Book Lists

New Releases: July 2021

Like Fourth of July fireworks, this month is exploding with a colorful array of offerings for middle-grade readers. From social justice to sports, goats to ghouls, and fantasy to food, there’s something for everyone.

We want to congratulate two of our Mixed-Up Files members, who have new releases in July. Jennifer Swanson has a book coming out that’s sure to please sports and science enthusiasts. And Greg R. Fishbone is starting a fantasy story that will be serialized on a new platform on Amazon Kindle.

Mouse over the book titles for links to order from our Bookshop page or to get more information. And let us know in the comments section what you’re looking forward to reading this month. Happy Fourth and Happy Reading!

NONFICTION

The Secret Science of Sports: The Math, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering Behind Every Grand Slam, Triple Axel and Penalty Kick by Jennifer Swanson

Why does a football spiral? How do some athletes jump so high? The answer is science! The Secret Science of Sports helps kids better understand concepts of science, technology, engineering, and math through the sports they love to play and watch. Every sport—from baseball to basketball, to football and soccer, to wrestling, tennis, and lacrosse—involves a bit of science, technology, engineering, and math. You can’t throw a ball without Newton’s Law of Motion, and you can’t calculate a player’s stats without math. And every type of sports equipment—a helmet, cleats, shoulder or knee pads—were designed with the latest engineering and technology.

The Secret Science of Sports breaks down normally difficult STEM concepts like forces of motion, gravity, algebra, and even neuroscience, in a language kids can—and will want to—understand. Divided into sections like chemistry, biology, physics, technology, and more, this handy guide uses examples from sports like soccer, baseball, softball, football, hockey, lacrosse, tennis, and others to explain important STEM concepts for kids ages 8 to 12. They’ll learn how to use math to calculate a batter’s average, why a tennis racket is shaped the way it is, how biology affects athletic performance, the aerodynamics behind competitive swimsuits, and much more. With dozens of original, captivating illustrations to engage young readers, kids will have fun while learning about key STEM ideas that will prepare them for years of schooling to come.

 


Book Cover of Becoming Hercules by Greg R. FishboneBecoming Hercules 
by Greg R. Fishbone

Becoming Hercules is grounded in Greek mythology.

But instead of the usual heroes, we’ll follow lesser-known traditions and characters who must discover their own extraordinary strengths and powers.

Becoming Hercules is a Serialized Mythic Fantasy that will debut this month on a new platform on Amazon Kindle.

For more information about how to read the series, click on the link above.

 

 

 

History Smashers: The American Revolution by Kate Messner (author) and Justin Greenwood (illus.)

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode through Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, shouting, “The British are coming!” to start the American Revolution. RIGHT?

WRONG! Paul Revere made it to Lexington, but before he could complete his mission, he was captured! The truth is, dozens of Patriots rode around warning people about the Redcoats’ plans that night. It was actually a man named Samuel Prescott who succeeded, alerting townspeople in Lexington and then moving on to Concord. But the Revolutionary War didn’t officially start for more than a year after Prescott’s ride. No joke.

Discover the nonfiction series that smashes everything you thought you knew about history. Don’t miss History Smashers: The MayflowerWomen’s Right to VotePearl Harbor, and Titanic.

 

The Official Harry Potter Baking Book by Joanna Farrow

Bake your way through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! Inspired by the films, this is the ONE and ONLY official Harry Potter cookbook! Packed with over 40 recipes and gorgeous, eye-catching photography, this baking cookbook is a must-have for every Harry Potter fan.

Delight in 43 tasty recipes inspired by the Harry Potter films! From Pumpkin Patch Pies to Owl Muffins, Luna’s Spectrespecs Cookies to Hogwarts Gingerbread, The Official Harry Potter Baking Cookbook is packed with mouthwatering recipes that will, dare we say . . . ensnare the senses.

Host a Great Hall-inspired feast for your friends or delight in a portion for one. Includes recipes for all kinds of delicious baked goods, as well as nutritional and dietary information. This baking cookbook is great for everyone and includes gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan recipes as well!

