MUF Contributor Books

19 Back-to-School Themed Books

As summer winds down, kids are thinking about heading back to school. After you load them up with all the no. 2 pencils they need, get them in the school spirit with a middle-grade book about those first days back in the hallways.

The First Rule of Punk Cover
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
First day at a new school and twelve-year-old Malú makes her school’s queen bee, mad, shows up in punk rock attire that is not dress-code approved, and gets in trouble with her mom. Is there a harder age than this? We don’t think so!

Ghosts CoverGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
Catrina is upset that her family relocated to Bahía de la Luna, California, but her younger sister Maya has cystic fibrosis and the sea air in their new coastal town will help her. Exploring, they find out their town is full of ghosts–and it sends Catrina on a journey of her own.

Goodbye Stranger Cover

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Growing up together vs. growing apart is the theme of Stead’s novel about three best friends who find that everything changes at the start of seventh grade.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
No BTS list is complete without a mention of “the boy who lived” and his first eventful year at Hogwarts.

The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
When a group of fifth graders team up as the D Squad to create a homework machine named Belch, everything goes smoothly… at first, but before long, Belch becomes more powerful than they ever imagined, and the kids wind up in major trouble.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven may make up stories like that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, but she was born without them. She fears that moving across the country and starting over at a new school means she’ll have to explain her physical differences over and over again to new people. But the move allows her to meet a new friend, solve a mystery, and face her fears.

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
In this relatable story, Karma is super nervous about starting middle school–for all sorts of reasons, including tricky friend reasons and changes in her family reasons–and most of all, because of the seventeen hairs that suddenly showed up on her upper lip.

Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske
Fifth grade Kat lives in New York where she attends a new age New York City private school. In addition to coping with all sorts of fifth grade stuff (like a boy crazy best friend) she has a mother with worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer Cover

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles
Buddies Otto and Sheed are junior detectives in their wacky town where all sorts of crazy stuff happens. As summer nears its end, they’ve got one final mystery to solve before school starts.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements
Twelve-year-old identical twins Ray and Jay are tired of being known as part of a pair. But when they start at a new school, and Ray stays home sick on the first day, Jay discovers the school has no record of his brother. Cue crazy schemes and shenanigans as the twins trick their new classmates and teachers into thinking there is just one of them.

 

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm
Ginny starts seventh grade with a to-do list of impressive action items but her school year so does not go as planned. Told through Ginny’s stuff (like notes and report cards) this is a fun and unusual way to tell a story.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros
I so remember those back-to-school jitters I wrote a whole book about it. My Year of Epic Rock is my debut novel about Nina, who, on the first day of seventh grade, finds out her best friend has ditched her for a cooler girl. Ouch! Now Nina’s banished to the peanut allergy table in the cafeteria at lunchtime, where she and the other food-allergic kids come together how to have a rocking year.

New Kid by Jerry Craft
This funny, relatable graphic novel follows Jordan as he starts seventh grade at a fancy new private school where he’s one of only a few boys of color. Suddenly he feels adrift, not at home with the friends he left behind nor the new kids at school he feels he has little in common with.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
This graphic memoir explores the pain and challenges of shifting friendships. Shannon thinks Adrienne is her best friend forever, but then Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen and “The Group,” leaving Shannon painfully behind.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
This whimsical novel is about a town called Midnight Gulch that used to be full of magic, before a curse ended that. Now twelve-year-old Felicity has moved there with her always-on-the-move mother, and Felicity wants nothing more than to heal the town and finally find a home they can stay in forever.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda Books) Cover

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda series Book 1) by Tom Angleberger
In the first book in the beloved, hilarious Origami Yoda series, sixth grader Dwight creates a finger puppet paper Yoda, who turns out to be as wise and helpful as the Yoda we all know and love.

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd
Set in 1985 Tennessee , Lyndie B. Hawkins is the daughter of a veteran. Her love of history, especially family history, puts her in direct opposition to her fusspot grandmother who’d rather keep secrets than expose them.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Dèja starts fifth grade at a new school with a secret — she and her family are homeless and live in a Brooklyn shetler. But an inspiring teacher leads to new friendships for Dèja, as well as an understanding about the tragic events of 9/11, fifteen years prior, and their lingering impact on her family and community.

Wonder

Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Starting at a brand-new school in fifth grade is hard enough, but for Auggie, born with facial differences that make him stand out, it’s even harder. This lovely and moving novel guides readers to “Choose Kind.”

