Uncanny Trivia


This and all other Uncanny Express images copyright Jen Hill.

Hello, friends! The past two weeks have been super-exciting, as The Uncanny Express is now out in the world (and available for purchase here and here and here and via my local indie where if you want a signed copy, just note the personalization in the order comments section), and since its publication, I’ve been riding the rails with Jaundice and Kale on our UNCANNY EXPRESS Blog Tour. You can retrace our route and learn a lot about me and the book via The Little Crooked Cottage, MG Book Village, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook, YAYOMG!, LibrariansQuest, Storymamas, and All the Wonders. Our final stop will be on Sunday, when we visit the esteemed Nerdy Book Club — hope you’ll join us!

In the meantime, I thought I’d give my Bland Fans something extra special — namely, a reveal of some trivia about the book. Without further ado…

  • The book is dedicated to Pearl. Pearl was my beloved cat, who died the day after I handed in the manuscript.

Dearly-departed Pearl. 

  • Colonel Donald McRobb is named after one of my best friends, Rob McDonald. When The Jolly Regina came out, Rob seemed disappointed that none of the characters were inspired by him. You’re welcome, Rob.
  • Kale is obsessed with cleaning (and even cleans the toilet with a TOOTHBRUSH); I actually haaaaaate cleaning.

Sorry, Kale. 

  • I’ve spent a lot of time on trains; when I worked as an editor at Candlewick Press, I took the commuter rail between Providence and Somerville every day. When I worked at Scholastic, I took the train in to New York once a week.
  • When I create my characters, I sometimes envision specific actors. For Magique, I imagined Cate Blanchett. I can see a bit of a resemblance in Jen Hill’s illustrations!

Isn’t the resemblance…uncanny?

  • In Chapter Eight, the great detective Hugo Fromage is served tea, though he barely takes a sip of it before pushing it away. I wanted to be sure he never drank traditional tea, as Hercule Poirot only drank tisane (herbal tea).
  • It’s mentioned that the Bland Sisters have just started reading a series of books about two intrepid brothers: Keith and Joe, aka the Nubbins Twins. Of course, their names start with a K and J, like Kale and Jaundice, though I imagine Keith and Joe to be the very opposite of the Bland Sisters, a cross between the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins.
  • After Hercule Poirot would interview all the suspects of a crime, he would take some time to himself to review all the evidence; he called it using his “little gray cells” (aka his brain). Similarly, Hugo Fromage tells the Bland Sisters he needs time to allow his “brain stew” to simmer.

Mmm…brain stew.

  • Like a certain murderess on The Uncanny Express, I too own a poison ring.
  • A lot of my own experience with failure is reflected in Magique’s feelings about it — I’ve never had anyone throw tomatoes at me, though (not literally, anyway).
  • One of the clues left behind by Magique is a box of Good & Plenty. I hate Good & Plenty, and anything flavored with black licorice in general.
  • The Uncanny Valley Hippodrome was inspired by The Holiday Hippodrome, a kitschy circus my sister and I saw when we were kids.
  • At the end of the story, the Bland Sisters encounter an airplane called the Bluebird. For some time, I had a freelance editing business called Bluebird Works (named for the bluebird of happiness).
  • The third and final (???) Bland Sisters adventure will come out in early 2019. Among other things, it features an ancient curse, a villain with very bad teeth, and a BIG reveal of some Bland Family secrets.

Hope you enjoyed these little factoids — if you have any other questions for me, be sure to leave them in the comments. Which brings me to today’s big GIVEAWAY…

If you comment here on the blog, or follow/like/RT me on Twitter or Instagram TODAY, you’ll be eligible for an Uncanny giveaway! I’ll announce the winner on Twitter on Monday, January 22.


The giveaway includes: signed copies of The Jolly Regina and The Uncanny Express, and a swag pack featuring fun bookmarks, a set of Jolly Regina postcards, and a genuine Hugo Fromage mustache!

P.S. Just a reminder the The Jolly Regina is now out in paperback, wherever books are sold! If you want to check out some fun trivia about the book, take a look at my Five Things About the Jolly Regina series, mateys!







Infamous FUNTIME winners!


Hello, all! Thanks so everyone who participated in my pre-order contest for The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid. As mentioned, EVERYONE who entered will receive a signed bookplate and a bookmark for each preordered copy, but the grand prize winner of the Infamous FUNTIME Prize Pack (which includes 1. a copy of The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid AND a copy of The Infamous Ratsos, both signed by me AND Matt Myers, 2. a pack of (new INFAMOUS RATSOS character!) Stinky Stanko’s favorite purple pens, and 3. a Skype visit from me with the library or classroom of your choice) is…*drumroll please*


Please drop me an email and let me know your mailing address, as well as how you’d like me to personalize your bookplate(s). (And Sharon, we can work out the details re: the Skype visit.)

Thanks so much again to you all!!

An Infamous Birthday!


(Book trailer by my pal Gaia Cornwall!)

Hooray, hooray — it’s my book’s birthday! The second book in the INFAMOUS RATSOS series, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS ARE NOT AFRAID, is now available wherever books are sold, so go to your local indie or Amazon or Barnes & Noble and get yourself one (or more)!

Many thanks, as ever, to my editor Sarah Ketchersid, and artistic genius Matt Myers, for bringing my words to life, and to my publisher, Candlewick Press, for sharing my Infamous stories with the world. I’m so excited about this book, especially because it deals with a topic that’s very important to me (and that’s important now more than ever): bravery. I hope it inspires some good conversations — here’s a handy discussion guide to get you started!

If that’s not exciting enough, today is also the publication day for the paperback edition of the first INFAMOUS RATSOS story! You can also buy it through your local indie or Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It deals with the topic of kindness, and it’s also a great conversation starter (discussion guide here).

In the meantime, I am finishing up the text for Book Three of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS series, while ALSO finishing up the text for Book Three of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series. Whew! I’m a LITTLE tired, but otherwise no complaints.

Hope I’ll see you at one of my book events this fall — check out my schedule to see if I’ll be appearing near you!


9780763676377Hello, friends. So, the next book in the INFAMOUS RATSOS series, The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, is due to publish in September 12th. Hurrah!

In honor of this occasion, I’m going to run a little contest over the next month (from today, 8/11, until pub day on 9/12). Here’s how it works:

  1. If you pre-order The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid from your local indie or Amazon or Barnes & Noble, email me (at karalareau@me.com) a photo of your receipt along with your mailing address. I’ll send you a personalized, signed bookplate and a bookmark for each copy purchased!
  2. If you promote the book on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, email me (at karalareau@me.com) a screenshot and I’ll also send you a signed bookplate and bookmark!
  3. If you do any of the aforementioned things, you’ll be entered to win an INFAMOUS FUNTIME PRIZE PACK, including 1. a copy of The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid AND a copy of The Infamous Ratsos, both signed by me AND Matt Myers, 2. a pack of (new INFAMOUS RATSOS character!) Stinky Stanko’s favorite purple pens, and 3. a Skype visit from me with the library or classroom of your choice, where I’ll read from the book, answer questions, and send along some swag for the audience!

Think you can handle all this Infamous fun? As Louie and Ralphie might say, GAME ON!


Fear not! More Ratsos On the Way!


Friends, I have a new book coming out in September! The second book (of four!) in the Infamous Ratsos series, The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, will pub on September 12. As Louie and Ralphie might say, Game ON!

Just as the first book was all about what it means to be “tough” (and how much easier it is to be kind), the second book is about different types of fear, and what it means to be brave. So far, Kirkus Reviews says, “Readers will be following right alongside these two likable rats as Ralphie confronts his past misdeeds and Louie screws his courage to the sticking post” and calls it “Charming.”

If you’re looking for ways to support the book (and me as an author!)…

  1. Please spread the word about this book and series, especially to any parent, teacher, and librarian friends you might know!
  2. If you want to buy the book, don’t wait until September 12! Preorder the book (either through your local indie or via Barnes & Noble or Amazon), as substantial preorders really help the book’s standing.
  3. If you can’t swing buying the book, please consider telling your local library (and/or school library!) to add it to their shelf.
  4. Once you DO read the book (and hopefully like it!), please consider posting a review on Amazon; once a book receives 50 reviews, Amazon really starts showcasing it.

FYI, I’ll be doing a series of local author appearances at bookstores this fall, AND I’m so thrilled I’ll be attending the Book Fair By the Sea in Camden, Maine this month, the Rhode Island Book Festival in Providence in October, and nErDCampLI in Huntington, NY in November. Check out my Events and Appearances page for all the details!

Also, I’m booking school visits and Skype visits for the fall. I LOVE visiting with kids and talking about my books and writing in general (and running writing workshops, too!), so please drop me a line and let me know if you’d like to set something up.

More fun news to come — stay tuned!!




So. I had a bit of a day yesterday. Actually, it all started two nights ago, when I got a certain phone call…from the Geisel Committee.

That’s right. If you haven’t already heard, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. (More about the award here.)

Of course, it was my fondest hope/dream/wish that this would happen, but I never, ever really thought it would. I’m actually waiting to wake up right now and realize this has all been a dream. The past couple of weeks have been such a roller coaster, with very high highs (seeing my first novel, The Jolly Regina, finally published; joining millions this past Saturday in the Women’s March) and very low lows (a certain inauguration). But this high is stratospheric.

It’s not just the award itself, which is literally and figuratively an Honor to receive. It’s the outpouring of love and support I’ve received since the big announcement yesterday. Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who voiced their congratulations. It means everything. It keeps me going. It keeps me writing.

Big thanks to the brilliant Matt Myers for bringing the Ratsos to life with such humor and flair; to my wonderful editor, Sarah Ketchersid, and publisher (and alma mater!), Candlewick Press; and to my amazing agent, Barry Goldblatt. And a big CONGRATULATIONS to the other winners announced yesterday — and to the amazing authors and artists and books that weren’t announced yesterday. I bow to you all. Thank you for putting your hearts into your work, and putting your work out into the world.

The world can seem like a cruel and uncertain place these days. I’m just thrilled that my little story about kindness might bring some light and hope to young (and not-so-young) readers.

A few things:

  • Speaking of kindness, it just happens to be Kindness Week! (Though, really, shouldn’t it be Kindness Week 52 weeks a year?) In any case, if you’d like to spread some around, feel free to download and print some of these Kindness Cards. They’re fun to color and decorate, and they’re a great way to show someone you care.
  • If you’re sharing the book with your kiddos, you might find this discussion guide helpful.
  • If you’d like to read some behind-the-scenes stories about THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, here are a few from my archives (NOTE: The contest/giveaway mentioned has already ended)…

The story behind two of the Ratsos’ neighbors, Mrs. Porcupini and Mr. O’Hare.

The story behind one of the Ratsos’ teachers, Miss Beavers.

The story behind the Ratsos’ friends: Tiny, Chad, and Fluffy.

The story behind the Ratsos’ dad, Big Lou.

The story behind The Infamous Ratsos, Louie and Ralphie.

Happy reading!