Friend Friday

I met Barb Kerley through my writing partner, Mary Nethery. The two of them were in a critique group together and when I had the opportunity to attend the Humboldt County Author Festival for the first time years ago, Mary was eager for Barb and I to meet. I cherish our friendship, and admire her nonfiction writing savvy; the nonfiction picture books Mary and I write together are richer and stronger thanks to Barb’s advice. She writes engaging and accurate picture book biographies, my favorite of which is What to Do About Alice. It’s not often Barb turns her heart and words to fiction but it’s always a delight when she does. Her latest is the middle-grade novel, Following Baxter (HarperCollins Childrens Books) which is wonderful news on its own but even more wonderful is that Barb has also generously offered to giveaway 3 personalized signed copies of Following Baxter! More info just below.

Barbara Kerley

Thank you for having me, Kirby. Delighted to be here and happy to share a link to a goodreads giveaway running the month of August for a chance to win one of three signed, first edition copies of Following Baxter. Just click here!

Now, about the book ☺

Following Baxter (HarperCollins Children’s Books) is a funny adventure story with a mystery at its core. 5th grader Jordie Marie Wallace is excited when a little old lady, Professor Reese, moves in next door—she has a big shaggy dog named Baxter and a laboratory full of equipment in her basement. Right away, Jordie notices two things: there’s something strange going on in the lab, and she’s pretty sure Baxter is magical–he seems to understand everything Jordie says. Jordie and her younger brother, TJ, help out Professor Reese by walking Baxter every afternoon and helping her in the lab. But being lab assistants ends up being more than Jordie and TJ bargained for, and leads them to a secret neither of them expected…


I began working on Following Baxter (HarperCollins Children’s Books) shortly after we moved to Portland, OR. The idea for the book came about by chance.

We were going on a trip and needed a cat sitter. When I looked for one online, I discovered the best picture: a dog-walker in a frilly skirt (and heels!), a big flower in her hair, giving a sweet little kiss to the dog she was walking. Her company, Recess in the Pearl, took excellent care of my cat.

The picture stayed with me, long after we’d returned home from our trip. I just loved the spirit of it—funny, energetic, playful, and loving. And I found myself thinking about how fun it would be to write a middle-grade novel about a dog-walker.

I set the story in Portland—the perfect location for a funny, quirky romp.

And when I thought about all the possibilities the city had to offer, it seemed like having my dog-walker care for a university professor would have the potential to be interesting.

And if the professor was a scientist, that could be really interesting. I love how science is always brushing up against what we don’t know. It seems to me that scientists need to tap into their imaginations and sense of adventure to ask questions like, “What if…?” and “How…?” and “Why…?”

And those are excellent questions to pose in a novel, as well.


Following Baxter HarperCollins Children’s Books


Barbara Kerley is the award-winning author of numerous books for kids, including THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS, WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE?, A HOME FOR MR. EMERSON, A COOL DRINK OF WATER, and FOLLOWING BAXTER. When she’s not writing, Barbara enjoys riding her bike, taking walks with friends and family, and spending a little too much time in coffee shops. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and squirrel-crazy dog. To learn more visit her website.


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