New Releases

Double Helix Book Blast Tour!

Welcome Back to the Explorer Academy!

Welcome to the Explorer Academy: The Double Helix Book Blast!


To celebrate the release of Explorer Academy: The Double Helix by Trudi Trueit on September 24th, blogs across the web are featuring special content from the world of the Explorer Academy, as well as 5 chances to win an Explorer Academy Prize Pack!

Decoding Yourself

In Explorer Academy: The Double Helix, Cruz and his friends not only learn about the world around them, but discover new things about themselves as well — and it can help readers do the same. Use the questions below to help kids relate the adventures of Team Cousteau to their own lives, and find more in the freely available readers’ and educators’ guides!


1. Cruz learns that the ancient city of Petra was one of many cities known as the “rose city.” Why might this be such a common name for a city? What nicknames does your city, town, or county have?

2. This is an image of DNA that 20th-century scientists used to determine the structure of DNA, the building blocks of all living organisms. Dr. Rosalind Franklin, whose team made the image, wasn’t credited with the achievement because two other scientists — Watson and Crick — published the findings as their own. Why might it have taken so long for Franklin’s original finding to become public after the other scientists took credit? Why do some histories still fail to give her credit for the discovery? In terms of recognizing achievements, when might gender matter?

3. While taking a break in a shop, Cruz happens to notice a postcard of the mosaic artwork in the Byzantine church and compares it to the birthmark on his wrist. He realizes the shapes resemble the double helix pattern of DNA. How much does luck versus skill influence Cruz’s eventual success? When was the last time you achieved something through a combination of luck and skill?



Blog Tour Schedule:
September 23rd – YA and Kids Books Central
September 24th – Java John Z’s
September 25th – Always in the Middle
September 26th – From the Mixed Up Files
September 27th – BookhoundsYA

“A fun, exciting and action-packed ride that kids will love.”  
—J.J. Abrams, director of Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost and Alias
Explorer  Academy  is  sure  to  awaken  readers’  inner  adventurer  and  curiosity  about  the  world  around  them.”
—LeVar  Burton,  host  of  “Reading  Rainbow”and “LeVar  Burton  Reads”

: National GeographicAmazon | Indiebound

Follow TrudiWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Youtube

Follow National Geographic Kids: Website | Twitter | Books Twitter | Facebook | Youtube

The mystery deepens and the action intensifies for 12-year-old Cruz Coronado and friends in the exciting third book in the Explorer Academy series.The adventure continues for Cruz, Emmett, Sailor, and Bryndis as they continue their studies at sea and travel to exotic locations around the world. A mysterious person alerts Cruz to impending danger while he and a few trusted pals explore ancient ruins in Petra, Jordan, and search for another piece of the puzzle his mother left behind. Worst of all, now his father has gone missing, which prompts Aunt Marisol, his number one protector, to leave the ship in search of him. Who is the new professor who takes her place? How does the new technology he introduces help or hurt Cruz’s quest? Why is Nebula determined to stop Cruz before he turns 13? The clock is ticking as his first teen birthday draws near … a milestone that will change his life forever, one way or another.

About the Author: Author Trudi Trueit is a gifted storyteller for middle-grade audiences. She has written more than 100 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction, including The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Trueit lives in Everett, Washington.

  • One (1) winner will receive SIGNED copies of Explorer Academy books 1-3, Explorer Academy Codebreaking Activity Adventure, an ADVANCE copy of Explorer Academy Ultimate Activity Challenge (not otherwise available to the public until November!), an Explorer Academy pin, baseball cap, bag, digital watch, bookmark, and a $50 Visa Gift Card!
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 10/4 at midnight ET

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Explorer Academy Recruitment Day — October 10, 2019

October 10th, 2019 is Explorer Academy Recruitment Day. From New York to Vancouver, Ohio to Texas, and all points in between, real-life National Geographic Explorers will be talking to thousands of kids across North America, sharing their experiences and revealing how the Explorers themselves inspired the coolest school on the planet: The Explorer Academy. Explorer Academy author Trudi Trueit will also be in her hometown of Seattle, talking to local schools (if only we could make more Trudi’s to go around but, alas, she is one-of-a-kind). Thanks to the series’ publication in a dozen countries, Explorer Academy Recruitment Day has turned into a GLOBAL phenomenon, with students all over the world participating in events similar to the ones happening in North America.

10/10, 6:30 – 7:30 pm
PUBLIC EVENT with Nat Geo Explorer Rae Wynn Grant
1555 KIng Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Event details:  Presentation, Q&A, and signing of posters

10/10, 7:00 pm
PUBLIC EVENT with Nat Geo Explorer Jennifer W. Lopez
17 Haverford Station Road
Haverford, PA  19041
Event details:  Presentation, Q&A, and signing of posters

10/12, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
PUBLIC EVENT with Explorer Academy author Trudi Trueit
7430 164th Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98052
Event details:  Presentation, Q&A, and signing

Interview with Meredith Davis: Collaborating Over an Ocean

A few years ago, one of my favorite things to do on Facebook was follow the posts of my friend Meredith Davis. Her and her family were looking after a girl from Rwanda who had bravely left her family to come to Austin, Texas, in the hope that her curled feet could be corrected so she could walk. I had the privilege of meeting Rebeka once, very briefly when I had to collect something from Meredith and Rebeka was in the car. Her smile has stayed with me ever since.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSo when I heard that Meredith and Rebeka had co-written a middle-grade book about Rebeka’s journey and it was getting published by Scholastic, I rejoiced. Rebeka’s story is one of fear but making your own courage (something that any reader of my novel knows is important to me), resilience despite challenges, and the joy of knowing that, even though our world often looks harsh, there are wonderful examples of community and love.

HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK comes out on Oct. 1, and I can assure you that it is absolutely wonderful. So inspirational and touching, as well as beautifully written, this is a book I hope will be available in every library and read by every kid and adult. (You can find it on IndieBound here.)

I’m thrilled to have had a chance to chat with Meredith about how this book came about. PLUS, there’s a giveaway at the end…

Tell us how you and Rebeka met.

Rebeka and I first met at the Austin airport at 2:30AM on August 6, 2012. She didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak her language of Kinyarwanda, we were both a bit bleary-eyed and scared as we stepped into the unknown together. Rebeka briefly met my husband in December 2011 when he was on a trip to Rwanda. Amazingly, some of our friends had recently sponsored her so she could go to school, and the husband and father of that family is a doctor. When he found out about her medical condition, he applied to a Dell Children’s Hospital foundation and their doctors agreed to treat her for free if they felt her twisted feet would respond. It was truly a miracle, all those small pieces coming together to bring her to Austin. When we got the call, asking if we would host her, we said yes.

Rebeka Uwitonze runs circles around Meredith's daughter on their trampoline.

Rebeka Uwitonze runs circles around Meredith’s daughter on their trampoline.

She had seen pictures of our family in preparation for her trip to Texas to receive treatments for her club feet. There was a photo of her family sitting on the counter back home, which I studied frequently, but we didn’t meet in the flesh until that fateful morning. In twenty-four hours, she went from scared and tired, to chasing after my sons and running circles around my daughter on the trampoline.

Why did you both decide to write this story?

I’ll answer for myself first and then for Rebeka, sharing the reasons she shared with me when I asked her this same question. I wrote this book so that more people would know about this resilient, funny, courageous girl who lived with us for almost a year as she went through thirty-one casts, fifty-eight hospital visits and three painful surgeries to turn her feet straight. I want more readers to know about Rebeka’s home country of Rwanda, too, a country I love.

Rebeka partnered with me as co-author because she was excited about encouraging other kids. She doesn’t want her story to be forgotten. We needed each other to write the book in a way that honored how she was thinking and feeling as a young girl crawling, as a seven-year-old teaching herself how to walk, as a nine-year-old leaving her family to come to America, and as the young woman she is now.

How did you and Rebeka collaborate on this book, especially with such a great distance between you?

This is a great question! The distance made our writing process unique. There were other complications in addition to the giant ocean that separated us. I couldn’t call Rebeka or send her an email since she had no cell phone and very limited access to computers and the internet. Our communication had to be carefully planned, taking into consideration the seven-hour time difference and the schedules of school administrators who would need to pull her from class and bring her to the office.

We mostly worked in three big chunks. In 2017, we talked a lot about the shape of the book, deciding what scenes to include and what to leave out. In addition to talking to Rebeka, I interviewed her parents, her former teacher, house mother at her boarding school, and staff from the organization who got Rebeka sponsored to go to school (Africa New Life).

In 2018, it was all about revision as I brought the entire manuscript to Rebeka in both written form and a DVD. I had hired a Rwandan in the US to translate and record the entire book so that both Rebeka and her parents could listen to it. Edits were made until we were both happy with it.

The next summer was spent working on promotion together. We are both debut authors! The summer of 2019, I flew to Rwanda to record a video of Rebeka giving a tour of her home and school and answering readers’ questions. The readers were ten Texas kids who read advanced copies of her book. I plan to show that video at all my presentations, and we both look forward to where this project leads us next.

The conversations between Rebeka and her sister at the end of each chapter are wonderful. How did you both come up with the idea of ending the chapters in this way?

Rebeka Uwitonze and her sister Medeatrece.

Rebeka Uwitonze and her sister Medeatrece.

