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What Readers Are Saying

“A multi-layered, straight-from-the-heart story written with a light, deft touch, GUT REACTION will inspire readers to pursue their creative passions. I loved this touching, sweet, and engaging book!”

Barbara Dee, award-winning author of Unstuck

” Sweet and delicious! You will gobble up this book in one bite!”

Jennifer L. Holm, NY Times-bestselling author of the
Fourteenth Goldfish

“Kirby Larson and Quinn Wyatt have cooked up a rich, warm story about Crohn’s Disease, courage, and cookies. The voice is heartfelt and authentic, leavened with humor and, oh my frog, delicious desserts. Gut Reaction is a wonderful book about important things, and I recommend it highly.” ­

Karen Cushman, author of the Newbery Award winning The Midwife’s Apprentice

“GUT REACTION is a much-needed and important book for everyone: those suffering with Crohn’s disease, their family and friends who want to help them, and for all the rest who need to understand. Written with the voice of authenticity by a mother/daughter team who know firsthand the effects of this painful and often embarrassing disease. Toss in a handful of lovable and diverse characters and an edge-of-your-seat cooking competition and Gut Reaction is a recipe for success.”

Barbara O’Connor, author of How to Steal a Dog and Wish

“I would have finished GUT REACTION in one swoop— but I didn’t want it to end. I especially loved the baking connection, but the story’s honesty, the humor and the friendships added so many layers. If the topic seems serious—and it is, the way Tess struggles to accept her illness will resonate with readers. Tess Medina is an inspiration. Her story will be one you’ll remember long after that last page is turned.”

Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be, and The Way to Stay in Destiny

Great British Baking Show meets Guts by Raina Telgemeier.  Entertaining and informative.  Really put me inside the mind of a level-headed fourteen-year-old forced to deal with one awkward and humiliating situation after another.”

Gennifer Choldenko, Newbery Honor author of Al Capone Does My Shirts, and coauthor of Dogtown with Katherine Applegate

“I love this book!  Gut Reaction invites the reader in right away.  Like middle school isn’t hard enough, to be a brand-new student and be saddled with a painful and “not talked about” disease would push many over their limit. But, with support from friends and family, Tess shows us how to bravely live with a disease, not letting it keep her from pursuing her passion. With very relatable characters, Gut Reaction has a storyline that keeps the reader turning the page.”

– Megan Sloan, teacher, Cathcart Elementary

In case there is any doubt about the impact of GUT REACTION, the title says it all. This marvel of a book delivers the felt experience of a body in rebellion and a heart struggling to heal from loss. With a deft touch, Kirby Larson and Quinn Wyatt recount the pain and embarrassment of 14-year-old Tess Medina who yearns to live a typical life in a body that is anything but typical, all while struggling to adapt to a new school and life without her father. Despite its heavy subject matter, GUT REACTION delights with humor and heart glimmers that make not okay feel, well…okay, or at least doable. And yet, the lightness never sacrifices depth. As Tess pours herself into baking—passion she shared with her father—there is no sugarcoating the reality of her condition. Mix in a circle of friends who make any outsider feel like they belong, and it all adds up to a great middle grade read. GUT REACTION creates ripples that extend beyond the page, leaving room for the reader to make their own meaning about loss, pain, identity and self-worth. Although it tackles a difficult topic, this is not an issue book; that is, unless being a teenager living in a stressful world with a body that sends incomprehensible messages is an issue—in which case, this is an everybody book.

Grier Jewell, author of Astrid At Risk

“GUT REACTION is a middle grade read with lots of creative baking; it is also a poignant journey of a young girl grappling with grief, health battles, and the daunting prospect of a new school. Written by a remarkable mother-daughter duo, based on the daughter’s own experiences with Crohn’s disease, this story offers uncomfortable yet essential insights into the protagonist’s daily challenges. Her pain from the disease, aptly named ‘the Knife’, becomes a tangible symbol of her fight. What sets this narrative apart is the unflinching honesty- while not always comfortable to read, this helps the reader build empathy for the strength it takes to confront such hurdles. Importantly, in the face of adversity, the protagonist learns to ask for help, discovering the power of support from her mother, doctors and friends. Young readers will resonate with this emotionally charged journey, intertwined with grief and resilience.”