 

SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPORTS, AND MORE

Linked by Gordon Korman

Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. But it’s woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into school and vandalizes it with a swastika. Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in the middle of their school? Who would do such a thing?

Because Michael was the first person to see it, he’s the first suspect. Because Link is one of the most popular guys in school, everyone’s looking to him to figure it out. And because Dana’s the only Jewish girl in the whole town, everyone’s treating her more like an outsider than ever. The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face—not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past. Gordon Korman, the author of the acclaimed novel Restart, poses a mystery for all readers where the who did it? isn’t nearly as important as the why?

 

Ten Thousand Tries by Amy Makechnie

Twelve-year-old Golden Maroni is determined to channel his hero, soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and become captain of his soccer team and master of his eighth-grade universe . . . especially since his home universe is spiraling out of orbit. Off the field, Golden’s dad, once a pro soccer player himself, is now battling ALS, a disease that attacks his muscles, leaving him less and less physically able to control his body every day. And while Mom says there’s no cure, Golden is convinced that his dad can beat this, just like any opponent, they just have to try.

Golden knows that if you want to perfect a skill you have to put ten thousand tries in, so he’s convinced if he can put that much effort in, on and off the field, he can stop everything from changing. But when his dad continues to decline and his constant pushing starts to alienate his friends and team, Golden is forced to confront the idea that being master of your universe might not mean being in control of everything. What if it means letting go of the things you can’t control so you can do the most good for the things you can?

 

World in Between by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro

Co-written by a New York Times best-selling author, this moving story of a Muslim boy’s exile from war-torn Bosnia to the United States offers a riveting refugee saga.​ Kenan loves drawing and playing soccer with his friends. He wants to be a famous athlete, hates it when his classmates trash his buck teeth by calling him “Bugs Bunny,” and fights with his big brother, who’s too busy and cool for him lately. Sometimes his parents drive him crazy, but he feels loved and protected—until the war ruins everything.

Soon, Kenan’s family is trapped in their home with little food or water, surrounded by enemies. Ten months later, with help from friends and strangers, they finally make it out of the country alive. But that’s only the beginning of their journey. An action-packed page-turner with heart about a kid doing his best during difficult times, World in Between celebrates the power of community and resilience, hope and kindness.

 

Better With Butter by Victoria Piontek

A girl with anxiety disorder finds an unlikely friend—and emotional support animal—in the form of an adorable fainting goat. Twelve-year-old Marvel is afraid of absolutely everything—amusement park rides, food poisoning, earthquakes, and that big island of plastic floating through the ocean. She also obsesses about smaller worries like making friends, getting called on by the teacher, and walking home alone. Her parents and the school therapist call her worries an anxiety disorder, but Marvel calls them armor. If something can happen, it will. She needs to be prepared.

But when Marvel stumbles on a group of older kids teasing a baby goat that has mysteriously shown up on the soccer field, she momentarily forgets to be afraid and rescues the frightened animal. Only Butter isn’t any old goat. She’s a fainting goat. When Butter feels panic, she freezes up and falls over. Marvel knows exactly how Butter feels and precisely what Butter needs—her. Soon, the two are inseparable, and Butter thrives under Marvel’s support. But Butter also helps Marvel.

 

Margie Kelly Breaks the Dress Code by Bridget Farr

Margie Kelly’s perfect skirt was dress coded on her very first day of middle school. Upset and embarrassed, Margie spends the whole day wearing oversized gym shorts. So much for starting sixth grade with confidence! But when Margie realizes that the dress code is only applied to the female students and not the boys, Margie gets mad. Really mad.

The dress code is keeping girls stuck in detention all day and away from learning. The boys act like they own the school. And the teachers turn a blind eye to the hypocrisies taking place in the halls, classrooms, and clubs. Something has to change! And Margie knows just how to do it. She’ll plan a school-wide protest with her best friend, Daniela, and fellow classmates Jamiya and Gloria. But as Margie moves forward with her plans, she comes to realize some hard truths about herself. Will Margie recognize her own privilege and make meaningful change for all students?

 

Escape From . . . Hurricane Katrina by Judy Allen Dodson (author) and Nigel Chilvers (illus.)

