Author Archives: Clay Swartz

Read This Excerpt of ‘Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas’


Looking for an exciting, adventurous new read? Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes may be the book for you. It’s the first book in a new series that promises laugh-out-loud moments and nonstop action. What’s it about?

addison-cooke-cover12-year-old Addison Cooke just wishes something exciting would happen to him. His aunt and uncle, both world-famous researchers, travel to the ends of the Earth searching for hidden treasure, dodging dangerous robbers along the way, while Addison is stuck in school all day.

Luckily for Addison, adventure has a way of finding the Cookes. After his uncle unearths the first ancient Incan clue needed to find a vast trove of lost treasure, he is kidnapped by members of a shadowy organization intent on stealing the riches. Addison’s uncle is the bandits’ key to deciphering the ancient clues and looting the treasure . . . unless Addison and his friends can outsmart the kidnappers and crack the code first. So it’s off to South America, where the excitement, danger, gold, booby traps, and car chases are never-ending!

Read an Excerpt from the Book

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We recently had the chance to ask Stokes about his new book. Here’s what he had to say:

What can you tell us about Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas?

charactersAddison Cooke is a fast-talking sixth grader who lives in New York with his little sister, Molly. When their aunt and uncle – famous archaeologists – are kidnapped by fortune hunters, Addison and Molly must embark on a globe-trotting adventure to locate a hidden Incan treasure and rescue their aunt and uncle. Joining them on their perilous journey are Addison’s two best friends, Raj and Eddie, who help almost as much as they hurt. Along the way, the team faces constant dangers from treacherous treasure hunters racing to uncover the Incan treasure.

How did you come up with the idea?

As a sixth grader, my friends and I spent most of our time exploring in the woods, sneaking into abandoned houses, planning secret missions, building gadgets, and setting elaborate booby traps. Addison shares all of these interests. But he’s much smarter than I was, and more resourceful. So whereas my secret missions might take me all the way to the hayloft of a neighbor’s barn, Addison’s missions take him all the way to the Amazon Rainforest.

While a lot of current middle-grade books dive into fantasy and/or science fiction, this book is more of a throwback to the history and adventure of stories like Indiana Jones. Was that an intentional decision?

Yes! Just this year, a man in England discovered an 1,800-year-old Roman palace buried in his backyard. A few days earlier, a family in France discovered a 135 million dollar Caravaggio painting that had been hidden in their attic for centuries. History is buried a few inches below your feet, or secreted away behind the walls of your attic. It is all around us for those who wish to explore. This is the world I want to write about.

There’s a Boy Scouting reference in the book. What inspired that? Were you a Scout?

Sadly, I was never a boy scout. But I went to YMCA summer camps growing up where our only shower was the lake and our only bathroom was the woods. We had to learn to build fires, put out said fires, and not starve to death, so I mined those survival skills for the book.

You got your start writing movie screenplays. What drew you to writing books for kids?

I originally pitched Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas as a movie screenplay for actor Ben Stiller’s production company. It was rejected. So I then pitched Addison as a movie for actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and their kids Jaden and Willow. It was rejected again. So finally I just decided to write the book. It didn’t get rejected! And now I’ve discovered I love writing for kids.

Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I play upright bass and musical saw in the bluegrass band, “Everly Snodgrass.” I’m also a competitive ballroom dancer. When I’m too wiped out to write, play music, or dance, I read a disturbing amount of books and enjoy editing Wikipedia.

BL’s Exclusive Reveal of Lego Ninjago: Dark Island Trilogy


Looking for a great summertime read? Don’t miss the new Lego Ninjago series, with Book One debuting July 19. Each book features cool content such as episode guides, maps, bios and even Wu’s Journal – the Master’s secret thoughts on the ninja, their enemies and more.

What’s the series about? After the events of Skybound, a new darkness threatens the Ninjago universe. Fishermen vanish from the seas, a violent storm brews off the edge of Dark Island, and Master Wu senses a growing imbalance between good and evil. When Misako and Ronin disappear, they leave behind one clue–a warning to stay away.

