Posts Tagged #middlegrade #kidlit #newrelease

Author Spotlight: Carol Weston

If the name Carol Weston sounds familiar, it’s no surprise. Carol published her first article in Seventeen magazine at the age of 19, and she was later dubbed “Teen Dear Abby” by Newsweek, thanks to her popular “Dear Carol” column—which is still going strong—in Girls’ Life magazine. Her critically acclaimed teen-advice book, GIRLTALK: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You, has been translated into a dozen languages and is now in its fourth edition.

Currently, Carol has been enjoying an illustrious career as a middle-grade author. In addition to the beloved Ava and Pip series, as well as the fun and voice-y Melanie Martin books, Carol’s MG novel, Speed of Life was lauded by the New York Times as “perceptive, funny and moving.” The late Newbery medalist Richard Peck concurred, calling Speed of Life “A wonderful book that takes us from loss to laughter.” (I cosign Richard Peck’s praise, having read—and loved—Speed of Life when it first came out in 2017.)

In addition to Carol’s impressive contribution to children’s literature, she has had essays, articles, and interviews appear in such publications as Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Redbook, Glamour, and Parents. On television, Carol has appeared on Today, Oprah, 48 Hours, and The View. She is also a writing instructor at the New York Society Library, where her monthly writing “Prompt!” class, which I’m lucky enough to attend, is hugely popular. Married to playwright Rob Ackerman, Carol is a mother, grandmother, and splits her time between Armonk, New York, and Manhattan. Learn more about Carol on her website and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.

And now, without further ado…

Heeeeeere’s Carol!

MR: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Carol. I’m so excited to have you here!

CW: Thank you for that fabulous introduction! You’ve got me blushing!

MR: I know you’ve always loved to write, and that both your parents were writers. What is it about writing that appealed to you as a child? What about it appeals to you now? Also, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

CW: Big questions! I think of writing as sharing. I like that if you hear something funny or think something deep, and you’re working on a manuscript, you can usually find a place to put it. As for advice, there’s no getting around it. If you want to be a writer, you have to write! Don’t wring your hands. Just put words on paper. Honor your talent. Leave a pencil and paper by your bed. Keep a journal or writer’s notebook. Don’t fret about the end result. Good writing takes a zillion drafts but if you don’t get your words down, how can you have the fun of editing and revising? (P.S. Keep reading and listening to books too.)

Take My Advice

MR: Speaking of advice, like you, I was an advice columnist for teens. (My weekly column, “Life Sucks,” appeared in the U.K. teen magazine, J17, in the 1990s, and I was a teen-relationships adviser online as well.) How did you get your start as an advice columnist?

CW: Way back in 1993, I was in the waiting room of Cosmopolitan magazine and a man walked in wearing a nice coat. “Nice coat!” I said. We got to chatting and I told him about my book Girltalk, and he told me his girlfriend was starting a magazine, Girls’ Life. The next day she called and offered me the gig. I said a fast yes. Who knew I’d still be “Dear Carol” 28 years later? One lesson here: Do talk to strangers.

MR: Another advice-related question (I can’t help myself). What are some of the most common questions teens ask in your “Dear Carol” column? What about the strangest…? (Be honest. 🙂)

CW: I’ve answered “Should I tell him I like him?” and “How can I tell if he likes me?” and “When will I get my period?” over a thousand times! And Covid was so hard on so many. I really felt for girls who were stuck indoors, sometimes with difficult families or an uncle who was quarantining with them. Much of my tried-and-true advice like “Give a compliment” or “Talk to someone new” or “Join an extra-curricular” or “Talk to your school counselor” went out the window. Actually, I don’t think of any of my Girls’ Life mail as strange, though many letters are over-the-top personal. For instance, girls tell me that their brothers (or dads) are looking at porn, or in some cases that they are. Still, more human than strange. I do my best to help girls navigate the complicated adult world.

Speed of Life: The Backstory

MR: Turning to kidlit, rumor has it that Speed of Life took you ten years to write. Would you mind sharing the backstory with us?

