Posts Tagged middle-grade readers

Interview with Author Heather Murphy Capps + Preorder Swag Giveaway!

It’s always a pleasure to welcome an author back to the Mixed-Up Files, but when the author happens to be my friend and former MUF contributor Heather Murphy Capps, it’s an extra-special treat! Today, Heather is here to talk about her sophomore novel, The Rule of Three, which focuses on racism and generational trauma. Lauded by Publisher’s Weekly as “noteworthy” and “illuminating,” the novel is out from Carolrhoda Books/Lerner on August 6. (To learn more about Heather’s fantastic preorder swag giveaway, scroll down for details 👇👇👇)

Interview with Heather

MR: Welcome back to the Mixed-Up Files, Heather! The first time you were here, your debut novel, Indigo & Ida, had just been released. How has life changed for you, now that you’re a published author?

HMC: I actually tell people I am an author. The thing is, my day job is instruction: I teach leadership, writing, and briefing skills to federal employees. Before Indigo and Ida, that was the only way I described my professional life. Now I say, “I teach writing skills to adult professionals and I am a children’s book author.” It’s an amazing feeling.

Why didn’t I do that before? Because I was super self-conscious about how to answer the inevitable question: “Oh, what have you published?” And I would have to say, “well, I am a pre-published author.”

Honestly, I hope all our pre-published friends do NOT follow my lead in keeping their work a secret. I think it’s great to be proud of who you are and what dreams you are seeking, regardless of where you are in the journey. I wish I had realized that before!

The Rule of Three

MR: Let’s turn our attention to your latest book, The Rule of Three, a contemporary novel with fantastical elements. Can you tell us about it? 

HMC: This book is so important to me for so many reasons—it’s got baseball, magical realism, mental health rep, and an important, often overlooked historical story.

When we first meet our protagonist in The Rule of Three, Wyatt, he is working on the first part of his three-part plan for life: 1) land a spot on the local elite travel baseball team; 2) play baseball in high school; 3) play baseball in college.

But his plans derail in the face of mounting racial tensions and microaggressions at school. On one particularly stressful day, he suddenly begins spewing smoke from his hands and feet in response to his stress. He’s watched his father do the same thing his entire life; he just never knew it was a trait he could inherit.

At the same time, he loses faith in his best friend’s willingness to stand by him, and then he gets kicked off the baseball team. Isolated and frustrated, he decides to use his smoke as a superhero talent to target bullies. But then he discovers that the smoke is linked to a painful family history. He and his father can heal if they are both able to face the past.

The Story Behind the Story

MR: What was the inspiration behind the novel?

HMC: I first decided to write this story years ago, when I happened to be talking to friends and mentioned the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia. They hadn’t heard of the incident and were naturally skeptical. I mean, who wouldn’t be? A city dropping a bomb on its own neighborhood?

Because my friends were so incredulous, I was halfway convinced that even though I lived on the outskirts of Philly that summer and watched the whole thing play out on television, I was remembering it wrong.

When I confirmed for myself that I was correct, I did a VERY informal and limited poll—and interestingly, it seemed most people I asked remembered extreme government responses in places like Waco, TX and Ruby Ridge—not Philadelphia.

Thus, I felt strongly that I needed to tell this important story. It’s sad, but it’s also one that offers a message of hope and resilience. The MOVE survivors eventually returned to their old neighborhood—and bought their childhood home.

I also wanted to write about the way families can pass on a genetic legacy of pain.

Three-Pronged Coping Strategy

MR: At the beginning of the novel, Wyatt puts up with racist comments from classmates, and from his coach, just to fit in. He also uses a three-leveled system to measure—and to cope with—his distress. Can you tell us more about Wyatt’s coping strategy? How does it serve him? How does it hinder him?

HMC: The number three is important to Wyatt—and for good reason. He notes himself at one point in the book that “3” is significant in baseball, math, and survival, to name a few. He organizes his life in threes because the number speaks to him and gives him structure—including his three-part system of reactions to people who stress him out.

Level One: pretend to laugh it off and eventually the bad feeling goes away;

Level Two: pretend to laugh it off but take the bad feeling out on someone else;

Level Three: unable to laugh it off. Eventually, Level Three becomes smoke.

The smoke hinders and scares him, but ultimately it also leads Wyatt to the counselor who helps him and his father begin the healing process.

