Posts Tagged kwame alexander

New Releases: July 2022

Whether you’re inside, cooling off on the couch, or in your backyard, basking in the sun, July is a great month for losing yourself in a book. And the good news is that there are plenty of new books to choose from. Take a look at some upcoming middle-grade releases. There’s something for everyone in this sampling of fantasy, contemporary, graphic, and verse novels, along with some nonfiction and a mouth-watering cookbook. Mouse over the titles of your favorites for purchasing information.

 

Blood Brothers by Rob Sanders

Calvin Johnston’s secret is out. He and his brothers are tainted. Untouchable. And the bad blood flowing through their veins is threatening to kill them. So are some of their neighbors in Ashland, the “Friendliest Little Town” in Florida.

The Johnston brothers are kicked out of everything―school, baseball, scouts, even church. Ashland’s anger has erupted into a fireball of hate.

The only silver lining is that Calvin’s best friend Izzy lives 65 miles away at the beach, and has no idea about his secret. But news has a way of spreading. Calvin and his brothers are in the fight of their lives. As a matter of fact, they’re fighting for life itself.

 

 

Flipping Forward and Twisting Backward by Alma Fullerton

Claire is by far the best gymnast on her team, and she’s well on her way to qualifying for the state championships. The gym is where Claire shines. But at school, she’s known as a troublemaker. She seems to spend more time in the office than in class–which is fine with her since it enables her to hide the fact that she can’t read. She has never been able to make sense of the wobbling jumble of letters on a page. No one except her BFF knows.

But when a sympathetic principal wonders if Claire is acting out because she’s dyslexic, her mother balks. She’s afraid Claire will be labeled “stupid” and refuses testing. Claire has always assumed she’s dumb; she never imagined her reading problem could have a solution. Is she strong enough to take on both her reading challenges and her mother’s denial? Is it worth jeopardizing her spot in qualifiers? Told in clear and poignant verse and featuring black and white illustrations, Claire’s struggle with something that seems to come easily to everyone else will resonate with readers and have them cheering her on.

 

Be Real, Macy Weaver by Lakita Wilson

Eleven-year-old Macy Weaver knows relationships are complicated. Fresh off her latest friendship breakup, she’s spent most of her summer break on her own. So when Macy’s mother decides to go back to college three states away, Macy jumps on the chance to move–anything for a fresh start.But Macy’s new home isn’t exactly what she expected. Her mother’s never around and her dad’s always working. Lonelier than ever, Macy sets her sights on finding a new best friend. When she meets Brynn, who’s smart and kind and already seems to have her whole life figured out–down to her future as a high fashion model–Macy knows she’s it. The only problem is that Brynn already has a BFF and, as everyone knows, you can only have one.

Resorting to old habits, Macy turns one small lie into a whole new life–full of fantastic fashion and haute couture–but it isn’t long before everything really falls apart. Ultimately, Macy must determine how to make things right and be true to herself–rather than chasing after the person she thinks she’s supposed to be.

 

Bright by Brigit Young

Marianne Blume knows she’s one of the stupid kids. After years of trying and trying and feeling like she’s always failing, she has mastered the art of turning off her brain whenever questions or lectures arise. She gets by in school on a combination of luck, deflection, and charisma–that is, until she lands in the classroom of Mr. Garcia.

To avoid flunking Mr. Garcia’s class, Marianne joins her school’s Quiz Quest team, hoping the move will ingratiate her to him, the team’s coach. Can Marianne learn to be smart if she puts her mind to it? And what does it really mean to be “bright,” anyway?

Bright is a readable and empowering story about bucking labels, overcoming preconceptions, and learning to find–and uphold–your own self-worth.

 

J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori

What if you could write your dreams into reality with the stroke of a pen?

Sixth grade is off to a difficult start for Josephine Rose Silver. Her best friend, Violet, returns from camp with a new best friend; her parents refuse to grant her more independence; and her homeroom teacher, Ms. Kline, is full of secrets. When Ms. Kline unveils a collection of old Gothamite magazines and tells her students to build their writing skills by crafting short stories inspired by the iconic covers, J.R. discovers a peculiar power: The stories she writes come true. Soon J.R. is getting a cell phone, scoring game-winning goals, and triggering school cancellations. But it’s not long before she realizes that each new story creates as many conflicts as it does solutions. And when J.R. tries to write about her fallout with Violet, all of her problems converge.

