Category Archives: Nonfiction

Recipe for a Successful Book Festival

ksfest1This past Saturday I participated in the first annual Kansas Children’s Literacy Festival, and it was such an amazing experience I thought I’d share my thoughts on why it worked so well. It was a new event in Wichita, Kansas, but the turnout was huge and scores of kids walked away with new books to explore, and a whole lot more!

kslitfest3Here’s what made the event so successful: COMMUNITY. Area schools, local book stores, and community organizations partnered together with city leadership and a radio station to encourage kids to read and write. I loved the scope of fun events offered to celebrate literacy. The event kicked off with a full-blown parade, including a float featuring a gigantic book! Then a celebrated local children’s choir gave their first concert of the year. An illustrator presented a riveting and humorous demonstration. A local kite and toy store helped kids make kites and we had a balloon launch to help “Reading Take Flight.” Wichita Griots African storytellers played drums and told enchanting stories. There were balloon creations, face painting, food trucks, and everything that makes a festival a festival!

ksfest4And of course there were books! SCBWI authors and illustrators from around the state talked with young readers in an author tent and read from their works in the storytime tent. There were so many smiles!

I think another big factor in the success of the event had to do with the level of PROMOTION it received beforehand. Local news stations and newspapers came out to cover the festival as well, interviewing families and participants to ensure the word is out for next year’s celebration.

ksfest5As you see, I roped my lovely daughter into helping me. She played the Tickle Me Pink Crayon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and had so much fun!

If you are an educator or librarian hoping to launch a book festival of any size or add some zest to an already existing one, may I suggest adding some activities that may not seem necessarily reading related to draw interest? I think that was the other factor that caused the Kansas Children’s Literacy Festival to be such a success: VARIETY.

What things have you seen work to draw kids to book fairs and festivals? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and IN TODD WE TRUST (Penguin/Razorbill.)

Weird and Wacky Facts

worstSometimes while authors are researching books, they run across strange and interesting facts. Some of these discoveries make it into the book, but others don’t. Editors may decide certain facts shouldn’t be included. Other times there isn’t enough room to include them all.

I recently finished writing a book called Exploring Ancient Rome that will be coming out next year. The editors wanted to include information about government and road building; I want to include odd and unusual details about daily life.

If you were reading the book would you rather know that Rome was once an empire, or that the emperor Caligula built his horse a marble stable and gave his horse a top government position? Or that gazing on the emperor’s balding head was a capital offense?

Would you rather know that Romans used the arch to create the Pantheon, or that they ate flamingo tongue, stuffed dormice, and pickled sow udder?

Would you rather know that the Romans adopted ideas from other cultures, or that they washed their clothes with urine? The ammonia in urine gave a washing solution good whitening power, so Romans also used urine to brush their teeth. Other cosmetic tips from ancient Rome:horrible

  • To dye hair black, let leeches rot for 40 days in wine
  • Instead of soap, rub your body with oil and scrape off the dirt.
  • Hippopotamus skin helps prevent balding.
  • To cover gray hair, boil walnut shells, earthworms, and ashes.

egypt For me, quirky information like that is what makes a subject come alive. A few books that provide unusual facts about Rome are Horrible Jobs in Ancient Greece and Rome by Robyn Handyman, The Totally Gross History of Ancient Rome by Jeremy Klar, and Top 10 Worst Things about Ancient Rome You Wouldn’t Want to Know! by Victoria England and David Antram. Other books in these series cover different countries.

For a little extra fun, author Bobbi Miller volunteered some interesting tidbits she unearthed while researching her book, Girls of Gettysburg. 51nj-iaqbkl-_ac_us160_

  • The youngest soldier serving in the Civil War was a nine-year old boy from Mississippi.
  • In a single day, the one million horses serving in the Civil War would have peed enough urine to fill more than 12 swimming pools.
  • Robert E. Lee had a pet chicken named Hen. Every morning, Hen laid an egg under Lee’s cot, which Lee then cooked for breakfast.
  • The artillery barrage during Picket’s Charge could be heard 100 miles away in Pittsburgh.
  • After President Lincoln was diagnosed with a mild form of smallpox, he said, “For once in my life as President, I find myself in a position to give everybody something.”

Perhaps people who find history boring are reading the wrong things. What fascinating facts have you discovered?


A former teacher and librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is now an author. In addition to Exploring Ancient Rome, she has written more than 2300 articles and 30 books under several pen names. Some of her other books on history include Pirates through the Ages, Imperial China, West African Kingdoms, Exploring Ancievt Rome.  Visit Laurie at

New Middle-Grade Releases: October 2016

October’s new books are packed with mystery and adventure, history and heroics, and friendship and fun. First up: a new novel by MUF’s own Amie Borst, written with her daughter, Bethanie. Click on the titles to purchase from your favorite Indie Bookseller.

Snow Fright
(Scarily Ever Laughter) by Amie Borst and Bethanie Borst

Sarah White is gorgeous even if she is a little bit rotten. A mirror arrives on her twelfth birthday and she thinks it’s the perfect gift, but when the mirror swallows her whole, Sarah finds herself in the dead center of the Underworld. Sarah now has to deal with her decaying flesh and sudden craving for brains. By the time Sarah escapes the Underworld, she finds her new zombie life less than appetizing. Even worse, she needs to return to the Underworld to save her friends, Cindy and Scarlet. With a poisoned apple, a crow named Raven, and a glowing necklace, Sarah sets off to rescue her friends. She must succeed, or she’ll be a brain-craving zombie forever.

9780316125925When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.

9781629797403Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports. This emotionally resonant novel in verse by award-winning author Nikki Grimes celebrates choosing to be true to yourself.

9780374302825Cinnamon Moon by Tess Hilmo

On the same day as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, 250 miles away in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, there was an even more devastating fire. Twelve-year-old Ailis and her younger brother, Quinn, survive, but their family does not. Ailis and Quinn are taken by a family acquaintance to live in a boarding house in Chicago, where they meet six-year-old Nettie, an orphan displaced by Chicago’s fire. But the woman who runs the boarding house makes their lives miserable, and Ailis vows to find a way for the three of them to leave. Ailis finds a job at a millinery shop and Quinn plays his fiddle on the streets so they can save money. Then Nettie disappears, and Ailis and Quinn discover she’s been kidnapped by a group that forces children to work in the sewers killing rats. Can they find a way to rescue her?

9781423160922The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2 by Rick Riordan

Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost; it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

9780062574329Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal by DanTDM

After a day of experiments, Trayaurus and DanTDM are about to call it a night when a strange-looking crystal plummets to earth, breaking into five pieces that scatter far and wide. DanTDM and Trayaurus recover one of the shards and quickly realize they are in possession of an object more powerful than anything they’ve ever known. But they’re not alone—Dan and Trayaurus’s archenemy, Denton, has also found a shard and manipulated its power for evil. He has created a cloning machine and is producing a terrifying marauding army intent on hunting down the remaining crystals in his effort to become all-powerful. It’s down to DanTDM and Trayaurus to stop him. Will they prevail, or will the forces of evil be too great for them to overcome?

9780399551499Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve. On his twelfth birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that will eventually take his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe.

9780374302610Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, illus. Jillian Tamaki

Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she’ll be leaving behind. There’s just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.

