Starman – A Space-Themed Middle Grade Book List

Starman A Space-Themed Middle Grade Book List | http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.comOn February 6, Elon Musk and his SpaceX team had hundreds of thousands of people looking up at the stars again (or at least looking at the live stream) as he successfully launched his Falcon Heavy rocket on its maiden voyage. To add a little pizazz to the whole event, he sent his cherry red roadster and a mannequin dressed in a space suit on a little cruise – through space.

Musk’s event generated interest and excitement across the globe. (It also generated some healthy debate). The best parts of the historic launch reminded me of the excitement and wonder surrounding past space missions and our hopes for future exploration. Of course, all if it got me thinking about books and the people who write the stories that help us all imagine life beyond our little planet. So, I put together a list of books to help inspire the Starkid in your life.

The Countdown Conspiracy by Kate Slivensky

Starman - A Space-Themed Middle Grade Book List |The Countdown Consipiracy | http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com

Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Holy Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy by Gareth Wronski

Starman: A Space-themed Book List |Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy |http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.comGuardians of the Galaxy meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this laugh-out-loud funny debut novel about a girl’s journey into space and beyond to find her place in the universe.

Holly Farb is not the Princess of the Galaxy. She may be top of the class in every subject, but she can’t even win a school election, never mind rule the Milky Way. The aliens who kidnapped her have gotten it all wrong.

Unfortunately Holly’s alien pirate kidnappers believe that she’s the princess they’ve been looking for, and so she finds herself hurtling through space on an alien pirate ship together with her teacher, Mr. Mendez, and Chester, the most annoying boy in her class. Now all she has to do is escape the pirates, find the missing princess, and get back to Earth in time for her big test on Friday.

But it turns out that space is a pretty big place, and before they can go home, Holly, Chester, and Mr. Mendez must face down space cruise liners, bounty hunters, giant worms, perky holograms, cosmic board games, sinister insectoid librarians, and a robot who is learning how to lie.

Between running from space pirates, defying the President of the Universe, and meeting a host of rather unusual new friends, Holly starts to wonder if there might be more to life than being top of the class after all.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Starman - A Space-Themed Middle Grade Book List | See You In the Cosmos | http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.

Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Lucy Knisley

Starman - A Space-Themed Middle Grade Book List | Margaret and the Moon | http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/

A true story from one of the Women of NASA!

Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world.

Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8. Apollo 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed.

Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley deliver a lovely portrayal of a pioneer in her field who never stopped reaching for the stars.

Beep and Bob by Jonathan Roth

Starman: A Space-Themed Book List |Beep and Bob | http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com

Astro Elementary is a school near Saturn attended by the bravest, brightest, most elite kids in the galaxy…and Bob. Bob never wanted to go to fourth grade in dark, dangerous space. He even tried to fail the admissions test by bubbling in “C” for every answer—and turned out to be the only kid on Earth to get a perfect score!

Bob feels he couldn’t be more misplaced at his school—until he meets Beep. Beep is an alien from the planet Orth who was kicked off his home world for being too small. The instant Bob finds him, Beep adopts Bob as his new mother. Soon Bob can’t turn around without bumping into Beep’s squishy little body. Together, they make the perfect team. And Bob logs their adventures on his space blog, or SPLOG, with Beep providing the illustrations.

In their first adventure, Bob is humiliated on a field trip to Pluto when his tongue gets stuck to the ice. Not even Beep can keep Bob from becoming the laughing stock of the school. Bob has to find a way to completely change his personality, just in time for their next treacherous field trip—to the gaping mouth of a super massive black hole.

I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Starman: A Space-Themed Middle Grade Book List | I Love You Michael Collins | http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com

It’s 1969 and the country is gearing up for what looks to be the most exciting moment in U.S. history: men landing on the moon. Ten-year-old Mamie’s class is given an assignment to write letters to the astronauts. All the girls write to Neil Armstrong (“So cute!”) and all the boys write to Buzz Aldrin (“So cool!”). Only Mamie writes to Michael Collins, the astronaut who will come so close but never achieve everyone else’s dream of walking on the moon, because he is the one who must stay with the ship. After school ends, Mamie keeps writing to Michael Collins, taking comfort in telling someone about what’s going on with her family as, one by one, they leave the house thinking that someone else is taking care of her―until she is all alone except for her cat and her best friend, Buster. And as the date of the launch nears, Mamie can’t help but wonder: Does no one stay with the ship anymore? With I LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS, Lauren Baratz-Logsted has created a heartwarming story about family and being true to yourself.

Do you have a favorite space book that didn’t make my list? Or one that’s coming out soon that I should keep an eye out for? Let me know in the comments section below. Happy reading!

