Category Archives: Book Lists

Indie Spotlight: Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena CA

Sue Cowing for Mixed-Up Files: It’s a pleasure to feature this month a bookstore that has served and been part of its community since 1894!  We’re speaking today with the store’s Promotional Director, Jennifer Ramos.
MUF: Vroman’s is a Pasadena landmark that has seen the city and the bookstore business through many ups and downs over the years—120 years and counting– and continues to thrive.  What’s your secret?vroman's front #2
Jennifer: There are so many factors that contribute to our longevity. We have a spectacular mix of book and gift items that is ever changing from the moment we opened; our booksellers are friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful; and a strong event series.

MUF: Describe the “feel” of Vroman’s today?  What do you hope people, especially young people will experience when they visit?
Jennifer: Vroman’s has a great feel to it. Welcoming, comfortable, a place where you may run into someone you know. With our events and mix of books and gift items, you never know what fun item you might find.

MUF: So glad to see you have a book club especially for middle-graders! Vroman's Counting What will The Tribe of Endless Readers be reading and discussing vrioman's 3Xnext?
Jennifer: their August pick is Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and for September it will be Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

MUF: Tomorrow is your Harry Potter release party.  What’s planned?  Any other events coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?Jennifer: Our Harry Potter party will be taking place at Nucleus Gallery in Alhambra.Vroman's HP
They will have a Harry Potter art show up, we will be hosting a costume contest, crafts, a photo booth and then we will be handing out the new release at midnight! Tickets were available to those who pre-ordered the book from Vroman’s.
This coming August we have a few events that would be fun for middle-graders. On August 9th we are hosting a Krafttime with Kelly, on the 11th we will be having a storytelling event out under the stars, and that following Saturday we will be hosting a Caped Crusaders event. This event is a continuation of our Summer Reading Club.

MUF: One of the best things about independent bookstore collections is that they’re curated by people who know, love, and read books and can carry what they think best.  How do you go about choosing titles for Vroman’s?Vroman's MG shelf
Jennifer: We have book buyers who are in charge of picking the books we carry for our store. They work with our publisher representatives and watch for trends when picking what we are carrying. They also listen to our booksellers and look to our customers choices for additional help.

MUF: As middle grade authors, we’d love to know what titles, new or old, fiction or nonfiction, you find yourselves recommending to ages eight to twelve these days? (This question answered by Children’s Department manager, Ashlee Null).Vroman's CircusVroman's Copernicus
Ashlee: Fiction: Circus Mirandus by Vroman's One & OnlyCassie Beasly, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Copernicus Legacy by Tony Abbott, Wonder by R J Palacio, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Guts & GloryNon Fiction: Guinea Pig Scientists by Mel BoringVrman's Guinea8 and the Guts and Glory series by Ben Thompson (each one a different topic Vikings, World War 2, Civil War, etc)
These are common ones but it usually depends on the kid. Sometimes I pick things I’ve never read but know what its about enough to know they’d probably enjoy it.

MUF: If a family came from out of town to visit Vroman’s, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a snack or a meal after shopping?  And if they could stay awhile, are there some unique sights or activities nearby they shouldn’t miss?
Jennifer: We have a few really great restaurants surrounding our store that would be good to stop into, including Tender Greens and Blaze Pizza. For unique sights or activities I’d suggest Kidspace and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

MUF:  Thanks Jennifer and Ashlee, for telling more about your store.  Readers, have you visited Vroman’s?  If so, please comment here.  If not, be sure to stop by the next time you’re in the area!

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carllrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012).

Vromans front #1

Cool Treats: Books and Ice Cream

Are you feeling the heat? As temperatures soar, thoughts turn to ways to chill. Fans, air-conditioners, swimming pools all help, but nothing hits the spot like ice cream. And you’re in luck, because July is National Ice Cream Month. What better way to celebrate than with some books and ice cream recipes to help you cool off.

Here’s a fun list of books featuring ice cream. And this post wouldn’t be complete without a recipe combining everyone’s favorite cold treats—lemonade and ice cream. You’ll also find some links to other delicious ice cream treats, like this mouth-watering recipe: Disney’s Olaf (Frozen) Sundae.

snickerWith a triple-decker ice cream cone on the cover, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd makes a perfect start for cooling off. Ice cream is also important to the story as twelve-year-old Felicity tries to break a spell that’s been cast over the town of Midnight Gulch and to heal her mother’s broken heart.”

RansomAnother book with ice cream on the cover is Seeing Blue Sky Pink by Candice Ransom. This sweet treat is about eight-year-old Maddie. Many things make Maddie nervous, including moving to the Virginia countryside and her mom’s new husband, Sam. As Maddie learns to face her fears, she sees things she never believed could be real.

Turn of Tide2nd fiddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Characters in The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry spend an afternoon at the Custard King in Astoria drinking milkshakes for lunch. Parry also has another ice-cream related book, Second Fiddle, in which a group of middle grade musicians meet in a gelato shop in Berlin, where they plot to run away to Paris together. Seeing these two titles led me to suspect the author loves ice cream, and sure enough, when I asked her, she admitted it was her downfall. Her favorite flavors include fresh peaches and blueberries and raspberries, so I bet she’d love this recipe for Ice Cream Sundaes in Grilled Peach Cups.

Stick DogWant a bit of humor with your ice cream? Tom Watson has the perfect recipe –  Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream. Stick Dog and his friends “battle a water-attacking machine, discover rainbow puddles, and chase the strangest, loudest truck they’ve ever seen. But there’s a looming threat to their mission – Stick Dog gets spotted by a human. And the police are on his tail. If he’s captured, Stick Dog may never see his friends again. If he escapes, it’s ice cream for everyone.”

harry'sIf you prefer a more serious novel, try See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles. No one in the family pays attention to twelve-year-old Fern, whose parents run a restaurant and ice cream parlor called Harry’s. Fern’s friend convinces her that “all will be well.” Then tragedy strikes. and Fern blames herself for the accident that wrenches her family apart.

While you’re curled up reading these wonderful books that feature ice cream, why not enjoy this delicious recipe?

Lemonade Ice Cream

3 c. whole milk                                     1 tsp. lemon extract

6 egg yolks                                              zest of 3 lemons

2/3 c. granulated sugar                        2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/3 c. undiluted frozen lemonade concentrate

Heat milk to a boil in a heavy pan. Cover and remove from heat. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until light and thick. Slow pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Turn the mixture into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. Do not allow it to come to a boil or it will curdle. Add in lemon extract, zest, and juice. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it, loosely covered with plastic wrap until chilled (at least 3 hours). Freeze in the mixture in an ice cream maker. Once it starts to thicken, add the lemonade concentrate and continue mixing until set up. Place in freezer to set further.

Yield: 1 QT.

And as a final treat, why not read The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.

Lemonade

When fourth-grader Evan Treski and his sister Jessie open rival lemonade stands, who will win the war?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A former teacher and librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is the author of more than 2300 articles and 30 books in print or forthcoming under several pen names. As Erin Johnson, she writes the WANTED series, set in the Wild West. Reviewers called her heroine, Grace, the “Katniss of the Wild West.” Visit Laurie at www.lauriejedwards.com.

Picture Books and the Middle-Grade Reader

Think of picture books and often we envision a toddler on a parent’s lap, listening and pointing. Or a pack of preschoolers sitting criss-cross applesauce on a colorful rug, heads tipped up to see the pictures while their teacher reads aloud. Or maybe a first grader, sitting alone with a book, intently studying the words in a picture book, their eyes darting from picture to text and back again, making connections and feeling their confidence swell.

Oh, there’s usually no debate surrounding the place of picture books in the lives of the youngest readers and prereaders. But something often happens around second grade, somewhere around the time chapter books are mastered, and the role of the picture book is diminished, if not eliminated.

By the time readers reach the middle grades, picture books are often nonexistent or scoffed at. “You’re too old for that book,” I heard a parent tell a fifth or sixth grader at a bookstore. “You can read harder books than that.”

And, yes, I’m sure that young reader was perfectly capable of tackling longer texts, but picture books have so much to offer readers of all ages. Let’s take a look at some new picture books that middle-grade readers could not only enjoy, but that could spark a deeper level of learning and understanding.

pb older reader

Picture Book Biographies Picture book biographies are everywhere and can serve as an excellent visual and literary introduction to someone middle-graders may never encounter anywhere else..

pb william hoy story

The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya, Albert Whitman, 2016.

pb to the stars

To the Stars!: The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella Van Vleet and Kathryn D. Sullivan, Illustrated by Nicole Wong, Charlesbridge, 2016.

Picture Books to Address Social Issues  Civil and human rights issues such as homelessness, poverty, equal opportunities, or segregation can be difficult for the middle-grader to grasp, and yet these problems exist in their communities, families, and in the ever-present media. Often a picture book can open the door to discuss more complex topics at an appropriate level.

pb separate never equal

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, Abrams, 2014.

pb marvelous cornelius

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, Illustrated by John Parra, Chronicle, 2015.

Picture Book Origin Stories Older readers love to ask deep questions: Like where did doughnuts come from? and Who invented the super-soaker, and Why? Origin stories can inspire young inventors to dig deeper into science and become problem-solvers themselves.

pb Hole Story of Donut

The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller, Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

pb whoosh

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Don Tate, Charlesbridge, 2016.

Picture Books for Content Areas  Math class is probably the least likely place you’ll find middle-graders reading picture books, but there are some great reasons to put picture books into the hands of young mathematicians. And scientists. And paleontologists. And astrophysicists.

pb boy-who-loved-math

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham,  Roaring Brook, 2013.

pb blockhead

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese, Illustrated by John O’Brien, Henry Holt, 2010.

Picture Books to Address Environmental Issues Upper elementary and middle schoolers hear phrases such as “global warming” and “our carbon footprint,” but explaining just exactly what these mean can be challenging. It’s likely they are already a part of a “reduce, reuse, and recycle” initiative, at school or at home. Picture books can help them understand how they might do more.

pb One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul1

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, Millbrook, 2015.

Picture Books as Art Study The youngest readers look at the pictures in a picture book. Older readers can study them. They can understand how illustration contributes to the story-telling, how a picture book is a visual experience as well as a literary one. Older students can discuss how the artist’s choice of style, media, and color palette create mood and pace. This can be done with every picture book, any picture, all picture books, fiction or non. But, I’ll leave you with one that makes me smile, and I think any middle-grader would smile after reading it, too.

pb maybe something beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, Illustrated by Rafael López, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. Her first picture book, When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike (Ohio University Press, September 2016) is the biography of Emma Gatewood, the first women to walk the Appalachian Trail alone in one continuous hike.