The summer of 2017, Rebeka and I lay side by side on a bunk at the guest house and dreamed up how to tell her story. Earlier that week, Rebeka showed me the bed she and Medeatrece shared when they were little girls. Her affection for her little sister was so evident. There were nights when she lived with us that I would hear her whispering with my daughter after dark in the room they shared, the way she did with her sister. All those memories and experiences came together as the first-person vignettes between the chapters.

I love the photographs throughout. How did you choose which to include?

I had so many pictures from our time with Rebeka in Texas, and pictures of our times in Rwanda, it was really hard to choose. We wrote the manuscript first, and then chose the pictures that best represented the text. I kept a blog when Rebeka lived with us (if anyone wants to go back through those, they can still find them on my website, which kept me accountable to document our time together. I am so thankful for all those pictures now!

We sent about seventy to the editor and were so pleased that they were able to incorporate almost all of them. We were also hopeful that the pictures would be spaced throughout the text instead of clustered in the middle, and again, our wish came true!

Scholastic was amazing to work with. Their designers did a great job of working to make sure the pictures appeared as close to the text they represented as possible. There were only five pictures that weren’t taken by my husband or me. They were taken by friends who were happy to let us use them. I was especially pleased when Scholastic chose esteemed humanitarian photographer Esther Haven’s picture of Rebeka for the back cover. It is one of my favorites!

What have been your biggest joys and challenges so far in bringing this book to shelves?

Rebeka Uwitonze and Meredith Davis in 2017, during Meredith's first visit to Rwanda.

Rebeka Uwitonze and Meredith Davis in 2017, during Meredith’s first visit to collaborate with Rebeka in Rwanda.

Oh, there are have been so many joys. One of the biggest was getting to see Rebeka three years in a row and finding out more of her story as we worked on the book, and watching her rise to the occasion, poised and eloquent as she was interviewed for various media opportunities.

Getting to share news about the publishing deal with so many friends and family who have watched me write and submit over the years was also a big thrill. All those years of heartache and rejections have prepared a rich soil where many close relationships grew, and those same people who encouraged me when I was down are now cheering for me.

The challenge has definitely been the physical distance between Rebeka and I, but Rebeka is used to challenges and I have learned a lot from her. We made it work, just like she’s done her whole life.

This is the first book for both of you. Will we see others? (I hope so!)

I hope so, too! For me, I am digging into another narrative nonfiction project and I have lots of fiction projects I am eager to return to as well. I can’t imagine my life if I wasn’t mired in a writing project. It’s a little like being pregnant, with a whole world going on inside of you, a secret you carry around as you wait in lines and shop for groceries and do the normal things you do.

As for Rebeka, I would love to see her write another book. Right now, her focus is school. She got a late start, entering kindergarten at the age of nine, just months before coming to America. But she is smart and determined, and the same girl who left her family at age nine to fly to America and live with strangers while she had surgeries is the girl who will one day graduate and go on to change her world.

I hope that this experience will encourage not just Rebeka, but many other Rwandans to write books. Nonfiction and fiction, books about their lives, books about worlds they’ve made up, books that are influenced by their own unique culture and country. I have had some really great conversations with some enterprising men and women in Rwanda, encouraging them that the world needs their voices.

What’s the most important thing you hope readers will take away from this book?

Courage, compassion, curiosity . . . there are so many things, it’s hard to choose the most important! We hope this book will awaken a curiosity in readers for those who look or act different, whether it’s the color of skin, a different language, or a disability. We want readers to crave the story behind what makes someone different, and that in the craving, they will engage others with compassion, empathy, and interest.

We want readers to be courageous when faced with a hard choice, because sometimes chance comes once!

Thank you, Meredith, for taking us behind the scenes of HER OWN TWO FEET.

Seriously, this is an amazing story wonderfully told. I know you’ll love it as much as I do. Here’s more about Meredith and Rebeka:

Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze with their book!

Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze with their book!

Meredith Davis worked at an independent children’s bookstore and started the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators before earning her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives and writes in Austin, Texas, and Her Own Two Feet is her debut book. Visit her online at

Rebeka Uwitonze goes to school in Kayonza, Rwanda, and spends her holidays at her home in Bugesera. She was born with arthrogryposis, a disease that caused her joints to contract, resulting in stiffness, clubfeet, and muscle atrophy in her arms. Her Own Two Feet is her debut book, in which she is able to share her inspiring story with the world. To find out more about Rebeka, go to

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September New Releases!

If you were too busy for books this summer, September is the month to dive back in! Time to cozy up and grab a new middle grade read . . . and there are lots to choose from. Here are some of the latest out this month.


Owl’s Outstanding Donuts by Robin Yardi

Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, tells a story full of mystery, feathers, and sprinkles. After Mattie Waters loses her mother, she goes to live with her aunt, the owner of a roadside donut shop in Big Sur, California. When an owl taps on Mattie’s window one night, Mattie looks out to see something suspicious taking place nearby. With help from her friends—and from Alfred, a stuffy but good-hearted owl—, she’ll set out to find the culprits, facing fears that have followed her since her mother’s death.




Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.



Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez create a kind and caring book about the differences that make each of us unique. Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.

In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.


The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield, Illustrated by Daniel Minter

The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield’s poetry and Daniel Minter’s art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America” begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women” both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.


If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation in the Great Depression by Tracy Daley, Illustrated by Eric Freeberg

It’s 1935, and the Great Depression and California drought has left eleven-year-old Joseph McCoy shining shoes to help his family survive. Through his hard work and games with his sister, Joseph has figured out how to get by as one of the few black people in a mostly white community. But the order of the town is disrupted when an all-black Civilian Conservation Corps camp comes to Elsinore, sparking racial tension. It isn’t long before prejudice spreads like wildfire and threatens to force the work camp to leave. Could Joseph’s secret project save the camp and bring his family hope for the future? If not, the whole town just might go up in flames.

Its the storytellers that preserve a nations history. But what happens when some stories are silenced? The I Am America series features fictional stories based on important historical events from people whose voices have been under represented, lost, or forgotten over time.


The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Escape out of Slavery by Jehan Jones-Radgowski, Illustrated by Poppy Kang

The mist in Charleston Inner Harbor was heavy, but not heavy enough to disguise the stolen Confederate steamship, the Planter, from Confederate soldiers. In the early hours of May 13, 1862, in the midst of the deadly U.S. Civil War, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls was about to carry out a perilous plan of escape. Standing at the helm of the ship, Smalls impersonated the captain as he and his crew passed heavily armed Confederate forts to enter Union territory, where escaped slaves were given shelter. The suspenseful escape of the determined crew is celebrated with beautiful artwork and insightful prose, detailing the true account of an unsung American hero.


A Song for China: How My Father Wrote Yellow River Cantata by Ange Zhang

This is the fascinating story of how a young Chinese author, Guang Weiran, a passionate militant from the age of twelve, fought, using art, theater, poetry and song, especially the famous Yellow River Cantata ― the anthem of Chinese national spirit ― to create a socially just China. Set during the period of the struggle against the Japanese and the war against the Kuomintang in the 1920s and ’30s, this book, written and illustrated by Guang Weiran’s award-winning artist son, Ange Zhang, illuminates a key period in China’s history. The passion and commitment of the artists who were born under the repressive weight of the Japanese occupation, the remnants of the decaying imperial order and the times of colonial humiliation are inspiring.

Zhang’s words and wood-block style of art tell us the story of his father’s extraordinary youth and very early rise to prominence due to his great talent with words. We see and hear the intensity of what it meant to be alive at such a significant moment in the history of China, a country that understands itself as the heir to one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. The humiliations and social injustice the Chinese people had endured in the colonial period were no longer bearable. And yet there were major factional differences between those who wanted to create a modern China. Ange’s words and art paint the picture for us through his father’s story, accompanied by sidebars that explain the historical context.

The book ends in a burst of glorious color and song, with the words of the Yellow River Cantata in Mandarin, as well as newly translated into English. This great song turns eighty years old in 2019, and will be sung and performed by huge orchestras and choirs around the world, as the Chinese diaspora has embraced the cantata as its own.


Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

But after Moon moves in next door, these unlikely friends are soon best friends, sharing their favorite music videos and painting their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she has visions, sometimes, of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.

Moon’s visions have an all-too-earthly root, however, and soon Christine’s best friend is in the hospital, fighting for her life. Can Christine be the friend Moon needs, now, when the sky is falling?

Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.


Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is a gorgeous, literary adventure about bravery, friendship, self-reliance, and the choice between accepting fate or forging your own path.

When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls ill with an incurable disease, Lalani embarks on a dangerous journey across the sea in the hope of safeguarding her own future. Inspired by Filipino folklore, this engrossing fantasy is for readers who loved Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Disney’s Moana.

Life is difficult on the island of Sanlagita. To the west looms a vengeful mountain, one that threatens to collapse and bury the village at any moment. To the north, a dangerous fog swallows sailors who dare to venture out, looking for a more hospitable land. And what does the future hold for young girls? Chores and more chores.

When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls gravely ill, twelve-year-old Lalani faces an impossible task—she must leave Sanlagita and find the riches of the legendary Mount Isa, which towers on an island to the north. But generations of men and boys have died on the same quest—how can an ordinary girl survive the epic tests of the archipelago? And how will she manage without Veyda, her best friend?

Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is inspired by Filipino folklore and is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about friendship, courage, and identity. Perfect for fans of Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon.