Author Archives: ckreie

Take Shelter

[unify-col width=”1/3″ position=”start” float=”right”]
take shelter
[unify-col width=”2/3″]

Several days after the aliens attacked Earth, Austin and his mom have reached an emergency shelter. But even the most prepared shelters weren’t ready for an invasion like this. Overcrowding, low food rations, and limited medical supplies are just the beginning of the list of problems at this place. Austin and his friends are tempted to leave and look for somewhere better. But beyond the shelter’s gates there are no guarantees. Is it worth the risk? Perfect for survival-story enthusiasts, this Attack on Earth novel is packed full of action and drama to engage reluctant readers.

[unify-col position=”end”]

A Kick Out of It

The CaptainAs I write this, a winter storm is bearing down on the Twin Cities. My school in Eden Prairie, and my hometown school in St. Louis Park, both enjoyed a rare snow day today. And with more snow on the way tonight, it’s possible we may get to lay around for few more before heading to school tomorrow morning. I love the snow, and I’ve loved many opportunities to cross-country ski over the past month, but let me tell you…I’m ready for spring.

On that note, with thoughts turning to the outdoors and green grass, I have three new young adult soccer books just out. They are The Natural, The Superstar and The Captain and all are part of Darby Creek’s The Kick! series. These books are shorter chapter books, aimed at teens but written at an easier reading level. They are great for reluctant readers or young people whose reading level lags a little bit behind their peers. The series has received a positive review from Kirkus. I’m extremely proud of these books and hope you’ll consider getting your hands on one of them soon!

I find myself these days in a rare break from writing deadlines. Ever since last summer I’ve had one type of assignment or another hanging over my head. My most recent project being an alien invasion story for Darby Creek that I wrapped up in January and that will be published next spring. The break feels nice. Of course I’d like to have a project in the works, but I’m enjoying the time to look back on past story ideas and dream a little of the next thing I’d like to write. Today, sitting at home under a blanket with a cup of coffee and the music playing, was an especially good day to go through my files and see if any old ideas sparked some new excitement. Happily, a few of them did. I’m not exactly sure which project will jump to the top of the pile, but it’s fun to have a little time to think about it. If all goes according to plan, I’ll settle on a story idea soon and look to the summer for some high quality writing time.

Extra Point

[unify-col width=”1/3″ position=”start” float=”right”]

Extra Point

[unify-col width=”2/3″]

After she gets cut from the soccer team her senior year, Riley doesn’t know what to do. She had the best kick on the team but wasn’t fast enough. When the high school football team is in desperate need of a new kicker, Riley decides to go for it. But swapping a soccer ball for a football isn’t so easy. Riley has to learn how to kick a football and deal with a teammate who isn’t happy about her being on the team. When it comes down to the wire, will her natural talent be enough? Or will Riley crack under the pressure?

Review from Kirkus Reviews
“[A] reluctant reader-friendly fast read with positive messages about hard work and being a good teammate.”

Review from School Library Journal
“With action-packed sequences on the field and riveting plots off of it dealing with timely topics, such as sports injuries and sexism, this series will appeal to hi-lo readers.”

[unify-col position=”end”]

The Natural

The Natural

[unify-col width=”1/3″ position=”start” float=”right”]

The Natural

[unify-col width=”2/3″]

Kamal is used to being the top dog on his soccer team, until Justin joins. Justin is what you’d call a “natural”. He is talented, athletic, and has all the making of a star. Although he doesn’t play like one yet, Justin is improving like crazy and threatening to take Kamal’s place on the team. Not only that, he’s taking all the attention off Kamal, from the girls, Kamal’s favorite teacher, and even Kamal’s best friends. Kamal’s got years of experience under his belt, but will that be enough to stand against a natural?

Review from Kirkus Reviews
Reluctant readers are “…likely to gobble up the entire series and become readers in the process, ready, perhaps, for more sophisticated fare such as Kwame Alexander’s Booked (2016) and Edward Bloor’s Tangerine (1997). Simple, literate soccer stories that just might turn soccer fans into readers.”

Review from Voya
“The Kick! series follows teens through realistic day-to-day issues all presented within high school soccer action. These short, well-written stories will pull any reader—reluctant and avid—into the series. The situations and characters in each volume ring true. It will be difficult to keep copies on the shelf.”

[unify-col position=”end”]

The Superstar

[unify-col width=”1/3″ position=”start” float=”right”]

The Superstar
[unify-col width=”2/3″]

Daniela is looking forward to soccer season. Not only are the Bay Park Rams a great team, she gets to play alongside her best friend, Rinad. And then there’s Kennedy—the newest member of the team—who might just be the best soccer player Daniela’s ever seen! But not everyone on the team feels the same way. When Rinad is benched in favor of Kennedy, Rinad partially blames Daniela. Suddenly, more than team chemistry is on the line—can Daniela’s friendship with Rinad survive the team’s new superstar?

Review from Kirkus Reviews
Reluctant readers are “…likely to gobble up the entire series and become readers in the process, ready, perhaps, for more sophisticated fare such as Kwame Alexander’s Booked (2016) and Edward Bloor’s Tangerine (1997). Simple, literate soccer stories that just might turn soccer fans into readers.”

Review from Voya
“The Kick! series follows teens through realistic day-to-day issues all presented within high school soccer action. These short, well-written stories will pull any reader—reluctant and avid—into the series. The situations and characters in each volume ring true. It will be difficult to keep copies on the shelf.”

[unify-col position=”end”]

The Captain

[unify-col width=”1/3″ position=”start” float=”right”]

The Captain
[unify-col width=”2/3″]

Malik’s senior soccer season is off to a great start. He’s the team captain, he plays with his best friend, and Coach Washington treats him more like a coach than player. But everything changes when several other teammates—including his best friend—and Coach Washington are accused of participating in a cheating scandal. As Malik struggles to come to terms with what they have done, he must learn how to work with a new coach and lead his new teammates to victory.

Review from Kirkus Reviews
Reluctant readers are “…likely to gobble up the entire series and become readers in the process, ready, perhaps, for more sophisticated fare such as Kwame Alexander’s Booked (2016) and Edward Bloor’s Tangerine (1997). Simple, literate soccer stories that just might turn soccer fans into readers.”

Review from Voya
“The Kick! series follows teens through realistic day-to-day issues all presented within high school soccer action. These short, well-written stories will pull any reader—reluctant and avid—into the series. The situations and characters in each volume ring true. It will be difficult to keep copies on the shelf.”

[unify-col position=”end”]

Whew! Summer is here!

Whew! Summer 2017 could not have arrived soon enough.  Spring, for any teacher, is a crazy time, but for me, this spring was particularly nuts. When I think back to the months of March, April and May it gets me exhausted all over again and makes me ridiculously happy to have settled into June, its warm temps, sunshine and wide open days filled with fun, exercise, leisure and working on projects I want to work on.

graduationTwo things dominated my schedule this spring. One was the blessing of writing three YA, high-low soccer novels for Lerner. (I’ll get more into those in a future post.) The other was planning for and celebrating the graduation of our daughter Sammie from St. Louis Park High School. As a very proud father, this milestone was one of joy and melancholy as we watched our daughter reach a goal, and reach it with high honors, while at the same time remembering back on the past 18 years of our lives that in some ways seem to have flashed by like a comet. We’re so proud of Sammie and so excited for her future, yet it’s difficult to imagine our home without her. I’m looking forward to seeing where her life’s journey takes her. I hope I can be along for part of the ride!

In addition to writing and being pulled into the buzz of graduation, I spent a little time this spring promoting myself and my books. My first stop landed me at Read Camp MSP, an un-conference that takes place in the north metro and that centers on reading instruction and reading promotion for young people. I was honored to be included on a panel of writers in which we took questions from a moderator and from teachers in attendance. These events are really fun – I’ve done a few similar conferences – because the vibe is low key, I get to interact with committed educators who love books, and I’m able to meet and chat with other authors. This year’s Read Camp MSP panel included, among others, Mary Losure, Abby Cooper, Loretta Ellsworth and the team behind Green Card Youth Voices. I had a great time and I look forward to more events like this.

elm creek 2Spring break this year gave me an opportunity to visit a couple local elementary schools. I didn’t do an entire week of school visits like I did last year to Kansas City, mostly because I needed time to write my soccer novels and because I wanted a chance to put my feet up a bit. But, I did manage to carve from my schedule two days to spend at schools – Elm Creek Elementary in Maple Grove and St. Croix Falls Elementary in Wisconsin. At Elm Creek I did multiple presentations to grade level teams of students in the library. At St. Croix Falls I was the keynote speaker for a writer’s conference that is held annually for the school’s 3rd grade students. In addition to giving an opening address to all students, I taught mini lessons to smaller groups throughout the day. Both events were a blast! I get nervous prior to speaking in front of these large groups of kids, but once I get into my talks I find myself really loving the experience. I continue to craft my presentations and believe that I get a little better each time. I’ve learned the best way to connect with the audience is to make the talks as personal as possible, to let my authentic self shine through and to not be afraid to talk to young people about my failings and insecurities when it comes to writing. Being good at getting up in front of hundreds of kids does not necessarily correlate to being good at the solitary, quiet art of writing, but I do feel like I enjoy both. And… I have lots of room to get better at both as well.

On a personal note, this summer I’ve already done an overnight trip on the Superior Hiking trail. We’ve been up to the cabin a couple of times. I’ve met friends at various patios in town for various types of beverages. I’ve biked a bunch. I paddled down a section of the Minnehaha Creek with some good friends. And I’m on a quest for the best cappuccino in the Twin Cities. So far Black: Coffee and Waffle Bar is the winner. A family trip to DC is in the future as is another camping trip to the beautiful north shore. In between all that, I do intend to put in some writing time. We’ll see where that takes me. I wish you all a fantastic summer. Make it count!

Blood Moon

[unify-col width=”1/3″ position=”start” float=”right”]

[unify-col width=”2/3″]

Mateo has waited all year for this weekend: a road trip with his best friends to view the fabled blood moon eclipse. Even better, they’re riding in the jeep he rebuilt himself. But when a driverless truck appears out of nowhere, their fun turns to terror. Driven off the road, Mateo and his friends realize there’s something sinister happening under the eclipse. Can Mateo and his friends escape the spirits of the blood moon, or will they be cursed forever?

Review from Kirkus Reviews
“(R)eads like a Goosebumps book for teenagers. The novel’s greatest strength is its mercenary pacing, getting in and out with a lesson learned and scares enjoyed before readers get remotely restless.”

[unify-col position=”end”]

Blood Moon, Writing and Millions of Women

9781512427721fc_large-1Blood Moon is upon us! My newest book, this one a young adult novel aimed at middle school and high school students, was released in January. I’m very excited! The book is geared for reluctant readers and is meant specifically for high schoolers and middle schoolers who might be struggling readers or are the type to say they don’t really like reading. I’m hoping this book will be a big hit with that crowd. Blood Moon is a scary story about four teenagers who drive up the Pacific Coast Highway on the night of a rare blood moon, who get forced off the road by a driverless pickup truck and who must fend off evil spirits in the forested mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Don’t read it before bed!

Recently Blood Moon received a review from Kirkus Reviews. It was a solid review. Not starred, but mostly positive. The part I’ll take to the bank and save for my obituary was this – “…reads like a Goosebumps book for teenagers.” R.L. Stine, give me a call. Let’s do lunch! Read the entire review here.