9781481445627Spy Ski School (Spy School #4) by Stuart Gibbs

Twelve-year-old Ben Ripley is not exactly the best student spy school has ever seen—he keeps flunking Advanced Self Preservation. But outside of class, Ben is pretty great at staying alive. His enemies have kidnapped him, shot at him, locked him in a room with a ticking time bomb, and even tried to blow him up with missiles. And he’s survived every time. After all that unexpected success, the CIA has decided to activate Ben for real. The Mission: Become friends with Jessica Shang, the daughter of a suspected Chinese crime boss, and find out all of her father’s secrets. Jessica wants to go to ski school in the Rocky Mountains, so a select few spy school students are going skiing too—under cover, of course. Ben might not be able to handle a weapon (or a pair of skis), but he can make friends easy peasy. That is, until his best friend from home drops in on the trip and jeopardizes the entire mission…

9780316349543Dog’s Best Friend (Middle School #8) by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illus. Jomike Tejido

It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and Rafe Khatchadorian is just trying to live in it. Life in middle school is finally starting to seem bearable-until Rafe spots his grandmother standing on the free-meal line at the local soup kitchen. In order to help bring in more money, Rafe concocts a brilliant plan—a dog-walking business that soon turns into a huge money-making neighborhood empire. He’ll even have extra cash to buy his own WormHole Deluxe Multi-Platform GameBox! That is, until two terrible twins launch the Great Dog War by sabotaging Rafe’s flyers and stealing his customers. Plus, his bratty kid sister Georgia has skipped a grade—so now she’s in all of Rafe’s classes. Throw a kid a bone!

9781627798686Skunked!: Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet by Jacqueline Kelly, illus. Teagan White and Jennifer L. Meyer

From Newbery honor author Jacqueline Kelly comes a new illustrated chapter book series for younger readers featuring the beloved characters from The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. In Calpurnia Tate, Animal Doctor in Training, Callie Vee, Travis, and Dr. Pritzker help animals big and small. When soft-hearted Travis discovers an abandoned baby skunk, he can’t help but bring him home and take care of him. Stinky, as Travis names him, settles in pretty well. But when Travis discovers Stinky’s litter-mate, Winky, who is in need of some help, things get complicated around the Tate house. One skunk is a piece of cake; two is just asking for trouble. Will Travis and Callie be able to keep the critters away from Mother’s careful eyes―and nose?

9780374302955Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond, illus. Lesley Vamos

Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl have been best friends since first grade. Every Friday afternoon, they get together in Lou Lou’s backyard garden for their PSPP (Post-School Pre-Parents) tea party. They chat about school, discuss Pea’s latest fashions, and plot the weekend’s activities. But all plans go out the window when a series of small crimes crop up around El Corazón, their quaint and quirky neighborhood, right before the Día de Los Muertos procession. First, Pea’s cousin’s quinceañera dress is tragically ruined. Then Lou Lou’s beloved camellia bush, Pinky, suffers a serious blow. And that’s just the beginning! When clues start to appear in El Corazón’s outdoor murals, the best friends join forces, using Lou Lou’s floral expertise and Pea’s artistic genius to solve the mysteries. Accented by Lesley Vamos’s spirited black-and-white illustrations, Jill Diamond’s debut is a delightful introduction to two very creative best friends and their unforgettable adventures!

9780316405744The League of Unexceptional Children: Get Smart-ish by Gitty Daneshvari

Jonathan Murray: Twelve years old. Wears khaki pants to tell the world he plans on driving the speed limit when he grows up. Saved the world once; it was probably a fluke. Shelley Brown: Twelve years old. Narrates her imaginary exploits as if she is the subject of a documentary film. Saved the world once; it was probably a fluke. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has called upon Jonathan and Shelley to catch a criminal who has stolen a virus that makes people lesssmart. When the stakes are this high, can the kids be the utterly average spies the world needs them to be and save the day? Embrace your unexceptional side in this hysterically funny sequel!

9780545840712Liberty (Dogs of World War II) by Kirby Larson

Fish has a knack for inventing. His annoying neighbor, Olympia, has a knack for messing things up. But when his latest invention leads Fish to Liberty, a beautiful stray dog who needs a home, he and Olympia work together to rescue her. At the Higgins boatyard, where the boats that just might save the Allied forces during World War II are built, the wartime workforce is integrated and includes women and the disabled. However, a friendship that crosses racial lines is not the norm in 1940s New Orleans. Fish, who suffered from polio and whose dad is away fighting in Europe, looks up to Mr. Higgins, and he’s thrilled when one of his inventions helps Mr. Higgins’s engineers unlock the mechanics of the landing crafts. Mr. Higgins inspires him to be bold and brave. As Fish enlists the help of unexpected friends and allies to save Liberty, he finds his perceptions of the world—of race and war, family and friendship—transformed.

9780062272515StarChaser (TodHunter Moon #3) by Angie Sage, illus. Mark Zug

In the third and final book in the TodHunter Moon series, Tod must find a replacement Egg of the Orm before the Castle—and all its Magyk—disappears forever. Almost one year ago, Alice TodHunter Moon left her PathFinder village to become Apprentice to ExtraOrdinary Wizard Septimus Heap. Now in faraway lands, the Castle is in peril. The brilliant blue stone is crumbling to dust and both the witch Marisa and the wicked Red Queen have their eyes on the throne. But as Tod sets off on a hazardous journey to find a new Keystone, her life may be in the greatest danger of all. Can she save the Castle while evading the fate that befell her mother? This epic finale to the series praised by Kirkus as “fast-paced, fully satisfying, and ExtraOrdinary” celebrates how hard work, selflessness, and the courage to be who you are can create a harmony that spans the seas and stars.

9781512405798The Thief’s Apprentice (Master Diplexito and Mr. Scant) by Bryan Methods

Oliver, the meek son of a wealthy British industrialist, discovers the identity of a notorious thief, a man who has been skillfully evading Scotland Yard and snatching priceless artifacts for sport: Mr. Scant, his family butler. After first fearing for his life, Oliver discovers Mr. Scant’s secret within a secret: the butler’s crimes are actually a series of strikes against an underground group of business tycoons trying to master black magic.

9780062343222Stick Dog Slurps Spaghetti by Tom Watson

Stick Dog and his gang of hungry hounds want to play tug-of-war. Their search for rope leads to something even better—spaghetti! Once they get a taste, they must get some more. It will be their most difficult mission ever—and will demand all of Stick Dog’s problem-solving skills. They’ll need to scale the tallest mountain in the suburbs and sneak into a restaurant filled with people. Dangerous humans—a strange-talking girl, a huge chef, and a penguin-man—lurk around every corner. But there’s more than danger in the air. Stick Dog has caught the scent of something even more scrumptious than spaghetti. And he’ll risk everything to find out what it is.

9781626723368Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

In twelve-year-old Giacomo’s Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. A few artists possess Geniuses, birdlike creatures that are the living embodiment of an artist’s creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punishment akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he’s in serious trouble. Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools–objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path―Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him.

9780553536027Home Sweet Motel: Welcome to Wonderland #1 by Chris Grabenstein

Eleven-year-old P.T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever. They need to think BIG. They need to think BOLD. They need an OUTRAGEOUS plan. Luckily for them, Gloria is a business GENIUS, and OUTRAGEOUS is practically P.T.’s middle name. With Gloria’s smarts and P.T.’s world-famous stories and schemes, there’s got to be a way to save the Wonderland!

9780545642712The Trials of Cinderella (Disenchanted: Tyme #2) by Megan Morrison

Ella Coach has one wish: revolution. Her mother died working in a sweatshop, and Ella wants every laborer in the Blue Kingdom to receive fairer treatment. But to make that happen, she’ll need some high-level support. Prince Dash Charming has one wish: evolution. The Charming Curse forced generations of Charming men to lie, cheat, and break hearts—but with the witch Envearia’s death, the curse has ended. Now Dash wants to be a better person, but he doesn’t know where to start. Serge can grant any wish—and has: As an executive fairy godfather, he’s catered to the wildest whims of spoiled teenagers from the richest, most entitled families in Blue. But now a new name has come up on his list, someone nobody’s ever heard of … Ella Coach. This is a story about three people who want something better and who together find the faith to change their worlds. It’s Cinderella, brilliantly reimagined, and a delightful expansion of the wonderful world of Tyme.