As Master Wu and the ninja journey to Dark Island, they’ll be faced with new and old threats alike. Will their Spinjitzu and mastery over the elements be enough to stop the end of the world? You’ll join your favorite heroes here as they go up against a threat that could destroy the Ninjago world as we know it.

Here are the covers for each book in the trilogy. Scroll down to read an excerpt from Book One.

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Check out an excerpt from LEGO Ninjago: Dark Island Trilogy Part 1:

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Participate In This Cool Summer Reading Challenge

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One of the best things about summer is that there’s more time for reading cool books. Without the stress of school and homework, you can finally focus on catching up on some of those books you’ve been meaning to get to all year.

Now, summertime reading is even more fun. Scholastic has recently launched a cool summer reading contest that challenges you to log as many minutes of reading you possibly can. You can pick any book you want. If you need help, Scholastic has created an age appropriate reading list that will help you choose the perfect book. Scroll down to look through the list for yourself

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Must Read This Week: ‘Doodle Adventures: Slimy Space Slugs’


Ever imagined yourself in the books you read? With Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs!, you can actually make that happen. How does it work? You begin by drawing yourself into the story, then continue by following prompts and adding more of your own illustrations and doodles.



Here’s the official synopsis:

Draw your way through the story! Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs! is a lighthearted fantasy where the reader first draws him- or herself into the story, and then continues by following prompts and adding more illustrations and doodles.

Set in space, the book invites the reader to join Carl, a duck and member of a super-secret international group of explorers, on a journey in search of a very important grail-like object. The book is sturdy paper over board with beautiful cream paper—perfect for defacing! And by the end, the reader will have co-written a tale to return to again and again, and show off to family and friends.

Check Out This Excerpt From Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs!

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Try These Five Books During ‘Get Caught Reading’ Month


May is Get Caught Reading Month. Here are a few cool books to get you started:


The Book of What If…?

What if humans hibernated? What if broccoli tasted like chocolate? What if there weren’t any trees? The Book of What If…? poses these and nearly 100 other thought-provoking questions that will help you explore the world around you. Divided into sections—history, people, stuff, and nature—along with four introductory text to open up a dialogue about why it’s important to be inquisitive and to always ask questions. Beyond Words, $15 softcover. Ages 8 and up.



Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up . . . and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return. John grew up with Raja. The orangutan was his friend, his brother — never his pet. But when John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind. Now Raja is suffering. There’s one last chance to save Raja — a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years. Scholastic, $18.99 hardcover. Ages 8 and up.

9781447270973Moone Boy 2 The Fish Detective

Moone Boy: The Fish Detective

Martin Moone is back in the second installment of the Moone Boy series. After failing to find work as a stable boy, cowboy, or homeboy, the Moone boy instead becomes Boyle’s main butcher boy. But Francie Feeley’s Fabulous Fishatorium across the road is luring all their customers away. Convinced something fishy is afoot, Martin and Sean decide to go on an undercover mission to discover the secrets of the mysterious fish factory. But can Agent M double-O N E get to the bottom of Feeley’s slippery schemes without ending up sleeping with the fishes himself? Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 hardcover. Ages 9 and up.


TombQuest: The Final Kingdom

In the epic conclusion to Alex and Ren’s quest, they must face off against the Death Walkers, The Order, and an army raised from the dead. Can Alex put an end to the chaos and send these evil spirits back where they belong — without putting an end to his own life? In the tradition of The 39 Clues and Spirit Animals, the TombQuest adventure continues online, with an epic game! Build an Egyptian tomb of your own, hide treasure and protect it with traps, then challenge your friends to play through! Find out in TombQuest: The Final Kingdom. Scholastic, $12.99 hardcover. Ages 9 and up.



This follow-up to Newberry Medal-winner The Crossover, Booked follows 12-year-old Nick as he deals with bullies, best friends, soccer and even a rapping librarian. Written as a novel-in-verse, Booked is told through vivid poetry, making it as unique as it is entertaining. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 hardcover. Ages 9 and up.

