New Releases

August New Releases

Before vacation is over and fall brings many of us back to school, work, or whatever it is that interrupts these wonderful lazy days of summer, check out this list of books that will hit shelves this month. From silly to spooky and everything in between, August offers up something for everyone!

 

Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illus. by LeUyen Pham

Best Friends is the vividly honest follow-up to the runaway bestselling graphic memoir Real Friends. Sixth grade is supposed to be perfect. Shannon’s got a sure spot in the in-crowd called The Group, and her best friend is their leader, Jen, the most popular girl in school. But the rules are always changing, and Shannon has to scramble to keep up. She never knows which TV shows are cool, what songs to listen to, and which boys she’s allowed to talk to. Who makes these rules anyway? And does Shannon have to follow them? Or should she follow her heart? Bestselling creators of Real Friends Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham are back with a true story about popularity, first boyfriends, and finding your own path.

 

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed. Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last–the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge–and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who–or what–are they really dancing with? When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family–before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

 

CatStronauts: Slapdash Science by Drew Brockington

In the fifth book in the CatStronauts graphic novel series, Pom Pom pushes her experiments to the limit on the International Space Station, while the cats at Mission Control take a much needed break. What could possibly go wrong? While the cats are away, the other cats will play! Flight Director Maisy is off on her first vacation in years, and World’s Best Scientist is looking for a secret vacation of his own. But while the party picks up on Earth, the CatStronauts are trying to get all of their work on the International Space Station done in record time. So when disaster strikes in space, the CatStronauts will have to fix everything without their trusty support team at Mission Control. In this full-color graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington pushes the CatStronauts team farther than ever, adding in mounds of experiments, teamwork, and tuna fish by the ton!

 

13 and Counting by Lisa Greenwald

With winter break almost over and seventh grade spinning beyond their control, best friends Kaylan and Ari write a new list of 13 resolutions to make the New Year, middle school, and their friendship even more amazing before they go to separate camps next summer. But what happens when their bestie bucket list reveals issues in their friend group? Can they want totally different things and still be BFFs?

Told in the alternating POVs of Ari and Kaylan—and with goals inspired by suggestions from readers—this contemporary coming-of-age story is bound to be the most heartbreaking and hilarious Friendship List yet.

 

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE. With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted. Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.

 

Double Cross (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls) by Beth McMullen

Abby and her classmates have all been invited to Briar Academy to participate in The Challenge, a prep school competition where teams compete for prizes and the glory of being the best of the best.

While there, they figure out their nemesis, The Ghost, is using Briar as headquarters to plan a devastating attack on his enemies (a.k.a.: pretty much everyone) using a brand-new invention Toby developed. And this time, The Center and Mrs. Smith will be of no help as Abby suspects there is someone working for The Ghost on the inside—and they can trust no one.

 

 

Pencils, Pens and Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation by Mindy Johnson, illus. by Lorelay Bove

Based on Mindy Johnson’s critically acclaimed Disney Editions title, Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, this nonfiction picture book is a fun and inspiring look at many of the amazing women who have worked at Disney Animation over the years–from Story Artists, to Animators to Inkers and Painters, all with unique personalities and accomplishments, such as becoming a record-holding pilot, or designing Hollywood monsters, or creating an international club for tall people!

 

 

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi

Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction–especially Star Wars and Star Trek. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem.

Harlem is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and Ebony-Grace’s first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.

 

 Crumbled! (The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill) by Lisa Harkrader

For Nobbin Swill, life is no fairy tale. His family has been the king’s royal dung farmers for generations. It’s a stinky job and someone has to do it, but Nobbin doesn’t want to spend his whole life as a dung farmer. On a dark, cloudy night, Nobbin catches a flicker of moonlight glimmering off something in the dung. It could be a button or a buckle, something that might fetch him a coin from the shoemaker. But it turns out to be a very valuable ring–the king’s ring, and one that could offer Nobbin a life free from dung!

But Nobbin isn’t a thief and would never steal from the king, so he makes his way to the castle. When he tries to return the ring, things only become more complicated, and he ends up having to help the hapless Prince Charming solve a mystery when the woodcutter’s children–Gretel, and her younger brother, Hansel–go missing. Will the two be able to solve the case? Children will enjoy this hilarious mystery, with two-color illustrations throughout by author/illustrator Lisa Harkrader!

 

Case Closed #2: Stolen From the Studio by Lauren Magaziner

In this wildly entertaining and interactive adventure, YOU pick which suspects to interview, which questions to ask, and which clues to follow. You pick the path–you crack the case! Carlos Serrano needs your help–again! His mother has received an urgent assignment to find the missing star of a wildly popular TV show, but she won’t let Carlos investigate!

With his genius friend, Eliza, and her little brother, Frank, along for the case, Carlos is excited to examine the studio for clues and interrogate suspects on the set of Teen Witch, but he has to keep his detective work hidden from his mother’s laser-sharp gaze. And just like before, he can’t do it without you! Can you help Carlos and his friends solve the puzzles and stay out of trouble long enough to save Layla Jay? Or will it be case closed?

 

The Trouble With Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

Wonder meets Mary Poppins in this heartfelt debut novel about magic, healing, and the importance of family. Twelve-year-old Luna loves the nighttime more than anything else. It’s when no one gives her “that look” about the half mask she has to wear while healing from a disfiguring car accident. It’s also the perfect time to sit outside and draw what she sees. Like the boy and girl from the new family next door…zipping out of the window in a zeppelin and up to the stars.

At first she thinks she’s dreaming. But one night they catch her watching. Now Luna spends her nights on adventures with them, as they clean full moons, arrange constellations, and catch jars of stardust. She even gets to make a wish on a shooting star they catch. But Luna learns that no wish is strong enough to erase the past–as much as she may hope to.

 

Count Me In by by Varsha Bajaj

Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door–after all, they’ve avoided each other for years and she assumes Chris is just like the boys he hangs out with, who she labels a pack of hyenas. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens–the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Her grandfather is gravely injured and Karina and Chris vow not to let hate win. When Karina posts a few photos related to the attack on social media, they quickly attract attention, and before long her #CountMeIn post–“What does an American look like? #immigrants #WeBelong #IamAmerican #HateHasNoHomeHere”–goes viral and a diverse population begin to add their own photos. Then, when Papa is finally on the road to recovery, Karina uses her newfound social media reach to help celebrate both his homecoming and a community coming together.

 

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcarcel

Quijana is a girl in pieces. One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana’s Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn’t know more about her family’s heritage. One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she’s found true friends. But she can’t help the growing feelings she has for Jayden. One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandma and trying to figure out what’s going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother. In the course of this immersive and beautifully written novel, Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole. This lyrical debut from Rebecca Balcárcel is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.

 

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime–The MasterMind–and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.

Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah–who is away at her first year in college–arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem–all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City. With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

 

Cora Davis’s life is garbage. Literally. Her professor parents study what happens to trash after it gets thrown away, and Cora knows exactly how it feels–to be thrown away. Between her mom and dad separating and a fallout with her best friend, fifth grade for Cora has been a year of feeling like being tossed into the dumpster. But Cora has learned a couple of things from her parents’ trash-tracking studies: Things don’t always go where they’re supposed to, and sometimes the things you thought you got rid of come back. And occasionally, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, which Cora and Sybella learn when they come across a diary detailing best-friendship problems. Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself. Written by Rebecca Donnelly, author of How to Stage a Catastrophe (an Indies Introduce and Indie Next List honoree), The Friendship Lie will speak to any reader who has struggled with what to hold on to and what to throw away.

 

Rise of the Dragon Moon by Gabrielle Byrne

Princess Toli may be heir to the throne, but she longs to be a fierce hunter and warrior. Alone in a frozen world, her queendom is at the mercy of the dragons that killed her father, and Toli is certain it’s only a matter of time before they come back to destroy what’s left of her family.

