LEX Copyright Iroda / LEX Copyright Office

by Jess Keating


Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks - June 2014

About the book: Junior High is tough for any 12-year-old, but when you have crickets in your pocket and smell like a skunk, things get a whole lot worse. Ana Wright didn't ask to be named after an anaconda. She didn't ask for zoologist parents who look like safari guides, and she certainly didn't ask for a twin brother whose life goal seems to be hiding reptiles in her bed. Not only have her parents decided to move the whole family into the zoo, but her best friend Liv is moving to the other side of the world. Ana does her best to cope with the Sneerers (the clan of carnivorous popular girls in her class), while she secretly lusts after the class tennis pro, Zack, but when her famous animal handler grandfather comes to town for his book tour—complete with entourage to film his darling granddaughter in a national TV interview, Ana’s hopes of remaining anonymous are dashed. When she agrees to give an impromptu educational talk at the zoo, she doesn’t realize her whole class will turn up to watch. Can she survive the madness without Liv at her side? Could Kevin be more than her nerdy physics tutor? Can she face her biggest fear on her own?

About the author: Jess Keating has written nearly two dozen middle-grade non-fiction books with educational publishers and was nominated for Book of the Year by ForeWord Reviews in 2009. HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED is her debut middle-grade novel. As zoologist with a Masters degree in Animal Science, she has been sprayed by skunks and bitten by crocodiles. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves hiking, playing ukulele, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids. www.jesskeating.com Twitter: @Jess_Keating

Why I love this book: A little bit over-the-top (in a good way), this zoo animal peppered middle-grade features a relatable, quirky, and anxiety-ridden 12-year-old girl, Ana (named after an anaconda, of course). Ana is a total spaz. She’s constantly worried about being embarrassed by her zoologist family, being bullied by the Sneerers (mean girls in her class), and standing-out like the sore thumb she thinks she is. Better to blend into the background. But it’s hard to blend in when you live at the zoo and have an uber-famous grandfather (he’s sort of a Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter type). Ana’s stomach is always in knots, and she goes the extra mile in her efforts to be anonymous, like always doodling in her notebook to avoid making eye-contact with anyone. But then she’s forced to do a live TV interview with her Grandfather (which goes hilariously horrible), AND give a reptile presentation at the zoo (which goes hilariously awesome). It takes some major convincing, the support of good friends, a Grandfather heart-to-heart, and some crocodile poop, but Ana finally finds her hidden confidence. I especially loved Ana’s creature profiles of characters in the book, tidbits of animal wisdom, and her clever lists (like “Top Motherly Tricks: A Marvel of Science, or Black Magic?”).

What’s next: Sourcebooks owns a sequel, and the manuscript will probably be available late spring 2014. The planned pub season is fall 2014. It’s titled HOW TO OUTSWIM A SHARK WITHOUT A SNORKEL. Just as Ana is getting comfortable in her role at the zoo, her famous grandfather funds a new aquarium. Ana must learn the ropes of the marine exhibit before the grand opening, but the student she partners with, Ryan, is hard to work with, the Sneerers are planning something big, and working for her college-student crush is tricky. Can Ana trade her safari hat for scuba gear?