Auntie Book Fairy — Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Today, I am visiting my nephews’ classrooms as Auntie Book Fairy. I visit T’s fourth grade classroom to share Capture the Flag and A’s third grade classroom to share Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail, both by Kate Messner. I will book talk each title and leave copies of each to be a part of their classroom libraries.

 Capture the Flag

Kate Messner

Scholastic Press, 2012

You can even read two chapters from the book right here! How cool is that?

Why I like it:

  • It is super exciting! Almost every chapter ends in a cliff hanger that has you itching to read the next chapter.
  • The characters, Anna, Jose, and Henry are kids, but they’re smart and resourceful when dealing with some pretty bad guys.
  • I love the setting of Washington, DC, The Smithsonian, and the innards of the airport.
  • It’s a series! Hide and Seek (2013) and Manhunt (2014) are just as exciting, but this time the stories take place in Costa Rica and Paris, France.

You might like it if . . .

  • You like mystery books, including Nancy Drew, Sammy Keyes, or John Grisham’s Thedore Boone: Kid Detective series
  • If you like thrilling books with great chase scenes!

Extra! Extra! Want more?

Authors really do use writing planners and organizers! Check out these notes, timelines, and story maps that Kate used while writing Capture the Flag. She even explains what each paper is here.

Or be sure to stop by her the author’s website when you have permission from your teacher or parent!

Other books you might like. . .



The Wig in the Window – Author Visit, Spy Interview, and Giveaway!!

Author Visit!

How excited was I when my Twitter author friend, Kristen Kittscher, sent out a note to say that she was going to be in the Seattle-area over Thanksgiving and would anyone be interested in setting up school visits? Let’s say I was pretty excited since I waved my Twitter hand very madly and shouted into cyberspace, “Me!”. On December 2nd, she will be visiting with some of the sixth graders at my oldest daughter, Tall’s middle school and with a classroom of fifth graders at Tall’s former elementary school to talk about the writing process. As a former middle school teacher, she will definitely make that real world connection for the students with their own writing in a fun and entertaining manner. Local folks–you can message me to find out if your child will be in the audience at one of these presentations!

Her debut novel The Wig in the Window, published in June 2013 by HarperCollins, is a super entertaining mystery, perfect for the middle school set. It features smart and strong seventh graders and neighborhood spies, Sophie Young and Grace Yang. I like that the mystery itself was well executed and keeps you guessing up to the end. My own sixth grader, Tall, picked it up just from the jacket description alone and she too loved this tale for both is suspense and spot-on middle school humor.


From the publisher, HarperCollins:

The Wig in the Window

Sophie Young and Grace Yang: best friends, seventh graders, spies.

Equipped with walkie-talkies, binoculars, and candy, the girls sneak out for one of their midnight spy missions expecting a simple stakeout. But what starts as a silly game turns very real when they peek in on Luna Vista’s notoriously bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

Is there more to Dr. Agford than her tacky clothes and sugary falsetto voice? Sophie and Grace are convinced something sinister lurks below the surface . . . and they just might be right. Soon they’re racing to outsmart the suspicious counselor—all while cracking secret codes, dodging a mysterious blue car, and keeping tabs on strangers with unibrows and Texas twangs.

But the strain of the investigation pushes the girls further apart. Even if Sophie and Grace uncover the truth about Agford in time, will their friendship survive?

Who would I recommend this to? This is great choice for grades 5-8, especially for mystery fans. The girls are middle schoolers, so their humor definitely feels more mature than other middle grade books, but it is well written and feels authentic to me. And a heads up as a parent, there is passing mention of a sex ed class at the middle school and it is implied that an adult in the book may be involved in a murder.

The Interview . . .

To celebrate her visit, I’m profiling the book here and introducing you to these two fabulous “strong girl” characters, Sophie and Grace, through a character interview. And, get this . . . we’re giving away a copy of the The Wig in the Window! A huge thank you to Kristen for providing me with the giveaway copy. To enter, please look to the bottom for the details and entry form. But now, let’s learn more about our protagonists, Sophie and Grace.

Not For Lunch: Howdy, Sophie and Grace! Briefly, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Sophie:  My name is Sophie Young and I’m in seventh grade at Luna Vista Middle School in California. Some folks find me short. I prefer petite.  While I’m not Chinese, I love all things Chinese.

Grace: Hi! I’m Grace Yang, or Agent Yang to you. My parents are both doctors and I’m homeschooled. I’m tall, bad at playing piano, love fashion, and my Saturdays are spent at Chinese School.

NFL: Favorite TV show?

Sophie: Law and Order

Grace: America’s Most Wanted

NFL: Favorite article of clothing or accessory?

Sophie: My Pumas or my hoodie. I can’t decide.

Grace: My neoprene belt that holds my walkie-talkie, flashlight and other military-grade spy gear.

NFL: Favorite color?

Sophie: Red. The Chinese think the color red brings good luck.

Grace: Black. All the better for spying in, my dear.

NFL: Favorite Book?

Sophie: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. My grandpa is always sharing quotes from this book. It’s more interesting than it sounds!

Grace: Does Teen Vogue count?

NFL: Favorite food?

Sophie: Curly fries.

Grace: Curly fries!

NFL What is your favorite sport?

Sophie: Tai Chi. “Dragon Emerges from Water” is my best move.

Grace: Does piano count as a sport? It feels like one to me.

NFL: What is your favorite school subject?

Sophie: Currently, it’s not science, which is a problem since my parents are scientists.

