Category Archives: MUF Contributor Books

Happy Book Birthday Michele Weber Hurwitz

The Mixed Up Files’ own Michele Weber Hurwitz has a book birthday! Her newest MG novel Ethan Marcus Stands Up comes out this week from Simon and Schuster/Aladdin.

Here’s the gist of the story.

Perennial good kid Ethan Marcus has just done the unthinkable: refuse to stay seated during class. He’s not causing a riot; he’s not wandering around; he’s just super fidgety and sick of sitting. But the rules aren’t designed for Ethan, so he is given two afternoons of Reflection—McNutt Junior High’s answer to detention. The science teacher who oversees Reflection suggests that Ethan channel his energy into the school’s Invention Day event. Ethan doubts his ability to make anything competition-worthy; that’s his sister’ Erin’s department. But then Ethan gets a brilliant idea and recruits his best friend Brian to help.

Enter Romanov, the resident tech whiz, who refuses to give them tips, which causes Erin to be furious at her formally slacker now traitor brother, because Romanov won Invention Day last year. Meanwhile, Erin’s friend Zoe is steering clear of Erin’s drama for the first time ever after realizing that she may be crushing on Ethan. Brian has bigger things to worry about though, and loner kid Wesley may know more than others realize. Narrated by five seventh-graders, discover what really happens after one fidgety kid decides to take a stand against sitting down.

Congratulations Michele! This was such a fun read! It totally reminded me of my middle grade justice warrior self.  MG readers range from 8 to 13 years old, spanning the range of late elementary through middle school. Why choose characters from the upper end of this range, in the 7th grade?

Kids are able to move around more in earlier grades but as they get older, they’re expected to sit for long hours in class. But just because they’re older doesn’t mean they have any more patience for sitting! In fact, in the preteen years, kids may even be more fidgety as their bodies are typically undergoing a big growth spurt. I remember when my son was in eighth grade, he needed to move around while he studied for a test, usually throwing and catching a ball at the same time. This was actually what sparked my initial idea for the story. He once told me that when he’s moving, his brain “works better.” I thought, of course it does, that makes perfect sense! So, seventh grade seemed like a natural fit for this story about literally standing up for a cause you believe in.

I totally relate to Ethan’s need to move. I’m a long way from middle school but I can’t stand to sit still either. One of the things I loved about being a teacher is that you’re always on your feet and on the go. I think if I’d worked in an office all these years I’d have been murdered by my colleagues for spinning in the office chairs! 😀 School science fairs are a staple of the elementary and middle school experience. Why did you decide to branch out into the Invention Day?

There were several middle grade books with science fair themes, and the growing popularity of maker fairs and the whole maker movement, where kids can create anything, not just work on a science experiment, felt like an exciting, fresher backdrop for the story.

One thing I’ve noticed working at Annie Bloom’s in Portland this year is a proliferation of non-fiction maker books for kids. I’d totally pair your story with this one from the Smithsonian! Of course I have to ask, did you really make a prototype of a clip-on standing desk like Ethan does? And what is your workspace like? Do you stand? Walking desk? Combo?

I didn’t make a standing desk prototype like Ethan does in the book although that would’ve been fun. And my model would’ve turned out worse than what Ethan cobbles together because I have a very challenged mechanical aptitude. As for my workspace, I generally write on a desktop and those long hours of sitting really get to me. I take frequent standing breaks and I have this sort of makeshift platform for my keyboard so I can stand and type when I want to. I remember when I was a kid, getting that sort of brain soup dazed feeling in school – Ethan calls it “scomas” (school comas). I never did stand up to protest, though!

I have a standing desk too, a former woodworking bench, it even has a vice on the end should I need to get a grip! I’ve written one novel in two points of view and found it really tricky. Why five POV characters? And how did you keep track of them all?  How did you choose which character was perfect for that particular scene?

I’m so excited about this book because it’s different than my two previous middle grade novels which both had one girl narrator. This is my first book in multiple points of view but it felt natural and necessary for the telling of this story. I wrote several drafts where Ethan was the only narrator and it didn’t feel like it was working. When I added the other POVs, it clicked. The back-and-forth narration between the kids feels almost like comments on social media posts – everyone has an opinion and their own version of what “really happened.” I chose to have the five characters all narrate because they were so interconnected – Ethan, his sister Erin, their best friends Brian and Zoe, plus the outcast kid, Wesley, who knows more than everyone realizes and is an integral part of the plot. As I wrote, it seemed like each character popped up exactly when it was their time to talk.

It was satisfying to see Ethan and Erin’s combative sibling relationship evolve through the story. Not to give away the ending, but I love how they realize their differences can work for them, not against them. Did you draw on your relationship with your own siblings, or your kids?

I have two younger brothers who are insanely competitive with each other but mostly, I drew from my two older kids’ relationship. They have similar personalities to laid back, easy going Ethan and organized, perfectionist Erin. There are times (in real life and in the book) they can’t deal with each other, and other times they realize how much more they can accomplish as a team if they put aside their differences.

I love the message of empowerment in Ethan Marcus Stands Up because it’s subtle. Yes, you should stand up for things you believe in. Yes, anybody can do it. But real change is hard and not especially linear. And often requires collaboration with others. Did you have a particularly empowering experience as a young person in advocating for a cause?

I love how Ethan changes things (or tries to) in a roundabout way. All he wants to do in the beginning of the story is be able to stand up in class when he’s fidgety, but that goes against his language arts teacher’s class rules. It takes a kind-hearted science teacher to suggest that he can solve his problem through inventing his own solution. The story becomes much more than just about standing and sitting as Ethan digs deep and finds a resolve within himself. I was a quiet, shy kid so I didn’t really stand up and advocate for a cause but I do remember going “on strike” one day and not doing my household chores. That did not go over well with my parents.

What do you think kids will love most about this book?

It’s an easy to read story, and the characters are very relatable. I think it’s interesting and eye-opening to hear each character’s perspective because we all see the world from our own lenses and can interpret a situation so differently than someone else.

You mention on your website that there will be a follow up book in 2018. Are you finished writing that one? Can you give us a preview?

In the sequel, which will be out in September 2018, Ethan and Erin are nominated by the science teacher to attend a prestigious invention camp with brilliant kids from around their state. They feel intimidated and aren’t sure if they’ll be able to measure up. But when they meet two new kids and form a team, they dream up something that just might rise to the top. Not without a lot of drama mixed in, of course.

How exciting to have a sequel already on the way! Congratulations. Can’t wait to share this book with our patrons at Annie Bloom’s bookstore. I hope you have a very happy book birthday!

What’s New at Mixed-Up Files

You already know that From the Mixed-Up Files brings you the scoop on all things middle-grade Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week, including posts from Indie Spotlight to New Releases to book lists, interviews, giveaways, and more! But there are a couple of new additions to the blog that we’d like to share.

Expanded Social Media Options

Check out our From the Mixed-Up Files Facebook page not just for our posts, but for other middle-grade content that we think our readers might enjoy.

And did you know that we have a Mixed-Up MG Authors Instagram page now? We’re having fun with this new very visual medium, so don’t miss out–follow us today!

And on the Blog

There are new things afoot on the blog itself too! Our new volunteers are bringing some great energy to Mixed-Up Files, which means we’ve been adding new content for our readers!

Contributor Books

Schedule a Skype Visit with a Mixed-Up Files Author

And, just in time for back-to-school, we’ve updated one of our most popular features, the archive of all our great book list posts:

Book Lists by Category

 

We’re so pleased to have one of our wonderful new members taking on the News sidebar as well. Keep a look-out for a curated middle-grade news feed on the left side of our site, under our Oh MG! mascot.

 

And that’s not all! Watch this space–an exciting new offering in nonfiction is coming this fall as well. Subscribe today so that you don’t miss a single post.

“Fall” into Nonfiction with some great new Titles

Looking for some AWESOME Middle Grade and YA nonfiction to add to your shelves this fall?  Check out some of the Amazing titles listed below– from a playful book about cats, to a history thriller about the famous Booth Brothers, two books about women and girls who changed the world, an incredible story of bionic animals, a creepy book about the way poison was used throughout history,  a series on discovering animal secrets, and the first in a series of facts that are too crazy to be true, yet they are… These books showcase Nonfiction as the very exciting, highly intriguing topic it is. #NonfictionROCKS

 

True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties

By Aline Alexander Newman (Nat Geo Kids)


We humans love our cats and these surprising true stories will prove our cats love us back This collection of tales of playfulness, friendship, heroism, and inspiration is sure to touch the soul, tickle the funny bone, and inspire animal lovers everywhere to be the best kitty caretakers and companions they can be. There’s Bambi, whose owners taught her to respond to commands in American Sign Language; Millie, who loves exploring the outdoors and goes rock climbing with her owner; Leo, a rescued lion who changed the life of one South African family forever, and more.

 

The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame and the Death of President Lincoln by Rebecca Langston-George (Capstone Press)


Today everyone knows the name of John Wilkes Booth, the notorious zealot who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. But in his lifetime, the killer was an actor who was well-known among fans of the theater, well-known but less famous and less admired than his brother Edwin. In the 1860s, Edwin Booth ranked among the greatest and most-respected stars of the stage. He lived in New York and sympathized with the Union cause, while his younger brother stomped the streets of Washington, D.C., and raged as the Civil War turned in favor of the North. John fantasized about kidnapping the president, but after the defeat of the Confederacy, he sought deadly vengeance. The night Lincoln attended a performance at Ford’s Theatre, Edwin was far away, knowing nothing of the plot unfolding in the nation’s capital.

 

 

Bold Women of Medicine
21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs By Susan M. Latta (Chicago Review Press)

Meet 21 determined women who have dedicated their lives to healing others. In the 19th century, Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton–the “Lady with the Lamp” and the “Angel of the Battlefield”–earned their nicknames by daring to enter battlefields to aid wounded soldiers, forever changing the standards of medicine. Modern-day medical heroines such as Bonnie Simpson Mason, who harnessed the challenges of her chronic illness and founded an organization to introduce women and minorities to orthopedic surgery, and Kathy Magliato, who jumped the hurdles to become a talented surgeon in the male-dominated arena of heart transplants, will inspire any young reader interested in the art, science, and lifechanging applications of medicine. Lovers of adventure will follow Mary Carson Breckinridge, the “nurse on horseback” who delivered babies in the Appalachian Mountains and believed that everyone, including our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, deserve good health care, and Jerri Nielsen, the doctor stationed in Antarctica who, cut off from help, had to bravely treat her own breast cancer. These and 15 other daring women inspire with their courage, persistence, and belief in the power of both science and compassion.
Packed with photos and informative sidebars and including source notes and a bibliography, Bold Women of Medicine is an invaluable addition to any student’s or aspiring doctor or nurse’s bookshelf.

Lotta Crabtree: Gold Rush Fairy Star By Lois Harris (Pelican Publishing Company)

With the California Gold Rush reaching a feverish peak, it was up to child performers called “Fairy Stars” to keep the miners entertained. As adventurers from all over the world spent hours scouring the land for gold, the children would dance, sing, and act to raise spirits and money–and the most successful among them was Lotta Crabtree. At just eight years old, Lotta won hearts on the West and East Coasts with her extraordinary talent for performing. Thus began a career that lasted decades, launching Lotta to stardom and making her one of the most beloved actresses of the nineteenth century. In this unique biography for young readers, follow Lotta’s first years, her struggle to support her family, and her spectacular journey to fame by age twenty.

 

Unstoppable:True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals By Nancy Furstinger (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt)


Chris P. Bacon was born with malformed legs, but with the help of a wheelchair made of construction toys, he’s become a hero to people with similar challenges. Nancy Furstinger profiles Chris P. Bacon and many other animals in Unstoppable–all of whom are making their way around with the help of prosthetics, braces, orthotics and wheelchairs Readers will meet the caretakers, prosthetists, vets, and loving families that help to make recovery possible. Furstinger offers a glimpse into the cutting-edge technologies, such as 3D printing and brain-controlled prosthetics, that are helping to improve the lives of animals and humans alike.

 

Poison:Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines By Sarah Albee (Crown BFYR)

Science geeks and armchair detectives will soak up this non-lethal, humorous account of the role poisons have played in human history. Perfect for STEM enthusiasts
For centuries, people have been poisoning one another–changing personal lives and the course of empires alike.
From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And those are just the deliberate poisonings. Medical mishaps, greedy “snake oil” salesmen and food contaminants, poisonous Prohibition, and industrial toxins also impacted millions.
Part history, part chemistry, part whodunit, Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines traces the role poisons have played in history from antiquity to the present and shines a ghoulish light on the deadly intersection of human nature . . . and Mother Nature.

 

The Secret of the Scuba Diving Spider… and More!
By Ana Maria Rodriguez (Enslow Publishing)


Readers will dive along with an underwater spider and also discover why caterpillars need an emergency whistle, how moths talk back to bats, that zombie beetles really exist, and what makes cockroaches so hard to catch. Primary sources include interviews with the scientists and original photos. Simple yet detailed language makes complicated scientific ideas easy to understand. A hands-on activity allows students to take on the role of scientist and examine these basic biological principles themselves.

 

Fault Lines in the Constitution:The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today By Cynthia Levinson; Sanford Levinson (Peachtree Publishers)

Many of the political issues we struggle with today have their roots in the US Constitution.

Husband-and-wife team Cynthia and Sanford Levinson take readers back to the creation of this historic document and discuss how contemporary problems were first introduced–then they offer possible solutions. Think Electoral College, gerrymandering, even the Senate. Many of us take these features in our system for granted. But they came about through haggling in an overheated room in 1787, and we’re still experiencing the ramifications.  From the award-winning team, Cynthia Levinson, children’s book author, and Sanford Levinson, constitutional law scholar, Fault Lines in the Constitution will encourage exploration and discussion from young and old readers alike.

 

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!  By Ammi-Joan Paquette; Laurie Ann Thompson (Walden Pond Press)

Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a fascinating new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true–and asks readers to separate facts from the fakes

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts

 

Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat By Jennifer Swanson (21st Century Books/Lerner)

“Most scientists agree that Earth is warming rapidly. Glaciers are melting and rising seawaters are submerging islands and coastal cities. In the coming decades, millions will likely have to escape extreme weather caused by climate change. Some scientists say we need to act faster and with radical new technologies—now—to save our planet. They propose geoengineering, or “”engineering Earth,”” to reset our global thermostat. Ideas include thickening clouds with chemicals to reduce the amount of sunlight and pulling carbon dioxide from the air with machines. However, critics say that geoengineering could backfire and create even worse weather. Is geoengineering too risky? Or is it our best hope of survival?”