MR: In a similar vein, Wyatt doesn’t say anything about the mistreatment he’s receiving because he doesn’t want a reputation as a “troublemaker.” This is, unfortunately, a common reaction from kids who are bullied, whether it’s for their skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Can you speak more to this?

HMC: It’s such an unfortunate misconception that you’re being “whiny” or “extra” if you call people out on bad behavior. Even in today’s more aware, evolved culture, the onus is still too often on the person experiencing bullying to put up with it, and I think we still praise those who can look the other way or have a “stiff upper lip.” It’s true that those responses can help deflate a bully—and you can always refuse to dignify their behavior with a response. But while those responses help turn the bully’s attention elsewhere, they don’t get at the root of the problem.

While I think we’ve come a long way in learning to listen to the victim and stop excusing the perpetrator, we still have more work to do.

Understanding Epigenetics

MR: Inherited racism, or epigenetics—the scientific theory that a person’s traumatic experience can affect their genetic material—is a topic that you explore closely in the novel. Can you tell MUF readers more about epigenetics? What kind of research did you do to deepen your understanding of it?

HMC: What we know about epigenetics is that—as I mentioned above—it is a genetic legacy of pain. The descendants of people who have experienced trauma can inherit chronic conditions: diabetes, heart disease, mental illness—without having experienced trauma themselves. Our current understanding is that this inheritance is a product of gene expression (whether a specific gene turns on or doesn’t) rather than a fundamental change in the DNA itself.

I ran across a fascinating study in my research that really spelled it out for me. I want to acknowledge here that my summary of this study is VERY brief, but I do welcome anyone who’s interested to check out this article (one of many that reported this study) for more detailed information.

In 2013, Emory University biologists Kerry Ressler and Brian Dias exposed mice to the smell of acetophenone, a chemical that smells like cherries and almonds. At the same time, they administered small electric shocks. (I have to interject here that the fact that they tortured animals bothers me immensely.) With subsequent generations of mice, they exposed the descendants to the acetophenone smell but did not shock the mice. But—the mice still responded in fear. Ressler and Dias concluded they had inherited their fear of this smell based on previous generations’ trauma.

Again—this is a very brief summary, but even with these spare details it’s enough to see how the study of epigenetics provides important understanding and perspective about one of many reasons descendants of traumatic experiences: the Holocaust, slavery, war, starvation—struggle with physical and mental illness at such high rates.

Ignorance and Microaggressions

MR: Most novels are somewhat autobiographical, and I’m guessing The Rule of Three is no exception. What are the similarities between you and Wyatt? The differences?

HMC: Some of the microaggressions Wyatt faces were drawn directly from incidents that happened in my local school district. Others were drawn from news reports around the country. I’m a lot older than Wyatt, but I am sad to say that when I was his age, I too faced microaggressions and had to figure out how to navigate ignorance at the same time I was trying to work through complicated feelings about my identity.

I wasn’t as brave as Wyatt; I definitely stuck only with Wyatt’s Level One “laugh it off” reaction because I was afraid I wouldn’t have any friends if I chose another response. Wyatt’s three levels of reaction to stress are very similar to mine, even to this day, sans the smoke.

Three Is a Magic Number

MR: The number three is like an additional character in the novel. What is it about the number three that’s so intriguing, and so magical? Also, do you have a special connection with the number three?

HMC: It’s one of my lucky numbers. And I’ve always been fascinated by the notion that the rhythm of three is what people listen for in music, poetry, even when you’re presenting an argument, people naturally listen for three reasons why you think your argument is strong. Religion, mythology, and legend all organize important concepts and characters in threes: Christianity’s three is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; Greek mythology has lots of threes including the Muses and the Furies; the Celts have the all-important triad; and the Buddhist Chintamani symbol for happiness is three circles arranges in a semi-triangular pattern.

Calling All Baseball Fans!

MR: Another non-human character in your book is baseball. Are you are a baseball fan, Heather?

HMC: Huge. I love baseball so much, and was the announcer for my son’s high school baseball team. I actually prefer to watch baseball when I know the players. High school and college ball is perfect: the seats are good, the games are competitive, and the feeling is collegial. (See what I did there? Three reasons.)

