Hello Mixed-Up File readers! It’s the month of February, and a sweet time to snag a new middle-grade book! Not only do we have great selections, but we’re starting off our list with our own Bobbie Pyron‘s novel, A DOG’S WAY HOME, which Newbery Award winner, Patricia McLaughlan, describes as “Beautifully written, this is an important story that speaks to the special kinship between child and dog.” Congratulations on your book release, Bobbie!
Mixed Up File Author New Releases
♦ A DOG’S WAY HOME (Katherine Tegen) – Bobbie Pyron. Abby knows that Tam, her Shetland sheepdog, is her “north star”. But when an accident separates them, it feels as though all the stars have fallen out of the sky and nothing will ever be right again. Will Abby and Tam ever find their way home to each other?
More February Releases
♦ CLOSE TO FAMOUS (Viking) – Joan Bauer. Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard’s goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster’s mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants and put their big ambitions to the test. Full of humor, unforgettable characters, surprises, and lots and lots of heart, this is Joan Bauer at her most engaging.
♦ FOUR SEASONS (Knopf) – Jane Breskin Zalben. Allegra Katz has been playing piano since she was four. But these aren’t just any piano lessons. She studies at the Julliard School in New York, where careers are being formed—or not. Between strict practice schedules, music classes, and regular school, Ally doesn’t have time for much else. Sometimes she wishes she could break free, but she’s never known any other way. Her parents—a professional violinist and a singer—would kill her if they knew she was thinking about quitting piano, especially her mother. So she keeps on going, but as the months go by, she begins to ask herself, does she even love the piano? Why does she play? And how much longer can she stand the pressure before she breaks?
♦ HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY (Balzer + Brau) – Crystal Allen. Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker’s Bowling Paradise, but he always strikes out with girls. And his brother, Xavier the Basketball Savior, is no help. Then bad boy Billy Jenks convinces Lamar that hustling at the alley will help him win his dream girl and impress celebrity bowler Bubba Sanders. But when Billy’s scheme goes awry, Lamar ends up ruining his brother’s shot at college and every relationship in his life. Can Lamar figure out how to mend his broken ties, no matter what the cost?
♦ INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN (HarperCollins) – Thanhha Lai. After her father has been missing in action for nine years during the Vietnam War, 10-year-old Hà flees with her mother and three older brothers. The family eventually makes it to Alabama, where Hà finds refuge but also cruel rejection, especially from mean classmates. Based on Lai’s personal experience, this first novel in free-verse captures a child-refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Starred review from Booklist.
♦ TALL STORY (David Fickling) – Candy Gourlay. Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs. Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact—plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth.
♦ THE FOURTH STALL (Walden Pond Press) – Chris Rylander. Do you need something? If you pay him, Mac can get it for you. It’s what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Mac’s office is located in the East Wing boys’ bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming. Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it’s going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that’s just the beginning.
♦ WHAT’S BUGGING BAILEY BLECKER? (Dutton) – Gail Donovan. For fifth-grader Bailey Blecker, a classwide case of head lice is the worst thing that could happen. She’s been growing her hair to donate, and she’s determined not to cut it until it’s long and lice free enough to be useful. But lice are only the beginning of Bailey’s troubles, and in this classroom comedy, the solution is full of twists and tangles.
Mystery and Adventure
♦ ANIMAL RESCUE TEAM: SHOW TIME (Knopf) – Sue Stauffacher. The squirrels at Mt. Mercy College are getting too friendly—they’re frightening the students, making the nuns jumpy . . . and they’re super messy. It’s time to call the Animal Rescue Team! Meanwhile, Keisha’s got a problem of her own. The Grand River Steppers jump rope team has a chance to win first place in their school district this year, but Keisha’s so nervous, she keeps messing up! When she and Daddy go to the Veteran’s Facility to check out their squirrel situation, Keisha meets Sergeant Pinkham, who’s learning how to use his new prosthetic leg. Could Sarge be just the person to help Keisha stay calm, do well, and have fun at the competition? Part of the Animal Rescue Team series.
♦ NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT (Dial) – Gennifer Choldenko. Three siblings – India, Finn, and Mouse – have less than forty-eight hours to pack up all their belongings and fly, without Mom, to their uncle Red’s in Colorado, after they lose their house to foreclosure. But when they land, a mysterious driver meets them at the airport, and he’s never heard of Uncle Red. Like Dorothy in Oz, they find themselves in a place they’ve never heard of, with no idea of how to get home, and time is running out.
♦ TAKE ME TO THE RIVER (HarperCollins) – Will Hobbs. Fourteen-year-old Dylan Sands has come all the way from North Carolina to the Texas/Mexico border, to paddle the fabled Rio Grande with his cousin, Rio. As the two are packing their boats, six Black Hawk helicopters appear overhead and race across the river into Mexico. The army won’t tell the boys why, but they do issue a weather advisory: A hurricane is approaching the Gulf of Mexico. But Dylan and Rio have their hearts set on their trip and can’t give it up. Together, they venture into the most rugged and remote reaches of the U.S./Mexico border, when they meet a man named Carlos, who has with him, a seven-year-old boy. A storm is brewing as Carlos begs for help and the boy is trembling with fear.
♦ THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE: BOOK II: THE HIDDEN GALLERY (Balzer + Bray) – Maryrose Wood. Book two in the series. The incorrigible children – Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia – are back. After ruining Lady Constance’s Christmas ball and nearly destroying the grand house, the children take up residence in London. Penelope the governess is thrilled, but as they explore London, they discover more about themselves as clues about the children’s—and Penelope’s—mysterious past crop up in the most unexpected ways.
♦ THE SECRET ZOO: SECRETS AND SHADOWS (Greenwillow) – Bryan Chick. Only weeks after their return from the Secret Zoo, Noah and his friends must go back—and face their biggest challenge yet. With monstrous sasquatches freely attacking the denizens of the zoo and the evil Shadowist at large, the fate of the world is at stake. As “Crossers,” Noah, Megan, Richie, and Ella would help protect the zoo from these dangers. But do they have what it takes to complete their training? And what other secrets are hiding in the shadows? Part of the Secret Zoo series.
♦ WE ARE NOT EATEN BY YAKS: AN ACCIDENTAL ADVENTURE (Philomel) – C. Alexander London. Eleven-year-old twins Oliver and Celia Navel do not like adventures—unfortunately for them, they live on the 4-1/2th floor of the Explorers Club with their parents who are world-famous adventurers and daredevils. Even worse, their mother has gone missing, and their father has bet the evil Sir Edmund S. Tithletorpe-Schmidt III that he’ll find her and make one of the greatest discoveries in history. And the stakes of his bet? Oliver and Celia will be his servants until they graduate from high school. So, the twins must give up their summer of television and head to Tibet where they fall out of airplanes, battle Yetis, discover secret caves, fly over waterfalls, and ride one very large yak. If they can survive their ordeal, decipher the clues, and outwit Sir Edmund, they might just reunite their family, save the world and get cable television.
♦ WING DING (THE SUPER SLUGGERS) (HarperCollins) – Kevin Markey. After winning the pennant last year, the Rounders can’t wait to host the midseason All-Star Game! But shortstop Stump Plumwhiff’s got a mean case of the yips. Balls used to disappear into Stump’s glove as if he were a one-man Bermuda Triangle, but now he’s jumpier than the grasshoppers infesting Rambletown Field. The Rounders need a way to rid Stump of the yips and their home field of insects—before the hated Haymakers hijack the All-Star Game.
♦ AMOS DARAGON #1: THE MASK WEARER (Delacorte) – Bryan Perro. Amos Daragon’s life changes forever the day a mermaid gives him a mask capable of harnessing the strength of the wind—and appoints Amos as the new Mask Wearer. His task: to find the masks for the other elements, earth, fire, and water. Only then will Amos be fully empowered to battle the evil forces that threaten to destroy the balance of nature and plunge the world into darkness. Translated from Canadian-French.♦ BONGO FISHING (Henry Holt) – Thacher Hurd. Jason has a pretty normal life: he lives with his mom, he goes to school, he does his homework. But when he meets a short, bluish alien named Sam, his life begins to seem much less normal and a lot more…well, alien. Sam takes Jason bongo fishing in space, and a whole new world opens up. But when Jason’s cat, Sputnik, disappears, things start to get a little weird. Interstellar travel isn’t just fun and games, after all! Is the evil Dr. Zimburger involved? Or are there even more sinister forces at work?
♦ PANDORA GETS ANGRY (Bloomsbury) – Carolyn Hennesy. Pandora and her friends are off to Persia to track the fifth evil: Rage. They have camels to help them cross the desert, but mysterious sandstorms and frightening strangers keep them from moving quickly. Luckily, help arrives in the form of a cute Persian boy who helps Pandy and her friends search for Persia’s secret Garden of the Jin. In the garden, where genies hide their treasure, there is a lamp that was once used to imprison an angry genie. So Pandy & Co. just have to figure out how to capture one of the most enraged genies of all time. Easy, right? The magic of genies offers a thrilling twist in the fifth installment of this mythology-inspired series.
♦ SEEKDERS #6: SPIRITS IN THE STARS (HarperCollins) – Erin Hunter. United once again, Toklo, Lusa, Kallik, and Ujurak continue across the ice. Conditions are harsh and especially treacherous for the black bear and grizzly bears who are not used to the brutal cold, never-ending snow, and limited food. But the bears are certain now that they’re on the right course, and with the stars still guiding them, they push forward. When they reach land at last, something is not right. The bears who live here are ill. What can the foursome do to help? Is aiding these strangers the ultimate goal of their quest? Ujurak just might hold the key to their mission in his paws, yet it’s Lusa the new bears are especially interested in. Three young cubs, each from different backgrounds, and their mysterious shape-shifting companion have grown up together in their long and dangerous journey to save the wild. Now, when their task appears more difficult than ever, the bears must make a critical decision . . . and for one bear the path ends here.
♦ A TRUE PRINCESS (HarperCollins) – Diane Zahler. Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. She daydreams, breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful. Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. She decides to flee with her best friend, Kai, and his sister, Karina, and heads north to find the family she’s never known. But danger awaits. . . . to Lilia’s horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf King’s beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince’s new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever.
♦ AMELIA LOST: THE LIFE AND DISAPPEARANCE OF AMELIA EARHART (Schwartz & Wade) – Candace Fleming. From the acclaimed author of The Great and Only Barnum—as well as The Lincolns, Our Eleanor, and Ben Franklin’s Almanac—comes the thrilling story of America’s most celebrated flyer, Amelia Earhart. In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia’s life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.
♦ FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP: THE TRIANGLE FIRE AND ITS LEGACY (Knopf) – Al Marrin. On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames. One hundred forty-six people—mostly women—perished, making it the most lethal workplace fire in American history until September 11, 2001. Behind the story of the fire, is the story of immigration and hard work, of poor working conditions and greedy bosses, and unimaginable, but avoidable, disaster. It is also the story fearless immigrants and women who stood up to business, got America on their side, and finally changed working conditions for our entire nation.
♦ GOLD! GOLD FROM THE AMERICAN RIVER!: JANUARY 24, 1848: THE DAY THE GOLD RUSH BEGAN (Flashpoint) – Don Brown. With easygoing prose and revealing quotes from forty-niners and historians alike, Brown recounts how easterners made their way to California, and once there, how they spent what little money they had on outrageously priced supplies and toiled under harsh conditions to strike it rich. Brown also shines light on the roles of the few women present and the plight of the California Indians.