July New Releases

It’s July! Time for a summer slow down. Lucky for you, we have a nice list of new middle grades coming your way – including one from our very own
Jennifer Swanson. Happy book birthday, Jennifer!!

Spacecare: A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Space by Jennifer Swanson

Have you ever wondered how astronauts stay healthy in space? What if an astronaut gets sick on the space station? Does snot run in space? This fascinating photo-illustrated look at space and medicine explores how scientists and physicians study astronauts in space, how they help keep them safe, and what we’ve learned about the human body through space exploration. Questions from real kids and answers form from astronauts, along with photos from NASA, combine for an out-of-this-world exploration of health.







Light Comes to Shadow Mountain by Toni Buzzeo

Cora Mae Tipton is determined to light up her Appalachian community in this historical fiction novel from an award-winning author and former librarian.

It’s 1937 and the government is pushing to bring electricity to the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. It’s all Cora can think of; radios with news from around the world, machines that keep food cold, lightbulbs by which to read at night! Cora figures she can help spread the word by starting a school newspaper and convincing her neighbors to support the Rural Electrification Act.

But resistance to change isn’t easy to overcome, especially when it starts at home. Cora’s mother is a fierce opponent of electrification. She argues that protecting the landscape of the holler–the trees, the streams, the land that provides for their way of life–is their responsibility. But Cora just can’t let go of wanting more.

Lyrical, literary, and deeply heartfelt, this debut novel from an award-winning author-librarian speaks to family, friendship, and loss through the spirited perspective of a girl eager for an electrified existence, but most of all, the light of her mother’s love and acceptance.





The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla

Neurodivergent Maudie is ready to spend an amazing summer with her dad, but will she find the courage to tell him a terrible secret about life with her mom and new stepdad? This contemporary novel by the award-winning author of The Someday Birds is a must-read for fans of Leslie Connor and Ali Standish.

Maudie always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life–one that her mom warned her never to tell. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad’s anger, but she’s scared.

When a wildfire strikes, Maudie and her dad are forced to evacuate to the beach town where he grew up. It’s another turbulent wave of change. But now, every morning, from their camper, Maudie can see surfers bobbing in the water. She desperately wants to learn, but could she ever be brave enough?

As Maudie navigates unfamiliar waters, she makes friends–and her autism no longer feels like the big deal her mom makes it out to be. But her secret is still threatening to sink her. Will Maudie find the strength to reveal the awful truth–and maybe even find some way to stay with Dad–before summer is over?





The Demon Sword Asperides by Sarah Jean Horwitz

A scheming demon sword and a wannabe knight band together on a (possibly wicked) quest in this fantasy, perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.

For the past two hundred years, the demon sword Asperides has led a quiet life. While his physical form has been tasked with guarding the body of an evil sorcerer, the rest of his consciousness has taken a well-earned vacation. That constant need to trick humans into wielding him (at the price of their very souls, of course) was rather draining.

Nack Furnival, on the other hand, is far from satisfied with his existence. Nack has trained since birth to be a brave and noble knight–but, unfortunately, he isn’t especially good at it. Determined to prove his worth, Nack needs a quest. And to complete that quest, he’ll need the one thing no knight can do without: a sword.

When an attempt to resurrect the evil sorcerer throws Asperides into Nack’s path, the demon sword can’t help but trick the boy into making a contract to become his new owner. And with the newly undead (and very, very angry) sorcerer on their trail, Asperides and Nack find themselves swept up in a bigger adventure than either of them bargained for: saving the world.





The Mystery of the Radcliffe Riddle by Taryn Souders

From the Edgar-nominated author of Coop Knows the Scoop comes an exciting mystery perfect for fans of From the Desk of Zoe Washington and Holes.

When Grady and his dad learn that the town oddball, Eudora “Kooky” Klinch left something for them in her will, they can only imagine what it might be. When it turns out it’s an old scrap of 300-year-old tapestry, they are bitterly disappointed. But the cloth comes with a note saying, “This is no ordinary piece of needlework. It’s a treasure map. Riddles and Clues. To the victor go the riches.” Grady’s dad dismisses it, but Grady thinks this could be the chance of a lifetime. With the help of his friends Thad, Clemmie, and the town dog Ophelia, Grady is determined to crack the clues and find the treasure.

But when someone tries to break into Grady’s house one night, and then the local antiques expert who examined the tapestry is found unconscious, Grady realizes that he’s not the only one who knows about the treasure map. There’s more at risk than he bargained for, and solving this mystery just got a lot more dangerous.






The Very Unfortunate Wish of Melony Yoshimura by Waka T. Brown

In this magical and chilling Coraline-esque retelling of the Japanese folktale “The Melon Princess and the Amanjaku,” one girl must save herself–and her loved ones–from a deceitful demon she befriended.

Melony Yoshimura’s parents have always been overprotective. They say it’s because a demonic spirit called the Amanjaku once preyed upon kids back in Japan, but Melony suspects it’s just a cautionary tale to keep her in line. So on her twelfth birthday, Melony takes a chance and wishes for the freedom and adventure her parents seem determined to keep her from.

As if conjured by her wish, the Amanjaku appears. At first, Melony is wary. If this creature is real, are the stories about its destructive ways also real? In no time, however, the Amanjaku woos Melony with its ability to shape-shift, grant wishes, and understand her desire for independence. But what Melony doesn’t realize is that the Amanjaku’s friendship has sinister consequences, and she quickly finds every aspect of her life controlled by the demon’s trickery–including herself.

Melony is determined to set things right, but will she be able to before the Amanjaku turns her life, her family, and her community upside down?




The Bellwoods Game by Celia Krampien 

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Doll Bones, this spooky, highly illustrated middle grade novel follows a girl who hopes to fix her outcast status through a game in the haunted woods, only to discover that some legends shouldn’t be played with.

Everyone knows Fall Hollow is haunted. It has been ever since Abigail Snook went into the woods many years ago, never to be seen again. Since then, it’s tradition for the sixth graders at Beckett Elementary to play the Bellwoods Game on Halloween night. Three kids are chosen to go into the woods. Whoever rings the bell there wins the game and saves the town for another year, but if Abigail’s ghost captures the players first, the spirit is let loose to wreak havoc on Fall Hollow–or so the story goes.

Now that it’s Bailee’s year to play, she can finally find out what really happens. And legend has it the game’s winner gets a wish. Maybe, just maybe, if Bailee wins, she can go back to the way things used to be before her grandma got sick and everyone at school started hating her. But when the night begins, everything the kids thought they knew about the game–and each other–is challenged. One thing’s for sure: something sinister is at play…waiting for them all in the woods





From soda to water to milk and juice, this refreshing follow-up to There’s No Ham in Hamburgers is full of fun facts and origin stories of some of America’s most popular drinks.

People have been inventing drinks for thousands of years. Kinda weird when you consider that humans only need two liquids to survive–water and milk–and we don’t need milk once we can eat solid foods. So, why did humans, unlike other mammals, begin concocting new beverages? It likely started with safety–boiling water to make it safer to drink, and then adding in berries or leaves or roots to make it taste better. Sometimes, it was thought that enhancing drinks made them healthier (i.e. bubbly water restored vitality). Did you know that some of the most popular sodas were created by pharmacists? Americans spend approximately $150 billion on soft drinks, coffee, and tea each year. Why? This book offers some possible answers!





The Magic Carousel by K. L. Small (Author) and Brandon Dorman (Illustrator)


When Russell’s eccentric, storytelling grandpa moves in with the family, Russell loses his bedroom and has to take Grandpa to the carousel in the park every day. As if he doesn’t have enough to deal with already. He’s flunking fifth grade, bullied at school, and his dad’s drinking has made him feel like a failure. Russell dreams of being a firefighter but fears he isn’t courageous enough.

Then Russell rides a carousel horse with Grandpa. Thanks to a magic brass ring, he finds himself magically transported into the past, where he faces life-and-death challenges. Each ride is a new, risky adventure. If he’s not careful, he could be trapped in one of his wild adventures forever!






