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January New Releases!

Well, we made it! On this first day of 2021, let’s take a look at some new middle-grade releases coming out this January–from memoirs to graphic novels to youth immigration stories. Hope 2021 is filled with these and many other good books for you to read!

Oh My Gods! by Stephanie Cooke and Insha Fitzpatrick, illustrated by Juliana Moon; HMH Books, out on January 5

Oh My Gods!, the first in a new middle grade graphic novel series, reads as if Raina Telgemeier and Rick Riordan teamed up to write a comic, and offers a fresh and funny spin on Greek mythology. When an average girl moves to Mt. Olympus, she discovers her new classmates are gods and mythological creatures are actually real—as if junior high isn’t hard enough!

Karen is just an average thirteen-year-old from New Jersey who loves to play video games with her friends and watch movies with her mom. But when she moves to Greece to live with her eccentric, mysterious father, Zed, suddenly everything she thought about herself—about life—is up in the air.

Starting a new school can be difficult, but starting school at Mt. Olympus Junior High, where students are gods and goddesses, just might take the cake. Especially when fellow classmates start getting turned to stone. Greek mythology . . . a little less myth, a little more eek! And if Karen’s classmates are immortal beings, who does that make her?

 

The In-Between by Rebecca K. S. Ansari;
Walden Pond Press, out on January 26

A dark, twisty adventure about the forgotten among us and what it means to be seen, from the acclaimed author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly.

Cooper is lost. Ever since his father left their family three years ago, he has become distant from his friends, constantly annoyed by his little sister, Jess, and completely fed up with the pale, creepy rich girl who moved in next door and won’t stop staring at him. So when Cooper learns of an unsolved mystery his sister has discovered online, he welcomes the distraction.

It’s the tale of a deadly train crash that occurred a hundred years ago, in which one young boy among the dead was never identified. The only distinguishing mark on him was a strange insignia on his suit coat, a symbol no one had seen before or since. Jess is fascinated by the mystery of the unknown child— because she’s seen the insignia. It’s the symbol of the jacket of the girl next door.

As they uncover more information— and mounting evidence of the girl’s seemingly impossible connection to the tragedy—Cooper and Jess begin to wonder if a similar disaster could be heading to their hometown.

Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from Upstate New York High Schools, edited by Tea Rozman Clark and Julie Vang; Green Card Voices, out on January 26

The Green Card Youth Voices series is a collection of books dedicated to sharing the immigration stories of young, new Americans from all over the country, with Rochester and Buffalo as our next stops. The upcoming “Green Card Youth Voices: Upstate New York High Schools” is a collection of personal essays written by 29 authors from Twelve Corner Middle School, Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy, Lafayette High School, and Newcomer Academy, and residing in New York State. The book includes a study guide, and a glossary to help teachers use the book as an educational resource when teaching about immigration. Included in the book are first perspective stories, full portraits, maps, 5-minute edited video links, a study guide, and a glossary which all adds a multimedia dimension to this already dynamic collection.

 

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li 
Quill Tree Books, out on January 12

This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

 

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
Heartdrum, out on January 5

In this evocative and heartwarming novel for readers who loved The Thing About Jellyfish, the author of I Can Make This Promise tells the story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.

Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.

But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?

 

Explorer Academy Future Tech: The Science Behind the Story by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh; Under the Stars, out on January 5

You’ve gone on adventures with Cruz Coronado and his fellow recruits as they communicated with whales using the Universal Cetacean Communicator, camouflaged themselves using the Lumagine shadow badge, and deployed octopods to make speedy escapes. Now dive further into the near-future world of Explorer Academy by learning about the real-life scientific discoveries that inspired the gadgets. This cool book profiles real-life National Geographic explorers who devised innovations like RoboBees (Mell); it features cutting-edge tech that’s actually being developed, and provides empowering stories of how tech is enabling conservation successes. Fields of study cover wearable technology, submersibles, robotics, medicine, space farming, everyday technology, and the world of the future.

Every good explorer craves information, and now it’s time to amp up your technology knowledge. After all, the near-future world of Explorer Academy is just across the horizon, and much of its tech is already shaping the world we live in.

 

Pity Party by Kathleen Lane; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, out on January 19

Discover an “absurd, funny, and thought-provoking” book perfect for “anyone who has ever felt socially awkward or inadequate” (Louis Sachar, author of Holes and the Wayside School series).
Dear weird toes, crooked nose, stressed out, left out, freaked out
Dear missing parts, broken hearts, picked-on, passed up, misunderstood,
Dear everyone, you are cordially invited, come as you are, this party’s for youWelcome to Pity Party, where the social anxieties that plague us all are twisted into funny, deeply resonant, and ultimately reassuring psychological thrills.There’s a story about a mood ring that tells the absolute truth. One about social media followers who literally follow you around. And one about a kid whose wish for a new, improved self is answered when a mysterious box arrives in the mail. There’s also a personality test, a fortune teller, a letter from the Department of Insecurity, and an interactive Choose Your Own Catastrophe.

