Category Archives: Book Lists

Indie Spotlight: Second Star to the Right Children’s Books, Denver CO

second-star-ooks-logoHooray! A new and thriving all-children’s bookstore!  This month we’re talking with Dea Lavoie, Co-owner of Second Star to the Right Children’s Books in Denver.

MUF: We’re excited about your new store, a true children’s bookstore that includes both new and used books. What inspired you to set up shop, and how’s it going so far?second-star-front
Dea: Opening the bookstore has been a dream for a long time. I could see myself as the Meg Ryan character in the movie You’ve Got Mail! My husband and I had been teachers for around 12 years, and I knew I wanted to continue working with children. Children’s literature is amazing, and I wanted to share my love of it, and help children discover their love of it as well. It has been such a learning experience and we have been so grateful that people have embraced and encouraged us along the way. We just had our best month ever and keep continuing to grow!second-star-interior

MUF: In a small store like this, you must have room only for good books. How do you choose the titles you carry, both new and used?
Dea: Choosing the books for the shop is truly a joy. We make sure that we have the beloved favorites from way back, along with the most current titles. Fortunately we get to look at samples of new books before each order to help decide which ones we think our customers would love the most. Then you just have to decide which ones tug on your heart strings the most, or envision if you think a specific customer might enjoy the book. It ‘s a little tricky sometimes, but your intuition kicks in a lot.second-star-lilysecond-star-bfg

 MUF: As middle grade authors, we’re curious to know some titles– new and old, fiction and nonfiction– you find yourself recommending to readers ages 8-12 these days?
Dea: When I taught third grade, my students always seemed to love the Roald Dahl books, especially The BFG. The humor in the book really engaged the kids. So I do recommend those. secon-star-raymiesecond-star-wrinkleThe One and Only Ivan by Kathrine Applegate is such a poignant book about animals and friendship my students really enjoyed, and one I recommend.  Also, A Wrinkle in Time is an amazingly imaginative book that kids now appreciate as much as many years ago when it was written. Some of the newer books I recommend are Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, whom I adore, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart that tackles transgender and bipolar issues in a beautiful story, and The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill,second-star-girl-who-drank a magical middle grade fairy tale about a young girl with emerging magical powers that result from drinking moonlight.

MUF: Bug parties, dog adoptions, math tutoring, yoga lessons—tell us about some of the activities going on at Second Star on the Right. Any author visits or other events coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?second-star-banned-books
Dea: Our many events and activities keep us on our toes! We have such a creative staff that includes teachers, actors, and artists. Everyone is always thinking of something new to try. We do monthly read to a dog, read with a local police officer, local dentist, storytime in Spanish or French, Baby Storytime, Parent book clubs, and birthday parties! We also have a middle grader advisory group that get to read books before they’re released. They give us opinions on what they like which books they think will sell. (They also get to keep some of the books!) We’re always looking for new members.
We frequently have author appearances. Upcoming October events include a Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcake Party at 4:00 on the 9th and  Kathleen Pelley and her new book Happy Mamas on October 15th, when we will have a Spanish translator present to translate the book into Spanish. Author Stan Yan who second-star-zombiewrote There’s a Zombie in the Basement is coming on the 16th. We also have a Pumpkin Party on the 21st and Trick or Treat Street on the 29th where Kids trick or treat through the neighborhood! We add new authors and events all the time.ssecond-star-best-bkstore

MUF: If a family from out of town visited your shop, would there be family-friendly places to get a snack or meal afterward? And if they could spend the day or more, are there some unique family activities or sights nearby that they shouldn’t miss?
Dea: We are located on Tennyson street, in northwest Denver, that features many boutiques, restaurants, and shops to explore. We are right next to Cozy Cottage, a tasty breakfast and lunch place, along with Parisi, a yummy Italian restaurant, and across from El Chingon, an authentic Mexican food restaurant. This area has many festivals going on that feature arts, crafts, and local food items, we’re also a hop, skip, and jump from the mountains which are always great for a picnic! Elitch’s is Denver’s big amusement park, and lots of fun, and so are the Aquarium, Denver Zoo, and Botanic Gardens. scond-str-welcome

MUF:  Thanks so much Dea for opening this store and for telling our readers about it.  Readers, next time you’re in Denver, be sure to visit this addition to the world of children’ books.

Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda Books 2011, Usborne UK 2012)

 

From the Grave With Cynthia Reeg

cynthiaCynthia Reeg, a curious librarian, ventured from behind the stacks to become a children’s author. Now she contends with quirky characters and delightful dilemmas as often as possible in her stories. Her amazing husband, two grown sons, two adorable grandsons, and awesome family aid Cynthia on this wild and wonderful adventure. She’s a Kansas native who has lived in five other Midwest states. Currently she resides in St. Louis, Missouri and loves to vacation in Florida and New Mexico. Cynthia enjoys tennis, hiking, reading, and hanging out with her family. For more information, visit www.cynthiareeg.com. Find her on Twitter and Facebook

Amie: Welcome, Cynthia! It’ so great to have you join us here at the Files! Some of you may not know this but Cynthia and I are publishing sisters – that is we share the same publisher for our books. So, Cynthia, why don’t you start by telling us what your inspiration was for From the Grave?

Cynthia: First of all, I love Halloween and monsters. Using that theme, I wanted to approach the subject of bullying and intolerance from a different perspective. I hoped that if I created a fun and entertaining fantasy story that kids might also be open to exploring issues of prejudice. Plus, I had a great time crafting the crazy monster world, with all its rules and strange inhabitants—and monster curses, of course.

Amie: We share a similar love for Halloween! And monster curses are the best – in all their diverse ways! Tell us about your favorite character and why you enjoyed writing him.