The Horrible Bag of Terrible Things #1 by Rob Renzetti

From the creator of My Life As a Teenage Robot comes a middle-grade horror story about a horrible bag, the spine-chilling world hidden within it, and a terrifying adventure into the world of GrahBhag.

Perfect for fans of Coraline, the Spiderwick Chronicles, and Small Spaces.

When Zenith finds a strange, unsettling bag at his front door, he’s not sure where it came from or who sent it to him. He knows better than to expect his overprotective older sister Apogee to help him figure it out, because ever since she became a teenager, she’s been acting more like a parent to him than a sibling. But he certainly did not expect for a horrifying spiderlike creature to emerge from the bag, kidnap Apogee, and drag her inside to the equally horrifying and unsettling world of GrahBhag.

Zenith sets off into the bag to bring her back but soon finds a bizarre realm where malicious forests, a trio of blood-drinking mouths, and a sentient sawdust-stuffed giant are lurking within the seams. And from every corner of the world come whispers of the Great Wurm, an eldritch horror with a godlike hold over the creatures of GrahBhag, who seems to have a dark, insidious purpose for Apogee. With the help of a greedy, earwax-nibbling gargoyle, Zenith will have to save Apogee from the Great Wurm and help them both escape the horrible bag before it’s too late.

With a combination of dry, absurdist humor and no-holds-barred horror, Rob Renzetti has crafted a delightfully imaginative fantasy world that will hook readers as surely as it will send chills down their spines.



Don’t Trust the Cat by Kristen Tracy

WHAT IF YOU SWITCHED PLACES WITH YOUR CAT? Mean Girls meets Freaky Friday in this laugh-out-loud story about self-acceptance, learning who your friends are, and coming of age . . . as a cat.

Fifth-grader Poppy McBean likes rules and order. She’s a follower, and she’s totally okay with that. And if you judge her for that, she’s okay with that too! But after falling prey to her friends’ bullying one too many times, Poppy makes a wish to be happy–and it comes true in a very unexpected way: She wakes up in the body of her cat, Mitten Man.

Mayhem ensues as Poppy-the-girl attempts to navigate the wilds of the wilderness as a cat . . . and her free-thinking, groundbreaking kitty has had it with his owner’s timidity. He’s out to put the purr in perfectionist and take over middle school–as Poppy.

Hilarious and unexpected, Don’t Trust the Cat is a coming-of-age adventure that will keep readers cringing, cracking up, and reconsidering what it means to be a good person.





Kelcie Murphy and the Hunt for the Heart of Danu by Erika Lewis (Author) and Bess Cozby (Consultant)

Kelcie Murphy is back in another action-packed middle grade adventure, Kelcie Murphy and the Hunt for the Heart of Danu!, the second book in Erika Lewis’s magical series infused with Celtic mythology, The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts.

It’s hard having a father who’s an infamous traitor. It’s even harder having a mother who’s an omen of doom.

After a summer away, Kelcie Murphy is excited to be back at the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts. But she and her friends have barely settled in when they receive a visit from her mother–the war goddess, Nemain–with a warning of coming calamity.

The Heart of Danu, the legendary source of all light and warmth in the Lands of Summer, is going to be stolen. And only Kelcie and her mates can stop it. As they travel with the rest of the students to Summer City to take part in the glorious Ascension Ceremony, Kelcie has no time for the military parade, the lavish ball, or even to visit her father: she’s determined to protect the Heart and her new home.

But the Lands of Summer are still not a welcoming place for Kelcie. When disaster strikes, the Queen, the High Guard, and even some of her schoolmates suspect Kelcie is to blame.

As the world is plunged into darkness, Kelcie will have to decide: does she keep fighting for a place that may always see her as a traitor’s daughter, or for a future greater than the war to come.