Come to the party for a grab bag of delightfully dark stories that ultimately offers a life-affirming reminder that there is hope and humor to be found amid our misery.

 

While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown
Quill Tree Books, out on January 26

The Farewell meets Erin Entrada Kelly’s Blackbird Fly in this empowering middle grade memoir from debut author Waka T. Brown, who takes readers on a journey to 1980s Japan, where she was sent as a child to reconnect to her family’s roots.

When twelve-year-old Waka’s parents suspect she can’t understand the basic Japanese they speak to her, they make a drastic decision to send her to Tokyo to live for several months with her strict grandmother. Forced to say goodbye to her friends and what would have been her summer vacation, Waka is plucked from her straight-A-student life in rural Kansas and flown across the globe, where she faces the culture shock of a lifetime.

In Japan, Waka struggles with reading and writing in kanji, doesn’t quite mesh with her complicated and distant Obaasama, and gets made fun of by the students in her Japanese public-school classes. Even though this is the country her parents came from, Waka has never felt more like an outsider.

If she’s always been the “smart Japanese girl” in America but is now the “dumb foreigner” in Japan, where is home…and who will Waka be when she finds it?

 

These are just a few of many great books coming out in January. Happy reading everyone!

A Happy New Year and a Thank You from all of us here at Mixed-Up Files!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved with this site for everything that they’ve contributed this past year. 2020 has been trying for everyone, but our team here at Mixed-Up Files has come through with some great content and we appreciate them all.

We are grateful to our administrative team who oversee the entire operation to keep this site running smoothly. There aren’t many problems that arise, since we have such a great group of contributors, but when an occasional dilemma does surface, our admin team is on top of it.

We are grateful for each of our members who have put a lot of time and thought into their posts. Whether it be author interviews, spotlighting great new releases, topics in STEM, focusing on the general goings-on in kidlit, showcasing agents and editors, highlighting Diverse Middle Grade, featuring fun general interest stories, and even our recent series of interviews with some pop culture legends, Mixed-Up Files has tried to give a variety of topics to our subscribers. We’re always looking to expand our content, as well as being cognizant about bringing the same subjects that we know our readers love.

We’re also grateful to our great social media team, who besides needing to provide their own posts at Mixed-Up Files, have the added responsibilities of making sure everyone else’s get out, and then interacting with our readers. So, thank you to Mimi Powell, Andrea Pyros, and Melissa Roske!

But above all else, we want to thank you, our readers. This site would be nothing without all of you. We appreciate your continued interest in our site. Our numbers have increased this year, and we thank all of you for that. Your continued readership, your recommending Mixed-Up Files to friends, your sharing of our posts, all of it contributes to making Mixed-Up Files the best site it can be. We see that and thank you for doing it. We will continue to try and bring content that you find interesting in the coming year, but want all of you to know that we are grateful for you.

So, Happy New Year, Mixed-Up friends. We hope it’s better than the last one. And once again, thank you.

Jonathan

First Lines of Children’s Books Revised for a Pandemic + Contest

I was recently inspired by a blog post featuring the beginnings of ten classic novels for adults, rewritten for our time of social distancing. I thought it would be fun to do the same for some iconic middle-grade novels.

CONTEST: Take a look at the ones below, and then crank up your creativity to post the real first line and a revised first line of your favorite middle-grade book in the comments section. A panel of judges will choose a favorite on January 2, 2021 at 11:59 PM, and I’ll donate $50 to one of the following charities (winner’s choice): St. Jude, Feeding America, or Doctors Without Borders. I’ll post the winning entry on Sunday, January 3.

(Click on the titles and go to the Look Inside feature if you’d like to read the original first lines.)

 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

“Where’s Papa going with that axe, and why isn’t he wearing a mask?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a dark and stormy night, but no one cared because they were all sheltering in.

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, disinfecting his groceries with Lysol wipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Christmas won’t be Christmas with just lousy gift cards,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly fine refusing to social distance from others in the grocery store, thank you very much.

 

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen, where she’d surely be roped into baking yet another loaf of sourdough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

When I left my office that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me and that I should have stocked up on toilet paper on the way home.

 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

We moved on the Tuesday before Labor Day. I knew the pandemic still wasn’t over the second I got up. I knew because my mother didn’t even bother to sniff under her arms.

 

Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

On the morning I was scheduled to die a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house. Thankfully, he was more than six feet away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty just because she forgot to cough into her elbow.

 

Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a Zoom party, there was much disappointment in Hobbiton.

 

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink because everyone is either working from home or being homeschooled, and it’s the only place where I can get some peace and quiet.