In other writing news, I have been busy on the computer almost every day after work and for several hours each weekend. I am nearing the final stages of a young adult novel about a girl who becomes the kicker for her high school football team. I’ve also recently signed on with my publisher to write three more YA novels, each of these existing in the world of high school soccer. I’ll have my hands full these next few months and will have to do my best to say “no” to most things beyond work and writing. But, I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can always sleep during the summer!

16142769_10211743988176040_3345603302127394166_nFinally, when a million women get together in one place and you have the opportunity to be right smack dab in the middle of it, my advice to you is “Go for it!” This was the chance I had in January when my 17-year-old daughter Sammie and I hopped a plane for our nation’s capital to take part in the Women’s March on Washington. Politics aside, I can tell you this was an incredible moment. Not only did we march down Pennsylvania Avenue with mobs of women in pink P-hats, but we also hung out in D.C. on inauguration day. That, too, was a trip. Rather than a march of a million like-minded folks, inauguration day was a mashup of folks in red hats, others dressed from head to toe in red, white and blue, and still others congregating in impromptu, small(ish) protests. The dichotomy we felt between the scene on Friday and the scene the day after was striking. The best part of the whole thing was that the Women’s March was completely peaceful. The mob never got out of hand and folks went out of their way to be gracious to police officers and military personnel who were there to keep things under control.

The memory I will cherish most was doing the march with Sammie. Both of us cried on more than one occasion, we shouted and chanted and marched together, and we felt the awe of D.C. on inauguration weekend. We celebrating doing our part and exercising our most cherished 1st amendment. It’s an interesting time in our country’s history, to say the least, and I feel blessed and grateful to have had this moment and to be able to look back on it for the rest of my life.

Behind the Plate by Chris Kreie

We Go High… and Low

For much of my career I’ve had the distinct honor to write in a genre, or style, I’m incredibly proud of. That genre is “high/low”. If you’re a children’s or young adult librarian you know all about high/low books. If you’re a teacher, or a reading specialist, you’ve probably heard of it, too. For the rest of you, it’s likely a term you’re unfamiliar with.

Behind the Plate by Chris KreieBasically, high/low stands for “high interest, low reading level.” These are the books that are geared for a certain group of young people – here comes another industry term – the reluctant readers. High/low aims to provide books for reluctant, or struggling, readers, those children and young adults who have rarely connected with books, who are often reading below grade level, and who, in many cases, have issues in their lives that have held them back and have caused them to have trouble with school in general. These are my peeps. I’ve written sports books like the Jake Maddox stories for these readers. I’ve written scary stories like The Curse of Raven Lake for them. And I’ve written several graphic novels for these kids, a style of books that seems to do particularly well at resonating with reluctant readers.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve struggled, as a librarian and teacher, to place the right book in the right reader’s hands. Connecting books with kids can be a challenge, an especially difficult challenge for those girls and boys who just have not learned to love to read. This is where high/low books can be a savior, both for a librarian and for a reader. These books are typically shorter than other novels aimed for readers of the same age. And they often revolve around topics of special interest to kids who haven’t connected to the academic world of their peers. These topics include things like sports, suspense and true-to-life relationships.

9781512427721fc_large-1About writing high/low books…here’s the best part. I cannot count how many times librarians and teachers have thanked me for writing the kinds of books I write. They have seen these books become loved and devoured by their students, frequently students who receive special education or for whom English is their second language. Me? I thank the publishers who have given me the opportunity to write in this important genre. These publishers are Capstone, for whom I’ve written many books, and now Lerner who has graciously brought me on board to write books for them, the first of which is a young adult novel called Blood Moon which will come out this winter.

My belief is all of us can, and should, love to read. This is true for adults and for young readers. It’s simply a matter of finding the right book, the book that connects and speaks to the right reader. I’ll end this post this way. If you know a young reluctant reader, and you want them to learn to love books as much as you, the next time you go to the library or the bookstore, ask the person there about high/low books. They’ll know what you’re talking about and they’ll be sure to find that special, amazing book the young person in your life will treasure.