Blog

STEM Tuesday — On the Wing with Birds — Book List

It’s spring. Birds are on the wing and creating nests. Discover these amazing creatures in our April booklist. You’ll probably notice that some authors have written multiple books about birds. Explore them all and, perhaps, they will inspire a passion for birdwatching in your students.

Where Have All The Birds Gone? Nature in Crisis by Rebecca Hirsch

The author of Where Have All The Bees Gone? returns with this well-researched book about the world’s disappearing birds.

Superpower Field Guides – Ostriches by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith

This installment of the fun, graphic series focuses on fascinating ostriches that can outrun most horses.

Condor Comeback by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Tianne Strombeck

The population of California condors once reached the brink of extinction. This Scientists in the Field book details the recovery story of these highly endangered birds.

Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur by Sy Montgomery

This is another bird-focused title from Sy Montgomery that shouldn’t be missed. Readers will explore many species in this title for older readers.

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Andy Comins, illustrations by Guido de FeLippo

Let’s talk about bird brains. Turner’s book focuses on the best and the brightest – crows. This is also a Scientists in the Field title that will introduce readers to the scientists at the heart of this brainy bird science.

Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3d-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

Animal rehabilitation is fascinating, but when it depends on cutting edge technology it is a leap ahead. This story involves a magnificent bald eagle and beak reconstruction.

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill 

This 2016 book about the extinction of the great northern penguin known as the auk is worth searching for in your library. Readers will learn how their demise played a part in our modern conservation movement.

The Triumphant Tale of The House Sparrow by Jan Thornhill

Thornhill’s recent title explores the natural history of the perky little house sparrow that will be familiar to most readers.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Can a bird fly the distance of the moon? It sure can. This is the story of a red knot that had an outstanding flying career.

The Race to Save Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose 

Many birds are endangered and many have become extinct. The story of the race to save the ivory-billed woodpecker from extinction is as huge as the bird itself. It’s extinction has been as momentous as the dodo.

Crows: Genius Birds by Kyla Vanderklugt

This is a perfect companion title to Crow Smarts. Readers will love the comic format.

Falcons in the City: The Story of a Peregrine Family by Chris Earley, photographs by Luke Massey

Cities are full of wildlife. Explore these urban residents.


Photo of DESERTS author Nancy Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also served as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2022 titles are When the World Runs Dry (Jr Library Guild Selection), The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale (Scientists in the Field) and Buildings That Breathe. Visit her at www.nancycastaldo.com. 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. Academy Award winner and environmentalist Jeff Bridges calls Planet Ocean a “must read.” Newman, a Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, and a Eureka! Gold Medal from the California Reading Association for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

April Showers bring New Releases!

Happy Spring! Check out all these new titles showering middle-grade readers this month. Adventure, friendship, mystery and an inspiring true story of survival are featured in these titles for every younger reader on your list!

Wild Ride Author: Keith Calabrese, Scholastic Press, April 5

Swindle meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in this action-filled comedy!

No parents. No rules. No curfew.

Things are about to get dangerous…

The grownups are out-of-town, and for Charley Decker that means one thing: a last epic weekend with her older brother Greg before he leaves for college. Bring on the burgers, milkshakes, and movie marathons!

So when Greg ditches Charley for a date night downtown, she’s kind of crushed. Worse, he gets their mom’s boyfriend’s super-expensive, super-rare Mustang towed and needs Charley’s help to get it back. What’s an unsupervised seventh grader to do? Grab her best friends, sneak into the city, pull off the ultimate car heist, and then make Greg pay, of course!

Only now the Mustang has a new feature in the trunk: a stowaway named Mitch who’s guarding a world-changing secret. And a pair of seriously big, seriously scary dudes are after him.

What follows is an all-night race around the clock as Charley and her friends try to dodge the twin terrors, save Mitch, fix a sibling squabble…and get the Mustang home before morning!

I Will Protect You Author: Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 5

The illuminating and deeply moving true story of twin sisters who survived Nazi experimentation, against all odds, during the Holocaust.

Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a mostly happy childhood. Theirs was the only Jewish family in their small village in the Transylvanian mountains, but they didn’t think much of it until anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and other siblings, selected as subjects for Dr. Mengele’s infamous medical experiments.

During the course of the war, Mengele would experiment on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive–including Eva and Miriam.

Writing with her friend Danica Davidson, Eva reveals how two young girls were able to survive the unimaginable cruelty of the Nazi regime, while also eventually finding healing and the capacity to forgive. Spare and poignant, I Will Protect You is a vital memoir of survival, loss, and forgiveness.

Consider the Octopus Authors: Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin, Henry Holt and Co., April 5

When chance, or fate, throws two twelve-year-olds together on board a scientific research ship at the edge of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s not all smooth sailing!

Jeremy “JB” Barnes is looking forward to spending the summer before seventh grade hanging on the beach. But his mother, a scientist, has called for him to join her aboard a research ship where, instead, he’ll spend his summer seasick and bored as he stares out at the endless plastic, microbeads, and other floating debris, both visible and not, that make up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Miles and miles away, twelve-year-old Sidney Miller is trying to come up with an alternate activity worthy of convincing her overprotective parents that she can skip summer camp.

When Jeremy is asked to find the contact information for a list of important international scientists and invite them to attend a last-minute Emergency Global Summit, he’s excited to have a chance to actually do something that matters to the mission. How could he know that the Sidney Miller he messages is not the famous marine biologist he has been tasked with contacting, but rather a girl making podcasts from her bedroom–let alone that she would want to sneak aboard the ship?

Consider the Octopus is a comedy of errors, mistaken identity, and synchronicity. Above all, it is a heartfelt story about friendship and an empowering call to environmental protection, especially to our young people who are already stepping up to help save our oceans and our Earth.

Karthik Delivers Author: Sheela Chari, Amulet Books, April 5

Award-winning author Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell the story of Ellis Earl, who dreams of a real house, food enough for the whole family–and to be someone.

It’s 1967, and eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown has big dreams. He’s going to grow up to be a teacher or a lawyer–or maybe both–and live in a big brick house in town. There’ll always be enough food in the icebox, and his mama won’t have to run herself ragged looking for work as a maid in order to support Ellis Earl and his eight siblings and niece, Vera. So Ellis Earl applies himself at school, soaking up the lessons that Mr. Foster teaches his class–particularly those about famous colored people like Mr. Thurgood Marshall and Miss Marian Wright–and borrowing books from his teacher’s bookshelf. When Mr. Foster presents him with a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl is amazed to encounter a family that’s even worse off than his own–and is delighted by the Buckets’ very happy ending. But when Mama tells Ellis Earl that he might need to quit school to help support the family, he wonders if happy endings are only possible in storybooks. Around the historical touchstone of Robert Kennedy’s southern “poverty tour,” Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell a detail-rich and poignant story with memorable characters, sure to resonate with readers who have ever felt constricted by their circumstances.

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend, Author Katie Zhao, Random House for Young Readers, April 26

An epic new fantasy series inspired by Chinese mythology that #1 New York Times bestselling author Kwame Mbalia calls a hilarious tussle between homework, family, and heroism. When a girl awakens the stuff of legends from an old family recipe, she must embrace her extraordinary heritage to save the world.

Winnie Zeng has two goals: survive her first year of middle school and outdo her stuck-up archnemesis, David Zuo. It won’t be easy, since, according to her older sister, middle school is the pits. Luckily, Winnie studied middle school survival tactics in comic books and anime, and nothing will stop her from being the very best student.

But none of Winnie’s research has prepared her to face the mother of all hurdles: evil spirits. When she makes mooncakes for a class bake sale, she awakens the stuff of legends from her grandmother’s old cookbook, spilling otherworldly chaos into her sleepy town.

Suddenly Winnie finds herself in a race against time, vanquishing demons instead of group projects. Armed with a magic cookbook and a talking white rabbit, she must embrace her new powers and legacy of her ancestors. Because if she doesn’t, her town–and rest of the world–may fall to chaos forever.

The Pear Affair Author: Judith Eagle Illustrator: Jo Rioux Walker Books US, April 26

Nell is determined to find her beloved missing au pair in this vibrant adventure set in, and underneath, Paris.

Penelope Magnificent spends as little time as possible with her awful parents–a grocery-mogul father and a fashion-obsessed mother who loves expensive purses more than she does her daughter. But when they mention an important trip to Paris, Nell begs to come along. Paris holds something very dear to her: her old au pair Perrine–Pear–who lives there. Pear used to write to Nell every week, promising to come to her rescue, but recently the letters stopped. With the help of a savvy bellboy named Xavier, Nell sets out from her parents’ ultra-fancy Parisian hotel to find her beloved Pear. But Pear’s old neighbors and coworkers are strangely tight-lipped. And as Nell’s search for the truth takes her and Xavier to some of the darkest, most mysterious parts of the city, a sinister plot comes to light involving the destruction of a cherished–and delicious–part of Parisian life. Food, fashion, and intrigue abound in this delightful caper from the author of The Secret Starling.

Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories

edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz Albert Whitman & Co., April 19

What does it mean to become an adult in your faith? Join thirteen diverse characters as they experience anxiety, doubt, and self-discovery while preparing for their b’nai mitzvah. And whether celebrating with a lavish party or in reception room A with an accordion player, the Jewish rite of passage remains the same. Filled with humor, hope, and history, there’s something in this anthology for every reader, regardless of their faith.

Editor Spotlight: Chris Krones

Today, I’m delighted to introduce Clarion editor, Chris Krones, to Mixed-Up Files readers. Chris is a writer who has been a children’s book editor for more than a decade. They hold an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. Chris has edited a wide variety of books–from board books and picture books to middle-grade novels and graphic novels. They are the author of Chill, Chomp, Chill and the upcoming picture book, The Pronoun Book. Chris lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Learn more on Twitter and Instagram.

Dorian: Welcome, Chris! Can you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming a children’s book writer and editor?

Chris: I’ve always had a passion for writing and language. When I started at Simmons University as an English and French major, French translation and poetry were my passions. When I landed in one of Cathryn Mercier’s classes, I found a different path to writing: writing for children. In this core course, we looked at children’s literature through philosophical lenses and thought critically about books for younger readers—something I’d never done before. Anytime we’d discussed books critically prior to this, they’d be considered a canonical work written for adults, like Beowulf. I thought this was novel and so subversive—and I wanted more.

When I heard that there was an M.F.A. in writing for children, I had a gut feeling; I knew I needed to apply. In this program, we visited the Houghton Library at Harvard University in Susan Bloom’s picture book class, where we got to see original prints of Randolph Caldecott’s Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting. I had opinions about the artwork and how it was reproduced and decisions that had gone into the publishing of the work. Susan recognized this and said, “You’ve got opinions! You should work in publishing.” I took this to heart—I’d never thought of working on books other than writing them.

At one of the Simmons Summer Institutes, I was about to read a picture book manuscript I’d written aloud. I was asking Cathie Mercier a question right when she was standing next to an alumna who was the Marketing Manager at Houghton Mifflin. Cathie asked her: “Why don’t you ask Chris about the marketing and publicity internship?” After that, I went in for an interview and interned with the Marketing and Publicity department at Houghton while I had a writing mentorship with an editor there. When an Editorial Assistant position opened up, I was encouraged to apply. I loved the people I worked with across departments and felt like I’d found a home at Houghton.

 

Dorian: What books inspired you as a child?

Chris: When I was very little, I remember having a collection of Beatrix Potter books, sliding them out of a slipcase, and holding them in my hands. I loved the tactility of them and how small they were, though I always worried about Peter Rabbit’s safety! In elementary school, I remember my librarian reading The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, told by A. Wolf by Jon Scieska and Lane Smith. I will never forget the pig butt surrounded by rubble alongside the text “Dead as a doornail.” Though a touch dark, I loved this humor so much and laid the foundation for my taste in picture books. I also loved Charlotte’s Web but was first introduced to the tale via the feature-length animated movie. My grandparents bought me the book and I absolutely adored it. I also loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, of course!

 

Dorian: Can you tell us about some books you’ve worked on, either as a writer or editor, that have come out recently or are due to come out?

Chris: The Pronoun Book is a cased board book I wrote that is publishing in early April. It’s a celebratory and vibrant introduction to people and their pronouns. Mel Tirado made magic with the illustrations! In terms of books I’ve edited, I am so thrilled for the first book in The Sparkle Dragons series to come out in mid-May. It’s a fun and young graphic novel featuring a core crew of spunky, sparkle-breathing dragons who fight for good in their queendom.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dorian: Congratulations all around! Are there certain themes or subjects that resonate with you more than others?

Chris: Stories that feature strong protagonists who show up and persevere against all odds. Underdog stories. Hilarious stories. Joyful, character-driven stories told by underrepresented voices for underrepresented audiences.

 

Dorian: What advice do you have for writers who want to publish traditionally?

Chris: First, find your people! It’s important to have a writing group to keep yourself consistent, accountable, and have a safe space to bounce around ideas. Familiarize yourself with the books in stores, find the ones you love, and see who publishes them. Get to know publishers’ catalogs. Look to Publishers Weekly deal announcements or Publishers Marketplace to read the recent deals that have been made. Research the agents that represented those deals that feel closest to your work. Check out agency websites and follow their instructions on how to submit or query them. A lot of publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts these days, so finding an agent connected to the publishing industry might be a helpful path to traditional publishing.

Thank you so much for such great advice and for joining us here at THE MIXED-UP FILES!