When the dragons rise and seize her mother, Toli will do anything to save her—even trust a young dragon who may be the only key to the Queen’s release.

With her sister and best friend at her side, Toli makes the treacherous journey across the vast ice barrens to Dragon Mountain, where long-held secrets await. Bear-cats are on their trail, and dragons stalk them, but the greatest danger might be a mystery buried in Toli’s past.

 

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner, illus. by Matt Saunders

Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. Only the finest magical thread tethers her to life—and to Miss Vesper. But for all her efforts to please her cruel creator, the thread is unraveling. Irréelle is forgetful as she gathers bone dust. She is slow returning from the dark passages beneath the cemetery. Worst of all, she is unmindful of her crooked bones.

When Irréelle makes one final, unforgivable mistake by destroying a frightful creature just brought to life, Miss Vesper threatens to imagine her away once and for all. Defying her creator for the very first time, Irréelle flees to the underside of the graveyard and embarks on an adventure to unearth the mysterious magic that breathes bones to life, even if it means she will return to dust and be no more.

 

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya

Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It’s hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family’s auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear. But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict.

 

A Swirl of Ocean by Melissa Sarno

Twelve-year-old Summer loves the ocean. The smell, the immensity, the feeling she gets when she dives beneath the surface. She has lived in Barnes Bluff Bay since she was two years old, when Lindy found her on the beach. It’s been the two of them ever since. But now, ten years later, Summer feels uncertainty about her place with Lindy and starts to wonder about where she came from. One night, Summer goes for a swim and gets caught in a riptide, swallowing mouthfuls of seawater. And that night, she dreams of a girl. A girl her age living in the same town, but not in the same time. Summer’s not persuaded that this girl is real, but something about her feels familiar.

Summer dreams again and again about this girl, Tink, and becomes convinced that she is connected to her past. As she sees Tink struggle with her sister growing away from her and her friends starting to pair off, Summer must come to terms with her own evolving home life and discover how the bonds that make us family can help heal the wounds of the past.

 

Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls by Dav Pilkey

The Supa Buddies have been working hard to help Dog Man overcome his bad habits. But when his obsessions turn to fears, Dog Man finds himself the target of an all-new supervillain! Meanwhile, Petey the Cat has been released from jail and starts a new life with Li’l Petey. But when Petey’s own father arrives, Petey must face his past to understand the difference between being good and doing good.

Dav Pilkey’s wildly popular Dog Man series appeals to readers of all ages and explores universally positive themes, including empathy, kindness, persistence, and the importance of being true to one’s self.

 

The Cryptid Keeper by Lija Fisher

Life has gotten complicated for thirteen-year-old Clivo Wren. After taking up his deceased father’s mission to find the extraordinary creature whose blood grants everlasting life, Clivo is spending his summer not at camp or hanging out with his friends, but jetting all over the world tracking cryptids—while keeping his aunt Pearl in the dark about his dangerous adventures. At the same time, a shocking development unveils the truth about Clivo’s enemies, and the cryptids themselves are posing trouble at every turn. With the help of his crew of Myth Blasters, Clivo is going to need all of the tools, gadgets, and training he has to prevent the immortal cryptid from falling into the wrong hands—and to keep Aunt Pearl off the case.

 

 

The Twilight Curse by Kat Shepherd, illus. by Rayanne Vieira

Bad dreams take center stage in the third book of this spooky middle grade series, Babysitting Nightmares: The Twilight Curse. When the town’s old movie palace is converted into a theater, Maggie is thrilled to get a job helping with the first stage production. Even though she’s just babysitting an actor’s daughter, Maggie is determined to learn everything she can about acting.

But a devilish ghoul seems to have other plans for the performance! It’s up to Maggie, Clio, Rebecca and Tanya to investigate. Can they vanquish the threat in time for opening night?

 

 

 

The Spinner of Dreams by K.A. Reynolds

Annalise Meriwether–though kind, smart, and curious–is terribly lonely. Cursed at birth by the devious Fate Spinner, Annalise has always lived a solitary life with her loving parents. She does her best to ignore the cruel townsfolk of her desolate town–but the black mark on her hand won’t be ignored.