I hope you found something on the list that you can’t wait to read. Please, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Agent Spotlight: Victoria Doherty-Munro of Writers House

Literary Agent Victoria Doherty Munro

Literary Agent Victoria Doherty Munro


Let’s give a warm Mixed-Up Files welcome to Victoria Doherty-Munro! Torie is a junior agent at Writers House, where she represents middle grade, young adult, and adult authors. She started at Writers House as an intern in 2010 and, after graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in English, was hired as the assistant to senior agent Daniel Lazar in 2012. She began building her own list in 2015.

What a treat it’s been for me to interview Torie and learn about her enthusiasm for good books, her preferences as an agent, and her many and varied interests, from Central Park to soccer fields!

SK: Tell us about your path to becoming an agent.

VDM: I majored in English in college (to the surprise of exactly no one, as that had always been my favorite subject in school) and had no idea what I wanted to do with that degree until the end of my sophomore year – I was in my favorite bookstore and was suddenly hit by the realization that there were people involved behind the scenes in bringing books to the world. I’d just never thought about it before, somehow! I started researching the industry and was lucky enough to get an internship at Writers House the following summer; I fell in love with both agenting and the company itself, and I sort of just…refused to leave? (Not really, but I was hired to assist senior agent Dan Lazar a few months after I graduated from college and promoted to junior agent a few years later.)   

SK: What are the best and worst parts of being an agent?

VDM: The best part is always the moment I get to tell a client that they’re going to be published! And I love the feeling I get when I’m reading a manuscript, either a new client project or a submission, and I can start to see things really coming together.

 The worst part is rejections, for sure. It really is a privilege when authors choose to submit their work to me for consideration and having to pass is never a good feeling, but I try to keep in mind that they deserve an agent who is head-over-heels in love with their work and that if that isn’t me then I’m not the right fit. And on the flip side, it’s never fun to get a rejection from an editor on a project that I’ve submitted on behalf of a client – I love those books so much, too, that getting passes can sting a little!

SK: What do you look for in a query?

VDM: An interesting premise and something that grabs my attention in the opening pages.

 SK: What are the top reasons you pass on a submission?

VDM: This is kind of hard to answer! Often there’s just something about a submission that doesn’t quite feel like a fit for me, or something that I know isn’t working but that I don’t feel I have the editorial vision to address.

 I will say, though, that recently I’ve been passing a lot due to pacing issues – either the story starts off too fast and I can’t get oriented in it or it feels like it’s taking too long to get to the heart of the plot.

SK: What do you love most about middle-grade novels?

VDM: I love that they can tackle big topics with humor and heart, in a way that makes things accessible for kids as they figure out themselves and the world around them! I also think these books can be so special because they’re often the ones that make kids into readers – one of my closest friends teaches 6th grade Language Arts and I always love hearing stories about that moment when one of her students finds *the* book that opens up the whole world of reading to them.

 SK: Which middle-grade book(s) influenced you most as a child?

VDM: How much time do you have?! I could list a million…but in the interest of brevity, I’ll say that The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was a constant favorite (so I got a kick out of the name of this website) as were Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and all its sequels by Mildred D. Taylor and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (I actually went to a book event of hers when I was in college and got her to sign my incredibly bedraggled 15-year-old copy). And my brothers and I still have several inside jokes stemming from our love of A Series of Unfortunate Events, though it’s been years since any of us have read those books.

 I was also absolutely obsessed with Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix for years and almost lost my mind when I saw the news that she’d written a sequel! 

 SK: What are some of your favorite current middle-grade novels?

VDM: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega, Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston by Esme Symes-Smith, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, and The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste all come to mind! And obviously I will be reading Falling Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix as soon as possible.

SK: Which genres/themes/subjects are you drawn to?

VDM: I tend to be most drawn to contemporary, speculative, and fantasy – and am really loving that horror is having a moment in middle grade right now! And I’m particularly interested in seeing projects from marginalized authors whose voices and perspectives haven’t historically been represented in publishing.

 SK: What advice do you have for authors who would like to send you a query?

VDM: I’m not sure I have any specific advice, other than…please do send me a query if you think we might be a good fit! I’m actively building my list of clients and would be thrilled to find another middle grade project (or two! or more!) to fall in love with.

