New Releases

Cogheart Adventures: Interview & GIVEAWAY with Author Peter Bunzl

In the fall of 2014 I attended my first SCBWI-British Isles conference and met Peter Bunzl. Another Scoobie (as SCBWI is affectionately known in the UK) friend was in his conference critique group and introduced us when it was over. A second friend was in the same group and said that Peter’s excerpt had literally made her cry. Soon we all joined together in a middle grade critique group regularly meeting up back in London; and I too was immediately taken by Peter’s steampunk adventure novel about a girl and her mechanical fox searching for her missing airship pilot and inventor father.

A few months later we celebrated Peter getting an agent, and a few months after that we celebrated COGHEART being sold as the lead title in Usborne’s 2016 list. It came out in September 2016 and was simultaneously chosen as Waterstones Book of the Month; a huge deal for a debut. Four years later Peter’s fourth COGHEART ADVENTURE book, SHADOWSEA has just been released in the UK, and the award-winning first three volumes —COGHEART, MOONLOCKET, AND SKYCIRCUS are now available in the US with Jolly Fish Press. (SEE BELOW FOR HOW YOU CAN WIN ALL 3 BOOKS.) I am so pleased and excited to welcome Peter Bunzl to The Mixed Up Files!

The 1st Cogheart Adventure Moonlocket: Cogheart Adventure #2 Skycircus: Cogheart Adventure #3

 

MD: Hi Peter, thanks so much for joining us!

PB: Thank you for having me, it’s lovely to be here!

MD: The world in the Cogheart adventures is so much fun with mechanicals (mechanical animals and people) and other distinctive and unique details. How did you come up with the world of the Cogheart adventures and did anything help you with your world-building?

PB:  Thanks! The inspiration came from reading about the clockmaking geniuses of the 18th and 19th Century who built the first automata and androids. It was their desire to create artificial life – or an illusion of life – which really chimed with me as a writer and animator. Someone who’s primary goal it is to make people believe in imaginary characters with all their heart. 

Those tales of clockwork robots and their creators helped me envisage a fictional Victorian world where mechanical-people and humans lived side by side. A world which begged the question: What makes us human, and could that spark of life ever exist inside a machine?

MD: Your story worlds are a cool mix of imagination and historical accuracy. When you are planning and writing a book, what kind of research do you do? Do you use mood boards or other visual prompts?

PB: Research plays a big part in the crafting my stories. I use Pinterest to save inspiring images and create mood boards for my projects. I collect Victorian photos of interesting looking people and locations. I also use Evernote to save research documents. Historical descriptions of the places the characters visit etc.

For the steampunk aspects of the story, I read about real airships, like the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg. There’s lots of zeppelin battles in the Cogheart Adventures. I didn’t stick to the physics of flying, because I saw from great steampunk that you don’t have to, but I tried not to go too wild as this is an alternate reality not a total fantasy world.

In terms of the Victoriana, I wasn’t a fanatical researcher, quite the opposite. I prefer fiction that give a flavour of the era, rather than dry history books. So I read a little bit of Dickens for the atmosphere, Treasure Island for the adventure, and some Penny Dreadful type books like: Hooligan Nights and Mord Em’ly – for their sensationalist accounts of Victorian street life.

MD: Did you intend Cogheart to become a series? Once the emotional arc was completed for the characters at the end of the first book, how did you navigate creating compelling emotional journeys for your characters in each of the subsequent books? Did you find it difficult?

PB: In the beginning, I never intended to write a series after Cogheart, but when my agent, Jo Williamson, originally sold the book in the UK it was for a two book deal and it became apparent that the publisher wanted a sequel.

The lucky thing was, after writing the first book, I had a lot of different left-over bits and pieces that never made it into the story. And those became the basis for each of the subsequent adventures.

The obvious choice for the second story was to make it more about Robert’s family, because his history had barely featured in Cogheart. So that became Moonlocket. I had an idea that I wanted to write about a magician and a mysterious locket and that fed into the story too.

