New Releases

5 Weird Facts I Learned About the Ocean by 11-year-old Grace

Welcome, eleven-year-old Grace (main character in Alice Kaltman’s new middle-grade novel, The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh). Thanks for stopping by MUF to tell us all about the ocean. And thank you to your creator, Alice Kaltman, for offering to give away a copy of your story!

Enter the giveaway below. 

The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh

The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh by Alice Kaltman

5 Interesting/Fun/Weird Facts I Learned About the Ocean by Grace Minnaugh, main character in The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh by Alice Kaltman

I guess you could say I, Grace Minnaugh, lead a decidedly double life. When I’m on land, I’m all girl, but when I’m fully submerged in seawater I’m all mermaid. I only discovered my mermaid self when I moved to California from Ohio, where there isn’t a puddle of seawater anywhere except maybe at aquariums, so you can imagine my surprise when I first transformed.

I learn new things about life underwater every time I take a dive. Some of these oddities are particular to me, myself, and I as a mermaid, and some are honest to goodness facts that sounds too fantastical to be true. Here are my top five ocean-y shares:


  • I breathe fish-style underwater, with magical gills that pop out from behind my ears once I’m in mermaid mode. Breathing with gills is awesome. I take sips of water through my mouth, and exhale the water through my gills. My gills dissolve the oxygen from the water (The O in the H2O), and pump it through my blood to my cells. My gills feel like little curtains flapping behind my ears. Ticklish, but not annoying. It’s a relaxing tickle, more like a scalp massage.
  • I adore dolphins. Even before I became a mermaid I thought they were the most amazing animals on the planet. Did you know that merpeople and dolphins share a very cool power, aside from being lovable and super friendly? We both navigate through the water using a technique called echolocation. We emit bio sonar waves from our foreheads that rebound off creatures and plants and tell us how far away and how big they are. This is a crucial skill to have when we’re about to encounter a hungry Great While or Tiger Shark. Usually those guys leave us alone, but when they’re particularly peckish, our flesh-eating shark friends can be a tad unpredictable. Better to use echolocation and find a hiding place to chill for a while then be a shark’s midday treat. Interesting sidebar: Dolphins have gigantic foreheads, which human scientist have decided to call melons, because, duh, they look like melons, but we merpeople have much more attractive, normal-sized foreheads.
  • Some merpeople, but not all, can swim really fast, like faster than a speedboat fast. I’m one of those lucky ones. I wish you could see me kick my monofin as rapidly as possible, while the water courses through my gills, and my hair streams behind me like a sail. I suppose you’ll have to read “The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh” to find out more about this particular mer-superpower. I can’t even describe how stupendous it feels.
  • One of my favorite sea species of all times is the sea slug. Those little creatures store up sun rays like plants and illuminate like little blobs of sunshine underwater! Sea slugs are particularly handy—if slippery— to have around when you’re fluttering through a super dark underwater cavern many meters under the surface. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly gotten lost, but for those little babies lighting my way. My all time favorite type of sea slug is the Flabellina polaris, or Tanglewing. It is covered with tendrils tipped with light, like a magical illuminated feather; beautiful, but super slimy to the touch so beware!
  • Lastly, I’m not sharing this to be a mer-Debby Downer, but rather, to alert you to something you can do to help save our oceans: One of the most spectacular living entities underwater are the many, many species of coral. I can’t even begin to tell you how beautiful they are—the shapes, the sizes, the awe-inspiring colors, and how important they are to the ocean ecosystem. But coral reefs are being destroyed all over the globe. It really stresses me out. One thing that kills coral is when humans use non-reef friendly sunscreen and swim with that stuff sprayed or glopped all over their bodies. These products are super bad for coral, in a variety of ways. You can read more about it here, but in the meantime, tell your parents to just buy mineral sunscreens, especially lotions containing non-nano zinc dioxide as the primary active ingredient. Everything else is poison!
Alice Kaltman, author of The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh

Alice Kaltman, author of The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh

About The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh by Alice Kaltman 

Eleven-year-old Grace Minnaugh is not a fan of big changes. She’s miserable during her first weeks in the seaside town of La Toya, sulking like a spoiled brat. Her family embraces the California lifestyle and Grace decides to embrace the seductive beauty of the sea. One fateful morning, while taking a predawn swim, she is caught in a thunderstorm. Without the ocean skills to survive, she’s sucked below the surface, convinced she will drown. Instead, a new life begins. Gills rip open from behind her ears and her legs fuse together to form a fishtail. Grace Minnaugh is a mermaid, and a gorgeous one at that. On land, Grace is still the same walking, talking social misfit she’s always been. But in the salty sea, she’s an underwater marvel. Grace decides not to tell a soul about her flip-floppy double life, but things get complicated when Grace befriends Alfie DeCosta, a kid who’s obsessed with finding an elusive shipwreck off the coast of La Toya. Grace knows exactly where the shipwreck is. But she can’t tell Alfie about it, or can she?