New BL Fiction: Kori and the Troll by Lou Anders


Fiction by Lou Anders | Illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo

Kori thrust his sword at the dragon. Confronted by the mighty warrior, the monster hesitated before the magic blade.

“Take that, foul worm!” Kori yelled.

The serpent roared, spitting fire from its lips.

Truthfully, it chittered. And spit fragments of acorn shell.

Kori sighed, lowering the wooden stick.

“You could at least pretend to be afraid,” he said to the squirrel. It sat on a branch, fussing at him for daring to wave a twig at it.

Kori tossed the stick aside and resumed walking along the forest trail. Excursions into the woods near the family farm usually cheered him up, but today he felt more angry than adventuresome.

He’d been fighting with his brother, Ori. Father had ordered them to spread manure on the homefield, but Ori had tricked Kori into doing his share. It wasn’t the first time. Although they were twins, their resemblance was only skin-deep. Kori was athletic and adventurous. He always spoke his mind. Ori, on the other hand, was clever, humorous and sarcastic. But Ori was also lazy. He always seemed to get away with doing less than his half of the chores.

It didn’t help that Father didn’t seem to mind. Kori had been born minutes before Ori, which meant he would inherit the farm. More was expected of Kori than of his younger brother. But running the farm was a distant promise. Worse, Father was always stuffing Kori full of proverbs, saying things like No lamb for the lazy wolf and Fear is the mother of defeat.

Sometimes Kori felt so full of wisdom, he might burst. What use were proverbs, anyway, if all he ever did was spread manure on the homefield?


Kori swung his pack around to hang before his belly. If the woods couldn’t cheer him up, perhaps a snack would. He reached inside for the smoked halibut and ball of cheese his mother had made for him. Kori bit into the fish, enjoying the salty taste on his tongue.

Then the world darkened.

Kori spun around to see what was blocking the sunlight.

The troll was enormous.

It stood 8 feet tall. Its warty gray skin looked as tough as stone. Its yellowed teeth were filed to wicked points. And it brandished a crude ax made from a boulder lashed to a tree trunk.

“What a bit of luck,” the troll said. “I was just wondering what to eat today, and along you come.”

Kori made to run, but the troll lowered its ax, blocking the boy’s escape.

Kori wished that he had his father’s sword. Or any weapon at all.

Then his father’s unappreciated advice came to him: Better is a stout heart than a sharp sword. Fear is the mother of defeat. Bravery is half the victory.

But how could bravery help when he was about to be a troll’s breakfast? Kori wished his father were here. He even wished his brother had come along. Ori was the clever one.

Kori tried to be brave like his father and to think like his brother. Trolls were powerful and dangerous, but no one would call them smart. Maybe he could trick the troll the way Ori was always tricking him.



“It is good luck that we meet,” said Kori. “But my luck, not yours.”

“What do you mean?” the troll asked, frowning. “Maybe you think it lucky to be eaten?”

“Not at all,” said Kori. His heart hammered, but he kept his voice steady. “It’s my luck, because I’m going to eat you.

The troll’s laugh was like the sound of thunder booming.

You eat me?” it said. “You’re joking.”

“I promise you I’m not,” said Kori, hoping bravery really was half the victory. Now for the other half. “I am Korlundr Kolason. I come from a line of great warriors. Why, I am so strong I can squeeze water from a stone.”

The troll blinked.

“No one can squeeze water from a rock,” it said.

“Watch me,” said Kori. He held up the cheese his mother had packed for him. The round lump didn’t look unlike a stone.

Kori gripped it in his fist, gritting his teeth to appear as though he was applying effort. Moisture ran through his fingers and fell to the earth. The troll’s eyes went wide.

“Let me see that,” it said, reaching out.

Kori popped the cheese in his mouth and munched it hastily.

“No,” he said. “The stone was my meal. But I’m still hungry.”

“You eat rocks?” The troll scratched its knotty head.

“Don’t you?” Kori asked. “Or aren’t you strong enough to chew them?”

“Of course I am!” protested the troll.

“Prove it,” said Kori. “I challenge you to a rock-eating contest. Whoever eats the most rocks wins and gets to eat the other.”

