New Releases

Author Kate Hannigan discusses Boots, the third book in her League of Secret Heroes series

I’m so happy to present an interview with Author Kate Hannigan, who is known for her abilities to deep dive into history and write adventure packed stories for middle grade readers featuring girls with lots of agency. Today, we celebrate the recent release of Boots, the third book in the League of Secret Heroes which has been described as Hidden Figures meets Wonder Woman.

Congratulations, Kate, on your launching of Boots! You’ve been on quite a journey with your three main characters Josie, Akiko and Mae who have been fighting super villains, World War II enemies as well as racism and sexism. Welcome to the Mixed Up Files Blog. In this book, the girls find themselves in Chicago, Sweetwater, Texas as well as Paris–all significant places during World War II, during the time period that your series is set. Tell us a little bit about the research you did to conjure up each of these places.

I love diving into research—sometimes even more than the writing itself! So I had incredible fun pulling together this series. Spotlighting the real-life women from history drove the setting, so for CAPE(Book 1) it made sense to set it in Philadelphia since the ENIAC Six mathematicians were my focus. These women were programming the top-secret computer that was being built at University of Pennsylvania during the war. MASK(Book 2) is set in San Francisco because much of the story focuses on things happening on the West Coast during the war. And now with BOOTS(Book 3), I wanted to focus on the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and other women pilots during this time in history, so it made sense to feature Sweetwater, Texas—where the WASPs did their training—and Chicago, where I live, and the remarkable women pilots here.

I’ve long been fascinated with the WASPs and their role in WWII history, so when I read about their homecoming celebrations in Sweetwater, where former WASPs take part, I jumped on a plane to see for myself. There was incredible warmth to the weekend, as history buffs, aviation lovers, members of the Ninety-Nines(an international organization of women pilots), and families and friends of the WASPs gathered to celebrate their accomplishments. I was lucky to meet WASP Jane Doyle, who was 96 years old at the time, and interview her for the book. My superhero girls fly with Jane.

Each girl in addition to superpowers, has real life powers such as the ability to do math (Josie), crack ciphers (Akiko) or lockpicking (Mae). Are these any of your superpowers?

My sister’s superpower is math, and I could imagine her jumping into an exciting role during WWII if she were there at the time! For me, I love puzzles and grew up solving ones in the newspaper during breakfast. But I have to admit that my current superpower is a bit less glamorous: parallel parking. After living in San Francisco and now Chicago, there’s no space too small for me to tackle!

I loved reading about Aunt Janet and Aunt Willa, and the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots). I must confess to not knowing very much about this history before. What do you hope readers take away about these fearless flyers?

First I hope young readers find these figures interesting and want to learn more. That’s the whole reason I write historical fiction: to show kids where we’ve been and how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. And second, to show girls especially that they can succeed in male-dominated fields and that while it may seem that women haven’t been there historically, they have. Their stories just haven’t been told.

I love how you consistently don’t shy away from some difficult truths, especially racism and sexism. These are painful but you don’t talk down to kids. How do you handle discussing these difficult realities with your own family?

These are painful topics. And can make us feel small sometimes. But the only way to address difficult things is head-on. So I feel like finding something we can all relate to—wanting to sit down for pie at a restaurant—and looking at it from different perspectives can help us understand why things were the way they were and what we can do to fight unfairness when we see it.

The Infinity Trinity is such a wonderful concept–I appreciate how the girls operate as a superhero trio. How did you decide on three girls?

This was a deliberate decision. I don’t mean to shut out the boys, of course, but I do feel like males have been represented pretty well in literature, film, and everything else for . . . millennia! Haha! So I wanted to write a book where girls are the focus and girls have agency. Where they can feel like a part of something big, where they’re crucial to its success, where they have to use their own smarts and skills, and where they can kick evil in the throat. So as I began sketching out the story, I had to make some big choices: to see these kids battle evil and really wallop some baddies, I was heading into the fantasy genre; and to emphasize the role of women in this period of history, I was going to focus just on females. So I made the decision that the superhero trio, their comic book mentors, and the real-life figures from history they work with would all be female.

What are you working on next? Anything you can share?

I’m obsessed with the year 1920! A whole lot was happening then. So I’m working on a middle-grade mystery set at this time, with some fascinating historical figures walking around with my young detective. It’s been so much fun to research, and now I’m writing every single day to get a solid draft done. We’ll see what happens!

We can’t wait to hear an update. Thanks so much for being on the blog today, Kate!