Grace:  Anything that my teacher Miss Anita doesn’t teach. Wait…she teachers all of them.

NFL: What is your dream job?

Sophie:  Professor of Asian Studies at Oxford University. 

Grace: FBI agent or maybe a wedding planner. I’d nail either one of those.

NFL: If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?

Sophie: General Sun Tzu.

Grace: Any director of the FBI, past or current.

 NFL: What are you saving up your money for?

Sophie:  A trip around the world

Grace: Night vision goggles. Definitely.

NFL: If you could take classes on anything, what would it be?

Sophie: Feng Shui

Grace:  Lie-detecting

NFL: Thank you girls. It was a pleasure to get to know you both better! Now get back out there and make Luna Vista a safer place!


About the Author. . . 

Kristen Kittscher was a neighborhood spy as a child but (allegedly) grew up to be an upstanding citizen, seventh grade English teacher, and writing tutor. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Kai, and their hyperactive lab mix. The Wig in the Window is her first novel. Check out Kristen’s website!

Don’t miss her at the Small Business Saturday author event at our local and beloved indie, Third Place Books on November 30. She will be a guest book seller at 12 noon.

The Giveaway!


Treat Tuesday! 04.16.13


It’s Tuesday! I am joining in the fun, created by Niki at Daydream Reader, called Treat Tuesday, where we snap a quick photo of what we are reading and a treat we are enjoying. And thanks to Shannon (aka Ms. Houghton) for the meme logo seen above. Inspired by my Twitter pal, Maria, I’m including what my kids are enjoying as well. Follow all the treat fun on Twitter under the hash tag #TreatTuesday.

The Books and Our Treat!


The Treat — Brownies

The pan is cooling now. My goal is to make sure the pan looks just like this when the kids get home from school. NO SAMPLING! This is a good, go-to brownie recipe: Andrew’s Brownies. My only changes — skip the nuts and undercook it a few minutes.

Small (age 8, third grade)

Curse of Ravenswood Court, by Sarah Masters Buckey. This is one of the titles from the American Girl Mysteries series. Small is decidedly not a “doll” kid, but she is drawn to the books, especially those about the historical character dolls. The girls’ school recently had a book swap, and this was her pick, which has the character Samantha in it. I haven’t read any of the AG mystery books myself, but they are a bit more substantial in plot than the “meet the character” books from American Girl. She described it as, “Really, really, good.” In a related note, Twitter friend, Hannahlily, just today retweeted an interesting article about the American Girl company and how they seem to be putting the historical dolls on the back shelf.


Tall (age 11, fifth grade)

The Hidden Staircase, by Carolyn Keene. The Nancy Drew collection book returns, but this time Tall is re-reading The Hidden Staircase. As I’ve mentioned before, she is big re-reader and series consumer. Any thoughts on that? Just let it be? Push other books? What titles would you recommend to an avid Nancy Drew fan?


Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, by Steve Sheinkin. I’m enjoying the quick paced story about the real attempted robbery of President Lincoln’s tomb from the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Illinois. Much of the story so far has been the back story on the gang of criminals who mastermind this plot to steal the body and get a ransom for its return. Sheinkin does such a great job with narrative non-fiction. This very readable title will appeal to history curious upper elementary and middle school students. 

Hope you’re savoring whatever you are reading and snacking upon!


Recent posts:

It’s Monday – 04/22/13

Treat Tuesday! 03.26.13


It’s Tuesday! I am joining in the fun, created by Niki at Daydream Reader, called Treat Tuesday, where we snap a quick photo of what we are reading and a treat we are enjoying. And thanks to Shannon (aka Ms. Houghton) for the meme logo seen above. Inspired by my Twitter pal, Maria, I’m including what my kids are enjoying as well. Follow all the treat fun on Twitter under the hash tag #TreatTuesday.


The Books and Our Treat!

Small (age 8, third grade)

The BFG by Roald Dahl. Small and I read this together a few years ago, and it was much beloved. The BFG is actually my favorite Roald Dahl book. Now she’s trying it on her own. She just loves Dahl’s word play, and even noted that on the cover of her edition states that Dahl is the “World’s Most Scrumdiddlyumptious Storyteller.” I agree, whole-heartedly.


Tall (age 11, fifth grade)

Hold Fast, by Blue Balliett. I haven’t read this one myself, but it is highly reviewed on Goodreads and Twitter by Nerdy Book Club friends. She gobbled up Joan Bauer’s Almost Home yesterday within hours of it coming home from the library. Almost Home is another one I haven’t read, but I do know it’s a pretty powerful look at homelessness and family transitions, elements that are touched upon in Hold Fast. Balliett’s book also has the added plus of being part-mystery, a genre she enjoys.  I’m hopeful that she will like it!



Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett Krosoczka. This is the first novel by Jarrett, creator of the popular Lunch Lady graphic novel series and The Punk Farm picture books. I’m looking forward to this animal-filled mystery sprinkled with lots of Krosoczka’s illustrations. And speaking of illustrations . . . the ARC copy I have (thanks to Walden Pond Press!) has preliminary art and sketches for the book, but you can get a sneak peek at the final art for the book coming out in early May, here at Betsy Bird’s blog. I’m looking forward to sharing a couple of copies of this book with the third grade class that I am Book Fairy for next month. I predict they’ll love this mystery!



Hope you’re savoring whatever you are reading and snacking upon!


Recent posts:

It’s Monday — 3/25/13

Book Fairy Visit — Third Grade: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger