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July New Releases

Whether it’s a spooky, silly, or serious book you’re looking for, July has some great reads for your summer pleasure. Take a look!

 

Coop Knows the Scoop

By Taryn Souders

The whole town is talking about what’s buried beneath the playground. Windy Bottom, Georgia is usually a peaceful place. Coop helps his mom at her café and bookstore, hangs out with his grandpa, and bikes around with his friends Justice and Liberty. The town is full of all kinds of interesting people, but no one has ever caused a problem. Until now.

And somehow, Gramps is taking all the blame! It seems like there are a lot of secrets that were buried in their small town after all. Will Coop and his friends get to the bottom of the mystery and clear Gramps’s name before it’s too late?

 

 

Act (A Click Graphic Novel)

By Kayla Miller

Olive is excited to start sixth grade: new teachers, new experiences, and a field trip to the big city with her best buds! But when Olive finds out that a school policy is keeping some kids from going on the trip, she decides to act. She’s prepared to do whatever it takes to be heard—even if it means running against Trent and Sawyer, two of her closest friends, in the student council election! With intense campaign competition and emotions running high, can Olive make a big change and keep her friends?

New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Kayla Miller crafts a genuine and inspiring story about evolving friendships, supportive family, and finding out that you—yes, you—have the power to make a difference.

 

 

Attack on Pearl Harbor (Ranger in Time)

By Kate Messner, illus. by Kelley McMorris

I Survived meets The Puppy Place in this thrilling adventure novel as Ranger—a time-traveling golden retriever—races to the rescue on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Ranger travels back to 1941 Hawaii, where World War II is on everyone’s minds. That includes Ben Hansen, a young sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor, and twins Paul and Grace Yamada who are making their weekly market trip when Japanese bombs begin to fall from the sky. As the surprise attack puts all of Ranger’s new friends in danger, his search-and-rescue training kicks into high gear. Can he help them survive against all odds?

 

 

Kiki’s Delivery Service

By Eiko Kadono

Half-witch Kiki never runs from a challenge. So when her thirteenth birthday arrives, she’s eager to follow a witch’s tradition: choose a new town to call home for one year. Brimming with confidence, Kiki flies to the seaside village of Koriko and expects that her powers will easily bring happiness to the townspeople. But gaining the trust of the locals is trickier than she expected.

With her faithful, wise-cracking black cat, Jiji, by her side, Kiki forges new friendships and builds her inner strength, ultimately realizing that magic can be found in even the most ordinary places. Blending fantasy with the charm of everyday life, this enchanting new translation will inspire both new readers and dedicated fans.

 

 

Scare Me

By K.R. Alexander

A haunted house has come to life in this spine-tingling novel from the author of The Collector.

They’ve lost control of the haunted house.Every year, the town of Happy Hills holds its haunted house contest. In a spooky old manor, teams of kids come up with new ways to frighten people. The scariest team wins. But this year, all the teams are going to lose. Because this year the house itself has awakened . . . and it won’t be happy until it’s devoured all the people inside. What started out as a game has turned into something much more deadly. Is there any way out?

 

 

War Stories

By Gordon Korman

There are two things Trevor loves more than anything else: playing war-based video games and his great-grandfather Jacob, who is a true-blue, bona fide war hero. At the height of the war, Jacob helped liberate a small French village, and was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to America.

Now it’s decades later, and Jacob wants to retrace the steps he took during the war— from training to invasion to the village he is said to have saved. Trevor thinks this is the coolest idea ever. But as they get to the village, Trevor discovers there’s more to the story than what he’s heard his whole life, causing him to wonder about his great-grandfather’s heroism, the truth about the battle he fought, and the importance of genuine valor.

 

 

History Smashers: The Mayflower

By Kate Messner, illus. by Dylan Meconis

In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and made friends with Wampanoag people who gave them corn. RIGHT? WRONG! It was months before the Pilgrims met any Wampanoag people, and nobody gave anybody corn that day.

Did you know that the Pilgrims didn’t go straight from England to Plymouth? No, they made a stop along the way—and almost stayed forever! Did you know there was a second ship, called the Speedwell, that was too leaky to make the trip? No joke. And just wait until you learn the truth about Plymouth Rock.

Through illustrations, graphic panels, photographs, sidebars, and more, acclaimed author Kate Messner smashes history by exploring the little-known details behind the legends of the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving.

 

 

Dress Coded

By Carrie Firestone

Molly Frost is FED UP… Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top. Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit. Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F. Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips. Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction. Because middle school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.

 

 

Who Is David Beckham?

By Ellen Labrecque, illus. by John Hinderliter

Whenever a young David Beckham was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d always answer with the same response: I want to be a footballer. This English native got his wish when he joined the Manchester United team in 1991. Since then, he has been crossing, bending, and free-kicking his way to stardom. In his twenty-year career as a professional soccer player, he has won nineteen major trophies, and appeared at three FIFA World Cup tournaments.