9780062427731Foxheart by Claire Legrand, illus. Jaime Zollars

Orphan. Thief. Witch. Twelve-year-old Quicksilver lives as a thief in the sleepy town of Willow-on-the-River. Her only companions are her faithful dog and partner in crime, Fox—and Sly Boots, the shy boy who lets her live in his attic when it’s too cold to sleep on the rooftops. It’s a lonesome life, but Quicksilver is used to being alone. When you are alone, no one can hurt you. No one can abandon you. Then one day Quicksilver discovers that she can perform magic. Real magic. The kind that isn’t supposed to exist anymore. Magic is forbidden, but Quicksilver nevertheless wants to learn more. With real magic, she could become the greatest thief who ever lived. She could maybe even find her parents. What she does find, however, is much more complicated and surprising.

9781454920670Just My Luck (Zack Delacruz #2) by Jeff Anderson

Zack Delacruz is back—and eager to meet Abhi, the new girl at school. But things get off to a rough start when he accidentally knocks her to the ground during a game of dodgeball. And whenever he tries to make amends, she just ignores him. Nothing works—not his friends’ advice or his “lucky” cologne. In fact, he just seems more and more cursed! Then, at the Fall Fiesta-val, Zack finally learns the real reason behind Abhi’s cold shoulder . . . but not before total chaos erupts. With a runaway train, exploding confetti-filled eggs, and Abhi’s terrifying older brother, will Zackever get a chance to talk to his crush? In the end, Zack learns what it means to believe, to listen, and to be a good friend.

9780670016662Fanny in France: With French Adventures and French Recipes by Alice Waters, illus. Ann Arnold

Fanny is a girl who knows a lot about food and cooking since she’s grown up in and around the famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. When Fanny’s mother, Alice Waters, the chef and owner of Chez Panisse, starts to watch her favorite old French movies, Fanny knows soon they’ll be packing their bags and traveling to France for a visit. In this sparkling book of whimsical stories, Fanny recounts some of her most fun-filled adventures with French friends and food. Join Fanny as she helps cook a huge bouillabaisse in Provence; learns how to make fresh cheese from a shepherd high up in the Pyrenees mountains; hunts for wild oysters off the coast of Bordeaux, and discovers how one chicken can feed nine people, if served a certain way. Fanny in France is also a beginner’s cookbook with forty simple, French-inspired recipes that encourage children and adults anywhere to cook and share delicious snacks and meals with family and friends using basic methods and the most sustainable ingredients.

9780803739857Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone does not like sitting around at home. How’s a princess supposed to have any fun when her parents are constantly reminding her to be careful and act princessly? So when her pal Prince Wilbur needs help finding a stolen hydra egg, Harriet happily takes up the quest. The thief’s trail leads them to a wicked witch and a tall tower, occupied by a rat whose tail has more to it than meets the eye!

9780545880169Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz

World War II is raging. Michael O’Shaunessey, originally from Ireland, now lives in Nazi Germany with his parents. Like the other boys in his school, Michael is a member of the Hitler Youth. But Michael has a secret. He and his parents are spies. Michael despises everything the Nazis stand for. But he joins in the Hitler Youth’s horrific games and book burnings, playing the part so he can gain insider knowledge. When Michael learns about Projekt 1065, a secret Nazi war mission, things get even more complicated. He must prove his loyalty to the Hitler Youth at all costs—even if it means risking everything he cares about. Including … his own life.

