School Library Journal Review–Something for Everyone!

With permission from SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL I’m printing a copy of their review of INTO THE SHADOWLANDS. The review is in their current August issue.


“There’s a little something for everyone here; suspense, adventure, a blossoming romance, and some truly corny humor from a two-headed gargoyle.”


REEG, Cynthia. Into the Shadowlands. 200p. (Monster or Die: Bk. 2). Jolly Fish Pr. Oct. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781631631344.

Gr 3-5–Being a misfit monster is a serious problem in Uggarland and can eventually lead to exile or even death. Fortunately for Frankenstein (Frank) Gordon and his nonconformist friends, there is an “Odd Monsters Out” class at Fiendful Fiends Academy, where the eccentricities range from a dragon who can’t breathe fire to a vampire who drinks milk. In this second installment of the series, Frank and his friends have just returned from a daring rescue of two misfits from exile but soon find themselves in another deadly situation. Their class is sent on a scavenger hunt to the Shadowlands, the treacherous divide between Uggarland and the human world, which is full of dangerous animals and malevolent spirits. To make matters worse, Frank’s nemesis, the troll Malcolm McNastee, has been assigned to chaperone the group. Malcolm reviles all misfits and has a very personal reason for hating Frank above all others. There’s a little something for everyone here; suspense, adventure, a blossoming romance, and some truly corny humor from a two-headed gargoyle. VERDICT An approachable read for fans of adventure/fantasy and humor in a school setting. While feasible as a stand-alone, it is optimal to have read the first installment.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

The Monsters Were a Hit in Orlando!

Educators Were Eager for Their Own Copies

It was an awesome experience signing books on Saturday at the International Literacy Association 2017 Conference in Orlando. What an awesome opportunity to meet these individuals who are making such a profound impact on young lives.

One special experience was meeting a teacher who told me that one of her students recommended my book, FROM THE GRAVE, to her. How cool is that! He told her she had to grab a copy of Book 2, INTO THE SHADOWLANDS How I love knowing that readers are connecting with my stories!

Another thrill was meeting closing keynote speaker for the conference, Bryan V. Garrett, in line for my books! Mr. Garrett has been called “One of the most compelling voices of our times.” He is the Chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance and former CEO of the National PTA. He is also author of “The A B C’s of Life” published by Scholastic. It was an honor to meet him and to share my stories with him.

I encouraged all the teachers I spoke with to contact me if they would be interested in setting up a Skype visit with me for their classes. As I said above, I love connecting with students and sharing my joy for reading and writing with them!


Early Reviews Sing Monster Praise

It’s hard to believe that in exactly three months from today–October 10–INTO THE SHADOWLANDS will make its debut! The Uggarland monsters will once more be on the loose and making mayhem. The second book in the MONSTER OR DIE! series continues to highlight issues of diversity and inclusion.

Check out what two middle grade authors and my editor have to say:

Wendy MacKnight 

author of It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

A wonderful sequel! I am Team Frank all the way, and there were so many twists and turns in this plot that it would strike fear into the heart of any self-respectful monster! Kids will devour this! Scary on!


Cynthia Surrisi

author of The Maypop Kidnapping

There has never been a finer collection of monsters, ghouls, and other assorted creatures of creepiness in one volume. And never have they struggled against type with such pathos to do what they believe is the right thing in the face of condemnation. Hurrah!


Caroline Larsen

Acquisition Editor at Jolly Fish Press

This is a lovely sequel to FROM THE GRAVE and is part of a great middle grade series about “monstering,” inclusivity, fitting in, friendship, loyalty, and fighting for what you believe in. I was surprised by how touched I was by Malcolm’s transformation in this story. Read the first book, FROM THE GRAVE, this summer just in time for INTO THE SHADOWLANDS to come out at Halloween!

Summer Reading Suggestion

If you want a haunting read this summer, pick up a copy of FROM THE GRAVE. You’ll be all set to join the continuing mayhem with INTO THE SHADOWLANDS in October!

And sign up on my website to receive the latest monster updates. There will be giveaways!

Monster on!!!

The Monsters Are On Their Way to ALA!

Mayhem Coming to the American Library Association Conference in Chicago

On June 24 at 2:00 pm CST, the Fiendful Fiends Academy monsters will be invading the Exhibitor Hall in McCormick Place at the North Star Edtions’ Booth! Copies of both FROM THE GRAVE and Advanced Reader Copies of INTO THE SHADOWLANDS will be available for signing by yours truly!

How Monstrous Is That?!