David Beckham has become an international cultural icon for his soccer skills, his charity work, and his fashionable wife and family.

 


If You Want a Friend in Washington: Wacky, Wild & Wonderful Presidential Pets

By Erin McGill

President Truman famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” And a dog is what many presidents got.

From James Garfield to Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon, presidents often found a friend in Fido (in fact, Abe Lincoln’s pup was actually named Fido). Others preferred cats, horses, small critters, or even big, ferocious animals like bears and alligators.

Whether it’s favorite dogs like Barbara Bush’s Millie or the Obamas’ Bo; Abraham Lincoln’s cat, Dixie; Calvin Coolidge’s hippo, Billy; or Andrew Jackson’s foul-mouthed parrot, Poll, Erin McGill brings to life a menagerie of presidential pets in this entertaining, whimsical, and carefully researched picture book that’s perfect for animal lovers and history buffs alike.

 

 

Rise of Zombert (The Zombert Chronicles)

By Kara LaReau, illus. by Ryan Andrews

While helping her best friend, Danny, film his latest horror flick, Mellie discovers a scraggly cat behind a dumpster outside the YummCo Foods factory. Mellie names the stray Bert and hides him in her room, knowing her parents won’t let her keep him. But soon Bert has decapitated all her stuffed animals, and before long he is leaving the headless corpses of birds and mice as gifts for her. Danny is convinced the cat is a zombie, living on the brains of his victims. But is that what is really going on? Award-winning author Kara LaReau lets loose a fresh and sharply funny new mystery series, with an irresistible touch of the macabre. Fans of creepy stories and animal lovers alike will devour this fast-moving first episode in one gulp.

STEM Tuesday– SHARKS!– Interview with Author Lisa Bullard

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Lisa Bullard, author of We Need Sharks (The Animals Files). It’s a fascinating look into the mysterious life of sharks, the important role they play in Earth’s ecosystem and the conservation efforts underway to prevent their extinction.

***

Christine Taylor-Butler: Lisa, you are the prolific author of more than 100 books for children. In your bio, you suggest you found your calling when, as a 5th grade student, you sent a letter to the local  newspaper about the plight of baby seals. What concerned you about the seals and how did it feel to see your name in print for the first time?

Lisa Bullard: Thanks so much for asking me to share my “origin story” as a published writer! The day that letter was published really was a life-changing day for me. Looking back, I don’t remember any of the details about why I wrote it—maybe it was a school assignment, or a suggestion from my mom, who was a huge animal lover? But what I do clearly remember is the huge feeling of pride that came with seeing my name in print and knowing that people all over town would read the words I’d written. I decided that day that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. I’d been writing since I could first sort the letters of the alphabet into actual words—I wrote stories, poems, songs, comic strips; I even attempted a mystery novel. But what changed for me with that 5th-grade publication was the understanding that writing isn’t just something we do to entertain ourselves. Writers also have readers! And writing as a career choice means we get to use words to persuade people to take action, or to learn something new, or to enjoy a good story.

As soon as I got home from school that day, I decided to practice being a “real” writer. In my 5th-grade brain, that translated to me deciding I needed a glorious signature full of swoops and swirls and curlicues. I was sure that when I became famous, I’d need a very distinct autograph. But as I now tell kids during my school visits, if your plan is to someday sign your name over and over, don’t make it complicated: instead, make it as simple as possible! It always takes me longer than it should to sign my books at events because my signature is way too fancy. Of course, as a grownup writer of very modest name recognition, I also find it funny that rather than practicing my story-writing to prepare for my writing career, my 5th-grade self instead decided to practice “being famous.”

CTB: You started your career as Marketing Director in publishing. Was it a tough transition to switch to the other side of the aisle and become a full-time author?

Lisa: A lot of what happens during the publishing process is mysterious to authors. I’ve also discovered that many writers are daunted by having to market their books. So I feel really fortunate to have an insider’s perspective on those things from my publishing career. There was an adjustment period, however. I was still working in publishing while my first couple of books were going through the publishing process (at a different publisher). Some authors are very demanding (just like there are demanding people in every profession, I’m sure). So when I first shared the news that I was going to have a book published, some of my coworkers looked a bit horrified, warning me not to become a “diva.” Hopefully I succeeded in avoiding that when I transitioned over to writing full-time.

CTB: So let’s talk sharks! My first introduction to them was in the movie, Jaws. After that I was scared to go back into the ocean. But your book, We Need Sharks, shows their importance to Earth’s ecosystem. What lead you to write about them?

Lisa: My books have come about in different ways. In some cases, I’ve dreamed up a concept, written a manuscript based on that, and been fortunate enough to sell it to a publisher. As an example, that’s how my mystery novel Turn Left at the Cow came about. But in the case of many of my nonfiction books, including We Need Sharks, the process has been different: they were work-for-hire projects assigned by educational publishers. That means that I have a working relationship as a freelance writer with publishers or packagers who focus on the kinds of books that are especially popular in school libraries. They identify a need in their marketplace, and then approach writers with a concept for a book or series based on that need. If I agree to take on the project, then my job is to write the book based on their guidelines, which specify details such as the key idea, reading level, word count, back matter, and kind of research expected. The process is different than when I come up with the concept myself, but I’ve discovered it can be really satisfying. It’s almost like putting a puzzle together, having to figure out how to meet all the guideline demands while still creating a book I hope kids will love to read.

“Walking Catfish”
Image by: Pam Fuller, USGS

The good news is that this process feeds my personally inspired book projects as well. I always learn so many fascinating things about the subjects I write about, and those facts often lead to new writing projects! In fact, a big inspiration for Turn Left at the Cow was an animal called the walking catfish. I stumbled across it while researching a nonfiction series. This strange creature manages to survive out of water, and it provided a fantastic metaphor for my fictional character, a kid who feels very much like a “fish out of water.”

CTB: Was there anything that surprised you while researching your book?

Lisa: Probably the biggest surprise for me in writing We Need Sharks was something I hadn’t thought about prior to writing this book, and that’s how tough it is for scientists to research ocean animals. They’re difficult to study for reasons that are now obvious to me. That’s why oceans remain a frontier of science.

Image by Terry Goss / CC BY-SA

CTB: You suggest that some shark species are “top predators” which means other animals don’t hunt them. The exception is human beings, is that right?

Lisa: Even great white sharks, the fearsome creature that epitomizes sharks for many people, are sometimes preyed upon by orcas. But generally, yes, sharks are much more likely to be the predator than the prey—with the notable exception of their interactions with humans, when sharks are much more often the prey.

CTB: Now the United Nations is working with countries to create shark sanctuaries to protect them from extinction. Are those measures working?

Excerpt from We Need Sharks

Lisa: Shark sanctuaries are just one of the measures people are taking to protect sharks. For example, there has also been important progress in educating people about and regulating against the practice of shark finning. But as I mentioned above, ocean animals are difficult to study in the wild, and that makes it hard for scientists to measure current shark populations—which means we don’t know the whole story about whether preservation measures are working.

CTB: Were you able to consult with experts when researching the book?

Lisa: Talking to subject experts has provided some of my most interesting research moments over the years. For example, I was able to talk with a crane operator when I was researching a book about construction cranes, and he gave me the best quote ever: he said that the crane operator is known to the rest of the construction workers as the “king of the sandbox.”

But as was the case with We Need Sharks, work-for-hire deadlines are often very tight, and there’s simply not enough time built into the process to track down interview subjects and conduct interviews. In those cases I make sure that the research materials I use are sources created by experts, such as museums, universities, and research institutions. Fortunately in some cases, editors have subject experts review my manuscripts to make sure that I’ve gotten the facts right. I’m always grateful when that’s the case, as it was for We Need Sharks.

CTB: I often tell students that our jobs as writers are very similar to their work on homework assignments. You open the book with such a  powerful paragraph to pull the reader in. What would you like children/students to know about writing engaging nonfiction?

Excerpt: We Need Sharks

Lisa: Because the books I write are often for very young readers, many of them are also very short. That means that there just isn’t room for me to fit in all of the facts I learn through my research about the topic. So I’ve come up with two basic rules to determine what information to include. First, I figure out what I think a reader must know to gain a true basic understanding of the topic. Then I decide on a couple of “fun facts” to include—the kind of things that aren’t the most critical pieces of information, but that are real attention-grabbers. These high-interest facts move readers into “discovery mode,” where they’re excited to learn. I hope that combination helps readers absorb all the information I’m presenting and be motivated to learn even more. So for all the student authors out there, I believe our job as writers is to inspire readers to actively wonder about the world!

This also means that my friends and family are used to me testing random facts in the middle of dinner to see if those facts are, indeed, attention-grabbing; like “Did you know stock car drivers have to climb in through the window because there are no doors?” Or, “Did you know that scorpions glow a neon-aqua color under ultraviolet light?”

CTB: What’s up next for you? Any books on the horizon we should be looking out for?

Lisa: Thanks for asking! I know that in some cases my publishers have had to delay titles because of COVID-19, but I believe Saving Mountain Gorillas will come out within the next few months, and that’s for the same age group as We Need Sharks. I also have some books for beginning nonfiction readers slated to come out this summer: Crayola ® Desert Colors, Crayola ® Woodland Colors, and Crayola ® Tundra Colors.