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Patricia Bailey
Patricia Bailey is the author of the middle-grade historical novel The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan. She blogs here and at her website www.patriciabaileyauthor.com.

Juvenile Edgar Nominees

The Mystery Writers of America have announced nominees for The Edgar Allan Poe Awards 2018, which honors the best mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film and theater published or produced in 2017. This year’s nominees for Best Juvenile Mystery include:

Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson. (Scholastic Press)

Audacity Jones and her best friend, Bimmy, are setting off from Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls on an extraordinary adventure! In the glittering city of New York, the girls meet Harry Houdini, the world’s most famous magician, as he prepares a new spectacle: Houdini plans to make an elephant disappear from a crowded theater.

But Audacity and Bimmy discover a nefarious plot that puts Houdini’s illusion in jeopardy. Who could be trying to sabotage the master magician? Audie will need all her smarts, the help of friends new and old, and even her best juggling skills to solve this mystery. Will she manage to save the show in time?

Vanished! by James Ponti (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)

Florian Bates—the only kid on the FBI Director’s speed dial and several international criminals’ most wanted lists—must uncover the truth behind a series of middle school pranks that may or may not involve the daughter of the President of the United States in this hilarious second novel in the T.O.A.S.T. Mystery series.

Middle school is hard. Solving cases for the FBI is even harder. Doing both at the same time—well that’s just crazy. But that doesn’t stop Florian Bates!

After helping the FBI solve an art theft at the National Gallery and uncovering a DC spy ring, Florian’s finding life at Alice Deal Middle School a little boring. But that’s all about to change! His FBI handler, Marcus, has a job for him! Is it a bank robbery? Counterfeit ring? International espionage? Actually it’s middle school pranks…

The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)

Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this third novel of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series.

Wherever Christopher Rowe goes, adventure—and murder—follows. Even a chance to meet King Charles ends in a brush with an assassin.

All that’s recovered from the killer is a coded message with an ominous sign-off: more attempts are coming. So when Christopher’s code-breaking discovers the attack’s true target, he and his friends are ordered to Paris to investigate a centuries-old curse on the French throne. And when they learn an ancient treasure is promised to any assassin who succeeds, they realize the entire royal family is at stake—as well as their own lives.

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens (Simon & Schuster – BFYR)

A murdered heiress, a missing necklace, and a train full of shifty, unusual, and suspicious characters leaves Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in this third novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.

Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells are taking a vacation across Europe on world-famous passenger train, the Orient Express—and it’s clear that each of their fellow first-class travelers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: There’s rumor of a spy in their midst.

Then, during dinner, a bloodcurdling scream comes from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered—her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer has vanished, as if into thin air.

Newsprints by Ru Xu (Scholastic – Graphix)

Blue is an orphan who disguises herself as a newsboy. There’s a war going on, and girls are expected to help the struggling economy by selling cookies. But Blue loves living and working at the Bugle, the only paper in town that tells the truth. And what’s printed in the newspapers now matters more than ever.

But Blue struggles with her secret, and worries that if her friends and adopted family at the Bugle find out that she’s a girl, she’ll lose everything and everyone she cares about. And when she meets and befriends Crow, a boy who is also not what he seems, together they seek the freedom to be their true selves… and to save each other.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Which one do YOU think will win?

Visit http://theedgars.com/nominees.html to see nominees in other categories, including Young Adult.

The winners in these, and all the other categories, will be announced at a formal banquet on April 26, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City and at www.mysterywriters.org/awards.html.

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Dori Butler
Dori Hillestad Butler is an award-winning author of more than 50 books for young readers, including the Haunted Library series, the Buddy Files series, and the King & Kayla series. Her Buddy Files #1: Case of the Lost Boy won a 2011 Edgar Award and her books have appeared on numerous children’s choice and teen award lists. Dori grew up in southern Minnesota, spent 19 years in Iowa, and now lives in the Seattle area. She enjoys visiting schools and libraries all over the country and dreams of doing an author visit in all 50 states.

STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Science — Writing Craft and Resources

Wild and Wacky (and Weird) Science

Wild & wacky science is all around us. One of the best examples I’ve ever personally encountered is the Titan arum, or corpse flower, that went full bloom last summer at the university where I work. Beautiful in its perfect weirdness. And, if you’ve never had the pleasure of a blooming corpse flower experience, its smell is just as wonderfully horrific as the name suggests. Think one hundred dead mice in a 90°F humidity chamber and you’re getting really close…

Sometimes in the STEM world, great discoveries are made through observations that, at first glance, are considered “wild” and/or “wacky”. And for argument’s sake, I’m going to add “weird” as the third “W”. Science is basically built on things which appear odd at first glance. Imagine the first person who ever looked at the four-legged ruminant chewing cud in the meadow next to the village and said, “Hey, I bet whatever’s inside that hangy-down, bag thing would go great with my PB&J sandwich.”

The wild, weird and wacky often leads to open doors in both thought and discovery. One notices a little thing like how annoying it is to pick the cockleburrs off the dog after every single trip to the field. And while struggling to pull the little !@#$s out of the dog’s fur as she sits so, so patiently, you notice the weird design details of the burr. The hooked barbs jutting out at the perfect angles to cover the maximum surface area. You notice how those hooks grab and hold tight. You also notice that for the umpteenth time today your preschool-aged offspring asks you to tie his or her shoes. BINGO! The observation of the weird natural design of the burr serves as a template for the invention of something awesome like Velcro; one of the greatest and most practical inventions of the 20th-century.

Odd triggers inquiry in our brain. We, as humans, are innately curious. We see something wild, weird, and/or wacky and, after our initial shock, begin to ask, “Why?”. “Why?” is the switch which fires the STEM mind. Once switched on, these STEM neural connections in the brain process the input observations and begin formulating the next question, “How?”.

The wild, the wacky, and the weird can lead to the WONDERFUL. Answering the “why” and the “how” questions unlocks the door to discovery. And this is the same in the laboratory as it is in the classroom, the library, or in the writing bunker. Wild and wacky things we observe in our universe spark inquiry. Inquiry leads to discovery. Discovery leads to more discovery and more creativity

An interest in certain wild and wacky and wonderful aspects of our universe also lends itself to social connection. People with like interests can bond over these seemingly off-the-wall interests.   

What halfway reputable STEM wild & wacky science blog post would omit a list of random wild and wacky science facts? Not this halfway reputable STEM blogger! So, for your STEM entertainment, here’s an eye-opening list of wild, wacky, weird, and wonderful science facts.

  • The human brain processes around 11 million bits of information every second but is aware of only 40.
  • 42 minutes and 12 seconds? That’s how long it would take to jump to the other side of the earth through a hole drilled straight through the center of our wonderful planet.
  • A light particle, called a photon takes only 8 minutes to travel from the Sun’s surface to Earth.
  • But it takes 40,000 years for that same light particle to travel from its origins in the Sun’s core to its surface.
  • A mid-sized, run-of-the-mill cumulus cloud weighs as much as 80 elephants.
  • A single bolt of lightning contains enough energy to cook 100,000 pieces of toast.
  • After removing all the empty spaces in all the atoms in every person on Planet Earth, the entire human race would fit into an apple.
  • Over the course of an average human lifespan, the skin completely replaces itself 900 times.
  • The air in an average-sized room weighs about 100 pounds.
  • In 20 seconds, a red blood cell can make a complete circuit through the body.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex lived closer in time to us than to Stegosaurus.

Dear student, teacher, writer, and/or librarian readers, your STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Mission for the week is to observe and record something odd in your everyday world. Be it animal, vegetable, mineral, or mechanical, write it down and then think about it.

  • The size.
  • The shape.
  • The function or niche.

Whatever you see, document it. Use the information to formulate the “why” and then the “how” questions. Finally, let your imagination and logic run loose in the spirit of discovery and invention to formulate an alternate use, function, or future for your odd observation. Repeat daily for one week to find out how much fun, and how functional, the wild, the wacky, and the weird science in your world can be.

I bet it’s wonderful!

Have a wild and wacky month!


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

My biggest question for this month was whether we even need the O.O.L.F. files in the month of Wild and Wacky Science since The O.O.L.F. File section is basically wild, wacky, and weird by design. After much deep thought and soul-searching, the issue was decided. Of course, we need an O.O.L.F. Files! One can never have too much wild, wacky, and weird STEM information, am I right?

  • Titan arum, the corpse flower, blooms!
  • Mitochondria run hot!
    • Our cellular power plants can operate at what temp? Is that even possible? I honestly can’t feel a thing in any of my 37 trillion cells. Can you?
  • What Baby Poop Says About Brain Development.
    • Can the composition of an infant’s intestinal microbiota have an effect on future cognitive abilities? 
  • A Virus With Black Widow DNA
    •  In order to find a new host Wolbachia bacterial cell, the WO bacteriophage must punch its way back into another insect cell and another Wolbachia. Viruses are masters of escape and infiltration, but WO can uniquely get through two sets of barriers—one bacterial, and one animal—by using genes picked up from the black widow venom’s toxin.  Think that’s freaky? So do I!
  • Keeping Cool With Drool
    • By drooling and then slurping up the drop of saliva, a blowfly keeps a cool head despite not having the ability to sweat. (This makes my inner middle school boy smile with joy.)

Mike Hays, O.O.L.F. Master


STEM Tuesday
STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!