Category Archives: Walden Pond Press

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: Guys Read: Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka

ReluctantReaderColorTales of a (formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my oldest son John,  a formerly reluctant reader) discusses books that he thinks other reluctant readers (former or not) will enjoy!  Today’s book is Guys Read: Other Worlds :

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0061963798
  • Source: Publisher

I don’t read a lot of fiction, but when I do I am most excited about books about outer space and spaceships, maybe because I’m such a big Star Wars fan. My mom calls this science fiction. I call it awesome.  Anyway, I’m a big fan of the Guys Read series already, so when my mom told me they were coming out with one about science fiction I was beyond excited. Then (it gets even better!) I saw that it included stories from some of my favorite authors like Tom Angleberger and Rick Riordan and I was sold. Epic, right!?

What I’ve learned is that while I don’t always like to read long books (sorry mom!) I don’t have a problem reading shorter stories. I think a lot of kids who don’t like to read will like this, too. It’s like you get a really great story in just a few pages. I can read an entire story in just a few minutes. It’s brilliant, really.

I don’t want to say too much about each of the stories so instead I will tell you about my favorites:

Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo by Rick Riordan: Ok, this one was just funny!! We all know who Percy Jackson is, right? Anyway, in this story he’s trying to celebrate his friend’s birthday when they run into Apollo. Yes, that Apollo. Apparently Apollo is trying to do a concert but he’s missing one of his backup singers. I’m totally serious! Percy has to help find this singer because, really, who can say no to Apollo. My mom says this story isn’t printed anywhere else so, Percy Jackson fans, don’t miss this!

Bouncing the Grinning Goat by Shannon Hale: I really liked this one! The main character is a girl who is pretending to be this really tough warrior from this place that has a really bad reputation. She’s able to lie about it for a while but has to face the truth when they are actually attacked by some really bad creatures. I guess it sort of teaches a lesson about being true about yourself. I just thought it was awesome.

The Scout by D.J. Machale: This one was my favorite, by far!! You think you are reading about this kid who is a Scout (I thought Boy Scout because I am one) and is trying to get out of camping with the other Scouts. Turns out to be far, far different than what I could have every imagined.

The Dirt on Our Shoes by Neal Shusterman: This is another one of my favorites. These people have been in space for 60 years and are finally landing on a planet that they will call home. Turns out the whole point of the trip was a lie. It has some pretty gross scenes in it (that involve…you know…poop and stuff) but overall it was pretty great.

So these are my favorites. I liked the other stories but probably not as much as these.  The other stories are from authors that my mom really likes: Shaun Tan (he writes graphic novels) and Ray Bradbury (we read his book The Halloween Tree every year). I mean, I liked them enough but the Ray Bradbury one was  kind of creepy.

What I really want to say is how great this book would be for kids who have a hard time reading a really big book. This just shows that sometimes big things come in smaller packages (kind of like me, haha!). And I know my mom says it’s not nice go call books boy books or girl books. This definitely looks like a boy book (it does!) and it is called “Guys Read” but I think girls would really like it too.  So, run out to your favorite bookstore and pick this one up. It just came out yesterday so be the first of your friends to own it. If they don’t have it, though, I’m sure you can find one of the other Guys Read books. They are all pretty awesome.


Guest Post: D.J. MacHale (Guys Read: Other Worlds)

Today I am pleased to welcome D.J. MacHale, one of the contributing authors to Guys Read: Other Worlds for a guest post today. This title, along with the other Guys Read titles, are excellent novels for reluctant readers (especially boys)!  My own son has enjoyed each and every one of them. Stay tuned for his review of Guys Read: Other Worlds, due to post tomorrow!

djmachaleD.J. MacHale is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pendragon series and the Morpheus Road series. He has written, directed and produced many television series and movies for young people that have been seen on Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, HBO, Showtime, PBS, Discovery Kids, and the broadcast networks. D.J. lives with his family in Southern California. You can visit him online at

The trigger.  That’s what I’m always looking for.  It’s that magical moment when something happens that sparks the idea for a story.  One of the hardest things to do is start from scratch and say:  “I think I’ll write a story.”  There are far too many possibilities.  My daughter is always asking me to tell her ghost stories.  For somebody who has written dozens of ghost stories, and hundreds of every other kind of story, you’d think it would be a snap.  It isn’t.  I need a trigger.  So I got smart and said to her:  “Okay, give me a title.”  Once she started coming up with things like:  “The Whispering Trees” or “The Mutant Bunny” it was off to the races.

When I was asked to write a short story for Jon Scieszka’s awesome Guys Read series, my first thought was “Sure!”  My second thought was:  “Uh oh, now what?”  I had no ideas.  That was until I heard the title for the collection.  Other Worlds.  Bingo.  Trigger.  Shake, stir…“The Scout”.

Many (okay, all) of my stories deal with some form of fantastical conflict.  Whether you call them science fiction or fantasy adventures, my characters have to deal with larger-than-life challenges that you don’t come across in your average day.  At least I hope you don’t.  However, as wild and improbable as the worlds they operate in may be, at the heart of all these stories are very real, relatable characters who are learning about themselves as much as they are learning about the boogie man.  That’s what makes a science fiction story interesting to me.  Sure, it’s exciting to have all the explosions and narrow escapes and unique settings, but none of that fun stuff matters if you don’t care about your characters and what’s going through their heads as they face the unknown.

I’m often asked why I write for guys.  The truth is, I don’t.  I write about things that I like and since I’m a guy, I like guy-things.  I sort of wish sometimes that I could write a girl-centric story.  I’d probably sell a billion more books.  But I can’t do that.  I have to be true to what comes out, and what comes out appeals to guys.  (To be honest, my stories appeal to plenty of girls too, but mostly to the kind of girls I like hanging around with….girls who like guy-things)

The ScoutWith “The Scout”, I did something I had never attempted before.  There’s only one character.  Kit.  That was a real challenge because with one character, there’s nobody to talk to.  No dialog.  No clever exchanges between characters to help bring out their personalities.  By doing this, I got right to the heart of what I always try to do, which is to get into the head of a real person and have the reader experience the adventure right along with them.

It’s Kit vs. “Other Worlds”.  Nice trigger.  I hope you like it.

Thank you, D.J. for stopping by! Guys Read: Other Worlds is out today. What are you waiting for!?

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson

Tales of a (formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my thirteen year old son, John (a formerly reluctant reader) shares this thoughts on books geared toward reluctant readers. The review below is entirely his own with no alterations other than corrections in spelling.

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (February 26, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062071858
  • Source: Publisher

Haley a pretty normal teenage girl living with her family in Connecticut. All of her friends are looking forward to spending their summers going off to fun camps. Haley’s plans are a bit different; she plans on spending the summer driving around the country with her very supportive parents, investigating the disappearances of several people thanks to a grant from a mysterious research foundation. There’s more than just missing persons, though. Around the same time they go missing, the towns they live in undergo a lapse of time in which they don’t remember what happened. Sixteen minutes are lost with no explanation. Haley uncovers a group of people referred to as We are the Missing,who claim to have experiences with alien abduction.

Dodger lives in Washington and, like Haley, is awarded a grant to investigate the unusual. Unlike Haley, he doesn’t really have a supportive family and is always trying to get the approval of his father. Haley and Dodger meet when the foundation supporting their research mission calls everything off when things get too dangerous. Haley and Dodger soon become the ones investigated, instead of the ones investigating. They are the only ones who can find out the truth about these disappearances and must do so before they too go missing!

Wow…was this an intense book! Normally, I’m not really in to alien abductions or anything spooky like that but this book changed my mind! From the very beginning, the story grabbed my attention. It was almost as if I was watching a movie rather than reading a book!  One of the things I really liked about the book were the two main characters, a boy and a girl. Both Haley & Dodger were very interesting people, Dodger maybe more than Haley because he heard voices. But because there is both a boy and a girl character, I think this book would be interesting to both boys and girls my age.

Also, the journey the two go on is pretty sweet! All-expense paid two week vacation!? Yes please! The investigations they go on are pretty intense so this also almost feels like a mystery as well. Maybe a sci-fi mystery? In any case, I’m going to be telling all my friends about this book! Now I need to come up with an exciting way to spend my summer vacation!

Guess what! My mom says that one lucky reader of this blog can win a copy of this book. Awesome, right? To enter, just fill out this form below. The winner will be emailed by my Mom on Friday, March 15. Tell all your friends about this giveaway! Trust me, you don’t want to pass this up!

Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu


  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 27, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062015052
  • Source: Publisher

Hazel is having a difficult time adjusting to a new school, her parents’ divorce, and life in general. Her neighbor, Jack, is the only real friend she has. He understands her, sticks up for her when school bullies pick on her. Her mother would prefer that she have female friends but to Hazel, Jack is all she needs. Nothing can separate this duo.

Then one day a shard of glass falls into Jack’s eye. He becomes a completely different person: coldhearted, no interest in hanging out with Hazel.  He blows her off as if she means nothing to him. Hazel is the only one who seems to see this change in Jack; her mother dismisses the  change in Jack’s behavior, stating that things like this happen. Hazel is unwilling to accept this; nothing would tear their friendship apart.

When Jack disappears, Hazel knows something must be amiss.  His parents behave oddly, stating he’s gone off to stay with a relative Hazel’s never heard of. It isn’t until one of his friends confesses to Hazel something he’s seen that she begins to grasp what has happened. Jack was seen talking to a woman in white, made of ice and coldness.

Hazel has heard of this woman, the Ice Queen, but assumed the stories were all made-up.  So she begins a trek into the cold, cold woods, desperate to find and rescue her closest and dearest friend. Along the way she comes across several unique creatures and individuals.  When she finds Jack, she must remind him of the warmth that their friendship brings, to rescue him from the frigid grasp of the Ice Queen’s reign.

Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen, Breadcrumbs is a beautifully written modern fairy tale, with prose so lyrical it would be a sin not to read it aloud.  Here is but one sampling:

“For the snow was not snow anymore, but a woman–tall and lithe like a sketch, in a white fur cape and a white shimmering gown that looked so thin it would melt if you touched it.  Hair like spun crystal framed cream-colored skin.  The woman stepped closer, revealing eyes as bright as the sun reflecting off snow.  But they were cold things, and it was like looking for solace in frost.”


More than anything, Breadcrumbs is a story about two children, bonded together by the loneliness they share.  For Jack, his loneliness comes the state his mother is in, a shell of the woman she used to be. For Hazel, her loneliness comes from her parents’ divorce, from starting a new school, from being different than those around her.

This is a book that is ageless, it can be appreciated by adults as well as children. As stated above, I highly recommend reading it aloud.  Now that I’ve finished reading it myself that’s what I plan to do: read it aloud to my children. Highly recommended.