Category Archives: Fiction

Love, Ish

Hello Mixed-Up Readers! I’m excited to bring you this fun interview (and GIVEAWAY!) with Karen Rivers, author of Love, Ish.  But first, a little-ish about the book.

My name is Mischa “Ish” Love, and I am twelve years old. I know quite a lot about Mars. Mars is where I belong. Do you know how sometimes you just know a thing? My mom says that falling in love is like that, that the first time she saw Dad, she just knew. That’s how I feel about Mars: I just know. I’m smart and interesting and focused, and I’m working on getting along better with people. I’ll learn some jokes. A sense of humor is going to be important. It always is. That’s what my dad always says. Maybe jokes will be the things that will help us all to survive. Not just me, because there’s no “me” in “team,” right? This is about all of us. Together. What makes me a survivor? Mars is going to make me a survivor. You’ll see. * “A star-bright story of love, courage, and unflagging spirit.” —Booklist, starred review

 

Amie: Welcome to the Files, Karen! Why don’t you start by telling us who your favorite character is in Love, Ish and a little about why they’re your favorite.

Karen: Definitely Ish.  I think to write a book about a person, even one you’ve made up, you have to really really know that person and really really love them, even when they are flawed or even occasionally infuriating.   I love Ish and I loved taking this journey with her.

Amie: I agree! It’s a given that we’ll love our main character, isn’t it? Why else would we choose to write their stories? It would be hard to spend so much time with someone we didn’t like.  So tell our readers which scenes were the best/worst to write?

Karen:  I loved writing every word of this book, but writing the ending was a very emotional journey for me.   It was both the best and the worst!

Amie: I can definitely relate to that! Ish (Mishca) wants to go to Mars. Did you do a lot of research for your story?

Karen: I spent a lot of time researching different Mars programs and reading about the viability of Mars as a potentially habitable planet.   There are very widely differing opinions in the scientific community about, for example, whether the presence of perchlorate in Martian soil would simply preclude any possibility of humans being able to survive there.   Mars seems to be everywhere these days!  I watched the NASA feed closely for up-to-the-minute news of the rover’s findings.   At a certain point in revising, I had to stop adding new information though.  Our knowledge and understanding about Mars are constantly evolving in real time.

Amie: There’s a character known as Fish Boy (Gav) and Ish isn’t exactly fond-ish of him. Do Ish and fish boy ever become friends?

Karen: I’m reluctant to spoil too much of the plot, but yes, Mischa and Gav become friends.

Amie:  Was there any particular inspiration for Mischa’s (Ish) name?

Karen: I once met a girl named Mischa, whose nickname was Ish.   I loved the play on words of love-ish and Love, Ish.   When something is something-ish, it means it’s not quite that which it is trying to be.  Mischa’s whole journey starts out as one thing and becomes another, so I like the “ish”ness of that.

Amie: Does Mischa love anything else as much (or almost as much as Mars)?

Karen: Mischa loves a lot of things and people:  Her best friend, Tig, her sister Iris, and even her sister Elliot.   Definitely her pet parrot and her parents.   She is primarily motivated by the need to be someone who doe something special or different, someone who is remembered for being a “first”.   In so doing, she wants to figure out who she is and who she is going to be.   I think she loves more than she gives herself credit for.   When one is 12, it’s easier to pick one topic, one THING and make that your everything, whether it’s your favourite music or a personal goal or a hobby.   Kids tend to define themselves in fairly singular terms.  “I love horses” or “I’m a Katy Perry fan.”  In Ish’s case, she’d say, “I’m going to go to Mars” as her most defining characteristic, but it will be obvious to anyone reading that she’s so much more than that.  (I hope!)

Amie: All right. Last question. Does Ish ever make it to Mars?

Karen: I’m afraid I can’t answer the question without spoiling the entire book.  Once you’ve read the ending, you’ll understand why.  I’ll have to stick with, “You’ll have to read it to find out!”

Amie: Darn it! Those dang spoilers! Thanks for joining us at the Files today, Karen. Good luck to you and to Ish! And many thanks to Algonquin for providing an ARC of this book. They’re also offering a copy of LOVE, ISH to one  US reader. Be sure to leave a comment below to be entered!

Karen Rivers has written novels for adult, middle-grade, and young adult audiences. Her books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usually be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny, old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, two birds. You can find her online at karenrivers.com or on Twitter: @karenrivers

 

Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series; Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. There’s nothing “ish” about her love for writing. You can find her on her blog, her website, and her co-author website.

March New Releases

We’re excited to dig into these new releases in March! Be sure to tell us in the comments which books you look forward to, and if we’ve missed one you’re anticipating, let us know!

March 1st:

Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly Who Ruled the Racetrack by Deb Aronson from Chicago Review. Alexandra the Great tells one of the greatest underdog tales in American sports—the story of Rachel Alexandra, who grew up to become one of the most remarkable racehorses in history. Despite dominating every filly her age, her owner refused to let her compete against male horses. When a new owner saw her potential and raced her against bigger, stronger males, Rachel Alexandra thrived and went on to win the Preakness, the first filly to do so in 85 years, and the Woodward, a feat never before achieved by a filly. Having grown into a strong, muscular, dominating athlete, Rachel Alexandra was named 2009 Horse of the Year, broke records, graced the pages of Vogue magazine, and showed people around the world exactly what it means to “run like a girl.”

March 7th:

Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question by Martha Freeman from S&S/Wiseman. A rich girl from New York City, Effie Starr Zook isn’t afraid of much. When her parents go on a dangerous round-the-world adventure in a solar airplane, she’s packed off to her aunt and uncle’s farm for the summer. Expecting boredom, she runs smack dab into a family secret. Why does the neighbor kid want to avoid her? What are her aunt and uncle so worried about? And what does “bad blood” mean, anyway? Effie’s got a brand-new bicycle, time on her hands, and an unlimited capacity for asking questions. With these, she sets out to uncover whatever it is the grownups are hiding. Along the way, she’ll contend with crackpot politics, serve espresso in a bookstore cafe, and learn more than she bargained for about her famous great-grandfather, the inventor of the barf bag. Fast-paced and funny, this is a story about having the courage to find out who you really are. Look out, world–when Effie Starr Zook has questions, she won’t take no for an answer.

Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli from HMH/Clarion. The triple Caldecott winner David Wiesner brings his rich visual imagination and trademark artistry to the graphic novel format in a unique coming-of-age tale that begins underwater. A young mermaid, called Fish Girl, in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank. Sparkling with humor and brilliantly visualized, Fish Girl’s story will resonate with every young person facing the challenges and rewards of growing up.

Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter from Harper Collins. Flora and her brother, Julian, don’t believe they were born. They’ve lived in so many foster homes, they can’t remember where they came from. And even now that they’ve been adopted, Flora still struggles to believe in forever. So along with their new mother, Flora and Julian begin a journey to go back and discover their past—for only then can they really begin to build their future.

 

 

Invent It! by Rob Beattie from Sterling. From idea to prototype to selling the product: this imaginative book teaches kids that they’re never too young to start inventing! What should kids do when they have an idea? Put it into action! This fun and informative book takes budding inventors through the entire creative process—from brainstorming, designing, and prototyping, to patenting, manufacturing, and marketing.  It is packed with all the tools and tips needed to turn a concept into reality!

Sydney Mackenzie Knocks ’Em Dead by Cindy Callaghan from Aladdin. Sydney Mackenzie is an aspiring actress and average less-than-popular California Girl. So when her parents drop the biggest bombshell ever—they have inherited a cemetery called Lay to Rest, which means a move to boring Delaware—Sydney is NOT happy. And to make matters worse? Their “new” house is actually right on the cemetery grounds—and it isn’t exactly California chic. But after settling in, Sydney discovers that the creepy old house might have more history than she once thought. And someone—or something—is encouraging her to delve deeper into a decades-old mystery that dates back to the Underground Railroad. Will Sydney’s filmmaking skills and the help of some new friends be enough for her get to the bottom of the mystery of her new home?

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by Kristin L. Gray from S&S/Wiseman. Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days–ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

March 14th:

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay from Candlewick. Jena — strong, respected, reliable — is the leader of the line, a job every girl in the village dreams of. Watched over by the Mothers as one of the chosen seven, Jena’s years spent denying herself food and wrapping her limbs have paid off. She is small enough to squeeze through the tunnels of the mountain and gather the harvest, risking her life with each mission. No work is more important. This has always been the way of things, even if it isn’t easy. But as her suspicions mount and Jena begins to question the life she’s always known, the cracks in her world become impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and quietly complex, Meg McKinlay’s novel unfolds into a harshly beautiful tale of belief, survival, and resilience stronger than stone. 

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, trans. by Helen Wang, illus. by Meilo So from Candlewick. Sunflower is an only child, and when her father is sent to the rural Cadre School, she has to go with him. Her father is an established artist from the city and finds his new life of physical labor and endless meetings exhausting. Sunflower is lonely and longs to play with the local children in the village across the river. When her father tragically drowns, Sunflower is taken in by the poorest family in the village, a family with a son named Bronze. Until Sunflower joins his family, Bronze was an only child, too, and hasn’t spoken a word since he was traumatized by a terrible fire. Bronze and Sunflower become inseparable, understanding each other as only the closest friends can. Translated from Mandarin, the story meanders gracefully through the challenges that face the family, creating a timeless story of the trials of poverty and the power of love and loyalty to overcome hardship.

Kings of the Court by Alison Hughes from Orca. When the Gladiators basketball team’s nasty coach finally gets turfed midseason, things couldn’t possibly get worse. The team hasn’t won a game yet, and morale is at rock bottom. Sameer, who announces the games and keeps score, and Vijay, the team mascot, have their hands full keeping the team’s spirits up. When they get promoted to assistant coach and manager, can they help a small, unathletic, Shakespeare-quoting drama teacher coach the team to victory, or at least to dignity? Or will the courtside drama eclipse even the school play?

Love, Ish by Karen Rivers from Algonquin Young Readers. My name is Mischa “Ish” Love, and I am twelve years old. I know quite a lot about Mars.
Mars is where I belong. Do you know how sometimes you just know a thing? My mom says that falling in love is like that, that the first time she saw Dad, she just knew. That’s how I feel about Mars: I just know.
I’m smart and interesting and focused, and I’m working on getting along better with people. I’ll learn some jokes. A sense of humor is going to be important. It always is. That’s what my dad always says. Maybe jokes will be the things that will help us all to survive. Not just me, because there’s no “me” in “team,” right? This is about all of us. Together.
What makes me a survivor? Mars is going to make me a survivor.
You’ll see.

In Karen Rivers’s riveting new novel, Ish’s dreams for a future on Mars go heartbreakingly awry when an unexpected diagnosis threatens to rewrite her whole future.

Matylda, Bright and Tender by Holly M. McGhee from Candlewick. Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.

My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts by Trudi Trueit from Aladdin. Kestrel and her family are headed out to Vancouver, BC, to help out her grandmother at her beautiful ski lodge. It’s been in the family for generations, but the business is in trouble—and there are lots of people looking to take over the property. Kestrel is determined to help her family retain their precious business—one that her grandfather built literally from the ground up. But two evil twins—who happen to be the daughters of a property developer determined to drive the lodge out of business—prove to be her nemeses in every way possible. Can Kestrel help save the lodge and beat the twins at their own game?

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel from Harper Collins. Meet Olga, the amazing child scientist who LOVES animals (because they are super-cute) When Olga crosses paths with a weird creature and becomes the first kid to discover the species olgamus ridiculus, she is ecstatic What does an olgamus eat? How does it poop? Why does its burp sound like the word rubber? With her trusty observation notebook and the help of a librarian, a shopkeeper, and some friends, Olga sets out to do science–learning the facts about her smelly, almost-furry pal and searching for him when he goes missing. The scientific method is the best way to discover anything.

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale from Amulet. The aliens have arrived. And they’re hungry for electricity. In the Earth of the future, humans are on the run from an alien force—giant blobs who suck up electrical devices wherever they can find them. Strata and her family are part of a caravan of digital rescuers, hoping to keep the memory of civilization alive by saving electronics wherever they can. Many humans have reverted to a pre-electrical age, and others have taken advantage of the invasion to become dangerous bandits and outlaws. When Strata and her brother are separated from the caravan, they must rely on a particularly beautiful and rare robot pony to escape the outlaws and aliens—and defeat the invaders once and for all.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, illus. by Ekua Holmes from Candlewick. Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award-winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.

March 28th:

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel by Kimberly Willis Holt from Macmillan/Holt/Ottaviano. Stevie’s life seems safe and full of love until the day tragedy strikes. Stevie is sent to live with her estranged grandfather Winston at his rundown motel. Though the colorful tenants who inhabit the motel are quickly charmed by Stevie, she struggles to connect with her grandfather. What dark secret is he keeping from her? It will take another difficult departure before Winston realizes just how strongly Stevie has taken root at the motel–and in his heart.

Braced by Alyson Gerber from Arthur A. Levine Books. Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet. Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her–even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.  

Defender of the Realm by Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler from Scholastic. Alfie thinks he knows his destiny. As Prince Alfred, heir to the throne of Great Britain, he’s fated to become the most disappointing king in the nation’s history. Alfie longs for a way to prove himself, but little does he realize that with the throne of England comes an ancient secret. He who wears the crown must protect the country as the legendary hero — the Defender of the Realm.
Hayley is an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life. She certainly never believed in the mysterious superhero, the Defender. Then, after witnessing a very public battle at the Tower of London, everything is different, and Hayley is left with no doubt. The Defender is real. Two kids with two very different lives are about to get caught up in a centuries-long battle for the fate of a nation. Monsters and criminals, villains and dragons, together Hayley and Alfie must protect their home at all costs.

The Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man by Alex Irvine, illus. by Ben Bishop from Tilbury House. This graphic retelling of the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission follows astronaut Michael Collins, commander of the lunar orbiter, to the far side of the moon. When the Earth disappears behind the moon, Collins loses contact with his fellow astronauts on the moon’s surface, with mission control at NASA, and with the entire human race, becoming more alone than any human being has ever been before. In total isolation for 21 hours, Collins awaits word that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have managed to launch their moon lander successfully to return to the orbiter―a feat never accomplished before and rendered more problematic by the fuel burn of their difficult landing. In this singularly lonely and dramatic setting, Collins reviews the politics, science, and engineering that propelled the Apollo 11 mission across 239,000 miles of space to the moon. Drawings. Junior Library Guild Selection


The Gauntlet by
Karuna Riazi from S&S/Salaam Reads. When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how. Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby from Scholastic. Lily loves her half-brother, Adam, but she has always struggled with him, too. He’s definitely on the autism spectrum — though her step-father, Don, can barely bring himself to admit it — and caring for him has forced Lily to become as much mother as sister. All Lily wants is for her step-father to acknowledge that Adam has a real issue, that they need to find some kind of program that can help him. Then maybe she can have a life of her own. Adam’s always loved dolphins, so when Don, an oncologist, hears about a young dolphin with cancer, he offers to help. He brings Lily and Adam along, and Adam and the dolphin — Nori — bond instantly. But though Lily sees how much Adam loves Nori, she also sees that the dolphin shouldn’t spend the rest of her life in captivity, away from her family. Can Adam find real help somewhere else? And can Lily help Nori regain her freedom without betraying her family?

Jake the Fake Keeps It Real by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, illus. by Keith Knight from Random/Crown. For fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate comes a new side-splitting series from comedian and film star Craig Robinson, #1 New York Times bestselling author Adam Mansbach, and NAACP History Maker recipient and cartoonist Keith Knight. Jake can barely play an instrument, not even a kazoo. And his art? It’s better suited for Pictionary than Picasso. Which is a real problem because Jake just faked his way into the Music and Art Academy for the gifted and talented (and Jake is pretty sure he is neither). More jokester than composer, Jake will have to think of something quick before the last laugh is on him.

