Where has the summer gone? Whether you’re hitting the school supply sales or putting the final touches on your classroom or library, don’t forget to stock up on the newest middle-grade reads, hot off the press. As an animal lover, I’m especially excited about all the wonderful new novels featuring furry protagonists!
THE SHARK CALLER by Dianne Wolfer from Penguin Random House Australia – August 1 Isabel is on a plane heading back to her island birthplace in Papua New Guinea. Izzy is looking forward to seeing her family again, but there’s another tragic reason for the trip. Izzy’s twin brother, Ray, died in a freak diving accident, and Izzy and her mum are taking his ashes home for traditional death ceremonies. After they arrive, Izzy realises things have changed since their last visit. Logging threatens the community’s way of life and sharks no longer answer the song of the shark callers. Izzy’s cousin Noah explains that the clan needs someone to undertake a traditional diving ritual. The person must be a twin from the shark calling lineage. The dive will be perilous. And Izzy is the last twin. Will she have the courage to attempt the dive? And what deep, dark secrets will the ocean reveal if she does?
APPLEBLOSSOM THE POSSUM by Holly Goldberg Sloan, illustrated by Gary A. Rosen from Puffin – August 2nd Appleblossom is the youngest in her oppossum family, and the most timid. But she has a talent for playing dead, which serves her well when her training is finished and she must venture out on her own. She and her siblings have been warned to hide during the day, and to avoid cars, humans, and the dreaded “hairies” (aka dogs). Still, Appleblossom finds herself fascinated by a human family and their pet dog. While spying on them one day, she accidentally falls down the chimney, thus beginning her true adventure, including an encounter of the human kind: the little girl in the house wants to dress her up and keep her as her new pet. Luckily Appleblossom’s faithful brothers have been watching, and they launch a successful rescue mission, which includes breaking into the house, outwitting the dog, and even enlisting their long-lost father.
THE CANDY MAKERS AND THE GREAT CHOCOLATE CHASE by Wendy Mass from Little, Brown – August 2nd It has been a few months since the Harmonicandy was chosen as the winner of the nationwide candymaking contest. Forever changed by the experience, Logan, Miles, Philip, and Daisy have returned to their regular lives. But when presented with the chance to go on tour to promote the new candy, they each have very different reasons for hitting the road. The stakes are a lot higher than they thought, however, and a decades-old secret is revealed. In this action-packed adventure, the four friends embark on a journey full of hidden treasures, imaginary worlds, rivers of light, a map of awe, a sky of many colors, and one very small cat who thinks he’s a dog. And candy. LOTS and LOTS of candy.
They’ve already learned to trust one another. Now they’ll have to trust themselves in order to face what lies ahead and save what really matters.
WHO WAS MILTON BRADLEY? by Kirsten Anderson, illustrated by Tim Foley and Nancy Harrison – August 2nd Born in Maine in 1836, Milton Bradley moved with his family to the working-class city of Lowell, Massachusetts, at age 11. His early life consisted of several highs and lows, from graduating high school and attending Harvard to getting laid off and losing his first wife. These experiences gave Bradley the idea for his first board game: The Checkered Game of Life. He produced and sold Life across the country and it quickly became a national sensation. Working with his company, the Milton Bradley Company, he continued to produce board games, crayons, and kid-friendly school supplies for the rest of his life. He is often credited as the father of board games, and the Milton Bradley Company has created Battleship, Jenga, Yahtzee, Trouble, and many more classic games.
HUNDRED PERCENT by Karen Romano Young from Chronicle – August 9th The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn’t fit anymore. Christine navigates a year’s cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are.
FUZZY by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger from Amulet – August 16th When Max—Maxine Zelaster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!
NO WAY…WAY!: STINKY, STICKY, SNEAKY STUFF by Tracey West, illustrated by Luke Flowers from Smithsonian – August 16th You’ll definitely say “no way!” when you read this new addition to our Smithsonian nonfiction line. But “way!” There really is a plant that smells like a corpse. And there’s some cool science going on when it comes to sweaty feet. Ditto for how geckos hang upside down (hint: sticky hairs). Not to mention all the cool facts and photos of human and animal camouflage, spies, trompe-l’oeil art, and other sneaky stuff you’ll find in this fascinating fact book.
ZOE IN WONDERLAND by Brenda Woods from Nancy Paulsen Books – August 16th Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brenda Woods introduces introverted, daydream-prone Zoe, who’s afraid her real life will never be as exciting as her imaginary one. Zoe Reindeer considers herself “just Zoe”—never measuring up to her too-perfect older sister or her smarty-pants little brother. Truthfully, though, she’d rather just blend in with the plants at the family business, Doc Reindeer’s Exotic Plant Wonderland. She does have one friend, Q, and he’s the best one ever—but he’s moving away, leaving Zoe to fend for herself, and she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him. That is until a tall astronomer from Madagascar comes to the nursery looking for a Baobab tree. His visit starts a ball rolling that makes Zoe long for real adventures, not just imaginary ones—and shows her that perhaps her first real adventure is finally beginning.
THORNGHOST by Tone Almhjell from Dial – August 16th Strange things are happening around Niklas Summerhill’s home. A green-eyed beast is killing animals in the woods, and the nightmares that have haunted Niklas since his mother died grow more terrifying with every night. When the beast turns out to be a troll brought to life from his own games, Niklas knows he has to stop it. With the help of his lynx companion, Secret, he finds the source of the magic: a portal to another world. But this realm, once the home of peaceful animals, is also in danger. The evil Sparrow King is hunting down the few survivors from a devastating war, and a dark, blood-thirsty plant is infecting the valley. Niklas must try to save both worlds. But first he has to uncover the truth about his mother’s last words: “I’m a Thornghost.”
SOLDIER SISTER, FLY HOME (upper MG) by Nancy Bo Flood from Charlesbridge – August 23rd Tess is having a hard enough time understanding what it means to be part white and part Navajo, but now she’s coping with her sister Gaby’s announcement that she’s going to enlist and fight in the Iraq war. Gaby’s decision comes just weeks after the news that Lori Piestewa, a member of their community, is the first Native American woman in US history to die in combat, adding to Tess’s stress and emotions. While Gaby is away, Tess reluctantly cares for her sister’s semi-wild stallion, Blue, who will teach Tess how to deal with tragic loss and guide her own journey of self-discovery.
Lori Piestewa was a real-life soldier who was killed in Iraq and was a member of the Hopi tribe. Back matter includes further information about Piestewa as well as a note by author Nancy Bo Flood detailing her experiences living on the Navajo reservation. A pronunciation guide to all Navajo vocabulary used within the text is also included.
THE RAT PRINCE by Bridget Hodder from Foster, Farrar, Straus and Giroux – August 23rd The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman on the night of the big ball. And he’s about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on his way to a most unexpected happy ending!
TALKING LEAVES by Joseph Bruchac from Dial – August 23rd From the acclaimed author of Code Talker, a compelling new work of historical fiction about Sequoyah and the creation of the Cherokee alphabet. Thirteen-year-old Uwohali has not seen his father, Sequoyah, for many years. So when Sequoyah returns to the village, Uwohali is eager to reconnect and learn from one of his people’s greatest craftsman. But Sequoyah’s new obsession with making strange markings causes friends and neighbors in their tribe to wonder whether he is crazy or worse—practicing witchcraft. What they don’t know, and what Uwohali discovers, is that the strange markings are actually symbols, an alphabet representing the sounds of the Tsalagi (or Cherokee) language.
MAXI’S SECRETS (OR WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM A DOG) by Lynn Plourde from Nancy Paulsen Books – August 23rd When a BIG, lovable, does-it-her-way dog wiggles her way into the heart of a loudmouth pipsqueak of a boy, wonderful things happen that help him become a bigger, better person. Timminy knows that moving to a new town just in time to start middle school when you are perfect bully bait is less than ideal. But he gets a great consolation prize in Maxi—a gentle giant of a dog who the family quickly discovers is deaf. Timminy is determined to do all he can to help Maxi—after all, his parents didn’t return him because he was a runt. But when the going gets rough for Timminy, who spends a little too much time getting shoved into lockers at school, Maxi ends up being the one to help him—along with their neighbor, Abby, who doesn’t let her blindness define her and bristles at Timminy’s “poor-me” attitude. It turns out there’s more to everyone than what’s on the surface, whether it comes to Abby, Maxi, or even Timminy himself.
I SURVIVED THE ERUPTION OF MOUNT ST. HELENS, 1980 by Lauren Tarshis from Scholastic – August 30th It was one the most beautiful mountains in America, Mount St. Helens, in Washington State. But what many didn’t know was that this peaceful mountain had an explosive past. For more than a century, it had been quiet. But below ground, pressure had been building, and soon, Kaboom!Mount St. Helens would erupt with terrifying fury. Eleven-year-old Jessie Marlowe knew the mountain well, and like many, she never imagined that this serene wilderness could turn deadly. But on May 10th, 1980, Jessie finds herself in the middle of the deadliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Trapped on the mountain, she must escape clouds of poisonous gas, boiling rivers, and landslides of rock, glacial ice, and white-hot debris.The newest book in the I Survived series will take readers into one of the most environmentally devastating events in recent U.S. history.
MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG by Augusta Scattergood from Scholastic – August 30th Azalea is not happy about being dropped off to look after Grandmother Clark. Even if she didn’t care that much about meeting the new sixth graders in her Texas hometown, those strangers seem much preferable to the ones in Paris Junction. Talk about troubled Willis DeLoach or gossipy Melinda Bowman. Who needs friends like these! And then there’s Billy Wong, a Chinese-American boy who shows up to help in her grandmother’s garden. Billy’s great-aunt and uncle own the Lucky Foods grocery store, where days are long and some folks aren’t friendly. For Azalea, whose family and experiences seem different from most everybody she knows, friendship has never been easy. Maybe this time, it will be.
Inspired by the true accounts of Chinese immigrants who lived in the American South during the civil rights era, these side by side stories–one in Azalea’s prose, the other in Billy’s poetic narrative–create a poignant novel and reminds us that friends can come to us in the most unexpected ways.
What books are you looking forward to reading this month?
Louise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd and In Todd We Trust (Penguin/Razorbill)