I had a couple of other left-over scenes from Cogheart. One where the characters visit a travelling circus. This eventually became Skycircus. There was also a pitch that the publisher turned down for book 2, that eventually became the basis of Shadowsea.

The moral of the story is nothing is ever wasted. So don’t throw your excess ramblings!Shadowsea, the 4th Cogheart Adventure

MD: Had you always intended to write for children?

PB: I actually set out to write for Young Adults first of all, but along the way my story turned into a children’s book because the plot and ideas were much more suited to that age group.

As soon as I realized that was the way it was going I wrote a little Post-it for myself with the words: MARVEL, MAGIC and HUMOUR on it. So I knew the things I needed to add more of in the edits.

The more I wrote the more I discovered that my ideas fitted well into the middle grade bracket. Before I was writing, I worked for ten years in the animation industry on various projects. I wrote and directed my own short films on the side and my scripts often featured child protagonists, so to me it didn’t feel a great leap from that to writing children’s fiction.

MD: How do you find the words and rhythm that characterize your stories?

PB: I don’t think anyone has ever asked me this question before! Thanks.

I suppose it has a lot to do with voice. Your voice as a writer, but also the specific voice of the story, which is either directly the character’s, in a first person book, or in a third person’s story like the Cogheart Adventures, it is part character-voice and part narrator-voice.

As you write a book, you start to get a strong idea of which of those is required, where and when. It has a lot to do with how the book sounds as you read it in your head during the editing process, and with who the characters are.

The Cogheart Adventures are written in third person, but the narration is always close to our heroes. Apart from the prologue, you never see or hear anything they don’t themselves. I would describe that style as ‘close third person’ or  ‘over the shoulder’.

It has moments of free indirect style, where the narration is almost directly Robert and Lily’s point of view and you try to weave their words and thoughts into what they are experiencing. And moments which are more straight up narration.

Narration can’t be too intrusive, in my opinion. For me it should paint an exciting visual picture, but fade into the background in terms of its opinions. Although I feel it can be more stylized at the beginning and end of a story, where you’re trying to draw a reader in or wrap things up.

MD: What authors or creators have had a strong impact on your work?

PB: As a young reader I adored the quirky British fantasy of Diana Wynne Jones, Roald Dahl and Joan Aiken; I was forever popping into the bookshop to see when the next Terry Pratchett was coming out. More recently I loved Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and his Sally Lockhart books, plus I enjoy a bit of Dickens, and greatly admire Mervyn Peake’s incredible Gormenghast stories.

They all influenced me in countless ways – some for plotting, others for character or worldbuilding; or poetic language, strange names and humour. When a stunning sentence leaps out at me from a book I underline it so I can refer to it later when I need writing inspiration.

MD: Your attention to detail and the images you create are often very visual. Do you find that your past work as an animator and filmmaker influences your writing?

PB: Coming from a background of animation and film, means that I will see the story very vividly in my head. As I write it unspools like a movie.

My years studying film also taught me a lot about story structure. How to tell a story economically and cinematically. There’s a grammar in film in the way you structure a sequence of shots that’s similar to the way you structure clauses and sentences in fiction. I’ve read some great books on both editing processes that highlight those similarities.

Each shot, or each sentence, should ask a question that’s part-answered and part-added-to by the next one and the next one. And yet each answer also withholds information until you’re ready to reveal it. That’s basically how to create the illusion of a developing story with suspense. It’s when you have the elements in the wrong order that it jars and seems off.

MD: What do you enjoy most about being a full-time children’s author and what do you dislike?

PB: I love meeting readers. Especially kid readers, because if they enjoy your book they’ll tell you so in no uncertain terms. They say things like: “You’re my favourite author of all time!” “Better than Roald Dahl!” “One of the best books I’ve ever read!”

Those kind of comments are ace, especially if they tell you personally or write you a letter with pictures of the characters they’ve drawn. All of their feedback is such a joy and it’s one of the best parts of writing children’s books.

