Last year it was… … first book in my series for younger MG readers. And as of today it’s…
…book two! I’m headlong in love with these characters, so it’s wonderful to continue spending time with them ( two more books to come).
For me, writing early middle grade, which I think of as geared to roughly 7-10 year olds, is a happy challenge. A maximum of 15,000 words— sheer torture for a meander-er like me. And while Cody and best bud Spencer deal with real-life issues including sibling problems, the ups and downs of friendship, succeeding (or not) in school, deciding what is right and what’s wrong, and experience feelings like jealousy, loneliness, confusion, frustration (whew! growing up is a lot of work)—their lives are more sheltered and innocent than the lives of older middle graders. So writing these books is a balancing act that requires treating things that loom large in kids’ lives in a respectful yet light (never lite) way. These are books for kids who love to laugh and like happy endings. Bonus: because they have lots of illustrations, they appeal to older, reluctant MG readers, t0o. It’s a wonderful coincidence that Sarah Pennypacker, who wrote the brilliant Clementine series, is debuting a new young MG hero this month. I like to think that Waylon, of “Waylon! One Awesome Thing”, would hit it off with Cody if they ever met.
The Booklist review of “Mysteries of the Universe” really describes what these books are about when it says they center on “the ever-shifting questions asked by readers this age as their awareness of the universe around them grows in leaps and bounds. ” Oh what the heck, I’ll blush and add the review’s last line: “Brimming with charm, delight, and a diverse cast of characters.”
To help celebrate Cody # 2’s publication, and Cody #1 being out in paperback, I’m giving away a signed copy of each. Please leave a comment below! (Only U.S. residents please).
Happy April! While today may be the day to play tricks, these books on this list are the REAL DEAL!
I’m thrilled to announce some amazing titles that are being released this month including two from our very own Mixed-Up Files Members:
Hillary Homzie and Tricia Springstubb!!
The Queen of Likes by Hillary Homzie (Aladdin)
A tween social media queen is forced to give up her phone and learn that there’s more to life than likes in this M X novel from the author of “The Hot List.”
Karma Cooper is a seventh grader with thousands of followers on SnappyPic. Before Karma became a social media celebrity, she wasn t part of the in-crowd at Merton Middle School. But thanks to one serendipitous photo, Karma has become a very popular poster on SnappyPic. Besides keeping up with all of her followers, like most kids at MMS, her smartphone a bejeweled pink number Karma nicknamed Floyd is like a body part she could never live without.
But after breaking some basic phone rules, Karma’s cruel, cruel parents take Floyd away, and for Karma, her world comes to a screeching halt. Can Karma who can text, post photos, play soccer, and chew gum all at the same time learn to go cold turkey and live her life fully unplugged?
Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe by Tricia Springstubb (Candlewick)
Not everything turns out to be as it first appears when Cody and her best friend, Spencer, navigate a neighborhood mystery and the start of a new school year.
Cody’s best friend, Spencer, and his parents are moving in with his grandmother right around the corner, and Cody can t wait. For one thing, Cody needs Spencer to help solve the mystery of the never-seen Mr. Meen, who lives on the other side of the porch with a skull-and-crossbones sign in the window and an extermination truck out front. How’s Cody to know that a yellow jacket would sting her, making her scream “Ow Ow ” just as they start spying? Or that the ominous window sign would change overnight to “Welcome home,” only deepening the mystery? In this second adventure, Spencer’s new-school jitters, an unexpected bonding with a teacher over Mozart, and turf-claiming kids next door with a reason for acting out are all part of Cody’s experiences as summer shifts into a new year at school.
CONGRATULATIONS Tricia and Hillary!!!
Keep going for some more fantastic books releasing this month:
Demigods & Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion) Magic, monsters, and mayhem abound when Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase meet Carter and Sadie Kane for the first time. Weird creatures are appearing in unexpected places, and the demigods and magicians have to team up to take them down. As they battle with Celestial Bronze and glowing hieroglyphs, the four heroes find that they have a lot in common–and more power than they ever thought possible. But will their combined forces be enough to foil an ancient enemy who is mixing Greek and Egyptian incantations for an evil purpose? Rick Riordan wields his usual storytelling magic in this adrenaline-fueled adventure.
Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale by Jennifer Ann Mann (Candlewick) Sixteen-year-old Noah Daniels wants nothing more than to fight in George Washington’s Continental Army, but an accident as a child left him maimed and unable to enlist. He is forced to watch the Revolution from his family’s hard scrabble farm in Upstate New York—until a violent raid on his settlement thrusts him into one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution, and ultimately, face to face with the enemy. A riveting coming of age story, this book also includes an author’s note and bibliography.
The Pet and the Pendulum (The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe) by Gordon McAlpine (Viking BFYR) In The Tell-Tale Start, twins Edgar and Allan Poe foiled the nefarious Professor Perry, who wanted to use them in his deadly quantum entanglement experiment. In Once Upon a Midnight Eerie, they took on his equally evil mother and daughter. Now, in The Pet and the Pendulum, it’s time for the real showdown, which takes place in an old mansion right outside Baltimore. As with the first two books, The Pet and the Pendulum is filled with codes, brain-teasers, smart (not snarky) humor, and cameos by the actual Edgar Allan Poe, who is watching over his great-great-great-nephews from the Great Beyond. Readers won’t want to miss the Misaventures’ end.
Evil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon &Schuster BFYR) When Ben gets kicked out of the CIA’s spy school, he enrolls with the enemy. From “New York Times “bestselling author, Stuart Gibbs, this companion to the Edgar Award nominated “Spy School “and “Spy Camp “is rife with action, adventure, and espionage.
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood By Liesl Shurtliff (Alfred A Knopf BFYR) “Red” is the most wonder-filled fairy tale of them all Chris Grabenstein, “New York Times” Bestselling author of “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.”
Red is not afraid of the big bad wolf.She’s not afraid of anything . . . except magic.
But when Red’s granny falls ill, it seems that only magic can save her, and fearless Red is forced to confront her one weakness.
With the help of a blond, porridge-sampling nuisance called Goldie, Red goes on a quest to cure Granny. Her journey takes her through dwarves caverns to a haunted well and a beast’s castle. All the while, Red and Goldie are followed by a wolf and a huntsman two mortal enemies who seek the girls help to defeat each other. And one of them just might have the magical solution Red is looking for. . .
War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus By Kathryn Selbert (Charlesbridge) Winston Churchill, the prime minister of England during World War II, was one of the greatest wartime leaders of the modern era. While he is often likened to the English bulldog due to his tenacious personality and even his physical resemblance to the breed, Mr. Churchill was actually a devoted poodle owner and held quite an affinity for his miniature poodle, Rufus, who withstood the trials of World War II by his owner’s side.
Readers follow Rufus and Winston’s friendship through major events in World War II from the bombings of London and the invasion of Normandy to post-war reconstruction. Secondary text includes quotes from Churchill himself taken from his rousing speeches to the people of England and to the world. Backmatter includes a timeline of World War II, an author’s note about Churchill’s pets, as well as a short biography, quote sources, and a list of recommended resources for further study.
This or That 4:Even More Wacky Choices to Reveal the Hidden You By Michelle Harris; Julie Beer (National Geographic Kids) Would you rather choose THIS: Join a Viking festrival, or THAT: Join a voodoo festival? Welcome to This or That?, a wacky book of choices where every answer brings you one step closer to discovering the hidden YOU. This fourth all-new book in the series features 10 awesome categories: outer space, amazing animals, festivals from around the world, amazing inventions, music, silly stats, and more Discover amazing stuff about the real-world and yourself, with fun facts about every option and insights about what your answers mean from the hilarious Dr. Matt Bellace at the end of every chapter.
Write Your Own Book by DK (DK Publishing) Tell your own story with this unique book filled with creative writing prompts and activities. Young writers can build their skills, develop their confidence, and learn how to write a book in this unique format filled with creative writing ideas and exercises.
Do Fish Fart?Answers to Kids’ Questions about Lakes By Keltie Thomas (Firefly Books) This intriguing collection of questions and answers about our lakes and freshwater systems will fascinate, amaze and inform young readers and anyone who is curious about this world of water. The book answers questions submitted by youngsters curious about water and life in a watershed.
Mixed-Up Files contributor Hillary Homzie is joining us today to talk about her latest release, QUEEN OF LIKES. We’re so glad to have her here.
Welcome, Hillary! And here are the questions we have for you…
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child I wanted to be a writer. For as along as I can remember I’ve loved to make up stories. Whether it was let’s pretend with my stuffed animals, or playing with my Barbies, or making my paper dolls (sometimes I’d draw them or, other times, I’d make them from photos of models in the Sears catalogue) or play-acting I was a lost orphan with my best friend Claire in the woods behind our house, stories ruled my world. Sometimes they even got me in trouble. Once my mother gave me an antique china doll with this beautiful wedding dress. The other dolls decided she was much too snobby, and so they all decided to drop her from the top of the staircase. Let’s just say that story didn’t end well!
Oh, my! I can only imagine. So with all that storytelling ability, when did you start writing down your stories?
Hillary, age 7, with sister, Leslie, age 4
Well, my second grade teacher, Mrs. McCrone, had weekly creative writing assignments, so I definitely enjoyed writing stories then, but I didn’t actually start to write entire novels until I was about 23. It was after I took a children’s writing course up at City University in New York with author and poet Pam Laskin.
What made you write Karma’s story?
Probably because I have a house full of teens (and one tween). And I see how much they are on their phones and how much they anticipate and live for the number of LIKES they get after a post. My older boys sometimes even compete with each other in terms of who gets more LIKES. And I just thought it would be interesting to write about a tween who calculated her sense of self-worth by the number of LIKES on her social media account. And what would happen if that social media account got shut down by parents! Ouch!
Yes that definitely was a big OUCH for Karma, and it would be for most people (including adults) who are tied to their phones. Karma’s parents taking away her cell phone is possibly the worst punishment ever for an online social media diva like she was. Speaking of punishments, what was your worst punishment ever?
I was what my mother-in-law calls a goody-goody. I never really received a punishment. Just maybe a talking to (if my sister and I were fighting) and maybe sent to my room. Even when I got called down the principal’s office in seventh grade, the principal himself only spoke with me for five minutes and didn’t call my parents. He was my swim coach, and he knew that I never got in trouble and figured that the teacher had somehow gotten things wrong.
Hmm… well, I won’t ask you if the teacher really had gotten things wrong. Maybe we should go back to talking about QUEEN OF LIKES. So… how are you and Karma (love that name, BTW!) alike and different?
Hillary with her labradoodle
Karma and I are alike in that, yes, we both live on the West Coast. I live in California, however, and Karma lives in the suburbs of Oregon. We’re both Jewish and attend reform synagogues. We both own giant labradoodles. [That’s interesting! I’m glad you sent a picture so we can see what labradoodles look like.] We both check how many LIKES we get on social media far too much. We are different in that Karma has a little brother (I have one younger sister). She had one event that made her social media popularity blow up. That hasn’t happened to me. My number of followers on Twitter, for example, has been slowly growing but there hasn’t been one blow-up event. Karma lives for her LIKES. I’d like to think that I’m a bit more balanced.
Karma ends up in some embarrassing situations. What was your most embarrassing moment?
Probably when a boy stopped to talk to me, and I had a tampon in my hand that I stupidly pulled out of my purse. Sometimes common sense and Hillary don’t go together.
What was middle school like for you?
