Congratulations, Meg Medina!

Meg Median with medal

Newberry winner Meg Medina has been selected as the 2023-2024 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The Library of Congress, in partnership with Every Child a Reader, seeks to raise awareness of literature for young readers in order to promote literacy and highlight the power of reading to positively impact young lives.

Meg Medina


About Medina’s Work

Medina’s books reflect her Cuban-American heritage as she examines culture and identity through the eyes of young protagonists. Her middle-grade novel Merci Suarez Changes Gears, the first in a series of three books, is a coming-of-age story about a thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader who has to navigate life’s changes with friends and family. It was awarded the 2019 Newbery Medal and was named by the New York Times Book Review as a notable children’s book.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears book cover; girl on bike; Newbery medal


Medina’s Role as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

In her new role, Medina will travel the country, engaging readers through her ¡Cuéntame!: Let’s talk books platform. The name of her platform borrows a Spanish expression used when friends and family members are catching up with one another. Medina’s goal is to encourage connection among families, classrooms, libraries, and communities through conversations about books. In addition to discussing her own work, Medina plans to host “book talks” with kids about a range of authors, styles, and genres. She hopes to not only expose readers to books that reflect their own lives, but to also expose readers to new perspectives through characters who represent a variety of lived experiences.

Medina says, “It’s an enormous honor to advocate for the reading and writing lives of our nation’s children and families. I realize the responsibility is critical, but with the fine examples of previous ambassadors to guide me, I am eager to get started on my vision for this important work. More than anything, I want to make reading and story-sharing something that happens beyond classroom and library walls. I want to tap into books and stories as part of everyday life, with all of us coming to the table to share the tales that speak to us and that broaden our understanding of one another.”

Meg Medina at speaker podium wearing medal

History of the Role

The designation of a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature began in 2008. The Library of Congress makes their selection based on recommendations by a field of experts, including educators, librarians, booksellers, and children’s literature specialists. The position was last held by author Jason Reynolds, and other former ambassadors include Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, Kate DiCamillo, and Jacqueline Woodson.

In the News

You can watch Medina’s inauguration as National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature here, and learn about this former teacher’s perspective on reading and her mission to revitalize joy in readers. To learn more about Medina’s travels and events, visit the Every Child a Reader website. Watch for downloadable materials related to Medina’s mission and appearances coming soon.

Congratulations to middle-grade author Meg Medina for this special honor. We will be watching as young people across the country engage with reading through ¡Cuéntame!: Let’s talk books.


Turtles of the Midnight Moon: Debut Author Interview + Giveaway

Turtles of the Midnight Moon 

María José Fitzgerald takes us on an adventure to Honduras where we encounter many twists and turns in solving a mystery. I had a chance to find out more of the behind-the-scenes with my interview with her. Read to find out about how this book came to be, tips on writing your own eco-mystery, and ways to use the book in your classroom. Plus, enter the book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Turtles of the Midnight Moon!

Maria Jose’ Fitzgerald – Debut Author Interview

About the Book

Hi Maria! Thank you for sharing Turtles of the Midnight Moon with me. I love a good eco-mystery! Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Thank you so much for sharing my debut novel in From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!

Turtles of the Midnight Moon follows two 12-year-old girls, Barana and Abby, as they attempt to solve a sea turtle egg poaching mystery in Barana’s coastal village in Honduras. Barana has a special—almost magical—connection to the leatherback sea turtles that come to her beach to nest. She is a poet and an artist with great compassion for the planet and its creatures. She also feels invisible and misunderstood by her family. Abby lives in New Jersey and is a multi-cultural kid with a Honduran father and American mom. She is a budding photographer who sees the world through her camera. Abby longs to one day visit her father’s homeland. As she struggles to reckon with a difficult year in 6th grade, she’s overjoyed to finally get the opportunity to join her Papi on a work trip to his childhood home. Abby and Barana’s stories come together when Abby and her father stay at Barana’s abuela’s casita, or guest house. Upon first meeting, Barana and Abby want nothing to do with each other, but soon enough, they join forces as the two commit to trying to stop the poachers and bring them to justice. As they hunt for clues and follow leads, the two of them also wrestle with questions of identity, family, and friendship. Turtles of the Midnight Moon is a story about our connection to the natural world and each other, and how compassion and courage can cause big waves of change.   

Preorder Available Now

When does it come out?

The book is available for pre-order now and will hit bookshelves on March 14th, 2023!


Tell us who would especially enjoy this book?  

Readers who love a character-driven mystery and who appreciate our amazing planet and its creatures will especially enjoy this novel.

Weaving Parts of Yourself into the Story

How did your childhood help to shape this book? (Be sure to tell us about your grandfather’s impact on you!)

 As a kid I was a little scared of the ocean, but I loved it anyway, and I believed there was something magical about it. Every year, we spent time on the beach with my family. It was my paternal grandmother, Bela’s, happy place, and where she was born. One of her favorite stories to tell us was how they’d set up shark alarms on the beach to alert the fishermen when there was a shark in the water! I learned to swim and snorkel at an early age, and I would explore until my fingers looked like raisins, despite constantly looking over my shoulder for sharks and barracudas. Though I never saw a leatherback sea turtle, I did see many other beautiful creatures in the reefs, including other species of sea turtles. My paternal grandfather was a big nature lover. He’d go on long walks in the woods and sometimes take us with him for parts of it, pointing out birds and other critters. He nicknamed each of us after an animal. I was his bunny—Coneja. Many of the characters in my story have bits of my childhood and my family. Tulu’s disdain for plastic and trash, Chiqui’s art, Abby’s questions about her identity as a Honduran-American, the food in the novel, and so much more. I think it’s impossible to tell a story without weaving in parts of yourself, little anecdotes, and even things that we are not even conscious about as we’re writing them!

Becoming an Author

How did you end up becoming an author? And did you have other jobs before that?

I always loved stories, writing, poetry, and keeping a journal, but I never, ever imagined I’d be a published author. I studied Ecology, Education, and became a teacher. Though I was a teacher for a long time, I also had other odd jobs throughout my young-adult life, all of which have shaped who I am. In 2019 I turned 40 and decided to take a break from my teaching career to focus on my family (and to possibly give writing a try) …That summer, Barana and Abby came to me as fully formed characters, and I wrote a (pretty bad) first draft that year. A little backstory: when I was in my twenties, I wrote a picture book about sea turtles. The opening poem in Turtles of the Midnight Moon is a revised iteration of that picture book!

As writers do, I started querying after sharing my first draft with a handful of friends. I received a lot of rejections in 2020, and a couple of R&R’s. It was discouraging, but I wasn’t about to give up. Later that same year, my manuscript was selected for Pitch Wars. That was the moment everything changed. Under the mentorship of Jessica Vitalis and Julie Artz, I was able to rewrite, revise, and polish my manuscript and sign with my agent. While I returned to the classroom this year, I am still writing and dreaming up stories in my free time. Stay tuned for my second book announcement sometime this year.

Congratulations on your second book! What authors (and/or books) would you say influenced your writing style?

So many authors have inspired me and influenced who I am as a writer. E.B. White is a big one that comes to mind–I love the compassion in his stories. Erin Entrada Kelly is a master at creating memorable, relatable characters, and I love to read her stories as mentor texts for that reason. Other authors whose work inspires me are Katherine Applegate, Adrianna Cuevas, Meg Medina, Heather Murphy Capps, Anne Ursu, Rebecca Balcárcel, Kim Baker, Anna Sewell, and Rebecca Stead, to name a few!

Character Connections

You mentioned the characters Abby and Barana are inspired by your daughters. Who do you feel you’re more like of the two?

I am definitely a little bit like both of them, but perhaps I share a few more traits with Barana than I do with Abby. Barana’s love of words and poetry, her special connection to Luna, her compassion for wildlife, and her frustration with the gender roles she must abide to in Honduras are things I have in common with her. I wish I were as brave as Barana though! She is certainly much more of a risk taker than I ever was at her age. I can relate deeply to Abby’s struggle with not feeling “Honduran enough” or “Latina enough,” and also like Abby, I dealt with my closest friend moving away in 6th grade.


What was your original spark for the book?

It’s hard to explain, but the stories that come to me just show up like lightning in my mind. I have no idea what sparks them. Life experiences, personal interests, timing, and the mystery of the human imagination!

I know that you grew up in Honduras, but I’m guessing you still needed to fill in some holes. What research did you end up having to do?

Yes, I did have to fill in some holes. I spent a lot of time reading about the lobster diving industry, decompression sickness, and the many issues faced by lobster divers and environmental activists in Honduras. I knew quite a bit about sea turtles already, but I did have to do some fact checking about leatherbacks for the novel. For Abby, I spent a lot of time following, reading about, and admiring some amazing wildlife photographers on social media.

What is something from your childhood that you snuck into the book? 

I snuck in a lot of things, but I’m not sure I can list them all here! The food, for one. I included my favorite dishes growing up in Honduras, which continue to be my comfort food. The trash collecting and recycling we see Tulu doing is something my father still does to this day. He does not make art sculptures per se, but he will reuse anything and everything, and he’s built a lot of decorative windows from recycled bottles. The scuba diving, sibling rivalries, and church-going in the story are all very loosely based on my own experiences as a child.

Turtles of the MidniAny tips on writing an eco-mystery or a mystery in general?

Writing mysteries can be scary for writers. They’re like a big puzzle that you have to somehow structure in your mind and then get on the page. For me, it required lots of pre-writing and lots of thinking! Here are three tip I can offer for writing a mystery in general:

  1. Know who your villain/culprit is from the get-go. Whether you are a plotter, a pantser, or anything in between, knowing the ending is crucial for a mystery.
  2. Try to include a plot twist after the mystery has been ‘solved’ so that both the reader and the protagonist can discover the real truth at the same time.
  3. Remember your readers are smart! Leave hints and plant them throughout the novel but keep them subtle and organic so they feel naturally a part of the scene.


For Teachers

This would be a great read aloud or small group novel in the classroom, teachers! My suggestion of topics to discuss and research: the impact of humans on wildlife, the culture and the biodiversity of Honduras, and friendship.

Maria, any suggestions you have for ways to use Turtles of the Midnight Moon in the classroom?

I think this novel lends itself nicely to an interdisciplinary unit that includes science, language arts, social studies/geography, and art. Students can research marine ecosystems and sea turtle ecology in science, explore the themes, magical elements, and structure of the eco-mystery novel in language arts, make art sculptures or collages from recycled plastic in art, and perhaps study Central American geography in social studies.


Are you doing school visits related to this book? Tell us more!

Absolutely! I am very excited to do school visits! The target grade range is 4th-7th grade, with the sweet spot being 4th and 5th grade. I’ll cover topics such as the writing process, how a book gets published, and share a little bit about the novel itself (without spoilers), Honduras, and sea turtles. I will try to deliver a message of hope and empowerment, so that kids leave my presentation knowing that they, too, can have a great impact in their local community’s natural environment.

How can we learn more about you?

My website is

I am mostly on Instagram @

 María José Fitzgerald will be giving a copy of Turtles of the Midnight Moon to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy. (U.S. addresses only, no P.O. Boxes)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March New Releases

March is blowing in with some great New Middle Grade Releases – including one by our very own Beth McMullen. (Congratulations, Beth!) Find a cozy blanket and a patch of almost-Spring sunlight and settle in with one of these new books.


Miracle by Karen S. Chow

When her father dies, Amie’s ability to play music dies, too. Nothing short of a miracle can bring back what she has lost.

Amie has spent her life perfectly in tune with Ba-ba, her father–she plays the violin, his favorite instrument; she loves all his favorite foods, even if he can’t eat them during his cancer treatments; and they talk about books, including Amie’s favorite series, Harry Potter. But after Ba-ba dies, Amie feels distanced from everyone close to her, like her mother and her best friends, Rio and Bella. More devastating still, she loses her ability to play the violin–the notes that used to flow freely are now stilted and sharp. Will Amie ever find her way back to the music she once loved?

