Sunday, November 29, 2015

A kid's book review: "Full of Action and Hilarious scenes!

Dear Mr Aertker,

Thank you so much for Skypeing our class! The book Crime Travelers was outstanding! 10 out of 10! I would highly suggest this book. It was full of action and hilarious scenes! My favorite part was when Gini had a certain kind of explosion in her pants. It was amazing.

Thanks again! 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The exploding diaper

Dear Mr Aertker,

I really enjoyed reading Crime Travelers. I really thought that you put a lot of work into this book. I think it is one of my favorite books. My favorite part is when [Gini]'s diaper exploded onto the guy's face.
From, Riley

Thanks Riley,

I too really like the part in the book where Gini's diaper explodes onto the guy's face and Lucas is then able to flee through the streets of Paris. Thanks for recognizing the amount of work authors (and editors) put into their work.
Diamonds Are For Never

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wimpy Kid

I love the Wimpy Kid books, and I especially love what Jeff Kinney has done with this entire series. 

One of the best things about writing for kids is getting them excited about books. I'm in favor of getting kids to read more, and I especially like series that make kids love reading. 

But to be honest, I have to admit it's a little bit fun to see my Crime Travelers Spy Mystery Series in second place behind such an awesome series!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Free book discussion guide for teachers who want to teach more geography to 4th - 8th graders.

We now have this awesome book discussion guide for the Crime Travelers series. 

Written by middle school and geography teachers, the guide is focused on getting kids to think about where things are in the world, languages people speak, and the currencies they use in different countries. 

Want to expand your students' horizons? 

Download the free book discussion guide plus the first 101 pages of Brainwashed book one in the Crime Travelers series - #1 Amazon best seller in children's travel books.

Crime Travelers Spy Mystery Website

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Reading List for Rising 5th Graders.

Get Started Right Away

Fiction – Adventure/Action

Aertker, Paul. Brainwashed (Crime Travelers #1) FSP, 2014 While sleeping on the roof of his father’s hotel, thirteen-year-old Lucas Benes finds a baby alone and learns that the Good Company has restarted its profitable kidnapping business. Lucas leads a group of teenage spies through the hotspots of Paris—from the catacombs to the Eiffel tower—in an all-out effort to sabotage a brainwashing ceremony that could potentially turn them all into “Good” kids. Amazon bestseller in Children’s Travel. ISBN-13: 978-1-940137-11-7

Appelt, Kathi. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Atheneum Books, 2013. Raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah are the newest recruits of the Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts. The opportunity to serve the Sugar Man is an honor, and also a big responsibility, since the swamp critters rely heavily on the intel of these hardworking Scouts. Best Book of the Year 2013 and Notable Children’s Books of 2013.

Barry, Dave and Ridley Pearson. Peter and the Starcatchers. Hyperion, 2004. Peter, an orphan boy, and his friend Molly fight off thieves and pirates in order to keep the secret safe from the Black Stache and his evil associate Mister Grin. Also read the sequels, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, and Peter and the Sword of Mercy.

Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks. Random House, 2005. While vacationing with their father in the Berkshire Mountains, four lovable sisters share adventures with a local boy, much to the dismay of his snobbish mother. Also read The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, and The Penderwicks in Spring (2015).

Black, Holy. Doll Bones. McElderry Books, 2013. Three friends from a Pennsylvania middle school, who have long enjoyed acting out imaginary adventures with dolls and action figures, embark on a real-life quest to bury a doll made from the ashes of a dead girl. Newbery Honor Book 2014.

Burg, Ann. Serafina’s Promise. Scholastic, 2013. In a poor village outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Serafina works hard to help her family, but dreams of becoming a doctor – then the earthquake hits and Serafina must summon all her courage to find her father and still get medicine for her sick baby brother as she promised. A novel written in verse. Best Books of the Year 2013.

Carman, Patrick. Floors. Scholastic, 2011. Leo, the son of the maintenance man of the Whippet Hotel, opens a series of cryptic boxes which reveals hidden floors, strange puzzles, and unexpected alliances that lead him on an adventure to save the building. Read the sequel, 3 Below (2013).