CW: Early one January morning while un-decorating our Christmas tree in Manhattan, I got the idea for a novel that could start on January 1 with a bittersweet scene of a father and daughter putting away holiday ornaments though Christmas had “sucked.” I wanted the book to have 12 chapters, one per month. It would be a year in a life of Sofia, who would go from a grief-stricken 14-year-old kid (her mother has died eight months earlier) to a 15-year-old young woman who is finding her footing. Sofia has supportive friends, but when the novel begins, they’re ready for her to be “okay” again, and of course, she can’t recharge like a cellphone. Desperate, Sofia reaches out to a teen advice columnist (!) – but what she doesn’t know (spoiler alert) is that the advice columnist, Dear Kate, has started dating her widower father. Complications ensue!

Ten years between idea to pub party is not at all speedy. But Speed of Life began with four third-person POVs and ended up first person and just in Sofia’s voice. I sure did get to know my characters! In some ways, the novel began even earlier because it was based on my own grief over losing my father when I was 25. It’s set in New York’s Upper West Side, Spain, and Westchester, New York, three places I’ve called home. And it came straight from the heart.

Dear Diary

MR: Unlike Speed of Life, the Ava and Pip series, and the Melanie Martin series, are written in diary form. What made you choose this particular format for these books? Did you keep a diary as a child?

CW:  Oh God, yes. I kept diaries before I could really write or spell and before I had anything of note to say. Keeping diaries was a way for me to process my day and become more observant. As a kid, while others read, I scribbled. As a thirtysomething mom, I’d written eight nonfiction books and was desperate to write fiction for adults but just couldn’t make the jump. Finally, the fictional Melanie Martin, 10, sort of showed up and said: Enough with your precious attempts at the Great American Novel. How about a diary for kids? The Diary of Melanie Martin poured out.

It begins: “Dear Diary, You will never in a million years guess where we’re going. Nope. Guess again. Never mind, I’ll tell you. Italy! We’re going to Italy! In Europe!! Across the ocean!!!” I was glad that Melanie got to go to Italy, Spain, and Holland. New York too—and glad that, although several publishers passed, Knopf said yes. So, my first novel came out when I was 43. Don’t give up out there!

Turning a Child into a Reader

MR: Ava and Pip skews younger than Speed of Life (Sofia, the protagonist, is 14). The Melanie Martin books skew younger, too. What is the biggest challenge when writing for kids of different age groups on the MG continuum?

CW: Publishers want us to think about younger kids versus older kids, but I wish they didn’t. Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You was billed as a guidebook for girls 11 to 18, and I loved that! Some kids read it for tips on babysitting and bra-buying; others for tips on safer sex or job interviews. I love writing for young people because sometimes yours really is the book that turns a reluctant reader into a reader, and because when a kid loves your books, she love-love-loves them. And kids don’t just read, they reread.

Palindrome Party

MR: I know you’re a sucker for palindromes. In Ava and Pip, Ava realizes that the names of her family members—Mom, Dad, Ava Elle, and Pip Hannah—are palindromic. What is it about word play that knocks your socks off?

CW: Great question. I was a French / Spanish literature major at Yale and sure, I love books / livres / libros. But I love thinking about individual words too. When The New York Times called Ava and Pip “a love letter to language,” I basically wept. Because that’s what it is. Words themselves are fun, and if you combine them well, you can make people laugh or cry or think or become more compassionate toward others and themselves. I remember being in kindergarten when I learned the word “I.” One measly letter (one long stick, two short ones) and it was so powerful! I also remember learning to spell “here” and “there” and being baffled that they didn’t rhyme. Yes, I’m a full-fledged word nerd! And proud of it!

Persistence Is Key

MR: You are a prolific writer, Carol. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration? Is there a secret sauce you can share with Mixed-Up Files readers?

CW: No secret sauce and I still get rejection letters—most authors do. So, persistence is key. I don’t force myself to write for a certain number of pages or hours. But when I let myself stay (play?) at the keyboard long enough to find the flow, it can be fun. Okay, here’s an odd tip: I sometimes print out a work on different colored pages so that I feel I’m making progress. Like, I’ll have a yellow draft and much later, a sky-blue draft. Books take so many drafts! Another tip: I have smart friends and family members weigh in too. And smart kids when possible.

Carol’s Writing Routine

MR: What does your writing routine look like? Do you have any particular rituals?

CW: Some days I don’t get to my work at all. Other days, I’m at my desk from dawn ’til dusk.

MR: What are you working on now, Carol? Enquiring minds want to know!