The worst part is when you see a disparaging adult review online. Especially when they say things like: “I tried to read this book, but it seems like it was written for kids”. Don’t read bad online reviews, that’s my advice. Somehow they stick to your brain much more than the good ones. Maybe it’s their spikes that make them sticky.

MD: Your record of four books in four years is remarkable! And these are not short chapter books, these are 140-page middle grade novels with tight plotting and beautiful language.  The UK tends to have a much shorter lead time for publishing than in the US, which is exciting in terms of seeing your book come out with a relatively short turn-around, but it also must be an enormous amount of pressure. What advice do you have for other writers—whether they are just starting out or already mid-career— in terms of ‘just getting it done?’ What does a typical day look like for you?

PB: Write what you love, not what you think the market is looking for. That way you will always have some joy in doing it, even on days when that joy is buried deep and seems unaccessible.

In terms of my writing process, I sit down at a desk and try and write for a few hours each day. I write on the computer and I use Scrivener, because I love the way you can keep all your documents and chapters together but separate. It lets you see the structure of your novel in one window and jump between different parts.

When I’m not writing I have a notebook for the ideas that come at odd times, and a writing diary where I try and keep track of my word counts and how it’s all going – just a short note for each day, so I know if I’m on track or not. That way you can assess your own progress. Give yourself a small gift if you hit your goal for the week or month, and a bigger gift if you finish the whole book.

MD: I’ve noticed that boys and girls equally enjoy your books. Can you speak to any secret sauce you’ve put in, or why you think your books are so appealing across what are sometimes considered traditional gender lines?

PB: I have no idea why this is. I think maybe because the books have both a boy and girl hero, who are equally brave and courageous, equally strong and equally good at problem solving and getting each other out of trouble.

I really don’t think books should be gendered anyway. As long as it’s age appropriate, boys and girls should be able to read anything they like without the publishing industry, or parents, deciding: “oh, pirates and space are for boys” or “princesses and cooking are for girls”. It’s nonsense. What’s more important is writing a good story that’s inclusive and empathetic and can appeal to everyone.

MD: Peter, thanks so much again for joining us at MUF. Your insights into your work, the writing process and writing philosophy are fabulous. Is there anything you’d like to add about your books to the writers, librarians, teachers and avid readers that enjoy our blog?

Peter Bunzl: Author of the Cogheart Adventures

PB: Thank you. If you are looking for more information about my books, I  have a website: peterbunzl.com which has updates and links about all my books. It also has a great amount of teaching resources, created by me and the publisher and by teachers who sent me their brilliant suggestions and ideas. I am pretty active on twitter: @peterbunzl and instagram: @peter_bunzl so feel free to say hi over there too!

Thanks again Peter! Cogheart Adventures are available wherever fine books can be found.

Jolly Fish Press is giving away a copy of all three books to one lucky winner! Enter BELOW for a chance to win.
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(This giveaway is only available in the US.) The contest ends at midnight on February 19th and the winner will be announced on February 20th.  GOOD LUCK!

Interview and Giveaway with P. J. Hoover

I’m delighted to welcome author P. J. Hoover to the Mixed Up Files. Her upcoming middle-grade book, HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, comes out on April 7, and I couldn’t be more excited to read it. P. J. first told me about this story when she was writing the first draft, and as soon as she said it was a cross between THE ODYSSEY and the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I was in!

Now, this fun story is finally almost out in the world, and P.J.’s here to tell us all about the book and her plans for it. Welcome, P. J.!

P.J. Hoover

P.J. Hoover

P. J. Hoover is the award-winning author of The Hidden Code, a Da Vinci Code-style young adult adventure with a kick-butt heroine, and Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life, featuring a fourteen-year-old King Tut who’s stuck in middle school. When not writing, P. J. spends time practicing kung fu, fixing things around the house, and solving Rubik’s cubes. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website www.pjhoover.com.

Give us your new book’s elevator pitch. What’s it about?