CTB: Lisa, thanks for being such a great guest on STEM Tuesday and for providing pearls of wisdom for writers of all ages wanting to peek behind the curtain of our industry.

Thanks for talking with me, Christine, and thanks, everyone, for sharing today’s Writing Road Trip with me! I hope that you’ll be inspired to keep reading, keep writing, and keep wondering!

Win a FREE copy of We Need Sharks

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.
Good luck!

Photo credit: Katherine Warde

Lisa Bullard is the author of more than 100 books for children including nonfiction, fiction, and writing guides. Recent books include We Need Bees, Tides, and the Go Green series. Her book Turn Left at the Cow was nominated for a number of state reader awards and was chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection. To learn more visit Lisa at https://www.lisabullard.com and follow her on Facebook.

 

Christine Taylor-Butler

Your host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and many other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the STEM inspired middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

Capturing Past Summer Memories: A writing activity for writers of all ages

This summer is like no other. So many fun activities we normally do aren’t even an option this year. Since the places we can go are limited, let’s take the time to reflect on past summer experiences (and add a twist!). These writing prompts are designed for adult and young writers alike.

Part I
I have so many wonderful summer memories: neighborhood block parties with water balloon fights, going to the amusement park and riding roller coasters, and [sob!] hanging out at the pool for hours. These memories that are so important to me aren’t written down anywhere, although I never want to forget them. It’s time to get them down on paper!

The summer prompts below serve several different purposes:

  1. To capture the memories for our own sakes.
  2. To enjoy reflecting on activities you may not be able to do this year.
  3. To serve as a writing exercise to get the creative juices flowing.

Here are some prompts to consider. Choose to write on as many topics as you want, but focus on one at a time. Really dig deep to remember the specifics of your past experience. Be sure to add sensory details (sounds, tastes, etc.)!

Vacation:

What was your favorite trip? Who went? What kind of transportation did you use to get there? What did you enjoy doing? What was some
thing you didn’t enjoy doing? What souvenirs did you get?

Swimming:
Where did you go to swim? Who did you go with? What did you do there? What was your favorite thing to buy at the concession stand? What’s the funniest thing that happened to you? What’s the bravest thing you did? Did you play any games in the water?

Summer Camp:
Where did you go? What were your favorite activities? Did you stay overnight? Who was in your cabin? Did you make any new friends? What was your favorite camp food? What was your least favorite?  What’s the funniest thing that happened to you? Did anything scary happen? What’s the bravest thing you did? Were you homesick?

Neighborhood:
What did you do in your neighborhood? With whom? Did you go to a nearby playground? What did you do there? Did you ever play games after it was dark out? How did you get around (walk, skateboard, bike)?

Amusement Park:
Where did you like to go? Who did you go with? What were some of your favorite rides? How did you feel when you were finally tall enough for the “big” rides? Were there rides you were afraid to go on? What else did you do at the park?

Beach:
What beach did you visit? How long did it take you to get there? Who did you go with? What did you do there? Did you bring a picnic lunch? Did you go in the water? What was the most impressive thing you built out of sand? What was the neatest or most unusual thing you saw there?

Rainy Day:
What did you usually do on rainy days? Did you go somewhere or stay in? Where did you go? Did you ever build anything? Did you play any games? Did a friend come over?

Add Your Own:
What other activity do you normally do in the summer that you won’t be able to do this year? What did you like about it? Who did you enjoy doing it with? Was there something you did that you thought you wouldn’t like, but did?

Part II
Now if you want to “create” a new summer experience, go one step further and…mash it up!

Turn one of your summer experiences into…

  • a fantasy adventure! Add a mythical creature or a superpower. Create a villain like no other to ruin your summer. Or come up with something (or someone) supernatural to save it.
  • science fiction! Have the amusement park exist on Mars or a distant planet. Invent new technology that makes summer camp even more fun.
  • a comic strip! Show an experience through panels. Invent dialogue.
  • a picture book! Split your text into pages and add illustrations (note: you don’t need to be a professional artist to do art! Drawing stick figures or even cutting images out of old magazines will do!).
  • a poem! Try capturing one of your memories in verse.

Part III
Store your memories somewhere safe to reflect on them again in the future. Maybe you want to create a time capsule with the whole family’s memories in it. If you plan to bury it outside, roll up the papers tightly, tape them to stay rolled, and slide them into a clean, dry, empty (wide-mouthed) plastic bottle to rediscover years later. (Note: you may have to cut the paper first so that it will fit in the bottle.)

Hopefully next summer we will return to our usual activities. But in the meantime, enjoy remembering the good old days of past summers past!

Please share your own favorite summer memory in the comments below.