Articles

New books just in time for the holidays!

Check out these new December releases for all of your favorite middle-grade readers! This selection includes the newest from an adventure series and an out-of-this-world book on space by renowned astronomer Dean Regas.

Never After: The Broken Mirror, Roaring Brook Press, written by Melissa de la Cruz 

Real life and fairy tales collide in Never After: The Broken Mirror, book three of the funny and thrilling series from #1 New York Times–bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

The Never After crew is back for another twisted adventure. This time, they’re off to Snow Country—that is, after they rescue the beleaguered Lord Sharif of Nottingham from the evil Robin Hood, who has been plaguing the land with his thievery and mischief.

But Robin’s antics aren’t the only dangers afoot in the Kingdom of Never After. At the behest of her daughter, the evil Cinderella, Queen Olga has turned Prince Charming into a Frog after his wedding to the beautiful Hortense. And how could we forget the ominous Prophecy, which still looms large over Filomena and her friends?

Along with Jack, Alistair, Gretel, Beatrice, Byron Bessley, and some new Snow Country pals like Rose Red and a chatty magic mirror, Filomena sets off to find the only ones who can save the kingdom once and for all: The League of the Seven – a group of fearless warriors devoted to fighting the ogres at any cost.

Still, new threats lurk around every corner, both in Never After and back home in North Pasadena . . . Even with the League of the Seven’s help, can Filomena and her friends rescue the land from Olga’s clutches? Or will the ogres finally prevail?

1000 Facts About Space, National Geographic Kids, written by Dean Regas

BLAST OFF into the WONDERS OF OUTER SPACE with ONE THOUSAND INCREDIBLE FACTS!
Did you know … that one of Saturn’s moons is so hollow it would float in water? That the largest known star is 3.69 billion times bigger than our sun? Or that Jupiter likely has diamonds floating in its clouds?

Explore dazzling facts about the vast expanse of space, from glowing stars billions of light-years away to supermassive exploding supernovas to rockets thundering into the unknown. This comprehensive book takes you on a mind-blowing tour of our unbelievable universe and is full of fascinating facts on topics such as space exploration, our solar system and galaxy, and beyond.

Expert astronomer Dean Regas―former host of PBS’s Star Gazers and astronomer of the Cincinnati Observatory―takes you on an incredible tour of facts about each planet in our solar system, dwarf planets, our sun and other stars, exoplanets, comets, asteroids, galaxies, space travel, and so much more. Hundreds of stunning photographs bring the facts to life.

The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey, Holiday House, written and illustrated by Jason Chin

The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey

Jason Chin, winner of the Caldecott Medal for Watercress, dives into the microscopic building blocks of life in this companion to the award-winning Your Place in the Universe.

In Your Place in the Universe, Jason Chin zoomed outward, from our planet, solar system, and galaxy to the outer reaches of the observable universe. Now, Chin reverses course, zooming in past our skin to our cells, molecules, and atoms, all the way down to particles so small we can’t yet even measure them.

Like its companion, The Universe in You is a mind-boggling adventure that makes complex science accessible and enjoyable to readers of any age.

Impeccably researched, wholly engrossing, and with extensive backmatter for additional learning, The Universe in You is another knockout from the award-winning creator of RedwoodsGrand Canyon, and other distinguished works of nonfiction for young readers.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Minecraft: Master Builds, Random House World, by Mojang AB

Minecraft: Master Builds - Mojang Ab

Marvel at Minecraft’s greatest creations and meet the builders who have taken the game to new levels.

Packed with stunning illustrations, Minecraft Master Builds showcases the creations that have taken the game to new levels, and introduces the builders behind them.

Explore all the possibilities of Minecraft, from stunning underwater sculptures to impressive space panoramas, or travel through time to visit grand medieval towns and futuristic cityscapes. Each colossal creation is shown in beautifully rendered illustrations to highlight the painstaking details that make these builds masterful. The exclusive interviews with the builders shed light on the creative forces and processes behind each build.

Whether you’re marveling at the wonders that Minecraft’s greatest builders have to offer, or searching for inspiration to become one yourself, your tour begins here.

Pencilmation: The Graphite Novel, Penguin Young Readers, written by Ross Bollinger

Pencilmation: The Graphite Novel - Bollinger, Ross

Join the characters from Pencilmation in this new graphic novel featuring new stories, comics, activities, and more

 

Writers’ Gratitude

Today we’d like to share what we are grateful for as children’s writers. So, I asked the Mixed-Up Files contributors to write a little about what they are thankful for as authors. Hope you enjoy our thoughts.