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Support local booksellers with these new releases!

Now more than ever we need to support our local book sellers and children’s book authors. And, we need to keep fueling the minds of the middle-grade readers in our lives. What better way than to purchase these up-and-coming releases geared toward this awesome age group.  Note that each has a link to click on to an independent book seller near you. My favorite local book store, Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg, Ohio, was more than happy to take my order over the phone last week and ship out a gift to my niece. There are some great reads on this list! Happy shopping!

Greystone Secrets #2: The Deceivers by Margaret Peterson Haddix, HarperCollins Publishers, April 7

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The second book in the Greystone Secrets series from the master of plot twists, Margaret Peterson Haddix—perfect for fans of A Wrinkle in Time and The City of Ember!

Until their mother vanished, the Greystone kids—Chess, Emma, and Finn—knew nothing about the other world.

Everything is different there. It’s a mirror image, except things are wrong. Evil. Their mother tried to fix it, but she and an ally got trapped there along with Ms. Morales, their friend Natalie’s mom.

Now the four kids—brave Chess, smart Emma, kind Finn, and savvy Natalie—are determined to rescue everyone.

To do so, they have to go back: into the other world, where even telling the truth can be illegal.

But in such a terrifying place, Chess doubts he can ever be brave enough. Despite all her brains, Emma can’t seem to break the code. With everything spiraling out of control, Finn has to pretend he’s okay.

And for Natalie, the lies of the other world include some she wishes were actually true. What if she’s gotten so used to lying she no longer knows what to believe?

The second book in the Greystone Secrets series, The Deceivers, by bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix, continues the twisty and suspenseful story of the Greystone kids and examines the power of the truth—or a lie—to alter lives, society, and even an entire reality.

The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook, Hearst Home Books, April 7

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It’s the ultimate kids cookbook from America’s #1 food magazine: 150+ fun, easy recipes for young cooks, plus bonus games and food trivia!

The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook from Food Network Magazine gives young food lovers everything they need to succeed in the kitchen. Each recipe is totally foolproof and easy to follow, with color photos and tips to help beginners get excited about cooking. The book includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert—all from the trusted chefs in Food Network’s test kitchen.

Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega, Scholastic, April 7

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Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy.

For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.

Kate the Chemist: The Big Book of Experiments, by Kate Biberdorf, Penguin Young Readers Group, April 14

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Packed with 25 incredible science experiments kids can do at home, Kate the Chemist introduces young scientists to the fascinating world of STEM!

Have you ever wondered how to make a volcano explode? Or why dropping dry ice in soap bubbles forms neon brains?

With 25 kid-friendly science experiments, and stunning full-color photographs, Kate the Chemist’s big book of experiments, shows kids just how fun—and easy—it is to be a scientist. Learn how to make slime, fake tattoos, edible snot, and more! Experiments include step-by-step instructions, an ingredients list, full color photographs, a messiness factor rating, and a note from Kate.

Create future engineers, scientists, and inventors, and introduce your child to the world of STEM with Kate the Chemist: The Big Book of Experiments!

And, last but not least, this title came out last month, but wanted to shed some light on this great story!

The Prettiest by Brigit Young, Roaring Brook Press, April 14

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A must-read for young feminists, The Prettiest is an incisive, empowering novel by Brigit Young about fighting back against sexism and objectification.

THE PRETTIEST: It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be . . . until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.

Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her.

Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two.

And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is.

It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager, Penguin Young Readers Group, April 21

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A page-turning middle-grade adaptation of the New York Times bestseller about how a newly independent nation was challenged by foreign powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation.

When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa routinely captured American sailors and held them as captives demanding ransom and tribute far beyond what the new country could afford.

Jefferson found it impossible to negotiate a truce, and decided to move beyond diplomacy. He sent the U.S. Navy and Marines to blockade Tripoli—launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status.

This vivid and accessible young readers adaptation of the New York Times bestseller features an exclusive new introduction, extensive back matter, and eye-catching art throughout. Chronicling a crucial moment in American history, this historical thriller will excite and inspire the next generation of patriots.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk, Penguin Young Readers Group, April 21

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The Newbery Honor–winning author of Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea returns with the story of an unforgettable young heroine in Depression-era Maine.