DiCamillo, Kate. Flora and Ulysses. Candlewick, 2013. After Flora saves a squirrel named Ulysses from a run-in with a vacuum cleaner, they team up to use Ulysses’ superpowers to conquer villains and protect the weak. Newbery Winner 2014.

DuPrau, Jeanne. City of Ember. Random House, 2003. In the city of Ember, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a Messenger and finds a message that she and her friend Doon must decipher before the lights go out on Ember forever! Read the sequels in the series: The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold. Grabenstein, Chris. Escape From Mr . Lemoncello’s Library . Random House, 2013.

Gutman, Dan. Mission Unstoppable (Genius Files Series). Harper, 2011. On a cross-country vacation with their parents, twins Coke and Pepsi try to come to terms with being part of a top-secret government organization known as The Genius Files. Includes Google Maps coordinates to follow along. Read sequels: Never Say Genius (2012), You Only Die Twice (2013), From Texas With Love (2014) andLicense to Thrill (2015).

Hanal, Rachel. Can You Survive an Earthquake? Interactive Survival Adventure. Capstone, 2013. You’re in the middle of one of the most unpredictable natural disasters, an earthquake. No place is safe as the ground shudders, shakes, and splits. How will you survive? Readers can choose how the story ends in different adventures about survival during an earthquake. Read any title in the series. S

Jenson, Marion. Almost Super. Harper Collins, 2014. Two brothers in a family of superheroes are forced to reexamine everything they knew about being super when the powers they receive are total duds and their enemy is revealed to be just like they are.

Korman, Gordon. The Hypnotist. Scholastic, 2013. Twelve-year-old Jackson Opus is descended from two powerful hypnotist bloodlines, but he has just begun to realize that he can control other peoples’ actions with sometimes frightening results – especially when the head of the Sentia Institute plans to use Jackson for his own benefit.

Lloyd, Natalie. A Snicker of Magic. Scholastic, 2014. The Pickles are new to Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, a town which legend says was once magic. Felicity is convinced the magic is still there, and with the help of her new friend Jonah the Beedle she hopes to bring the magic back.

Lord, Cynthia. Half a Chance. Scholastic, 2014. Lucy has just moved to a small rural community in New Hampshire, and with her new friend Nate she plans to spend the summer taking photos for a contest, but pictures sometimes reveal more than people are willing to see.

Lowry, Lois. The Willoughbys. Houghton Mifflin, 2008. A tongue-in-cheek take on classic themes, in which the four Willoughby children set out to become “deserving orphans” after their neglectful parents embark on an around-the-world adventure, leaving them in the care of an odious nanny.

Peck, Richard. The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail. Dial, 2013. Mouse Minor, an undersized orphan with a question mark-shaped tail, is uncertain of his heritage. He attends a prestigious school but is bullied by his classmates. He flees beyond familiar territory and ends up in the palace. All the while, he is unaware that spies are tracking his every move.

Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet. Atheneum Books, 1987. After a plane crash, thirteen-year-old Brian spends fifty-four days in the wilderness, learning to survive with only a hatchet. Read the sequels The River, Brian’s  Winter, Brian’s Return,  and Brian’s Hunt.

Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck. Scholastic, 2011. Relates the stories of twelve-year-old Ben, who loses his mother and his hearing in a short time frame and decides to leave his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he has never known in New York City; and Rose, who lives with her father but feels compelled to search for what is missing in her life. Ben’s story is told in words; Rose’s in pictures.

Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Wendy Lamb Books, 2012. Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.

Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Mysterious Benedict Society. Little, Brown, 2007. After passing a series of mind-bending tests, four children are selected for a secret mission that requires them to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. Read the sequels. S

Weiner, Ellis. The Templeton Twins Have an Idea. Chronicle Books, 2012. Abigail and John, the Templeton twins, and their dog Cassie foil a pair of inept kidnappers intent on stealing one of their father’s newest inventions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

11 year old journalist at the Denver Post pens the best review ever

Fast, Fun, Summer Read

Vivian Weigel
In "Brainwashed," Lucas defeated  The Good Company  (who are involved in child trafficking) in Paris. Now, in the second book of the Crime Travelers trilogy, "Diamonds are for Never," he is on the hunt for his birth mom who was supposedly killed many years ago.

