New Releases

October New Releases

Leaves are changing. The temperature is dropping. Fall is definitely here, and just in time for a great month of new middle grade books.
Check out our list of October New Releases – including some that will arrive just in time for Halloween reading.

Nina Soni, Halloween Queen by Kashmira Sheth (Author) Jenn Kocsmiersky (Illustrator)

Halloween hijinks reign supreme in this fourth installment of Kashmira Sheth’s series starring Nina Soni, a charming, distractible Indian-American girl, and her family and friends.

Halloween brings out Nina Soni’s competitive spirit. Her friend Jay has a great costume planned, so–of course–Nina has to come up with an even better idea. A bunch of old boxes in the basement inspires her to create an impressively scary haunted house, for which she can charge admission. So what could possibly go wrong for the Halloween Queen?

In Nina Soni, #OwnVoices author Kashmira Sheth has created an endearing heroine and charming stories of family, friendship, and her efforts to manage her life with lists, definitions, and more. A fun read for STEAM enthusiasts!



Middle School Bites: Out for Blood by Steven Banks (Author) Mark Fearing (Illustrator)

Tom the Vam-Wolf-Zom is back–and so is the werewolf that bit him–in this monstrously funny series about a boy who’s dying to fit in.

Eleven-year-old Tom was bit by a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie right before the first day of middle school. It was a weird and crazy day. And he didn’t even get excused from sixth grade!

Now he’s being hunted down by the werewolf that bit him. Should Tom join a wolf pack? On the one hand, he could give up school and homework forever. (He really doesn’t want to do his history report.) On the other hand, he’d miss his band, his friends, and Annie, his maybe-possibly-someday girlfriend. He might even miss his big sister, Emma.

Then the vampire that bit him returns with a warning: the werewolf is dangerous. Perhaps Tom should stick with sixth grade–even if it’s mostly talent show disappointments, detention, and chicken-turkey-salami-roast beef sandwiches.

Created by an Emmy-nominated writer for SpongeBob, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, and CatDog, this hilarious series is illustrated with clever, cartoon-style art on every spread. Perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Last Kids on Earth.


Only If You Dare: 13 Stories of Darkness and Doom by Josh Allen (Author) Sarah J. Coleman (Illustrator)

Thirteen chilling short stories to keep you up at night–but only if you dare.

You never know what’s out to get you. Though you might think you’re safe from monsters and menaces, everyday objects can turn against you, too. A mysterious microwave. A threatening board game. A snowman that refuses to melt. Even your own heartbeat has its secrets. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. When you stop to listen, each beat sounds more menacing than the last.

Master storyteller Josh Allen brings thirteen nightmare scenarios to life in this page-turning collection that’s perfect for budding horror junkies. In his wondrous world, danger waits behind every doorway . . . even in the most ordinary places.

Eerie illustrations by award-winning artist Sarah Coleman accompany the stories, packaged in a stunning hardcover edition complete with glow-in-the-dark jacket. Readers will sleep with one eye open!

Salt Magic by Hope Larson (Author) Rebecca Mock (Illustrator)

When a jealous witch curses her family’s well, it’s up to Vonceil to set things right in an epic journey that will leave her changed forever.

When Vonceil’s older brother, Elber, comes home to their family’s Oklahoma farm after serving on the front lines of World War I, things aren’t what she expects. His experiences have changed him into a serious and responsible man who doesn’t have time for Vonceil anymore. He even marries the girl he had left behind.

Then a mysterious and captivating woman shows up at the farm and confronts Elber for leaving her in France. When he refuses to leave his wife, she puts a curse on the family well, turning the entire town’s water supply into saltwater. Who is this lady dressed all in white, what has she done to the farm, and what does Vonceil’s old uncle Dell know about her?

To find out, Vonceil will have to strike out on her own and delve deep into the world of witchcraft, confronting dangerous relatives, shapeshifting animals, a capricious Sugar Witch, and the Lady in White herself–the foreboding Salt Witch. The journey will change Vonceil, but along the way she’ll learn a lot about love and what it means to grow up.

Hope Larson is the author and illustrator of the Eisner Award nominated All Summer Long and the illustrator of the Eisner Award winning A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel. Salt Magic is an utterly unique graphic fairy tale complete with striking illustrations by Rebecca Mock.


Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson


Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he’s finally old enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant’s friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, Ant only has one thing on his mind: how he’ll measure up to his father’s expectations at the card table.

Then Ant’s best friend gets grounded, and he’s forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn’t exactly who he has in mind. She talks a whole lot of trash — way more than his old partner. Plus, he’s not sure that his father wants him playing with a girl. But she’s smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley — and keep his plans a secret.

Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart…

Literary powerhouse and Coretta Scott King Honor- and Boston Globe / Horn Book Honor-winning author of The Parker Inheritance Varian Johnson explores themes of toxic masculinity and family legacy in this heartfelt, hopeful story of one boy discovering what it really means to be a man.


Susie B. Won’t Back Down by Margaret Finnegan

Roll with It meets Absolutely Normal Chaos in this funny, big-hearted novel about a young girl’s campaign for student council president, told through letters to her hero Susan B. Anthony.

Susie B. has a lot to say. Like how it’s not fair that she has to be called Susie B. instead of plain Susie. Or about how polar bears are endangered. Or how the Usual Geniuses are always getting picked for cool stuff over the kids like her with butterflies in their brain. And it’s because Susie B. has a lot to say about these very important things that she’s running for student council president!

If she’s president, she can advocate for the underdogs just like her hero and fellow Susie B., Susan B. Anthony. (And, okay, maybe the chance to give big speeches to the whole school with a microphone is another perk.) But when the most usual of Usual Geniuses also enters the student council race, Susie realizes this may be a harder won fight than she thought. Even worse, Susie discovers that Susan B. Anthony wasn’t as great as history makes it seem, and she did some pretty terrible things to try to help her own cause. Soon, Susie has her own tough decisions to make. But one thing is for sure–no matter what, Susie B. won’t back down.


Sorry for Your Loss by Joanne Levy

Evie Walman is not obsessed with death. She does think about it a lot, though, but only because her family runs a Jewish funeral home. At twelve, Evie already knows she’s going to be a funeral director when she grows up. So what if the kids at school call her “corpse girl” and say she smells like death? They’re just mean and don’t get how important it is to have someone take care of things when your world is falling apart. Evie loves dusting caskets, polishing pews, and vacuuming the chapel–and on funeral days, she dresses up and hands out tissues and offers her condolences to mourners. She doesn’t normally help her parents with the grieving families directly, until one day when they ask her to help with Oren, a boy who was in a horrific car accident that killed both his parents. Oren refuses to speak and Evie, who is nursing her own private grief, is determined to find a way to help him deal with his loss.





The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

From the acclaimed author of The Real Boy and The Lost Girl comes a wondrous and provocative fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.

If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy–a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself–things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.


Yummy: A History of Desserts (a Graphic Novel) by Victoria Grace Elliott

Cake is delicious and comics are awesome: this exciting non-fiction graphic novel for kids combines both! Explore the history of desserts through a fun adventure with facts, legends, and recipes for readers to try at home.

Have you ever wondered who first thought to freeze cream? Or when people began making sweet pastry shells to encase fruity fillings? Food sprite Peri is excited to show you the delicious history of sweets while taking you around the world and back!

The team-up that made ice cream cones!

The mistake that made brownies!

Learn about and taste the true stories behind everyone’s favorite treats, paired with fun and easy recipes to try at home. After all, sweets–and their stories–are always better when they’re shared!


Bugs for Breakfast: How Eating Insects Could Help Save the Planet by Mary Boone 

Most North Americans would rather squish a bug than eat it.

But mopane worms are a tasty snack in Zimbabwe, baby bees are eaten right out of the can in Japan, and grasshopper tacos are popular in Mexico. More than one-fourth of the world’s population eats insects–a practice called entomophagy. Bugs for Breakfast helps middle-grade readers understand the role insects fill in feeding people around the world.

Readers will be introduced to the insect specialties and traditions around the globe. They’ll discover how nutritious bugs can be and why dining on insects is more environmentally friendly than eating traditional protein sources. Kids will see how making small changes in their own diets could help ensure no one goes hungry. It even includes 13 insect recipes!

No doubt about it: teachers, librarians, and parents are hungry for books that entice young readers to be active participants in science.

Bugs for Breakfast may not completely remove the yuck-factor from the notion of eating bugs, but it will open young readers’ minds to what is happening in the world around them.


The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson

What does all the magic in the world matter if it can’t save the ones you love? For self-proclaimed bookstore lovers and fans of Pages & Co. comes an exploration of the way war can shape a family, in the tradition of Pax and Wolf Hollow.

It’s 1944 Sutton, NY, and Poppy’s family owns and runs, Rhyme and Reason, a magical bookshop that caters to people from all different places and time periods. Though her world is ravaged by World War II, customers hail from the past and the future, infusing the shop with a delightful mix of ideas and experiences.

Poppy dreams of someday becoming shopkeeper like her father, though her older brother, Al, is technically next in line for the job. She knows all of the rules handed down from one generation of Bookseller to the next, especially their most important one: shopkeepers must never use the magic for themselves.

But then Al’s best friend is killed in the war and her brother wants to use the magic of the shop to save him. With her father in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness, the only one standing between Al and the bookstore is Poppy. Caught between her love for her brother and loyalty to her family, she knows her brother’s actions could have devastating consequences that reach far beyond the bookshop as an insidious, growing Darkness looms. This decision is bigger than Poppy ever dreamed, and the fate of the bookshops hangs in the balance.


Pighearted by Alex Perry

Charlotte’s Web meets My Sister’s Keeper in this charming story told from the alternating perspectives of a boy with a fatal heart condition and the pig with the heart that could save his life.

Jeremiah’s heart skips a beat before his first soccer game, but it’s not nerves. It’s the first sign of a heart attack. He knows he needs to go to the hospital, but he’s determined to score a goal. Charging after the ball, he refuses to stop…even if his heart does.

J6 is a pig and the only one of his five brothers who survived the research lab. Though he’s never left his cell, he thinks of himself as a therapy pig, a scholar, and a bodyguard. But when the lab sends him to live with Jeremiah’s family, there’s one new title he’s desperate to have: brother.

At first, Jeremiah thinks his parents took in J6 to cheer him up. But before long, he begins to suspect there’s more to his new curly-tailed companion than meets the eye. When the truth is revealed, Jeremiah and J6 must protect each other at all costs–even if their lives depend on it.


There are lots of great titles to choose from this month. Any catch your eye? Please, let us know in the comments below, and happy reading!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Interview With Ally Malinenko, Debut Author of Ghost Girl

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

Lisa: Tell us about Ghost Girl.

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

Lisa: How did you come up with the idea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what an adventure is.

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