Rachel Streit, @ReadwithaRescue (Instagram)

“I have finally found a book I can relate to. As a young girl I have always has a passion for baking so I could connect with this book in many ways. As my grandmother (also known as Nana) was reading it aloud to me I stood up and demanded we go to my house to bake cookies. I found no flaws in the book and loved every minute of it. Another thing I could relate to was the character Gracie because like Tess I also have a little sister that wakes me up at seven in the morning wanting to play video games. She is seven but has the exact same character traits as Gracie. I have never read a book about a young woman baker. It inspired me to feel powerful about what I can do, disease or no disease.”

Leah, Student at Hubert Humphrey Middle School

“Just like a cake has many layers, this book has many layers as well. We meet Tess who is an accomplished baker as she enters a cooking competition. She has moved to a new school and has to meet a whole new group of friends and neighbors. In addition, Tess is fighting on-going stomach issues that are making life more challenging every day. Tess remembers her dad and his cooking advice with everything she bakes. Autoimmune issues affect many teens and it is refreshing to see this as an underlying theme knowing we all have issues to tackle. Does Tess give up? No, she does not. She inspires us to keep going.” ­

Marjie Podzielinski, librarian at Colson Tough Elementary (retired)

“GUT REACTION has everything I look for in a book: believable characters I care about and relate to, a compelling plot, humor, new information and more. The world of baking competitions astonished me and the descriptions of the finished baked items had me drooling.”

Peg Kehret, multi-award winning author of Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

“Those of us that struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms and diagnoses know what a day to day struggle they impose on us. Growing up is hard enough; experiences like those Tess faces regularly compound the struggle. With grace and honesty, and a perspective of facing these challenges firsthand, Larson & Wyatt tackle a narrative which provides a lens into the day-to-day life of Tess, who is dealing with not only loss, but also stomach problems. Larson & Wyatt team up to create a novel which will allow those with gastrointestinal problems to be seen and ultimately, feel a sense of understanding- and hope. This is a story of courage; bravery; persistence- No matter what unique diagnoses and challenges life has dealt.”

Dr. Dylan C. Teut, director Plus Creek Literary Festival

“GUT REACTION weaves the tender topic of IBD with threads of friendship, secrets, and bravery into a blanket of empowerment. You will root for Tess as she navigates a new school, enters a baking competition, and most importantly comes to terms with her frustrating and beautiful body. This wonderful story should be in every middle school library.”

Sylvia Tag, Youth Literature Librarian, Western Washington University

“Kirby Larson and Quinn Wyatt have combined all the right ingredients in GUT REACTION. Life in middle school is hard enough, but the loss of your father and being the new kid with a mysterious stabbing pain in your stomach has Tess Medina fighting to survive eighth grade. Larson and Wyatt use humor, hope, and a baking competition to remind us that family and friends are there for you when life throws you a “Whopper”. This book will touch your heart! A must read!” ­

Heather Jensen, 5th grade teacher, Harrison Community Schools

“I Absolutely adored GUT REACTION. Kirby Larson and Quinn Wyatt take on a tricky topic, and do it terrifically. A sweetly satisfying story with a pitch-perfect protagonist, GUT REACTION is all heart.”

Dan Gemeinhart, author of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise and The Midnight Children

“GUT REACTION is a poignant, triumphant tale about living with chronic illness, overcoming loss and reaffirming joy and self-love. Tess is funny, relatable, brave, and an awesome baker!”

Jewell Parker Rhodes, NYT Bestselling author of Ghost Boys and the recently published Treasure Island: Runaway Gold

“I was thrilled to meet Kirby and Quinn in Portland during the PNBA Trade Show and knew I had to read their book as soon as possible. Wry teen voice, awkward middle school moments, fierce friend group, elite baking, and chronic illness? Sign me up! I think middle grade readers are going to love it!”

Ali Terese, author of Free Period

“I loved GUT REACTION from the first line. It made me feel the same way I felt when I read my canon Judy Blume books, Blubber and Are you there God, It’s Me Margaret because the writers have taken the weirdness that is the changing human body and made it 1) okay to talk about and 2) safe to talk about…a joy to read.” ­

Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic and Hummingbird

“My gut reaction to Gut Reaction is that these authors did an incredible job of helping the reader understand what it’s like to live with an invisible illness like Crohn’s disease. The main character Tess wants to fit in at her new school while also grieving the loss of her father. Baking is her hobby and a way to stay connected to her dad. Tess struggles with her anxiety and the physical pain caused by eating some foods. New friendships and support lead Tess to share her sweet and savory delights and then compete again for a spot as a junior star baker, a title she narrowly missed winning before. This beautiful story of hope, friendship, and family is a collaboration between popular author Kirby Larson and her daughter Quinn Wyatt. Quinn’s personal experience with Crohn’s disease makes Tess’ battles authentic. I highly recommend this book to upper elementary and middle grade readers seeking stories with main characters who genuinely deal with very difficult and life-altering challenges but don’t give up. It’s a story filled with raw struggles, but it ends with hope.

Tracy Scaglione, Library Media Specialist at Dorsett Shoals Elementary

“Tess’s family just moved, and she is happy to start eighth grade in a school where no one knows her dad passed away three years ago. Sharing homemade treats—her dad taught her how to bake—helps win friends, and she’s invited to return to a youth baking competition that holds both positive and painful memories. But worsening stomachaches since the move have forced her to create a lengthy “do-not-eat” list. The pain in her gut that she first compares to a woodpecker rapidly upgrades to a porcupine (“with laser-sharp quills”) and then to “the Knife.” Tess is sure her can-do attitude and sense of humor will pull her through, but when competition preparation wears her out so much that she passes out in school, she must finally fess up to family and friends about her stomach issues to enlist their help. The story offers a realistic and often funny portrayal of middle-school life and treats grief and chronic illness sensitively and with a light touch. Tess is an endearing character with an equally likable support network. The appended “Letter from Kirby and Quinn” explains how the mother-and-daughter team were careful to include accurate details about living with Crohn’s disease based on Wyatt’s own experience with the illness.”

Horn Book Review by Monica De Los Reyes

“Gr 3-7–Larson revealed in an SLJ guest post she needed 10 years of convincing by daughter Wyatt to write this book; she eventually agreed only if they worked together. The duo transform Wyatt’s Crohn’s disease experience into a richly layered story far beyond an excruciating diagnosis. Versatile Taylor warmly imbues the memorable cast with ­vibrantly distinct personalities (though we’ll pretend she didn’t garble Simon ­Nguyen’s name twice). Tess’s first-person narration allows Taylor to channel her protagonist’s expansive emotional growth. Being the new kid in eighth grade is hard; to feel less alone, Tess sends her late father texts. She’s an ­accomplished baker—“Dad 2.0”—but lately, most foods feel like knives shredding her insides. Learning she has Crohn’s is devastating, but family and friends—­particularly new bestie Elly—help Tess live, laugh, and bake delectably. ­VERDICT Readers with physical disabilities will find instant resonance here; any teen or tween reader will also likely ­appreciate.”

School Library Journal; Starred review- Audio Book narrated by Jen Taylor

 “Gr 3-7–Debut author Wyatt joins her mom, award-winning author Kirby Larson, to present the story of Tess Medina as she navigates life with a chronic illness. Tess, who has recently started eighth grade at a new school, is still grieving the death of her father, who owned a bakery. A talented and committed baker herself, Tess wants to follow in father’s footsteps. After initially struggling, Tess makes new friends, who are a tad quirky, as she is. When she starts having extreme gastrointestinal issues (she describes it as a woodpecker pecking at her gut, or ‘The Knife’), she hides what is happening from her friends and her mom. After all, explosive diarrhea is nothing teenagers feel like sharing. Tess wants desperately to compete in a national bakeoff, but she lacks funds, and worries about her stomach issues getting in the way. After she passes out at school, Tess is diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which makes her feel like a freak. She continues trying to push people away until her secrets become too big to hide, but she finds community and support in the process. Fast-paced and adept at finding humor in decidedly unfunny situations, this novel will pull readers into Tess’s journey and emotions. Wyatt herself is a Crohn’s sufferer, and wrote this book with her mom to bring awareness to the disease. In their author’s note they describe their memories of Wyatt’s teenage years trying to get diagnosed, and her how her life was affected. VERDICT A moving and important tale of friendship, family, and learning to accept living with a chronic disease. Highly recommended for young fiction collections.”

School Library Journal Starred Review by Michele Shaw

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