 

 

 

Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas + Giveaway

Today is World Cancer Day, devoted to raising awareness of the disease and supporting those individuals and their families who are facing it head on. And that’s exactly what MUF contributor, Andrea Pyros, has done with her newly released novel, Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas. We’re pleased to interview Andrea and to shine a light on this heartfelt and important book, especially today:

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Twelve-year-old Josephine has a lot on her plate―best friend issues, first crush issues, divorced parent issues, twin brother issues . . . and then her mom hits her with news that shakes her to her core: a breast cancer diagnosis. Josephine doesn’t want anyone to know―not even her best friend. Sharing the news means it’s actually real, and that’s something she’s not ready to face. Plus it would mean dealing with the stares―and pity―of her classmates. She got enough of that when her parents split up. Unfortunately for Josephine, her twin brother, Chance, doesn’t feel the same way. And when Chance dyes his hair pink to support his mom, the cat is out of the bag. Suddenly Josephine has to rethink her priorities. Does getting an invite to the party of the year matter when your mom is sick? And what if it does matter? Does that make her a monster?

 

ABOUT ANDREA:

Andrea Pyros is the author My Year of Epic Rock, which was called “a perfect read for anyone who feels BFF-challenged” by Booklist and “a charming addition to upper elementary and middle school collections” by School Library Journal. Andrea has written extensively for young adults, starting with her stint as co-founder of the pop culture website Girls on Film and then as a senior-level editor at a variety of teen magazines. A native of New York City, Andrea now lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two children. For more information, visit her at www.andreapyros.com.

 

Read the interview and scroll down to enter the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a signed copy of Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas. Good luck! (This giveaway is only available in the United States.)

Why was it so important to you to write a book about cancer?

When I was in sixth grade, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On top of feeling worried for her and scared about what might happen to me if something happened to her, I also felt guilty, because I still had regular middle school kid concerns, like about friends and crushes and school. That seemed wrong, somehow. I wrote Pink Hair… because I wanted kids like me to know it’s totally normal to still think about themselves when a loved one is sick. Life keeps going!

Aside from your own experiences in middle school, was there anything else that sparked the idea for Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas?

The idea was born when I saw an article about a student who’d dyed his hair pink in honor of his mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and his school suspended him. I was shocked. Like, here’s someone coping with a parent’s illness and trying to do something positive and he was being punished for it. I was nowhere as brave as this kid. When my mother got sick I was embarrassed to talk about it and didn’t want people to know. That’s why I gave Josephine a twin brother who copes in a vastly different way than she does to their mother’s news—none of us deal in the exact same way when facing a hard time.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

I drew quite a bit on my own experience as a child and my memories of my mother’s surgery, and how scary that time was for her and for me. I also spoke with a breast cancer surgeon to learn more about how breast cancer is treated today, compared to back in the 80s. Things have changed quite a bit in how we speak about and understand cancer.

What was your greatest challenge in writing this story of Josephine?

Josephine is a confusing and messy person. She loves her mom and twin brother, but she’s also mad at them and frustrated, and doesn’t always behave the “right” way with them. I wanted to make her real and human, but it’s hard when your main character sometimes does things you don’t approve of.

Have you ever dyed your hair pink?

I WISH! I’ve been thinking about it, but I’m intimated by the upkeep. 🙂

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process with this book?

Sure! I had a writing group, which is a fantastic motivator. We’d meet every other week and share pages and give each other feedback on our projects. Their notes really helped, as did the enforced deadlines, because otherwise it’s too easy for my fiction writing to get pushed to the side by other job projects, time with my family, or just goofing off. I worked on the first draft with them, and then wrote the first revision with my writing group, as well.

What are some of your favorite writing tips?

My writing tips that work for me (but may not work for you, so take these with a grain of salt): 1) When I’m writing, I block social media on my computer so I’m not distracted quite so easily. 2) I remind myself that a first draft is going to sound clunky and stilted. Don’t panic, it’s going to take shape over time! 3) People write in all sorts of ways—between work and family obligations, or they write during lunch breaks or just on weekends or for thirty minutes in the morning. Whatever it is you’re doing to get words onto paper, you do you. There’s no wrong way to write.

Thanks so much, Andrea, for taking the time out to share a bit about Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

MG Authors Share Their Secret Holiday Wishes

In celebration of the holiday season, and in eager anticipation of 2019, we asked a merry band of MG authors to share their holiday wishes, big and small. Here’s what they had to say:

Beth McMullen, author of the MRS. SMITH’S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS series.

“I wish for the world full stomachs, sturdy roofs, good books, good friends, joy, laughter and possibly some chocolate. For my author friends, I wish for words that flow like a river, a fully charged laptop, a great answer to the question ‘what happens next?’ and a sense of humor for when it all goes sideways. Happy Holidays and best wishes for a spectacular 2019!

 

Jonathan Rosen, author of NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES and FROM SUNSET TILL SUNRISE.
“For everyone who has persevered and worked hard toward a goal to accomplish it this year.”
Wendy McLeod MacKnight, author of  IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE! and THE FRAME-UP.
“That every child finds the book that lifts them up, inspires them, and brings them peace.”
Hayley Chewins, author of THE TURNAWAY GIRLS.
“For every young girl in the world to find her true voice–and to have the courage to use it.”
Kim Ventrella, author of SKELETON TREE and BONE HOLLOW.
“That ghost stories return as a popular winter pastime. After all, there’s no better time to get spooky than the deep, dark of winter.”
Darcey Rosenblatt, author of LOST BOYS.
“That everyone finds time next to a fireplace with a good book. “
Kristin L. Gray, author of VILLONIA TAKES CHARGE and the upcoming picture book,
KOALA IS NOT A BEAR.
“I’d love a magical snow day where the world pauses, and everyone in it sips hot cocoa with marshmallows, reads their pile of wondrous books, and watches  movies by the fire with loved ones.
Amanda Hosch, author of MABEL OPAL PEAR AND THE RULES FOR SPYING.
“To give everyone that lovely moment when they feel safe and cared for. And then have that moment last! (Of course, if they’re characters in a book—it won’t.)”
Susan Tan, author of CILLA LEE-JENKINS: FUTURE AUTHOR EXTRAORDINAIRE and CILLA LEE-JENKINS: THIS BOOK IS A CLASSIC and CILLA LEE-JENKINS: THE EPIC STORY.
“Peace on earth, a good book for all.”
Melissa Sarno, author of JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS and the upcoming A SWIRL OF OCEAN.
“For all women to have confidence in their voices, and for their words to be lifted and heard.”

Jarret Lerner, author of ENGINERDS and REVENGE OF THE ENGINERDS.

“That everyone have a nice, long, uninterrupted chunk of time to a read a book that they’ve been wanting to read all year long.”

 

Jake Burt, author of  GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION and THE RIGHT HOOK OF DEVIN VELMA.
“For every kid to find a book that, while reading, they can experience with as much joy, wonder, and excitement as I did when I first discovered the magic of stories (thank you, James and the Giant Peach!).”
Sally J. Pla, author of THE SOMEDAY BIRDS and STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE, and picture book BENJI, THE BAD DAY, AND ME.
“That this impossible world gets way better at cherishing life in all its forms, but especially the lives of children. And that our own special kidlit community continues its excellent work caring about both kids and each other.”
Alyson Gerber, author of BRACED and FOCUSED.
“That every kid can find at least one book that makes them feel heard and understood and accepted.”
Rob Vlock, author of SVEN CARTER & THE TRASHMOUTH EFFECT and SVEN CARTER & THE ANDROID ARMY.
“I actually have two wishes. First, I wish everyone on earth could learn to love each other and live in peace and harmony forever. Second, I wish for a large cheese pizza. Actually, I’m starving. Let’s go with the pizza first and that whole love, peace and harmony thing second. Have a wonderful New Year everyone!”

Bridget Hodder, author of THE RAT PRINCE.

“This year, I wish you all the courageous persistence represented by the light of the Hanukkah candles, which kept burning even when common sense said there was no hope left. And I wish you the loving unity represented by the angels of Christmas, who proclaimed at Jesus’s birth: ‘Joy to the World’– the entire world, without boundary or limit. Happy Holidays, everyone!”

Katie Slivensky, author of THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY and THE SEISMIC SEVEN.
“My greatest wish for the new year is for everyone to have something to look forward to in 2019. Never underestimate the power of an ambition, dream, or hope!”
Allison K. Hymas, author of UNDER LOCKER AND KEY and ARTS AND THEFTS.
“My greatest wish for the holidays is that I’ll be able to spend some good, quality time with my family and that no one will ‘retrieve’ something (i.e., my Christmas candy) that does not belong to them.”
Natalie Rompella, author of COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS and the picture book,
THE WORLD NEVER SLEEPS.
“I am very excited about a book I have out on submission. I would love for this book to come into the world!”

And finally, my wish…? For anyone facing rejection to say, “Today, I will NOT give up.”

Melissa Roske, author of KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN.