I’m the youngest of seven clever children, none of whom are children anymore, but they’re all still clever. I spent my early years desperate to catch up to what they were reading, and sit at the big kids’ table.
Now with four sons of my own, ages 15, 14, 11, and 8, I eat every meal at the big kids’ table.
I grew up on a 50-acre farm complete with pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and oodles of cats and dogs. There was a pond full of frogs and turtles, a crick full of crawdads and minnows, woods full of rusted farm equipment, and fields full of milkweed and poison ivy. Heaven.
Grade school and high school years were a blur of piano lessons, volleyball, track, musicals, clubs, babysitting jobs, and lots of reading. I took beloved books to bed with me like other girls took teddy bears, nestling down under the covers with them. I still do it today. My patient husband stacks them on his bedside table before turning off the light.
I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, graduating with a B.S. in communication. At RPI, I met my husband, and we married during my last semester. Somehow we ended up with four clever boys, and a cat. We’re lucky.
After my fourth son was born, I decided that since my dream of having a family was now firmly established, it was time to pursue my second dream, writing novels. Eventually I received an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts, where I learned from many talented and committed writers for young people. The Amaranth Enchantment was the second novel I wrote in school, and the first one to sell to a publisher. Since then I’ve written Secondhand Charm, and the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series with my older sister, Sally Faye Gardner, as the illustrator. Other novels are in the works.
There’s not much I enjoy more than writing – though eating is a close contender. With any luck, there’ll be more novels to talk about soon — stay tuned!
“Secondhand Charm” (2010)
Book review by Michelle: “Secondhand Charm” was a light fairytale/fantasy story and I’d forgotten how fun these types of books were. Evie told the story in first-person narrative and she was your typical smart, headstrong and impulsive female character and she’s easy to like. I love the unexpectedness of this book and the plot twists as both kept me turning the pages. The plot took a few unexpected turns that I didn’t see coming because the blurb had me expecting something else. I also liked that this book doesn’t really take itself too seriously–there were plenty of action and surprises in the plot but it was a very easy and can be read in a few hours. There were numerous secondary characters but my favorite was one of the villains. I like my villains to be more than just plain mean or evil but has an unexpected soft side too. I knew something was off about the villain’s character from her actions throughout the book but it was from her that Evie learned about her mother and herself. I thought that was an interesting twist.
“The Amaranth Enchantment” (2009)
Book review by Lynnea: There is a lot going on in this book and I loved it! Lucinda is trying to get her mistakes fixed and is thrown into situations that would cripple most people and she comes out stronger. I love the friendship that happens between her and Beryl and with her and Peter. She even gets a friend in the form of a goat that acts like a dog. There are magical elements to this book but they didn’t take center stage which was refreshing. I loved the twists at the end of the book and of course the Happily Ever Afters. I can’t wait to take a look at some of the other books written by this author.
“The Rat Brain Fiasco” (2010)*
Book review by PoshMom: Ok, let’s just say my son has never been the “academic” type. His favorite “subjects” are gym, lunch and the bus. While I think physical education is important, I’ve never really revered it as a “subject”. Needless to say, our little Frankie makes Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter look like an over-achiever. You’ll be happy to know (as I took great relief in this myself) that he has not taken his nose out of the Splurch books in days. He just proclaimed “Mom, I love those books you bought me, you made a mad reader out of me” AMEN Julie Gardner Berry! I have tried all of the other “popular with the boys” books with no success. So, PLEASE keep writing for these “disruptive” boys!
“Curse of the Bizarro Beetle” (2010)*
Book review by Norway Mom: I read this book aloud to my sons (ages 9 and 12), and we all enjoyed it immensely. The plot had us guessing, and there were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. The chapters are sufficiently short to give nice breaking points for sleepy bedtime readers or those who struggle with reading. The book is a dynamic combination of children’s chapter book and graphic novel. Some pages are text-only, some have a single illustration, and others pages are in comic book format, with both dialogue and illustrations. You must not hop over the comic book pages, thinking they’re just illustrations. They advance the plot and contain dialogue that is not repeated in the chapter-book style text. We hadn’t read book one in the series yet, but the book works just fine on its own. We can’t wait to read the other books in the series. I feel that the writers really understand what appeals to young boys.
“The Colossal Fossil Freakout” (2011)*
Headmaster Farley’s back and he’s ready for revenge, but an unexpected visit from his estranged sister brings monstrous results as she takes over Splurch Academy. Forced to retreat to his laboratory, he hatches a plan to reclaim the school. Meanwhile, Cody Mack and the other boys are pitted against their new classmates-the girls of Priscilla Prim Academy for Precious and Proper Young Ladies.
“The Trouble with Squids” (2011)*
Book review by Megan Taylor: This is a fantastic series! Creative, different, engaging. I have two boys 8 and 11, and both love this series about “problematic” buys sent with all good intentions by their parents to the Slpurch Academy where there are faced with a vampire headmaster and series on monstrous teachers (Like Mr. Fronk who has to plug himself in to stay awake in class). Each of the main characters comes with his own set of skills to contribute to the continued efforts to escape, but we don’t even mind when they fail cause it hopefully means another book in the series will be coming. Don’t miss this series.
* Books in the “Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys” (Grosset & Dunlap)