 

“I’m thankful for the kidlit community. I’ve been in other writing communities and kidlit creators are the best. They’re like family, supporting each other and encouraging. We have a higher purpose, in creating books that are going to make children readers for life, and I’m thankful that we do that together.”

Samantha M Clark, author of ARROW and the GEMSTONE DRAGONS books

 


Image: Tarpon Springs Public Library, Tarpon Springs, FL via tarponlibrary.org

I’m grateful for…. public libraries
My most powerful—and most wonderful—memories around books are thanks to public libraries.
For years, each Saturday, my mother and I would walk to the public library near our apartment, climb the

stairs to the children’s section on the second floor, and I’d pick out a stack of books to read for the week. Like the greatest shopping trip ever, where the only limiting factor was how much we could carry. Then there was that one long, hot, un-airconditioned summer in Florida, where I lived with my father, where I worked through the local library’s very small “YA” shelf of books. I stumbled over a novel I’d never heard of before, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, my favorite book of my middle-grade reading years by a mile.

Reading has been a constant companion and source of joy and comfort in my life. So thank you, libraries and librarians, for all that you do for your communities.

“When my last MG manuscript failed to garner the attention (I thought) it deserved, I fell into a dark hole of despair. Then I did what many writers do when faced with existential burnout. I stopped writing.
But then, last summer, while I clearing out my mom’s apartment, I found a black garbage bag inside a kitchen drawer. I peeked inside and discovered a trove of letters. My letters—hundreds of them—written to my parents from sleepaway camp. Naturally, I made myself comfortable and started reading.
Hours later, I knew I had found the inspiration for my next book. I didn’t know what the book would be about at this point, but I knew I had some first-rate material. I grabbed my notebook and started writing.
Four months later, I had a first draft. I sent it to my agent, who responded: “Whenever a burned-out writer gets their second wind and writes a great novel, an angel gets their wings.” 
My agent’s words made me glow from within. I found my second wind—and I’m grateful for it, wherever it may lead me.”
Melissa Roske

“I’m grateful to be able to write while cuddling a kitty on my lap and looking at beautiful trees.  It may sound simple, but the deep peace of this space helps free my
mind to create.”

Heather Murphy Capps

 

 

 

 

 


“I’m grateful for amazing teachers like Ms. Klipfel who encourage and inspire their kids to use STEMbooks to explore their imagination!  Go STEM/STEAM!”
Jennifer Swanson

“I’m so grateful for all the support my debut novel Honey and Me is receiving from friends, family, the wider communities I’m a part of and the ones I didn’t even know about. Thank you!”
Meira Drazin

Image: Trisha Speed Shaskan,  trishaspeedshaskan.com

 

 

“I’m grateful for book events with local and national authors. They give me a reason to celebrate books, meet and talk with local authors, and discover new authors and their books. It’s inspiring and fills me with motivation to be surrounded by such talented writers.”

Karen Latchana Kenney

We are also all thankful for YOU—our wonderful readers!

All About Books: An Interview with Middle School Librarian Erin Wyatt

I thought it would be helpful to readers to get an inside perspective on middle grade books. What are middle schoolers reading? What holes are there in the market? And, with the holidays coming, what should you consider when buying a middle schooler a book as a gift? I wanted to utilize a great source to answer my questions: a middle-school librarian! Erin Wyatt is not only the librarian of my own children’s school here in Illinois, but we both used to work at the same school in our previous lives. I knew she could offer great insight to my questions for writers, parents, and teachers!

Hi Erin! I’m excited to pick your brain. Tell us a little about your background as a librarian and learning center director for a middle school.

I started my career in education as a high school English and social studies teacher where I spent four years in the classroom. I went to library school and have been working as a middle school librarian ever since. I have an MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science) from Dominican University and a Ph.D. in information science from the University of North Texas. This is year 24 of my time working in libraries. It’s hard to believe it has been so many years. Being a school librarian is an amazing job!

 

What are the typical struggles middle schoolers have when choosing a book?

I think a lot of the struggles are the same for lots of people, kids and adults alike.

There are so many of choices of books that sometimes it proves an obstacle. At Highland, we’ve organized books by genre to make the library more browsable, utilized displays and rotating dynamic, face out shelving, and do lots of recommended reads.

There is sometimes a reluctance to try something new and a gravitation to the comfort of the familiar. Creating opportunities for students to recommend books to each other and doing things like low risk book tasting activities where students just spend a minute or two exploring a book to see if it is one they’d want to read can help connect students with new books and authors. During these types of activities students build their criteria to see what they are looking for in a book and strategies for looking at a book to see if it matches what they want and need in a read at that moment.

 

What is the most popular genre in your school’s library?

The most popular format the last few years has been graphic novels. Graphics are written in every genre, and there has been a lot of student demand for all kinds of graphics including nonfiction and manga.

The last couple years, there’s been a rise of popularity in students seeking out scary stories and mysteries. But certainly there is readership among all genres and my colleagues in the English Language Arts department encourage their students to read widely.

 

What books are very popular with this age group (at least at your library)?

I noticed the other day that our state readers’ choice shelves were nearly bare of the multiple copies the library owns of the books on the Readers’ Choice Lists for the state of Illinois. At Highland, we include the Illinois Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award Program nominees for grades 4-8, some of the books from the Bluestem list for readers in grades 3-5, and the Lincoln list for grades 9-12 in our yearly Readers’ Choice offerings.

When books are made into TV shows and movies, there is usually been a bump in demand. That’s certainly been the case this year for The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han.

I looked at our top 50 books circulated so far this year to help respond to this question. This year we’ve seen a Hunger Games resurgence. Certain authors have been popular like Kwame Alexander, Alan Gratz, Barbara Dee, and Stuart Gibbs.

Our all school read this fall was House Arrest by K.A. Holt. We were lucky enough to have Ms. Holt do an author visit. That is always impactful in terms of readers’ gravitating to an author’s books that they’ve had a chance to meet.

 

What is a book you often suggest?

Oh, this is a tough one as so much often depends on the reader too!

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman was a wow from me from last year. Plus it is a genre (historical fiction) that I don’t always gravitate toward.

Legend by Marie Lu

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

I could really go on and on…

 

FOR WRITERS

What holes do you feel are still in the middle school market? 

There are so many great options being published. However, working in a middle school and thinking about 7thand 8th grader readers, it seems like there is a gap of books for those readers who are upper middle grade or lower YA.

As I try to build an inclusive collection of diverse books, there is an increasing number of stories from different perspectives and experiences in realistic fiction. However, in genre fiction (like fantasy, scifi, mystery, thriller), there is a need for more stories being published with characters who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+, disabled and the need for more stories in these genres being written by authors from historically marginalized groups.

 

What do you consider when looking at middle-grade books to purchase for your school library?

Lots of factors. First I consider the students at my school and the potential readers of the books. I think about the connection to other books and the ways those move or don’t move off the library shelves. I consider the subject, genre, and who’s voice is featured in the book. I think about the curriculum at the school. I look at book reviews and listen to student requests. Budget is also a factor because there are a finite number of resources to build and maintain our library collection.

 

When you’re reading through a middle-grade novel, is there anything that writers do that you feel may be a turn-off to middle schoolers? 

In book clubs, students often comment about the way the characters talk. When the voice doesn’t ring true to them, that’s usually seen as a problem with the book.

For many student readers short chapters and use of cliff-hangers are a hit to make them pick up a book and keep reading.

 

FOR PARENTS

How can parents help children who say they don’t like to read?

Read together and carve out time for reading, for both the parents and children. Having reading role models is important. Reading out loud or listening to books is a way to have that reading time together and create that culture and habit of reading in your family.

Having parents know and believe that listening to books IS reading. Graphic novels are REAL books. For some readers, these things might grow and sustain their interest in books and stories.

Parents can also help their students discover stories! They can connect to libraries and give their children access to materials to read whether those are physical books and reading material or linking to online resources.

 

I know as a parent, if I see a sports-related book, I assume my sporty son will like it, which, of course, isn’t the case. With the holidays approaching (books make great gifts!), any tips for picking out a book for someone else?

Books do make great gifts! We want to share stories that moved us with other people. I think it is so powerful when giving a book to someone to tell them why I gave that specific title to them.

When recommending books to people I think about ways to match their interests and what I know about them as readers to books by considering genre, style of writing, voice, format, main character, writer, and (for some) length. When buying books as gifts, I also consult gift guides, best of lists, and the work of other book people who share recommendations on social media or online.

 

FOR TEACHERS

Any suggestions for teachers wanting to bulk up their classroom libraries?

Talk to your librarian and build up that partnership! Both the classroom library, the school library, and the public library are important places for young readers to encounter books.

I would encourage teachers to think about voices that are not represented in their classroom libraries and make sure that all students in their classroom can see themselves in stories on the shelves.

 

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

In our recent author visit, I felt rockstar adjacent walking the halls with our visiting author. Thanks for writing and sharing your stories. It has an impact on your readers.

 

Thanks, Erin! It was really helpful to hear your answers as a writer, a teacher, AND a parent! (And I will definitely be putting a note on books I give as gifts, sharing why I thought it would be the perfect book.)

If you’d like to learn more about Erin and her library, check her out on Twitter:

Highland Middle School Library – @hlcD70

Erin Wyatt – @ejdwyatt