9780316384087Fairy Tail Ending (Ever After High: A School Story) by Suzanne Selfors

Meeshell is not an ordinary mermaid princess; she knows that someday, when she is older, she will leave her sea kingdom and live happily ever after on land with her prince. The thought of living on land is thrilling but also nerve-racking. Meeshell is glad she has years to prepare! But there is a change in the tides, and now Meeshell will start attending Ever After High. She has almost no time to do all of her preparing and planning. Can Meeshell fit in at Ever After High, or will she stand out like a fish out of water?

9780062284365Mr. Nick is a Lunatic! (My Weirdest School #6) by Dan Gutman

In this sixth book in the new My Weirdest School series, the teachers of Ella Mentry School are on strike! A.J. and the gang are getting a new principal, Mr. Nick, and he doesn’t believe in rules. Mr. Nick says the students don’t even have to learn if they don’t want to! What could possibly go wrong? Perfect for reluctant readers and word lovers alike, Dan Gutman’s hugely popular My Weird School series has something for everyone.

9781484778654School of Secrets: Freddie’s Shadow Cards (Disney Descendants) by Jessica Brody

Freddie is the daughter of the infamous witch doctor, Dr. Facilier. She’s got voodoo in her blood, a deck of Shadow Cards in her hands, and a song in her villain-kid heart. When Freddie’s dreams of joining the acapella group at Auradon Prep fall apart, she uses her Shadow Cards to get her way. But dark magic always comes with a price.


9781338032871Magical Mission (Geronimo Stilton #64) by Geronimo Stilton

I was traveling to London, England on a secret mission! I had to investigate some strange occurrences—someone was trying to get their paws on the crown jewels! Trap came along, too, to compete in a big magic show. And before I could solve my mystery, Trap needed my help to perform an impossible magic trick. Could I do it all? Squeak!

9780545783972It’s a Doggy Dog World (Crimebiters #2) by Tommy Greenwald, illus. Adam Stower

Jimmy is sure that his dog Abby is special. After all, it was Abby who (with the help of Jimmy & friends) helped nab the criminal Barnaby Bratford and shut down Barnaby’s babysitting service, a front for robbing the nice folks of Quietville. Jimmy’s parents, on the other hand, are starting to feel like Abby is one destructive little dog (she chewed up Mom’s entire shoe collection!) and they insist on enrolling Abby in obedience training. The only problem is that the longer Abby’s in class, the more normal (read: boring) she becomes. Jimmy’s superhero crime-fighting vampire dog is slowly becoming just like every other dog. She doesn’t even sneak out at night anymore! At the same time Jimmy’s friends (the Crimebiters) are realizing that there’s just not very much crime to fight in their tiny town. But when Jimmy joins the lacrosse team & mysterious things start happening on and off the field, the Crimebiters realize that Abby better get back to her crime-fighting ways … and fast!

9780803738249Making Mistakes on Purpose (Ms. Rapscott’s Girls) by Elise Primavera

Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents is not your typical boarding school. Students arrive in boxes, birthday cake is served for breakfast, and two very talented corgis assist the rather quirky headmistress. This semester, the girls will learn how to get to The Top, but the semester is not off to a good start. One of the girls doesn’t make it back to school and when her friends try to rescue her, they wind up at the Bottom of the Barrel. Luckily, Ms. Rapscott knows that learning to fail is the secret to Going Far in life.

9780545928892Hot Cocoa Hearts: A Wish Novel by Suzanne Nelson

Emery Mason is not a fan of the holidays. She’s so over the tinsel, the shopping, and all the other trappings of the season. Unfortunately, this year, Em is forced to work—as an elf!—at her parents’ Santa photo booth at the mall. There, Em meets Alejandro Perez, who works at the hot cocoa shop next door and is always full of holiday spirit. Alex is cute, but he’s nothing like Em’s real crush—the brooding and artistic Sawyer Kade. But the more time Em spends with Alex, the more she realizes that she may not be the Grinch she always thought she was. Soon, a blizzard, a Secret Santa surprise, and a family disagreement throw Em’s world upside down. Can Em embrace the magic of the holidays and find the perfect boy to kiss under the mistletoe?