Of course, Mrs. Charlotte Rathmite–the Fiendful Fiends Academy slybrarian–is thrilled! She’s done next to nothing but snap-snap-snap her pinchers since she learned of the big event. “Monster knowledge,” as Mrs. Rathmite always says, “is much too important to stay entombed.” So please come by and pick up copies of these middle grade spooktacular adventures–sure to entertain monsters and mortals alike.

For librarians, teachers, and reviewers who can’t make ALA, please contact me about receiving ARCs.




Marion Middle School Adventures

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with the fifth graders at Marion Middle School in St. Louis today. The girls were all eager to learn about my monsters and how to create some stories of their own. With only a week left of school, it was the perfect time to help them to connect with reading and writing. Summer awaits with so many awesome stories to read–and new stories of their own to write!

Click on the link for some suggestions for other Frightful Reads. And to see one of the writing activities I shared with the Marion School fifth graders today, check out this Monster Character Poem activity!

Thanks for inviting me to stop by today and best wishes for a truly FUN summer!!!

Inquiring Middle Grade Minds Want to Know!


I had such fun reading and responding to students’ questions I received this week from Holt Middle School in Fayetteville, Arkansas that I wanted to share their awesome words!


I really enjoyed you describing the characters for us and reading the first couple of pages of your book. I can’t wait to lose myself in your book. Thanks for visiting our school. Maggie

Thank you for the bookmark and I hope I can stick it in one of your books because I would really love to read FROM THE GRAVE. Kyndal

I am so excited to read your new book. I am happier than a elephant in a room full of peanuts. I hope we get to see you in real life! Maddie

You were so prepared and organized. I really like listening to you read the first part of your book. I can’t wait to read your book! Ashton

Thank you for Skyping us and letting us talk to you. It was fun doing it! Jose

I am so excited to read your book, FROM THE GRAVE! …My favorite character is the Dragon because she doesn’t abide by people’s expectations! Rian

I love how you teach people to not bully in an adventure with monsters. Finally, I would like to ask you when your next book in the series comes out so I can tell my friends about it. Matthew

Thank you for showing us that different is ok with your book. Mariano

Questions & Answers


Mikayla: How many books have you wrote in your career so far?


Hi Mikayla! So far I have written four picture books which explore parts of speech: THE PET GRAMMAR PARADE series, and another picture book called GIFTS FROM GOD. I’ve had two short stories published in anthologies—story collections: “The Emily Explosion” in THE GIRLS and “The Dragon Artist’s Tale” in SPREAD YOUR WINGS. FROM THE GRAVE was my first middle grade novel for readers your age. Book 2 in the MONSTER OR DIE series will be out October 10: INTO THE SHADOWLANDS. You can go to my website to find out about all my books.

Thanks for your interest and happy reading!


Ella: I am reading your book right now … I can’t wait to read the second book …


Thanks, Ella! I really appreciate your reading and enjoying my story. That helps me know that my writing is working. It helps me be a better writer. The second book (INTO THE SHADOWLANDS) is coming October 10, but because all of you at Holt Middle School have been so supportive of me I will try to send Ms. Jewell an advanced reader copy if I can. I’m sure it won’t arrive before school ends for this year, but at least you can check it out first thing next year!


Aidan: Were you scared of monsters when you were little? Is there going to be a second book to the From the Grave?


Hello Aidan! Yes, I was very scared of monsters when I was young, and I think a lot of kids are. So I enjoyed creating monster characters who are misunderstood and a whole lot like regular kids. I guess that’s how I made my monsters less scary—to me anyway. The second book: INTO THE SHADOWLANDS is coming October 10. I sure hope you can read it. And I really appreciate nice reviews on Amazon if you and any of the other students have enjoyed reading my books!


Zachary: Do you have any brothers? Are you married?


Hi Zachary! Yes, I am sandwiched between two brothers—one older, one younger. You can visit my author website ( in the ABOUT section to find out a little more about them and me. And yes, I’m married to the most wonderful man I could ever find. He’s my number one fan, so I am very lucky. He even dressed up like Frankenstein for my book release party last October! J


Madison: Do you like writing books? How long have you been writing? Are you going to retire?


Hey Madison! Thanks for your questions. I love writing books. It seems the best job in the world—creating fun characters and stories to share with readers like you. I’ve been writing since I was your age. I also loved reading and writing. I hope you are writing too! And no, I don’t plan to retire any time soon. I have retired from my library work, so I can write full time now. I’ve just started to get going with my writing, so I hope there will be many more stories to come.


Mattie: When did you know you wanted to write books? Why did you write this book and was this books suppose to teach you a lesson about something? Finally did you write the book about past experiences?


What great questions, Mattie! As soon as I learned to read and write, I started writing my own stories. I hope you are too! I wrote this book because I wanted kids to think about how awful bullying and discrimination is—even if you’re a monster. So yes, I hope FROM THE GRAVE will help kids think about being kinder and more accepting of each other—no matter if they’re blue like Frank or a sparkly dresser like Vanya. 🙂 I think all writers use a bit of their past experience in creating their stories. For me, I moved with my family quite often when I was a child, so I knew how scary it was to start in a new school with no friends. I wanted to fit in. I was generally lucky that things went pretty well, but there were a few times when others bullied me. I’m hoping you and the other students at Holt Middle School encounter no such “monsters!”


Jonah: Do you plan to make a movie?


Hi Jonah! I think it would be very cool to make a monsters movie, but so far no one has offered to do it. But I did collaborate with a video game maker to create a bit of monster animation. I hope you and the other students at Holt Middle School can open this short introduction to FROM THE GRAVE. If the link below doesn’t work, try and type in the title in the search box to open the video. You will need to click to advance the story. It works best in the manual mode to be able to read the text. Let me know what you think. Or you might try to create a book trailer of your own for the monsters. I’d love to see that!

FROM THE GRAVE–ZIA Award Winner!!!

On Saturday, April 22 in Las Cruces, New Mexico

I was thrilled to accept the 2017 New Mexico Press Women’s ZIA Book Award for my debut

Sharing some monster magic and thanks

middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE published by Jolly Fish Press.

Receiving the 2017 ZIA Book Award from New Mexico Press Women

Thank you to Jessica Savage, the Zia Award Chairperson, and to all the committee members who took such interest in my monsters. The Zia symbol is ancient to the people of New Mexico. It represents the sun and is found on the New Mexico flag. The rays of the sun can also represent the four directions–north, east, south, and west or the seasons of the year. The Zia symbol can also relate to life stages–childhood, young adult, adult, and seniors. Thanks again for this awesome honor!

Below is a copy of my acceptance speech.

Thank you so much for honoring my middle grade novel, FROM THE GRAVE as the 2017 Zia Award winner. I’m thrilled and flattered that I was included among such wonderful authors as Joan Livingston and Caroline Starr Rose. And now, if I may, I’d like to share with you some post-truth era insights from my monster tale that I have entitled:


Make Way for Monsters and Alternative Facts


Sometimes fact (and I do not mean alternative fact) is surprisingly close to fiction—or as stated by the publication, Business Standard News: “reality is so strange nowadays it could be true.” Such is the surprising example with my debut fantasy– FROM THE GRAVE, in which Frank—a misfit Frankenstein and Malcolm, an intimidating troll—try to prove they are monster enough. I created this juvenile parody, combining horror, humor, and heart, to focus on issues of bullying and diversity. Why then do I say that this fantasy—complete with quirky monsters of every kind—so remarkably mirrors aspects in our current world?


You see, in Uggarland there is a newly elected president named Vladimir (even in the monster world there are possible Russian ties it seems). Vladimir is intent on laying down the law as he decrees it. In order to be elected, President Vladimir has played on the fears of the masses—and I quote: “Misfits suck the life from our failing economy. I will put them out of their misery before they make each of our lives a misery, too.” The president has found the latest scapegoats to abuse—young misfit monsters slow to change their unacceptable behavior or appearance. With swift action, he’s implementing a new law to banish them all.


And there’s another surprising mirror character, Principal Snaggle, the leader of Fiendful Fiends Academy. With each flick of his furry tail, he’s ready to hide any number of sinister secrets. He’s intent only in adding to his own renown—as can be noted by his coveted Principal of the Year trophy prominently displayed on his desk. The principal aims to make every situation resolve in his favor no matter the fallout along the way. He’s also quick to spin the facts to meet his vision. Let me read you an excerpt of the principal and Malcolm plotting the end of Frank and his friends, as a terrible storm—a Run For Your Lives HORRORCane is coming to the Shadowlands. Malcolm, who tells this segment of the story, has also recently learned that his long-lost father is—of all things—a misfit. :


At last, under the principal’s hypnotic stare, my monster wiles kicked into gear. I leapt from the chair. “I’ve thought of it!”

“Have you now,” said Principal Snaggle, arching his back. “Do tell.”

Leaning close I whispered, “A scavenger hunt for the misfits into the Shadowlands during the storm!”

“My, my, my. Such wonderfully wily ways, McNastee. A young monster any father would be proud of.”

I gulped. Even the principal’s praise couldn’t stop me from smarting at the mention of my father.

Principal Snaggle’s lips slid up toward his slitted eyes. “You and I can see how silly the weather warning is. Blazing bunions! What’s to become of this current generation if we don’t put them in harm’s way? It’s only a bit of debris and havoc—which, of course, may last for days. It’s such a mega storm that even the most seasoned of scavengers wouldn’t blunder into it. Why, of course, it’s a perfect opportunity to test my struggling students.”

I snorted. “To uh, prove they’ve, uh, changed.”

“Truly changed,” said Snaggle.

“And that they can follow orders,” I added grinning. “Monster or die.”

“Exactly,” agreed Snaggle. “Either they brave a turbulent Shadowlands experience and show they are monsters. Or they run away, proving they’re miserable mutants.”

“Um, sir, a cautious monster isn’t always a mutant,” I mumbled, remembering my barricade last night inside the mausoleum.

“Pfft.” Principal Snaggle waved his claw in the air. “Monster is as monster does, McNastee. We are drawn to mayhem like sloth beetles to the flames. Retreating misfits will certainly reveal their mutant natures amid the chaos. We’ll be able to ship them to Exxillium ahead of schedule.”

“If they make it back, sir.” My tail twitched uncontrollably. My words sounded jittery as well. “I’ve heard whole houses can blow through sometimes. They say once a witch had a house land on her.”

“Monster tales. Just monster tales for little tykes. We’ve all heard them.” Principal Snaggle waved a sharp nail close to my snout. “Don’t believe everything you hear. A tale or the truth. Monsters tend to mix the two up so frequently. But even if the witch did meet her end crushed beneath a bit of timber, what a gallant death. Don’t you think?”

“Yes, sir.” My head nodded so vigorously that my hair tuft bobbed down over my eyes. I envisioned Frank flattened beneath a house. My grin grew wider. “It sounds like a perfect plan.”



Honestly (no alternative fact), I started writing this story a number of years ago, long before the present real life political characters stepped onto the stage. Ironically though, my fantasy was published only a few weeks before the 2016 November election, which set this startling parallel into motion. My story is meant to be a satirical, adventure tale not a thinly veiled caricature of current events. Yet I hope that my monsters can serve as a talking point about the current politics and can open up dialogue about bullying, diversity, inclusion, and cooperation across boundaries—as well as the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction. Otherwise, I fear that Monster Rule #19 will continue to prevail; it says: When the truth compromises monstering, it’s best to lie. If we humans can’t find our way back to the truth, we may all be forced to “scary on!”


Thank you again for honoring my monsters and me with the Zia Award!


Today’s the day for a sneak peak at the cover of



by Cynthia Reeg

Jolly Fish Press/ North Star Editions

Troll Malcolm McNastee and misfit Frankenstein Frightface Gordon—middle school monsters at Fiendful Fiends Academy and long-time enemies—venture into the infamous Shadowlands to prove their monster worthiness. Too quickly they discover that the mysterious world between Uggarland and the humans holds horrors worse than any nightmare, and if they make it out alive, they’ll undoubtedly not emerge unscathed!

Coming OCTOBER 10, 2017!!!

Thanks Middle Grade Minded for spotlighting the latest monster adventures!

To celebrate the new cover,

I’m including a link to an interactive video of Book 1: FROM THE GRAVE

The video works best when the AUTO button is off. Simply click on NEXT to advance the screen. Scene highlights and abridged text from the beginning of the first Monster or Die book are featured.


If you’d like the read the entire first chapter of FROM THE GRAVE, click on the title.






Be sure to sign up

for any monster updates here on my blog. You’ll want to know if there are any giveaways or monster sightings near you!

And now…here it is

Scary on!

FROM THE GRAVE Earns a Finalist Spot!!!

Such exciting news: FROM THE GRAVE is 1 of 3 finalists

for the ZIA AWARD presented each year by the New Mexico Press Women for outstanding literature. I will be reading from my book at the awards luncheon in Las Cruces, NM on April 22, where the winner will be announced–and I will be signing books there as well.

I am extremely honored to have my book chosen for this literary achievement! In fact, I’m feeling as awesome as this breathtaking shot from Ojo Caliente in northern New Mexico–a land of  amazing vistas and endless possibilities!