Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 26, 2017

Featured Book Giveaway: Second Grade Holdout by Audrey Vernick

Audrey Vernick is the author of 17 children’s books. Her latest came out on July 4th and she has agreed to donate a copy of SECOND GRADE HOLDOUT for one lucky visitor. If you would like to win a copy, please leave a comment, reblog, tweet, or talk about SECOND GRADE HOLDOUT on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.


The comically anxious narrator in this book thought that first grade had its problems, but overall it was pretty awesome. He’ll take grade one over grade two any day, thank you very much! Especially because he and Tyler, his best friend, will not be in the same class this school year. On top of that, Tyler’s sisters have been feeding the boys a steady stream of rumors about the horrors of second grade. Luckily they catch on that just maybe some of those stories are not one hundred percent true.

Could it be that second grade is not so bad? Find out in this laugh-out-loud story that has more than its fair share of heart.


When First Grade Dropout was published in 2015, the media specialist at the elementary school my kids attended posted something along the lines of—I read Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? And First Grade Dropout the first week of school. Audrey, can’t you give us something for second grade? Believe it or not, that is what planted the seed for this book. And that is why the book is dedicated to Mrs. Hackler at the Wayside School in Ocean Township, NJ. (And to my sister’s second-grade class.)

This book’s journey is a weird one, and not only because someone else had to point me in the right direction to get me started. I rarely meet with editors face to face, but I did meet with my Clarion editor, Jennifer Greene, to discuss a follow-up title to First Grade Dropout. Together we tried to brainstorm second-grade scenarios, and honestly, we failed. Nothing clicked. I kept thinking about it, wanting to act on it before Jen had a chance to change her mind or lose enthusiasm for the project. But every idea I had seemed lame.
This has happened to me before. And I knew the solution, but resisted it as I always do (because why learn from past mistakes?). I had to write myself through it. Just get back in that character’s head. I’d had the same experience with First Grade Dropout. I had “kid calls teacher mommy” on a story-idea list for years before I found the way in—by writing it. Voice is an important element in that book. To get going on a follow-up, I reread the opening pages of Dropout a few times, and it gave me a way in.

When I wrote First Grade Dropout, the narrator was genderless. I like leaving a lot of room for the illustrator; it always yields great surprises in the art. But when I read the reviews that said, “Vernick’s unnamed narrator,” I realized I’d made it hard for reviewers.
But I chose not to address that in the companion title. It seemed too late to give him a name. And no name seemed to fit him at this point anyway.
Once I got comfortable writing in that voice again, it was just a matter of finding what would drive the book. Even though I’m in my fifties, back-to-school nervousness still feels familiar to me. And I imagined what would exacerbate it.

Big sisters.
What’s really at work in this book is that Vernick’s unnamed narrator feels unmoored not being in class with his best friend, Tyler. And Tyler’s big sisters are hellbent on telling tales about second grade that make it seem worse than having to hang out in public with your grandmother when she’s wearing a bathing suit.

When I got stuck, I went back to the first book and found the answers there. Hyperbole played a big role. And it was interesting writing a book in which I had a clear vision of what the character looked like. I am not a very visual thinker and only rarely envision my characters in detail when writing. But in the case of Second Grade Holdout, I knew exactly what this character, and his best friend, and his best friend’s sisters looked like. I think it informed the writing in some ways.

Because Matthew Cordell, as always, delivered the goods and then some. He makes everything so much better, so much funnier, and I’ve been lobbying to have him as my own personal illustrator until the end of time. Oddly, he’s not jumping right into that commitment, but if a certain unnamed narrator continues on, maybe he won’t have a choice.


Audrey grew up in Whitestone, New York, where she lived with her parents and two sisters and a not very bright small white dog. She has a freaky memory about the names of the kids in her class at P.S. 184Q, and even remembers where most of them stood in size order.

She always loved to read and still rereads Harriet the Spy on a regular basis.  She was not one of those children who always knew she wanted to be a writer; she didn’t love to write until college. She’s been writing ever since.

In addition to writing for children, Audrey has published more than a dozen short stories for adults in magazines and literary journals. She received an mfa from Sarah Lawrence College and has been honored with two fiction fellowships from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts.

Audrey divides her time between writing (which is mostly spent revising) and visiting elementary schools to talk about writing and publishing. (For school visit info, click here.) She also teaches and speaks at conferences around the country.

She lives near the ocean in New Jersey with her family and two semi-smart medium-sized dogs.

Thank you Audrey for sharing you book and journey with us. It look like such a fun book. I am sure it will be another success for you. Please let us know when new things come your way.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This looks like such a fun book that I can’t wait to read it! I shared on Twitter and Facebook also!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, oh, oh! Please pick me! Pick me! Pretty please? (Can yous see me raising my hand? I’m raising it as high as I can!) I love Audrey; she is so funny and I had the good fortune of hearing her talk at Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat several years ago. Congratulations, Audrey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I LOVE Audrey’s books (and Audrey, too, btw 😉 ). Here’s hopin’ for a win (though I don’t want to be greedy lol)


    Liked by 1 person

    • By the way, Audrey, I loved hearing about your process here. Reading about how successful, talented writers find their way is always SO enlightening and helpful 🙂 And I agree—Matthew is aMAzing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Please pick me! I would love to put this on the shelf in my school library this fall! My students love your books!


    • Thank you so much, Valerie!!


  5. What a fun story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a;ready smiling just thinking of this story! It looks delightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a fun story. It’s funny that I should remember those early school days so well but I still do. Thanks for the insights into the writing process and the chance to win Second Grade Holdout.
    +1 entry, I tweeted a link to this post:
    +1 entry, I pinned an image with a link on Pinterest:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Looks like another winner!


    • Look out, folks! Rita is sort of a professional winner of all contests. (And she deserves all that good luck.)


  9. I was always looking for beginning of school books…………this one sounds GREAT!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Looks like a fun book! The 2nd grade was always very politically complex and challenging!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. If the unnamed narrator adjusted 1st grade, I’m sure he’ll make it through second grade. I can’t wait to see how he does it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sounds like a great story, Audrey! Thanks for sharing your path to writing it. The 2nd gr teacher at my school would love this.


  13. This book looks like something a child would enjoy and laugh out loud while reading! We’d love to win a book as we are in need of new and wonderful books for our non-profit Book Bus! The Bus is driven around NJ by our golden retriever, Bree!

    Bree’s Book Bus can relate to the author’s “a not very bright small white dog”! Bree, the Book Bus Dog, was kicked out of training as a guide dog for the blind because she is just too friendly and would lead a blind person into precarious situations! It all worked out just fine as she now “Delivers the love of reading one “tail” at a time”. We live in NJ too! Please follow us too! Thanks!


  14. Reblogged this on ARHtistic License and commented:
    Do you have a soon-to-be second grader who’s feeling apprehensive about school? This looks like a great book! Thank you to Kathy Temean for hosting this give-away.


  15. Looks like a terrific book! Reposted on ARHtistic License, also shared on Facebook and Twitter.


  16. As a former second grade teacher, I’m so excited to read this book! It sounds wonderful.


  17. I always enjoy Audrey’s books. Looking forward to reading this one!


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