Not when the monster living within it, which seems to have an agenda of its own, grows more unpredictable each day. There’s only one way for Annalise to rid herself of her curse: to enter the Labyrinth of Fate and Dreams and defeat the Fate Spinner. So despite her anxiety, Annalise sets out to undo the curse that’s defined her–and to show the world, and herself, exactly who she is inside.

 

Dough Boys by Paula Chase

Deontae “Simp” Wright has big plans for his future. Plans that involve basketball, his best friend, Rollie, and making enough money to get his mom and four younger brothers out of the Cove, their low-income housing project. Long term, this means the NBA. Short term, it means being a dough boy–getting paid to play lookout and eventually moving up the rungs of the neighborhood drug operation with Rollie as his partner.

Roland “Rollie” Matthews used to love playing basketball. He loved the rhythm of the game, how he came up with his best drumbeats after running up and down the court. But playing with the elite team comes with extra, illegal responsibilities, and Rollie isn’t sure he’s down for that life. The new talented-and-gifted program, where Rollie has a chance to audition for a real-life go-go band, seems like the perfect excuse to stop being a dough boy. But how can he abandon his best friend?

 

 

Dear Louie,
You’ve been asking and asking about what middle school is like, but I just thought they were annoying-younger-sister questions. Even though I am almost done with my first year, I can still remember when I thought middle school was a mystery, so I’ll try to give you a leg up. I know middle school is a lot to figure out. But since I still haven’t worked it all out yet, I’m happy to help as much as I can. That’s what big sisters are for.
Love, Gus
Discover the ins and outs of middle school in this guide from an older sister to her younger sister. From tackling a new building to meeting new people like the assistant principal, the class pet, the Huggers, the renegade, the tomato kid, your old best friend’s new best friend, this is a must-read for everyone starting middle school. With wit and warmth, Kristin Mahoney, author of Annie’s Life in Lists, delivers heartwarming, pitch-perfect advice, ideal for anyone nervously approaching middle school.

 

July New Releases

Summer is in full swing, and we have a list of brand new middle-grade reads to get you through those lazy July afternoons.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgNikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray (Elements of Genius #1) (Hardcover) By Jess Keating, Lissy Marlin (Illustrator)

Ocean’s 11 meets Spy School in this hilarious illustrated middle-grade series featuring the world’s greatest minds.

“Let the official record show that, I, Nikki Tesla, did not intend to destroy the world.”

There are only so many times a kid can invent an instrument of global destruction without getting grounded. So when Nikki’s death ray accidentally blows up her bedroom (if you can call a pet ferret with an itchy trigger finger an accident), she’s sent to the only place that can handle her. Genius Academy is a school for history’s greatest brains. Leo da Vinci? Charlotte Darwin? Bert Einstein? All extraordinary. Yet even among her fellow prodigies, Nikki feels like an outsider thanks to a terrible secret she can’t let anyone discover. Ever.

But when her death ray is stolen, Nikki must stop worrying about fitting in and learn to play nice with her new classmates. Because it doesn’t take a genius to track a thief around the world, outwit the authorities, and keep a French fry-fanatic ferret happy. It takes all of them.

 

Wish on All the Stars (Hardcover) By Lisa Schroeder

The magical sequel to See You on a Starry Night makes more seaside wishes come true!

Juliet is now an official member of the Starry Beach Club, and loves working with her new friends, Emma and Carmen, to make people’s wishes come true. Living away from her dad is still hard, and she misses her best friend from her old town, but she has her friends and the bookmobile, and San Diego feels more like home than ever.

But then she learns that the bookmobile is going to have to shut down. The owner of the parking lot wants to start charging rent, and soon the bookmobile won’t be able to stay in business.

The Starry Beach Club comes up with different ways to save their favorite store, but none seem to work. But then Emma gets the idea to have a crafts fair…and she wants Juliet to sell her paintings! Juliet is nervous, and isn’t sure whether she’s ready to put herself on display. Meanwhile, Carmen is feeling anxious about the possibility of her mother being deported. Will Juliet be able to be brave for herself and for Carmen?

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSurvivor Girl By Erin Teagan

In this funny, action-packed middle grade novel from the author of the American Girl Luciana books, Alison gets invited to be on her dad’s reality show, Survivor Guy, and faces important realities about her family, self-reliance, and learning to work together with friends. 

12-year-old Ali adores her reality-show celebrity father, Survivor Guy, and hopes to follow in his footsteps. But when he invites her on location, Ali is sure she won’t survive one episode . . . until she learns the truth: The show isn’t just her dad and a camera. It’s a huge crew and set, with stunt doubles! When a wildfire strikes and Ali and two other kids miss the last rescue helicopter, suddenly, the fight for survival is real. Will she find the self-confidence she needs so they can work together and get out of the wilderness alive?

STEM themes and plot strands about body image and divorce are subtly woven into this page-turning tale.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Hero Next Door By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Editor)

From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes another middle-grade short story collection–this one focused on exploring acts of bravery–featuring some of the best own-voices children’s authors, including R. J. Palacio (Wonder), Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer), Linda Sue Park (A Long Walk to Water), and many more.

Not all heroes wear capes. Some heroes teach martial arts. Others talk to ghosts. A few are inventors or soccer players. They’re also sisters, neighbors, and friends. Because heroes come in many shapes and sizes. But they all have one thing in common: they make the world a better place.

Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, this vibrant anthology features thirteen acclaimed authors whose powerful and diverse voices show how small acts of kindness can save the day. So pay attention, because a hero could be right beside you. Or maybe the hero is you.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: William Alexander, Joseph Bruchac, Lamar Giles, Mike Jung, Hena Khan, Juana Medina, Ellen Oh, R. J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park and Anna Dobbin, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ronald L. Smith, Rita Williams-Garcia, and short-story contest winner Suma Subramaniam.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Miraculous (Hardcover) By Jess Redman

In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman’s stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.

Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.

Then he meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and a mysterious old woman who just might be a witch. The old woman asks them for their help. She asks them to believe. And they go on a journey that leads to friendship, to adventure, to healing—and to miracles.

The Miraculous is Jess Redman’s sparkling debut novel about facing grief, trusting the unknown, and finding brightness in the darkest moments.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMy Fate According to the Butterfly (Hardcover) By Gail Villanueva

Light and deep, smart and funny, crushing and hopeful all at the same time, My Fate According to the Butterfly will open your eyes to both the world’s potential for magic, and to its harsh realities.

* “Villanueva’s debut is a beautiful #ownvoices middle-grade novel. Tough topics — the brutal war on drugs in the Philippines, family reconciliation, and recovery — are addressed, but warmth and humor… bring lightness to Sab’s story. This immersive novel bursts with life.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her — on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears — of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom — and figure out the cause of their rift.

So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult — and dangerous — than she ever anticipated.

Was the Butterfly right? Perhaps Sab is doomed after all!

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgFor Black Girls Like Me By Mariama J. Lockington

I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.

Makeda June Kirkland is eleven years old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena— the only other adopted black girl she knows— for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one real friend.

Through it all, Makeda can’t help but wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me?

Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.

In this lyrical coming-of-age story about family, sisterhood, music, race, and identity, Mariama J. Lockington draws on some of the emotional truths from her own experiences growing up with an adoptive white family. For Black Girls Like Me is for anyone who has ever asked themselves: How do you figure out where you are going if you don’t know where you came from?

 

What’s on your reading list this month? Be sure to comment below to let us know.

Author Spotlight: Lara Williamson

Lara Williamson and I crossed paths more than two decades ago (eek!), in London, while working at J-17 magazine. Lara, who hails from Northern Ireland, was a fledgling beauty editor while I wrote an advice column and edited articles. After I returned to the U.S., Lara and I stayed in touch. First we exchanged emails; then we exchanged manuscripts. (I had the pleasure of reading an early version of Lara’s breakout novel, A BOY CALLED HOPE, hailed by the Sunday Express as: “Warm, heartbreaking, and hilarious in turn,” and shortlisted for the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.)

Lara’s books—available worldwide—have been translated into Russian, Italian, Korean, Turkish, Estonian, Romanian, and Ukrainian. Her latest novel, THE GIRL WITH SPACE IN HER HEART, launches in the U.K. on August 1 from Usborne. Find more about Lara on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

MR: Lara! First and foremost, thank you for joining us on the Mixed-Up Files. I am beyond excited to have you here!!! *blows kiss*

LW: Oh, it’s my pleasure. It’s so lovely to join you on the Mixed-Up Files. And talking about Mixed-Up Files, when I was about ten the first slightly more “grown-up” book I picked for myself, and read by myself, was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg. And, not surprisingly, I loved it. I recently bought myself a new copy and must re-read it, and re-live the magic I felt all those years ago.

MR: For readers not familiar with your books, can you tell us a little about your background and your path to publication?

LW: I grew up in Northern Ireland and studied fashion design. After I left college, I worked on a teen magazine called J-17. It was such a creative time and a solid foundation for everything that came after. At work I had to come up with ideas for photoshoots and write copy to a deadline – all good grounding for writing a book. Fast forward a few years and one child later, I wanted to write the MG book I’d always dreamed of writing and naively I thought, “How hard can it be?” Very, was the answer. In the end, I wrote a number of books and got an awful lot of rejections, probably over one hundred in the end. And I can’t say I didn’t feel dejected; I did. But in this business you’ve got to persevere. You’ve got to actively chase your dreams. So in 2013, I got the urge to write a little book – a quiet little book, a book about families, life, heartbreak, and hope. But mostly hope. I thought, for it to be published it might need adventure and zombies and I could expect more rejection. I was wrong. The quiet little book about hope was the very thing that turned everything around. It got snapped up by an agent and a publisher and the rest is, as they say, history.

MR: Your first three books, A BOY CALLED HOPE,THE BOOK WHO SAILED THE OCEAN IN AN ARMCHAIR and JUST CALL ME SPAGHETTI-HOOP BOY, all feature male protagonists. What is it about boys’ stories that resonate with you? 

LW: Ah, I wish I had the perfect answer for this one. One of the stories I had worked on previously, and had been rejected, was from a girl’s point of view so I had written a girl before. But something in me – call it gut instinct –  just felt that these stories were about a boy and I couldn’t shake that feeling, so I had to go with it.  Sometimes, when you’re writing, you’ve just got to listen to that inner voice that tells you to go a certain way. Trust and believe in yourself. That’s what I did, in the end. I went with my own instinct and it proved to be right. Also, my books are emotional and full of heart and there are lots of books for girls on those subjects, but I think boys like those stories too.

MR: Your forthcoming novel, THE GIRL WITH SPACE IN HER HEART, is the first of your novels to feature a female protagonist—Mabel Mynt. What was it like to write from a girl’s perspective this time? Did it feel different?

LW: To be honest, I wasn’t sure I could achieve it at first. I’d written three books from a boy’s POV. What if I couldn’t be a girl? I know, that sounds daft because I am one. But I did worry about it for a while and I doubted myself in the beginning. In the end though, I decided to go with it and write the way I always do. I figured there was no big difference, because what it came down to was the story and the hope within it – and it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl, because everyone needs hope in their life. It’s universal.

MR: The loss of a parent is a major theme in all of your novels. In A BOY CALLED HOPE, Dan Hope searches for his absentee dad; in ARMCHAIR, Becket Rumsey is separated from his mom; In SPAGHETTI-HOOP BOY, Adam Butters searches to learn more about his biological mom; in GIRL WITH SPACE IN HER HEART, Mabel’s dad walked out on the family. What is it about the subject of loss that drives you as an author? What are you trying to say to your readers?

LW: I have slowly realized that all my books are about loss, in one shape or another. Honestly, I’ve tried to write about stuff that resonates with me. I don’t think I could write any other way, particularly when I’m writing about feelings. In our lifetime, we will all experience loss in one way or another. It’s not necessarily the most obvious way, either. There are many ways. I’ve tried to write about it in various forms and then  comfort the character in the book, and make them realize that they can come through that loss and out the other side. It’s important to me that at the end of my books, my character will walk away a stronger person. If I didn’t believe that, I don’t think I could write the stories. I’m not saying that within the story everything goes perfectly; it doesn’t. Some of the losses cannot be changed, no matter how much the character wishes for it. But in all my books, there’s always hope for the future, and that’s what I’m trying to say to my readers (and myself) most of all.

MR: Your breakout novel, A BOY CALLED HOPE, was received to wide acclaim and racked up tons of awards. With that it mind, what was it like to write your subsequent books? Did you feel pressured to live up to the success of HOPE?

LW: The second book syndrome! It’s like having a successful first album and then wondering if you can repeat the magic. And sometimes it does feel a bit like magic. There are times when I’ve written a book and can’t even remember all the steps it took to get there. You write and edit for ages and then–whoosh!–it’s done. So, yes, it can feel like a pressure when you’re writing the second book (and third, and so on). I wanted to repeat the magic…do it all over again. But that’s the thing about magic; it’s hard to pin down no matter how much you wish you could. In the end, I’ve learned to be grateful for any successes I have – big or small, because I’ve never forgotten the hundred-plus rejections. We should celebrate everything. Have you written a sentence today, or 500 words, or a chapter? Have you finished writing a book? Pat yourself on the back. It’s a huge achievement. You’re one step closer to your dreams. The real magic is there – it’s within you.

MR: What’s your writing process like, Lara? Do you have a specific routine? Writing rituals?

LW: I’m so chaotic in my writing, for a reason I’ll explain in a minute. Okay, so I know everyone is different. Some writers meticulously plot and, seriously, I’m envious. There are days I wish I had a writing shed with lots of pieces of paper on the wall spelling out the plot. I wish I knew about rise and fall within chapters. I wish I was organized and knew all there was to know about writing. But no, none of those things actually applies to me. I sit at my dining room table and write for a few hours most days. All I know is the beginning of my book, and the end, and I know what the character wants to achieve. Then I write in the most messy, muddled-up way; a sort of outpouring of emotion and feeling. And it works for me. I’m basically writing myself a comforting story: a story of hope. I’m writing about things that matter to me, and if it’s a bit chaotic – fine. Emotions sometimes are. They come slowly… they come in a rush…maybe some don’t make sense to start with; maybe some do. I’ve had to accept that I am the writer I am, and there will probably never be notes or plans on the wall–but I’ve got it all going on in my heart. And because of that, I let my heart take the lead and plan the route; I’m just joining it on the journey. And that’s okay.

MR: Would you care to share what you’re working on now?

LW:  I’ve just written a small 10,000 word story for seven-to-nine-year-olds. It’s completely random and was a lot of fun to write. I’d also like to write an adventure too. Again, I wonder if I can. It’s like the writing a girl situation all over again. I’ve never written an adventure before, but I’d like to give it a whirl. I’ve also written a younger book that’s coming out in 2020, but I can’t tell you anything about it yet (sorry!). Oh, and I’ve started another MG but am only 10,000 words in. So, I’m doing a few things at once and will see which one sings to me most–and then go with it.

MR: And finally, no Mixed-Up Files interview is complete without a lightning round. So…

Preferred writing snack? Crisps (salt-and-vinegar flavor).

Coffee or tea? Tea (chamomile).

Cat or dog? Dog.

Favorite authors (you don’t have to say me; that’s a given 🙂)? Ha! You know I love you! But other than you, Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay.

Superpower? Seeing into people’s hearts.

Favorite place on Planet Earth? Home – always.

Hidden talent? Wiggling my ears and raising one eyebrow. And tap dancing too. Maybe all at the same time!

MR: Thank you for chatting, Lara. Big hugs!!

Big hugs back! And thank you!