Category Archives: Nonfiction

Nonfiction Books with Diverse Characters–An Interview with Author Annette Bay Pimentel & Giveaway!

Children’s books with diverse characters are in high demand these days. They should be. Every child who reads likes to identify with the character in the book, which means that they need to represent every race, creed, color, and ethnic background. Authors are responding to this need by writing about some AMAZING people who have made great contributions to our world.

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I’m happy to have one of those author with me here today. Annette Pimentel writes picture book- biographies for young middle grade readers. She loves to discover people in the corners of history and then find their stories. She writes nonfiction picture books in Moscow, Idaho.

 

Her book is Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans and Helped Cook up the National Park Service by Charlesbridge Publishing

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The true story of a Chinese American mountain man who fed thirty people for ten days in the wilderness–and helped inspire the creation of the National Park Service.

When millionaire Stephen Mather began his quest to create a national park service in 1915, he invited a group of influential men—writers, tycoons, members of Congress, and even a movie star—to go camping in the Sierras. Tie Sing was hired to cook. Throughout the trip, Tie Sing fed not just the campers’ bodies, but also their minds, reminding them to remember and protect the mountains.

Reviews:

Overall, this pencil and watercolor illustrated and eloquently written account of a Chinese American will satisfy every taste. For any library wishing to enhance its diversity and inclusion collection.
– School Library Journal

A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history.
Kirkus Reviews

Paragraphs of straightforward text are more advanced than typical picture books, but the soft, expressive watercolor illustrations, some of which are based on historical photos, are a pleasing accompaniment. Ideal for the classroom, particularly this year, when the NPS celebrates its centennial.
– Booklist

 

 

Annette, thanks for joining me today on the blog. I have a few questions for our readers about your writing process and books.

 

Why narrative nonfiction biographies?

Fictional novels describe how people could be. Nonfiction biographies describe how people really are. I love the shiver of excitement I feel when I read what remarkable real people really did.

How do you choose your subjects for your books?
When I discover something new and immediately want to tell someone about it, I know that I have a promising topic. I’m especially interested in stories that surprise me and suggest that the way I’ve been thinking about the world is askew.

What led you to Tie Sing’s story?
I stumbled on photos of the Mather Mountain Party of 1915 while I was researching something else. I was startled to see in the photos an Asian man posing next to famous government officials and tycoons. I had always assumed that national parks, like other American institutions, were created by powerful white men. The photos suggested I only knew part of the story.

You do not have a Chinese heritage, so how did you make sure to include Tie Sing’s true voice and experiences?
I wish Tie Sing had kept a diary, but he didn’t. To be sure the secondhand descriptions of him were in historical context, I researched race relations in 1915. I also relied on experts like the book’s artist, Rich Lo, who, like Tie Sing, grew up bilingual in Chinese and English. The book’s expert reviewer was Park Ranger Yenyen Chan, who brought to the project deep professional knowledge as well as broad personal knowledge of Chinese American culture.

Can you talk about how important it is to ensure that diverse characters are given a true representation?
It’s important that every character in a piece of nonfiction is represented truly! But it’s extra tricky to accurately represent characters, like Tie Sing, who didn’t leave much documentary trace and who come from a culture different from that of the people who wrote about them. Despite the difficulties—maybe because of the difficulties–those people deserve to have their stories told! Without their stories we are left with an inaccurate picture of our shared history.

You have another book in development which features a Puerto Rican character’s life. Why do you think diverse books like these are important?

Children are in many ways marginalized in our society. I think that every child feels, at times, like an outsider. Stories about unexpected people doing remarkable things reassure and encourage kids that their own lives matter. And, of course, books about women and ethnic and cultural minorities give all of us a more nuanced and true picture of our history.

Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?
I spend hours and weeks and months on research. I interview my subjects or people who knew them when I can, but usually I rely on archival research—letters, papers, photos, etc. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find an autobiography. I love the US Census for the quirky information it gives me about my subject. And of course I use academic articles to provide historical context and to answer specific questions that arise as I research.

Why is back matter useful for readers?
Back matter extends my conversation with the reader and allows my book to speak to multiple audiences. Some readers only want the story in the main text. That’s find. But others want more, and back matter provides it. Back matter feels to me like a cozy dialogue, where I as a writer, get to share the fascinating details that didn’t belong in the story.

Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?
In 2018 Nancy Paulsen Books will publish Girl Running, the story of an amazing female marathoner and in 2019 they will publish Ann Brooks Goes West (with her piano) the story of a feisty pioneer. I also have another book in the works that I’m very excited about, but I have to wait to talk about it.

Can you think of a few other diverse nonfiction books that would be good for young middle grade readers?
I loved Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford for its lyrical language and its sensitive handling of the theme of slavery

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Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood for its story of creativity beating back against poverty

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and Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy for the most inspiring basketball story I’d never heard.

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For more great nonfiction picture books for young middle grade readers, including diverse titles, check out Annette’s blog at  annettebaypimentel.com

Annette has graciously offered a giveaway of her new book. To win a signed copy, please leave your name in the comments below.

******Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 nonfiction books for kids. Mostly about Science, Technology, and Engineering, because… well, STEM ROCKS!  www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

Chilly books to beat the heat

It’s been a warm hot steamy beastly hellish summer.  They say books can transport you, so here are some books to take you to cool brisk cold icy frigid places.  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, snuggle under a comforter, and enjoy.

(Descriptions from IndieBound)

Arctic CodeThe Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby

(Balzer & Bray/Harperteen  2015)

It is the near future, and the earth has entered a new ice age. Eleanor Perry lives in Tucson, one of the most popular destinations for refugees of the Freeze. She is the daughter of a climatologist who is trying to find new ways to preserve human life on the planet. Dr. Perry believes that a series of oil deposits she has found in the Arctic may hold the key to our survival. That’s when she disappears but not before sending Eleanor a series of cryptic messages that point to a significant and mysterious discovery. Now it’s up to Eleanor to go find her.

BlizzardBlizzard: Colorado, 1886 by Kathleen Duey and Karen A. Bale

 (Aladdin Paperbacks  2014)

Maggie Rose’s trick on her spoiled cousin Haydn Sinclair backfires when he disappears on a hike, and it’s up to Maggie to rescue him in a sudden blizzard in Estes Park, Colorado, in 1886.

BreadcrumbsBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

(Walden Pond Press  2013)

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it’s up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Breadcrumbs is a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.

Brian's WinterBrian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen

 (Delacorte Books for Young Readers 1996)

In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. He was rescued at the end of the summer. Brian’s Winter begins where Hatchet might have ended: Brian is not rescued, but must build on his survival skills to face his deadliest enemy–a northern winter.

Call of the Klondike

Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure

by David Meissner and Kim Richardson (Calkins Creek Books  2013)

As thousands head north in search of gold, Marshall Bond and Stanley Pearce join them, booking passage on a steamship bound for the Klondike goldfields. The journey is life threatening, but the two friends make it to Dawson City, in Canada, build a cabin, and meet Jack London, all the while searching for the ultimate reward: gold

Daughter of WinterDaughter of Winter by Pat Lowery Collins

(Candlewick Press 2010)

It’s 1849, and twelve-year-old Addie lives in the shipbuilding town of Essex, Massachusetts. Her father has left the family to seek gold on the West Coast, and now the flux has taken the lives of her mother and baby brother, leaving Addie all alone. Her fear of living as a servant in some other home drives her into the snowy woods, where she survives on her own for several weeks before a nomadic, silver-haired Wampanoag woman takes her in. Slowly, the startling truth of Addie’s past unfolds. Through an intense ancient ceremony, and by force of her own wits and will, Addie unravels the mystery of her identity and finds the courage to build a future unlike any she could ever have imagined.

First LightFirst Light by Rebecca Stead

(Wendy Lamb Books 2007)

Peter is thrilled to join his parents on an expedition to Greenland, where his father studies global warming. Peter will get to skip school, drive a dogsled, and finally share in his dad’s adventures. But on the ice cap, Peter struggles to understand a series of visions that both frighten and entice him.
Thea has never seen the sun. Her extraordinary people, suspected of witchcraft and nearly driven to extinction, have retreated to a secret world they’ve built deep inside the arctic ice. As Thea dreams of a path to Earth’s surface, Peter’s search for answers brings him ever closer to her hidden home.
Rebecca Stead’s fascinating debut novel is a dazzling tale of mystery, science and adventure at the top of the world.

Ice dogsIce Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

(Hmh Books for Young Readers 2014)

Victoria Secord, a fourteen-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer, loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods is entirely up to her.

Ice StoryIce Story: Shackleton’s Lost Expedition 

bElizabeth Cody Kimmel (Clarion Books 1999)

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and a twenty-seven-man crew set off on an expedition to reach and cross Antarctica. Just a month and a half into the voyage, their ship, the Endurance, was caught fast in heavy pack ice. The men had no radio contact, and no one knew where they were or even that they were in trouble. None of them should have survived the ordeal that followed-unstable ice floes, treacherous waters, freezing temperatures, and starvation. Only the extraordinary leadership, courage, and strength of Shackleton brought the whole team safely through.