With hope and harmony lighting the way–and with help from the people who care about her most–Amie must find the strength to carry on. In the end, she’ll learn that healing, while painful, can be its own miraculous song.





The Alchemy of Letting Go by Amber Morrell

A young scientist finds a magical way to escape death, but can’t escape her emotions.

Twelve-year-old Juniper Edwards can’t stop chasing the endangered butterfly her sister died trying to catch. In her grief, Juniper finds comfort in her family’s study of insects, because science is based on logic, order, and control. But then Juniper’s search for the butterfly nearly kills her, too, and when she wakes up with newfound abilities, she discovers that the line between science and magic–and life and death–is not as solid as she thought. With the help of her mysterious neighbors, Juniper tries an experiment to change things back to the way they were. Its result will force her to face the fact that some things are way beyond her control.






A Dress To Remember: A Fairy Tale by  K. L. Small (Author) Brandon Dorman (Illustrator)


Strong-willed Princess Zarina wants a special dress for the Royal Advancement Ceremony on her birthday in two weeks. She makes a deal with a mysterious dressmaker for a ball gown that everyone will remember.

The dressmaker creates a beautiful black dress for her. However, it’s not the dress Zarina expected. Especially when fire fairies dance across the skirt.

After the deal with the dressmaker goes wrong, Zarina is trapped in the magical dress. She must return to the castle on her own. But invaders attack the kingdom and kill the King and Queen. Princess Zarina must avoid capture.

Will the magical dress help her defeat the invaders and save the kingdom?

Winner of a 2022 Bronze Award from the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards in unpublished children’s fiction.



Land of Dragons by Beth McMullen

Seekers of the Wild Realm meets My Diary from the Edge of the World in this second book in the heartwarming and witty middle grade Secret of the Storm series from author of Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls, Beth McMullen!

When twelve-year-old Cassie found a small, abandoned kitten by a dumpster, she never dreamed that taking little Albert home would change her life forever. And she certainly never imagined that Albert would turn out to be a dragon in disguise. All she wants now is to keep Albert safe, but in trying to protect him from ill-intentioned humans, she’s accidentally just sent him back to Vayne, the dragon king who is hunting him.

With the help of Joe, her mom, and Miss Asher, Cassie sets off on a quest: find Albert, and find somewhere he’ll be safe. But in the process, she learns more about the prophecy that’s put him in danger–Albert, with the help of a second dragon, will overthrow Vayne and bring peace to the dragon world. Who is this second dragon? And how exactly can Albert save anyone when he’s being hunted in two different dimensions?

Braving new enemies, unlikely allies, and strange new powers, Cassie is determined to help her kitten–even if it takes her into the Land of Dragons itself.




What Stays Buried by Suzanne Young

In her first book for middle grade readers, New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young brings together a thrilling ghost story, a heartfelt coming of age journey, and a poignant reminder that those we’ve loved and lost are never far away–perfect for fans of Bone Hollow and The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street.

Twelve-year-old Calista Wynn will lose her ability to speak with the dead on her thirteenth birthday.

And with only a few weeks left, children have started going missing.

When Calista meets The Tall Lady–an angry spirit with a grudge against Calista, her family, and the entire town–she knows she’s found the ghost responsible for the disappearances.

It’s up to Calista, the only one who can see The Tall Lady, to stop her. If she doesn’t, Calista won’t just lose her powers… she’ll lose everyone she has left.





The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by  Christina Soontornvat (Author) Kevin Hong (Illustrator)

From two-time Newbery honor recipient Christina Soontornvat comes a compelling new young middle grade fantasy series for readers who love stories about animals, magic, and kids like them embracing their power to change the world.

Young Plum is shocked to discover that she’s been accepted to the Guardian Academy on Lotus Island, an elite school where kids learn how to transform into Guardians, magical creatures who are sworn to protect the natural world. The Guardian masters teach Plum and her friends how to communicate with animals and how to use meditation to strengthen their minds and bodies. All the kids also learn to fight, so they can protect the defenseless if needed.

To her dismay, Plum struggles at school. While her classmates begin to transform into amazing creatures, Plum can’t even seem to magic up a single feather! If she can’t embrace her inner animal form soon, she’ll have to leave school ― and lose the first group of real friends she’s ever known.





Skyriders by Polly Holyoke

Camp Quiltbag by Nicole Melleby and A. J. Sass 

From the acclaimed authors of Hurricane Season and Ana on the Edge, an unforgettable story about the importance of and joy in finding a community, for fans of Alex Gino and Ashley Herring-Blake.

Twelve-year-old Abigail (she/her/hers) is so excited to spend her summer at Camp QUILTBAG, an inclusive retreat for queer and trans kids. She can’t wait to find a community where she can be herself–and, she hopes, admit her crush on that one hot older actress to kids who will understand.

Thirteen-year-old Kai (e/em/eir) is not as excited. E just wants to hang out with eir best friend and eir parkour team. And e definitely does not want to think about the incident that left eir arm in a sling–the incident that also made Kai’s parents determined to send em somewhere e can feel like emself.

After a bit of a rocky start at camp, Abigail and Kai make a pact: If Kai helps Abigail make new friends, Abigail will help Kai’s cabin with the all-camp competition. But as they navigate a summer full of crushes, queer identity exploration, and more, they learn what’s really important. Camp QUILTBAG is a heartfelt story full of the joy that comes from being and loving yourself.




Mirror to Mirror by Rajani Larocca

Rajani LaRocca, recipient of a Newbery Honor and Walter Award for Red, White, and Whole, is back with an evocative novel in verse about identical twin sisters who do everything together–until external pressures threaten to break them apart.

Maya is the pragmatic twin, but her secret anxiety threatens to overwhelm her.

Chaya is the outgoing twin. When she sees her beloved sister suffering, she wants to tell their parents–which makes Maya feel completely betrayed. With Maya shutting her out, Chaya makes a dramatic change to give her twin the space she seems to need. But that’s the last thing Maya wants, and the girls just drift further apart.

The once-close sisters can’t seem to find their rhythm, so they make a bet: they’ll switch places at their summer camp, and whoever can keep the ruse going longer will get to decide where they both attend high school–the source of frequent arguments. But stepping into each other’s shoes comes with its own difficulties, and the girls don’t know how they’re going to make it.

This emotional, lyrical story will speak to fans of Ali Benjamin, Padma Venkatraman, and Jasmine Warga.


Harboring Hope: The True Story of How Henny Sinding Helped Denmark’s Jews Escape the Nazis by Susan Hood

The inspirational true story of how twenty-two-year-old Henny Sinding courageously helped smuggle hundreds of Jewish families in occupied Denmark to safety in Sweden during the Holocaust. A middle grade nonfiction novel-in-verse by award-winning author Susan Hood.

It wouldn’t be easy, but they had to try.

It was their only chance to survive.

In 1943, Henny Sinding, only twenty-two years old, and the crew of Gerda lll, a lighthouse supply boat, risked everything to smuggle their Jewish compatriots across the resund strait to safety in Sweden during World War ll. In Henny’s words, “It was the right thing to do so we did it. Simple as that.” But what happened when their operation’s cover was blown and it was Henny’s turn to escape?

This incredible true story in-verse about courage, community, humanity, and hope is perfect for fans of Lifeboat 12, Alias Anna, and Alan Gratz.

Includes extensive back matter with primary sources, additional information, further reading, and photographs.




The Adventures of the Flash Gang: Episode One: Exploding Experiment by S. J. Waugh and M. M. Downing

That brief, blinding dazzle? The blue smudge and lingering stink? The Flash Gang has struck again! They are the most notorious thieves in Pittsburgh, food-stealing crooks the police and newspapers say are highly trained and very dangerous. But eleven-year-old Lewis Carter isn’t a thief, he’s just homeless and hungry. The Flash is a recipe he invented from bits of his missing father’s scientific research. He uses it to pinch his dinners. It’s been going pretty well, until now…Now his recipe is stolen, and he is in the clutches of some rather nasty people. Enter tutu-wearing, starry-eyed, and all around extraordinary (she will tell you) Pearl Alice Clavell. She is on a mission to uncover a Nefarious Deed she’s convinced involves the Flash Gang. Rescuing Lewis is right up her alley. Truth is, a Nefarious Deed is afoot, one that threatens the entire country. It will take Lewis and Pearl joining forces to save the recipe and themselves against an enemy who will stop at nothing, including kidnapping, and, very possibly, murder.






