New Releases

Interview With Author Carly Anne West

I’m thrilled to welcome Carly to discuss her new book, THE GHOSTS OF NAMELESS ISLAND (Andrews McMeel Kids 7/23/24). I recently met Carly at ALA and fell in love with her and her hilarious/spine-tingling middle-grade novel.

I am delighted to say we share the same publisher, and our ghost stories release on the same day, which makes me feel even more of a kinship with her. (HART & SOULS)

So . . . If you’re in the mood for a spooky summer, we’ve got you covered!

Now it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the fabulous Carly Anne West . . .


Carly: GHOSTS follows Gus Greenburg, a kid with an unlikely (and unwelcome) gift—he can see ghosts. While this didn’t used to be the biggest deal in the world, it’s become a bigger deal now that Gus and his mom have moved to Nameless Island and into the infamous Rotham Manor, an old mansion replete with ghosts ready to haunt the heck out of Gus. And these ghosts play by a different set of rules than the others; they can hurt Gus. Now, Gus must find out what happened to the ghosts and discover their identities before they can pass on to the next realm and leave him alone. Fortunately, he’ll have some help ghostbusting with his new friends, Tavi and Miles.

Lisa: How did you come up with the idea? 

Carly: I’ve always felt that the most potent hauntings come from unfinished business, and Gus is dealing with a great deal of unfinished business with a missing father in his life, so it made sense to me that he would be parsing out mysteries about people whose lives ended perhaps before they expected them to, and I really liked the idea of a kid who was dealing with his own anxieties helping ghosts that were experiencing their own sort of turmoil. And it takes place in the Pacific Northwest; having lived there, I know it’s an area rife with haunted stories.

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

Carly: I mean, don’t all writers create their characters out of composites of people they’ve known in their lives?  No one character is anyone specific, but there are certainly aspects of the characters that have special qualities similar to important people in my life. We’ll find in the second book that Gus is an artist; so is one of my kids. We’ll find out later Tavi is a soccer player like my other kiddo. Miles is Korean-American; I live in Korea. So there are elements of real-life in there, absolutely.

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

Carly: Honestly, I think I write for middle grade and young adults because those times in my life (and so many people’s lives) were/are so difficult. It’s maybe a bit cathartic to write about a time when I felt so out of control; maybe controlling the narrative now is one way to take back some of the power I felt unable to possess back then. There are also plenty of emotions from that time period that cling to adulthood (frustratingly), so in a way, what I’m writing can feel timely, whether I want it to or not.

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

Carly: I was a little late to the reading game. I was good at reading the required books, but when it came to reading for pleasure, I had a tough time finding what my niche was. I knew I liked scary stories, but once I’d burned through all the Christopher Pike options, I was stuck. I probably started reading Stephen King too young. Once I started down that road, I knew horror was my thing, and that absolutely influenced my writing. I knew I was attracted to scary stories, and the scarier the better. There was something delicious about the anticipation of a supernatural scare, that lingering suspense. Fear is such an ancient, lizard-brain sort of emotion. I love playing with notions that creaky and dormant.

Lisa: What advice would you give twelve-year-old, Carly?

Carly: Oh dear. That poor girl. She struggled. A lot. Twelve years old was not a good age. I would tell her that she is most definitely not the only one feeling the anxiety she is feeling, and that emotion isn’t alien but an actual clinical function she’ll be taught to deal with down the road. Same with the panic attacks. I’d tell her that the people who seem super important in this moment won’t mean so much in a year or two, and in fact, she won’t even remember their names. I’d tell her that her body is beautiful the way it is. I’d tell her she’s so much stronger than she thinks she is. She’ll be okay.

Lisa: Have you ever seen a ghost?

I’ve heard a ghost. It murmured in my right ear. I was unpacking books in our new apartment in Alameda, CA late one night. My husband was asleep in the bedroom, and all at once, all the sound emptied from the room, like a vacuum sucked every drop of air from the atmosphere. Then, I heard a very close murmuring against my ear. I whipped around thinking it was my husband sneaking up on me, but no one was there, and when I ran down the hall to catch him in the act, he was dead asleep. When I returned to the living room, the sound was back, the murmuring was gone, and all had returned to normal. The next morning, my husband was putting books away in the same spot, and he yells “What?” to me. I come around the corner, and he’s like, “you were mumbling, I couldn’t hear you.” He heard the same thing I heard, in the same spot. The murmurings happened right next to a closet in the living room. The entire time we lived in that apartment, our cats would never go in that closet. They would get close, then freeze, stare into an upper corner of the closet, lay their ears back, slowly slink away, and dart around the corner.

Lisa: If you could talk to a ghost, what would you say?

Carly: Well, to the one in Alameda, I said, “You were here first, so the place is yours. Please just let us stay in peace. I think we can live here together.” And we did for three years with almost no other incidents. Just a couple of spooky moments.

Lisa: I know you are a plotter . . . How do you outline an entire story? What is your secret? (asking for a friend)

Carly: So, I should probably qualify this. I’m a plotter, but only to an extent. I don’t start off that way. I typically start with an emotion, something I know I want my main character to be going through. From there, I often pick a setting, as the setting usually becomes something of a character in the story. Then I’ll just sort of see what sprouts with that emotion and that setting. I only really start plotting once I’m about a third of the way through writing scenes. That’s when I realize I need to start building out a sort of scaffolding to hold the story together. I’ll break out a giant sketchbook and make either a timeline or a scene-by-scene summary, but even then, there are holes and scribbles and a million and one changes. I rarely if ever write in sequence, and I almost never know how a story is going to end. My characters almost always surprise me.

Lisa: Last, but most important . . . What happens next with Gus?

Carly: HA! He’s going to surprise me, too! But I at least know where he’s headed in Book 2. You can expect more ghosts than you bargained for in the first book, some friend drama that Gus didn’t sign up for, noxious dogs, therapy speed-dating, intrepid librarians, bootlegging, Cat-wrangling, and so much more.

Lisa: Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I’ve got goosebumps from your ghost story. So creepy! I once lived with a ghost that occasionally turned all the lights on in my house after I went to bed. I just assumed she didn’t like the dark. 

Spooky . . . 

And dear reader, if you have a ghost story, please share in the comments. We’d love to hear your chilling tale. 

Happy haunting! 

All About Carly Anne West

Carly is the author of the YA novels The Murmurings and The Bargaining and the Hello Neighbor middle grade series of novels. She is also a collaborator on the Fazbear Frights novels with Five Nights at Freddy’s. Carly Anne lives in Seoul, Korea with her husband, two kids, a very small cat, and a very large dog. Visit her at, on Twitter @carlyannewest1, on Insta @carlyannewest, and on FB at carlyannewest.

June New Releases

It’s June. Time for long sunny days, lots of ice-cream, and a pile of books to get you started on your summer reading lists.
The June New Releases have a lot to offer this year:  Friends, road tips, fires, and new places. Take a look for yourself.



Asking for a Friend by Ronnie Riley

Eden Jones has exactly three friends. And they’re all fake.

From a web of lies and social anxiety to true friendship and queer joy; this is the wonderful second book from the author of the Indies Introduce and Indie Next List pick, Jude Saves the World.

Why go through the stress of making friends when you can just pretend? It works for Eden and their social anxiety . . . until their mom announces she’s throwing them a birthday party and all their friends are invited.

Eden’s “friends,” Duke, Ramona, and Tabitha, are all real kids from school . . . but Eden’s never actually spoken to them before. Now Eden will do whatever it takes to convince them to be their friends — at least until the party is over.

When things start to go better than Eden expects, and the group starts to bond, Eden finds themselves trapped in a lie that gets worse the longer they keep it up. What happens if their now sort-of-real friends discover that Eden hasn’t been honest with them from the very beginning?




Camp Prodigy by Caroline Palmer

Perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson and Raina Telgemeier, this heartwarming middle grade graphic novel follows two nonbinary kids who navigate anxiety and identity while having fun and forming friendships at their summer orchestra camp.

After attending an incredible concert, Tate Seong is inspired to become a professional violist. There’s just one problem: they’re the worst musician at their school.

Tate doesn’t even have enough confidence to assert themself with their friends or come out as nonbinary to their family, let alone attempt a solo anytime soon. Things start to look up when Tate attends a summer orchestra camp–Camp Prodigy–and runs into Eli, the remarkable violist who inspired Tate to play in the first place.

But Eli has been hiding their skills ever since their time in the spotlight gave them a nervous breakdown. Together, can they figure out how to turn Tate into a star and have Eli overcome their performance anxieties? Or will the pressure take them both down?




Dinner at the Brake Fast by Renee Beauregard Lute

Dinner at the Brake Fast is a hilarious and heartfelt story about road-trip mishaps, a murderous rooster, facing down anxieties, and unexpected friendship that is a must-pick for readers who loved The Science of Unbreakable Things and The First Rule of Punk.

Tacoma Jones loves working at her family’s roadside diner, the Brake Fast, pouring coffee and serving eggs and muffins to truckers all day long. But tonight, she is finally going to break out her collection of cookbooks and prepare the best dinner the state of Washington has ever seen.

But her excitement is dampened when she learns that today is one of Dad’s bad days, when his depression makes it hard for him to get out of bed.

Tacoma knows she can’t fix her dad’s depression. But what she can do is steal back his prized photograph of his second-best day from her nemesis, the nasty Crocodile Kyle–while also planning a dinner that is sure to brighten up his bad day.

She just might need an accomplice or two to pull off the heist. . . .





Fire Escape: How Animals and Plants Survive Wildfires by Jessica Stremer (Author) and Michael Garland (Illustrator)

A timely middle grade nonfiction overview of the incredible ways animals detect, respond, and adapt to wildfires, as well as how climate change is affecting the frequency and severity of these devastating events in nature.

Goats and beavers. Drones and parachutes. Pinecones and beetles. What do they have in common? Believe it or not, they are all crucial tools in fighting, preventing, and adapting to wildfires!

These vicious fires are spreading faster and burning hotter than at any other time in history. Ongoing droughts, warming weather, and a history of poor forest management have extended the traditional wildfire season beyond the summer months. It is a matter of life and death for wildlife worldwide.

This breathtaking nonfiction book focuses on unique angles to a hot topic, including injury rehabilitation efforts, species that use wildfires to their advantage, how to help area repopulation, and the animals that help to prevent/fight wildfires. A riveting, kid friendly text is accompanied by stunning woodcut illustrations and full-color photographs, as well as extensive back matter with glossary, sources, and index.




Lei and the Invisible Island by Malia Maunakea

An exciting follow-up to Lei and the Fire Goddess features a mysterious, invisible island, dangerous spirits, and a newcomer who does not need Lei’s
help . . . or does she?

After saving her best friend and ancestral guardian, Kaipo, from Pele the Fire Goddess’s traps, and successfully preventing lava from destroying her Tūtū’s house, all Lei wants to do is take a nap. The only problem? Kaipo’s ʻaumakua pendant is missing, and without it, he will soon disintegrate . . . emotionally and physically.

So Lei, Kaipo, her favorite talking bat, Ilikea, and newcomer Kaukahi–a fiercely independent fashionista–set off on a journey to an invisible island where they hope to find Kaipo’s pendant. To get there, they’ll have to contend with sharks, jump over a rainbow, and literally float on clouds. And when they arrive? The crew realizes that the missing pendant is the least of their problems. For there are evil spirits on this island, and they’re out for blood.

In this exciting follow-up to LEI AND THE FIRE GODDESS, Malia Maunakea crafts a tale about friendship, family, culture, and what it means to forgive each other, and yourself.





Sink or Swim: (A Graphic Novel) by Veronica Agarwal and Lee Durfey-Lavoie 

Summer is here! School’s out, the pool is open, and new adventures with friends await! But what happens when twelve year old Ty’s anxiety has other plans? From the world of Just Roll With It comes a boy-centric graphic novel about accepting yourself even when it’s a little scary.

Bouncing back from a broken arm should be no big deal–but when Ty spends a month off the swim team the thought of getting back in the water is suddenly not as fun as it used to be.

After weeks of ignoring his friends, Ty isn’t sure how to connect with them again in summer camp. They used to have swim team together but after so long without swimming he’s out of shape and afraid of failing in front of them. With his friendships fracturing, will Ty be able to gain confidence in himself and fix everything before it’s too late?







Skylight by Patchree Jones

For fans of Hayao Miyazaki, this middle-grade novel welcomes you to an immersive Thai fantasy where twelve-year-old best friends Sofia and Cara explore the boundaries of family, friendship, and learning to forge your own path.

Sofia Luana longs to fit into her Colorado hometown. Constantly bullied by her classmates, who see her as an outsider, Sofia only has her best friend, Cara Felicity, for support. When Sofia’s parents suddenly decide to move to California, her only hope is Cara, who says her family’s moving there, too.

On their plane ride halfway across the country, Sofia and Cara see a magical door in the clouds. The girls soon find themselves in a new land filled with a shapeshifting octopus, winged warriors, and the exiled sorceress Muet starting a war to take the throne.

With her best friend, Sofia must learn to embrace her royal Mehk lineage, figure out who can be trusted, and find the courage to make her own decisions to end the war–or else Muet and her Night Army will extinguish Sofia’s skylight forever.





The Cookie Crumbles by Tracy Badua and Alechia Dow 

The Great British Bake Off meets Knives Out in this fun and propulsive middle grade novel following two best friends who must solve the mystery behind a baking competition gone awry.

Laila gave Lucy a cupcake on the second day of kindergarten, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. But the summer before eighth grade, they find out that since they live on opposite sides of town, they’ll go to different high schools. Yuck!

Then Laila’s invited to compete at the Golden Cookie competition, which awards its winner admission and a full ride to the prestigious Sunderland boarding school, and it’s the perfect opportunity. Sunderland doesn’t just have an elite culinary program; it’s also home to an elite journalism track, if only newscaster-hopeful Lucy could build up a strong enough portfolio to impress the scholarship committee.

But when one of the celebrity judges collapses after sampling Laila’s showpiece, rumors of foul play swirl, with Laila rising to the top of the suspect list. Even worse, a major storm has effectively cut off all access to the outside world.

Can the girls find the real culprit and clear Laila’s name before it’s too late?





The New Girl: A Graphic Novel (the New Girl #1) by Cassandra Calin

Instagram sensation and Tapas webcomic superstar Cassandra Calin makes her long-form debut with this funny, feel-good middle-grade graphic novel about change.

Goodbye, old life…

Lia and her family are waiting to board a flight across the Atlantic, leaving behind family, friends, and Romania — the only home Lia has ever known. But Lia’s heartache is overshadowed by the discomfort of her first period. As if things weren’t difficult enough! Now Lia is thrust into a world where everything is different: her home, her language, and even her body. With so many changes happening at once, Lia struggles with schoolwork, has trouble communicating with classmates, and has no idea how to manage her unpleasant periods. Will she ever feel like herself again?

Inspired by the author’s own immigration experience, The New Girl is a comically charming story about change and acceptance.





See a book  you’d like to put on the top of your summer reading list? Let us know in the comments below.



New Releases for May 2024!

It’s springtime and there are so many good things popping up in the month of May, especially books! Here are a few new middle-grade books launching this month—from fantasy to narrative nonfiction to graphic novels and more!

The Secret Library by Kekla Magoon

Since Grandpa died, Dally’s days are dull and restricted. She’s eleven and a half years old, and her exacting single mother is already preparing her to take over the family business. Starved for adventure and release, Dally rescues a mysterious envelope from her mother’s clutches, an envelope Grandpa had earmarked for her. The map she finds inside leads straight to an ancient vault, a library of secrets where each book is a portal to a precise moment in time. As Dally “checks out” adventure after adventure–including an exhilarating outing with pirates–she begins to dive deep into her family’s hidden history. Soon she’s visiting every day to escape the demands of the present. But the library has secrets of its own, intentions that would shape her life as surely as her mother’s meticulous plans. What will Dally choose? Equal parts mystery and adventure–with a biracial child puzzling out her identity alongside the legacy of the past–this masterful middle-grade fantasy rivets with crackling prose, playful plot twists, and timeless themes. A satisfying choice for fans of Kindred and When You Reach Me.