 SK: What are your favorite things to do that have nothing to do with being an agent?

VDM: I love soccer (playing it sometimes, watching it always), trying new recipes, going to the theater, and finding new corners of Central Park to explore. I’m also sort of getting into baking, though I’m still in the phase where it kind of stresses me out…but I’m getting better!

SK: Please tell us a little about your agency.

VDM: Writers House was founded in 1973 with a vision for a new kind of literary agency, one that would combine a passion for managing a writer’s career with an integrated understanding of how storytelling works. With this two-pronged philosophy, Writers House has played a critical role in developing the careers of hundreds of novelists and non-fiction authors. We believe in offering our clients not only our expertise in negotiating contracts, but in contributing to all phases of the editorial and publishing processes. Our goal is to maximize the value of our clients’ work by providing hands-on editorial and marketing advice, as well as leading the way in branding, licensing, and selling film/TV, foreign, audio, dramatic and serial rights. 

SK: It’s been so great getting to know you, Torie. I’m sure a lot of our readers are going to be interested in connecting with you. Where can authors learn more about you? 

The best place right now is probably on Twitter, @toriedm! I tweet out specific #MSWL asks there and also post my to-read piles periodically so authors can get a sense of my taste.

Interview with Tween Podcaster and Literacy Advocate, E Train

If you’re not familiar with E Train, the preteen literacy advocate, booktuber and podcast host, now’s your chance! Six months shy of his thirteenth birthday, this soon-to-be Bar Mitzvah boy has been reviewing books, interviewing authors, and spreading kindness—virtually and in-person—since the age of nine and a half (!). Today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome E Train (aka Ethan) to the Mixed-Up Files.

Interview with E Train

MR: Thanks so much for joining us today, Ethan. It’s an honor to have you here!

Ethan: Thank you so much for having me, Melissa. I’ve loved reading your interviews with fabulous authors and members of the book world, so it’s a great honor to join you!

The Boy Behind the Mic

MR: What inspired you to host a podcast? How old were you when you started, and what were you hoping to achieve?

Ethan: I started my podcast at age eleven, after taking an online podcasting class on Outschool, an online virtual classroom. I’d already created a YouTube channel and was sharing videos, but I thought a podcast might be a fun and convenient way to share book reviews. My mom, dad and I wrote down different podcast names we liked and then voted. “E Train Talks” won! I really had no aspirations in mind; I let the journey take me. I did have one goal, though—to highlight the stories I liked, and to hopefully inspire others to read middle-grade books.

My Day is Booked

MR: How do you select which books and authors to feature on your podcast? There are so many to choose from!

Ethan: That’s a great question, Melissa! Originally, I said yes to almost everyone who asked to be on my podcast. At the time, I didn’t focus on the book genre, or if I’d heard of the author. I was just so excited and happy that writers were interested in talking to me, and sharing their writing journeys. Plus, I was homeschooled at the time, and I had quite a bit of time on my hands.

As my podcast grew, so did the number of people asking to be interviewed, and I learned quickly that there was no way to say yes to everyone—so I’ve had to cut back a bit. I was about to end homeschooling and start middle school too, so I knew I’d have to cut back on the number of monthly interviews I was hosting, which was around four to six interviews per month. As much as I’d like to keep that number, each interview requires reading and reviewing at least one book, as well as preparing interview questions, so it can be time consuming!

Now that I’m in middle school, with lots of homework, I try to host an average of two interviewees per month—give or take. Choosing who to talk to isn’t easy, so I try to base it on how much I enjoyed the book, or if there’s an important and compelling message the author is trying to share in their story.

Author Extravaganza!

MR: How many authors have you interviewed since you started podcasting? (I know it’s a lot, so ballpark…?) Also, I know you can’t choose a favorite, but which interview was the most memorable, and why?

Ethan: I get asked this a lot, and it’s always the most difficult question to answer, but I looked through my YouTube channel and podcast and, as of now, I’ve interviewed 90 authors, literacy advocates, kindness heroes, and more. It feels like every guest on my show becomes my new favorite, or most memorable, because every single person has something amazing to contribute, and honestly, it’s just too hard to choose one. But I’ll share several interviews that I’ll always keep with me.