CW: I’ve been writing a novel about the girl in the painting Las Meninas by Velázquez, though I’m setting it aside for a few months. (It’s always helpful when you can let a work-in-progress marinate and then come back to it with fresh eyes.) I’m mostly focusing on a novel, Zoe and Lucas, about two city kids who get stranded in a small town and start to discover the truth about their parents and themselves. That’s all I can tell you for now!

Let’s be Prompt!

MR: Before I let you go, I need to tell you that your “Prompt!” class at the New York Society Library is the highlight of my month. It’s so joyful, and so freeing. How did you come up with the concept? Also, what can writers gain from prompts in their day-to-day writing practice?

CW: Oh, thank you, it is pretty magical, isn’t it? It’s really all about giving yourself permission to be creative. Instead of saying (as I too sometimes do), “Why should I write this, no one will care, and how will I be able to sell it?” it’s better to just w-r-i-t-e. When I’m teaching that class and I say, “The prompt is ‘my grandmother’s hands,’ you have ten minutes,” it’s amazing, as you know, that everyone just starts writing up a storm. Sometimes at home, when I’m having trouble getting going, I’ll set my cellphone for ten minutes and say, “Just start!” and on a good day, ten minutes later, I often don’t want to stop.

Lightning Round!

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

Preferred writing snack?

Gum helps me focus.

Coffee or tea?

My husband makes cappuccino every morning. Heaven.

Favorite palindrome?

EMME is our daughter’s name. Though I’m big on WOW and YAY and XOX!

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay?

Nay.

Superpower?

I can be charming in four languages! And I’m a Rocky Mountain skier. (But oh dear, I can’t cook or garden and I’m a reluctant driver and I get lost really easily.)

Best piece of advice?

You’re asking an advice giver for her best piece of advice? Oh man…. How about: Be kind to yourself and others.

Favorite place on earth?

Home.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be?

Too hard! How about if I have just one thing—a phone that’s endlessly charged so that I can talk with loved ones and listen to audiobooks? Or else maybe one private jet so I can get off that island?

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Carol. It was my extreme pleasure, and I’m sure MUF readers will agree! 

Thank you, Melissa!! See you in class!

For more info on the fabulous Carol Weston, check out her School Library Journal interview here. And her Mixed-Up Files interview with Andrea Pyros here.

April Showers bring New Releases!

Happy Spring! Check out all these new titles showering middle-grade readers this month. Adventure, friendship, mystery and an inspiring true story of survival are featured in these titles for every younger reader on your list!

Wild Ride Author: Keith Calabrese, Scholastic Press, April 5

Swindle meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in this action-filled comedy!

No parents. No rules. No curfew.

Things are about to get dangerous…

The grownups are out-of-town, and for Charley Decker that means one thing: a last epic weekend with her older brother Greg before he leaves for college. Bring on the burgers, milkshakes, and movie marathons!

So when Greg ditches Charley for a date night downtown, she’s kind of crushed. Worse, he gets their mom’s boyfriend’s super-expensive, super-rare Mustang towed and needs Charley’s help to get it back. What’s an unsupervised seventh grader to do? Grab her best friends, sneak into the city, pull off the ultimate car heist, and then make Greg pay, of course!

Only now the Mustang has a new feature in the trunk: a stowaway named Mitch who’s guarding a world-changing secret. And a pair of seriously big, seriously scary dudes are after him.

What follows is an all-night race around the clock as Charley and her friends try to dodge the twin terrors, save Mitch, fix a sibling squabble…and get the Mustang home before morning!

I Will Protect You Author: Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 5

The illuminating and deeply moving true story of twin sisters who survived Nazi experimentation, against all odds, during the Holocaust.

Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a mostly happy childhood. Theirs was the only Jewish family in their small village in the Transylvanian mountains, but they didn’t think much of it until anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and other siblings, selected as subjects for Dr. Mengele’s infamous medical experiments.

During the course of the war, Mengele would experiment on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive–including Eva and Miriam.

Writing with her friend Danica Davidson, Eva reveals how two young girls were able to survive the unimaginable cruelty of the Nazi regime, while also eventually finding healing and the capacity to forgive. Spare and poignant, I Will Protect You is a vital memoir of survival, loss, and forgiveness.