“Brilliant.” –Lynda Mullaly Hunt, bestselling author of Fish in a Tree

When the Great Depression takes almost everything they own, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed forests of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy, even for Ellie, as her family struggles with the aftermath of an accident that has left her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie.

Determined to help her father, Ellie will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal and, with them, a fresh chance at happiness.

Echo Mountain is celebration of finding your own path and becoming your truest self. Newbery Honor– and Scott O’Dell Award–winning author Lauren Wolk weaves a stunning tale of resilience, persistence, and friendship across three generations of families, set against the rough and ragged beauty of the mountain they all call home.

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson, Bloombury USA, April 28

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From Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Renée Watson comes the first book in a young middle grade series about Ryan Hart, a girl who is pure spirit, kindness, and sunshine.

Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind—school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean!

Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.

Acclaimed author Renée Watson writes her own version of Ramona Quimby, one starring a Black girl and her family, in this start to a charming new series.

Living the Confidence Code: Real Girls, Real Stories, Real Confidence by Katty Kay, Claire Shipman and JillEllyn Riley, HarperCollins Publishers, April 28.

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New from the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling authors of The Confidence Code for Girls!

The best way to understand confidence is to see it in action. That’s why bestselling authors Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, and JillEllyn Riley have collected 30 true stories of real girls, pursuing their passions, struggling and stumbling, but along the way figuring out how to build their own special brand of confidence.

From Bali to Brazil, South Africa to Seattle, Australia to Afghanistan, these girls took risks, doubted themselves, and sometimes failed. But they also hung in there when things got hard. Along the way they discovered what matters to them: everything from protesting contaminated water to championing inclusive books to the accessibility of girls’ basketball shoes, and so much more.

Different goals, different stories, different personalities, all illustrating the multitude of ways to be confident in the world.

Packed with photos, graphic novel strips, and engaging interviews, Living the Confidence Code proves that no matter who you are, or how old you are, nothing is out of reach when you decide to try. Join this growing global community of powerful girls and imagine—what would you like to do, once you tap into your confidence? How will you write your story?

Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel by Rob Currie, Tyndale Publishers

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The thrilling story of one boy’s quest to find his father and protect his younger sister during the great Dutch famine of World War II.
“Sometimes you have to take a chance, because it’s the only chance you have.”

Thirteen-year-old Dirk has been the man of the house since his papa disappeared while fighting against the Nazis with the Dutch Resistance. When the Gestapo arrests Dirk’s older sister, who is also a Resistance fighter, Dirk fears that he and his little sister, Anna, might be next.

With only pockets full of food and his sister asleep in his arms, Dirk runs away to find his father. As Dirk leads Anna across the war-torn Netherlands, from farmyards to work camps, he must rely on his wits and his father’s teaching to find his way.

STEM Tuesday – Special Announcement– STEM/STEAM Books Releasing in 2020

STEM Tuesday CoSTEM Costume Contest



We’re taking time away from our regular monthly posts to present a special look at the STEM/STEAM kidlit titles releasing this year.

We’re sure that we will probably miss a few, but we’ll try to include as many as possible. 





Planet Ocean by Patricia Newman, Fall

ICK: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses by Melissa Stewart, Summer

Beastly Bionics by Jennifer Swanson, June

One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao

The Farm That Feeds Us: A Year In The Life of An Organic Farm by Nancy Castaldo , May

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten W Larson, illus. by Tracy Suisak

Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You Never Heard Of by Helaine Becker

Thirteen Ways to Eat A Fly by Sue Heavenrich

What If? by Heather Camlot

Amphibian Acrobats: Frog, Salamander, and Caecilian Showstoppers in Verse by Leslie Bulion

Skywatcher by Carrie Arcos

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist’s Guide to Chemistry by Liz Lee Heinecke

Wild Art Workshop for Kids by Nick Neddo

Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed The World by Kazoo Magazine

National Geographic’s Ultimate Food Atlas by Nancy Castaldo and Christy Mihaly, September

Into the Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by Tod Olson

Accidental Archeologists by Sarah Albee

To Fly Among the Stars by Rebecca Siegel

Tracking Pythons by Kate Messner, March

Solve This: Forensics by Kate Messner and Anne Ruppert

Amazing Amphibians by Lisa Amstutz, February

Python Catchers by Marta Magellen

Wildlife Ranger Action Guide: Track, Spot & Provide Healthy Habitat for Creaturs Close to Home by Mary Kay Carson, spring

STEM Tuesday book list prepared by

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 multi-starred title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. Visit her at 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. The Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, Newman has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, and a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy! Her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at