9780062392053Impyrium by Henry H. Neff

For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall. Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them. One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.

9781101939758The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own. Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

9781481440424MINRS 2 by Kevin Sylvester

They are coming to get you. Hide. Hide. Hide. The children of Perses have been receiving this message on repeat, from Earth, for weeks. Christopher, Elena, and the other survivors of the attack on their space colony know two things: their victory over the Landers will be short-lived and a new wave of attacks is imminent. New Landers arrive sooner than expected. Led by the ruthless Kirk Thatcher, and armed with a new lethal kind of digger, they vow to hunt down and destroy everyone. The kids have nowhere to go but underground. Again. But resources and patience are running low and the struggle to keep everyone safe is complicated by all the infighting amongst the kids. As Christopher navigates the burden of leadership, he also has to decide whom he can trust. There are no easy answers. And with deadly consequences on the line, there is no room for mistakes. Will Christopher be able to successfully lead the group back to Earth? Or will Thatcher make sure no one survives?


9780544319592Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter.

9780544824386The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay

Explainer-in-Chief David Macaulay updates the worldwide bestseller The New Way Things Work to capture the latest developments in the technology that most impacts our lives. Famously packed with information on the inner workings of everything from windmills to Wi-Fi, this extraordinary and humorous book both guides readers through the fundamental principles of machines, and shows how the developments of the past are building the world of tomorrow. This sweepingly revised edition embraces all of the latest developments, from touchscreens to 3D printer. Each scientific principle is brilliantly explained–with the help of a charming, if rather slow-witted, woolly mammoth. An illustrated survey of significant inventions closes the book, along with a glossary of technical terms, and an index. What possible link could there be between zippers and plows, dentist drills and windmills? Parking meters and meat grinders, jumbo jets and jackhammers, remote control and rockets, electric guitars and egg beaters? Macaulay explains them all.

9780399541582What Was the Great Chicago Fire? by Janet Pascal

On Sunday, October 8, 1871, a fire started on the south side of Chicago. A long drought made the neighborhood go up in flames. And practically everything that could go wrong did. Firemen first went to the wrong location. Fierce winds helped the blaze jump the Chicago River twice. The Chicago Waterworks burned down, making it impossible to fight the fire. Finally after two days, Mother Nature took over, with rain smothering the flames. This overview of a stupendous disaster not only covers the fire but explores the whole history of fire fighting.

9780399541599What Was the San Francisco Earthquake? by Dorothy Hoobler and Thomas Hoobler, illus. Ted Hammond

One early April morning in 1906, the people of San Francisco were jolted awake by a mammoth earthquake—one that registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Not only was there major damage from the quake itself but broken gas lines sparked a fire that ravaged the city for days. More than 500 city blocks were destroyed and over 200,000 people were left homeless. But the city quickly managed to rebuild, rising from the ashes to become the major tourist destination it is today. Here’s an exciting recount of an incredible disaster.

9780316213882Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message and art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean—and definitely not inside the lines—to be beautiful.

9780385383424My Name is James Madison Hemings by Jonah Winter, illus. Terry Widener

In an evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings’s childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a single room. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his enslaved children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor—instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop—Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his “Farm Book” along with the sheep, hogs, and other property. Here is a profound and moving account of one family’s history, which is also America’s history.

9780374302511Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat

Picking up where Tasting the Sky left off, Balcony on the Moon follows Ibtisam Barakat through her childhood and adolescence in Palestine from 1972-1981 and chronicles her desire to be a writer. Ibtisam finds inspiration through writing letters to pen pals and from an adult who encourages her to keep at it, but the most surprising turn of all for Ibtisam happens when her mother decides that she would like to seek out an education, too. This memoir is a touching, at times funny, and enlightening look at the not often depicted daily life in a politically tumultuous area.

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her most recent middle-grade novel, The First Last Day (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin), is available wherever books are sold. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: