Novalee and the Spider Secret

Story Circle Book Reviews:  “…At first I was enchanted with Stephens’ language. It was clear and appropriately sophisticated for middle graders. Best of all, it was dotted with lovely metaphors. As the story developed, I became more and more intrigued by the plot. The tone, the issues, and the resolution are all right on target. Stephens is a skilled writer with a knack for telling stories that young people need to hear. Get a copy for your grandchild or her/his teacher. It’s a great conversation starter as well as an effective and important story.” ~Jan. 2019

Read the full review here.


  Novalee and the Spider Secret could be a catalyst for the younger generation, empowering the novel’s readers in the same vein as the #MeToo movement, which empowers people all around the nation to speak up about their sexual abuse. From the point of view of a young girl who is sexually abused, Lori Ann Stephens’ novel is special as it caters to a pre-teen audience.
 Stephens introduces us to Novalee, or Nova, the elementary-aged middle child of an extraordinarily ordinary family. Novalee struggles with making friends mostly because of her name, because no one wants to sit next to a girl named Nova who might explode – get it, supernova…it’s elementary school logic.
  She arguably hits on every elementary novel protagonist trope, except she has a spider secret. This secret is like a spider inside Nova that wants to crawl out, but there’s a web inside that won’t let it – a web of silence, guilt, and disbelief. She has one thing that makes her want to die, and it’s her violin teacher kissing her inappropriately.
Addressing such a timely subject is no easy feat, and Stephens hits the nail on this head with this poignant narrative. Novalee is relatable on a level beyond the text. We get to see her life unfold outside the heavy torment she receives while in her violin lessons, following her through elementary school, wanting to be friends with the popular girls, Missy and Della, while the boy with snot always dripping down his nose, Toby, tries to be Nova’s friend with little luck at first.  The narrative is fast-paced, like any good middle grade novel, keeping the attention of the younger target audience and offering an accessible read.
  Some sections of the narrative are (understandably) disturbing, and may not be manageable to some readers. Perhaps the text could have used a content trigger warning; however, it should be experienced by an adult audience as well. The narrative, as a whole, is perfectly crafted to present a reflection of real life experiences that have been lived time and time again without any real discourse. Novalee represents every person who is afraid to speak up, who has been guilted into sacrificing their own happiness for someone who only takes, who has felt helpless. The narrative fits well into the larger rhetorical discourse of sexual abuse. What gives it a spot of its own is its middle grade audience. Discovering a narrative that fits on the bookshelf of an elementary school and in a larger cultural discourse is a rarity.
  Read Novalee and the Spider Secret. The narrative is easily accessible to all ages and provides an engaging story with takeaways for everyone. If you like the way Perks of Being a Wallflower plays out, Nova’s story will similarly enrapture you. Stephens manages to capture the balance between a story its young audience can digest, while also presenting timely commentary on heavy issues. Nova’s spider secret is universal, a web of silence our society has been stuck in for far too long; stuck in the web, children and adults aren’t so different. The book empowers and enlightens, and Nova’s narrative voice makes it all a poignant experience. ~Matthew Vesely, Feb. 2019

 Pierre François: 5th Grade Mishaps

KIRKUS Reviews Pierre: “…Pierre’s bed-wetting angst is the book’s major theme, but Stephens also focuses on Pierre’s smaller victories, such as staying up late with a friend to play video games or realizing that the girl he likes knows his name. This lends the book a slow-paced, slice-of-life feel as readers come to know and appreciate Pierre’s world, and the resolution is both believable and satisfying. A fun middle-grade novel with a winning protagonist and a charming setting.” Read the full review here. “This 148-page book for kindergartners through sixth graders follows the daily life of an intelligent 10-year-old boy named Pierre Francois. Filled with cute drawings to illustrate the text, this book touches on issues of importance to adolescents: body odor, mucus, urine, vomit, flatulence, and underwear. Underneath these unsavory references (that will surely delight most children of that age), the story explores far more important subjects, such as body image, acceptance, and compassion.

The child of a French father and American mother, Pierre is well-known around school for his use of big words (such as “evidently”) that earn him the nickname “Francy Pants” and for his long curly hair, which causes some teachers to mistake him for a girl. These two developments don’t upset him, though, for his secret fear is that his bedwetting accidents will become public knowledge and he’ll be called “Pee-Air.”

His loving parents support him in everything he does, but are hesitant when Pierre wants to go to the school’s two-night sleepover camp. Can he make it through the night without embarrassing himself? All his classmates will be attending the camp, including his two best friends, his crush, his female nemesis, and Mason (the stinky boy whose language is as dirty as his clothes).  Armed with an extra pair of sweat pants (but no big-boy diapers for sleeping), Pierre faces his fears head-on in a comical adventure that ends sweetly despite a few problems.

Overall, the lively writing, childish preoccupation with body smells and fluids, good-natured cast of characters, and whimsical drawings combine to create an entertaining story with the underlying theme of inclusivity.”

Goodreads and NetGalley Reviewers say:

“This was a really funny book. I think anyone who enjoys Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Secret Coders, Science Comics, Mighty Jack, Pashmina, Little Tails and Pico Bogue may enjoy this book. It is a mix of comic and text that provides some great laughs and very amusing 5th grade hijinks. I really enjoyed it and this book made me laugh, which is what I like in my comics – to make me laugh or to make me think.” ~ Librarian Gifty A.

“Bottom line? This is one of those great books that has a lot to offer an adult who likes good, funny, insightful middle grade books and it offers huge entertainment value to a kid reader who will see the humor and truth in its pages. A very nice find indeed.” ~ Pop Bop on Goodreads

 Some Act of Vision

The Sierra Club’s article on Some Act of Vision.

2015 Sweet review of Some Act of Vision on Canadian blog, Livres et Biscuits. Thanks, Malak!

Interview with Lori over at Kelsey’s Book Corner pre-release of SOME ACT OF VISION.

Book Release for SOME ACT

Book Release for SOME ACT


Song of the Orange Moons

Read Song of the Orange Moons Book Review by Rain Taxi

“…To be clear, after a quotation such as that, Song of the Orange Moons is not a thriller—except in the way that all coming-of-age stories are scary and exhilarating—but there is an intensity behind each of author Lori Ann Stephens’s carefully chosen words that makes this short yet still sprawling history of three females so enjoyable to read.”

Goodreads Reviews (They’re juicy. Check them out here.)

Articles and Interviews:

Essay  for Glimmer Train Stories: “Wrangling with Characters”

excerpt: “…Many writers are familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of first and third person narration. First person can depict a character too closely and limit your character’s knowledge of the world outside her sphere of perception, but third person can create too much distance between your character and your reader, resulting in emotional dearth, a soulless story. ”

Interview with Parking Lot Confessional: “My Writing Line”

excerpt: “…Like most young writers, I wanted to surround myself with talented, sincere, critically astute, yet appropriately doting writers who would stroke my ego and stab me in the heart all in one smooth movement. I was ready to sacrifice myself for art.”

Interview by Kathleen M Rodgers about books, family, and other things. Rare family photos!

excerpt: “Besides writing novels, you also write librettos. For those of us who are not musically inclined, can you explain this process? What are the challenges of writing a libretto over the challenges of writing the long-story form – the novel?”

Interview on Brittany Rochelle’s website, The Write Stuff

excerpt: “7) When you’ re writing, what do you have to have next to you?

A glass of Malbec.  My partner, love of my life, he’s in charge of refills.”

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