When he is nearly kidnapped by two Curukians (children who were trafficked and brainwashed), he is led to believe that the evidence is in his birth files may lead to his mother. As he begins to decode his files, the adventure continues in Rome where he discovers the code leads to his mother’s treasure. The mysteries of the past are unveiled in this new book.

Paul Aertker, the author of the books, told me “Whenever I write these stories, I don’t really have a set plot. I just let Lucas become the person he is meant to be and let Lucas lead the story.” Aertker has been approached by Hollywood producers, and we may be someday seeing Lucas on the big screen.

Recently, Aertker has been skyping with schools to talk about reading and writing. “I feel like the words on a page help kids imagine and become something more,” he said while describing why he tries to help schools make reading fun again. Visualization is an important element in making writing come alive. “If you can convert words on a page into pictures in your mind, you can make the invisible, visible, or the impossible, possible,” Aertker told me.

I recommend these books to both boys and girls who are looking for a quick, fun read. Eight to ten year olds would most definitely love them, but older kids would also enjoy the thrilling plots and humor that are mixed throughout. Be sure to check out "Brainwashed" and "Diamonds are for Never" to read more about Lucas and his wild journeys.
Main article here:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

2015 Summer reading lists should start with this middle school series

Author Paul Aertker (Ett Kerr) takes readers on another gripping world tour filled with adrenaline, humor, and pure excitement in Diamonds Are For Never, the action-packed second installment of the Crime Travelers series.

#1 Amazon Bestseller in Children’s Travel Books

The first installment in this series, Brainwashed, has already hit the top spot in Children’s Travel Book on Amazon Kindle.

On May 2, 2015 in DENVER, Colo., at the Bookies bookstore (4315 E Mississippi Ave, Denver, CO 80246  Phone: 303.759.1117) The second book, Diamonds Are For Never, will be available. The author will be in the store from 10 AM - 3 PM signing books and speaking every half hour about inspiring kids to read.

Larry Yoder of The Bookies says, “This one is even better than the first!”- Review here.


After sabotaging a mass kidnapping in Paris, Lucas Benes faces a new and perilous threat from Siba G├╝nerro and her anything-but-good Good Company. When a briefcase-toting kid from the Falkland Islands joins the New Resistance, 14-year-old Lucas learns the truth about his mother and becomes a boy on a mission.

Lucas and friends speed in and around Rome—from the Colosseum to the Vatican—until they stowaway on a cargo ship carrying diamonds that could unlock the secret to Lucas’s past and destroy the Good Company’s future.

Diamonds Are For Never (Flying Solo Press, May 2, 2015. ISBN 978-1-940137-25-4  /  eISBN 978-1-940137-26-1, $15.95,
This middle school series is for ages 9 and up. Kids will love this series’ humor and campy flavor. Perfect for 4th, 5th, 6th, & 7th grade summer reading lists.

The underlying theme of the series is self-reliance in adverse settings. Parents, teachers, and librarians will appreciate the worldwide geography & clean language.

As a traveler and multilingual teacher, Paul has clocked nearly half his life outside the US. When he was a teenager, he slept on the streets of London to watch a royal wedding. He took the CIA exam because he wanted to be a spy for the good guys (and not the Good Company). He was an au pair in France and built a children’s library in Africa.

A former 5th grade teacher and consummate educator, Aertker said he writes for this age group because he relates to it.

“I act like a child,” he said with a laugh. “My emotional level doesn't really go past age 11. For me to write for this age group is easy because I can get there pretty quickly.”

The books are available from bookstores everywhere. Please support your local independent bookstores! Review copies and interviews available by request at

Paul Aertker

Friday, May 1, 2015

The most interesting teacher in the world

Crime Travelers is a middle school action adventure series that "reads like the Bourne Identity - but for kids."

