One of the great perks of writing this blog is being contacted by authors asking me to consider reading and reviewing their books. Even better when the author contacting me has written a book or two that I have already noticed on the shelves of the bookstore where I work. That was the case when I got an email from Donna Gephart a few months ago. Her first book, which has the same cover in hardback and paperback, as if being 12 3/4 isn't bad enough, my mother is running for president!, caught my eye right away. Not only does it have the rare appearance of an actual human being's face on the cover (and that model is the PERFECT fit for main character Vanessa) but it was released in February of 2008, a month after the Iowa Caucuses and eight months before the presidential election. The timing was perfect! And, the appearance of a young readers book with any kind of politics as part of the plot, any time of year, is rare. Gephart's first book lived up to and beyond my expectations, but her second book concerned me. Middle school, a boy narrator and a hamster did not sound like a winning combination to me, personally. It sounded like a lot of other books already on the shelf. But, I enjoyed Gephart's first book so much I decided to give it a try. Again, Gephart brought so many unique and winning aspects to How to Survive Middle School that it was impossible for me not to like it. It was also hard to put down - I read the last half straight through. After reading both books, I found myself wondering, "How did she think of that?" and "How does she know that about kids?" and just plain, "Wow, how did she write that?" So, I thought I'd take the opportunity to walk around in Donna Gephart's writer's brain for a while and share it with you! Don't miss my reviews of as if being 12 3/4 isn't bad enough, my mother is running for president! and How to Survive Middle School on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, and my interview with Donna on Friday!