Doomsday Dani by Carissa Turpin

It’s 1999, and twelve-year-old Dani Collier is preparing for Y2K or, in her view, the end of the world. She spends most of her time poring over a survivalist blog written by the mysterious Professor Prepared and obsessively counting and straightening her emergency supplies.

Despite Dani’s repeated warnings, her classmates and family members don’t seem worried about the new millennium. Dani ignores their skepticism and ridicule, vowing to do whatever necessary to protect the people she loves.

But when January 1st, 2000, unfolds in a way that Dani didn’t expect, she must instead come to terms with her new reality: her parents’ recent divorce, a blossoming, awkward friendship, and repeated humiliation at the hands of a school bully. Will Dani learn to stand up

for herself? Will the embarrassment of her failed prediction haunt her forever?





Hamra and the Jungle of Memories by Hanna Alkaf

A Malaysian spin on Little Red Riding Hood from the critically acclaimed author of The Girl and the Ghost, Hanna Alkaf.

Courage is the strongest magic there is.

On Hamra’s thirteenth birthday, she receives nothing but endless nagging and yet another errand to run in the Langkawi jungle that looms behind her home.

No one has remembered her special day.

And so, stifled and angry, Hamra ignores something she shouldn’t: the rules of the jungle.

Always ask permission before you enter. Hamra walks boldly in.

Never take what isn’t yours. Hamra finds the most perfect jambu and picks it.

Of course, rules exist for a reason, and soon an enormous weretiger is stalking her dreams, demanding payment for her crimes–and Hamra embarks on a quest deep into the jungle to set things right.



Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu by Maisie Chan 

A girl tries to cheer up her grieving, forgetful grandfather by taking him on a rollicking road-trip adventure in this charming and poignant middle-grade novel

Twelve-year-old Lizzie Chu has lived with her Wai Gong (grandfather) in Glasgow since her parents died when she was a baby. But Wai Gong has been acting different lately. He spends a lot of time talking to his Guan Yin statue–the Chinese goddess of compassion, kindness, and mercy–at his altar and seems to be becoming more forgetful. Even the shared passion he and Lizzie have for their favorite show, Strictly Come Dancing, seems to be tailing off.

When Lizzie’s friend Chi visits one day dressed as Princess Leia for Comic Con, Wai Gong mistakes her for Guan Yin, and is naturally delighted, and Lizzie seizes the opportunity to use Chi as Guan Yin to help her with her grandad. And then Lizzie gets an idea: she and Chi can take Wai Gong to Blackpool to the Tower Ballroom, where he’d always dreamed of going. If only she can get her grandad there, she thinks, he’ll find some peace, and perhaps things will be OK at home again. After all, one of the myths around Guan Yin is that she brings order and harmony, so it’s got to work out–right?





Turtles of the Midnight Moon by María José Fitzgerald

When poachers threaten the island they love, two girls team up to save the turtles–and each other. An eco-mystery with an unforgettable friendship story at its heart from a fresh new voice in middle grade.

Twelve-year-old Barana lives in a coastal village in Honduras, where she spends every spare minute visiting the sea turtles that nest on the beach.

Abby is feeling adrift in sixth grade, trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs after her best friend moved away from New Jersey.

When Abby’s papi plans a work trip to Honduras, she is finally given the opportunity to see his homeland–with Barana as her tour guide. But Barana has other plans: someone has been poaching turtle eggs, and she’s determined to catch them! Before long, Abby and Barana are both consumed by the mystery, chasing down suspects, gathering clues, and staking out the beach in the dead of night. . . . Will they find a way to stop the poachers before it’s too late?

A heart-pounding mystery with a hint of magic, María José Fitzgerald’s debut novel explores the power of friendship, community, and compassion to unite all living creatures.




See anything you like? Let us know if the comments below.