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Dragons! And my favorite books about them.

I am currently obsessed with dragons. That might be because my new middle grade series, coming in March, has a dragon. Makes sense, right? But the fun part of being obsessed with dragons is the ‘research’ I got to do reading middle grade dragon books.

They are so GOOD! One sitting and I’m done kind of good. And I would be remiss if I didn’t share them with you immediately.

I’ve picked five for this list but there are many more and if you have a young reader in your life who is also obsessed, a quick search will bring you even more amazing titles. (descriptions from Amazon)

 

SPARK, by Sarah Beth Durst

When a shy girl and her dragon-like companion discover their country’s idyllic weather comes at a steep—and secret—cost, they recruit fellow students to defy authority and attempt to spread the truth.

Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, and Mina longs for a storm beast of her own. But when the gentle girl bonds with a lightning beast—a creature of fire and chaos—everyone’s certain it’s a mistake. Everyone but Mina and the beast himself, Pixit. Quickly enrolled in lightning school, Mina struggles to master a guardian’s skills, and she discovers that her country’s weather comes at a devastating cost—a cost powerful people wish to hide. Mina’s never been the type to speak out, but someone has to tell the truth, and, with Pixit’s help, she resolves to find a way to be heard.

 

 

 

DRAGONS IN A BAG, by Zetta Elliot (series)

The dragon’s out of the bag in this diverse, young urban fantasy from an award-winning author!

When Jaxon is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady his mother calls Ma, he finds out she’s not his grandmother–but she is a witch! She needs his help delivering baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. There are two rules when it comes to the dragons: don’t let them out of the bag, and don’t feed them anything sweet. Before he knows it, Jax and his friends Vikram and Kavita have broken both rules! Will Jax get the baby dragons delivered safe and sound? Or will they be lost in Brooklyn forever?

AN ALA-ALSC NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK
AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

 

THE DRAGON WARRIOR, by Katie Zhao

A debut novel inspired by Chinese mythology, this middle-grade fantasy follows an outcast as she embarks on a quest to save the world from demons–perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.

As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.

Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon–and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.

With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized. . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?

This richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy debut, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

 

THE DRAGON IN THE LIBRARY, by Louie Stowell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, by Grace Lin

This stunning fantasy inspired by Chinese folklore is a companion novel to Starry River of the Sky and the New York Times bestselling and National Book Award finalist When the Sea Turned to Silver

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival 2021

LKBF invite

It’s almost time for  second annual The Latinx Kidlit Book Festival, a virtual celebration of Latinx KidLit authors, illustrators, and books. The festival will open its virtual doors this year from December 9-10, 2021. There festival features two free days of panels, craft sessions and illustrator draw-offs with Latinx authors and illustrators of picture books, middle grade, young adult, graphic novel, comic books and poetry. The sessions are geared towards ALL schools, educators, students and book lovers, not just those identifying as Latinx.  Everyone is welcome at this virtual festival that celebrates diversity in children’s literature and brings books and ideas straight into classrooms.

I had the opportunity to talk to two of the festival’s organisers, Ismee Williams and Alex Villasante, who shared more information about the events and opportunities for kids, teachers, and readers everywhere.

Giving Back

APP: Thank you so much for sharing this festival with us. Can you tell me a little about how the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival started?

lkbf fb 2ISMEE: In 2020, we were concerned about the effects of the pandemic on students and teachers. We wanted to give back, the best way we know how. Through the power of story. The LKBF was conceived to bring authors and illustrators into classrooms of schools everywhere. Not just schools with Latinx communities. All schools. All students. From pre-K through 12th grade and beyond. There will be something for everyone. 

APP: What a great idea! I know how much I enjoyed participating in the festival last year, and sharing it with my homeschoolers. What’s new this year?

ISMEE: In early 2021, we met with members of the NCTE to brainstorm new ideas. More interactive and engaging programming was high on the list. Craft sessions to help teachers teach. More content en Español, perfect for ESL as well as Spanish foreign language classes. We also added content for teachers and for would-be writers. The Author’s Guild is sponsoring a panel for aspiring writers. From Manuscript to Marketplace: Three Publishing Journeys in Kidlit with authors, editors and agents – on Tuesday, December 7th.

On December 8th, Penguin Random House is sponsoring a special Educator Night. Lorena German and David Bowles will talk about #DisruptTexts. Join us to learn how to bring Latinx books into classrooms.