Consider the Octopus Authors: Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin, Henry Holt and Co., April 5

When chance, or fate, throws two twelve-year-olds together on board a scientific research ship at the edge of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s not all smooth sailing!

Jeremy “JB” Barnes is looking forward to spending the summer before seventh grade hanging on the beach. But his mother, a scientist, has called for him to join her aboard a research ship where, instead, he’ll spend his summer seasick and bored as he stares out at the endless plastic, microbeads, and other floating debris, both visible and not, that make up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Miles and miles away, twelve-year-old Sidney Miller is trying to come up with an alternate activity worthy of convincing her overprotective parents that she can skip summer camp.

When Jeremy is asked to find the contact information for a list of important international scientists and invite them to attend a last-minute Emergency Global Summit, he’s excited to have a chance to actually do something that matters to the mission. How could he know that the Sidney Miller he messages is not the famous marine biologist he has been tasked with contacting, but rather a girl making podcasts from her bedroom–let alone that she would want to sneak aboard the ship?

Consider the Octopus is a comedy of errors, mistaken identity, and synchronicity. Above all, it is a heartfelt story about friendship and an empowering call to environmental protection, especially to our young people who are already stepping up to help save our oceans and our Earth.

Karthik Delivers Author: Sheela Chari, Amulet Books, April 5

Award-winning author Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell the story of Ellis Earl, who dreams of a real house, food enough for the whole family–and to be someone.

It’s 1967, and eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown has big dreams. He’s going to grow up to be a teacher or a lawyer–or maybe both–and live in a big brick house in town. There’ll always be enough food in the icebox, and his mama won’t have to run herself ragged looking for work as a maid in order to support Ellis Earl and his eight siblings and niece, Vera. So Ellis Earl applies himself at school, soaking up the lessons that Mr. Foster teaches his class–particularly those about famous colored people like Mr. Thurgood Marshall and Miss Marian Wright–and borrowing books from his teacher’s bookshelf. When Mr. Foster presents him with a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl is amazed to encounter a family that’s even worse off than his own–and is delighted by the Buckets’ very happy ending. But when Mama tells Ellis Earl that he might need to quit school to help support the family, he wonders if happy endings are only possible in storybooks. Around the historical touchstone of Robert Kennedy’s southern “poverty tour,” Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell a detail-rich and poignant story with memorable characters, sure to resonate with readers who have ever felt constricted by their circumstances.

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend, Author Katie Zhao, Random House for Young Readers, April 26

An epic new fantasy series inspired by Chinese mythology that #1 New York Times bestselling author Kwame Mbalia calls a hilarious tussle between homework, family, and heroism. When a girl awakens the stuff of legends from an old family recipe, she must embrace her extraordinary heritage to save the world.

Winnie Zeng has two goals: survive her first year of middle school and outdo her stuck-up archnemesis, David Zuo. It won’t be easy, since, according to her older sister, middle school is the pits. Luckily, Winnie studied middle school survival tactics in comic books and anime, and nothing will stop her from being the very best student.

But none of Winnie’s research has prepared her to face the mother of all hurdles: evil spirits. When she makes mooncakes for a class bake sale, she awakens the stuff of legends from her grandmother’s old cookbook, spilling otherworldly chaos into her sleepy town.

Suddenly Winnie finds herself in a race against time, vanquishing demons instead of group projects. Armed with a magic cookbook and a talking white rabbit, she must embrace her new powers and legacy of her ancestors. Because if she doesn’t, her town–and rest of the world–may fall to chaos forever.

The Pear Affair Author: Judith Eagle Illustrator: Jo Rioux Walker Books US, April 26

Nell is determined to find her beloved missing au pair in this vibrant adventure set in, and underneath, Paris.

Penelope Magnificent spends as little time as possible with her awful parents–a grocery-mogul father and a fashion-obsessed mother who loves expensive purses more than she does her daughter. But when they mention an important trip to Paris, Nell begs to come along. Paris holds something very dear to her: her old au pair Perrine–Pear–who lives there. Pear used to write to Nell every week, promising to come to her rescue, but recently the letters stopped. With the help of a savvy bellboy named Xavier, Nell sets out from her parents’ ultra-fancy Parisian hotel to find her beloved Pear. But Pear’s old neighbors and coworkers are strangely tight-lipped. And as Nell’s search for the truth takes her and Xavier to some of the darkest, most mysterious parts of the city, a sinister plot comes to light involving the destruction of a cherished–and delicious–part of Parisian life. Food, fashion, and intrigue abound in this delightful caper from the author of The Secret Starling.

Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories

edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz Albert Whitman & Co., April 19

What does it mean to become an adult in your faith? Join thirteen diverse characters as they experience anxiety, doubt, and self-discovery while preparing for their b’nai mitzvah. And whether celebrating with a lavish party or in reception room A with an accordion player, the Jewish rite of passage remains the same. Filled with humor, hope, and history, there’s something in this anthology for every reader, regardless of their faith.

Just in time for the holidays! December New Releases!

Check out these awesome new titles for the middle-grade readers in your life. Purchase or pre-order through the links to Bookshop.org, or visit your local bookseller!

Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date: December 7

Practice makes perfect, and Ben Yokoyama will settle for nothing less than perfection! A hilarious new Cookie Chronicles adventure that fans of Wimpy Kid or Dog Man will gobble up with gusto.

When Ben’s fortune cookie tells him that practice makes perfect, he refuses to settle for anything less. He demands better parents, superior hobbies, and a brand-new best friend, who might technically be a superhero.

The pursuit of perfection is thrilling until Ben is forced to give up the things he loves most–including baseball, personal integrity, and his dog’s enthusiastic kisses. Life lessons from a goldfish and a spine-tingling near-death experience help Ben realize that his flaws are also the keys to his greatest strengths–and that the people and things that make him happiest will always be perfectly imperfect.

Girl Giant and the Jade War by Van Hoang Published by Roaring Book Press Release Date December 7

In this sequel to Girl Giant and the Monkey King, Thom and her friends set off on a far-flung adventure to save the Heavens and the Jade Emperor from certain destruction.

Thom Ngoh thought the Monkey King was her friend―he taught her to control her super strength and to stand up for herself. But really he was just using her. He tricked her into stealing from the Heavens and releasing him from his 500-year prison. Now the Monkey King is waging a war against the Heavens and Thom must do everything in her power to fix the mess she made.

Determined to prevent a war, Thom and her dragon friend Kha set off on an adventure across the Heavens to search for allies. But with the stakes higher than ever, the price for help may be more than Thom is willing to pay. . .

This richly woven middle-grade fantasy series is full of humor, magic, and heart, and will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

Unikorn by Don Handfield and Joshua J. Malkin Published by Scoot Comics Release Date: December 7

Unikorn

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Chloe Coleman (MY SPY).

A middle schooler inherits an old horse from her long-lost mother she believes is a unicorn with a broken horn in this heartfelt coming-of-age story of hope, faith and magic.

Young Mae lost her mother in a tragic accident a few years back, although her mother’s body was never recovered from the raging river into which their car crashed. Mae is devastated because her father, now that enough time has elapsed for proof of death, must sell off his wife’s farm, along with her wild stallion Percy, who seems dangerous to anyone who comes near him. However, when Mae realizes that Percy is really a unicorn with amazing powers, she teams with a group of her young friends to save the creature from an age-old billionaire who sustains his life through unicorn blood — and who is now determined to get Percy in his clutches. But unless Mae can find Percy’s missing unicorn horn, and restore the full extent of his magical powers, it appears that he is doomed — unless Mae can pull off a last-minute miracle to save Percy from a terrible fate…

Katt Loves Dogg by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, published by jimmy patterson Release Date: December 13

In this funny and paw-some story, lifelong rivals Molly and Oscar are forced to team up and brave the great outdoors and help their families before it’s too late.

Wilderness adventurers and expert trackers Molly the katt and Oscar the dogg go camping with their families: parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. One big reunion! It would be fun if there weren’t so many rules to follow at the campsite. ATTENTION KATTS AND DOGGS: No crossing the border, or you’ll be asked to leave the Eastern Wilderness Reserve. If you’re still alive.

Molly and Oscar must outsmart the rule-makers when they discover that their katt and dogg cousins have run away together–for reasons only Molly and Oscar will understand. Now the clever pair must find and warn their cousins before all four of them are in need of a serious rescue mission.

Escape from Atlantis by Kate O’Hearn Published by Aladdin, December 14

From the author of the Pegasus series comes a spellbinding first book in a new fantasy series for fans of Rick Riordan and Shannon Messenger following two cousins whose summer vacation gets swept away by a storm that lands them on the lost island of Atlantis.

The last way that Riley Evans wanted to spend spring break was studying whales on the family sailboat in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. With only her dad, aunt, and annoying cousin Alfie for company, she is so bored staring at the waves that she’s starting to see mermaids between them. But when their boat is capsized during a sudden storm, Riley finds more excitement than she bargained for as she and Alfie are washed ashore with neither of their parents in sight. Where they’ve been shipwrecked is no deserted island, though.

Atlantis is a place beyond imagination, inhabited by both people and incredible creatures ranging from unicorns and gargoyles to talking animals. But not everyone welcomes the cousins’ arrival, and beneath the wonder of this mythical land lurk dangerous secrets—something strange is happening to the inhabitants. What Riley wants more than anything is to find her father and go home. But the closer she gets to this goal, the more the islanders seem determined to keep her from reaching it.

As Riley and Alfie unravel the mystery of Atlantis and its most terrifying part, the Forbidden Zone, they realize that the clock is ticking. If they can’t learn what happened to their parents and find a way off the island soon, it may be too late to leave.

 

Pages & Co.: The Book Smugglers by Anna James, illustrated by Marco Guadalupi Published by Philomel Books Release Date: December 14

The fourth magical adventure in the nationally bestselling Pages & Co. series, starring Milo, the book smuggler. Perfect for fans of Inkheart and The Land of Stories.

Since he was six years old, Milo has lived on board the Sesquipedalian, or “Quip,” a magical train that uses the power of imagination to travel through both stories and the real world. Aboard the Quip, Milo lives and works with his uncle, Horatio, a book smuggler who trades in rare books.

When Horatio takes on a dangerous new job, he needs the help of Tilly Pages, a uniquely gifted book wanderer. But when Tilly’s grandfather and Horatio are poisoned by a mysterious copy of The Wizard of Oz and fall into a deep sleep, Milo and Tilly find themselves racing against time to save them. The friends must journey to the Emerald City with Dorothy, and eventually to Venice, Italy, to find out who is behind these strange poisonings.

Segregated Skies: David Harris’s Trailblazing Journey to Rise Above Racial Barriers by Michael H. Cottman Published by National Geographic Kids Release Date December 21

It was 1964 and black men didn’t fly commercial jets. But David Harris was about to change that …

After years of flying B-52 bombers in the United States Air Force, David Harris applied to be a pilot for commercial airliners, an opportunity no other African American before him—not even the famed Tuskegee Airmen—had ever been afforded. After receiving rejection after rejection, he finally signed on with American Airlines in 1964. But this success was just the beginning of another uphill battle for equal treatment.

It was the height of the civil rights movement, a time of massive protests as people struggled to end racial segregation and give Black people equal rights. As a light-skinned, light-eyed Black man, David was told by many people he could have passed for white. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he made the bold decision to disclose his race to his employers and fellow airmen. He had experienced discrimination throughout his life, but this was different. He now carried the pride of his family and the hopes of future Black aviators on his shoulders.

This gripping narrative, perfect for middle-grade readers and Black History Month, follows Harris’s turbulent path to become the first African-American commercial airline pilot in the U.S., presented against the backdrop of racial tensions, protests, and the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It’s the story of a man who fought social injustice the only way he knew how—by succeeding.

 

Honest June by Tina Wells, illustrated by Brittney Bond Published by Random House Books for Young Readers Release Date: December 28

Middle school is hard—but it’s way harder when a fairy godmother puts you under a truth-telling spell!

June has always been a people-pleaser, telling harmless little lies to make her friends and family happy. She’s convinced being honest about her feelings will only hurt the people she loves!

Until out of nowhere, a secret fairy godmother appears to “bless” her with the ability to only tell the truth! Seriously?! As if June didn’t have enough to worry about!

Now, June has no choice but to be honest about how she feels. And the truth is: what June feels is stressed out. Middle school is no joke—between field hockey, friend drama, and her parents’ high expectations, June feels so overwhelmed that sometimes it’s hard to breathe.

When everything spirals out of control, will June find freedom in telling the whole truth and nothing but—or is she destined to battle the curse for the rest of her life?