Thanks for asking! And thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog today!

Here’s the best description I can come up with . . .

Homer is about to fail out of school unless he can come up with a story. An epic story. Oh, and it needs to be written in Dactylic Hexameter. No big deal . . . except Homer has no idea what that is. Also Homer is horrible at writing, so he’s pretty much out of luck.

But the Greek god Hermes has a story that needs a storyteller, and with a trick of immortal magic, he sends Homer and his best friend Dory back to the end of the Trojan War. They meet up with the Greek hero Odysseus along with an entire crew of smelly sailors and set off on a journey filled with scary monsters, angry gods, and a very hungry cyclops.

It sounds so fun! You love writing books based on myths, and have others, right? Tell us about those.

Yes! I have always adored mythology, and when I’m writing, it’s my first go-to when it comes to story ideas. Since there are a handful, I’ll keep it short and sweet for each one.

Solstice – A super-hot twist on the Hades and Persephone myth, set half in future Austin, Texas, and half in the Greek underworld. Piper’s best friend almost dies, and Piper has to travel to the underworld to save her. Oh, and there are lots of Greek gods. Young Adult fantasy with some satisfying romance.

The Curse of Hera – The last thing Logan wants to do with his entire summer is go to some fake mythology-themed camp, but that’s exactly what he’s stuck doing. Turns out everything isn’t fake after all, and unless he and his friends break a curse Hera has placed on the camp, they’re going to be fighting the Hydra forever.

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (and the sequel Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World) – King Tut is 14 years old, immortal, and stuck in middle school forever! His crazy uncle shows up and is out for revenge (because he’s been locked in a tomb for 3000 years and is a little upset about that). Fun, middle school humor!

The Emerald Tablet (and the rest of The Forgotten World Trilogy) – A fun blend of mythology, time travel, and hidden continents around the world. Benjamin Holt thinks summer will be normal. Next thing he knows, he’s being sent to summer school at a continent under the Pacific Ocean and finds out he needs to save the world.

What gave you the idea for this Homer story?

I have adored the story of the Odyssey since I first read it in high school. In my 30s, my interest in it became renewed as I started talking more about the Hero’s Journey in writing and in life. Then, when I rewatched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the spark of an idea ignited. Homer could be just like Bill and Ted. And he too could go on an excellent adventure!

Were you like Homer when you were a kid, having problems writing the perfect story in school?

I was exactly like Homer! I never liked writing because I didn’t think I was very good at it. And because I didn’t think I was very good at it, I never worked to get better. But much like Homer, when I did start writing, I discovered that writing is just like anything else. If you work hard at it, you will get better.

What’s your process when you write a story that’s based on a myth? Which is the chicken? Which is the egg? And which comes first?

Fun question. I guess the egg is the original myth. This is where the story starts. And the great thing is that this egg gives us the overall skeleton of a story. But when the egg hatches, well, that’s where the story starts to take on a life of its own.

One thing I love doing when I’m working with myths is thinking outside the box. Our mind automatically goes to the first idea we think of. Well, toss that idea aside and think of another. Then toss that idea aside. When you get to the third idea, you start to make the myth your own.

HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE seems like the perfect book to teach kids about The Odyssey, the hero’s journey and myths. Do you think this is true? Can you give us any specifics?

I have an entire presentation for school visits that is structured around the Hero’s Journey, and I love talking to kids about it. The funniest thing is that for the last seven or eight years, as I’ve been giving this presentation, I’ve been using the Odyssey as my example story. And now, with Homer as a 12-year-old kid who doesn’t like to write, just like so many of the kids I visit in schools, it becomes the PERFECT book to use for exactly that: the Odyssey, the hero’s journey, the writing process, and myths.

Tell us about the wonderful cover? Who illustrated it and are there any details we should look out for on the cover and in the whole book’s design?

