitar in a local band.

Where did you first meet?

In an advertising agency in London.

Are any of the characters in the book based on people you’ve met? If so, why?

Pamela: Like all writers, we steal shamelessly from every single person we meet. It might be the way someone looks, or the way they toss their hair or tap their foot or giggle, but we’re always on the lookout for ways of acting and talking.

Consequently, there are lots of people we know bound into the Jaguar Stones characters. There’s quite a lot of Jon in Max, but there’s also a bit of our teenage son, and when Max is cowardly, that comes from me. I’d say that Lola is who I’d like to be. She’s funny and smart and brave. I also enjoy creating evil characters and basing them on people I know, but of course I can’t share any details. 🙂

Read more about the Voelkels on their author page

Check out the cool Jaguar Stones web site … 

Watch the Voelkels talk with kids about the series on the Today show …


Middle World (Book 1 in the Jaguar Stones trilogy)

By J&P Voelkel

Max Murphy is just like any boy. He likes video games and hates school. Yep, he’s pretty normal. Except for the fact that his parents are world renowned archeoligists.

When his parents get  called on another one of their digs right before his band concert, he is fed up. Though Max gets suspicious, when, a couple days prior to his parents leaving, he is asked to join them.

When he gets there, his parents have mysteriously disappeared. He must find his parents and get back a valuable treasure.

I liked this book because it was action-packed, and there was never a dull moment. What I noticed about the writing is that it always left you hanging, and so you wanted to read more.


P.S. Coming tomorrow: My interview with the Voelkels!

Albert the Bear

By Nick Butterworth

When sad-and-sullen-looking Albert the Bear lands in Mr. Jolly’s ToyShop, the other toys know something is up. Albert wears a frown that needs to be turned upside down. So the other toys spring into action with a jolly good idea to cheer their chum up. By the end … well,  you’ll just have to read the book to learn the tale of the young (once) sad, now cheery bear. Nick Butterworth does a cheery job in telling the tale of young Albert.


p.s. You’re going to see a LOT of familiar faces in Mr. Jolly’s Toy Shop!

My mom, who takes way too many photos, took this one of me on Easter morning, when I was reading ‘Bigger Than a Breadbox’ in one of our magnolia trees (which I used to think were ‘granola’ trees).

To celebrate Children’s Book Week, Laurel Snyder, author extroardinaire, who wrote Bigger than a Bread Box, has agreed to do an interview with me. Her book is really, really, really good. Phenominal is the right word. I hope you enjoy this.

Happy Children’s Book Week!!

~ LitKid (10-year-old book lover & blogger)

Are any of the scenes in  Bigger than a Bread Box based on any experiences in your life, and if so, why did you decide to put them in the book?

Oh, sure, lots of them. But none of the BIG scenes are real. That’s one of the tricks to writing fiction – you want to take details from the real world, and use them to add texture to your made up story, so that it seems real.  So, like – the  feeling Rebecca has of knowing she can’t put Lew back in the crib without dropping him the last foot? That’s real – I remember feeling that way about my own sister. Also, all the places in this book are real, based on my homes in both Baltimore and Atlanta.

Before you became an author, did you do any other writing, like for a magazine or a newspaper? If you did, was that how you found out that you loved writing?

I figured out I loved writing in about the fourth grade. I was always a reader, from about first grade, but in third or fourth I started making up stories too. I had a really wonderful teacher in fourth grade who encouraged me.  My best friend and I wrote little books together, and then made them into books using cardboard and a stapler.

But I also did write for magazines, and still do. I’ve written for websites like, and newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, and magazines like the UTNE Reader. A few weeks ago I wrote something for CNN! I find it’s helpful to write all different kinds of things!

Have you thought about writing a sequel to Bigger than a Bread Box?

I’m working on a companion novel this very minute!  It isn’t a sequel, but a prequel. It follows Annie, Rebecca’s mom, when she was a kid.

Are any of the characters based on people you know, and if so why did you choose this person (or these people) to base your character(s) on?

Rebecca is me, no doubt about it. She’s less outgoing than I am in real life, but she’s how I felt myself to be, in the years when my parents were splitting up.  A lot of other characters are loosely based on real people. My son is named Lew.  And Hannah is based on a girl who made my life very hard in third grade. Ugh!

If Bigger than a Bread Box ever became a movie, who would you want cast as Rebecca, and why?

Most authors dream of seeing their books made into movies, but I haven’t gone so far as to think about who should play the characters. I’m afraid I don’t know a lot of actresses that age.  Who do you think should play her?

Name one book (a kid’s book) from last year that you liked and would recommend.

My favorite middle grade novel from the last year was probably Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu.  It’s beautifully written and is (oddly) also about a girl whose parents are having trouble, but it’s a different kind of magic.  It retells the fairy tale of the Snow Queen!

To learn more about Laurel Snyder and her books, you should go to her web site…

Note from AKid@Heart: If you would like a chance to win a copy of Breadcrumbs, the book Ms. Snyder mentions in our interview, we launched a “Lost in a Book” Medals of Honor giveaway awhile back that we’ve extended in hopes of getting more award recommendations!


LitKid dressed up as one of her favorite children’s book characters a few Halloweens ago.

… Which week do we appreciate?!

Children’s Book Week!!!!!!!!!

It’s here once again ladies and gents, and we (LitKid and AKid@Heart) have a lot in store.

One of the many things we’ll be doing this week is an interview with Laurel Snyder, author extroardinaire, who wrote Bigger Than a Bread Box.

And we’ll have a whole slue of reviews to celebrate this week.

There might even be a giveaway …!

~ LitKid (our 10-year-old book lover)

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May 2012
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