Impossible RescueThe Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by  Martin W. Sandler (Candlewick Press 2012)

In 1897, whaling in the Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast was as dangerous as it was lucrative. And in that particular year, winter blasted early, bringing storms and ice packs that caught eight American whale ships and three hundred sailors off guard. Their ships locked in ice, with no means of escape, the whalers had limited provisions on board, and little hope of surviving until warmer temperatures arrived many months later. Here is the incredible story of three men sent by President McKinley to rescue them. The mission? A perilous trek over 1,500 miles of nearly impassable Alaskan terrain, in the bone-chilling months of winter, to secure two herds of reindeer (for food) and find a way to guide them to the whalers before they starve.

Surviving AntarcticaSurviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083

by Andrea White (Eos 2006)

Five fourteen year olds face this desperate situation on a deadly journey in Antarctica. It is 2083. They are contestants on a reality TV show, Antarctic Survivor, which is set up to re create Robert F. Scott’s 1912 doomed attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole.But in 2083 reality TV is not just an act. Contestants literally relive or die during the simulations of events. Robert Scott and his team were experienced explorers and scientists, but their attempt to reach the Pole proved fatal. What chance does the Antarctic Survivor team have?

TrappedTrapped by Michael Northrop

(Scholastic Press,  2011)

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive.

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision.

WinterfrostWinterfrost by Michelle Houts

 (Candlewick Press   2014)

Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost over the countryside. But twelve-year-old Bettina’s parents have been called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia. In all the confusion, Bettina’s family neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse who are rumored to look after the family and their livestock. No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears during a nap, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous folk.

 

wintersmithWintersmith by Terry Pratchett

(HarperCollins 2006)

At 9, Tiffany Aching defeated the cruel Queen of Fairyland.

At 11, she battled an ancient body-stealing evil.

At 13, Tiffany faces a new challenge: a boy. And boys can be a bit of a problem when you’re thirteen. . . .

But the Wintersmith isn’t “exactly” a boy.  He is Winter itself–snow, gales, icicles–“all of it.” When he has a crush on Tiffany, he may make her roses out of ice, but his nature is blizzards and avalanches. And he wants Tiffany to stay in his gleaming, frozen world. Forever.

Tiffany will need all her cunning to make it to Spring. She’ll also need her friends, from junior witches to the legendary Granny Weatherwax. Tiffany will need the Wee Free Men too. She’ll have the help of the bravest, toughest, smelliest pictsies ever to be banished from Fairyland–whether she wants it or not. It’s going to be a cold, cold season, because if Tiffany doesn’t survive until Spring–Spring won’t come.

 

Jacqueline Houtman is the author of the middle-grade novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010) and coauthor, with Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, of the biography for young (and not-so-young) readers, Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist (Quaker Press 2014).

August New Releases

Where has the summer gone? Whether you’re hitting the school supply sales or putting the final touches on your classroom or library, don’t forget to stock up on the newest middle-grade reads, hot off the press. As an animal lover, I’m especially excited about all the wonderful new novels featuring furry protagonists!

TheSharkCallerTHE SHARK CALLER by Dianne Wolfer from Penguin Random House Australia – August 1 Isabel is on a plane heading back to her island birthplace in Papua New Guinea. Izzy is looking forward to seeing her family again, but there’s another tragic reason for the trip. Izzy’s twin brother, Ray, died in a freak diving accident, and Izzy and her mum are taking his ashes home for traditional death ceremonies. After they arrive, Izzy realises things have changed since their last visit. Logging threatens the community’s way of life and sharks no longer answer the song of the shark callers. Izzy’s cousin Noah explains that the clan needs someone to undertake a traditional diving ritual. The person must be a twin from the shark calling lineage. The dive will be perilous. And Izzy is the last twin. Will she have the courage to attempt the dive? And what deep, dark secrets will the ocean reveal if she does?

AppleblossomThePossumAPPLEBLOSSOM THE POSSUM by Holly Goldberg Sloan, illustrated by Gary A. Rosen from Puffin – August 2nd Appleblossom is the youngest in her oppossum family, and the most timid. But she has a talent for playing dead, which serves her well when her training is finished and she must venture out on her own. She and her siblings have been warned to hide during the day, and to avoid cars, humans, and the dreaded “hairies” (aka dogs). Still, Appleblossom finds herself fascinated by a human family and their pet dog. While spying on them one day, she accidentally falls down the chimney, thus beginning her true adventure, including an encounter of the human kind: the little girl in the house wants to dress her up and keep her as her new pet. Luckily Appleblossom’s faithful brothers have been watching, and they launch a successful rescue mission, which includes breaking into the house, outwitting the dog, and even enlisting their long-lost father.