Thank you! I love the cover, too! I was so lucky to have video game artist Erik McKenney do the art for the cover of Homer’s Excellent Adventure. He read the book and really captured the elements of the story that I wanted to shine through. He drew an amazing cyclops front and center. And best of all, there are hidden Easter eggs on the cover, but I think that will make its own great blog post in the future!

For your other books, you’ve done really fun supporting materials, like games and more. Do you have any fun plans for HOMER?

I do have some fun (and educational) tie-ins already, and I am definitely planning on creating more. First off, there is a map! I absolutely love this map!

Homer's Excellent Adventure Map

The map in HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, created by Erik McKenney! Pre-order the book at IndieBound.

Second, there is an amazing curriculum guide created by a librarian and aligned to state and national standards. It has some amazing ideas like a HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE Character Museum and Make Your Own Lotus Flower.

Third, I have some just for fun tie-ins, like a recipe for the tastiest hardtack in the (ancient) world and a guide to Dactylic Hexameter.

And finally, I have a comprehensive glossary filled with humor.

Are there any myths that you’ve got your eye on to tackle next or in the future? And if so, which ones and why?

All of them because I love them! But also none specifically. I’m currently working on a non-mythology story, but after that, the world is my oyster. I love that with mythology there is so much source material to pull from.

Any advice for writers who are interpreting legendary tales like myths into modern stories, like you’ve been doing?

Knowing your source material is so important, because people who love mythology are serious about mythology and will call you out if you get the tiniest detail wrong. If you make an artistic choice or interpretation, try to make it clear somewhere (maybe in an author’s note at the end of the book or a clever aside in the text) what it is.

Wonderful! Let us know when we can get our hands on HOMER and where.

The release date is APRIL 7, 2020! You can look for it wherever you normally buy books, and if for some reason your school, library, or bookstore does not have it, please ask them to order it! This is such a great favor to give an author.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog today! It’s been a ton of fun!

Thank you, P. J.!

Don’t miss the giveaway for a signed Advanced Reader Copy below. It ends at midnight Feb. 21 and is open to U.S. residents only.

And pre-order HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE here.

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February New Releases

February is looking promising you all! This month’s New Releases list is filled with everything your Middle Grade reader is looking for – from mysteries, friendship stories, sports, and, yes, dogs!! I think we’re all going to be glad that this year is a Leap Year. Now, we have an extra day to read these beauties.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgAggie Morton, Mystery Queen:  The Body under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn, Isabelle Follath (Illustrator)

A smart and charming middle-grade mystery series starring young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot. For fans of Lemony Snicket and The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.

Aggie Morton lives in a small town on the coast of England in 1902. Adventurous and imaginative but deeply shy, Aggie hasn’t got much to do since the death of her beloved father . . . until the fateful day when she crosses paths with twelve-year-old Belgian immigrant Hector Perot and discovers a dead body on the floor of the Mermaid Dance Room! As the number of suspects grows and the murder threatens to tear the town apart, Aggie and her new friend will need every tool at their disposal — including their insatiable curiosity, deductive skills and not a little help from their friends — to solve the case before Aggie’s beloved dance instructor is charged with a crime Aggie is sure she didn’t commit.

Filled with mystery, adventure, an unforgettable heroine and several helpings of tea and sweets, The Body Under the Piano is the clever debut of a new series for middle-grade readers and Christie and Poirot fans everywhere, from a Governor General’s Award–nominated author of historical fiction for children.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgChirp by Kate Messner

“[A] deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Shout

From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes the powerful story of a young girl with the courage to make her voice heard, set against the backdrop of a summertime mystery.

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgIt’s a Numbers Game! Basketball:  The math behind the perfect bounce pass, the buzzer-beating bank shot, and so much more! by James Buckley

Why do NBA players only have 24 seconds to score a basket? What’s the geometry behind making the perfect shot? Become a basketball pro and learn all about the numbers and math behind this popular sport.