More info at Crime Travelers

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gearing up for a book launch, a huge launch in fact

Children's author Paul Aertker speaks to students at Peabody Montessori Elementary School before reading a portion from his new book, “Brainwashed,” on Thursday.  (Photo: Tia Owens-Powers/ ) 

This is the screenshot of my newly new website. We're gearing up for a book launch, a huge launch in fact, for book 2 in the Crime Travelers series. 

While still promoting the book, I am trying to emphasize my mission of teaching kids about the rest of the world. Please let me know what you think. Thanks. Paul 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015



By:  Richard Lederer 

this is a re-posting of an email I received. 

About a month ago in this space, I illuminated old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included don’t touch that dial, carbon copy, you sound like a broken record and hung out to dry. A bevy of readers have asked me to shine light on more faded words and expressions, and I am happy to oblige:

Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie. We’d put on our best bib and tucker and straighten up and fly right. Hubba-hubba! We’d cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing and cooing and pitching woo in hot rods and jalopies in some passion pit or lovers’ lane. Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.

Like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, we have become unstuck in time. We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” or “This is a fine kettle of fish!” we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, poof, poof go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind. We blink, and they’re gone, evanesced from the landscape and wordscape of our perception, like Mickey Mouse wristwatches, hula hoops, skate keys, candy cigarettes, little wax bottles of colored sugar water and an organ grinder’s monkey.

Where have all those phrases gone? Long time passing. Where have all those phrases gone? Long time ago: Pshaw. The milkman did it. Think about the starving kids in China. Bigger than a bread box. Banned in Boston. The very idea! It’s your nickel. Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Turn-of-the-century. Iron curtain. Domino theory. Fail safe. Civil defense. Fiddlesticks! You look like the wreck of the Hesperus. Cooties. Going like sixty. I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Heavens to Murgatroyd! And awa-a-ay we go!

Oh, my stars and garters! It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter had liver pills.

This can be disturbing stuff, this winking out of the words of our youth, these words that lodge in our heart’s deep core. But just as one never steps into the same river twice, one cannot step into the same language twice. Even as one enters, words are swept downstream into the past, forevermaking a different river.

We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging. We can have archaic and eat it, too.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Daylight Saving Time is a Waste of Time

Benjamin Franklin came up with the concept for daylight saving time. In the 18th century.

The idea was that a later sunset would cause us to use less fuel in oil lamps. It was a great initiative then, but methinks we are using an outdated idea. Like oil lamps.

More than two centuries later, this biannual perfunctory act still makes us feel groggy for a week, disrupts already tenuous sleep patterns and in some cases, increases traffic accidents.

"Spring forward" is meant to give us an extra hour at the end of the day. Daylight saving changes the clock and not the sun.

The time change does not "add" an extra hour of daylight or sunlight to the day. See below what the American Indians have to say the extra hour.

The "fall back" clock movement is equally unrewarding. People are not gaining an extra hour. In fact, Americans spend an inordinate amount of time changing their clocks.

Daylight Wasting Time

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 311 million Americans. The average household has a minimum of four timepieces that require manual resetting.

The Census Bureau shows 111 million households, meaning there are approximately 445 million clocks that have to be manually changed. If it takes 10 seconds to change the time on each clock, then Americans spend, collectively, each spring and fall 1.2 million hours changing clocks.

At a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that's $18 million.

Russians ahead of Americans?

Recently, Russia canceled daylight saving time for all nine of its time zones because the President decided the potential "stress and illnesses" on biological clocks was too great. Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Saskatchewan and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not waste time changing clocks either.

A bill to keep Colorado on permanent daylight saving unanimously passed the agriculture committee last year, but according to the ski industry, which "mounted a full-court press to kill the measure, saying it would affect them in the mornings during their peak winter season."

Equally, it would have affected the afternoons during the peak winter season by "adding" an hour of skiing.

The Navaho adage sums it up best, "Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket."

Monday, February 16, 2015

8 Writing Tips from Kurt Vonnegut

8 Writing Tips from Kurt Vonnegut


  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cracking The Secret Code to Mountain Biking In Arizona

American Indians consider the Red Rock Country of Northern Arizona sacred. For others, it's a meditation Mecca. To mountain bikers, it's a hypnotic and dangerous Wonderland full of killer trails, otherworldly plants, and strange animals.
"If it doesn't prick, stick, or sting you, then you're not in the desert," a local mountain biker told me.
Northern Arizona is a Mars-like landscape scored with ancient canyons, arches, hoodoos, and enormous slide rocks. Like the Sinagua (without water) Indians, the animals in this high desert are designed to live on little liquid while the plants seem to sprout out of a Dr. Seuss book. 
This is traveling by bike in Arizona. But don't be deceived by the strangeness of everything, lest it distract you.

Darwin would have loved this place
The undeniable law here is Darwinian. Flora and fauna struggle to survive and the unfit are eliminated, especially the mountain bikers.
Most mountain bike trails in Northern Arizona are single track, which makes for fast free riding. However, a fine red dust powders the desert floor, adding an element of scary to the trail. When you include the fact that cacti of all kinds border most trails, your single-track mountain bike ride quickly moves into the dangerous category.
At the base of the Mogollon Rim, in the heart of Red Rock Country lies the Secret Mountain Wilderness. The mountain bike trails here follow multi-colored strata deep into box canyons. The rock formations and weird plants have a strange way of luring you further than you should ever go.
On the way to Devil's Oven, the Spanish dagger agave plants guard the trail like conquistadors, as if they were protecting a secret. Fall into a cluster of agave and it's certain death, not from poison, but blood loss.
This metaphysical playground draws nearly 4 million people each year and several hundred thousand mountain bikers. It's also home to some sinister varmints: scorpion, black widow, tarantula, and, of course, the rattlesnake.
The main outpost for mountain bike riding in Northern Arizona is Sedona, a tourist town sitting halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. The village is better known for its new-age vortexes and high-priced real estate than its biking trails.

Arizona's Mountain Biking Heaven
Yet the Red Rock Country around Sedona has 48 mountain biking trails, covering over 400 miles. Utility easements and jeep trails offer a wide swath of unlimited riding. (FYI, cars parked on Forest Service land must display a pass). There are toilets at some trailheads and gas, food, and lodging in Sedona.

On the trails, just remember that if it doesn't prick, stick, or sting you...

Thanks to Will Geurts at Sedona Destination Adventures for the picture and for keeping us alive on those trails! Visit him here at Sedona Destination Adventures  and check out their beautiful gallery of unbelievable pictures.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Are you making this mistake with your money?

This is another money topic that I wanted to share with all of you. Take it for what it's worth. Hope it helps.

I've been reading (and listening to) Tony Robbins's new book, Money: Master the Game. I am a huge fan of Tony Robbins and I strongly recommend this new book simply because he boils down what you need to do NOW with your money so that you have some LATER in life. 

And so we can all have some fun, too. :)

Three of the biggest take-aways from the book:

1. Save money. You'll need it later. Not saving any money? Start now.

2. The most important money decision is asset allocation. 

What does this mean? Where are you putting your money? Is it safe? Diversified? Risk averse? Maybe like some you're out of whack.

In Tony speak: "DIversify or Die." :) 

There are several very good chapters on this topic and even actual examples from some of the biggest money managers in the world whose allocations you can copy for free. FOR FREE. There is also a link to Stronghold Financial where you can have any savings/investments/retirement account analyzed, again for free.

3. You are probably paying WAY TOO much in fees. 


Mostly from hidden mutual fund fees. In your 401K, IRA, 529s, Etc

Tony will scare you into action as he tells several stories to illustrate his point. One from John Bogle (founder of Vanguard) spells it out perfectly. 

It goes like this:

With a $10K investment at age 20 with annual growth of 7% you would have $574K at age 80. But, if you paid 2.5% in fees you'd end up with $140K.

There are tons of examples like this. The basic solution: asset allocation using index funds from Vanguard. (I'm a huge fan of these).

I welcome your comments below or feel free to contact me at 

I study money math a lot. The antagonist in my kid book series, Crime Travelers, is the CEO of the Good Company (Yes, they're not good! :)