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most destructive storms in American history. In this fictional tale, daring twins Jo Jo and Sophie battle the raging floodwaters in a fight for their lives.

For twins Jo Jo and Sophie Dupre, Hurricane Katrina isn’t the most important thing on their minds-not compared their mother’s cancer treatments, Sophie’s swim meet, and Jo Jo’s upcoming coding competition. But when the storm intensifies and there’s only one seat their aunt’s car, Mom has to be the one to evacuate. The twins and their father are stuck at home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

The winds rise-and with them, the waves. The levees break and floodwater rages through the city. During the chaos, Jo Jo and Sophie are swept away. Together, they must find their way to the Superdome, where their father should be waiting-but can they escape the wrath of one of the deadliest storms in history?

 

Summer Lifeguards: Piper Makes Waves by Elizabeth Doyle Carey

Time to dive back into Cape Cod in the fourth book of the Summer Lifeguards series featuring empowering female friendships, relatable challenges, and tons of beach fun! Piper Janssen is surprised by how much she likes being a Junior Lifeguard. Except for one thing: she’s totally nervous about wearing a bathing suit in public. Add on a catering gig gone wrong, co-worker drama, and trying not to be distracted by adorable Luke, and Piper’s got a lot on her plate this summer.

Everyone knows that Piper is amazing. But will Piper ever be able to feel that about herself? Or will her self-consciousness distract her from seeing the real threats on the beach?

 

 

FANTASY, SPOOKY, AND SUPERNATURAL

Journey Beyond the Burrow by Rina Heisel

There are rules every mouse must follow if they’re to survive in the forest. Tobin knows these guidelines by heart. After all, with one younger sibling, another on the way, and a best friend with a penchant for trouble making, he needs to be prepared for anything.

But one stormy night, Tobin’s safe burrow is invaded by monstrous arachnids, and his baby brother is stolen away. To save him, Tobin will have to do something he’s never done before: break the rules.

Drawing inspiration from the author’s work as a natural science documentarian, Journey Beyond the Burrow is as alive as the forest floor, where nature is unpredictable, occasionally frightening, and inspirational all the same.

 

 

The Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad

The heir to the Land should be strong. Fierce. Ruthless. At least, that’s what Beau’s father has been telling him his whole life, since Beau is the exact opposite of what the heir should be. With little control over his future, Beau is kept locked away, just another pawn in his father’s quest for ultimate power. That is, until Beau meets a girl who shows him the secrets his father has kept hidden.

For the first time, Beau begins to question everything he’s ever been told and sets off in search of a rebel who might hold the key to setting things right. Teaming up with a fiery runaway boy, their mission quickly turns into something far greater as sinister forces long lurking in the shadows prepare to make their final move—no matter what the cost. But it just might be Beau who wields the power he seeks . . . if he can go from pawn to player before the Land tears itself apart.

 

The Ghoul Next Door by Cullen Bunn and Cat Farris

Eleven-year-old Grey lives in the legend-haunted New England town of Ander’s Landing, and he can’t help but feel like a pair of eyes is watching his every move. He discovers odd, gruesome bits and pieces from the graveyard that are left for him as gifts like art carved from bones or jewelry made from (hopefully not human) remains. Soon Grey is caught up in something bigger than he could ever have imagined.

He finds himself drawn into a strange mystery involving a race of reclusive subterranean creatures—ghouls, the eaters of the dead! Turns out, his secret admirer is a ghoul named Lavinia. An unlikely friendship forms between them.

The only problem is, their friendship breaks traditions—and the punishment is a fate worse than death.

 

Weird Kid by Greg van Eekhout

Jake Wind is trying to stay under the radar. Whose radar? Anyone who might be too interested in the fact that he has shapeshifting abilities he can’t control. Or that his parents found him as a ball of goo when he was a baby. Keeping his powers in check is crucial, though, if he wants to live a normal life and go to middle school instead of being homeschooled (and if he wants to avoid being kidnapped and experimented on, of course).

Things feel like they’re going his way when he survives his first day of school without transforming and makes a new friend. But when mysterious sinkholes start popping up around town—sinkholes filled with the same extraterrestrial substance as Jake—and his neighbors, classmates, and even his family start acting a little, well, weird, Jake will have to learn to use his powers in order to save his town.

 

Titans: The Fallen Queen 3 by Kate O’Hearn

Jake, Nesso, and Emily have been captured by the Mimics. Their friends are determined to rescue them before it’s too late, though that’s easier said than done. Driven from their home and facing a constant stream of new attacks, Astraea, Zephyr, Pegasus, and Tryn are struggling just to survive another day against Mimics who can kill with a touch and take the shape of any friend or family member.

While Jupiter is focused on returning to Titus, Astraea knows their only shot is to take the fight to the Mimic home world and stop the Mimic queen herself. To do that, they’ll need to even the odds of seven friends versus an entire planet. So they come up with a plan to capture the one thing more terrifying than their enemy—the giant snake Lergo. Seeking out the serpent that almost killed them seems like a terrible idea. But it will take more than one unlikely ally to save their friends—not to mention the universe—and defeat the Mimics for good.

 

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

For fans of the Aru Shah and Serpent’s Secret series, this action-packed fantasy-adventure sees a girl’s drawings of Indian mythology spring to vivid life—including the evil god who seeks to enter the real world and destroy it. Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mom is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing. Kiki’s sketchbook is full of fanciful doodles of the rich Indian myths and legends her mother has told her over the years.

One day, her sketchbook’s calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life right out of its pages. Kiki ends up falling into the mystical world she drew, which includes a lot of wonderful discoveries like the band of rebel kids who protect the kingdom, as well as not-so-great ones like the ancient deity bent on total destruction. As the one responsible for creating the evil god, Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both worlds–the real and the imagined–from his wrath. But how can a girl armed with only a pencil defeat something so powerful?

 


Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne

Eleven-year-old Josephine knows that no one is good enough for her daddy. That’s why she makes a habit of scaring his new girlfriends away. She’s desperate to make it onto her school’s cricket team because she’ll get to play her favorite sport AND use the cricket matches to distract Daddy from dating.

But when Coach Broomes announces that girls can’t try out for the team, the frustrated Josephine cuts into a powerful silk cotton tree and accidentally summons a bigger problem into her life . . . The next day, Daddy brings home a new catch, a beautiful woman named Mariss. And unlike the other girlfriends, this one doesn’t scare easily. Josephine knows there’s something fishy about Mariss but she never expected her to be a vengeful sea creature eager to take her place as her father’s first love! Can Josephine convince her friends to help her and use her cricket skills to save Daddy from Mariss’s clutches before it’s too late?

 

GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Okay Witch and The Hungry Shadow by Emma Steinkellner

In this hilarious and heartwarming sequel to the bestselling and critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Okay Witch, half-witch Moth Hush uses magic to boost her confidence with disastrous results—perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Molly Ostertag!

Moth Hush is starting to settle into her newfound witch heritage and powers, but life at school continues to be rough. Even her best friend, Charlie, doesn’t entirely understand what it’s like for her to always be the one who gets mocked, and things only get worse when Moth’s mom starts dating one of the dorkiest teachers in the school! Then Moth gets hold of a mysterious charm that can unleash another version of herself—one who is confident, cool, and extremely popular.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

Clash (A Click Graphic Novel) by Kayla Miller

There’s a new kid in town! From the moment Natasha sets foot in class, it’s clear she’s one of the coolest kids in sixth grade. Everyone wants to be her friend, including Olive . . . but things might not be so easy.

Olive tries her best to befriend Nat, but it seems like the only thing they have in common is that they bothwant to hang out with Olive’s friends! Watching as Natasha gets closer with some of her best buds, Olive can’t help but worry that they’re starting to like Nat more than they like her . . .  and who could blame them? Nat is just that cool . . . and Olive is, well, just Olive.

The New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Kayla Miller delivers a nuanced look at navigating middle school friendships and the importance of both empathy and respect.