Numbers are everywhere in basketball–from the dimensions of the court to the points you can score to the digits on each player’s jersey. In this awesome new book, you’ll learn how these numbers make basketball the game we know and love today, and also get a few tips along the way on how to improve your game. Read about amazing statistics and learn how to track the stats of your favorite basketball stars. Discover how to improve your bounce pass and chest pass with geometry and physics. Colorful graphics explain the math behind the sport, and cool photos make you feel like you’re right on the court. Filled with sports trivia and fun activities at the end of every chapter, this book is sure to be a slam dunk with kids who can’t get enough of the game and want to learn more.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBeginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin

The acclaimed author of Where the Watermelons Grow is back with a story perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, about finding friendship after a tragic loss.

It’s been eighty-three days since Annie Lee’s daddy died, but she still sees reminders of him everywhere. His record player mysteriously plays his favorite songs, there’s shaving cream in the sink every morning, and the TV keeps flipping to the Duke basketball games he loved.

She knows Mama notices it too, but Mama’s been working around the clock to make ends meet. To make matters worse, Annie Lee’s friends ditched her over the summer. She feels completely alone—until she meets Mitch.

Though Mitch is tough and confident on the outside, she may need a friend just as badly as Annie Lee. But after losing so much, Annie Lee is afraid to let anyone get too close.

And Mitch isn’t the only friend trying to break through Annie Lee’s defenses. Ray, an elderly pianist who plays at a local mall, has been giving her piano lessons. His music is pure magic, and Annie Lee hopes it might be the key to healing her broken heart. But when Ray goes missing, searching for him means breaking a promise to Mitch.

Faced with once again losing those who mean the most to her, Annie Lee must make a choice: retreat back into her shell, or risk admitting how much she needs Mitch and Ray—even if it means getting hurt all over again.

Just like in her debut, Where the Watermelons Grow, Cindy Baldwin brings her signature twist of magic to this authentically heartfelt story.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver, Ethan Aldridge (Illustrator)

From the bestselling author of E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book Liesl & Po comes a timely and relevant adventure story about monsters of all kinds—and a girl brave enough to save them.

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.

But their work must be kept secret—others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?

One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared—along with nearly all the monsters.

With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgA Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor

A unique masterpiece about loss, love, and the world’s best bad dog, from award winner Leslie Connor, author of the National Book Award finalist The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle.

This novel sings about loss and love and finding joy in new friendships and a loving family, along with the world’s best bad dog. An uplifting middle grade novel about recovery featuring strong female characters, an adorable dog, and the girl who comes to love him.

It’s a life-altering New Year for thirteen-year-old Lydia when she uproots to a Connecticut farm to live with her aunt following her mother’s death.

Aunt Brat and her jovial wife, Eileen, and their ancient live-in landlord, Elloroy, are welcoming—and a little quirky. Lydia’s struggle for a sense of belonging in her new family is highlighted when the women adopt a big yellow dog just days after the girl’s arrival.

Wasn’t one rescue enough?

Lydia is not a dog person—and this one is trouble! He is mistrustful and slinky. He pees in the house, escapes into the woods, and barks at things unseen. His new owners begin to guess about his unknown past.

Meanwhile, Lydia doesn’t want to be difficult—and she does not mean to keep secrets—but there are things she’s not telling…

Like why the box of “paper stuff” she keeps under her bed is so important…

And why that hole in the wall behind a poster in her room is getting bigger…

And why something she took from the big yellow dog just might be the key to unraveling his mysterious past—but at what cost?

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgHere in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

From the author of the highly acclaimed, New York Times bestselling novel Pax comes a gorgeous and moving middle grade novel that is an ode to introverts, dreamers, and misfits everywhere.

Ware can’t wait to spend summer “off in his own world”—dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages and generally being left alone. But then his parents sign him up for dreaded Rec camp, where he must endure Meaningful Social Interaction and whatever activities so-called “normal” kids do.

On his first day Ware meets Jolene, a tough, secretive girl planting a garden in the rubble of an abandoned church next to the camp. Soon he starts skipping Rec, creating a castle-like space of his own in the church lot.

Jolene scoffs, calling him a dreamer—he doesn’t live in the “real world” like she does. As different as Ware and Jolene are, though, they have one thing in common: for them, the lot is a refuge.

But when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware looks to the knights’ Code of Chivalry: Thou shalt do battle against unfairness wherever faced with it. Thou shalt be always the champion of the Right and Good—and vows to save the lot.

But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do?

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore

Living on a small Idaho vegetable farm, Paige’s family has faced tough times before, but a year after the loss of her father, her mom is overwhelmed by the financial challenges and reluctantly agrees to sell the farm. However, when a realtor pounds the “For Sale” sign into the family’s front yard, the reality (and finality) of it is almost too much to bear. Paige is determined to do whatever it takes to save her father’s farm, which has been in their family for generations.

With the help of her little brother, her best friends, Matteo and Kimana, and, of course, her trusty farm dog, T-Rex, Paige believes she can use her “farm smarts,” however sneaky, to try to stop the sale of the farm. She puts makeup on the cows so they look sickly to potential buyers, and she pranks the realtor by releasing a jar of grasshoppers in her car. Her efforts don’t stop reality from setting in; her mother and grandfather just don’t have enough money to keep the farm running and selling it is their only option. But who will be the new owners, and where will her family go?

Paige finds a new appreciation for the land, animals, and even the barn she once took for granted. One day while roaming in the hay barn, Paige finds a peacock. She’s fascinated by the beauty of the bird’s plumage but discovers an injured wing among its fancy feathers. Since the bird cannot fly and return home, Paige is eager to nurture it back to health. Her book-smart brother helps her care for the bird and tells Paige that peacocks are symbols of luck, protection, and integrity in folklore and legends.

Shortly after the exotic bird is discovered, a man dressed in a business suit shows up on the farm with his two children and claims ownership of the peacock. Paige is devastated by the prospect of yet another loss and, again, prepares to face an adversary.

Paige is suspicious of him, especially because he’s spending a lot time with her mom. But her first impressions are wrong and, like the peacock, his true colors show him in a positive light. He’s a journalist looking for a good, human-interest story about their farming community and Paige sees a way to make the farm a solution that will help everyone.

With all the changes and challenges she faces with her family, Paige learns that sometimes the idea of a home is less about place and more about the people you call a family and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but an opportunity for working with others and building strength.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgInvestiGators by John Patrick Green

John Patrick Green’s goofy graphic novel series follows the super spy alligator duo the InvestiGators as they travel through the sewers and fight the forces of evil.

MANGO and BRASH are the INVESTIGATORS:
sewer-loving agents of S.U.I.T.* and scourge of supervillains everywhere!

With their Very Exciting Spy Technology and their tried-and-true, toilet-based travel techniques, the InvestiGators are undercover and on the case! And on their first mission together, they have not one but two mysteries to solve! Can Mango and Brash uncover the clues, crack their cases, and corral the crooks—or will the criminals wriggle out of their grasp?

*Special Undercover Investigation Teams

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSnapdragon by Kat Leyh

Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon is a magical realist graphic novel about a young girl who befriends her town’s witch and discovers the strange magic within herself.

Snap’s town had a witch.

At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online—after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.

They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Boy Who Became a Dragon:  A Biography of Bruce Lee by Jim Di Bartolo

The astonishing story of martial arts legend Bruce Lee . . . told in spectacular graphic form.
Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940 – in both the hour and the year of the dragon. Almost immediately, he was plunged into conflict: as a child in Hong Kong as it was invaded and occupied by the Japanese; as the object of discrimination and bullying; and as a teenager grappling against the influence of gangs.
As the world knows, Lee found his salvation and calling through kung fu – first as a student, then as a teacher, and finally as a global star. The Boy Who Became a Dragon tells his story in brilliant comic form.

 

 

 

That’s some of what’s coming in February. Let me know which February New Releases you’re most looking forward to reading in the comments below.