The first is my talk with Stuart Gibbs. I’ve loved his books for a very long time, and talking to him was monumental. I remember I had a terrible cold that day, but there was no way I was canceling my talk with a book hero! Next is Gidon Lev, a Holocaust survivor who always focuses on the joy and hope in life. I’d never met or talked with a survivor before, so it was a life-changing experience. Oh! and, my interview with the legendary James Ponti was one of my most memorable podcasts as well. James is an unbelievably kind person, and he’s so knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. Three more meaningful interviews I had were with authors, Dan Gutman, Torrey Maldonado and Lisa Fipps—all incredible people who left a book print on my heart!

And, finally, another memorable experience was interviewing the authors who contributed to the MG anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories. I’m not just saying that because I’m here with you, Melissa, but as an upcoming Bar Mitzvah boy, reading about the characters’ experiences, and talking with the authors who wrote the stories, gave me insight into some things I can expect.

Advocating for Literacy

MR: In addition to interviewing authors and hosting your podcast, you are a self-described literacy advocate. Can you tell us more about the work you do?

Ethan: When I started my podcast and YouTube channel, I had no idea how many kids in the world don’t have access to books. Even in my own city there are lots of kids who don’t have many—or any—books of their own. I was shocked by the numbers, and I only learned this after listening to Dr. Molly Ness, an incredible advocate for literacy.

When I found out that there were millions of kids without access to books, I knew I wanted to do something, so I started book drives and was so happy when people started to send books! So many authors and book lovers have contributed to my book drive. Two people who’ve really supported my book-drive efforts are the amazing teacher-librarian extraordinaire, Elizabeth Blye, and the incredibly generous and wonderful Jennifer Frances, Founder and CEO of Bess the Book Bus.

Because of the many generous book donations, I’ve also been able to visit and talk with kids at local Title One schools in my community and hand deliver books to entire classrooms. Last year I partnered with Book Drop, which is run by author Jennifer Nielsen, and I visited a local school with my book hero, author Stuart Gibbs, to talk about the joy of reading. We shared books with every student in the school! I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to talk to kids about books, and then see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they get to take a book home!

Teen Readers’ Choice Awards

MR: Along these lines, you were chosen as the 2023 Teen Readers’ Choice Awards Book Hero. What was it like to win such a prestigious award, especially at the age of 12?

Ethan: When I heard the news, I literally leapt for joy! I think it was the best news I’d ever heard. So, the Teen Reader’s Choice Award is part of Teen Author Boot Camp, and they hosted a beautiful and fun awards gala for authors and teen writers. What made the experience even more special was that the award was presented to me by another book hero of mine, the wonderful author Jennifer Nielsen. Talk about making memories! I’m so unbelievably grateful for being recognized and awarded for my literacy work. The entire experience was inspiring and a night I will never forget.

Bar Mitzvah Boy

MR: Let’s turn to your Bar Mitzvah, which will take place on January 6th. (Here’s Ethan, pictured with Rabbi Herman). Can you tell us about your Bar Mitzvah Project? Spoiler alert: It involves books 🙂 Also, what does becoming a Bar Mitzvah mean to you?


My Mitzvah Project is one I’m extremely proud of. Continuing with my theme of book drives and getting stories into the hands of kids who need them, I’ve started an Amazon Wishlist and launched a GoFundMe, where people can donate money or books to help me continue sharing stories with kids in need. Every dollar goes directly to ordering books for kids in need. This project goes hand-in-hand with my Torah portion of helping those in need, when Moses was called upon by God to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. Along with my book drives, I’m also spotlighting Jewish-themed books, as well as Jewish authors every month on social media and on my Bar Mitzvah Project Webpage.

(For more on Ethan’s Bar Mitzvah project, click here. And check out Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories, edited by MUF’s very own Jonathan Rosen, with a story by MUF contributor Melissa Roske.)

Ethan for President (of Seventh Grade)

MR: Rumor has it that you won the election for president of your seventh-grade class. Congratulations! Can you tell us about the campaign? What will your responsibilities involve as president?

Ethan: Thanks! I’m excited about being seventh-grade president. I ran against two other candidates. Campaigning was a lot of fun. With my mom’s help, we made posters, stickers, and buttons to help spread the world. On top of campaigning every day for two weeks, we filmed and shared a campaign video, which I made with my dad. I also created a TikTok campaign page, and my mom and I made a couple of extra campaign videos to share.

To run for office, I had to get two teacher recommendations as well as have a good GPA. It was such an exciting day when I heard I’d won the election! I haven’t been told all my responsibilities yet, but I know I’ll be helping to organize and attend school events as well as learn new leadership and community-outreach skills. I’m hoping to add some kindness and book- themed events to the calendar too, if possible!

MR: How do you balance your responsibilities as a student, podcaster, literacy advocate, and soon-to-be Bar Mitzvah boy? It can’t be easy.

Ethan: You’re right, Melissa. It’s not always easy to balance things. On top of being a middle-schooler, I’m on a school quiz bowl team, and I’m in an IB program, so my studies can be very rigorous at times. Next year will be even tougher, so I’ve been trying to find ways to balance everything. One thing that’s helped is cutting my interviews from four to six per month to two or three. Also, with my Bar Mitzvah training coming up, I’m going to have to learn how to manage my time. Now that summer vacation is here, I’m hoping to get as much as possible accomplished before seventh grade starts and my Bar Mitzvah training gets more difficult.

MR: How do you spend your free time, Ethan? I know you love basketball and playing the ukulele…

Ethan: I like to play video games, watch funny videos, hang out with friends, read, play piano and sing, play quiz bowl, and yes—play as much basketball as possible. This summer, for instance, I’m playing in a basketball league. I also love spending time with my family, especially my cousins. As for the ukulele, apparently I went through a big ukulele phase when I was two and three years old. I thought I played pretty well, but I’m not sure everyone listening would agree!

Ethan Tells All

MR: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like Mixed-Up Files readers to know about you? Now’s your chance!

Ethan: I host a monthly book-review segment on Good Day, Sacramento, where I review middle-grade books as well as picture books and a little YA. I’ve been at it since September 2022. I’m also a kid reporter for the Sacramento Kings, where I’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview the players, and even appeared on national television, TNT.

I’m often asked when I started reading, and my mom tells me I asked to learn when I was two-and-a-half years old. I was reading chapter books by the time I was three and a half. I’ve also had a passion for trivia and history for as long as I can remember! Lastly, I’m a Giving Tuesday Spark Leader. As a Spark Leader, my goal is to spread as much kindness through literacy as possible, especially around Giving Tuesday Spark, in November.

Lightning Round

MR: And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred snack?

Cheerios with milk.

Favorite subject in school?

Probably History or World Language (we get to learn French, Chinese, or Spanish at my school).

Favorite book? (This is a tough one, I know… 🙂)

Wow, that is a toughie! Probably Starfish by Lisa Fipps. But I love so many!

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay?



Something discreet, like knowing exactly what to say in all situations. It can come in handy!

Favorite place on earth?

Hawaii is so beautiful. I also love Hotel Del Coronado, in San Diego.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be?

My favorite book, a journal, and a water purifier.

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Ethan. It was a pleasure, and I’m sure MUF readers will agree!

Ethan: Thank you so much for having me, Melissa! This has been so fun, and an honor to talk with you! I can’t wait for what’s to come in my book journey, and to see who you’re interviewing next on MUF! Bye!

About E Train


E Train is a 12-year-old award-winning literacy advocate, booktuber & podcast host, on an amazing adventure reviewing books and interviewing authors, book enthusiasts and kindness heroes. He is also visiting schools across the country (virtually & in-person). Find E on his website and YouTube Channel, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. You may find his podcasts here. (Please note: E’s mom approves all of his tweets, posts, and content.)