Lunar Boy by Jes and Cin Wibowo

Indu, a boy from the moon, feels like he doesn’t belong. He hasn’t since he and his adoptive mom disembarked from their spaceship–their home–to live on Earth with their new blended family. The kids at school think he’s weird, he has a crush on his pen pal who might not like him back, and his stepfamily doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. Worst of all, Indu can’t even talk to his mom about how he’s feeling because she’s so busy.

In a moment of loneliness, Indu calls out to the moon, begging them to take him back. And against all odds, the moon hears him and agrees to bring him home on the first day of the New Year. But as the promised day draws nearer, Indu finds friendship in unlikely places and discovers that home is more than where you come from. And when the moon calls again, Indu must decide: Is he willing to give up what he’s just found?







Mountain of Fire: The Eruption and Survivors of Mount St. Helens by Rebecca E. F. Barone

For weeks, the ground around Mount St. Helens shuddered like a dynamite keg ready to explode. There were legends of previous eruptions: violent fire, treacherous floods, and heat that had scoured the area. But the shaking and swelling was unlike any volcanic activity ever seen before. Day and night, scientists tried to piece together the mountain’s clues–yet nothing could prepare them for the destruction to come.

The long-dormant volcano seethed away, boiling rock far below the surface. Washington’s governor, Dixie Lee Ray, understood the despair that would follow from people being forced from their homes. How and when should she give orders to evacuate the area? And would that be enough to save the people from the eruption of Mount St. Helens?






The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown by Elizabeth Laird

Charity Brown’s life is about to change – her family have been left a huge, rambling house by a mysterious benefactor, and her parents want to move in and throw open its doors to the needy.

Only recently back from hospital after months of isolation with polio, Charity is over-protected and lonely as the only child still at home. Her family are very religious – her sisters are called Faith and Hope, and her brother Ted is studying to be a preacher – so she’s both excited and nervous at the thought of sharing her family and new home with strangers.

It’s a recipe for confusion, joy and endless misunderstandings, including with the new neighbours, an Austrian family with a daughter just Charity’s age . . .







The Magic Paintbrush by Kat Zhang

Amy has always loved art, but lately her drawings have been less than impressive. There’s no passion, no personality, no…magic. Until Amy visits her Lao Lao, her grandmother, and finds an ancient paintbrush that brings anything Amy creates to life!

Now her creation Luna has taken over her bedroom and is running through the streets of Flushing, Queens. What awaits: an international adventure filled with an ancient Chinese legend, a greedy adversary and ghastly beasts!

Award-winning author Kat Zhang teams up with Eric Darnell, the writer and director of the Madagascar series and the Chief Creative Officer of Baobab Studios, to create a captivating highly-illustrated middle grade series debut about finding your own path, the power of imagination, and the strength of family.







A Galaxy of Whales by Heather Fawcett

When Fern hears about a photo contest with a big cash award, she decides she’ll enter and win! After all, photography is her passion (and was an interest she shared with her dad, who has recently died). She knows she can take a prize-worthy photo of a whale during one of the whale-watching tours her mom runs.

But her neighbor (and nemesis), Jasper, is also planning to enter the contest. It’s another frustration for Fern while she’s already coping with the worry that her best friend, Ivy, might not want to spend time with her anymore. She’s hoping to use the prize money to buy something that will attract Ivy’s interest.

This summer story has everything: the trials and pleasures of friendship, a rousing feud and a touch of adventure, a beautiful exploration of healing after grief, a very moving finale, and a whole lot of whale-watching fascination.






Through a Clouded Mirror by Miya T. Beck

Yuki Snow wishes she were anywhere but here.

She hates Santa Dolores, where her mom and stepdad just moved the family. Her BFF back home, Julio, has already forgotten his promise to stay in touch–and worse, he like likes Yuki’s mortal enemy. At her new school, the kids think she’s either invisible or a know-it-all nerd.

The only friend she’s made so far is the shopkeeper at a Japanese antiques store. Among the treasures there is an ancient brass mirror supposedly once owned by celebrated Japanese writer Sei Shonagon. It’s also rumored to be a portal to Shonagon’s world, which opens every hundred years. So when a woman with long jet-black hair and flowing silk robes appears in the glass, beckoning, Yuki knows there’s only one thing to do–step through to the unknown….