Magical Realism

MR: And finally, let’s not forget the third non-human character in your novel: The smoke that emanates from Wyatt’s body when he’s angry or upset, an inherited trait from his father and grandfather. Can you tell us more about the smoke? How did you come up with the idea?

HMC: I knew I wanted to use magical realism as a literary device to tell this story because I needed to find a way to make a painful subject accessible. This led neatly into my other goal, which was to give Wyatt a visible manifestation of stress so that we could actually see what was going on with him.

Originally, he shot electric currents from his body. (This story has been through SO many different incarnations!) But ultimately, electric currents were harder to visualize, and somehow the idea of smoke felt really right. The smoke chose me as much as I chose it as a way to help us all see Wyatt’s pain.

MR: What are you working on now, Heather? 

HMC: Another extraordinary boy character. Can’t wait to say more but I’m not quite there yet!

Lightning Round!

MR: And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? Apples and soynut butter, Twizzlers, any kind of salty snack.

Coffee or tea? Both

Cat or dog? Both but currently I only have a cat. My mother’s dog comes to visit frequently, which is wonderful.

 Favorite baseball team? Minnesota Twins

 Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay – Zombies are one thing I just can’t get behind. Vampires on the other hand? YES. And of course witches, who are already among us.

Superpower? Teleport! I LOVE the idea of getting places quickly.  Conversely, I do believe the journey is important. But I really hate traffic.

Favorite place on earth? In front of a body of water with a good book, good food, and beloved people.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A book, a cell phone, and some matches

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Heather—and congratulations on the publication of The Rule of Three!

HMC: Thank you, Melissa! I’ve had such fun chatting with you and thanks for having me back! I will always be so proud that I was once part of this amazing team of writers. <3

Preorder Campaign/Swag Giveaway!

Heather is running a fun preorder swag giveaway for all preorders. (To preorder, click here.) She will send a specially commissioned pack of FOUR baseball cards featuring the main characters in The Rule of Three. This amazing character art was designed by the same artist who did the cover illustration – the fabulous Jethro Unom. To get all four cards, which include fun stats on the back, preorder and then send a copy of your preorder receipt to: heathermcappsauthor@gmail.com

To learn more about the preorder campaign please visit Heather’s website: https://heathermurphycapps.com

(For more on Heather Murphy Capps, check out last year’s MUF interview here.)

Bio

Heather Murphy Capps writes about history, social justice, science, and magic. She is a mother of two, an Army wife, and an education equity activist. As a biracial author, Heather is passionate about creating diversity in publishing. Learn more about Heather on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Melissa Roske is a writer of middle-grade fiction. Before spending her days with imaginary people, she interviewed real ones as a journalist in Europe. In London she landed a job as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest (just the funny ones), and received certification as a life coach from NYU. In addition to her debut novel Kat Greene Comes Clean (Charlesbridge), Melissa’s short story “Grandma Merle’s Last Wish” appears in the Jewish middle-grade anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman). Learn more about Melissa on her Website and follow her on  TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Interview with Author/Illustrator Caroline Palmer

Today, I’d like to extend a warm, Mixed-Up welcome to Caroline Palmer, author and illustrator of Camp Prodigy, a debut graphic novel about two nonbinary kids who navigate friendship and identity at summer orchestra camp. Touted by Kirkus as “an immersive and affirming story that hits the right notes,” the novel is perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson and Raina Telgemeier. It’s out tomorrow, June 11, from Atheneum Books for Young Readers/S&S.

But first…

Camp Prodigy: a Summary

After attending an incredible concert, Tate Seong is inspired to become a professional violist. There’s just one problem: they’re the worst musician at their school.

Tate doesn’t even have enough confidence to assert themself with their friends or come out as nonbinary to their family, let alone attempt a solo anytime soon. Things start to look up when Tate attends a summer orchestra camp—Camp Prodigy—and runs into Eli, the remarkable violist who inspired Tate to play in the first place.

But Eli has been hiding their skills ever since their time in the spotlight gave them a nervous breakdown. Together, can they figure out how to turn Tate into a star and have Eli overcome their performance anxieties? Or will the pressure take them both down?

Interview with Caroline Palmer

Melissa: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Caroline! It’s great to have you here.

Caroline: I’m very glad to be here!

Melissa: First and foremost, congrats on Camp Prodigy! Can you share the inspiration behind your MG debut?

Caroline: I pretty much took lots of ideas from my own life and threw them together. The main characters being nonbinary violists, orchestra camp, the awkwardness of making connections as a kid… All of those bits, at least, were drawn from personal experience!

Similarities and Differences

Melissa: Camp Prodigy, which focuses on two nonbinary tween violists, Tate and Eli, is loosely autobiographical. (In addition to being nonbinary, you studied the viola.) What are the main similarities between you and the main characters? The main differences?

Caroline: I’d say that Tate and I are similar in how we struggle to open up to others–but for different reasons. For Tate, it’s because they don’t have a lot of confidence. In contract, I’m pretty at ease with myself, but that doesn’t come naturally to me. Eli struggles when they have to play music solo, but by the end of the book they find enjoyment in playing as a part of the orchestra. This is something I relate to. I guess the main difference between us is that I’m not competitive, haha!

Hard Work Pays Off

Melissa: At the beginning of the novel, Tate and Eli seem to have little in common. Eli is a high-achieving viola prodigy; Tate loves to play but isn’t particularly talented. What were you trying to say about achievement—and perseverance—in general?

Caroline: I really liked the idea of this dynamic. A prodigy and a beginner who are worlds away in skill but very similar in motivation. And while Tate’s journey from worst violist in camp to best violist (according to the seating arrangements) is a bit unrealistic, I don’t doubt it can happen in real life. When you’re starting out, even little adjustments can make a big difference in how you play music. Mindful practice and guidance from someone who can see opportunities for you to improve, and then communicate them to you on your level, goes a long way.

This isn’t exclusive to playing music, either! Anyone learning a new skill can go far with it. Hard work really does matter more than natural talent. I’m a lucky person–my personal talents and interests are in alignment–but there are people who have more technical skill than I do, in areas they had to work for.

The Stress of Secret Keeping

Melissa: The theme of secret keeping looms large in this story. Tate is afraid to come out to their family as nonbinary, while Eli hides the trauma they suffered as a result of their quest to be an accomplished violist. What is it about secrets that provokes so much anxiety, particularly for tweens? And what advice would you give to young readers who are struggling with a secret themselves—coming out or otherwise?

Caroline: I think there’s some correlation with hitting puberty, in a way. This could be influenced by my experience with gender, but suddenly, you have to deal with uncomfortable changes to your body. I could always speak freely with my parents, and I knew what was coming, but I still felt the urge to lie by omission. By saying nothing, it’s as though your problems and worries won’t be real. Unfortunately, they still are.

My advice? It’s always a relief to share a secret with someone you trust. It may be scary, but the people who care about you should always be able to help, even if they can’t do anything but listen. It’s up to you whether or not you share a secret, but it’s always easier to carry something with help, rather than alone.

Nonbinary rep

Melissa: As above, your novel features two main characters who are nonbinary. How is this novel specific to the nonbinary experience? What is universal?

Caroline: There are several scenes that center on the feeling of being misgendered. In my experience, for those first few months and years after you’ve realized that you’re not cisgender, you tend to be the most sensitive about incorrect pronouns or gendered terms. It’s like a fresh wound that needs to heal. Tate, a kid who’s recently begun to explore their nonbinary identity, is deeply uncomfortable not just with being misgendered, but also with hearing other people misgendered. And sometimes, cis people who are well intentioned still don’t give the concept a second thought.

This experience feels pretty specific to me, but I think everyone can understand the feeling of having something important to you completely dismissed, even by kind people who just don’t understand. The feeling of being queer is not so  alien if people give it some thought!

Challenges and Rewards of MG

Melissa: Since this is your first foray into middle-grade fiction, what was the biggest challenge you faced when writing and illustrating this novel? The greatest reward?

Caroline: It was tricky trying to create satisfying stakes. When you write fantasy or sci-fi, for instance, it’s easy to create tension. Maybe the world will be destroyed if the bad guys aren’t stopped! But Camp Prodigy was an entirely different genre, so the stakes had to be personal. It was also pretty tough to draw realistic backgrounds consistently!

For the reward, I’d say getting to hold the book in my hands. Getting to read it from front to back as a professional, physical story. It was so satisfying to see everything come together just the way I knew it would!

Caroline: The Versatile Creator

Melissa: In addition to writing middle grade fiction, you create comics, storyboards (including those inspired by The Simpsons, Star Wars, and Hamilton), and have done a TV-show pilot based on the BETA version of Regular Haunts, where you produced all the art, editing, sound design, and voice acting. What is the secret to being such a versatile creator?

Caroline: It all stems from the same source for me. I want to tell stories with words and art. The many facets of animation and comics aren’t too different in that regard; I’ve always seen them as points on the same scale of visual mediums. You have prose novels–all words, animation–all art, and comics in the middle of both.

For me, there’s very little that compares to the feeling of telling stories with words and art. I’d try out any medium to bring what’s in my mind to reality in the most fulfilling way! So I guess the secret would be…if you want to try something new, do it! There’s nothing more exciting than creating art without holding yourself back.

Creative Process

Melissa: What does your creative process look like? Do you have any particular rituals or routines?

Caroline: I try to stick to a vague schedule in terms of work projects, but I’m always thinking up stories in my mind. It’s so embedded in my life that there’s no removing it. Because of that, it’s hard to think of my actions as routines, but I suppose I draw almost every day. It’s not even something I try to do, it’s something I’m compelled to do. If I don’t draw for too long, I’ll get an itch under my skin.

Some people do warm-up drawings before starting important art pieces, but I usually don’t do that either, hah! If you draw often, it gets easier to jump right in. And if you draw comics, you’ll be compelled to practice depicting complicated backgrounds, props, and poses that you might normally avoid.

Melissa: What are you working on now, Caroline? Can you give Mixed-Up Files readers a sneak peek?

Caroline: I have another pitch in the works, but I can’t share much about it now. Maybe soon! Aside from that, I’m still updating my long-running webcomic “Talent de Lune” on tumblr and webtoon. If you like action, consider checking it out!

Lightning Round!

Melissa: And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? You can never go wrong with apples! I’ve also been snacking on these things called Yoggies from Costco.

Coffee or tea? Neither! But here’s my favorite soda–root beer!

Favorite piece for the viola? I’ve been chipping away at Suite Hébraïque by Ernest Bloch for ages. It’s very eerie and beautiful.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? I would be bitten, sadly. I would definitely be bitten.

Superpower? Bringing my drawings to life, of course!

Favorite place on earth? If I’m having a good time with friends or family, everywhere is fun! But I did get to visit Korea last year, and the food is delicious, no matter where you go.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A fully stocked and manned ship to sail away on. Gotcha! (Or, if perhaps that’s unavailable…some sort of satellite radio, a fire-starting kit, and a pot?)

Melissa: Thank you for chatting with us, Caroline. It’s been a pleasure, and I’m sure MUF readers will agree!

Caroline: Your questions were great! I had a lot of fun, thanks for inviting me!

About Caroline Palmer

Caroline Palmer (they/them) is a nonbinary comic creator who tells action-packed stories with heart. Visit them at CarolinePalmerComics.Weebly.com.

Melissa Roske is a writer of middle-grade fiction. Before spending her days with imaginary people, she interviewed real ones as a journalist in Europe. In London she landed a job as an advice columnist for Just Seventeenmagazine. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest (just the funny ones), and received certification as a life coach from NYU. In addition to her debut novel Kat Greene Comes Clean (Charlesbridge), Melissa’s short story “Grandma Merle’s Last Wish” appears in the Jewish middle-grade anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman). Learn more about Melissa on her Website and follow her on  TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Dive Into Summer!

Summer is a magical time. As the weather warms up and the days grow longer, there’s nothing quite like diving into a great book that captures the good vibes of summer. Whether it’s the thrill of swimming, the magic of summer friendships, or the adventure of summer camp, middle grade novels have a special way of bringing these stories to life. Here are five recently published middle grade books that will make you want to grab your swimsuit and dive right in!

 

Flip Turns by Catherine Arguelles (2022)

Thirteen-year-old Maddie just wants her classmate Lucas to leave her alone. He keeps asking her out—as if she hasn’t already said no a thousand times! Focusing on her competitive swim team, the Electric Eels, Maddie tries to ignore him, hoping he’ll stop harassing her.

But then, when someone starts sabotaging Maddie’s family-owned pool—glass on the deck, ketchup in the pool, followed by a “code brown”—Maddie worries it’s her “admirer” trying to get even. After Maddie’s parents rule the problems at the pool just harmless pranks, Maddie and her best friend, Ez, decide to investigate on their own. Could it be Lucas? And how can Maddie get him to leave her alone once and for all? The future of the Electric Eels and Maddie’s family legacy are on the line.

 

Barely Floating by Lilliam Rivera (2023)

Natalia De La Cruz Rivera y Santiago, also known as Nat, was swimming neighborhood kids out of their money at the local Inglewood pool when her life changed. The LA Mermaids performed, emerging out of the water with matching sequined swimsuits, and it was then that synchronized swimming stole her heart.

The problem? Her activist mom and professor dad think it’s a sport with too much emphasis on looks–on being thin and white. Nat grew up the youngest in a house full of boys, so she knows how to fight for what she wants, often using her anger to fuel her. People often underestimate her swimming skills when they see her stomach rolls, but she knows better than to worry about what people think. Still, she feels more like a submarine than a mermaid, but she wonders if she might be both.

Barely Floating explores what it means to sparkle in your skin, build community with those who lift you up, and keep floating when waters get rough.

 

Camp QUILTBAG by Nicole Melleby & A. J. Sass (2023)

Twelve-year-old Abigail (she/her/hers) is so excited to spend her summer at Camp QUILTBAG, an inclusive retreat for queer and trans kids. She can’t wait to find a community where she can be herself—and, she hopes, admit her crush on that one hot older actress to kids who will understand.

Thirteen-year-old Kai (e/em/eir) is not as excited. E just wants to hang out with eir best friend and eir parkour team. And E definitely does not want to think about the incident that left eir arm in a sling—the incident that also made Kai’s parents determined to send em somewhere e can feel like emself.

After a bit of a rocky start at camp, Abigail and Kai make a pact: If Kai helps Abigail make new friends, Abigail will help Kai’s cabin with the all-camp competition. But as they navigate a summer full of crushes, queer identity exploration, and more, they learn what’s really important. Camp QUILTBAG is a heartfelt story full of the joy that comes from being and loving yourself.

 

The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson (2024)

For as long as Ryanna Stuart can remember, her summers have been spent with her father and his new wife. Just the three of them, structured, planned, and quiet. But this summer is different. This summer, she’s received a letter from her grandparents—grandparents neither she nor her dad have spoken to since her mom’s death—inviting her to stay with them at an old summer camp in the Poconos.

Ryanna accepts. She wants to learn about her mom. She wants to uncover the mystery of why her father hasn’t spoken to her grandparents all these years. She’s even looking forward to a quiet summer by the lake. But what she finds are relatives…so many relatives! Aunts and uncles and cousins upon cousins—a motley, rambunctious crew of kids and eccentric, unconventional adults. People who have memories of her mom from when she was Ryanna’s age, clues to her past like a treasure map. Ryanna even finds an actual, real-life treasure map!

 

Camp Famous by Jennifer Blecher (2023)

Eleven-year-old Abby Herman is beyond excited that her parents are letting her go to summer camp for the first time ever. Maybe camp will be the place she’ll finally find what she’s always wanted: a best friend. But—surprise!—she’s not going to just any summer camp, she’s going to Camp Famous, the one exclusively for famous kids escaping the spotlight.

Desperate to fit in with the pop stars, princesses, and geniuses, Abby creates a fake identity as a famous author. Everything goes as planned: the other girls welcome her, she participates in camp activities, and she even inspires a pop star! But as camp comes to a close, Abby finds herself torn between who she has pretended to be and who she truly is.

These five middle grade novels beautifully capture the spirit of summer, the joy of swimming, and the importance of friendship. Whether you’re looking for adventure, inspiration, or just a good story to get lost in, these books are sure to make a splash! Happy reading!

 

Half Moon Summer by Elaine Vickers (2024)

Drew was never much of a runner. Until his dad’s unexpected diagnosis. Mia has nothing better to do. Until she realizes entering Half Moon Bay’s half-marathon could solve her family’s housing problems.

And just like that they decide to spend their entire summer training to run 13.1 miles. Drew and Mia have very different reasons for running, but these two twelve year olds have one crucial thing in common (besides sharing a birthday): Hope. For the future. For their families. And for each other.