Interactive Programming

APP: What a great opportunity for teachers and everyone interested in diversifying readings for children. I’m especially interested in the interactive programming you mentioned, what exactly does that entail?virtual field trip

ALEX: We want the LKBF to be a virtual field trip for students and educators. We expanded programming to amp the fun and engagement. We have five new craft sessions. Best-selling authors will teach how-to classes on writing, perfect for students. Meg Medina (award-winning author of Merci Suarez Changes Gears) will teach how to write from your own life experiences. That session is for grades 4 – 8, perfect for middle schoolers.

We also have a craft session on creating a picture book with Emma Otheguy, Rene Colato Lainez and Juana Medina. We have one on writing poetry with Margarita Engle. Students should come to these sessions with paper and writing utensils and be ready to have fun! We’ve also got Draw Off sessions. Illustrators compete, responding to prompts submitted by the students. Kids get to see the crazy-creations they suggest come to life! These sessions are interactive and will get students (and teachers) hooked!

APP: Sounds so fun! How can educators, parents and kids get ready to get the most out of the festival?

ALEX: Teachers, librarians and parents should check out the offerings on our educator page. We have author/illustrator introduction Flipgrid videos and educator guides to help students prepare for and engage with the festival. We have mini craft video lessons, meant to act as writing prompts. And a book database to help you find the perfect book for the perfect student. And we want to hear from students directly! Submit student questions for a chance to win a classroom set of books. Ask any book-related question you want. Maybe one of our authors or illustrators will answer it LIVE during the festival!

Middle Grade Panels

APP: As a member of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, I know how important this opportunity is for educators, authors, and kids and can’t wait to attend! Can you tell us a bit about the Middle Grade books and authors you’ll be spotlighting for our MUF readers? mg panel 1

ISMEE: We have so many wonderful MG authors this year! Karla Valenti (Lotería) is moderating Middle And Marvelous: Middle Grade Characters Who Will Steal Your Heart. Karla will be joined by Laura Ojeda Melchor (MISSING OKALEE), Alex Aster (CURSE OF THE FORGOTTEN CITY), Alejandra Algorta (NEVERFORGOTTEN) and Christina Diaz Gonzalez (CONCEALED). Loriel Ryon (INTO THE TALL TALL GRASS) is moderating ¡Qué Cómicos!: Humor In Chapter Books And Middle Grade. Terry Catasús Jennings (ALL FOR ONE), Adrianna Cuevas (THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ), Donna Barba Higuera (LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE/THE LAST CUENTISTA), and Nina Moreno (JOIN THE CLUB, MAGGIE DIAZ) will join Loriel. And don’t miss our opening headlining session! Books As Teachers: Stories That Build Connection, Empathy And Imagination with educatorS Torrey Maldonado (WHAT LANE?/TIGHT) and Rebecca Balcárcel (THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY/SHINE ON, LUZ VÉLIZ). mg panel 2

The More You Know

APP: Where can people go to get more information about the festival?

ALEX:

Want to know how best to watch the festival? Sign up for our newsletter. Links to panels will arrive directly to your inbox. The festival can be streamed live into the classroom from our YouTube channel. Students and teachers can interact with authors and illustrators via the live chat. Content will be available even after the premiere. 

Educators, don’t forget to check out our Wed night event just for you! The content will be perfect for DEI professional advancement. There will be a digital gift bag! And a certificate of attendance will be available.

APP: Wonderful! So many interesting speakers to choose from and panels to interact with! Thank you for sharing this with us and I hope that many of our readers will participate in the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival this year, I know I will!

Giveaways!

And now for giveaways! Three of the amazing MG authors that will be featured at the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival have generously agreed to give away copies of their books to our MUF readers! There will be six lucky winners for one of the following prizes!

THE LAST CUENTISTA by Donna Barba Higuera

LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE by Donna Barba Higuera

EL CUCUY IS SCARED TOO by Donna Barba Higuera

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ by Adrianna Cuevas (signed)

MIOSOTIS FLORES NEVER FORGETS by Hilda E. Burgos (signed)

ANA MARIA REYES DOES NOT LIVE IN A CASTLE by Hilda E. Burgos (signed)

To enter just follow the rafflecopter below, retweet/quote tweet this post, and follow @MixedUpFiles. U.S. entries only please!

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Monica Sherwood, Author of THE ICE HOUSE + Giveaway!

Today at the Mixed-Up Files, we’re delighted to introduce you to Monica Sherwood and her debut novel The Ice House, which was published by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers on November 16.

Monica is a former elementary school special education teacher in New York. She holds a master’s degree in Childhood and Special Education and currently works in edTech, designing digital products for teachers and students.

For a chance to win a copy of The Ice House, click on the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post and then leave a comment below, share this interview on your social media, tweet about it, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to increase your chances of becoming the lucky winner.

Click on the title of the book to order from Bookshop.org.

For more about Monica, check out her website.