“I like the sound of that,” said the troll. “An eating contest it is!”


Kori selected a small stone from the ground. The troll grabbed a stone of the same size.

“Oh, no,” said Kori. “You can’t pick a small one.”

“Small?” said the troll. “I picked the same size you did.”

“You did not,” said Kori. “My stone is the same size as my fist, but yours is tiny in your hand. You must pick one that fills your fist like mine.”

“Uh … that makes sense,” said the troll, obviously confused. It picked a bigger rock.

Kori brought his stone to his mouth. While pretending to eat, he dropped the stone into his pack, which still hung before his stomach.

The troll blinked in surprise, but it bit into the large rock. It winced as it chipped a tooth.

“If your teeth are too soft to chew the rocks,” said Kori, “you can swallow them whole.”

The troll growled, but it swallowed the rock with a big gulp.

“Next one,” said Kori, taking another stone and employing the same sleight of hand as before.

Grumbling, the troll choked down another rock.

Kori continued to drop small stones into his backpack. And the foolish troll continued to gulp down large rocks. After it had swallowed 20 or so, it whimpered and placed a hand on its belly.

“You can give up if you’re too full,” said Kori.

“Oh, no,” replied the troll.

“Good.” Kori handed it a rock as big as a loaf of bread.

The troll looked uncertain, but it stretched its lips wide and swallowed it. The troll’s stomach bulged and it sank to the ground. Its gray skin looked distinctly green.

By now, Kori’s pack was as full as the monster’s belly.

“We’re out of rocks,” the troll said.

“I’ll find us more,” said Kori, stepping away.

“No, wait!” The troll struggled to rise, but the weight of the rocks in its belly was too much. Its feet wobbled, and it fell.

“Oh, dear,” said Kori. “Is there a problem?”

“No problem,” said the troll, struggling. “But I can’t move!”

“Well, you’re in luck,” said Kori.

“Why is that?” asked the troll miserably.

“Because I’m full,” laughed the boy and ran from the glen.

Kori’s steps felt lighter as he hurried home. He was oddly grateful to his brother. And he’d never begrudge Father his advice again. Sometimes a stout heart was better than a sharp sword.



51jCwfFHUIL._OU01_AC_UL320_SR212,320_Lou Anders is the author of Frostborn, the first book in the Thrones & Bones series, and its sequel, Nightborn.

Visit and to learn more.


Watch the Latest Trailer for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

The Wizarding World is coming to America! That’s right, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov. 18) will bring magic to the United States in an epic story of witches, wizards and even some Harry Potter backstory.

Here’s what you can expect: 

Newt Scamander arrives at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), for a meeting with an important official. At this meeting is a magically expanded briefcase which houses a number of dangerous creatures and their habitats. When the creatures escape from the briefcase, it sends the American wizarding authorities after Newt, and threatens to strain even further the state of magical and non-magical relations.

The mistake has a devastating effect on the state of Wizarding/No-Maj (the American term for a non-magical person) relations in New York City’s community of wizards and witches in 1926, which is already in a dangerous place, due to the threatening presence of the fanatical New Salem Philanthropic Society, an extremist organization dedicated to the eradication of wizard-kind. Newt battles to correct the mistake, and the horrors of the resultant increase in violence, fear, and tension felt between magical and non-magical peoples (Muggles).

Roald Dahl Classic ‘The BFG’ Is Heading To the Big Screen

Roald Dahl’s classic novel The BFG has been delighting young readers for decades, but there has never been a big-screen adaption of the fantasy book. Now there is! Steven Spielberg is directing the movie, and from the footage I’ve seen, it looks terrific.

The BFG tells the imaginative story of a young girl and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. The BFG, while a giant himself, is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part.

Giants like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater on the other hand, are twice as big and at least twice as scary and have been known to eat humans, while the BFG prefers Snozzcumber and Frobscottle. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a giant before, has many questions.

The BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he collects dreams and sends them to children, teaching her all about the magic and mystery of dreams. Having both been on their own in the world up until now, their affection for one another quickly grows, but Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome.

Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen and warn her of the precarious giant situation, but they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary, that giants do indeed exist. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all.

2015 Boys’ Life Reading Contest Winners


With thousands of fantastic entries in the Boys’ Life 2015 “Say Yes to Reading!” contest, choosing the winners was tough. Here are the top three essays from each age group:



First Place: Gary Leschinsky, Mahwah, New Jersey

16043635I absolutely love reading, but it didn’t always come easy to me. The books that helped me the most were the Fly Guy books by author Tedd Arnold. When I started reading them, I couldn’t stop. I wanted to read more and more. I just absolutely loved the funny Fly Guy and his best friend Buzz. They help me learn new things. I especially learned a lot about sharks, space, dinosaurs, firefighters and fire safety.

The best book I read this year is Fly Guy Presents Sharks. Sharks a re amazing creatures. They have super senses. A shark can hear its prey moving underwater. Their hearing is good, too. They can even hear a fish muscle moving as it swims! Sharks are also fast swimmers. They can swim at an incredible speed of 25 miles per hour. To compare, the fastest speed a human swimmer is 5.3 miles per hour. The fact that surprised me the most is that sharks don’t sleep!

Fly Guy Presents Sharks taught me a lot of new and interesting facts about sharks, but it also taught me about friendship and loyalty. This book illustrated very well with lots of cool pictures. It’s written in a way that is easy to read and understand. This book is a great gift for an child. I can highly recommend it. Most importantly, this book helped me discover the joy of reading. Thanks, Fly Guy!




First place: Ethan Davidson, Channahon, Illinois,

15766776Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtlift is a book about friendship and righting a wrong. To do this, Rump goes on an adventure quest.

I love adventures because of the action. The idea of going places that I have never been excites me into wanting to go and do new things, too.

Part of Rump’s quest was to right a wrong. This is where Opal comes into the story. She was trapped in a tower because the king expected her to spin straw into gold. This, however, was not something she could do. It was Rump who could spin the straw into gold. Rump was willing to help Opal by spinning the straw into gold for her. Since the king’s favorite thing is gold, he married Opal. When the king found out the truth about Opal, he imprisoned her and sent soldiers to look for Rump. During this part of the story many funny things take place.

I learned not to let people take the blame or credit for what you can do. Whatever your talent is, it is yours and you should use it. No one else can be you.

Also, I learned friendship is worth more than gold — literally. You cannot buy friendship, you earn it. You do this through kindness, helpfulness, caring and willingness to do things that other may not be willing to do.

This is a great adventure book with much humor. The story is fun and magical with great life lessons.




First Place: Holden Elardi-White, Murphysboro, Illinois

the_giver_1.jpg.CROP.promovar-medium2I choose The Giver by Lois Lory, a 1994 Newbery Medal winner, as my favorite book of the year. It is about Jonas, who lives in a society that had eliminated all pain and strife by transferring everyone’s memories to one person: the Receiver of Memory. Jonas’ community lacks color, memory, climate, love, war, terrain and pain in order to preserve structure and a true sense of equality. Eventually, Jonas is chosen to become the new Receiver of Memory.

The dystopian society that Jonas lives in has its pros and cons. The idea of no war, hate, strife, and trouble makes it sound like the community of sameness is the ideal place to live. But, losing your personal individuality, spouses not choosing one another, family units having to apply for children (only one boy and one girl), and not being able to choose our own future makes the utopia not right.

I would prefer a place in which I make my own decisions, have the opportunity to learn new skills, have fun adventures, explore the natural world, meet challenges with good judgement, succeed and become a leader. I want to be able to create my own dreams and goals, not live in the place of “Sameness” where a “Community of Elders” decide the future, but instead live in the community of “Elsewhere,” where you can make your own choices.

Jonas escapes “Sameness” to save Gabriel, a small child who had trouble sleeping and was going to be “released” from the perfect world. By leaving “Sameness” all of the memories that Jonas holds are transmitted back to the community forcing them to experience feeling and emotions and to remember their past … the real world.