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November 2020: New Releases

Whether it’s humor or history, fantasy or food, wizards or warriors, November has a book for you. Take a look and let us know in the comments section which ones you’re looking forward to. And don’t forget to click on the titles for links to Bookshop.org.

 

Serena Says 

By Tanita S. Davis

JC shines like a 4th of July sparkler. She has the best ideas, the biggest, funniest laugh, and the party starts when she arrives. Serena St. John is proud to be known as her best friend.

Everything changes when JC returns from the hospital with a new kidney — and a new best friend. Out of the spotlight of JC’s friendship, suddenly things aren’t quite so sparkly in Serena’s world.

Lonely Serena works on perfecting her vlogs, hoping to earn a shot at becoming a classroom reporter. If she can be smart and funny on video, why can’t she manage that in real life? If only she could always pause, edit, or delete conversations. It would be so much easier to say the right thing at the right time . . . instead of not saying what she should, or, even worse, blurting out a secret that wasn’t hers to share. Life doesn’t have a pause button — but as Serena discovers her voice through vlogging, she learns that she’s not just there to reflect JC’s light — she’s fully capable of shining on her own.

 

The Ickabog

By J.K. Rowling

Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.

But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands . . . the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth. And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children – best friends Bert and Daisy – embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.

 

Unlocked: Book 8.5 Keeper of the Lost Cities

By Shannon Messenger

In this extra special installment of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, the story picks up right from Legacy’s particularly devastating cliffhanger. But chapters alternate between Sophie and Keefe’s perspectives to give readers deeper insights into both beloved characters. New powers will be discovered. Hard truths from the past will come to light. And all of your favorite characters will find themselves tested in ways they never imagined. And that’s not all!

Unlocked also includes a comprehensive guide to the world of the Lost Cities, featuring new character and world details that have never been revealed before — plus fun bonuses like Keeper-themed recipes, a detailed map of the Lost Cities, gorgeous full-color illustrations, and so much more!

 

The Wizards of Once: Never and Forever (The Wizards of Once #4)

By Cressida Cowell

Xar and Wish are on the final leg of their journey — first stop: The Mine of Happiness. Here, starvation is never far away for the Magical creatures who toil in its horrible depths. Xar and Wish must escape and fast; Xar needs to take control of his ever-growing Witchstain, and Wish must achieve her Destiny. But the Tazzelwurm is in their way, a grotesque monster who threatens to block every entrance.

Time is not on their side, but the forests are calling them. Will their combined strength be enough for the biggest quest so far: to defeat the Kingwitch once and for all?

 

Warriors: Darkness Within (The Broken Code #4)

By Erin Hunter

Exiled after a battle that left all five Clans devastated, ThunderClan’s loyal deputy, Squirrelflight, must bring to light an earth-shattering truth: the identity of the cat ruling ThunderClan while wearing Bramblestar’s face.

While the fate of his body hangs in the balance, the real Bramblestar’s spirit has vanished. Even Rootspring is powerless to reach him—and with tensions among the Clans at a breaking point, Squirrelflight may not be able to ensure Bramblestar has a body to return to. If he returns at all.

Packed with action and intrigue, this sixth Warriors series is the perfect introduction for readers new to the Warriors world, while dedicated fans will be thrilled to discover the new adventures that unfold after the events of A Vision of Shadows.

 

The Royal Ranger: The Missing Prince (Ranger’s Apprentice)

By John F. Flanagan

Will Treaty and his apprentice, Maddie, have been urgently summoned to Castle Araluen. When they arrive, they learn a shocking truth: the Prince of Gallica is missing – and the King of Gallica has asked for help. All reports suggest that the young prince has been taken prisoner by the dangerous and powerful Baron Joubert de Lassigny. King Duncan knows that sending troops to Gallica to rescue the prince could start a war, as could openly helping Gallica resolve internal convict. But there’s another way to save the prince: the Ranger Corps.

Soon, Will and Maddie are on the road to rescue the missing prince, disguised as father and daughter jongleurs. Maddie will have to use her knife-throwing skills to keep up her disguise, and her ranger’s apprentice training to complete the mission. But going undercover is dangerous – and the road presents its own hazards. Can she and Will use all their talents to save the prince, or will the arrogant Baron uncover their plans and put their lives, and their kingdom, at risk?

 

Dog Diaries: Curse of the Mystery MuttA Middle School Story (Dog Diaries #4)

By James Patterson and Steven Butler, illus. Richard Watson

Junior is loving his life with the Khatchadorian family. But his idyllic life soon turns to terror when a mysterious individual begins to make trouble in the neighborhood. It starts with a mysterious howling in the night. And when Junior’s pooch pals realize their favorite toys are missing, things get serious.

Junior thinks he knows what is happening. He’s heard of a mysterious creature called the Howly Wiener that visits town once a year and fills the street with monsters. With only a few days until the Night of the Howly Wiener, can Junior come up with a plan to protect himself and his pooch pals and stop the mischief for good?

 

Blades of Freedom: A Tale of Haiti, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase (Hazardous Tales #10)

By Nathan Hale

The Louisiana Purchase (1803) is today seen as one of history’s greatest bargains. But why did Napoleon Bonaparte sell this seemingly prosperous territory? At the time, France controlled Haiti, and there, enslaved Africans were used to harvest sugar. But in 1791, Toussaint Louverture led the largest uprising of enslaved people in human history, the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Napoleon had originally wanted to use Louisiana for trade, but with Haiti out of his control, Napoleon’s dream of making a French empire in North America seemed doomed. So when Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe tried to buy New Orleans, Napoleon sold them the whole Louisiana Territory.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all – if you dare!

 

Kid in the Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Tips for Young Home Cooks

By Melissa Clark and Daniel Gercke

In Kid in the Kitchen, Melissa Clark, who has been cooking with her own kid for years, takes you step-by-step through how to understand and create each dish. These recipes are fun, insanely delicious, and will help you become a confident cook. There are tons of tips and tweaks, too, so you can cook what you want with what you have. Make amped-up breakfasts, sandwiches that slay, noodles and pasta for every craving, plus sheet pan dinners, mix and match grain bowls and salads, one-pot meals, party classics, and the richest, gooiest desserts. This is the fun, easy way to awesome food.

Recipes include: Fresh Custardy French Toast • OMG, I Smell Bacon! (spicy and candied, too) • Granola Bar Remix, feat. Cranberry and Ginger • The. Last. Guacamole. Recipe. Ever. • Fast Pho •  Garlicky, Crumb-y Pasta • Classic Caesar Salad with Unclassic Cheesy Croutons • Crispy Pork Carnitas Tacos • Mexican Chicken Soup & Chips • Shrimp Scampi Skillet Dinner • Korean Scallion and Veggie Pancakes (Pajeon) • Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits Put a Spell on You • Rise & Dine Cinnamon Raisin Bread • Buttery Mashed Potato Cloud • Deep Dark Fudgy Brownies • Think Pink Lemonade Bars

Melissa will explain the most helpful kitchen tools and tips, from the proper way to hold a chef’s knife to why you need a Microplane grater right now. She’ll even clue you in on which recipe rules you can break and how to snap amazing food photos to share!

 

This Is Your Time

By Ruby Bridges

Written as a letter from civil rights activist and icon Ruby Bridges to the reader, This Is Your Time is both a recounting of Ruby’s experience as a child who had no choice but to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen as one of the first black students to integrate New Orleans’ all-white public school system and an appeal to generations to come to effect change.

This beautifully designed volume features historical photographs from the 1960s and from today, as well as stunning jacket art from The Problem We All Live With, the 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell of Ruby’s walk to school.

Ruby’s honest and impassioned words, imbued with love and grace, serve as a moving reminder that “what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past.” This Is Your Time will electrify people of all ages as the struggle for liberty and justice for all continues, and the powerful legacy of Ruby Bridges endures.

 

The Lemon Tree : An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East (Young Readers’ Edition)

By Sandy Tolan

In 1967, a twenty-five-year-old refugee named Bashir Khairi traveled from the Palestinian hill town of Ramallah to Ramla, Israel, with a goal: to see the beloved stone house with the lemon tree in its backyard that he and his family had been forced to leave nineteen years earlier. When he arrived, he was greeted by one of its new residents: Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student whose family had fled Europe following the Holocaust. She had lived in that house since she was eleven months old.

On the stoop of this shared house, Dalia and Bashir began a surprising friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and later tested as political tensions ran high and Israelis and Palestinians each asserted their own right to live on this land. Adapted from the award-winning adult book and based on Sandy Tolan’s extensive research and reporting, The Lemon Tree is a deeply personal story of two people seeking hope, transformation, and home.

 

7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up

By Jimmy Gownley

To the students at exclusive Greycliff Academy, Kirby seems to have it all: charm, brains, and a lucky streak that won’t quit. He’s also the notorious mastermind behind the snarky videos, “7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up,” which expose how being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Why would any kid want to become one of them?

But there’s also a mystery about Kirby. And when his best friend, Raja, finds out that Kirby isn’t the person he’s pretending to be, Kirby, Raja, and their friends may be forced to grow up sooner than they think and face the world head-on.