 

Dorian: Can you tell us a little bit about The Ice House?

Monica: The Ice House tells the story of twelve-year-old Louisa, whose life has been upended by the Freeze, a dangerous global climate event that caused her grandmothers death. Shes been snowed-in to her apartment for months with her grieving mother, her annoying little brother, and her firefighter father, who is increasingly stressed by the Freezes treacherous conditions. Her downstairs neighbor (and former friend) Luke is the only kid her age in the building, and when his dad is seriously injured, shes forced to keep him company.

A mutual desperation to escape their scary new realities brings Louisa and Luke outside, where they build a massive snow fort in their yard. In the ice house, they share with each other what they want most: for Louisas mom to recover from her grief, and for Lukes dads memory to return. When they begin to see visions of their families happy and healed, they embark on a mission to stop the Freeze and bring about this better future theyve envisioned.

 

Inspiration and Influences

Dorian: What was the inspiration for the story?

Monica: I started writing The Ice House during an especially freezing winter that felt never-ending. I began wondering what life would be like if the snow never melted. I was teaching in Brooklyn at the time, and I started imagining what it might be like for a kid to be snowed-in with no end in sight.

The emotional turmoil Louisa and Luke are facing was inspired in part by my own personal experiences with grief as a child. When I was a kid, I didn’t have a book that represented what I was experiencing. If I had, I think I would have felt less alone.

(The trees to the left, which provided much inspiration, are what Monica looked out at as she began writing The Ice House.)

 

Dorian: What middle-grade books inspired you to become a writer, and what about these stories did you appreciate most?

Monica: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff, and PS. Longer Letter Later by Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin were some of my favorite books growing up, and each of them inspired me to want to be a writer.

Although each of these books are very different, they are all clever and handle serious subject matter thoughtfully.  They each have their own charm, uniquely capturing the nuanced details that captivate kid readers. I distinctly remember getting lost in each of these books, a feeling I still chase when I read today.

 

Dorian: Youve mentioned that you wrote The Ice House before the pandemic, but Im wondering if there were similarities between the events in the book and how you later got through the pandemic?

Monica: Yes, definitely. One of the biggest similarities between Louisa and Luke’s experience during the Freeze and my own during the pandemic was the sense of camaraderie that formed in the face of the unknown. I definitely forged closer bonds with the people in my life I quarantined with and was comforted by the desire we shared to have life as we knew it return.

Dorian: What kind of research did you have to do for the authenticity of the novel?

Monica: I researched the Inuit people and the origins of the igloo, as well as the science behind igloo formation. To create the theories proposed by climate experts in The Ice House, I researched some aspects of climate science. I also did research into memory loss associated with traumatic brain injuries.

 

Writing for the Middle-Grade Audience

Dorian: What made you want to write for the middle-grade audience? And how has your background in education influenced you?

Monica: Middle grade readers are some of the best to write for because of their passion and their curiosity; when they love a book, they really love it. I so appreciate their hunger for strong, nuanced characters, and meaningful stories.

As a teacher I always wanted to lead with honesty, because, in my experience, kids have a strong ability to tell when someone is keeping the truth from them. It’s why I didn’t want to shy away from the darker realities tackled in the story. My time as an educator taught me that kids deserve truthful depictions of the experiences they have had or one day might have. Sadly, kids do experience grief every day, and I hope that those who do can point to Louisa and Luke’s story to feel less alone.

Dorian: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?

Monica: Many kids find themselves in circumstances where they lack agency, or feel as though they have no control over their lives. I hope that The Ice House helps kids see that this feeling won’t last forever, and that they can make decisions that have a positive impact even though they aren’t adults yet.

I would also love for readers to realize that whatever they’re going through, they aren’t alone. We don’t talk to kids enough about what grief, trauma, or depression can be like, which makes it easy for them to feel isolated.

Most of all, I hope readers walk away with the knowledge that envisioning a better future and working to achieve it, even if their dreams feel out of reach at first, is brave.

 

Writing Tips

Dorian: What are two of your best writing tips?

Monica:

1. You are your book’s first audience member. If you aren’t writing a book that you would enjoy, it will eventually become very challenging to complete your manuscript.

2. One tactical piece of editing advice that was enlightening while editing The Ice House is to search for the high frequency words you’ve reused in your manuscript. It’s easy to repeat certain words or terms way too many times without realizing it. Chances are you can cut out about half of the instances of repetition (if not more) which can strengthen the clarity of your prose.

Thanks so much, Monica, for taking the time out to talk to us! We look forward to hearing about your future work.

For a chance to win a copy of The Ice House, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the directions. A winner will be chosen on Sunday. (U.S. Only)

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