With a pinch of magic, mystery, art history, and language arts woven into a journey of growth and self-confidence, this promising debut is a heartfelt and satisfying tribute to the power of words.

 

The Hike to Home by Jess Rinker

 

A Perfect Mistake by Melanie Conklin

Max wishes he could go back in time to before he was diagnosed with ADHD, before he grew to be the tallest kid in his class, and before he and his best friends went into the woods in the middle of the night. Max doesn’t remember what happened after he left his friends Will and Joey and the older kids who took them there. He’s not sure if he wants to remember. Knowing isn’t going to make Joey talk to him again, or bring Will out of his coma.

When the local authorities run out of leads, Max realizes that without his help, they may never know what really happened to Will. Charged by the idea that he may be the key to uncovering the truth, Max pairs up with classmate and aspiring journalist Sam to investigate what really happened that night. But not everyone in the community wants that night to be remembered.

 

Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena by Julie C. Dao

Clip and Sadie Chu couldn’t be more different. Popular, athletic Clip wants to become his school’s first seventh-grade soccer captain, while brainy star student Sadie is determined to prove that she can do anything her boastful brother can. They have just one thing in common: they love laser tag. Like, really love it.

When the Blackwood Gaming Arena comes to town, bringing virtual reality headsets and state-of-the-art courses, they couldn’t be more excited–or competitive. But then a mysterious figure appears and claims to be a part of the game, forcing the Chus and their friends to save themselves from a sinister force lurking inside the simulation. Together, they must fight their way through epic battlegrounds that will test their speed, skills, and smarts . . . but will Clip and Sadie learn that they’re far better off working together than competing for the ultimate victory?

The Language of Seabirds by Will Taylor

Jeremy is not excited about the prospect of spending the summer with his dad and his uncle in a seaside cabin in Oregon. It’s the first summer after his parents’ divorce, and he hasn’t exactly been seeking alone time with his dad.

He doesn’t have a choice, though, so he goes … and on his first day takes a walk on the beach and finds himself intrigued by a boy his age running by.

Eventually, he and Runner Boy (Evan) meet–and what starts out as friendship blooms into something neither boy is expecting … and also something both boys have been secretly hoping for.

 

 

 

Thirst by Varsha Bajaj

Minni lives in the poorest part of Mumbai, where access to water is limited to a few hours a day and the communal taps have long lines. Lately, though, even that access is threatened by severe water shortages and thieves who are stealing this precious commodity–an act that Minni accidentally witnesses one night.

Meanwhile, in the high-rise building where she just started to work, she discovers that water streams out of every faucet and there’s even a rooftop swimming pool. What Minni also discovers there is one of the water mafia bosses.

Now she must decide whether to expose him and risk her job and maybe her life. How did something as simple as access to water get so complicated?

 

 

 

Quilting a Legacy (The Invincible Girls Club: Vol. 4) by Rachele Alpine and Steph B. Jones

Myka’s Gammy is coming to stay with her family for a few weeks, and Myka couldn’t be more excited! Her grandmother has always been the person who understands her better than anyone else, and Gammy’s visits include lots of quality time, fascinating stories, and Soul Food Sunday meals. But this time Gammy has a special surprise for her–a quilt that was created by and added onto by the women in their family for generations.

Myka is determined to carry on the tradition by signing her and Gammy up for quilting classes–joined by her best friends of course! But quilting turns out to be a lot harder than it seems, and Myka, who is used to being one of the best at each activity she tries, now feels like she’s the only one in the class who is struggling.

Will Myka be able to complete the family quilt before Gammy leaves, or is this one task that’s too hard to tackle? There’s only one way to find out … Thready, set, go!

 

Booked (Graphic Novel) by Kwame Alexander and Dawud Anyabwile

In this electrifying follow-up to Kwame Alexander’s Newbery winner The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage. A New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Longlist nominee, now in a graphic novel edition featuring art from Dawud Anyabwile.

Twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.

This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action, and emotion of a World Cup match.

A novel about a soccer-obsessed tween boy written entirely in verse? In a word, yes. Kwame Alexander has the magic to pull off this unlikely feat, both as a poet and as a storyteller. —The Chicago Tribune

Can’t nobody stop you

Can’t nobody cop you…

 

The Elephant Girl by James Patterson and Ellen Banda-Aaku with Sophia Krevoy

Clever, sensitive Jama likes elephants better than people. While her classmates gossip—especially about the new boy, Leku—twelve-year-old Jama takes refuge at the watering hole outside her village. There she befriends a baby elephant she names Mbegu, Swahili for seed.

When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mbegu are blamed for two deaths—one elephant and one human. Now Leku, whose mysterious and imposing father is head ranger at the conservancy, may be their only lifeline.

Inspired by true events, The Elephant Girl is a moving exploration of the bonds between creatures and the power of belonging.

 

Growing Up Feeling Great! The Positive Mindset Puberty Book for Boys by Ken Stamper

Get familiar with your feelings–a puberty guide for boys 8-12

Puberty is an exciting time–but it can also be overwhelming as relationships evolve and feelings become more intense. This guide explores these inevitable changes and teaches boys how to stay positive even when life gets a little bumpy. This standout among puberty books for boys provides:

Emotional awareness–Boys will learn all about how the brain controls their emotions, the effects of their rising hormones, ways to improve their outlook when feelings of anger or embarrassment arise, and more.

Engaging exercises–Kids will gain a better understanding of how to handle their emotions with interactive quizzes, matching exercises, and calming activities like deep breathing or muscle relaxation.

Awesome illustrations–Colorful drawings help emphasize important info and make reading this book tons of fun.

 

Kids Cook Gluten-Free by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski

Are you ready for the best gluten-free biscuits you’ve ever had? How about gluten-free mac and cheese? Or brownies? Kids Cook Gluten-Free teaches children to make all these and more. From crowd-pleasing favorites like Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Hamburger Sliders to more adventurous options like Crispy Dover Sole and Red Lentil Dal, kids will love trying something new.

Each recipe has kid-friendly instructions with a list of common kitchen terms and tools. Guides to gluten-free eating, safety tips, and basic techniques help young readers get comfortable in the kitchen. Kids can make delicious food with a parent or all by themselves. No matter what, it’ll be a whole lot of fun–and taste great!

 

The Science Spell Book: Magical Experiments for Kids by Cara Florance

Have you ever wished you could cast a real spell with the wave of a magic wand? Have you ever wanted to mix a real color-changing potion? Now kids can perform magical feats with a few simple ingredients and a little help from science.

Kids will learn about physics, biology, chemistry, and more through 25 dazzling experiments and activities including:

Elixir of Enlightenment–brew a stunning color-changing tea!

Chaotic Calling–learn about chaos theory while creating art with a pendulum!

Fluorescent Feast–create a meal that glows under a black light!

North Divination–make a homemade compass!

Each experiment includes simple instructions, diagrams to follow along with, and an explanation of the science behind each magical experiment.

 

 

 

 

Meet Virginia…again

I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Kwame Alexander prior to a Toledo-Lucas County Public Library event several years ago. His eyes lit up when I shared Ohio University Press was publishing my biography of Virginia Hamilton for younger readers. I mean, LIT UP! We spoke about Virginia’s incredible body of work, awards, accolades. And of course, being the poet he is, Kwame was curious about how Ms. Hamilton’s husband, poet and teacher Arnold Adoff, was doing, and trying to figure out a way he could make it down to Yellow Springs on his tour for a visit.

Virginia Hamilton: America’s Storyteller. Buy here.

During the Q & A session, an attendee asked about the need for diverse works for younger readers. In a tip of the hat to Virginia, Kwame offered that yes, we need to continue to work toward providing new titles authored by diverse writers. But, Kwame said, we also need to take a look at what is already on our shelves.

Virginia Hamilton is the most honored author of children’s books. She was the first African American to win the Newbery Medal in 1975, for M.C. Higgins, the Great. This incredible story of a young man in Appalachia, facing the loss of his home, went on to also win the National Book Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the first book to win all three awards.

M.C. Higgins, the Great. Buy here.