Hillary Homzie is the author of the Ellie May chapter book series (Charlesbridge, 2018), Apple Pie Promises (Sky Pony/Swirl, 2018), Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009) as well as the Alien Clones From Outer Space (Simon & Schuster Aladdin 2002) chapter book series. She’s also a contributor to the Kate the Chemist middle grade series (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House). During the year, Hillary teaches at Sonoma State University and in the summer she teaches in the graduate program in childrens’ literature, writing and illustration at Hollins University. She also is an instructor for the Children’s Book Academy. She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page as well as on Twitter.

 

 

 

Interview With Ally Malinenko, Debut Author of Ghost Girl

Hi, Ally! Thanks so much for joining us on the Mixed-Up Files Blog. I am so excited to talk all things, GHOST GIRL. I’m just want to say upfront; I’m an Ally Malinenko super fangirl. I loved your book so much. The writing, the storytelling, the characters . . . Everything was simply brilliant and creepy and left me wanting more.  So let’s not keep your fans waiting . . . Time to put you on the hot seat. 

Lisa: Tell us about Ghost Girl.

Ally: Ghost Girl is the story of Zee – a spooky story-loving, tow-headed, stubborn girl – her best friend Elijah and her bully turned buddy Nellie. After a massive storm washes through Knobb’s Ferry strange things start to happen. People are missing. And a new principal arrives who seems to be able to help people manifest their deepest desires. When things start going bad it’s up to Zee and her friends to figure out what’s going on, embrace exactly what makes her “Ghost Girl” and save their families.

Lisa: How did you come up with the idea?

Ally: Zee as a character has lived in my head for a long time. I tried slotting her into other short stories and it never worked. But she was always there, chattering on in the background. Two major things lead to the writing up Ghost Girl. One was a heartbreak and the other was art. The heartbreak came in the form of having spent over 7 years writing and rewriting a YA science fiction novel with a magical system based on chess. It was called Palimpsest. This book landed me my agent. We went on submission and, like one of those publishing horror stories you hear, it was rejected by every major house. So at many editors suggestions I tried to break the bones of that story and refit it as an MG. It was brutal. Afterwards, I was pretty heartbroken. So I decided to go back to the books that made me a reader – the books that I obsessed about as a kid – Middle Grade Horror. The other reason, art,  is that I got very into a recording artist named Nick Cave. The book has 17 references to Nick Cave’s music. Hence the red right hand.  If you know, you know.

Lisa: Did you base any characters on people you know? If yes, spill the beans!

Ally: I used to tell people that all of my characters were me, and I still believe that. I wouldn’t say the characters themselves are based on anyone but the events are. I grew up with my best friend around the corner and he and I spent a lot of time galivanting around the woods of our little town, drawing eyes on trees and making up stories about the Birdman who stole kids out of the rooms at night. I also have two older sisters who I love very much so it was important to me to show sister representation.

Lisa: How much of your real-life experiences play a role in the stories you tell?

Ally: Well for Ghost Girl it was, as I said, a lot of my childhood. The town of Knobb’s Ferry is based on Monroe, NY where I grew up. Knobb’s Ferry is definitely smaller than Monroe and Monroe sadly does not have a massive cemetery to explore but otherwise they’re similar. In my next book This Appearing House, there were definitely some serious life experiences with trauma and illness that found it’s way into that book. I think it’s impossible for real-life experiences to not inform any writer’s work. I mean, our books are just our experiences filtered through our imaginations and then held up to the light. Stories exist to create empathy. They are the bridge for people to say to each other “I feel this way. Have you ever felt this way too?” and then to hopefully have the answer be “yes.”

Lisa: Did you get bullied in school? And or were you ever a bully? If yes, to either, how does that impact your writing?

Ally: I did get bullied in middle school. When I joined facebook, she attempted to friend me and while I had not thought of her in a long time, those feelings of helplessness and anxiety came back pretty fast. But I didn’t include bullying in Ghost Girl because I was bullied. I included it because so many kids are bullied, because bullies are often more than just mean kids, and because I wanted to blow up the “mean girl” trope that I see everywhere. I wanted girls who were different to learn to understand their differences and work together. It’s my life’s mission to abolish the term “catty.”

Lisa: What books did you like to read when you were a kid? Do those books influence your writing?

Ally: Everything honestly, from non fiction animal books to classics like A Wrinkle in Time but I had a love for horror that burned bright. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, non-fiction books about Halloween, anything about witches – those were my favorites. I recently read a piece by Ally Russell called “On the Loneliness of the Young Horror Fan” that really hit home. Ally talked about how she struggled to find other kids into horror, especially as a young Black girl. She talked about being shamed for reading horror. Which reminded me of an experience I had. I was fortunate to meet a well-known biographer who happened to write the biography of one of my favorite writers. I had just gotten my book deal and this woman wound up being the first non-family member that I shared the news with. When I told her it was middle grade horror, she wrinkled her nose in disgust and said, “Why would anyone write books like that? I would never let my children read something like that.”

I’m getting a little off topic here, but what I’m saying is horror books were my favorite as a kid. Kids today are no different. They know the world is scary. Horror gives them a safe space to navigate those fears. Adults need to support that.

Lisa: Were there any scenes or chapters you found difficult to write because of an emotional experience you had to tap into?

Ally: Without getting too spoiler-y, there is a scene towards the end where Zee, fearing she is losing Elijah to the bad guy, has to convince him that the thing he wants most in the world – for his mother to be well again – is not really happening. She has to tell him the one thing Elijah doesn’t want to hear in order to help him and I had to walk away from that scene a couple times. It’s not easy to write about breaking the heart of someone you love in order to save them.

Lisa: Do you believe in ghosts? If yes, have you had any first-hand experience with the paranormal?

Ally: Do I believe in ghosts? The million dollar question. I don’t believe in ghosts but I also don’t NOT believe in ghosts. I have never had a paranormal experience (though I did once see something very unsettling in the sky that I have not been able to shake) but I know people who have and I believe 110% that something happened to them and that if they tell me it was a ghost then it was a ghost. Who am I to say? Like Shakespeare said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

That said if any kind ghosts out there want to say hello, I wouldn’t mind.

Lisa: What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ally: Both? Neither? I wrote ONE synopsis in my life when I sold my second book and thought I know I’ll have to I never want to do it again. So outlining is not for me. Usually I know how a story opens and how it ends. The in between is a little murky so that’s the space where I let my characters surprise me. I also find that the universe delivers so many little nuggets of inspiration when I’m drafting. Like, it KNOWS I need some guidance. It just happened last night, listening to a podcast, I figured out the missing part of Book 3. The universe can be very generous if you’re paying attention.

Lisa: What advice would you give 12 year-old Ally?

Ally: Well considering 12 year-old Ally wanted to be a writer more than anything in the world, I would tell it was going to happen! YAY!

But then I would gently tell her the road is long and winding and there are so many ups and downs, so much joy and heartbreak, and so much hope and tears but that’s okay.

That’s what an adventure is.

Lisa: Thank you for chatting with me, Ally. And congratulations on your debut novel! For more GHOST GIRL fun and games, please join Ally’s Ghost Girl Launch Party on August 10th at 3:00 pm EST. 

 

 

August Middle-Grade Releases

Joy. Adventure. Mythology. Science. Sports. August brings these topics and more to middle-grade readers. What an exciting collection, brought to you by amazing authors!

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood by Kwame Mbalia Delacorte Press, August 3

Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors–including Jason Reynolds (the Track series), Jerry Craft (New Kid), and Kwame Mbalia (the Tristan Strong series)!

“Pick up Black Boy Joy for a heavy dose of happiness.” —Booklist, starred review

Black boy joy is…

Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit.
Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race.
Finding your voice—and your rhymes—during tough times.
Flying on your skateboard like nobody’s watching.

And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Mejia Rick Riordan Presents, August 3

“Paola is a brilliant, furious girl who often trusts her brain but trips over her heart.”–Sarah Gailey, Hugo and Locus award-winning author of River of Teeth

Six months after Paola Santiago confronted the legendary La Llorona, life is nothing like she’d expected it to be. She is barely speaking to her best friends, Dante and Emma, and what’s worse, her mom has a totally annoying boyfriend. Even with her chupacabra puppy, Bruto, around, Pao can’t escape the feeling that she’s all alone in the world.

Pao has no one to tell that she’s having nightmares again, this time set in a terrifying forest. Even more troubling? At their center is her estranged father, an enigma of a man she barely remembers. And when Dante’s abuela falls mysteriously ill, it seems that the dad Pao never knew just might be the key to healing the eccentric old woman.

Pao’s search for her father will send her far from home, where she will encounter new monsters and ghosts, a devastating betrayal, and finally, the forest of her nightmares. Will the truths her father has been hiding save the people Pao loves, or destroy them?

Once again Tehlor Kay Mejia draws on her Mexican heritage to tell a wild and wondrous story that combines creatures from folklore with modern-day challenges.

Zeus the Mighty: The Trials of Hairy-Clees by Crispin Boyer Under the Stars, August 3

Zeus the hamster and his “god squad” are back to battle for the title of champion in the third title in this series that takes readers on a rollicking romp through Greek mythology.

Our story begins with a challenge: The Trials of Hairy-Clees are only for the bravest and most awesome gods of all. Who among them will become the ultimate champion?

The pets of Mount Olympus Pet Center are a true team: They conquer epic quests as easily as Ares the pug scarfs down Mutt Nuggets and they vanquish enemies who are pricklier than the spines on Poseidon the pufferfish. But when a chicken named Hermes shows up one day, things take a turn, and before the team knows it, the Oracle has spoken and the mysterious Trials of Hairy-Clees begin! Who will become top god? And can Zeus learn to share the limelight to fight alongside Hermes?

Join Zeus the overconfident hamster, Athena the wise cat, Ares the treat-loving pug, Poseidon the proud pufferfish, and Demeter the loyal cricket on another laugh-out-loud adventure through Greek mythology.

World Champions! A Max Einstein Adventure by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein Jimmy Patterson, August 9

Max finally meets her hero, Albert Einstein, as she dashes across glaciers, visits the Great Barrier Reef, and flies a solar-powered jet in a race to stop Global Warming—before it’s too late for Planet Earth.

World Champions . . . 

GET OUTDOORS  

From racing across glaciers in Greenland and flying in a super fancy solar-powered jet to Hawaii, to visiting the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia and hanging out with a robot named Leo, twelve-year-old genius Max and her friends live for adventure.

TAKE ACTION  

Whenever there’s a problem to solve, the kids work better together. So does an evil group of the rich and powerful, who will do whatever it takes to split the kids up—even as the planet is changing before their eyes.

NEVER GIVE UP 

Max has one more surprise in her playbook, and if she’s going to pull it off, she needs her team around her. Who said that kids can’t save the world?

Dark Waters by Katherine Arden G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, August 10

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces and Dead Voices.

Until next time. That chilling promise was made to Ollie, Coco, and Brian after they outsmarted the smiling man at Mount Hemlock Resort. And as the trio knows, the smiling man always keeps his promises. So when the lights flicker on and off at Brian’s family’s inn and a boom sounds at the door, there’s just one visitor it could be. Only, there’s no one there, just a cryptic note left outside signed simply as –S.

The smiling man loves his games and it seems a new one is underway. But first, the three friends will have to survive a group trip to Lake Champlain where it’s said Vermont’s very own Loch Ness monster lives. Brian is thrilled. He hasn’t sailed since visiting his family in Jamaica and even the looming threat of the smiling man can’t put a damper on what is guaranteed to finally be a day of fun–even if it is awkward being stuck on a boat with both his old best friend, Phil and his new best friends, Coco and Ollie. But when a misstep from Phil causes a tragedy onboard and leaves them shipwrecked on an island haunted by a monster on both land and sea, Brian’s survival instincts kick in and it’s up to him to help everyone work together and find a way to escape.

One thing is for sure, the smiling man is back and he wants a rematch. And this time Brian is ready to play.

Good Housekeeping Amazing Science: 83 Hands-on S.T.E.A.M Experiments for Curious Kids! by Aubre Andrus Hearst Home Kids August 24

Awesome S.T.E.A.M.-based science experiments you can do right at home with easy-to-find materials designed for maximum enjoyment, learning, and discovery for kids ages 8 to 12 

Join the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Labs and explore the science you interact with every day. Using the scientific method, you’ll tap into your own super-powers of logic and deduction to go on a science adventure.

The engaging experiments exemplify core concepts and range from quick and simple to the more complex. Each one includes clear step-by-step instructions and color photos that demonstrate the process and end result. Plus, secondary experiments encourage young readers to build on what they’ve discovered. A “Mystery Solved!” explanation of the science at work helps your budding scientist understand the outcomes of each experiment.

These super-fun, hands-on experiments include:
  Building a solar oven and making s’mores
  Creating an active rain cloud in a jar
  Using static electricity created with a balloon to power a light bulb
  Growing your own vegetables—from scraps!
  Investigating the forces that make an object sink or float
  And so much more!

Bursting with more than 200 color photos and incredible facts, this sturdy hardcover is the perfect gift for any aspiring biologist, chemist, physicist, engineer, and mathematician!

Legacy and the Double by Annie Matthew, created by Kobe Bryant Granity Studios August 24.

Kobe Bryant’s legacy of uplifting and inspiring young athletes continues in this highly anticipated follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller Legacy and the Queen.

Legacy Petrin is a national tennis champion, but she doesn’t feel like one. At the orphanage where she grew up, far from the city where she learned to shine, Legacy struggles to focus on her training. Her famous magical inner light dims and darkens until she barely recognizes herself.

Then a girl who looks exactly like Legacy―same burlap dress, same signature glow―starts playing in Legacy’s name. She wins matches in the city, makes charming speeches in support of “Queen” Silla, and gains a devoted following. Soon, Silla issues a decree against impersonating champions, which means that the real Legacy could be arrested simply for looking like herself.

To reclaim her name and her identity, Legacy has no choice but to compete in disguise . . . until she can rise through the ranks, face off against her imposter, and prove that she is the one and only Legacy Petrin―a champion who was born to shine.