The Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

journal This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

A debut middle grade novel about a girl named Ratchet and her quest to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. Ratchet tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool journal.
If only getting a new life were as easy as getting a new notebook.
But it’s not.

It’s the first day of school for all the kids in the neighborhood. But not for me. I’m homeschooled. That means nothing new. No new book bag, no new clothes, and no friends – old or new. The best I’ve got is this notebook. I’m supposed to use it for my writing assignments, but my dad never checks. Here’s what I’m really going to use it for:

Ratchet’s Top Secret Plan
Project Goal: turn my old, recycled, freakish, friendless, motherless life into something shiny and new.

This year, I’m going make something change.





nancyAuthor Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Nancy J. Cavanaugh lives in Florida with her husband and her daughter. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is her first book, but she has been writing for almost twenty years.

Like her main character, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together.

In addition to her mechanic’s hat, Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say “I’m working” when reading middle grade novels.

For the interested reader, teacher, or librarian, we have a fantastic classroom guide available and a Common Core Standards guide.


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Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

It’s the kind of book I like to read – one with heart and soul and guts.


What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring writers?

If you really want to be a writer, be ready to work hard and persevere.


What is your favorite quote?

From the story of the tortoise and the hare – “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.”  It’s actually become my life motto.


Who are your favorite authors of all time?

Cynthia Rylant, Beverly Cleary, Katherine Patterson, Madeleine L’Engle, and Anne Lamott.  I love them all for different reasons, and I’ve met all of them in person except Cynthia Rylant and Beverly Cleary.


Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

I think there’s always a little bit of me in each character.  My characters also are sometimes a bit like family members or friends.


Favorite food?

That’s easy – PIZZA!


Favorite Candy?

Any kind of M&M’s.  How can you not love chocolate (and sometimes nuts) and candy coating in fun colors?  They just make you happy!



When I was younger,  my older sister called me “goat.”  Why?  My first name is Nancy, so she called me “Nanny Goat,” and “Goat” for short.  I really should use that in a book someday.


Which authors have influenced you most and how? 

I really think writers are influenced by all the authors they read, but for this book in particular, I was most influence by Norma Fox Mazer’s WHAT I BELIEVE.  The whole book is written in poetry, and I love how she used this unique format to tell the story.  It made me want to come up with a unique format all my own.


What do you do in your free time?

I like to read, watch TV, walk, bike ride, make crafts, and bake.


What’s your favorite season/weather?

I like warm weather best, so I enjoy summer and love living in Florida.  When I used to live in Chicago, I loved fall too because of the changing leaves.


What TV show do you watch that you’d be embarrassed to admit?

That would have to be DANCE MOMS.  I don’t know what it is about that show, but I love to tune in each week and see how outrageous Abbey Lee will be.


Favorite music?

That has to be the 80’s.


Finish the sentence – one book I wish I had written is . . .

THE WIZARD OF OZ.  It’s such a great story and such a good example of so many things in writing and in life.


Favorite smell?

Fresh lilacs.