Oh, gosh. In each grade, I feel like I was very different. In sixth grade, I was very happy, had close friends and a teacher that I loved, Ms. Casey. My friends were the brainy set, but I was also connected with an assortment of kids.
Hillary, age 13
In seventh grade, my best friend was no longer in my classes, and in my core class, all of the girls were paired up with their besties. My core teacher was an odd duck who refused to be photographed unless it was in profile. She didn’t like me too much, and I once got into a roll-on-the floor fight and was sent to the office. My language arts teacher couldn’t write very well, and I didn’t respect her. It was a very blah year.
In eighth grade, I moved for a year to Menlo Park, California, where my dad was a scholar-in-residence at Stanford University. It was hard to be the new eighth grader. Lots of the kids were spoiled, directly aggressive, and even racist. I hated it until halfway through the year when I met an amazing group of girls with whom I’m friends with to this very day. Your greater environment can be icky—but if you have close friends, life is very manageable. At least, it was for me!
Sometimes it’s not easy to make friends when you’re the new kid at school. I’m glad you found friends who helped you feel at home. With all that experience behind you, what advice do you wish you could give to your younger self?
Do what you love to do, and those with similar interests will gravitate towards you. Be friends with the kids who make you feel good and supported, even if they are outsiders. Don’t look at the so-called popular kids and imagine if only you could be them or with them, life would be rosy. During one of my high school reunions, one of those so-called popular girls told me that she wished she was me!
What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book?
Follow your passions, do what you like. Don’t worry about what others think of you. Don’t live for the approval of others.
What are you working on now? Are there any more Karma books in the works?
I’m a multi-tasker when it comes to writing. I just finished a chapter book, and I’m toggling between a contemporary tween middle grade with a dash of magic and a middle grade science fantasy.
Both of those sound like fun, but since you mentioned fantasy, let’s talk about magic. If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
That love not hate would bring the world together, the end of racial oppression, world peace.
What wonderful wishes! I hope they all come true. I’m sorry this interview is almost over, but I always like to ask authors one last question, because most of them have lived such fascinating lives. What is something most people don’t know about you?
I used to be a sketch comedian. In my twenties, I performed with the HA! Comedy Duo and Rubber Feet at clubs and theaters all over NYC. I’m a fairly even-keeled person in real life, but up on stage, I can get crazy!
Wow! I’m impressed. No wonder QUEEN OF LIKES is filled with humor. I’m lucky that I had a sneak peek at the book, and I’m sure everyone else will want to buy the book, which is available for preorder now from Aladdin M!X and Amazon. Or you can find it at your local bookstore on April 5, 2016.
ABOUT QUEEN OF LIKES
Karma Cooper is a seventh grader with thousands of followers on SnappyPic. Before Karma became a social media celebrity, she wasn’t part of the in-crowd at Merton Middle School. But thanks to one serendipitous photo, Karma has become a very popular poster on SnappyPic. Besides keeping up with all of her followers, like most kids at MMS, her smartphone—a bejeweled pink number Karma nicknamed Floyd—is like a body part she could never live without.
But after breaking some basic phone rules, Karma’s cruel, cruel parents take Floyd away, and for Karma, her world comes to a screeching halt. Can Karma—who can text, post photos, play soccer, and chew gum all at the same time—learn to go cold turkey and live her life fully unplugged?
ABOUT HILLARY HOMZIE
Hillary is the author of the tween novel, THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X), THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was just optioned by Priority Pictures, and the forthcoming QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X, April 2016), as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE(Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), which was developed to become an animated television series and was sold to ABC Australia. Hillary holds a master’s degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children’s literature and writing. Currently, she’s a visiting professor of children’s literature and writing at Hollins University.
Thanks for such a fun interview, Hillary. I’m sure readers would love to know where they can find out more about you.
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and they can check out my website. On my website, there’s info about school visits and speaking at conferences, which I love doing. (And I’m sure you’re educational as well as entertaining, with your comedy background.)
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.
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