TheCandyMakersAndTheGreatChocolateChaseTHE CANDY MAKERS AND THE GREAT CHOCOLATE CHASE by Wendy Mass from Little, Brown – August 2nd It has been a few months since the Harmonicandy was chosen as the winner of the nationwide candymaking contest. Forever changed by the experience, Logan, Miles, Philip, and Daisy have returned to their regular lives. But when presented with the chance to go on tour to promote the new candy, they each have very different reasons for hitting the road. The stakes are a lot higher than they thought, however, and a decades-old secret is revealed. In this action-packed adventure, the four friends embark on a journey full of hidden treasures, imaginary worlds, rivers of light, a map of awe, a sky of many colors, and one very small cat who thinks he’s a dog. And candy. LOTS and LOTS of candy.
They’ve already learned to trust one another. Now they’ll have to trust themselves in order to face what lies ahead and save what really matters.

WhoWasMiltonBradleyWHO WAS MILTON BRADLEY? by Kirsten Anderson, illustrated by Tim Foley and Nancy Harrison – August 2nd Born in Maine in 1836, Milton Bradley moved with his family to the working-class city of Lowell, Massachusetts, at age 11. His early life consisted of several highs and lows, from graduating high school and attending Harvard to getting laid off and losing his first wife. These experiences gave Bradley the idea for his first board game: The Checkered Game of Life. He produced and sold Life across the country and it quickly became a national sensation. Working with his company, the Milton Bradley Company, he continued to produce board games, crayons, and kid-friendly school supplies for the rest of his life. He is often credited as the father of board games, and the Milton Bradley Company has created Battleship, Jenga, Yahtzee, Trouble, and many more classic games.

HundredPercentHUNDRED PERCENT by Karen Romano Young from Chronicle – August 9th The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn’t fit anymore. Christine navigates a year’s cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are.

FuzzyFUZZY by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger from Amulet – August 16th When Max—Maxine Zelaster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!

NoWayWay!NO WAY…WAY!: STINKY, STICKY, SNEAKY STUFF by Tracey West, illustrated by Luke Flowers from Smithsonian – August 16th You’ll definitely say “no way!” when you read this new addition to our Smithsonian nonfiction line. But “way!” There really is a plant that smells like a corpse. And there’s some cool science going on when it comes to sweaty feet. Ditto for how geckos hang upside down (hint: sticky hairs). Not to mention all the cool facts and photos of human and animal camouflage, spies, trompe-l’oeil art, and other sneaky stuff you’ll find in this fascinating fact book.

ZoeInWonderlandZOE IN WONDERLAND by Brenda Woods from Nancy Paulsen Books  – August 16th Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brenda Woods introduces introverted, daydream-prone Zoe, who’s afraid her real life will never be as exciting as her imaginary one. Zoe Reindeer considers herself “just Zoe”—never measuring up to her too-perfect older sister or her smarty-pants little brother. Truthfully, though, she’d rather just blend in with the plants at the family business, Doc Reindeer’s Exotic Plant Wonderland. She does have one friend, Q, and he’s the best one ever—but he’s moving away, leaving Zoe to fend for herself, and she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him. That is until a tall astronomer from Madagascar comes to the nursery looking for a Baobab tree. His visit starts a ball rolling that makes Zoe long for real adventures, not just imaginary ones—and shows her that perhaps her first real adventure is finally beginning.

ThornghostTHORNGHOST by Tone Almhjell from Dial – August 16th Strange things are happening around Niklas Summerhill’s home. A green-eyed beast is killing animals in the woods, and the nightmares that have haunted Niklas since his mother died grow more terrifying with every night. When the beast turns out to be a troll brought to life from his own games, Niklas knows he has to stop it. With the help of his lynx companion, Secret, he finds the source of the magic: a portal to another world. But this realm, once the home of peaceful animals, is also in danger. The evil Sparrow King is hunting down the few survivors from a devastating war, and a dark, blood-thirsty plant is infecting the valley. Niklas must try to save both worlds. But first he has to uncover the truth about his mother’s last words: “I’m a Thornghost.”

SoldierSisterFlyHomeSOLDIER SISTER, FLY HOME (upper MG) by Nancy Bo Flood from Charlesbridge – August 23rd  Tess is having a hard enough time understanding what it means to be part white and part Navajo, but now she’s coping with her sister Gaby’s announcement that she’s going to enlist and fight in the Iraq war. Gaby’s decision comes just weeks after the news that Lori Piestewa, a member of their community, is the first Native American woman in US history to die in combat, adding to Tess’s stress and emotions. While Gaby is away, Tess reluctantly cares for her sister’s semi-wild stallion, Blue, who will teach Tess how to deal with tragic loss and guide her own journey of self-discovery.

Lori Piestewa was a real-life soldier who was killed in Iraq and was a member of the Hopi tribe. Back matter includes further information about Piestewa as well as a note by author Nancy Bo Flood detailing her experiences living on the Navajo reservation. A pronunciation guide to all Navajo vocabulary used within the text is also included.

TheRatPrinceTHE RAT PRINCE by Bridget Hodder from Foster, Farrar, Straus and Giroux – August 23rd The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman on the night of the big ball. And he’s about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on his way to a most unexpected happy ending!

 

 

 

TalkingLeaves

TALKING LEAVES by Joseph Bruchac from Dial – August 23rd From the acclaimed author of Code Talker, a compelling new work of historical fiction about Sequoyah and the creation of the Cherokee alphabet. Thirteen-year-old Uwohali has not seen his father, Sequoyah, for many years. So when Sequoyah returns to the village, Uwohali is eager to reconnect and learn from one of his people’s greatest craftsman. But Sequoyah’s new obsession with making strange markings causes friends and neighbors in their tribe to wonder whether he is crazy or worse—practicing witchcraft. What they don’t know, and what Uwohali discovers, is that the strange markings are actually symbols, an alphabet representing the sounds of the Tsalagi (or Cherokee) language.

MAXI’S SECRETS (OR WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM A DOGMaxisSecrets) by Lynn Plourde from Nancy Paulsen Books – August 23rd When a BIG, lovable, does-it-her-way dog wiggles her way into the heart of a loudmouth pipsqueak of a boy, wonderful things happen that help him become a bigger, better person. Timminy knows that moving to a new town just in time to start middle school when you are perfect bully bait is less than ideal. But he gets a great consolation prize in Maxi—a gentle giant of a dog who the family quickly discovers is deaf. Timminy is determined to do all he can to help Maxi—after all, his parents didn’t return him because he was a runt. But when the going gets rough for Timminy, who spends a little too much time getting shoved into lockers at school, Maxi ends up being the one to help him—along with their neighbor, Abby, who doesn’t let her blindness define her and bristles at Timminy’s “poor-me” attitude. It turns out there’s more to everyone than what’s on the surface, whether it comes to Abby, Maxi, or even Timminy himself.

ISurvivedTheEruptionOfMountStHelensI SURVIVED THE ERUPTION OF MOUNT ST. HELENS, 1980 by Lauren Tarshis from Scholastic – August 30th It was one the most beautiful mountains in America, Mount St. Helens, in Washington State. But what many didn’t know was that this peaceful mountain had an explosive past. For more than a century, it had been quiet. But below ground, pressure had been building, and soon, Kaboom!Mount St. Helens would erupt with terrifying fury. Eleven-year-old Jessie Marlowe knew the mountain well, and like many, she never imagined that this serene wilderness could turn deadly. But on May 10th, 1980, Jessie finds herself in the middle of the deadliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Trapped on the mountain, she must escape clouds of poisonous gas, boiling rivers, and landslides of rock, glacial ice, and white-hot debris.The newest book in the I Survived series will take readers into one of the most environmentally devastating events in recent U.S. history.

MakingFriendsWithBillyWongMAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG by Augusta Scattergood from Scholastic – August 30th Azalea is not happy about being dropped off to look after Grandmother Clark. Even if she didn’t care that much about meeting the new sixth graders in her Texas hometown, those strangers seem much preferable to the ones in Paris Junction. Talk about troubled Willis DeLoach or gossipy Melinda Bowman. Who needs friends like these! And then there’s Billy Wong, a Chinese-American boy who shows up to help in her grandmother’s garden. Billy’s great-aunt and uncle own the Lucky Foods grocery store, where days are long and some folks aren’t friendly. For Azalea, whose family and experiences seem different from most everybody she knows, friendship has never been easy. Maybe this time, it will be.
Inspired by the true accounts of Chinese immigrants who lived in the American South during the civil rights era, these side by side stories–one in Azalea’s prose, the other in Billy’s poetic narrative–create a poignant novel and reminds us that friends can come to us in the most unexpected ways.

What books are you looking forward to reading this month?

Louise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd and In Todd We Trust (Penguin/Razorbill)