King of the Bench: No Fear! by Steve Moore from Harper Collins. From the nationally syndicated cartoonist of “In the Bleachers” comes a new, highly illustrated middle grade series about Steve, who plays the same position in every sport: bench-warmer. Perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Timmy Failure, King of the Bench is an ode to teammates, underdogs, and bench-warmers everywhere. Steve is King of the Bench. No brag. It’s just a fact. But this year, Steve and his friends are excited to try out for the Spiro T. Agnew Middle School baseball team. The only problem is, after watching another player get beaned by a fastball, Steve has developed a serious case of bean-o-phobia–the fear of getting hit by a pitch. If Steve ever wants to get off the bench and get in the game, he’s going to have to muster up some courage, and fast.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, illus. by Caroline Hadilaksono from Random/Crown. Sumac Lottery is nine years old and the self-proclaimed “good girl” of her (VERY) large, (EXTREMELY) unruly family. And what a family the Lotterys are: four parents, children both adopted and biological, and a menagerie of pets, all living and learning together in a sprawling house called Camelottery. Then one day, the news breaks that one of their grandfathers is suffering from dementia and will be coming to live with them. And not just any grandfather; the long dormant “Grumps,” who fell out with his son so long ago that he hasn’t been part of any of their lives. Suddenly, everything changes. Sumac has to give up her room to make the newcomer feel at home. She tries to be nice, but prickly Grumps’s clearly disapproves of how the Lotterys live: whole grains, strange vegetables, rescue pets, a multicultural household… He’s worse than just tough to get along with — Grumps has got to go But can Sumac help him find a home where he belongs?

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley from Scholastic. A dark secret lurks in Keira’s family. She comes from a long line of Word Weavers who bring their stories to life when they use a magical pen. But Keira’s mom is unable to face the truth of the family’s history because the Word Weavers have been hunted for generations for their power. And so, she forbids Keira to write. Oblivious to the family’s secret ability, and angry at her mom’s rule of no fictional writing, Keira discovers her grandma’s Word Weaver pen and uses it to write a story for the Girls’ World fairy tale contest, believing it will bring her good luck. But when Keira decides to have her fairy tale reflect her family’s imperfect life, and has the princess in her story vanquished to a dark tower for eternity, she starts to wonder if anyone ever truly lives happily ever after.

Reformed by Justin Weinberger from Scholastic. Ian Hart has mastered the art of lying low. He might sometimes space out at the exact moment Mr. Dunford calls on him (it was field day!). And sure, he’s a little clueless around the girls in his class. But Ian’s nobody’s fool. So how’d a kid like him get framed for pranking the new boy? Too bad he won’t have the chance to find out. Tonight, Ian and his friends Ash and Alva will be sleeping with one eye open . . . at bully reform school, where the hijinks are rougher, the mean girls are meaner, and even the teachers refuse to play by the rules. It’ll take all the schemes and wits Ian, Ash, and Alva can muster if they want to make it out of this nightmare and into middle school. But they’re ready for action. Even if it means forging a secret alliance with a world-class hacker. Even if it means . . . wearing a tutu. Watch your back. Hide your underwear. In a place like this, only the fearless survive.

March 30th: 

Revenge of the Star Survivors  by Michael Merschel from Holiday House. Middle school meets the Dark Side in this painfully funny survival story of social misfit Clark Sherman. When Clark crash-lands on the inhospitable planet of Festus Middle School, he soon learns the natives don’t take kindly to newcomers . . . particularly ones who practice Jedi mind tricks and follow nerdy TV shows like Star Survivors. As he faces a conspiring group of violent bullies, browbeaten teachers and a fiendish principal, Clark knows he’ll be lucky just to survive eighth grade. Then, hope appears on the horizon: there is Les, the enigmatic boy who seems to disappear at will; Ricki, a fellow Star Survivors fan; and the independent-minded librarian, Ms. Beacon. When Clark and his newfound allies are imperiled, he gathers his courage and the consequences of his actions ripple through the galaxy in life-altering ways.

Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor from Holiday House. Profiles of six amazing women who defied prejudice to succeed in the sciences using genius, ambition, and perseverance! Laurie Lawlor deftly paints portraits of each of these pioneers who refused to take no for an answer, pursuing their passions through fieldwork, observations, laboratories and research vessels in the face of sexism. Lawlor tells the stories of Eugenie Clark, an ichthyologist who swam with sharks; Marie Tharp, a cartographer who mapped the ocean floor; Katherine Coleman Johnson, a mathematician who calculated trajectories for NASA flights; Florence Hawley Ellis, an anthropologist of Pueblo cultures who pioneered tree-ring dating; Gertrude Elion, a pharmacologist who developed treatments for leukemia and AIDS; and Margaret Burbidge, an astrophysicist who formulated a theory of quasars.

Daring to Be Different

Because this is Black History month, I asked several experts to recommend some not-to-be-missed middle-grade books. Not all their suggestions are about the African American experience, but they’re all about the multicultural experience and kids dealing with differences. If you’re discussing the timely topics of prejudice or exclusion, here’s a great list of resources:

TWO NAOMIS by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

Two girls named Naomi are forced into an unlikely friendship when their parents begin dating. The girls’ emotional journeys take them through the struggles of living in a blended family and learning to become friends as well as sisters.

 

 

AS BRAVE AS YOU by Jason Reynolds

This multi-award-winning book examines bravery from the viewpoint of Genie, who wonders how you can tell who’s brave. What about his blind grandfather, who never leaves the house? Or his older brother who doesn’t want to shoot a gun? Maybe bravery is being strong enough to admit what you don’t want to do.

 

 

GHOST by Jason Reynolds

A National Book Award Finalist, Ghost tells the story of four kids from diverse backgrounds whose personalities clash. But they must come together to form an elite track team bound for the Junior Olympics.

 

 

 

THE LEFT-HANDED FATE by Kate Milford

Caught up in the war between England and France, Lucy Bluecrowne and Maxwell Ault hope to stop the battle by finding parts to an engine. They’re imprisoned by a twelve-year-old American midshipsman, Oliver, who must decide whether to become a traitor or risk the lives of enemies he now sees as friends.

 

 

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON by Linda Williams Jackson

Set in Mississippi in 1955, Jackson’s novel blends fiction with the true story of the trial of Emmett Till. Rose Lee Carter decides to be a part of the movement that changes the South.

 

 

 

FRAZZLED by Booki Vivat

Filled with doodles by Booki Vivat, this hilarious story of Abbie Wu is filled with drama. Will Abbie “survive the everyday disasters of growing up”? Great for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

 

 

 

THE SEVENTH WISH by Kate Messner

Charlie feels unimportant until she discovers a wish-granting fish – only what she wishes for comes true in unexpected ways. Then her family faces a challenge. Should Charlie risk a wish on something this important?

 

 

 

THE GAUNTLET by Karuna Riazi

In a steampunk set in the Middle East, twelve-year-old Farah and her friends get trapped in a game board. The only way they can escape and save the others inside is to figure out the puzzle set up by a diabolical gamemaker.

 

 

 

TOWERS FALLING by Jewell Parker Rhodes

An award-winning author, Rhodes tells the story of the Twin Towers from the point of view of children who weren’t born when it happened. While they’re learning about their town’s history, they’re also discovering things about themselves and what it means to be an American.

 

 

MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS: SPIRIT WEEK SHOWDOWN by Crystal Allen

With pink cowboy boots and the upcoming Spirit Week, Mya’s all set for partnering with her best friend. But then she gets paired with the school bully. Great for fans of Clementine and Ramona.

 

 

 

 

If you want more great titles written by and about African Americans, take a look at Brown Bookshelf’s daily featured books and authors every day this month. If you’re not familiar with the Brown Bookshelf,  be sure to return to our blog on February 22 to learn more when Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman interviews Kelly Starling Lyons, one of the founders.

ABOUT THE BLOG AUTHOR

A former teacher and librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is now an author who has written more than 2300 articles and 36 books under several pen names, including Erin Johnson and Rachel J. Good. Living in Africa as a child and traveling extensively as an adult taught Laurie the importance of appreciating other cultures. She spent last weekend with an African friend, learning to properly cook grasshoppers and caterpillars. To find out more about Laurie, visit her website and blog.