Prolific Author

Virginia wrote forty-one books for children throughout her career. Beginning with her first, Zeely, a story that features a Watutsi queen, published in 1967, to Wee Winne Witch’s Skinny: An Original African American Scare Tale, illustrated by Barry Moser, published by Blue Sky Press posthumously in 2004. It received Hamilton’s final starred review from Kirkus. She received 16 of the coveted Kirkus starred reviews in her career.

Zeely cover

Zeely. Buy here.

Awards and Accolades

Look up any major award for children’s literature, and you will find Virginia Hamilton among the recipients. The John Newbery Medal, The Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the International Board on Books for Young People Honour Book Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her body of work, Regina Medal of the Catholic Library Association, and the Coretta Scott King Award recognition a number of times. That’s just the beginning of the list. Virginia was the first children’s book author to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant.”

The Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Children was established at Kent State University in 1984 and the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement is given every other year to a children’s book author or illustrator.

Have you read Virginia Hamilton’s books?

Yet, when I talk about Virginia during school and library visits, very few hands go up when I ask if children, educators, and library media specialists have read her works. On a certain level, I get it. Sadly, Virginia died in 2002, after a private ten-year battle with breast cancer. It has been 17 years since her last work was published.

Her amazing books were at risk of getting buried on the shelves, among the those that during visits to the library, Virginia would get “side-swiped every time by all those straight-back sentinels in long still rows. Short books and tall books, blue books and green books.”

Have no fear. Virginia’s works have a new, bright shiny light being shone on them.

Library of America to the rescue!

Virginia Hamilton: Five Novels. Buy here.

The Library of America is publishing a collection of five of Virginia’s novels, to be released in September 2021. Once again Zeely (1967), The House of Dies Drear (1968), The Planet of Junior Brown (1971), M.C. Higgins, the Great (1974), and Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982), will be available to entertain, inspire and educate readers, of all ages.

So, there you go, Kwame. Both older and newer diverse works for children, featured prominently on those shelves for all to enjoy.

Never Too Old for Back-to-School

It’s Back-to-School month for many students, teachers, librarians, and parents. Summer is at its peak, and yet the supermarket aisles are filled with crayons and notebooks and lunch boxes. It’s time to get back to the business of learning.

As authors, we never stop learning, really. At least we shouldn’t. Even though I teach workshops about writing, mentor new writers, and critique others’ work, I still seek out opportunities to learn from those who paved this road I’m lucky to travel.

The best teachers are perpetual students. I believe that with all my heart.

Walking with Jane Yolen at her home, Phoenix Farm, during Picture Book Boot Camp last spring.

It’s important for authors to look for learning opportunities and find ways around all the reasons why we can’t pursue them.  Too far, too expensive, too time consuming, maybe in a few years. Of course, some of those are valid reasons, and no one can do everything their heart desires, but if each of us sought out one mentor encounter a year — attended a lecture, went to a book signing, signed up for an advanced workshop — all opportunity would not be lost on “maybe next year.”

Have you ever been in the presence of someone and I thought, “This is golden. I need to remember everything about this moment?” I look for moments like that. Sometimes I find them among hundreds of people in an auditorium, listening to a speaker. Sometimes, it’s just me, face-to-face with a beloved author, feeling the warmth of their handshake and trying desperately to form words in my mouth that make it sound like I made it past third grade.  That was me at this moment:

Standing on Ashley Bryan‘s front step, Little Cranberry Island, Maine, June 2015.

Here in rural Ohio, I don’t exactly live in a literary hotbed. But, I do live within driving distance to The Mazza Museum, the country’s largest collection of art from children’s literature. I’ve made the trip there to hear dozens of authors and illustrators speak. I’ve sat mesmerized by Tony Abbott, had a conversation with Gary Schmidt. and listened intently to Michael Buckley.

Last winter I drove two hours in the other direction to hear what Kwame Alexander had to say, and one piece of advice he gave the audience made a beeline to my brain and has changed the way I think. “Say yes,” he said. Be that person that says, “YES!” to opportunities.

So what Back-to-School opportunities will our Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors bloggers say “YES!” to this year?  Maybe sign up for that amazing out-of-state-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Take a road trip to hear someone speak?  Attend a presentation at your local bookseller? Listen to a podcast?  Read that craft book on writing you’ve been putting off reading – you know, the one everyone says is “magical?”

It’s time. It’s time to get back to school.