 

Homecoming Tales: 15 Inspiring Stories from Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

By Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary and Tama Fortner

Meet Mack, Dog Bowl contestant and social media star; Marco, a scary tough dog—until someone gave him a second chance; Shaq, a gentle giant who is learning to leave his fears behind; Prince, a laid back dude who doesn’t let being blind steal his sunshine; and JuneBug, a spunky sweetheart who just wants to cuddle and keep you safe from the vacuum cleaner. Each chapter in Homecoming Tales focuses on one canine companion from the Tennessee-based dog rescue, with fun facts about his or her breed, stories of silly antics, and the meaningful tale of how this canine companion found a forever family. This delightful middle grade book entertains, teaches, and inspires and will be a favorite for fans of A Dog’s Purpose and the Puppy Tales series.

In this lighthearted, nonfiction chapter book, you’ll find

  • the true stories of how 15 dogs found a loving home
  • line drawing illustrations of each featured dog and a full-color photo insert
  • doggy stats, fun facts, and recipes for your own canine friend
  • information on adopting and owning pets, caring for aging animals, ideas for helping a pet with special needs, and ways kids can get involved with their local animal shelter or rescue

Homecoming Tales is a great gift for any eight to twelve-year-old who loves animals, enjoys volunteer work, or simply appreciates heartwarming stories. With information about care for older dogs, this educational book is also a helpful read for families who are interested in adopting a senior dog.

 

(And since it’s November, what better month to take another look at History Smashers: The Mayflower, by Kate Messner, for some little-known details behind the legends of the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving.)

Happy Reading!

Excellence in Science Books Awards

Middle Grade Science Book Awards

Congratulations to our own Jen Swanson, whose book SAVE THE CRASH TEST DUMMIES has made the longlist for the AAAS/Subaru 2021 Middle Grades Science Book Awards.

Middle Grade Science Book Awards

 

The Prize celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults and is meant to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books for all ages.

Jen Swanson

Author Spotlight: Summer Rachel Short… plus a Giveaway!

Today, let’s give a warm Mixed-Up welcome to Summer Rachel Short, author of the debut middle-grade novel, The Mutant Mushroom Takeover.

Described by Kirkus as “Packed to the gills with fun,” and by School Library Journal as “A fun debut novel with an action-packed climax that will leave readers eager to scope out the weirder side of nature,” the book is out now from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

About The Mutant Mushroom Takeover

Ever since Magnolia Stone’s scientist dad left Shady Pines to find a new job, Maggie’s been stuck in her gramma’s mobile home with her grumpy older brother, Ezra. Now she’s on a mission to put her family back together by winning the Vitaccino Junior Naturalist Merit Award.

When Maggie and her best friend, Nate, a wannabe YouTube star and alien conspiracy theorist, scout out a rare bioluminescent fungus, Maggie is certain she’s a shoo-in to win. But after animals around town start sprouting unusual growths and Ezra develops a bluish glow and hacking cough, Maggie wonders what they’ve really stumbled onto.

As things in Shady Pines become stranger and more dangerous, and conversations with her dad get complicated, Maggie must use her scientific smarts and Nate’s impressive knowledge of all things supernatural to put things back in order and prevent these peculiar glowing mushrooms from taking over their home.

Q&A with Summer Rachel Short

MR: So glad to have you with us, Summer. Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files!

SRS: Thanks so much for having me! I’m so glad to be here!

MR: So, I stayed up late into the night reading The Mutant Mushroom Takeover and it really gave me the heebie-jeebies! It also made me rethink my love of mushrooms. 🙂 What inspired you to write about bioluminescent fungus–and the “weird” side of nature–in the first place?

SRS: Thank you! I do hope you’ll be able to resume your love of mushrooms–once you’ve given your produce a solid once over, of course!

Things that are a little weird have always fascinated me, because they spark my curiosity and make me ask “how” and “why.” One of my first inspirations for this book was an old documentary on fungi that I stumbled upon on YouTube. There was an ominous voiceover, creepy soundtrack, and time-lapse video of fungi unfurling and spewing their spores on unsuspecting hosts. It was all so bizarre, and such an unknown world to me, that I wanted to know more. I kept researching, and eventually the bits and pieces coalesced into a story idea.

Maggie and Nate: The Dynamic Duo

MR: The novel’s protagonist, Magnolia “Maggie” Stone, is a STEM-savvy eleven-year-old aspiring naturalist. She’s brave, smart, and committed to discovering the truth about the mutant fungus. Her best friend, Nate, a wannabe YouTube star and alien conspiracist, is loyal to Maggie’s cause and hysterically funny. What allowed you to create such nuanced—and incredibly realistic—characters as Maggie and Nate? Also, do you have a favorite?

SRS: Thank you for saying that, Melissa. I love all my characters, particularly the main pair, Maggie and Nate. But in terms of who was the most fun to write, it’s probably some of the side characters, like Nate, and my villain. One thing I focus on when creating characters is paying attention to their dialogue. I read it out loud and then play it back to myself using the text-to-speech function on my computer. It gives me a feel for how the characters may sound to others.

MR: In the novel, Maggie’s older brother, Ezra, displays weird symptoms after coming into contact with the bioluminescent fungus. When Maggie and Nate go into the forest to investigate, they wear hazmat suits made from garbage bags, and wear protective goggles, to keep themselves safe. This sounds eerily similar to precautions taken during the coronavirus. Am I reading too much into this?

SRS: I didn’t know about coronavirus at the time I wrote those scenes, but there are some similarities in how the problem is tackled. Since the kids don’t have access to fancy hazmat suits, they improvise and create their own makeshift suits using household items. It was fun to brainstorm what a couple of kids without a lot of money could come up with on the fly to protect themselves from mutant spores.

Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

MR: Before writing The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, you were a science reporter for a newspaper, covering such diverse topics as nanotech tweezers, poultry farm pollution, and the nighttime habits of spiders and snakes. What was the strangest story you ever covered?

SRS: The nanotech tweezers is still one of my favorites. The professor I interviewed was working on a project at NASA at the time and was very excited about all the possibilities in the field of nanotechnology. The project focused on the creation of laser tweezers that would allow scientists to manipulate things like atoms and molecules without damaging them. It’s been a number of years, so I’m sure the science has continued to grow. It would be interesting to find out what can be done with nano-particles in 2020. Perhaps something that could end up in a middle-grade mystery?

MR: Can you tell Mixed-Up Files readers a bit about your path to publication? Smooth sailing or bumpy terrain? Or something in between?

SRS: It’s probably somewhere in between. I started writing fiction many years ago, in college, with hopes to one day write a novel. But then I started my professional life, had kids, and life got busy. I put the dream on the back burner for a long time. Then, about five years ago, it was like a switch flipped and I started writing again; this time with more intention and focus. I felt determined to see things through, and approached the goal with more drive than I’d previously had.

It took about two years of writing–including finishing and querying a different manuscript–before I got the idea for The Mutant Mushroom Takeover. I entered an early draft of the manuscript into a writing contest called Pitch Wars, and selected to be a mentee in the fall of 2018. Boosted by the advice from my mentors, I spent that winter revising the book. In early 2019, I landed my agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, and that summer we sold the book to Simon & Schuster. Now, about a year later, The Mutant Mushroom Takeover is out in the world!

Tips for Multitaskers

MR: I read that you have three kids. How do you balance your parenting responsibilities with your writing? It must be a herculean feat, especially in these difficult days of Covid. Any tips to share with other multitasking writers? 

SRS: It can be challenging at times. When I’m on deadline, I try to squeeze writing in whenever I can–early mornings, afternoons, late at night. Otherwise, when I’m drafting or working at a more usual pace, I carve out a window of a couple of hours most days and head to a quiet room in the house to work. Thankfully, my kids aren’t tiny anymore so they’re able to be independent for a bit.

The process isn’t always picture perfect. My house gets messy and sometimes our meals aren’t as great as I’d like. But the busyness comes and goes in waves, so I try to have grace with myself and not feel too guilty about dusty furniture or laundry in need of folding.

MR: What’s next on your writing agenda, Summer? Care to share a bit about your latest project?

SRS:  I’m currently revising the sequel to The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, which is set in Yellowstone National Park and features a brand new mystery for Maggie and Nate to solve. I won’t say too much, but there are large reptiles involved! The book is slated to release Fall 2021, and I hope to do a cover reveal in the next few months. (I’ve seen a sneak peek and it’s gorgeous!)

MR: Oh! Last thing. No MUF interview is complete without a…

Lightning Round!

Preferred writing snack? Dark chocolate.

Coffee or tea? Coffee with cream and cinnamon.

Favorite mushroom? Shiitake.

Favorite song? “West Coast” by Imagine Dragons.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay, unless they’re the really slow kind.

Superpower? Snap my fingers and the house cleans itself.

Favorite place on earth? The Redwood Forest.

You’re stranded on a desert island, with only three items in your possession. What are they? Well, my husband is building a boat in our garage, so if I can take that then I’ll just make it a relaxing day trip to the island and have my other two items be a book and a snack.

MR: Thank you for chatting with me, Summer—and congratulations on the publication of The Mutant Mushroom Takeover. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

SRS: Thanks so much for having me!

And now…

A GIVEAWAY!!!

For a copy of The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, comment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files’ Twitter account–for a chance to win! A winner will be chosen at midnight EST, 10/30. Good luck… and may the best mushroom win!

SUMMER RACHEL SHORT Summer lives in North Texas with her charming husband, three hilarious kids, a fluffy kitty, and a big yellow dog. Before spinning tales about mutant mushrooms, she once worked as a science reporter for her university’s newspaper, where she wrote on topics like nanotech tweezers, poultry farm pollution, and the nighttime habits of spiders and snakes. For fun, she enjoys exploring new places with the family, playing tennis, and dreaming up ideas for her next book. Learn more about Summer on her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.