Cynthia: My favorite character turned out to be bad guy—seventh grade troll, Malcolm McNastee. He originally started out as a fairly typical antagonist but quickly gained equal billing with my other main character, Frankenstein Gordon. What can I say? I write from a sinister perspective much more easily. Malcolm revealed so many conflicting emotions and plot twists that he demanded to be put front and center. And truly, it’s not easy to win an argument with him.

Amie: The antagonist can be the most fun to write! So it’s my understanding that you’re a librarian (yay!). Did your work influence your writing at all?

Cynthia: Of course! Although I left my library job a few years back to devote more time to writing, I use my librarian experiences with children to shape what I write. I know that action, silliness, suspense, and quirky characters draw them into a story. That’s how I try to write because it’s all about connecting with the kids!

Amie: It sounds like you know your audience really well, and that is definitely key to a successful story. Final questions: Graveyard or haunted house? Mummies or Deadies? Booberries or sandwitches?

Cynthia: Graveyard—I love the outdoors. 😉
Mummies—I relate to being so wrapped up in my work.
Sandwitches—more substantial fare for a hungry writer!

Amie: Good choices! Though I think I’ll take the booberries but only covered in chocolate. They make a nice topping for ice scream!

from-the-grave

Monster is as monster does, but Frankenstein Frightface Gordon is totally the wrong shade of ghastly green—actually a pathetic baby blue—and he’s more concerned with keeping his pants neat and tidy than scaring the pants off his victims. But when a new law is passed to rid Uggarland of misfits such as Frank, he must decide if he will become the monster his parents can be proud of or be the monster he can be proud of. Relying on his dead grandmother’s guidance from the grave, Frank makes a most astounding choice and enters into an adventure that most likely will seal his doom.
Or prove he is truly monster enough.

Amazon Barnes & Noble Books a Million Indiebound

Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter Series featuring Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. Find her on her website, her blog, facebook, twitter, and instagram.

And Baby Makes…

The age-old adage is, of course, “And Baby makes three.”

But in middle grade fiction, the addition of a baby often makes for more. Much more.

Full disclosure here: I’ve got babies on my brain. And for the first time in decades, I’ve got diapers in my shopping cart and onesies in my closet, and a portable crib in my guestroom. As I write this, I’m days (maybe hours???) away from becoming a first-time grandmamma, and I’m just a little way, way too excited about it.

So, when I saw my next Mixed-Up Files post was due at the same time as our next family member, I knew right away what my topic would be. Babies. Babies. MIDDLE GRADE BABIES!

There are loads of middle-grade characters dealing with the addition of a new sibling. Some handle it better than others, but one common thread weaves throughout: Babies change everything!

Alvin Ho, Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

alvin-ho-allergic-to-babies

In this, the fifth installment in the Alvin Ho series, Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham deliver (ha,ha!) with great hilarity a story that many older brothers can relate to – what if that thing in mom’s belly is a …. girl?!  Alvin’s always-entertaining tales are great for younger middle-graders and middle-graders struggling with reading.

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

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By the time this book came out in 1984, Beverly Cleary had already won two Newbery Honors and a National Book Award, and Romona had already faced challenges both big and small. When her mother announces she’s pregnant, Ramona realizes she’ll be taking on a role she’s never played before-BIG sister.

Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

clementine_family_meeting

Third-grade Clementine is surrounded by changes. When a family meeting is called to announce the pending arrival of a new baby, Clementine isn’t sure what to expect. At school, changes are happening as well. Her best friend is acting differently, and Clementine has to face the fact that nothing stays exactly the same.

The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos

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In a way that only Jack Gantos can, this final book in the Joey Pigza saga blends humor and wackiness with the very serious reality of postpartum depression. When Joey’s mother decides she should enter the hospital, Joey has to step up and care for his newborn baby brother.

Sometimes, babies appear in middle grade tales and they grow up to be the main character. Think of how Harry Potter began. A dark street, streetlights go out, and figure is seen leaving something on a doorstep. Number 4, Privet Drive.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhillgirl-who-drank-the-moon

This new book, from the author of The Witch’s Boy, centers around a community who believes they must sacrifice a baby each year to appease the evil witch who resides in the forest. But the witch isn’t evil at all, and she cares for the babies until she can place them in a deserving home far away. When an unfortunate mishap forces her to keep one of the babies as her own, everything changes. This one is being called a “new classic.”

And sometimes, it’s the middle-grade main character who finds an abandoned baby…

Baby by Patricia MacLachlan

baby-by-patricia-maclachlan

Sophie is a baby left by her mother and found by twelve-year-old Larkin. Larkin’s family has lost a newborn boy and finds healing and hope in the arrival of Sophie. But the note left by Sophie’s mother promises she’ll return someday. How can they love if they know they’ll have to let go? Touching and timeless. True MacLachlan.

And finally, sometimes the middle grade main character is not the finder, but the seeker…

Winterfrost by Michelle Houts

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Yes, this one’s my own, and I hesitated to mention it, because we writers are great at singing others’ praises, but it always feel a little uncomfortable to shout about our own work. But, Winterfrost fits the criteria for this post, so I’ll go ahead and share it. When twelve-year-old Bettina is left home alone to care for her not-quite-one-year-old baby sister, the unthinkable happens. Baby Pia disappears into the white wilderness, and Bettina is forced to  enter a magical world she’d only heard about from her grandfather. Based on Danish folklore.

So, what can you add?  Comment below with a middle-grade story featuring a baby. And stay tuned for more baby news! I promise to update this blog post when my first grandbaby is here!

Michelle Houts is the author of five books for young readers. She lives on a farm where babies of the animal kind are a common occurrence. She absolutely cannot wait to hold her first grandbaby in a few days. That’s all she can think to write about, baby.