 

Mel The Chosen by Rachele Aragno

In this magical middle-grade graphic novel, nothing is more dangerous than a wish come true. 
More than anything, Mel wants to be a grown-up, and to make her own decisions, instead of having her parents pick what she wears, where they live, what they have for dinner, and where she goes to school. Then Mel gets the chance to travel to a magical world, where she can make her own choices and return all grown up. But what happens when you get older without living your life along the way?

Enchanting adventures and magical mishaps abound as Mel grapples with what it means to grow up. Rachele Aragno brings this enchanting story to life with a gorgeous watercolor style that feels both comfortingly classic and delightfully fresh! Anyone who has ever wished to grow up faster, or for just for a little bit of magic, will love Mel the Chosen.

  

Lilla the Accidental Witch by Eleanor Crewes

Magic is tough. Family is tougher. Boys are a complete mystery. Follow Lilla as she stumbles her way through each of them in Eleanor Crewes’s uniquely illustrated debut middle-grade graphic novel.

Thirteen-year-old Lilla feels she is a bit different. She’s quiet and shy and sometimes feels uncomfortable in the company of boys. She’d much rather spend time by herself drawing and daydreaming. This summer, while staying with her aunt in rural Italy, Lilla discovers a book of magic which reveals that she is a witch with special powers, the magic of the “Strega”.

But unbeknownst to her, an ancient witch, Stregamama, threatens to ruin more than just her summer. Lilla is soon faced with a choice that could change her life forever.

 

The Accursed Vampire by Madeline McGrane

A spooky and funny graphic novel perfect for fans of The Witch Boy and Real Friends. Dragoslava is a vampire kid. It has its perks, but sometimes being stuck as a kid forever can be a pain in the neck. And that’s not even the worst part. A few centuries ago, Drago was cursed by a witch. If they don’t complete every task she sets, they will be turned into worms.

When the witch wants a spellbook from Baneberry Falls, Drago sets off with their immortal friends. But mysteries await in this sleepy Midwestern town, and Drago must figure out if the keepers of the spellbook have a hidden agenda, like everyone else they’ve ever known.

One thing’s for sure: after this accursed mission, Drago’s immortal life will never be the same again!

 

 

 

My Desert Island Top Five

June is finally here. School is out (or almost out), and everyone is ready for a long, relaxing summer.

This past year has got me thinking about summers when I was kid. Back then, summer vacation consisted of baseball games in the pasture, slip and slides, camping out in the back yard, and traveling only as far as your bike could take you in the hours between breakfast and dinner. A slow and easy summer like that meant two things – you hung out with the same small group of people day in and day out and you spent a lot of time making up games to keep you entertained. One of the games we played when the days got too long and we got too bored was Desert Island. Desert Island  consisted of naming your Top Five – the five songs, albums, movies, tv shows, and books (of course) that you’d want to have if you were stranded on a desert island.

Our Top Five lists shifted and changed week to week and year to year. Sometimes we’d steal from each other. Occasionally, an out of town relative would come for a visit and completely upend our idea of what was worthy. But mostly, every time we played, we got to think about what we loved and why we loved it – which isn’t a bad thing to do.

This past year, I’ve spent some time thinking about what I love and why. I reread old books (like Beverly Cleary’s Henry and the Clubhouse which still holds up and has a Ramona and her mom scene that completely cracked me up). I rewatched old movies (like Legally Blonde and Sense and Sensibility – both of which always make me smile), and revisited old tv shows (Parks and Recreation of course). And, I read a lot of books and thought about which ones stuck with me past the last page and why. It was thinking about what stuck that got me to write this post.

Enough talk. Let’s get to it. Here are my Desert Island Top Five Middle Grade reads this past year (in no particular order):

 

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

A lightning strike gave her a super power…but even a super genius can’t solve the problem of middle school. This smart and funny novel is perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by Sevens.

Lucy Callahan’s life was changed forever when she was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but the zap gave her genius-level math skills, and she’s been homeschooled ever since. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook ). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

 

 

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia (Author) Frank Morrison (Illustrator)

From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love that will appeal to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander.

Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen–he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

 

 

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

In this acclaimed novel by the author of the award-winning, bestselling The Thing About Jellyfish, being the new kid at school isn’t easy, especially when you have to follow in the footsteps of a legendary classroom prankster.

When Caitlyn Breen begins her disorienting new life at Mitchell School–where the students take care of real live goats and study long-dead philosophers, and where there are only ten other students in the entire seventh grade–it seems like nobody can stop talking about some kid named Paulie Fink.

Depending on whom you ask, Paulie was either a hilarious class clown, a relentless troublemaker, a hapless klutz, or an evil genius. One thing’s for sure, though: The kid was totally legendary. Now he’s disappeared, and Caitlyn finds herself leading a reality-show-style competition to find the school’s next great Paulie Fink. With each challenge, Caitlyn struggles to understand a person she never met…but it’s what she discovers about herself that most surprises her.

Told in multiple voices, interviews, and documents, this funny, thought-provoking novel from the bestselling author of The Thing About Jellyfish is a memorable exploration of what makes a hero–and if anyone, or anything, is truly what it seems.

 

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

 

 

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Joy McCullough

A girl with a passion for science and a boy who dreams of writing fantasy novels must figure out how to get along now that their parents are dating in this lively, endearing novel.

Sutton is having robot problems. Her mini-bot is supposed to be able to get through a maze in under a minute, but she must have gotten something wrong in the coding. Which is frustrating for a science-minded girl like Sutton–almost as frustrating as the fact that her mother probably won’t be home in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday.

Luis spends his days writing thrilling stories about brave kids, but there’s only so much inspiration you can find when you’re stuck inside all day. He’s allergic to bees, afraid of dogs, and has an overprotective mom to boot. So Luis can only dream of daring adventures in the wild.

Sutton and Luis couldn’t be more different from each other. Except now that their parents are dating, these two have to find some common ground. Will they be able to navigate their way down a path they never planned on exploring?

 

So, that’s my Desert Island Top Five (for now). What are your Desert Island Top Five Middle Grade – of all time, of the past year, or even of the last month? I’d love to steal, so please share in the comments below.

 

 

Interview with Supriya Kelkar, author of THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

We are in for a treat today!  Today we have Supriya Kelkar, author of That Thing About Bollywood which is out now from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

JR: Hi Supriya, and welcome to Mixed-Up Files!

SK: Thank you! It is so great to be back!

 

JR: First off, for those who don’t know, what can you tell us about the book and where the idea for the story came from?

SK: Yes! Bollywood is the nickname for the Hindi film industry. It is one of the largest film industries in the world. I grew up never getting to see myself in an American book, TV show, or movie so Bollywood gave me a little of the representation I was looking for. It was a space where my food and cultures and clothing, all of which were mocked daily in my small town that didn’t appreciate diversity, were celebrated. And it was a place where people who looked like me were heroes. I learned Hindi by watching 3 Hindi movies a week and even went on to become a Bollywood screenwriter as an adult, working on the writing teams for several big Bollywood films, including India’s entry into the Oscars, and another film which was the top grossing Bollywood movie of all time at that moment in time.

So as an adult, I tried for a very long time to put my love for Bollywood into a book. One day I realized most Bollywood films from the 80s and 90s were very obvious about what the characters were going through. Feelings were loud, things were exaggerated and colorful. So I thought what if there is a classic-Bollywood loving kid who is the opposite of that, not very good at showing her feelings?

And that’s how the idea for That Thing about Bollywood came to be. It is the story of Sonali, a Bollywood-loving kid who isn’t very good at expressing herself and showing her true feelings. One day a life-changing event causes her to get a magical condition called Bollywooditis, which makes her express herself in the most obvious way possible, through Bollywood song-and-dance numbers. As the magic spreads, Sonali must find out what is causing it and how to stop it before all her true memories and the feelings associated with them are gone forever.

 

JR: That really does sound amazing! Last time you were here, I told you that absolutely love Bollywood movies! What is it about the genre that makes for good storytelling?

SK: Bollywood, like many kinds of world cinema, is escapism at its finest. It’s full of joy and drama, striking colors and incredible dances. I think it can be a powerful way to tell really serious stories too, and sometimes the musical format can help deliver messages from your theme really easily.

I used some of that theory when it came to writing That Thing about Bollywood too. The fun of seeing your main character bursting out in big song-and-dance numbers let me go into really serious issues too like changing families and health issues.

JR: Last time you gave us some of your favorites, have there been any newer Bollywood films that you’d like to add to the list?

SK: I did not do a very good job at keeping up with the newer Bollywood movies over the past year and the ones I did see were not my favorites. But I did spend that time introducing my kids to older Hindi movies. The one movie we watched over and over again was Lagaan, streaming on Netflix. It was my favorite movie back in 2001, and was nominated for an Oscar. It is a historical epic with songs and dances and colonization and decolonization and my kids love to see it.

JR: I’m going to have to check that out! In your book, you deal with some heavy topics, like divorce. Was that tough to tackle and find the right balance for a Middle Grade audience?

SK: It was initially when I was outlining the book and thinking about its structure and the scenes. But when I started writing, the magic of Bollywooditis let me give readers a break when things were really tough in Sonali’s parents’ marriage, and those magical elements really helped me explore Sonali’s feelings in a way that felt right for a middle grade audience.

JR: I usually break out into song as well when dealing with tough topics. How much of you is in Sonali?

S: I am very much the opposite of Sonali, in that my emotions are very obvious to anyone who sees me. I will say at times I felt embarrassed of how easily I would cry when I felt for something I was going through, or even when I would cry because I’d really deeply feel what someone else is going through. I can still remember being a kid and having to sing prayers at a family friend’s grandparent’s memorial service. I don’t think I’d ever even met the grandparent because they lived in India. But something about seeing our family friends upset led me to sob throughout the singing. I remember some adults laughed in surprise, wondering why I was so upset, before trying to comfort me. I could still get a little embarrassed thinking about that moment as an adult, but thanks to writing this book and going on Sonali’s journey with her, I know that you are entitled to your feelings and it’s actually a great thing to care so deeply for others and have empathy.

JR: I agree. If you could escape into one film, which would it be?

SK: Could Jurassic Park be a Bollywood musical? I’d like to think it could be. I’d love to sing and dance about my feelings while dealing with those dinosaurs.

JR: I’ll count it as a musical for this. Many authors use local flavor to influence some of their books. Does where you live now lend anything to your books?

SK: It does! I grew up in Michigan and still live there so I loved setting American as Paneer Pie there and making the fictional town there as close to my hometown as possible. Similarly, because I lived in L.A. for a while and traveled there a lot for work and vacations, I felt like it was the perfect setting for That Thing about Bollywood because there are already magical elements about L.A. thanks to Hollywood, and it seemed like the best place for Sonali’s Bollywooditis to manifest.

JR: Read on your site that you have a purple belt in karate. How up to date is that?

SK: This question made me laugh for a really long time! It is sadly not very up-to-date. But it was clearly a bragging point in my childhood bio from 1989.

JR: I still would fear you! In that same vein, would you describe yourself as the toughest MG author out there?

SK: Well I didn’t see any other MG authors saying they could sing-and-dance their way out of dino trouble, so maybe?

JR: TRUE! What are you working on next?

SK: I’m working on my next middle grade novel, several picture books including my 2023 release, My Name, and I’m working on my illustrator debut for American Desi, a book by Jyoti Rajan Gopal that comes out in June 2022 from Little, Brown.

 

JR: I can’t wait to see all of them! Any upcoming appearances?

SK: I was at Books of Wonder in May and there is a replay of the panel in case you miss it, Cafe Con Libros on June 1st, and at Nerd Camp KS, Nerd Camp PA, and Nerd Camp CT this summer!

JR: You Aare definitely busy! How can people follow you on social media?

SK: Instagram: @supriya.kelkar
TikTok: @supriya.kelkar Twitter: @supriyakelkar_ 

 

JR: I’d like to once again thank Supriya for joining us here at Mixed-Up Files, and everyone else, make sure you go out and get a copy of THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD!

 

Until next time, Mixed-Up Filers, have a great start to summer!

 

Jonathan